As 2016 has passed, and we are starting 2017, I can’t help but think of the writers we lost last year. A few of them made the “celebrity death list,” and they and their books are well known. Think of Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, Umberto Eco from The Name of the Rose, or Elie Wiesel, the Nobel-Peace-Prize winner who wrote Night, and just recently, Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down. Their books had much publicity, and some were translated to the movie screen, ensuring that they and their work will not be easily forgotten.
Wikipedia has a 2016 death list of famous people as well, which includes more writers, known and lesser known, from all over the world. The list itself is pretty extensive and primarily comprised of international athletes, politicians, actors and singers, but also more obscure professions like wine-producers and serial killers. I am not sure who decides on the “notability factor” —I also spotted a polar bear, a cockatoo, a penguin, as well as a horse and a cat.
Most writers on this list appeared to have made it to a very respectable age. If this means writing induces longevity, this is encouraging. But maybe it just means one usually has to spend a long life writing to become notable. I suspect this might be the case.
A few writers mentioned stood out, primarily because it seemed to me they left us too early, with plenty of writing still ahead of them. I am an avid reader, but had never heard of them prior, or read their books. Despite that, they are not unknown writers, often with fame in their own country. Somehow their stories struck me. So I decided to find their books and read one from each of them. To celebrate their work, since their words will remain, even after they themselves have long gone.
The first writer I wanted to highlight is Roger Hobbs. I read his debut novel, Ghostman, which is a crime novel. He wrote it during his last year in college and it was published in 2013, made the NYT bestseller list and won several awards. Warner Bros. bought the movie rights.
I will say up front, books like these are not my usual read. Nevertheless, I cruised through it as I found it to be slightly addictive. The pace is high and the plot well thought out. It is violent at times, but then it revolves around a heist and quite a few merciless criminals, so that wasn’t completely unexpected. It’s well written and very descriptive (sometimes a bit too much… perhaps) which usually read well and made it easy to imagine what was happening.
I found the lead character not unsympathetic, but he has a personality that is very hard to pin down. Despite this, his character was surprisingly well-developed. He comes across a bit cold, and his life seems devoid of real relationships; as a reader it made it harder for me to bond with him, but for the story, it works! He is a ghostman, after all.
For a debut novel, and for a writer as young as he was, it was quite impressive. Roger Hobbs wrote a second novel, Vanishing Games, which I haven’t read yet, but look forward to doing so. He never finished his third. He died last November from a drug overdose at the age of 28. I can only imagine that with his talent, he would have written many more.
RIP Roger Hobbs.