Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lyn Hamilton: Tributes

These tributes to Lyn Hamilton were collected by David Cole who has been the force behind the Cool Canadian Crime interviews here on Mystery Fanfare.

Tributes to Lyn Hamilton

Sadly, Lyn Hamilton died on September 10, 2009. She was 65 years old. She had kept a battle with cancer very private. Her family wishes to extend their appreciation to all her readers, many of whom came out to book signings and other events to encourage Lara to keep on with her adventures. And thanks to all those booksellers who promoted Lyn's books and welcomed her visits, especially the Sleuth of Baker Street in Toronto, where she held many of her book launches. Lyn greatly valued the support of her representative Bella Pomer, writing colleagues who travelled to book events and sweated deadlines with her, librarians, archaeologists who provided advice and ensured accuracy, and many others.

A letter to her readers from Lyn:
About the time I finished my final novel, I reached a decision to retire, and I just put the manuscript away. But the novel takes place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, which is to say, about now, and so I started thinking about it again.
So here is my holiday gift to you, a thank you for your years of support for Lara and for me: a new mystery, and it's free. You can simply download it here. It is in manuscript form, typos and all, is 115 pages - so you'll have some printing to do - but that's it. Really. It's a gift!

The one thing I would ask is that if you do download the novel, you will consider making a donation, however small, to a women's shelter in your community. It would mean a lot to me. These organizations perform a wonderful service, and they have an even tougher time fundraising in economic times like these.

Download Corpse Wore Pearls


RHYS BOWEN: Lyn was my touring partner until her illness made travel impossible. When I think back on those tours, what I remember most was laughter. We had adventures--like being funneled into the middle of Manhattan in rush hour by mistake--but mostly we had a good time. We ate, we shopped and we laughed. (and yes, we did sign a few books along the way). We covered most of the country, we spoke on a moving train, trying to stand up while being jolted around. We enjoyed spare ribs after having our pictures taken with a pig that drooled over Lyn's sandals. We found the perfect dock for lobster in Maine and we got through serious amounts of crab-stuffed mushrooms and white wine at a Ruth's Chris Steak House. On one occasion a gentlemen presented us with a book he had written--a seriously bad book, and we entertained ourselves by reading random paragraphs, laughing so hard that we lay helplessly on our beds. When Lyn was diagnosed, she gave me the gold bracelet we bought together at an antique fair in Connecticut. I have worn it every day since and will continue to wear it in her memory.

MARY JANE MAFFINI:Not a day goes by that I don't think of my friend Lyn Hamilton. Our weekly telephone calls were an entertainment as well as an education for me. If there was a snippet of political news or cultural news, I knew that Lyn would have a delicious bit of background information about the players, or else an opinion more eloquent and insightful than any of the pundits. Now when reading the paper or listening to the news, I can still imagine her comments. I will even miss her phone calls to say, "I have bought a fabulous new pair of shoes and you are going to be just sick with jealousy!" And, sure enough, I would be.

As well as being an accomplished mystery writer, which is how many of us knew her, Lyn had an amazing career in the private sector, government and cultural agencies before she even began to write. She brought experience, intelligence and wit to everything that interested her. And her interests were wide and varied. Lyn's passion for ancient cultures and fascination for their artifacts led to the Lara McClintoch mysteries as well as the many real life adventures that preceded them. Many of her own adventures were every bit as exciting as the books. Even in researching her Lara, Lyn went the distance in every sense. For The Chinese Alchemist, she travelled alone to China, and not for the first time. It was important to see the country at the time when she was writing the book. She wasn't content to stay in Beijing, but hired a car and visited isolated villages, checking out the countryside, meeting people, getting her facts down pat. Adventures ensued. At least one of these real episodes found its way into the novel where it made an excellent scene.

Lyn was a splendid, loyal, and resolute friend. Mere weeks before she died, she offered to read my latest manuscript and delivered useful, yet gentle, advice once she had finished it. I cannot imagine how she had the energy to do that, but that's the kind of person she was. Lyn was a private person, and most people had no idea how ill she was. She continued to teach, to mentor, and to offer support and friendship to other writers and to Crime Writers of Canada, even when the going got rough. Although she had decided to retire from writing, she still took great pleasure in knowing that people loved her series, and of course, Lara. She always enjoyed and appreciated hearing from her many fans.

