Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sad news: Diana Norman and Leisha Kelly

Sadly, the historical fiction world has lost two well-known authors during the last week.

Diana Norman, who also wrote historical thrillers as Ariana Franklin, passed away on Thursday after a lengthy illness.  I'm a major fan of her work, particularly the medieval fiction she wrote under her own name.  Fitzempress' Law and King of the Last Days (covered in my Reviews of Obscure Books series) demonstrated her admiration for the legal reforms of Henry II and her excellent dry wit.  My personal favorite is Shores of Darkness, a twisty 18th-century mystery-adventure about royal intrigue, female pirates, and a young man's quest to solve his aunt's murder.  Her Mistress of the Art of Death series brought her back to the early Plantagenet era in the company of Adelia Aguilar, a Salerno-trained physician and forensic specialist (for the 12th c).

I'm by no means through reading her novels though am saddened there won't be more.  A stand-alone medieval novel of hers sold to Putnam for publication next year, though this may be the reissue of her first novel The Morning Gift.  The headline from the BBC News article doesn't give her first name ("Barry Norman's novelist wife dies age 77"), which is unfortunate.

I also learned via Twitter that Leisha Kelly, a bestselling writer of inspirational historical novels, died in a three-car crash in western Illinois on Tuesday, along with her 16-year-old son.  In her Wortham Family Chronicles, Kelly writes movingly of how two Midwestern families struggled to stay afloat during the Great Depression, telling her story from the viewpoint of many different characters. With The House on Malcolm Street, she'd just begun a new series set in 1920.  Her website has more details on her books.


  1. That is sad news. I am so sorry.

    I'd discovered Ariana Franklin and her Plantagenet Mistress of Death series a couple of winters ago, and have enjoyed them so much. One of the elements I liked were descriptions of the area around Oxford, the marshes and the people who live in and from them, and where the protagonist herself is living. That the protagonist doesn't become wealthy and powerful because a powerful man loves her and gets her with child, and even a King finds her of use at times, is a blessing of reality. In such past times being exceptional tended indeed to mean you were more of an outcast from traditional society than lauded by it.

    Love, C

  2. I was very sorry to hear about Diana Norman's death, though Elizabeth Chadwick had mentioned elsewhere that she had been seriously ill for some months, so it didn't come as a total bolt from the blue.

    I first discovered Diana Norman in the 1980s and was very taken with her style. Certain themes do recur in her work: the stubborn, opinionated but rather endearing central female character, the place of women in a restrictive, male-dominated society, the humour and wonderfully quirky secondary characters, the secret remnants of the ancient cult of the Goddess, and her enduring love affair with Henry Fitzempress, King Henry II of England.

    Diana Norman herself remained a rather elusive character, perhaps by choice- it's always been hard to find out much about her. Some years ago author Rosina Lippi (Sara Donati) did an interesting blog interview with Diana Norman, but unfortunately it no longer seems to be available. Maybe Rosina will resurrect it for this sad occasion.

  3. Oh, I am sorry to hear of these deaths. May they be at peace.

  4. I was so sad to learn about the death of Diana Norman. As you know I was investigating why she didn't have a new book out this year....

    I hope they release all of her books again... I haven't read anything she wrote under her own name and really want to at some point.

  5. Annis, Rosina mentioned on Goodreads that she was going to try and repost the interview in the next few days.

    It is very sad news.

  6. Thanks for that, Marg- I'm sure readers would appreciate it.

  7. Here's the link to the reposted interview with Rosina at Goodreads.

    I don't think it is up on her blog yet.

  8. Thanks, Marg. Enlightening interview and I'm glad Rosina was able to repost it.

    Per an article in her local paper, in which her husband pays tribute to her, Diana Norman had just completed a new novel, and her family hopes to find a publisher for it.

  9. This is very sad new indeed.

  10. It's 2015 and though an avid reader, I only recently discovered Leisha Kelly's magnificent works. What tragedy for her surviving family. Not to mention her readers loss. Her great God given gift has inspired me to greater faith. Just as in her novels I am assured that somehow an even greater reward will be granted to her family and readers. Keep the faith. God bless and shelter all her family. Such a sad loss. AMANDA Q KITTERIDGE-STOTE