Friday, August 15, 2014

Jeremiah Healy Passes Away

I’ve had my head down over the last couple of days, trying to finish work on my latest column for Kirkus Reviews. Which may explain why I missed the tragic news that Jeremiah Healy--author of the Boston-based John Francis Cuddy private-eye series--committed suicide yesterday in Pompano Beach, Florida. He was only 66 years old. A post in Bill Crider’s blog says that “depression exacerbated by alcohol” contributed to Healy’s action.

Born in New Jersey on May 15, 1948, Healy was a graduate of Rutgers College and Harvard Law School, and had been a military police lieutenant, a trial attorney, and later a professor at the New England School of Law for 18 years. He’d served as the chair for the Shamus Awards, president of the Private Eye Writers of America, and president of the International Association of Crime Writers. During his writing career, he turned out at least 18 novels and dozens of short stories. His second Cuddy outing, The Staked Goat (1986), won the Shamus. Under the pseudonym Terry Devane, he also penned novels about Boston lawyer Mairead O’Clare.

I had the chance to interview Healy for January Magazine back in 2000, but saw him at more than one Bouchercon over the years. The last time, I believe, was during the 2011 convention in St. Louis. He always struck me as a smart guy, and very much a fighter. He’d already survived a bout with prostate cancer.

His fiancée, author Sandra Balzo, sent out the following message:
My heart breaks to send you all this news, especially by e-mail. As you may know, Jerry has battled chronic severe depression for years, mostly controlled by medication, but exacerbated by alcohol. Last night he took his own life. Jerry was the smartest, kindest man I’ve ever met, and I thought we’d continue to grow old together. His demons had other plans. Please keep Jerry in your heart, as you all were in his.
I offer my best wishes to his family.

FOLLOW-UP I: Not surprisingly, other writers who knew Healy have taken to social media to express their sorrow this loss. The following two notes came through Facebook.

From Reed Farrel Coleman:
“I am very saddened to learn of the suicide of my colleague Jerry Healy. Jerry was what we in my family would call a real character. He had his foibles and eccentricities, as do we all--writers more than most--but he was a good man, a caring man. It’s people like Jerry who make being part of the mystery-writing community a special thing. It’s safe to say, there won’t be another like him.”

From Brendan DuBois:
“I’m shocked and stunned beyond belief on the news that my old friend Jerry Healy has taken his own life. Fuck. He warmly introduced me to MWA when I first joined, encouraged my own writing, helped me get my first agent, and blurbed my first novel. A quiet joke between us was that he claimed he had the body of a 19-year-old paratrooper, a description I used in one of my later novels about a law professor. We sometimes would share a meal and companionship in Boston. He was a great presence at New England MWA meetings and B’cons, and could be found rounding up people to go bar-hopping or just to hang out at the bar. He always welcomed newcomers, to make them feel at home, and his output was magnificent, being a multi-Shamus Award winner. He was a true light in this field, and my Lord, he will be missed.

“An MP and law professor, he often joked he was to the right of Atilla the Hun, but you’d never know it from his warm demeanor.

“Prayers and wishes for Sandy and his family. I can’t remember feeling this sick and gobsmacked in ages.”

From Richard Helms:
“I am so shocked and saddened to learn that Shamus Award-winning author, and my friend, Jerry Healy has taken his life.”

“I first met Jerry at Sleuthfest in 2002. He attended a presentation I did on forensic profiling, and afterward he stayed and talked with me for almost an hour. I was in awe. Jerry was already a 10-time PWA Shamus Award nominee in 2002, and had won several of them, and he took time out of his conference to talk with a guy who only had two books on the shelves.

“Two years later, he agreed to provide a cover blurb for my novel Grass Sandal. A year later, he helped engineer my introduction to Bob Parker, and helped me get a cover blurb from The Master for my novel Cordite Wine. I caught up with him at Bouchercon in 2006, after Cordite Wine had garnered my third Shamus nomination, and I bought him a couple of rounds to thank him for helping out a young(ish) author who really didn’t have the street cred to merit it. He gladly accepted the drinks, but also said that if I really wanted to thank him I should ‘pay it forward’--that is, help the next author who came along asking ME for help.

“Since then, I’ve made it my policy to help any author who contacts me for whatever answers I can offer, cover blurbs for new novels, and any other assistance. When I won the Thriller Award in 2011, I told this story in my acceptance speech, and reiterated--as Jerry had taught me--that as authors, at whatever level of success we have achieved, we have the privilege and the obligation to help others up the ladder.

