Monday, February 18, 2013


Our own beloved Robin Hathaway passed away on Saturday after a moderately long illness. She was so sweet-natured that I never knew anybody who didn't like her. A kind and generous friend, devoted to her husband, daughters, and grandchildren, and devoted to writing, she wrote all her life long, though she didn't begin to get published until she won the St. Martin’s Malice Domestic Best Traditional First Mystery Competition for THE DOCTOR DIGS A GRAVE in 1997, at an age when most people are thinking of retiring. Her books are great fun.

Her posts for The Crime Writers' Chronicle were great fun too. Here's one of my favorites, the post from January 24, 2011, in which she passes the baton to the next generation.

Kate Gallison

First Book Signing

Not mine. My seven-year-old grandson, Luke’s. Last spring he had written a “chapter book” for school, entitled “Iron Man.” It had nine chapters and was even illustrated. Some highlights — a trip to the “Iron Cream Store” to buy “iron cream cones” and a gift of a zebra who wasn’t “potty-trained.” I was so taken with his tale that I rashly promised to publish it.

Luke was thrilled and gave me his manuscript. Weeks went by, then months, until one day I received a polite email from his mother (my daughter) reminding me of my promise. It seems the author was getting restless. Chagrinned, I told his mother to tell Luke that it usually takes a year to publish a book, and got to work immediately.

I typed the manuscript in 14 pt type and added a dedication: “To Mom, Dad and Maddie (his sister) with love,” and an “About the Author” section at the back, describing Luke’s seven year life, plus a photo of him in his Little League uniform. Then I took his full-color illustrations to a copy-store to copy. Being mechanically challenged (I have probably destroyed millions of dollars worth of equipment in my life) I had to ask an employee to help me. With copies in hand I went home, got out my light table (a relic from a former stint in the graphic arts), scissors and rubber cement, and began the paste-up. (I know, I know, nobody does that anymore. But I don’t have a scanner, and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t know how to work it. I had to fall back on my ancient skills.)

Once the paste-up was done, I took it back to the copy-shop and told them I would like four volumes of the book printed and bound with hard covers. This posed a problem. A hardcover binding can’t be done with less than 1 ¼ inches of paper. Luke’s book was only one inch wide. Sensing my consternation, the young woman, whose name was Erika, suggested I allot a whole page to each illustration, instead of bundling them in with the text. “That might make up the difference,” she said.

Back to the light table. The next morning I took the revised paste-up to the store and told Erika I needed the bound volumes the next day. I was going to visit my daughter that weekend and Luke would be expecting his book. She promised they would be ready. But when I went to pick them up, there was a strange woman at the counter who couldn’t find my order and claimed she knew nothing about it. I panicked ! “Where is Erika?” I cried. The stranger said to come back in an hour, when Erika would be back from lunch. I spent a miserable hour in a coffee shop imagining Luke’s disappointment. He has large, expressive, dark eyes. I was back at the shop on the dot of the hour. Wonder of wonders, Erika was there, brandishing four bound volumes of “Iron Man”! They were beautiful.

Would you like an inscription, or just my signature?

The books were received with all the enthusiasm I had expected, and Luke announced, his dark eyes dancing, that he would have a signing after dinner. (He knew all about signings, having attended some of mine.) Various relations gathered in the living room and Luke obligingly signed the four books--one for his parents, one for each set of grandparents, and one for an aunt and uncle. He even held a question and answer session afterward. One relation asked the author if he outlined. With a puzzled expression, he said, “What’s an outline?”

Exactly my sentiments. He must be a chip off the old block.

Robin Hathaway


  1. Robin was such a special friend. She and I were roomies at many mystery conferences. We went to Bouchercons where all sorts of mysteries and their writers were on hand. We went to Malice Domestic where cozy Agatha Christie style mysteries are featured. We especially liked our local Philly based Noircon. The conference, originally designed to honor David Goodis, became a discussion of all sorts of noir books, movies and art. At one Noircon, the morning festivities began with a panel on erotic elements in noir fiction. Robin always took notes at conference sessions and she did not make an exception here. As the discussion turned to bestiality, she wrote furiously and pushed the pad toward me. I looked down and saw the following: "They don't have these sorts of discussions at Malice."
    Stephanie Patterson in Collingswood NJ

  2. She wrote so vividly here of her childhood memories, of her thoughts on many subjects. Always kind and positive in her dealings with us all. I will miss her very much.

