Whenever I hear of another writer passing away, I feel as though the literary world has been diminished just a little bit. Robin Hathaway was not a best selling author, she didn’t set the world on fire with her written thoughts, but she was a lovely lady with a smart detective and was given a chance later in life to show what she had to contribute to the crime fiction world. Encouraged by her well known doctor husband to write when in her 50s, she did just that, and sent manuscript after manuscript to agents and publishers, only to be rejected asare most writers in the beginning. Finally, pushed into it by her daughter, she applied to St. Martin’s Press’s annual Malice Domestic contest, where they choose from entries by unpublished authors to find the best representation of what is considered a cosy mystery–one that is solved by an amateur detective without gratuitous violence. Modeled after the Christie and Sayers, this award comes with a cash prize and the winner’s book published to much bru-ha-ha. The winner is announced at the Malice Domestic convention–the names are similar but they are not the same thing. The contest is strictly the publisher St. Martin’s affair, the convention is held in Virginia each year to thousands of fans and writers. When she won the award she was older than when she first started the quest for publication, therefore I suppose, considered old by regular standards. Why this has any bearing on anything, I’m not sure, but apparently it was interesting enough to be mentioned in her Philly obit.
I remember receiving the advanced reading copy of her winning title, The Doctor Digs a Grave and pondering whether I wanted to delve into it. The setting of Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs decided it for me, since I grew up in that area. I was pleasantly surprised to find a smart, serious detective and nice puzzle. I remember selling her first book quite well, and meeting her. We had a fun time chatting about our home towns and as each subsequent title was published, while I was still in the selling business, we would touch base to set up signings. Her second book–The Doctor Makes a Dollhouse Call, had a dollhouse as a major theme, something my mother is keen about, as she has a gigantic highly detailed one of her own that she has decorated for each season. As did the characters in Robin’s book. Robin use of the dollhouse within the plot, had me biting my tongue not to tell her how sacrilegious her actions would be to any miniaturists. When I did mention that my mother was slightly appalled, which was an understatement, she explained it was the only logical thing the characters would do. I laughed at myself for trying to second guess the author’s characters. My mother forgave Robin, lol, and continued to enjoy her work.
The last time I saw Robin in person was at a literary street fair in a nearby town. As gracious and kind as ever, she asked about my mother, another wonderful thing to do–not many authors remember who I am, let alone remember a fan like my mother. I bought her latest book, had a wonderful chat with her and fellow Philly writer Elena Santangelo, then moved on down the street to buy more books.
When she came on facebook, I was surprised, although why I think anyone over a certain age wouldn’t understand how to get on facebook–my 88 year old cousin just joined, I was pleased to know I’d be in better touch with her. Obviously, not in good enough contact, since I’d no idea she was ill, so never had a chance to tell her how much I enjoyed her books and her as a person. One is lucky to find a good writer, doubly blessed when the author is also a wonderful person. She shall be very much missed by her fans, myself, and my mother.