“Just two years ago, at Killer Nashville, we spent two or three hours in the hotel bar tossing back cold ones and talking about a little bit of everything. The next day I moderated a panel with Jerry and his partner Sandy Balzo. As always, Jerry stole the show, and he did it masterfully. I had no idea at the time that it was the last time I’d see him.

“Jerry was a very important and influential person in my early days writing and publishing mysteries, and I can honestly say that he will be dearly missed. I think I’ll mark his passing by going back and re-reading one of his excellent John Francis Cuddy novels.

“Safe travels, my friend.”

FOLLOW-UP II: And this comes from Sandy Balzo …

“I posted Monday about Robin Williams’ loss, saying, ‘Severe depression is about as far from “the blues,” as Ebola is from a cold,’ based on seeing Jerry battle through a bad bout in May and June. You can’t just ‘cheer up,’ or ‘see somebody’ or ‘take something’ and instantly make it better. Even the right drug, when you finally find it, takes days or weeks to work. Plain and simple, I said, depression kills. Little did I know that three days later it would claim my love.

“I plan to have the memorial at Jerry’s beloved Lauderdale Tennis Club [in] mid-November when the snowbirds are back in South Florida. You know how Jerry always loved a crowd.

“I’ll post the exact date and time here, as well as on the memory page:

“In the meantime, please know that I appreciate every single post, even if I don’t respond directly. We are blessed in our friends. Jerry would have been so pleased.”

READ MORE:Farewell, Jeremiah Healy,” by Ali Karim (Shotsmag Confidential); “Interview with Jeremiah Healy,” by Jon Jordan; “The Popularity of Legal Thrillers,” by Jeremiah Healy (Mystery Fanfare).


Clinton Greaves said...

Truly sad news. I've read many of the January interviews, and remember the sit down with Healy. In the wake of Robin Williams's recent passing, hopefully people will have an increasing understanding of how insidious depression is.RIP and thoughts and prayers with Mr. Healy's family.

JudyinBoston said...

I knew Jerry from MWA and the Boston writing community. He was a great guy and a good writer. Such sad news.
Judy Copek

Unknown said...

RIP Jeremiah Healy. I had read all his p.i. novels, hoped for more.

Jeffrey Marks said...

So sad to hear this. He was a great guy and a great writer

JA Konrath said...

Well that just plain sucks.

I have fond memories of Jerry. My heart goes out to Sandy.


Mike Newton said...

Terrible news! I loved Jerry's books and met him for the first time at my first LCC in Scottsdale. On panels, he never failed to plug my old how-to books, always had a smile for everyone, was kind and generous to a fault. A sad, sad day indeed.

Zoë Sharp said...

I'm stunned to learn this devastating news about Jerry Healy. He was one of the good guys, but can completely understand how all-consuming severe depression can be, regardless of the support of those closest.

Someone once said that we remember people by the shape of the hole they leave in the world.

Damn it, Jerry has left a huge hole.

My heart goes out to Sandy.

Random said...

I'm shocked and saddened to hear this news. As others have already said, damn.

Martin Edwards said...

Very sad news.

Joyce Krieg said...

Jerry and Sandy recently vacationed on the Monterey (CA) peninsula. They dropped in to one of the meetings of Central Coast Writers and it ended with Jerry very generously offering to give a talk to any interested local writers. What a lovely evening we had! Not many successful writers would be so warm and giving of their time during what is supposed to be their vacation, that's for sure!

Anonymous said...

So sad to hear about Jerry he was my law school Civil Procedure Professor not someone who you would forget. He certainly taught and influenced many people over the years.we will all remember him as a true character.

RJPetyo said...

Tragic news. I met Jeremiah Healy several times at mystery and writers' conferences. He was always outgoing and enthusiastic and was a wonderful speaker. RIP

David Daniel said...

It's all been said already, but I want to add my condolences. Jerry was, as many have said, kind to me when my first mystery, The Heaven Stone, won the St. Martin's/Private Eye Writers of America award and was a Shamus nominee. He offered a blurb and sound advice. I often felt he labored in the shadow of bigger name writers who weren't half the man he was. RIP, Jerry.

Narayan said...

Just read about this news...more than two months have passed...Have never met JH or spoke with him. But I had send an ealry draft of my work A Fiction of Law: A study on legal fiction"to him for his kind perusal. He had the grace and kindness to write an encouraging reply. I was privileged. condolences
Narayan Radhakrishnan
Trivandrum, India

Anonymous said...

Great and inspiring law professor. A perfectionist whose lessons were invaluable, motivational and unforgettable. I am priviliged to have learned from Jerry.