In Memory of David Thompson

There is a misconception that the writing life is a lonely one.  While it’s true that we write in solitude, the business of publishing is foremost a business of relationships.  Over the years, our colleagues become our friends.  Maybe this is true of all businesses, but none so much as publishing.  Most of us come to the work of writing and publishing and selling books only out of love, because of our consuming passion for the written word.  And in the doing of this work together, we become friends.

David Thompson was one of the first booksellers to invite me into a bookstore.  I was a very shy, first-time author – terrified of speaking about my books. My parents were local to Houston, and my mother was a regular customer at Murder by the Book.  I remember walking in for the first time and thinking, “Now, this is a bookstore.”  I could feel the passion, the love.  It radiated from the shelves.  It radiated from people who loved books, and took great pride in sharing that with the world.  The crowd in the store was largely friends and family; I am sure the talk I gave was not very good.  But from the minute I walked through the door and saw David smiling at the counter, I felt at home.

When we lose someone like David, it hurts.  It shocks us. It makes us angry, and so unspeakably sad.  Of course, he was too young.  There was just so much more he could have done, would have done. It’s an injustice, to be robbed of someone with so much life in him.  And, yet, none of us is promised anything.  Not a single moment with anyone we love is something we should take for granted.  Because every moment we live to do the things that we love, to love the people in our lives, to follow our dreams and our passions is a gift. This is a cliché only because it’s so desperately true.

What gives me comfort when I think about David is that he was a person living his dreams.  He made a life out of what he loved.  He did with his time exactly what he wanted and was meant to be doing.  I honestly don’t think many people can say this about their lives.  So many people are walking around wishing that they were doing something else.  Not Dave; his passion for his work was clear.  I like to think that there was joy and excitement for him in almost every day.  This means something.  Maybe everything.

About a month ago, Gregg Hurwitz and I met in Houston to do a joint event at Murder By the Book.  We went there for a lot of reasons: to see each other, to support a store that we both love and appreciate, and of course to hang out with Dave and McKenna.  We had a good event, and then took David out to dinner. (McKenna was away.)  We wanted to take him someplace great, to show our gratitude for the event and for his support.  He wanted to go to Pappa’s BBQ.  We ate pulled pork off paper plates and drank beer from plastic cups.  But, you know what?  It wasgreat.  Because we were together, talked about books and craft, and laughed a lot – which is probably what we all like best.  When we said good-bye, we had every expectation that we’d see each other again, sooner rather than later.  It’s hard to let go of that expectation.  For me, he’ll always be there, behind the counter at Murder by the Book, smiling.

David Thompson was one of the kindest people I have ever met, in the business or anywhere.  Since his passing I have thought about McKenna, his beautiful, bright and sweet wife every day hoping that she is as well as she can be, and that she is strong. Their relationship, too, started in that store, mingled with their love of books.  I hope that all of her memories of David, and the love of family and friends will carry her through.  In this business of relationships, where there is so much love for David and McKenna, I hope she knows she is not alone.