Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | August 16, 2011

To Read or Not to Read

There are a few authors whose books I await with barely concealed impatience. Or, more accurately, with completely unconcealed impatience. I calendar watch obsessively and count down the days. Currently the release of Jonathan Maberry’s DUST AND DECAY, Terry Pratchett’s SNUFF, Scott Westerfeld’s GOLIATH and Laurie R. King’s THE PIRATE KING sparkle in my autumn plans, like Christmas coming months early.

For years, one of these authors was Diana Wynne Jones. If you haven’t heard of Diana Wynne Jones, I urge you to immediately go out and buy her DALEMARK QUARTET. Then buy HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, DEEP SECRET, ARCHER’S GOON and then all of the CHRESTOMANCI books. You will want the rest of her books, but those might keep you going until you can plunder a bookstore next week.

Diana Wynne Jones died this past spring. I follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter and one night read that he had gone to say good-bye to a terminally ill friend. The next morning I read that his friend had passed away in the night. I felt the pang of sympathy that one human feels when another loses a friend.

Then, having waited for the family to announce her death, he said that Diana Wynne Jones had been the friend that had passed.

From the day my sister handed me DOGSBODY with the command that I had to ‘Read it NOW!’ I have counted Diana Wynne Jones as one of my top, all-time favorite authors. She combined characters that you felt you could meet on the street with twists and turns in her plots that I never saw coming. I have been known to pick up one of her books idly, a book I have read several times, open it, then found several hours have passed while I stood and read.

For years Diana Wynne Jones books, particularly the less well-known ones, were hard to find in the States. After my marriage to a British man, trips to visit my in-laws became regular occurrences. Each trip I would pull out the list entitled “Diana’s Books.” These were the Diana Wynne Jones books my sister and I hadn’t found. I searched bookstores, new and old, until I had all of them. I would bring them home and my sister and I would go into bookstores here and demand that they look for these books. When I could obtain doubles, we gave them to libraries.

We wanted the world to know about Diana Wynne Jones.

With the success of the HARRY POTTER series, many British fantasy writers’ catalogues were re-issued. (If I didn’t loved J. K. Rowling for giving the world HARRY POTTER, I would love her for this). Suddenly, we could go to most bookstores and find at least the most famous of Diana Wynne Jones’ books. And whenever a new book came out, I was there on day one, snatching up a copy.

Diana Wynne Jones’ last book, EARWIG AND THE WITCH, came out as an audiobook in June, two months after her death. The hardback is scheduled for a January, 2012, release. I bought the audio book version, impatient with the six-month wait for the book.

I haven’t listened to it yet.

I know, it sounds silly. I’m an avid fan. It looks like a great book. It’s her last book. Listen to it already!

But that’s just it — it’s her last book. After this, nothing. I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen. Once I’ve heard it, she’s gone for good. And though I know intellectually that she’s gone, in my heart I don’t want to accept this sad fact.

So EARWIG AND THE WITCH sits on my computer, unlistened to yet dearly loved, until I can bring myself to admit that one of my favorite authors is no more.

Posted for Nancy Keim Comley.


  1. All of those books are on my list to read!


  2. My husband also is a fan of Diana Wynne Jones. Of course, now I will have to add all those books to my reading list, as well!


  3. Dark Lord of Derkholm is my absolute favorite, but I loved all her work.


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