It was such a shock to hear that Maxine Clarke was suddenly gone. I’m sure it was not sudden to those who really knew her, as I understand she had been unwell for some time, but it just seemed impossible. I actually hoped for a minute it was some kind of prank, some internet meme I didn’t know about, since it seemed so totally unreal. Maxine was a part of my daily life. How could she not be there tomorrow, and the next day?
Maxine was one of the great scholars of the genre, of the completely unassuming sort. She was a terrific book reviewer. She had a knack for describing a book with great detail and accuracy, yet somehow managing to avoid giving anything away. She reviewed voluminously, yet none of her reviews seemed hasty or superficial. Her tastes and mine were not identical – she often enjoyed books that were not my cup of tea, and didn’t care for writers whose work I enjoy – but she never misled me about a book. I knew exactly what to expect.
Apart from writing an impressive number of reviews that were informed by a deep knowledge of the genre, she was a great community builder. Whenever I wrote a blog post, she always seemed to make a comment before it was a few hours old. Quite often, she would toss out an idea that totally illuminated the book I thought I’d read. She was perhaps the best practitioner of social media in my experience: technically adept, generous with her time, able to create a bond among people that was never intrusive, strongly ethical, and a great deal of fun. As this news has sunk in, that’s something I will miss terribly: the way she seemed to so effortlessly weave us together into a close community.
I know I’ll keep those friends she introduced me to, and the FriendFeed room she started will go on. But it feels as if the world is a little smaller now, and a little sadder. My thoughts are with her family. Such a loss.
photo courtesy of rogerglenn
I was so surprised and saddened too, and I echo the feelings in your post. I’m grateful to Maxine for leading me to new authors and other crime fiction bloggers in the short time I knew her.
These are lovely sentiments Barbara and I echo everything you have said. The way she drew such disparate people into the circle of crime fiction devotees and ensured we all manage to rub along together – despite our differences of opinion, style and so on – is a rare thing in this crazy old world.
Barbara – This really is a beautiful tribute. Maxine did have an expert touch with her book reviews, a perceptive and helpful way of talking about books and yes, a keen sense of humour. She did draw us all together and thanks to her we’ve become a close community. She has left such a legacy in that alone. As you say, the world is less without her.
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There was something really superb about Maxine’s approach to the online communal conversation. She was so quick, so connected, and yet also so deeply ethical about how she handled herself and dealt with differences. The word “classy” is inadequate, but I can’t think of another word right now to describe her ability to carry herself with such consistent dignity and kindness.
She never pretended to like a book she didn’t, she never avoided saying what she thought, but she did it with the faith that speaking the truth was the best course of action, and that she trusted the rest of us to value it enough, too, that we would respond in kind. Perhaps that was her background in science and in editing – truth is a good thing, and it’s best approached incisively, with le mot juste. And that insistence on truth needn’t get in the way of getting along with others, and in fact is central to community. I just wish everyone online was more like her – honest, kind, and able to keep those two things perfectly in balance.
Barbara a lovely post. There was something old fashioned, in the best sense of the phrase, about Maxine. She was a lovely lady who we will all miss.
Lovely post, Barbara. Yes, I can see what you are getting at Norman, by using the words “old fashioned”. Maxine was an incredibly generous lady, who didn’t use her superlative intellect and wit as a razor sharp tool or to seek plaudits, but instead would share her knowledge and tpyically impeccable logic in an unobtrusive manner with readers, bloggers and authors.
[…] She will be missed by all of us, but we are fortunate that some of her friends are doing something about it. An award for the best Scandinavian crime novel translated into English is being established in her name. (She was not only well-read in Scandinavian crime, she was one of its finest critics.) […]
[…] meet Maxine Clarke, because what she did to promote online discussion of mysteries was one of the inspirations for this project, and her extraordinary background in scientific publishing would have made her a […]
[…] Clarke, who I’ve written about before, intoduced me to FriendFeed by inviting me to join the Crime and Mystery Fiction group.Knowing that […]