Friday, February 28, 2020

Two More Distinctive Voices, Stilled

One of the things you learn as a book blogger is there’s simply no good time to go out of town. You never know when news of importance in your field will break. Case in point: The deaths of two prominent authors during my mini-vacation of the last several days.

First to mention: Walter Satterthwait, who passed away on Wednesday, February 26, at age 73. The Philadelphia-born writer left a trail of memorable mysteries behind him, including five novels (Wall of Glass, Accustomed to the Dark, etc.) starring Santa Fe, New Mexico, private eye Joshua Croft; a pair of historical whodunits (Miss Lizzie and New York Nocturne) featuring Lizzie Borden, who was accused of murdering her father and stepmother in 1892; and three spirited mysteries led by Pinkerton detectives Phil Beaumont and Jane Turner (among them 1998’s Masquerade). Satterthwait’s most recent publication was a short story, “The Death of Mr. Jayacody,” which appeared in the November 2019 edition of Down & Out: The Magazine. He was also, apparently, working on a novel titled Blood Imperative, an excerpt of which can be found—at least for now—on his Web site. When New York Nocturne was released during the summer of 2016, Satterthwait was kind enough to be interviewed, by yours truly, for Kirkus Reviews. Most of our exchange can be read here, with a bit of extra material available here. As Mystery Fanfare’s Janet Rudolph reports, the author—whom she calls “clever, funny, and quirky”—died “after a battle with COPD and congestive heart failure.”

(An obituary has now been added to Satterthwait’s Web site.)

Perishing just two days prior to Satterthwait, on February 24, was the prolific and best-selling Clive Cussler, who was surely recognized best for his Dirk Pitt adventure novels (Raise the Titanic!, Night Probe!, Atlantis Found, etc.). As The Guardian recalls in its obituary,
Cussler’s writing was unusual in the way he wove it and his own life together. His recurring hero, Dirk Pitt, named after his son, was a marine engineer who worked for a government agency, the National Underwater and Marine Agency (Numa), an ocean-going version of James Bond. After Cussler’s third Pitt novel, Raise the Titanic! (1976), became an unexpected hit, he founded his own organisation called Numa, and led more than 60 underwater missions that located wrecks.

These included the
Carpathia, the first ship to reach the Titanic; the Confederate ship Manassas, the first ironclad to see action in the American civil war; and both the Confederate submarine Hunley, the first to sink a ship, and the Housatonic, which it sank. Not all were at sea: Numa raised a warship, Zavala, which had belonged to the short-lived Republic of Texas navy, from beneath a car park in Galveston.

Cussler also began writing himself into his novels as a character providing help to Pitt.
This Aurora, Illinois-born college dropout was, as Britain’s Guardian characterizes it, a “serviceable” writer, and his “characters were redolent of the pulp magazines of his childhood.” However, “he combined the exciting elements of Bond or Matt Helm spy thrillers with plot twists drawn from Alistair MacLean … and was an influence on writers who followed, such as Tom Clancy.” Cussler was only 88 years old when he breathed his last in Scottsdale, Arizona.

BY THE WAY: Neil Nyren, the former editor-in-chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons and now editor-at-large for CrimeReads, dropped me a note during my recent absence, saying that Publishers Weekly “will be running a piece by me either Monday or Tuesday about being Clive’s editor.” I very much look forward to reading it.



Thanks for taking note, and giving him a nice write-up. For what it's worth, he actually passed away early Wednesday morning. We should have more details posted on on Saturday the 28th,

Craig said...

Thanks for this remembrance of Walter.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Jill: I appreciate your pointing out that small error in my original write-up. The date of Mr. Satterthwait's passing has now been corrected.


Andrea Charles said...

Dear Mr. Kingston, thank you for helping all of us readers have a great remembrance of the author Walter Satterthwait. You have showcased some of his great works. A special value has been added to the soul through your eminent writing. I will definitely look forward to your work in Publishers weekly in the coming week.