Many of you may have heard the sad news that Sally Fellows—reader, reviewer, and friend to the mystery community--passed away earlier this week, peacefully, in her sleep. Other folks (like Laura Lippman and Janet Rudolph) have shared their memories of Sally, and you can find an obituary here. These thoughts below are some of the ways I'll remember Sally.
She could assemble a kick-ass panel and helped run an awesome convention. If Sally was moderating, you could expect interesting, challenging questions from her. She made you want to bring your best game. Mayhem in the Midlands owed much of its success to Sally's hard work. My first time there, she asked me what I thought. I told her honestly, it was one of the best times I'd ever had. Small enough to relax and get to know folks across many sub-genres, I think Mayhem was where I truly first came out of my shell in the mystery world.
(An aside: Part of this process involved an unknown assailant (not a Mayhem attendee) dumping a glass of ice water on my head from an upper floor window. One cannot stay en-shelled with ice water dripping over one. Much more of my de-shellment was thanks to the fabulous people who were there, helped mop me up, and expressed appreciation that I knew so many bad words. They have been firm friend ever since.)
Sally was a terrific reviewer. I was thrilled when she liked my books or short stories (who doesn't love that?), and while she'd not hesitate to tell you what she thought didn't work, you knew her criticism would never be mean-spirited. It would be rooted in careful consideration and if you paid attention, you could learn something.
Sally had high expectations and you knew it if she were let down—woe betide the hotel restaurant that kept her waiting during a convention! But she kept herself to those same high standards, and she would not stint in her praise if she liked something or if someone had done a great job. Sally made a point of letting whoever was in charge she'd had a good experience.
I loved seeing Sally talk about her dogs. In the years that I knew her, she always had a small dog, and would light up when relating Trixie or Luke's latest trick or game. That happiness was a great thing to see.
Sally wasn't usually into paranormal books, but eventually, via friends, she got hooked on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and more of the Jossverse. She could go several rounds of “Spike vs. Angel” with any of us, preferably over a glass of wine (red! preferably a Shiraz or Cab; I was always happy when Sally enjoyed a wine I'd suggested).
I'm going to miss Sally at the upcoming Bouchercon (we all are!), and every other convention to come, but I'm really grateful to have known her. I learned something every time we spoke. Thank you so much, Sally, for everything!
What are your best memories of Sally Fellows?