I grieved to learn of the passing of Leighton Gage on Saturday, July 27th. I speak not only as his editor but on behalf of Soho Press, his publisher, and his Soho Crime confederates when I say we are bereft, both at the loss of the gentleman himself and at the reality that his last book will, indeed, be his last book. Each of Leighton’s six published novels—Blood of the Wicked, Buried Strangers, Dying Gasp, Every Bitter Thing, A Vine in the Blood, Perfect Hatred—have each been critical gems, and I am heartbroken to think that Leighton will not witness the critical reception of his forthcoming The Ways of Evil Men, which is due to be published in January 2014—I am certain it will be the warmest yet.
Leighton’s work is quite unlike anything else being written or published, and time will only prove its mettle. The novels—procedurals following a team of Brazilian federal police investigators under the phlegmatic command of Chief Inspector Mario Silva—are simultaneously taut and cinematic in their execution, noir confections of sharply drawn scenes and grisly ethical choices. I love them for their clever balance of thought-provoking social commentary and sheer entertainment. As Tom Nolan wrote in March 2012 in a Wall Street Journal piece on the entire Silva series, “Despite their social conscience and ambitious reach, there’s nothing stiff or programmatic about Mr. Gage’s lively, action-filled chronicles. They have finely sketched characters, vivid geographic detail and their own brutal sort of humor.” That vivid geographic detail is another very special feature of the books: Leighton takes the reader all over the massive country of Brazil and deep into its microcosms and remotest pockets in a way that only someone intimately and lovingly familiar with a subject can. His expertise allows him to offer the reader an immersive experience of something unfamiliar as well as a critical lens for observing our own respective societies—the noblest achievement, in my opinion, toward which modern fiction can aspire.
Leighton was a backbone of the crime fiction community as well as the Soho Crime family. A tireless author advocate with a powerful social media presence (he founded the blog Murder Is Everywhere, which is devoted to international crime fiction), Leighton was a mentor and friend to many authors at various stages in their careers. I only had the privilege of working with Leighton editorially on his three most recent books, and I am of heavy heart in acknowledging there will be no more, that we will not be toasting to his success at future crime conventions. On behalf of everyone at Soho, I extend our deepest condolences to Leighton’s lovely and gracious wife, Eide, and to the rest of his family.
In lieu of flowers, the family would truly appreciate donations to pancan.org, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.