Sunday, August 29, 2021

A Charming, Gracious Lady Gone Too Soon

It was late yesterday afternoon, shortly before the start of Bouchercon’s Anthony Awards presentation, when I heard that Caroline Todd—who, with her son Charles Todd, was supposed to present this year’s Best Critical or Non-fiction Work commendation—had passed away. As most Rap Sheet readers will know, the Todds together penned dozens of mysteries, primarily those starring early 20th-century Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge (A Fatal Lie) and World War I-era battlefield nurse Bess Crawford (An Irish Hostage).

Charles Todd brought the sad news via Facebook:
It is with a heavy heart that I along with my sister Linda [Watjen] and Caroline’s sister Martha must tell you we lost Caroline this morning, 8-27-21, at 10 a.m. She passed peacefully and was with Linda at the end. Caroline left the world a better place and was immensely happy to have met and gotten to know so many readers, authors and booksellers. She was to the very end a class act. More information will follow. I am delighted we have completed A Game of Fear featuring Ian Rutledge and the next in the Bess Crawford [series]. Caroline will always be alive in the hearts of all she touched. Everyone’s notes have been greatly appreciated. Charles
The tributes have since been pouring in. In a post on his blog, fellow novelist Martin Edwards calls Caroline Todd “a woman of charm, intelligence, and kindliness,” and adds:
I first became aware of the name of Charles Todd (the name under which the mother and son duo wrote) twenty-five years ago, when I delighted in their first historical mystery featuring Inspector Rutledge, A Test of Wills. The popularity of that book paved the way for a long and successful career. Their love of England shone through in their writing: it's not easy to capture the sense of a foreign country in a long series of novels, but they achieved this thanks to meticulous research and a great deal of empathy. …

Four years ago, when I agreed to give a talk in [the English village of] Grasmere to a group of Americans visiting the Lake District, I was surprised and delighted to find that their number included Caroline and Charles, who were on another research trip—as I say, they researched expertly and extensively together. I've also had the pleasure of including their stories in anthologies; their contributions were always entertaining and highly professional.
Blogger and editor Janet Rudolph describes Caroline as “one of the most gracious, warm, and charming members of the mystery community.” She offers these memories:
I first met Caroline many years ago when I was seated next to her at her publisher dinner at the Baltimore Bouchercon. She was the perfect dining companion. She shared so many wonderful and interesting personal stories. Since that meeting, we always made sure to have coffee or a short talk at every Left Coast Crime, Malice [Domestic], and Bouchercon. She was so very special and someone I counted as a friend.

Over the years she was on several panels that I moderated, but my last “meeting” with her was this summer at More Than Malice, the virtual Malice Domestic. She was on a panel I moderated on “Past as Prologue.” She was animated and interested, not just in her own writing and role on the panel, but in that of the other newer authors. The panelists all had such a good discussion that I was able to step back and enjoy, too. Caroline valued the younger new additions to the mystery world. And that's how I will remember her—always so gracious and welcoming.
I didn’t know Caroline Todd well, but like so many others, I had opportunities to meet and speak with her at Bouchercons, notably in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2015 (click here and scroll down to see a photo) and in New Orleans in 2016. I was also fortunate enough to interview her and her son in 2002 on behalf of January Magazine, at a time when they were still hiding behind their joint “Charles Todd” pseudonym. Caroline reminded me very much of my British maternal grandmother, which is a compliment, indeed.

So far, I haven’t spotted any obituaries of Caroline Todd, nor have I found out so much as how old she was at the time of her demise. Word has also not got around as to whether her son Charles will continue writing their series in his mother’s absence (though I presume he will). But I shall update this post as I hear more.

FOLLOW-UP: Jiro Kimura has a nice obit of Caroline Todd in The Gumshoe Site, which includes her age at passing:
Caroline Todd, one-half of the mother-and-son writing team that authors under the joint pseudonym Charles Todd, died peacefully on August 27 in Delaware. The former Associated Press reporter started to co-write (with her son, Charles Todd, the former corporate trouble-shooter) [by producing] A Test of Wills (St. Martin’s, 1986), introducing Inspector Ian Rutledge, a Scotland Yard inspector with shell shock from World War One. This historical novel won the 1997 Barry Award and was nominated for the Edgar Award in the first novel category, resulting in their continuing to produce almost one Rutledge book every year. In addition, they started another historical mystery series featuring Bess Crawford, a British army nurse in World War One, starting [with] A Duty to the Dead (Morrow, 2009). An Unmarked Grave (Crawford #4, 2012), A Question of Honor (Crawford #5, 2013) and The Shattered Tree (Crawford #8, 2016) won the 2013 Macavity, the 2013 Agatha and the 2017 Mary Higgins Clark Awards, respectively. The 24th Rutledge book, A Game of Fear, and the 13th, not-yet-titled Crawford book will be published in 2022 from Morrow. To my surprise, I have found out the real names of Caroline Todd and Charles Todd are Carolyn Teachey Watjen and David Wheaton Watjen, respectively. She was 86.
READ MORE:We Have Lost One of the Great Writers of Our Era—Caroline Todd,” by George Easter (Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine); “Remembering the Late Caroline Todd,” by Oline H. Cogdill (Mystery Scene); “Caroline Todd, A Celebration” (Jungle Red Writers).

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