ROSEMARY AUBERT: I'm deeply saddened to hear about Lyn. She was always so lovely to talk to! When I got sick, she really helped me out by taking on some of my commitments. Little did I know that she herself was not well. I'll always be grateful.

VICKI DELANY: In 2005, I was lucky enough to go on a wonderful trip to New York with Lyn and Rick Blechta for an appearance at McNally Books. This was for my first book and Lyn took me under her wing and really helped with advice on promotion, on book tours, on how to give a bookstore talk. I watched, and I learned, and I am forever grateful. Lyn gave up her time to read the book and provide a blurb, which Poisoned Pen Press was wise enough to display prominently on the front cover. Thanks Lyn.

KATIE HAMILTON: "Here's another Hamilton!" Stanley and his Scottie brought Lyn to my dealer table at Malice. We assured him we were only related through books: her mystery series was well on its way, and I published reference books. At that first meeting, Lyn's words and her smile were more than the social veneer of an established writer. And whenever we met at a writers' conference she'd talk to Stanley and pet Angus--even after Alzheimers confused his mind and his words and I could not leave him home alone. Thank you, Lyn.

In 2000, as a “new” mystery writer, I came to know Lyn through Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime’s Toronto group, and the Bloody Words conference. She was always friendly and helpful, and we would talk about how things were going and the frustrations of getting “known”, especially in Canada. Intrigued by her, I started picking up her books, and my husband and I both enjoyed reading them (I pass the good ones on to him). My memory of her is of someone very intelligent, knowledgeable, even-keeled, helpful, and with a dry sense of humour. She will most definitely be missed.

LOU ALLIN: In addition to being charming, kind, and talented, Lyn Hamilton had the perfect combination. She wrote what she liked, and her readers liked what she wrote. How many of us can say the same? Her mystery series with the globetrotting Lara let her start each book with a tabula rasa which opened to a fresh passport page and another unforgettable tour for the lucky reader. I'll miss my annual armchair trip with Lyn.

VICTORIA HOUSTON: Generous does not begin to describe Lyn Hamilton. When I arrived at my very first Bouchercon as a freshman author with only one book under my belt, Lyn did not hesitate to include me at her table for lunch. She became my mentor and close friend. We traveled together, shared rooms and wine and joked often (especially over this crazy business of ours). I found her dedication to her work remarkable as she would spend significantly more than she received as an advance in order to travel to the exotic locales that anchored her mysteries -- she was a superb "detective" herself.

As a writer and as a person, Lyn Hamilton had such class. I have never -- will never -- know anyone like her. A dear friend gone too soon.

R. J. HARLICK: The first time I met Lyn was in Toronto at the first Bloody Words mystery conference ever held. She was sitting across from me at a narrow table in a suffocatingly hot room. The city was in the midst of a heat wave and the conference was being held in the Arts & Letters Club, which sadly lacked air conditioning. I was nervous, very nervous. Lyn was one of Canada’s esteemed mystery writers and she was about to pass judgment on my precious manuscript that had seen a lot of sweat, tears and hope poured into it.

I could barely croak out a ‘Hello’, I was so scared. But Lyn in that no-nonsense, take-charge fashion that I came to know was her quickly put me at ease. She didn’t gush over my first attempt at mystery writing with false flattery or dismiss it with a disdainful sniff. Rather she very calmly pointed out its strengths and weaknesses and left me with a feeling of hope, hope that it might someday, after more sweat, be good enough to be published. And so it eventually became my first published novel, Death’s Golden Whisper.

Lyn’s support didn’t stop with this evaluation. She very kindly re-read the much revised manuscript in its entirety and wrote a very complimentary author blurb for the book’s cover. And I know I wasn’t the only aspiring author she helped. I’ve talked to others who were similarly encouraged by Lyn to not give up, but to keep plugging at their writing until finally a publisher says ‘yes’.

MEDORA SALE (CAROLINE ROE): The news of Lyn's death came as a great shock, even though we knew that she had not been well. Lyn and I shared an agent and a publisher, and so she was a perfect companion at conferences and such. Someone to grumble with safely over the inevitable delays and glitches of a writer's existence.

