Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Memories of Maxine

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.


Peter Rozovsky said...

Maxine encouraged me early on. In fact, she posted the first-ever comment on Detectives Beyond Borders, back in 2006. And when we met in person, we met at a suitable location for someone who so loved books: the cafeteria of the British Library in London.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Very cool, Peter!

Barbara Fister said...

Maxine was a wonderful reviewer, and a wonderful builder of community for the genre. Such a loss.

Anonymous said...

Maxine also encouraged crime fiction readers and blog commenters. Her book reviews were stellar, the discussions at her blog over books and publishing news fascinating.

Looked forward to checking her blog if I was up till the wee hours or had insomnia -- or was entranced by a good book -- and would check in at Petrona, her website, read, comment. Then a few hours later, I'd read Maxine's response and other bloggers' comments.

A real treat. Will miss her, and will pledge to read her top recommended mysteries.