It seems preposterous that news of the death of a woman I have never met could make me weep but so it was when I woke yesterday morning to the news that Maxine Clarke, host of Petrona, had lost her long battle with cancer. Because although we’d not met I thought, think still, of Maxine as a friend. One whose presence made my life better and whose absence will be keenly felt.
Given we shared a kind of bemused horror at the modern penchant for sharing all one’s private thoughts and tribulations as publicly as possible I’m not entirely sure how she would feel about being lauded in so public a way as this and the many other tributes populating the blogosphere. But given she is the person who has had most influence on my reading over the last five or so years, and given this blog is all about reading, this wretchedly sad occasion deserves…demands even…to be marked.
I shall miss her wit and intelligence. Her reviews, her comments on my blog and others, her emails have always been substantial and informative. Unlike so many on the internet If Maxine had nothing to say she said nothing.
I shall miss her enthusiasm for a new book or author that she knew I would like. My shelves are littered with her recommendations, many of which she followed up by sending the book itself across the ocean. Perhaps even more I will miss being able to provide her with a recommendation or book she had somehow not yet come across herself.
I shall miss railing against the injustices of the world with her, something that normally coincided with political shenanigans of one sort or another.
I shall miss her kind enquiries about the troubles of my own life, always more interesting to her than wallowing in the self-pity she could so easily have felt entitled to given the cruel injustice of her own health. I shall miss her stoicism and bravery too.
I shall treasure the many email exchanges I have saved, her particular voice is strong throughout them and I’m sure I’ll re-read them many times in the years to come.
I shall treasure too the community of crime fiction readers she was instrumental in fostering, partly through her creation of that rare thing on the internet – a welcoming and inclusive place to hang out and chat - and partly through her ever-present enthusiasm for linking bloggers, readers, writers and translators with each other.
I shall treasure all she taught me about life, literature and laughing in the face of adversity.