Monday, November 05, 2007

In warm memory of Brooke Stauffer

One of Booklab's (and my) earliest literary supporters has died tragically, and I'm deeply shaken. Brooke Stauffer hired me to help him sell a novel he had written, and he also took my nonfiction book proposal seminar in 2004. He was such a gifted writer that I eventually brought him on board as a ghostwriter, and I nominated him for membership in the National Press Club, where we served together on the Book and Author Committee. Brooke was the author of many technical books, but his true gift was for fiction. He was beyond talented.

On August 24, 2007, he sent me an e-mail titled "Greetings from Mackinac Island." We had been writing back and forth about the ghostwriting assignment, and he said he'd contact me when he returned. I knew he was there with his fiancée, Karen Dodds, who was a private pilot. He was so proud of the fact that they could travel to so many great places in her plane. According to The Washington Post, Brooke and Karen died later that same day when their plane vanished in the Straits of Mackinac, near Bois Blanc Island, Michigan. Karen's body has been found; Brooke's has not.

Although I hadn't heard from him after that e-mail, I didn't worry. Brooke and I sometimes wouldn't communicate for weeks or even a couple of months when we were busy, but we usually found time to catch up, or else I'd get one of his famous hand-written postcards (apparently he sent them regularly to family and friends) with his large, block writing, explaining where he was and what was up. When a mutual friend contacted me this morning to point out the very late obituary (although they died in August, in ran on November 4), I could barely speak.

Farewell Brooke Stauffer -- magnificent and sexy-voiced writer, urbane beer companion (especially Belgian Chimay), literary friend and all-around charmingly odd duck. It doesn't make sense that you only got 56 years, and frankly, I thought you were a good bit younger than that. I believed you would publish your novel. I believed you and Karen would get married. I believed the book you were ghostwriting for me would win the Pulitzer Prize.

Maybe I still believe all of it.



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