Many of you have probably already read of Joan Hess‘s passing on Thanksgiving Day, 2017. She had been undergoing serious health challenges throughout the three years during which she was completing The Painted Queen. But, she persevered valiantly throughout, and was very excited to see the book published this past July. Joan personally attended signings in the Chicago area and in Wisconsin, revisiting two independent book stores that had long been favorites of hers and Barbara’s. In the Chicago area, Hess signed books at Centuries and Sleuths — where owner Augie Alesky greeted her with a marvelous window display and treats for all comers. In Madison, Wisconsin, Joan delighted in her interview at Mystery to Me with writer Doug Moe — and the carrot cake thoughtfully supplied by owner Joanne Berg. Doug recently wrote a post that recalled Joan’s visit, and her wistful hope that she could hit the bestseller list after a long career as an accomplished mystery writer. Author of the hilarious Maggody series featuring Arly Hanks, she also toasted her hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas in a series centering on bookstore owner/sleuth Claire Malloy.
PQ hit the New York Times bestseller list at #7 in its first week, and also reached #5 on the Washington Post list. This was a fitting tribute to Joan’s labors, to Barbara’s final efforts at giving voice to Amelia, and to their friendship. They were part of a close group of writer friends who had long supported each other, attending Malice Domestic together — and then separately holding their own “Grouchercons” to vent their own brand of sardonic humor.
We risk inciting them to haunt us if we end with maudlin sentimentality (although it must be said that they were both deeply sentimental despite many avowals to the contrary!). So, have a slice of carrot cake, lift a glass of vodka (if you can stand the combination!), and drink to the memory of one hell of a woman.