Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I went to the library this week and took out William Tapply's final novel, "Outwitting Trolls." Mr. Tapply passed away in 2009, shortly after I had tried to contact him to visit my mystery literature class. He must have been very sick at the time. We had traded novels in the past, but he did not return my email. Then I saw his obituary weeks later in the "Boston Globe."

“Outwitting Trolls” is like all of Bill's novels—the prose is polished and silky, the storyline tense and well plotted. Yet the acknowledgments page is what got to me.

My Readers
My Students
My Friends
My Editors, especially Keith Kahla
My agents, Jed Mattes and Fred Morris
My Parents and sisters, Tap, Muriel, and Martha
My Adored Children, Mike Melissa, Sarah, Blake and Ben
My Beloved Wife, Vicki

Thank you for everything.

I read this list and couldn't help but think Bill knew he was dying when he wrote it. Initially, that thought deeply saddened me. Yet as the week went by, I came to think about it differently. Bill Tapply’s inclusive gratuitous list will (sadly) outlive its author. We have lost so many great crime writers in the past two years—Robert B. Parker, Michael Chrichton, James Crumley, and Tapply among them—yet their words live on.

I have said before that in order to even attempt to publish you must be crazy enough to believe your work is good and believe someone will care about what you have to say. And as Donis pointed out last week, if we are lucky enough to have someone buy our stories, we should be ever grateful. However, since my first child was born, one thing I have cherished most about having published five novels is knowing my words (regardless of how they are ultimately judged) will remain on a shelf somewhere for my kids and grandkids to read (another reason why hardcovers must live on).

A fatalistic literary view? Perhaps.

But I followed closely Rick’s post last week and Donis’s follow-up, and reading Bill Tapply’s acknowledgments pounded the point home for me.

In the end, regardless of the state of the industry, we write for ourselves and maybe, for some of us, because we sense the need to leave an artistic legacy.


Rick Blechta said...

Thoughts to ponder, John. Thanks.

Donis Casey said...

This is absolutely why I write the Alafair series - to preserve something I love for those I love. (obviously not to make money or become famous.)