Not only that, but she was someone you could call at any time with a query - even if you hadn't met in six months. She always seemed to know what was going on and could give you a answer.

The world has few enough clear-sighted, forthright and generous women with a sense of humour. We have just lost one of our slender store.

And she wrote good books.

SYLVIA WARSH: Lyn was always very supportive and encouraged me as a writer. A few years ago Lyn, Mary Jane Maffini and I were going to be interviewed on CFRB radio by John Moore just before the Arthur Ellis Awards dinner. We were all dressed up for the dinner, waiting at the station until we were called. I had never spoken on radio before and I was terrified. Lyn tried to calm me down but not much helped. Finally she said something like, “Don’t worry, we’ll only be on for a few minutes and probably five people will hear it.” I will miss her.

RICK MOLINA: From the moment I first met Lyn I knew I had a friend. She was so warm, kind and above all she was genuine. Lyn was the real deal. Whenever I was at gatherings, I sought her out so I could sit next to her. She was fun to be with. Though her achievements were great, Lyn never boasted. Her primary concern was always for others. She called me once on some small matter but our chat soon turned into a beautiful conversation about writing and life and the things we learn along the way. I will miss her.

ANTHONY BIDULKA: All of us search for mentors, models, people who’ve lit the lantern that guides us as we stumble along to become who we were meant to be. If we’re lucky, we might get to actually meet one or two of them. A couple of years ago, at a Bloody Words Mystery Conference, it happened to me.

Some time ago, as I was attempting to get a foothold in the industry with my first book, I came across a Lyn Hamilton novel. The parallels were undeniable. I wrote mystery. Lyn wrote mystery. I wrote about a Canadian protagonist. Lyn did too with her feisty Lara McClintoch. My stories featured international travel. McClintoch turned out to be a globe-trotting antiques dealer. I tore into the series of books. For many wonderful hours I was mesmerizingly lost in such fascinating tales as The Magyar Venus, The Etruscan Chimera, The Moche Warrier (none of which I had a clue what they were!)

I’d found the glow of a lantern.

Having accompanied Lara (and Lynn) to exotic locales like Easter Island, Tunisia, Bangkok and Ireland, I felt a certain kinship, like that of any travellers who’ve shared a grand voyage. That kinship gave me the courage to approach Lyn at Bloody Words. I declared my near hero-worship of her and her work, and dismay at her recent announcement that there would be no more Archaeological Mysteries featuring Lara McClintoch. My pleas for her to change her mind went unheeded. Instead, she said something modest like: Oh, don’t you think eleven books is more than enough?, and then went on to talk about other things.

PAT BROWN: I first met Lyn Hamilton in 2004 when she was the Writer in Residence at the Toronto Library. I had sent in the first 30 pages of my novel (which became L.A. Heat) and set up and appointment with her. We met and she was very encouraging. I took her words and did a lot rewriting on my ms and sent it back to her. Again we met, this time she was more than encouraging. She speaking at another library event with Mary Jane Maffini and Barbara Fradkin where I met with Leona Trainer, a literary agent. She was interested in seeing my ms and when I sent it to her, she signed me on. Soon after she sold L.A. Heat to Alyson Books.

Lyn Hamilton was one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met. I would see her at Bloody Words a few times after that time and she was always ready with a kind word and encouragement. I owe my writing career to her and all I can say, is I miss you Lyn.

LINWOOD BARCLAY: I'm sorry I didn't have a chance to get to know Lyn better. But she always had a kind word, seemed genuinely pleased for the good fortune of others. We had, I think, a mutual lack of admiration for a particular Ontario premier -- something she shared with me because of all the anti-Harris columns I wrote for the Star back in the 90s. That alone endeared her to me.

: I started an e-mail correspondence with Lyn near the beginning of her series, to tell her how much I enjoyed her books. As an archaeologist, I was especially impressed that she got all the details right. When I read The Thai Amulet, I noted that she credited Dr. Richard Cushman with the translation of the Royal Chronicles of Ayudhya, published after his untimely death. I was thrilled to read that - I was Dr. Cushman's graduate assistant at Rice University, and I typed the manuscript for him. We finally met in person a few years ago when she came to Houston, and had a chance to chat for awhile. I told her about one of my favorite "archaeology" books, a spoof called Motel of the Mysteries, by David Macaulay. It's been out of print for years, so I offered to send her my copy. She loved it, and I told her to keep it. Not very long ago she wrote to ask if I'd like to have it back after all, and I said yes, if she was sure she wanted to part with it. Now I know why she asked, and it touches me that despite her illness she took the time to think of me. She was a gracious and lovely lady, and she will be greatly missed.

