Besides the obligatory “Best of” lists, there are also the “Famous People Who Died” end of year lists. These lists are always awkward because whose deaths do you highlight and whose do you ignore? The awkwardness is especially apparent during award season when higher profile celebs who have died get a thunder of applause, while lesser known people in the industry, usually someone like a “gaffer” or “best boy,” get only a polite smattering of claps.
This year, the world lost many amazing authors. Some, like historical fiction genius E.L. Doctorow and Nobel Prize winners Guenter Grass and Doris Lessing, were technical masters. Others, like “The Thorn Birds” author Colleen McCullough and everyone’s 1980s dirty secret Jackie Collins, were just hugely popular.
All authors leave a lasting impression on the world, because they leave their thoughts behind as books. But several authors who passed in 2015, forever changed how we read. Here are some of them:
· True crime is one of the very most popular genres checked out at the library. People love to read the gruesome details of real crimes, and one of the very most talented authors was Ann Rule, who died in July at 83 years old. Rule shot to fame in the true crime world with her 1980 autobiographical crime story, “The Stranger Beside Me,” which detailed her friendship with and the murders by Ted Bundy. For the next 25 years, Rule ruled the NYT bestseller list with her more than 30 books.
· Ruth Rendell, best known for her 24 book Inspector Wexford series, is credited with the changing the face of modern mysteries from gentle cozy reads to psychological thrillers. Rendell, who died in May at 85 years old, has inspired many mystery and horror writers, including Stephen King. Rendell published over 60 books, including those under her pen name, Barbara Vine.
· Swedish author Henning Mankell died in October at 67 years old. He was writer of the dozen fabulous Inspector Kurt Wallander mystery series books. His series, and its popular translation onto TV, was a major influence in making Swedish mysteries so popular in the U.S.
· Before readers lost themselves in the sprawling worlds of Hogwarts and Westeros, there was Discworld. Terry Pratchett’s comedy series transported readers into another world over the course of 41 books. Pratchett was the master of serialized fantasy and his success is likely one of the reasons we always get at least three and four books for every story, rather than just one. Pratchett dies in March at the age of 66.
RIP to all of those brave enough to put themselves on paper.