Friday, November 24, 2017

A Writer Full of Wit and Humor, Gone

I’m very sorry to hear that Arkansas-born Texas author Joan Hess has passed away at age 68. As Janet Rudolph reports in Mystery Fanfare,
Joan Hess was the author of the Claire Malloy Mysteries and the Arly Hanks Mysteries, formally known as the Maggody Mysteries. She won the American Mystery Award, the Agatha Award [in 1991, for her short story “Too Much to Bare”] ..., and the Macavity Award. She was a member of Sisters in Crime and a former president of the American Crime Writers League. She contributed to multiple anthologies and book series, including Crosswinds, Deadly Allies, Malice Domestic [9], and The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories [1997]. She also wrote the Theo Bloomer mystery series under the pseudonym Joan Hadley.

This past year Joan completed an unfinished manuscript of Elizabeth Peters. Based on extensive notes and conversations with Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters), her devoted friend, Joan took on the task of completing [
The Painted Queen,] the last edition of this cherished series. Joan delivered a story brimming with intrigue and humor, blending Victorian formality with a clever, tongue-in-cheek wit, true to Barbara’s style.
Looking through the various comments made about Hess’ death on Facebook, I was struck by this one from her fellow author Les Roberts: “Joan was one of the funniest and most charming people I’ve ever met. Her wit was brilliant, her sarcasm devastating, and behind the sawmill delivery, a kind, thoughtful, delightful person—one of my FIRST friends 30 years ago when I first began writing mysteries.” On that same site, Harlan Coben wrote: “Really heartbroken to hear about the death of the funny, talented, generous Joan Hess, author of the Maggody mystery series. Thank you for everything, Joan. I’d say ‘R.I.P.,’ but alas, I know you better!”

We offer our heartfelt condolences to Ms. Hess’ family.

UPDATE: Jiro Kimura adds these bits of information in his blog, The Gumshoe Site: “Joan Hess died on November 23 at her new home in Austin, Texas. The former art teacher started writing romances to make money, but her nicely plotted unsold romance novels lacked romance. She switched to mysteries and wrote Strangled Prose (St. Martin’s, 1986), the first in the series featuring Claire Malloy, a small-town bookstore owner in Farberville, Arkansas” (a fictionalized version of Hess’ former hometown, Fayetteville).

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