Monday, April 23, 2007

Patrice Duvic

I wish I were posting about anything else today. I wish some foolish bit of whimsy had brought me back here. Instead, it's grief once more, our intimate friend and nemesis.

I first began corresponding with Patrice Duvic some years ago when he bought several books of mine to be translated for publication in France. He was an editor who acquired for several publishers, and an author in his own right, though he hadn't done much writing of his own in a while. Patrice brought many horror writers to French audiences for the first time, including Graham Joyce, Bentley Little, and me. He had an unrivaled passion for the genre, and was surrounded with books at all times.

When, during our correspondence, Patrice learned I would be attending a convention in England, he suggested that I visit him in Paris and that he would arrange for a book signing for me there. I had agents there, and thought it a perfect opportunity to meet them as well as Patrice. He traveled to London to meet me, and we rode the Chunnel train back to Paris together, where he set me up in a small flat near the river that he used as an office and occasional sleeping quarters.

Patrice was a gracious host, but he was more than that. He was an instant friend. A kinder, gentler man I have never met. He had the casual irony and world weary wisdom of a man who has truly lived, and a kind of good-humored surrender to the ebb and flow of the world that I normally associate with clergy--though Patrice was hardly that. With his white hair, beard, and glasses, he looked more than a little like a professor, and I looked to him with the same respect I would any teacher with such experience.

My first night in Paris, alone in that flat after Patrice had gone, I suffered from terrible homesickness. But by day Patrice's company made me feel at home. We ate at outdoor cafes and he mocked my American culinary tastes, we sat together and talked as he smoked cigarette after cigarette.

The last time I saw him, at World Fantasy Convention in the fall of 2005, he looked unwell. We had dinner together, and I was so very happy to see him. He was simply one of those people you wished you could see all the time, whose company made you think and become inspired. He had just recovered from surgery related to cancer, which he reported as in remission. He had given up smoking. Too late, alas.

I've only just learned that Patrice died of cancer in February of this year. I wish I'd had more conversations with him. Many more. I'm so glad to have known him, and if you didn't, I'm sorry you will never have the chance.

"It is a one way ticket, my friend," he told me once, speaking of life, punctuating the words with the burning tip of his cigarette.

Patrice Duvic was 61 years old.
He is missed.


Blogger Little Willow said...

I am so sorry for your loss - and I am sorry that you just learned of it now. I am glad that he helped you when you were over there and felt homesick, and I am glad that you have fond memories.

8:17 PM  

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