BARBARA FRADKIN: I first met Lyn when she was a brand new author in Ottawa to promote her first book. Our small local Sisters in Crime chapter, comprised at that time of unpublished but ever hopeful writers, organized a dinner with her. She was a stunning looking woman with pale skin, strawberry blond hair and perfectly colour-coordinated clothes, and her eyes danced with joy and disbelief at the fulfillment of her dream. We all hung on her every word as she recounted the tale of talent, luck, determination, and sheer chutzpah that led to her publication. This was a woman used to getting things done. She had a wicked, soft-spoken wit, and her words tumbled out so quickly that we raced to keep up with her. At the end of the evening, I felt welcomed and inspired, and for that, as well as for the warm friendship in the years since, I am forever grateful.

ELAINE VIETS: I knew Lyn mostly from conventions, but she could light up a room -- a very large auditorium, in fact. She was generous with her time and helped me find a suitably dull Canadian civil servant's job for one of my books. Her passing has left a hole in the fabric of the mystery community.

GAIL HUETING: I was so sorry to hear about Lyn Hamilton's death. I had been wondering whether there would be another book in her series, but obviously she was very ill. She took us to some marvelous destinations. I talked with her for a while at the first Bloody Words I attended in Toronto several years ago since I had recently read one of her books (probably The Xibalba Murders).

SUE PIKE: I feel so fortunate to have toured Malta with Lyn Hamilton in 1999, shortly after the publication of her second book, The Maltese Goddess. A dozen of us followed in the footsteps of Lara McClintoch through the ancient streets of Medina and Sliema and Valletta, visiting the many prehistoric sites for which Malta is so well known. Lyn was a warm and enthusiastic leader, helping us to see the things that she (and Lara) thought were worth seeing.

On one occasion we had to pretend to be archaeologists as the underground temple (Hypogeum) in Paolo was closed to all but visiting professionals. Lyn carried off the deception beautifully and I like to think we all played our parts by looking suitably serious and academic. I’ll miss her.

MARY STANTON (CLAUDIA BISHOP): Lyn was a gallant woman, with taste, style, talent, and a wry warmth which made her popular with fans, readers, editors, publishers--everyone who came within her orbit. She was a role model for professional women everywhere.

D. J. McINTOSH: When I first joined Crime Writer's of Canada, Lyn was one of the first to extend a hand of welcome to me. Her good advice helped along the way as I know it did many other writers. Her books sent us on paper wings to new worlds: Malta, the Orkneys, Xibalba. Lyn's great spirit and wonderful words will be missed.

LYNN S. SMITH-ROBERTS: I am so sorry to hear that Lyn Hamilton passed away. I really loved her books and I am so sorry there won't be any more. Her settings and the archeological aspects of the books were such fun.

I never had the chance to know her, as some of you [on DorothyL] did. Please pass my condolences on to her family and friends, and my deepest condolences to those of you on this list who knew her.

One of the things which I have found so important in my life is to continue to tell the stories of those of our friends who are now gone, for this keeps them alive. And for an author, there is also a body of work, which gives insight into an author and her ways of thinking and looking at the world. Lyn's books touched and fascinated me, and I know there are many people whose lives she touched through her books all around the world. May we continue to enjoy her books, and may you continue to remember her in your hearts, for it is in this way that we become immortal.

RICK BLECHTA: I will best remember Lyn's "special" laugh; more of a snicker would perhaps describe it better. Generous, witty, smart as all get-out, she was terrific company. But occasionally something particularly cutting would slip out, and then you'd get the laugh, almost as if it was adding, "Did I actually say that?" Boy, is there a big void in the spot she used to occupy...

1 comment:

Jan Burke said...

Thanks for these tributes to this amazing woman. Lyn will be missed. She was one of those people who had the gift of helping others to feel welcome and at ease. I loved her laugh and her wit, and feel lucky that our paths crossed.