This isn’t the first time we have had to report the demise of a crime-fiction blogger; Elaine Flinn and our friend Dick Adler have both “gone to their rewards” over the last several years. But blogging still seems such a new phenomenon, it’s hard to imagine that people who have been engaged in the game can already be passing away.
Rhian Davies (aka CrimeFicReader) first brought us the sad news that Maxine Clarke, an editor of the British scientific journal Nature who also--over the last seven years--wrote the excellent blog Petrona, died yesterday after what’s being described as a “lengthy” battle with cancer. But online tributes have
been rolling in ever since. Her friend Karen Meek of Euro Crime, to which
Clarke often contributed “peerless” book critiques, describes
her as “a fast reader” who, “even when ill could read and review a
book I’d given her before I’d get back to Birmingham! I can’t imagine how many
books have been bought as a result of her well-written reviews, and that is
legacy worth leaving.” Norman Price of Crime Scraps Review adds: “She tempted so many inexperienced bloggers to dip their toe in the blogging water and then jump in with her helpful comments and encouragement, that we all owe Maxine a great debt of gratitude. Her own blog, Petrona, was a source of pleasure, excellent writing, valuable opinions, and a constant temptation to plagiarise.” Davies concludes her own post about Clarke’s death with these remarks: “Maxine was a true lover of crime fiction and a rock in the lives of many. It is so hard to believe she is no longer with us but she will always be remembered with love and respect, and for her massive achievements.” Other memories of Clarke can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.
I don’t yet see an obituary of Clarke anywhere on the Web, or any mention of how old she was at the time of her death. However, the Nature Web site explains that she held degrees in physiology and psychology from the University of Oxford, as well as a Doctor of Philosophy degree in biophysics from that same venerable institution. She’d also done a postdoctoral fellowship in “biophysics of muscle crossbridges” at King’s College. Clarke lived in London.
I regret that I never met Maxine Clarke, but I did appreciate her reviews in Euro Crime and elsewhere. And the eulogies around the Web make it clear that she touched and encouraged many people, authors and critics alike. We can only be grateful that she was among us for as long as she was, sharing her knowledge, talents, and warmth.
UPDATE: Her family has created a Maxine Clarke memorial Web site here, which provides the information that she was “born in Manchester on September 03, 1954.” That means she was only 58 years old when she died. Much too young.