Thursday, November 27, 2014

Janet LaPierre: R.I.P.

Author Janet LaPierre passed away peacefully early this morning. She suffered a stroke two weeks ago, and although everyone hoped she would recover, it was not meant to be. She was my best friend. The sadness and shock is still with me, but Pierre asked that I make her passing public.

I first met Janet LaPierre almost 40 years ago when she responded to an ad in the local Berkeley paper about a mystery ‘class’ I was teaching at my home in the Berkeley flats. She joined the group and was a regular weekly attendee for over 10 years.

In spite of the age difference, we quickly became fast friends as we often enjoyed wine and chatted after “group”. She was writing a mystery, and I got to share in the joy and launch of the publication of her first book, Unquiet Grave (1987), and all the others that followed: Children’s Games (1989), The Cruel Mother (1990), Grandmother’s House (1991), Old Enemies (1993). These were the Early Port Silva Mysteries. Port Silva, a character in itself, was a fictitious town, modeled loosely on Ft Bragg on the Mendocino (CA) Coast…with the addition of a University. The later Port Silva mysteries include Baby Mine (1999), Keepers (2001), Death Duties (2004), and Family Business (2006). What is so unique in these books, besides the characters and setting—well, because of really, is that the Port Silva mysteries feature different residents taking center stage as detective, heroine, hero, or another role. Meg Halloran (school teacher sleuth), Vince Gutierrez (Chief of Police), Patience and Verity Mackellar (private investigative team) and other characters populate the books, making large or small appearances or none at all. Run a Crooked Mile (2009) introduced a new location and characters—the small town of Weaverville in Trinity County (CA). Janet spent a lot of time in both Ft Bragg and Weaverville doing research, as well as enjoying the landscape, reading, and walking with the dogs. There were also numerous short stories in different anthologies and magazines. Unquiet Grave was a Finalist for the Macavity Award for Best First Novel. Old Enemies was a finalist for the Macavity and Anthony Awards for Best Novel. Keepers was a Finalist for the Shamus Award for Best Paperback.

During our early friendship, we went to writers’ conferences and mystery conventions, frequently rooming together, often taking trips to conferences in other states or areas.

Over the years Janet LaPierre and I attended each other’s family affairs - weddings and funerals, dinners, and parties. We met for lunch frequently, and over wine, we shared stories about our families, dogs, writing, and books. Mostly books. We traded books and titles. I could always depend on her for recommendations, and she from me. We shared similar tastes in literature—mysteries and beyond the genre. Even now, I have a stack of books set aside for her.

As I mentioned, food played an important role in our 40-year relationship. Crab season in the Bay Area was toasted with champagne and her husband Pierre’s crab cakes—a yearly ritual. We also gathered in Bodega Bay with dogs and fish and chips and walks on the beach. We celebrated Fourth of July together for many years. I used to have a large Independence Day party with over 200 people—family, friends and mystery folks, and although we provided chicken and burgers, Pierre always brought ribs. Janet was never a lover of big crowds, but she always came, even if she didn’t stay for long. I discontinued the party about 10 years ago, but Janet and Pierre always joined us for a small Independence Day celebration since then. So even with only 4-6 people in attendance, Pierre brought ribs! Enough to feed an army. Thanks, Pierre. There was always good conversation about politics and books.

Over the past 13 years, Janet and I developed another ritual. Instead of going out for lunch, we had lunch in my garden. Roast beef sandwiches from Andronico’s, chardonnay, and chocolate. Living in California, this was an all year event. And, we discussed family and friends and books and, lately, health. The things that old and aging friends talk about.

We didn’t always agree and as in any 40-year relationship, there were ups and downs, but there was always a special bond. She was always there for me, and I for her. Without reservation. Janet La Pierre was my best friend. I will miss her and our times together. I plan to reread her novels over the holidays. She’s left a wonderful legacy and a hole in my heart.

Read a 2009 interview with Janet LaPierre HERE.

25 comments:

Patti C said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. I can't imagine how you feel, but you have my sympathies and love. Take care of yourself.

Sue Trowbridge said...

I'm so sorry to hear that. Janet was one of my clients - I worked with her from about 1999-2010 on her web site, which is still up at http://www.janetlapierre.com. We were both lovers of dogs and, of course, mysteries, and I'm glad I was able to spend some time with her. She was also a wonderful author and I'm glad that several of her books are still in print.

