My best friend in the mystery writing world, author Robin Hathaway, died last Saturday. I'm going to skip her professional resume here--you can find it on her website or Amazon author page if you're interested.
Robin and I met twenty years ago at a Mid-Atlantic Mystery Convention, at the founding meeting of the Delaware Valley Chapter of Sisters in Crime. We spent the majority of our friendship, I think, in a car or train. At first we traveled to New York City for MWA dinners and Edgar week activities, then we carpooled together to Malice Domestic in the Washington, DC area each year.
When her first novel won the St. Martin's Best Traditional Mystery award in 1997, she phoned, shouting, "I won! I won!" It took a few minutes to get her to calm down enough to tell exactly what she'd won. When she nabbed an Agatha for the book the next year, the first thing she said to me was "You're next." (I did get an Agatha nod the year after, so she was half right, but I had to wait until 2009 before I brought home a teapot myself.) But my point is, amidst her Agatha exhilaration, she thought of me first. She was that kind of person.
Once we both had publications to hawk, our joint book tours began. My favorite was our madcap drive down the Jersey coast, starting with a talk at the Ocean City Library and stopping at every bookstore between there and Cape May in two days, with a short break to collect shells and dip our feet into the Atlantic in Strathmere. And when my second novel came out, we walked all over New York City, fifty blocks to the Upper West Side, twenty-five down to Greenwich Village.
The Caroline half of the Charles Todd team joined us for our next long tour (the southeastern quarter of Pennsylvania) and our trio became known as The Three Witches. We did signings, library talks and conventions, including an epic 15-hour trek to and from Indianpolis for Bouchercon, with Robin lustily singing "Mairzy Doats" to keep me awake while I was driving.
The three of us also got together for week-long writing retreats in the backwoods of South Jersey. We'd write in separate rooms all day, getting our own breakfasts and lunches, then cook a common dinner together at night (gourmet meals they were, too -- Moroccan chicken one night, pork chops with an apple glaze another -- and always moose tracks ice cream for dessert). Afterward, we'd sit out on the screened porch, listening to MP3s of old radio plays. Then more writing before bed.
Really, what I remember most of those twenty years was the conversation. Robin and I never ran out of things to talk about--writing and books, of course, but also history, food, politics, great ghost stories, arts, science, nature, you name it. It wasn't so much common interests that sustained these conversations as it was mutual curiosity.
That's what I'll miss most, that sharing of what we'd learned about the world with each other. But I'm very grateful for having enjoyed two decades in Robin's company.