Thursday, September 22, 2016

Louise Penny and Michael Whitehead

I was very sorry to hear that Michael Whitehead, husband of the wonderful Louise Penny, has passed away after a long decline.

I had the extreme pleasure of meeting the Louise  and Michael at my local public library several years ago. I sat next to Michael and we had a lovely and funny conversation about what it's like to be a writer’s spouse. He had on his usual bow tie and treated me as though he'd known me for ages.

If you don’t know Louise’s work (and if you are a regular mystery reader, I can’t imagine that you don’t), please go forth and familiarize yourself tout suite. I had read them all, and loved them all, so I went to see her, just as I’ve gone to see many many authors.

Now, I’ve been very impressed by how a number of authors handle themselves at events, but I must say that Louise blew me away. She is a true human being in the best sense. Even if I had never read one of her books, after listening to her, I would have given myself whiplash in my rush to buy them all. I’ve done many events myself, and do not consider myself an amateur at the game. However, I learned quite a bit from Ms. Penny on how to make a crowd love you.

Allow me to share :The moment she walked in the door, she went around the room, big smile on her face, shaking hands with and speaking to every attendee.

When she shook my hand, I said, “I’m Donis Casey…” intending to introduce myself since we have mutual acquaintances, but lo and behold, she knew my name! “Oh!” she exclaimed, “Let me give you a hug” Her pleasure appeared so genuine that I would now take a bullet for her.

When she spoke, her joy in her craft and love of her characters and setting washed over the audience. To tell the truth, when she was finished, I felt a desperate desire to regain that feeling, which is easy to lose in the everyday struggle of life. I vowed to rediscover the pleasure of storytelling, and to remember why I chose to become a writer in the first place.

However appealing and lovable a person Louise is, the bottom line is that she writes great books, full of heart and warmth, and true human frailty as well as strength, ugliness as well as beauty.

If you want to be a successful author, you have to write wonderful books. Its quite a bonus to be a wonderful person as well.

And so I offer her my dearest sympathy for her loss, and my gratitude for all the joy she has brought me and all her readers.


Rick Blechta said...

There were a lot of very sad and dismayed people when the news about Michael’s death came out on Monday.

It was tragic on two fronts.

First, Michael was gone. He was a truly wonderful human being, kind, brilliant, interesting, approachable and very funny, all in equal measure. To meet him was to immediately feel like he was a lifelong friend.

Second, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that “things like this shouldn’t happen to people like Louise Penny who is a match to Michael in everything.

But sadly, these things happen in life. Counterbalancing the sadness is having known Michael and knowing Louise. We need more like them in the world.

Aline Templeton said...

So very, very sorry to hear about Michael. My own experience of Louise was just like yours, Donis, and Michael too was such a charming man. They were such a devoted couple, too. My thoughts and prayers are with Louise today.

Cynthia Reyes said...

Thanks for this lovely and heartfelt post, Doris. I've only "met" Louise through emails, her Facebook page and, of course, her books, but I relate to what you wrote about her. We are blessed to have this fine Canadian writer and human being in our midst. I'm so sad about Michael's death.