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Author Obits

Thursday, May 28, 2009

It seems like we’ve had a lot of great authors who’ve passed away in the last year or so. . .John Updike, Michael Crichton, Arthur C. Clarke, Tony Hillerman, Margaret Truman, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and several more. I thought today, we’d look at some famous authors’ obituaries and start thinking about what we might like for the media to say about our writing careers (after many long and successful years, of course) after we’re gone.

Michael Crichton

    Crichton was a distinctive figure in the entertainment business, a trained physician whose interests included writing, filmmaking and television. (He was physically distinctive as well, standing 6 feet 9 inches.) . . . Crichton was “an extraordinary man. Brilliant, funny, erudite, gracious, exceptionally inquisitive and always thoughtful,” “ER” executive producer John Wells told the AP. . . .

    Michael Crichton was born in Chicago in 1942 and grew up in New York’s suburbs. His father was a journalist and Michael loved the writing profession. He went to medical school partly out of a concern he wouldn’t be able to make writing a career, but the success of “The Andromeda Strain” in 1969 — the book was chosen by the Book-of-the-Month Club and optioned by Hollywood — made him change his mind, though he still had an M.D.

    Though most of Crichton’s books were major best-sellers involving science, he could ruffle feathers when he took on social issues. “Rising Sun” (1992) came out during a time when Americans feared Japanese ascendance, particularly when it came to technology. “Disclosure” (1994) was about a sexual harassment case.

    Crichton won an Emmy, a Peabody, a Writers Guild of America Award for “ER,” and won other awards as well.

    “Through his books, Michael Crichton served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand,” the news release said.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur’s vivid – and detailed – descriptions of space shuttles, super-computers and rapid communications systems were enjoyed by millions of readers around the world.

His writings gave science fiction – a genre often accused of veering towards the fantastical – a refreshingly human and practical face.

His ideas and gadgets engaged his readers because of, not despite, their plausibility. Quite often, his fictional musings formed the basis of what we now see as science fact. . . .

A youthful interest in dinosaurs and Morse code blossomed into a fascination with all things scientific.

During World War II, Sir Arthur volunteered for the Royal Air Force, where he worked in the, then highly-secretive, development of radar. . . .

He wrote story-lines for the comic-book hero, Dan Dare, inspired Gene Roddenberry to create Star Trek, and posited Clarke’s Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Beyond this, during the war, he published a paper in which he predicted that, at 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, communications satellites would sit in geo-stationary orbit, allowing electronic signals to be bounced off them around the globe. . . .

A seer of the modern age, Sir Arthur was an original thinker, a scientific expert whose tales combined technology and good old-fashioned storytelling and whose influence went far beyond the written page.

Marking his 90th birthday last year, he told fans: “I want to be remembered most as a writer. I want to entertain readers and hopefully stretch their imaginations as well.

“If I have given you delight by aught that I have done, let me lie quiet in that night, which shall be yours anon.”
(From BBC News)

John Updike
John Updike, the kaleidoscopically gifted writer whose quartet of Rabbit novels highlighted a body of fiction, verse, essays and criticism so vast, protean and lyrical as to place him in the first rank of American authors, died on Tuesday. . . .

Astonishingly industrious and prolific, Mr. Updike turned out three pages a day of fiction, essays, criticism or verse, proving the maxim that several pages a day was at least a book a year — or more. Mr. Updike published 60 books in his lifetime; his final one, “My Father’s Tears and Other Stories,” is to be published in June.

“I would write ads for deodorants or labels for catsup bottles, if I had to,” he told The Paris Review in 1967. “The miracle of turning inklings into thoughts and thoughts into words and words into metal and print and ink never palls for me.” . . .
(From The New York Times)

An audio obituary of Madeleine L’Engle (2007) from NPR.

Tony Hillerman
In 1970, Hillerman published The Blessing Way, the first of 17 novels that tracked tribal police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jimmy Chee through the wide-open Navajo landscape. The series was among more than 30 books he wrote. Actor and producer Robert Redford turned three of the mysteries into movies that were shown on PBS. . . .

Hillerman also had a rapt audience in his children. “He was a wonderful bedtime storyteller for me and my brothers and sisters,” Anne Hillerman said. “They were just these improved stories from whatever the day had brought.”

But her father spoke little of his time in the Army during World War II, where he earned the Silver and Bronze stars and the Purple Heart. She learned more about those experiences from reading his 2001 memoir Seldom Disappointed. “He was just like a lot of people in his generation — he was getting on with his life,” she said. “He lived very much in the present.”
(From the Santa Fe New Mexican)

On the Navajo Nation where tribal members sometimes hesitate to open up to outsiders, they embraced Tony Hillerman as an honest and genuine man who wanted to learn about their culture and get the details right. . . . But Hillerman’s relationship with the Navajo Nation stretched far beyond the pages of those books, which featured two of the unlikeliest of literary heroes — Navajo police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. He shed light on Navajo culture, his books becoming a bridge to the reservation for tribal members who moved elsewhere, and encouraged Navajo youth to ask elders about traditions and ceremonies. . . . Hillerman returned the blessings he received from Navajos by donating money for a water delivery program at St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School in Thoreau, N.M., to the Little Sisters of the Poor in Gallup, N.M., and to put up lights at a football stadium in Monument Valley, Utah.
(From the Albuquerque Journal)

What do you want your “Beloved Author Died Yesterday” obit to say about you?