  3. Oh my, such a beautiful gift to her grandson and a beautiful tribute to a life well spent. Hope she's in a better place and that her family's grief is lessened by such loving, cherished memories. I'm sorry to not have known her, but in a small way, your re-posting of this essay makes me feel I kind of do.

  4. This is so sad!!! She made me feel as though I was her best friend, but I think she made everyone feel this way!!!

  5. This is very sad news for all of us who were her friends, especially Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Robin was a talented rara avis. We can only hope she is with the angels and writing more stories way up there, happy and smiling... Thelma Straw

  6. Robin was one of the very first people who I met when I joined MWA more than ten years ago. Her passing is very sad indeed.

  7. I remember when she told me she had become a grandmother. This post made me kind of teary

  8. Robin was a dear, sweet person. I've known Robin for many years and was so happy to have the opportunity to see her at Malice Domestic. She was always so glad to see me and her warmth and friendliness were always present. I was so very sorry to hear that she was ill and has just gotten contact information to arrange to visit Robin in Vrginia. Unfortunately, I didn't have that chance.

  9. Heartbroken to hear of Robin's passing. We were on the MWANY board together and Robin could always be counted on to make a contribution - and to be a lively and fun presence at any event. What a wonderful hostess she was after that rainy Philadelphia Book Festival. She will be missed.

    1. I remember that party so fondly. We all had such a great time. Robin was delightful and so generous to everyone. Her husband gave me two lectures: "There's More to Life Than Books" and "You're Having Too Much Fun." It was always fun to be around them.
      Stephanie Patterson, Collingswood, NJ

  10. Robin was a darling. I remember meeting her for the first time at a Sisters in Crime New York dinner, the first published mystery writer I'd heard of that I'd actually met, and being delighted and grateful at how welcoming and unassuming she was. She's been much missed since she stopped coming to SinC and MWA meetings due to her illness, and I hope we'll take some time to remember her there. My favorite Robin story is the one she used to tell about the time she tried to write a more gritty book (probably inspired by going to those Noircons!), only to be told by an editor that it could have been written by (or was it that he'd have no hesitation giving it to) his Aunt Agatha.

  11. So saddened to hear of Robin's passing. She always had a friendly smile and a kind word. I'm sure Luke will forever remember his 'book signing,' arranged by his beloved grandmother. Thanks for sharing such an adorable post.

  12. I saw Robin several times on panels at Malice Domestic over the years, and then got the chance to meet and talk with her at Crimebake a few years ago. What a thoroughly nice woman. It is too sad to think of her gone.

  13. Friends of Robin may enjoy a delightful article titled " Murder most patient. Crime novel success at 60 and up " by Art Carey, Inquirer Staff Writer Nov. 13, 2007 Go to 25225224 ( Thelma Straw)

  14. Robin was such a sweet, yet dynamic presence. I recall being at an MWA dinner before my first book came out, standing around during the cocktail portion of the evening, gripping a glass of wine, knowing no one. Then there she was, introducing herself, introducing me to others. I will never forget her kindness.

  15. Robin was a dear. She was one of the first people I met at my first meeting with Sisters in Crime in New York City. We got to know each other walking to the Indian restaurant for dinner after the meeting. We discussed various murder methods and became instant friends. Though I haven't seen her in a while, she will always be in my heart and treasured for her wonderful smile and great love of books.

  16. I first saw Robin at Malice Domestic, when she stepped on stage to
    receive Ruth Cavin's congratulations for winning the Malice Domestic/St.
    Martins Press Best First Traditional Mystery Contest. Since I'd planned
    to enter the contest myself, only to be derailed by my hectic day job, I
    was expecting to resent the winner. But instead I found that Robin's
    warmth and self-deprecating humor helped re-energize me to do whatever
    it took--even quitting the job if necessary--to finish my book and
    follow in her footsteps.

    I will miss my fellow member of the Ruth Cavin Appreciation Society!

    Donna Andrews

  17. Something nobody has mentioned yet among Robin's many unusual virtues is the beauty of her speaking voice. I'm going to miss that.

  18. Thank you for re-posting this, and for the tributes you all are sharing. My mother would love them, though she'd of course, at the same time, be embarrassed at the accolades.

  19. I'm so sorry to hear about Robin's passing. She will be greatly missed by me and so many other writers and readers. We had so much in common -- we were both mystery writers, both winners of the Malice Domestic competition and both Smithies. And, as Robin would say dryly (with eyes twinkling), only separated by around 40 years in age...