Joan Hess lays down her pen | Street Jazz

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Joan Hess lays down her pen

Posted By on Sun, Dec 3, 2017 at 12:30 PM

I’m pretty sure I annoyed Fayetteville mystery novelist Joan Hess, who has just died in Texas, when I referred to Agatha Christie mysteries as “Murder in the Chamberpot stories” when she appeared on my show back in 1992.

This morning, reading her obituary, I wished I had thought to let her know of my renewed enjoyment in the old Christie novels.

My connections with Ms. Hess were tenuous, at best, though interesting, in a sort of unique Fayetteville way.

The only time I actually had a face-to-face encounter with Ms. Hess was the night she appeared on my show, which still stands out among one of my favorites. Soon we shall have it online for others to enjoy.

She was a fun, engaging, guest, and apart from my snarky joke about Agatha Christie, it went well. It surprised me that she didn’t seem to care for Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels, or at least his most recent novels.

The first time I ran for public office (and was roundly trounced for my efforts) the man I was seeking to unseat was her ex-husband.

Yeah, that’s kind of boring, isn’t it? We’ll just leave that well enough alone.

But this is my favorite Joan Hess encounter; it is also one she retells on our interview together.

In the 1980s a woman I was living with suggested that I contact her for some writing advice - because, you know, writers just LOVE strangers writing to them begging them to lay their work aside and answer their little questions. She wrote me a very gracious letter back, not offering writing advice as such, but telling me about a writer’s group in Fayetteville.

Lacking confidence, I never went to any of their meetings.

But out of that letter does indeed come about my favorite Joan Hess story.

Some time after our exchange she was casting about for a name for a villain, and she hit upon the name “Richard Drake” - not realizing until she was further into her book just where in the flotsam and jetsam of her memory that name had come from.

Figuring that the real Richard Drake might not like being a villain, she changed it. Robert Drake, if I recall. She was wrong, though, I’d have loved being a murderer in one of her books.

Ah well, there’s still time for me in real life, I suppose . . .

Sitting next to my keyboard is a paperback copy of her novel, “Dear Miss Demeanor,” which she signed for me the night of our show.

Over the title she drew a smiling picture of herself, and followed with:

“To Richard - Thanks for a great time on the tube!”

No, thank you, Joan Hess. Not just for your writing, but for being part of what has made Fayetteville what it means for so many people over the years.

A city isn’t buildings, parks, factories or walking trails, but our common humanity, and, well, you know the rest, kids.

******

Today’s Soundtrack

Reminiscing today along with Dan Fogelberg’s “Wishing on the Moon” album.

*****

From the No, This Is Really True Department

The other night I dreamt I was walking through a deserted metropolis, and the only sign of life came from giant TV screens on every street.

DONALD TRUMP was on each and every one, going through his Bully-in-the-Bar stream of consciousness routine that he does at rallies.

But there was no applause or the roar of the crowd - just a silent, empty city, and Donald Trump yelling at . . . nobody.

****

Quote of the Day

It is often wonderful how putting down on paper a clear statement of a case helps one to see, not perhaps the way out, but the way in. - A.C. Benson

rsdrake@cox.net


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