Noemi said...

A true person and a good writer. I am so sorry.

Ann Holt said...

"In losing her I've lost that part of myself that she saw in me." ~ Carol Goodman in "The Drowning Tree My condolences on the passing of your best friend.

Judy Bobalik said...

Janet, my dear, I am so sorry for your loss. Sending all my hugs and prayers.

Nancy Pickard said...

What a lovely tribute, Janet. The two Janets, yes? I hadn't seen her in years, buut I lliked her and her writing very much and I remember her vividly. I know you'll miss your friend.

Margaret said...

Oh Janet I am so sorry to hear about Janet LaPierre. I too love he books and counted her as a friend.

Zulema said...

I am so sorry to hear this. I hadn't seen Janet for many years but I read her books and remember her and Pierre with great fondness. It is a great loss, especially for you, Janet.

Zulema Seligsohn344199

Susan C Shea said...

You and her family have my deep condolences, Janet. There are very few people in our lives who fit us well enough to be best friends, and it's a terrible loss, beyond the loss of a good person. Thanks for sharing the story of your friendship.
Hugs, Susan Shea

Donis Casey said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Janet. True friends are hard to find.

Carfair said...

I am really sorry to hear about Janet LaPierre. I have always enjoyed her writing and her visits to our Second Saturdays group. I an sorry for your loss, Janet.

Elaine Viets said...

So very sorry for your loss, Janet. What a lovely tribute to four decades of friendship.

Dru said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Meg Mims said...

What a wonderful friendship. <> to you.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Thanks for sharing your great memories of your friend.

Edith Gladstone said...

Indeed a wonderful tribute to your friendship, Janet. Janet LaPierre's generous warmth reached so many of us. A great loss.

Priscilla said...

A beautiful tribute, Janet. Truly sad to hear the news.

Andi Shechter said...

I am trying to find words as she deserves them. I had no idea she had had a stroke or that she died. She had one of the best smiles I ever saw and had an outstanding talent. Janet was one of those wholly, totally underappreciated writers with a great story-telling ability.

I still remember joking about putting together "The Janet Panel" with panelists Janet Dawson, Janet LaPeirre, Janet Rudolph and moderated by "honorary Janet" Jan Burke. I think it came about at LCC where 3 of you were gathered talknig somewhere and I realized "my gods, these women must have so much to talk about with each other."

I can see I'm going to have to go on a binge of reading her books. A fine fine talent. An awfully nice puerson. I am sorry for our loss. This has been a week from hell.

Janet Rudolph said...

Andi, your comments and thoughts are so wonderful, especially in light of your own sadness, the passing of your husband Stu on Wednesday. My sympathy and love go out to you. Yes,the Janet panel! fond memories.

marta chausée said...

What a pity that I never met your friend, Janet. Your loving tribute has made her very real to me. My sympathies for your loss. Also please extend my sympathies to her husband, Pierre.

Chris Aldrich said...

This has been such a tough few months for the mystery community, and particularly this week. I remember reading Janet's early Port Costa books years ago when I was immersed in the world of Bay Area woman mystery writers and enjoyed them a lot. My condolences to you, Janet R, and to all her other friends and family.

Margaret Lucke said...

I'm so sorry to hear this news, and my sympathy on your loss of such a great friend. Janet LaPierre was a wonderful, gracious woman and a very fine writer indeed. I count myself very fortunate to have known her.

Anonymous said...

I wrote an earlier comment but my computer or the blog host made it disappear. I put the gist of what I wrote on DorothyL. I'd just like to add that there was recent Hollywood interest in Janet's Port Silva series, but the rights issue was complicated by her former publisher. And Janet was pretty sure she didn't want anyone else owning and messing around with her characters.

She was a joy to work with. This is a great loss on a personal level and for the mystery community at large.

--Meredith Phillips, Perseverance Press (Janet's editor for her last 5 books)

Deborah Valentine said...

Janet, I'm so very sorry to hear this news. My condolences. She was a truly terrific person.

Naomi Hirahara said...

Remember that I met Janet when I first entered the mystery world. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend, Janet.