Sunday, January 24, 2010
by Libby Hellmann
A few months ago I wrote about people in the mystery community who have made a difference in the way we relate to each other. Who’ve helped create a sense of caring and concern for all of us, whether we’re readers, writers, publishers, agents, or booksellers.
Well, you’ve done it again... this time in spades. Here’s the backstory.
Many of you know Chicago author Eleanor Taylor Bland. She wrote 9 fine novels featuring police detective Marti McAllister. More important, you couldn’t anyone who was more generous with her time, talent, and money than Eleanor. In fact, she was my mentor. I had just completed my first novel (it was never published, and it shouldn’t be), and Eleanor critiqued 25 pages at the Dark and Stormy Nights conference. I remember her saying, “Hey, you have a lot to learn, but I think you have something here. Don’t give up. “ A year later I landed in her writing group, and although it was tough love, it was love. No one was more delighted than Eleanor when AN EYE FOR MURDER was published.
But my story is just one of many. I knew that then, but I know it even better now. You see, Eleanor’s in trouble.
She’s been battling cancer now for over 20 years. It keeps coming back, and they keep taking out organs to get rid of it. Her last bout was grim – she never really recovered 100 per cent. Furthermore, they told her then they couldn’t do much more for her if it returned. Her body is too frail, and she couldn’t take it.
The cancer came back. In addition, it turns out that she’s broke. She hasn’t been writing or promoting for years, and her royalties have dwindled to almost nothing. She has a tiny pension, but as generous as she’s been to writers with her time, that’s also how generous she’s been to her family. A dollar never burns a hole in her pocket if she can give it to someone else. And just to make matters worse, she was recently evicted from her apartment.
A good friend of hers, Chicago author Mary Harris, filled me in a week ago and asked what we could do. We’ve since put out the word in the community that she needed help, and your response has been overwhelming. I’ve had probably about 50 emails, some from people who never knew Eleanor, asking how they can help. People who do know her keep telling me how much she means to them, how they'll never forget something she did for them years ago. Money is coming in every day. In less than a week, we’ve collected enough for her moving expenses, and we are starting to allocate funds for her future rent and medical expenses.
To all of you who have already contributed, I’m keeping records and will fill you in on the exact amounts and how we've allocated it in the spring. To those of you who didn’t know about her situation, email me if you’d like to help.
But most of all, I want to recognize all of you for caring. The people who make up the mystery and crime fiction community are the most generous, giving people I know. You see someone who needs help, and you are there, no questions, no strings. You want to help. Do you know how special that is? I am grateful to be a small part of this community, and I know Eleanor is thrilled.