Friday, February 15, 2008

A Light Goes Out

I know I'm a little behind the times, but I just read that Phyllis Whitney died at age 104 and had been writing up until the time of her death. The first part makes me sad, the second part makes me admire her all the more. She's one of those authors that made me want to read and one of those authors that made me want to write as well.

She was one of my first 'must reads'. The first book I ever read of hers was Vermillion, which I picked up because of that weird looking cane on the cover (yes, even then I was a cover loving little cow) Her books seems innocuous enough, so my high school library had almost all of them. What they didn't know was that they were filled with suspense, intrigue, mystery and *gasps!* romance. That's right, girls and boys, romance novels sat on those shelves just waiting for the innocent *snorts* teen to pick them up and read them. But she was sneaky because within the pages of those same romance novels, she showed me a lot more, and not about the birds and bees either. She always gave great 'locale'. After reading her books I felt as if I'd been to the places featured within the pages. She was simply, one of the best.

Ms. Whitney told a great story and not just about people, but about places, and things. My love of words and my knowledge of my own country was much improved because of her. She would take a heroine and place her(along with me) into a place and then simply tell me about it, while telling me the story. This way I learned about the Smokey Mountains, Arizona, West Virginia and many other places without caring that I did. Which is something not many can do. I despised geography and social studies in school, yet she made it entertaining and interesting.

But what she did best, at least to me was, to take a cold lifeless object and make it the centerpiece of the plot, almost like another character. This inanimate object, whether it be a jewel, a stone, a statue, or a cane would be described so well by her that it would come alive for me. In some stories these pieces would lie in wait for the heroine to touch or see them to reveal a secret from her past. Or it could be even more sinister in Ms Whitney's darker, almost paranormal stories, and be a living, breathing entity filled with menace. By the way, I loved the latter the best.

I'm sorry to hear of her passing, sorry to know that she's no longer with us. Now that she's gone, we've got one less navigator in that dark and complex place that is the imagination. She'll be missed.

Rest In Peace Ms. Whitney.

Jenna Leigh