  1. Thursday, May 28, 2009 12:19 pm

    Do you know one of the first books I read (adult books) was a book from my mom’s library by Margaret Truman. I had no idea what I was getting into I just wanted something to read. I was totally enthralled and stayed up until 3am to finish the book. I think I still have that book too. I kind of stole it from my mom 😀 We were living in France at the time and it was hard to get my hands on English books so I ended up going through practically every book on my mom’s book shelf.


  2. Renee permalink
    Thursday, May 28, 2009 4:16 pm

    Well since I’m not a writer and have no intentions of becoming one, I don’t think a writing career will be mentioned in my obituary. However, I’d like to think it whatever I chose to do with my life that I will be able to give back like Tony Hillerman and do what I enjoy no matter what like John Updike!


  3. Carman Boley permalink
    Thursday, May 28, 2009 5:11 pm

    I am not a writer. But, when I die I would hope they say that I was like the Proverbs 31 woman. That I was a great mom, a good wife, and sought to honor the Lord in all I did.


  4. Jess permalink
    Thursday, May 28, 2009 6:12 pm

    Famed writer Lane Finch, 88, died yesterday on the porch swing of her cabin in the Blue Ridge mountains.
    Though she was initally considered a romance novelist, by the time she reached her sixties Finch’s novels had reached almost a cult status, her more well-known works often discussed in university literature classes for their symbolism and tone.
    “They’re interesting reads,” says Harvard University professor Lynn Schullman. “You pick them up in your twenties as kind of a guilty pleasure, a heartwarming story, and as you grow older you realize how much more there is.”
    Following her initial success she often drew criticism for her unwillingness to move, as many romance novelists do, to more “literary” novels, some critics accusing her of staying with her best-selling formula for the money. “A romance novel you write to remind your heart to stay open, to remember what you long for, even if it doesn’t exist on Earth,” she responded. “Literary fiction only circles back to its own greatness.”
    “She was a regular fixture at a lot of New York places. She would dress in vintage clothes and go for walks–she was photographed having fun alone, she was quoted as saying that 95% of female friendships were shallow and she only had time for the real thing–it was the same with romance. A lot of young girls responded to that,” said sister-in-law Mary Witmont.
    Later Finch would become as well-known for her seclusion as she had been for her patronization of urban bookstores, churches, and coffeehouses. After her fame became more widespread, she moved out of her New York City apartment and retired to the Blue Ridge mountains. Eventually she was joined by a horse, two borzoi, two dachshunds, a Persian cat, and several chickens. From her seventies onward, she seldom left her property, gardening and ordering essentials online.
    For a decade her wherabouts were a mystery, until a fan tracked her down five years before her death and broadcast it, with photographs, on the Web. “By that time, I didn’t mind the company,” Finch stated in one of her final interviews. “Hearing your characters’ names in the voices of young people after fifty years–well, it’s hard to mind that.”


  5. Thursday, May 28, 2009 7:38 pm

    Wow. That pushes for some deep thinking at the moment ~ and after that last comment…anything I write will pale in comparison. 🙂

    I do know that I want my family to be central in all I do and hope that my love for them and for God shines through in all that I do.



  6. Thursday, May 28, 2009 8:18 pm

    Oh, wow! I’ve never thought about what I want my obit to say. I suppose I really just want it to say that I loved God and people’s lives were changed because I wrote something that pointed them to hope.

    On a side note, congrats, Kaye, on the 4 star review of Menu for Romance in RT this month. Yay!


  7. Thursday, May 28, 2009 8:45 pm


    The Paris Review quote of John Updike resonates with me. It has never ceased to amaze me that words, even the same ones used over and over, much like musical notes…. have infinite possibilities of being formed into something totally original.

    Side note off of the subject, but may spark a new one:

    My sister’s good friend, Dickie Daubert, was a childhood friend of John Updike’s and a “suspect” for his character, Harry Angstrom. The link is below, if you are interested in reading about it.

    Anyway….an interesting blog topic might be, for what character in a book would you be a good real-life suspect?


    Have you ever modeled a character in your writing after a real person?


  8. Thursday, May 28, 2009 11:38 pm

    I would love for someone to call me a “kaleidoscopically gifted writer.” What a phrase!

    I decided a long time ago I would want my tombstone to reference the Spartan phrase “With your shield or on it.” It referred to their warrior tradition that wounded soldiers would be dragged home on their shields, while those who ran away in battle would discard their heavy shields in flight. It was a charge to those leaving for battle: Keep your honor! So something like, “She came home on her shield.”

    Whatever I accomplish in writing, I hope my life is one of integrity and honor.

    P.S. I LOVE your new picture in your header! You look fantastic!


  9. Sunday, May 31, 2009 10:29 pm

    It really is kind of sobering to think about just what people would say about you after you’re dead. More than being a “good writer”, I would want people to talk about what kind of a person I was, whether or not I was a good friend, and what kind of a relationship I had with the Lord. (Although the “best-seller” part wouldn’t be bad, either. 😉 )


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