Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tony Hays, Historical Mystery Writer: A Remembrance

I've occasionally noted the passing of other historical novelists on this site, but this post is different because it's a more personal remembrance and thus both easier to write (because there's so much that could be said) and much harder.

Historical mystery writer Tony Hays passed away suddenly a month ago, on January 25, 2015, from complications of diabetes while on vacation in Luxor, Egypt.  He'd been taking a short holiday from his job, which involved teaching English to Saudi airmen in Saudi Arabia for an American defense contractor. His obituary is online via the funeral home's website.

Among his other published works, Tony was the author of the Arthurian Mystery series, which includes four novels and one novella set in 5th-century Britain, and will have a new historical mystery, Shakespeare No More, appearing this September from Perseverance Press.  He was 57 and had plans to write many more novels.

I'll be writing a different profile, more focused on Tony's work, for August's Historical Novels Review, but that's still a while away, and I didn't want his passing to go unremarked here.

Tony was a big supporter of this blog and my two books and had appeared here several times.  I first interviewed him about books 1 and 2 of his Arthurian mysteries, The Killing Way and The Divine Sacrifice, back in 2010.  He had told me it was his favorite interview; I especially liked how it came out because it shows his sense of humor as well as his expertise on post-Roman Britain.  I reviewed his third book, The Beloved Dead, when it came out in early 2011, and he contributed a guest post on writing about well-known historical figures in 2012, when The Stolen Bride was published.

We became good friends over the past four years, chatting about our experiences with teaching and higher education (he'd taught English at universities and community colleges for 20+ years), the ups and downs of the publishing industry, his many active writing projects, and animal rescue, among other things.  He used to take in and rehabilitate former puppy mill dogs for the local animal shelter at his home in Savannah, Tennessee, and had many great stories to tell about how they were adjusting.

For more on his background, including his time as an intelligence operative in Kuwait (Tony loved traveling the world and led a fascinating life), read his interview with Publishers Weekly from 2012. He was always modest about his accomplishments, and although he was hugely knowledgeable about many historical eras, his manner was the opposite of intimidating.  He was generous with his time and knowledge and eager to help support newer writers.

It was rare for a day or two to go by without a short note or reply from himhe wrote such lively and interesting emails and he often sent me stuff to read and comment on.  Although I don't normally look at unpublished manuscripts, I was pleased to have been an early reader for Tony's soon-to-be-published historical crime novel, set in the Jacobean era.  It's a terrific book, and he was thrilled about its upcoming publication.  I only wish Tony was able to see it in print.

In the course of our conversations, Tony had given me travel suggestions (when my husband Mark and I visited Glastonbury, England, in fall 2011, we stayed at a great B&B he recommended) and helped me out with advice a number of other times.  We met in person at two of the Historical Novel Society conferences and had planned to meet up last July when I was in Nashville for an HNS chapter meeting; he was going to take me around to see The Hermitage and other local sites.  Unfortunately, he had a home repair emergency come up and couldn't make it, so we put it off until a later date.

News of Tony's unexpected death came as a terrible shock. After never getting a reply to my last email, I checked his Facebook page expecting to see vacation pictures and found instead many recent tributes from family and friends, mourning him and celebrating his life.  It's been hard to process that he's no longer there at the other end of the keyboard, excited about a new topic for a novel or checking in from one of his travels.

While he left this world much too soon, I'm grateful for his friendship, support, and the many hours of entertaining reading his novels provided me.  I hope new readers will continue to discover them, too.

12 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry to hear about Tony. I enjoyed his Arthurian novels and also had the opportunity to interview him for my blog a few years ago. This is sad news.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Helen. I just found your interview and enjoyed it very much - he really was an expert in 5th-century Britain.

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  2. Sad indeed! What happened? A bit scary, for me; he looks uncannily like a colleague of mine!

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    1. All I know is what others have posted on his Facebook wall - that he slipped into a diabetic coma in his hotel room in Luxor, developed a sepsis infection, and died at the hospital.

      He'd had a similar episode a few years back, a very close call, but friends found him in time and saved his life. He dedicated one of his novels to them and the staff at that hospital and was very grateful for that second chance!

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  3. A very heartfelt tribute to a lovely man and friend. He held in you such high esteem, Sarah, as we all do. May he find joy and dogs in his afterlife. We will always remember him here.

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    1. Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments, Christopher. He admired your work and was pleased at the success you'd achieved with your novels. I hope he's enjoying the company of the beloved dogs he'd cared for and who'd left this world before him.

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  4. I'm sorry to hear about your friend, Sarah. I don't know his work, but if I were a friend or relative, I'd be moved by your warm, eloquent eulogy.

    Larry

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    1. Thanks very much, Larry - I appreciate your thoughts.

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  5. What a sweet face.

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    1. I think the picture was taken around Glastonbury. One of his favorites from what he told me.

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  6. A moving tribute, I will look for Mr. Hays' books

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