Saturday, August 22, 2009

Elmer Kelton, R.I.P.

I'm sure many of you have already heard about this, but we've lost a legend today. Elmer Kelton crossed the divide this morning. He wasn't just a fine writer, he was also one of the most genuinely decent men I've ever met. I interviewed him in front of a packed house at the Bouchercon in Austin several years ago, and his easygoing grace and charm made it a fine experience for me as well as for everyone in the audience. We also visited at every WWA convention I attended and I saw him numerous times at the annual TCU Press group book signing in Fort Worth. He got his start writing fiction by selling stories to the pulp RANCH ROMANCES, and we had several conversations about the pulps and what a fan of them he was as a kid, citing WILD WEST WEEKLY as his favorite. He'd been in bad health recently, but the last I'd heard, he had improved some, so while this doesn't come as a shock, it's certainly a surprise.

Nearly twenty years ago, I attended the WWA convention in San Angelo, Elmer's hometown. Someone at that convention, in talking about Elmer said, "He's the genuine article." I can't say it any better than that.

10 comments:

RJR said...

James, I hadn't heard about this. What a loss. I've seenElmer at many WWA cons, talked with him, used him in some anthologies. What a gentleman he always was.

RJR

Matthew P. Mayo said...

Hi James,
I just read the news. A true loss. I'm so fortunate to have met him and his wife at the WWA conference last year in Scottsdale. He was so generous with his time, so friendly and so humble. I only regret, selfishly, that I'll not be able to repeat the experience.

-Matthew

David Cranmer said...

A very nice tribute.

Richard Prosch said...

Sad news indeed. I had the chance to meet him many years ago and didn't --something came up and we put off our travels.

One always assumes there will be another opportunity.

ARCHAVIST said...

I never met the man but I feel as if I knew him from his excellent books. He could really create memorable characters and was a true legend of the west.

Juri said...

Great writer, indeed.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sorry to hear that.

Travis Erwin said...

Sad news. He was the keynote at our local conference six or seven years ago.

Graham Powell said...

I saw the Austin B'Con interview, and also Kelton on a panel including you and Joe Lansdale (and Bill Crider?). He seemed modest despite his accomplishments. I still remember him saying that other people's heroes were "seven foot tall and bulletproof", while his were "five-foot six and skeered!"

James Reasoner said...

Graham,

That was a good panel. I agree that Bill was on it (maybe he'll chime in and correct me if I'm wrong) and I believe Loren Estleman may have been, too. Quite a lineup.