Like many people, I was dismayed to hear that Sir Terry Pratchett has died. Growing up, he was one of my favourite authors. I even managed to hear him speak in person a couple of times, and got him to sign the books of his I had.
The first time I did so, my friend and I had been in the queue for quite some time, and were towards the back. That was fine with us, as we talked at length about his presentation. When it was our turn, he asked us who we wanted the books dedicated to. I was starry eyed and blurted out “Terry Pratchett!” Everyone was polite enough for me to realise my mistake and start laughing before they joined in. On another of his visits, I took Hidden Turnings in to be signed, which had his short story Turntables of the Night in it, a great story in an excellent anthology of various authors. He said he wasn’t presented that one often to sign, which is a real shame, as the book is a glorious pastiche, and I wish I could get many of the other authors to sign it as well.
Although my reading tastes have changed over the years, expanding into different genres and styles, he has always had a strong place in my heart. While I may go years without reading one of his books, when asked for my favourite author, Terry Pratchett is one of first names on my lips. I’m not conceited enough to think that my style is anywhere near approaching his, but he is the brightest light from my formative years, and his books I look back to with joy.
When I went to Sweden I managed to get some of the Clarecraft statues: one of Bill Door as Death (my favourite at the time), and a mate gave me one of the Bursar’s containers for dried frog pills. So there are happy memories and yearning tied up in them. They are both in storage at my parents place and like all the things we acquire in our life and lay aside, they pass from our minds while we pile up new treasures, but the sight and touch of them call back remembrances both wonderous and terrible in their vividness.
It is rare that I get new books over here, as most of bookshop English sections cater towards people learning the language, and reading him in ebook format just wouldn’t be the same. I did manage to snap up Dodger a year or so ago, but was fearful of opening it. What it his newer work didn’t live up to my nostalgia – like many other authors of my youth? How would I take it? I haven’t managed to keep up with the Discworld series while I’ve been away, what if his style had changed, or I had changed? But my fears were groundless, it was like coming back to an old friend you hadn’t seen for years, familiar yet fascinating.
It is a sad day, but he caused so much happiness that he will be recalled fondly. It’s been a long time since I’ve read Johnny and the dead, but I am sure there’s a relevant quote there. Everywhere else seems to be quoting from Death at the moment. I have one of the magnificent illustrated copies of The Last Hero here in Hanoi, so I will start reading that in his honour tonight.