The New York Times bestselling author of eighteen novels of medical and political suspense, Palmer was also an associate director of the Massachusetts Medical Society Physical Health Services, devoted to helping other physicians troubled by mental and/or physical illness, behavioral issues, and chemical dependency. He died last Wednesday at the age of 71.
I had only a brief correspondence and one face-to-face conversation with the man, but they instilled within me such a deep sense of respect for him that I had a surprisingly visceral reaction to hearing the unexpected news of his passing.
This encounter occurred during April of 2012, when Mr. Palmer was in Connecticut for Easton’s Murder 203 festivities, of which he served as Guest of Honor that year.
We had shared a few email exchanges in the days and weeks prior, as he had graciously agreed to be a virtual guest of this column in support of the event—even providing a previously written Q&A to draw from, given the limited timing we had to work with. (It’s rare that an author—and particularly one of such stature—will go to such lengths to accommodate a relatively smalltime blogger. Usually they leave that to their publicists …)
After piecing the interview together with biographical material and event details, I pressed “publish” forwarded the link to Michael.
He responded very shortly thereafter:
great stuff, john......
again my apologies for making things difficult for you.......
i deserve to be called "her" which, a few lines from the bottom, i was
With thanks to Michael Palmer for her generous contribution of time and thought.
not to worry
we'll laugh about it this weekend......
Oops. (But we did have a laugh about it.)
I was able to introduce myself to Michael at the book signing that followed his lunchtime interview (where he was questioned by his son, Daniel Palmer, who is a fine writer in his own right). He was exceptionally warm in demeanor and generous in his praise of my work—particularly considering the gender snafu.
After inquiring as to my own literary ambitions and offering some words of encouragement, he signed my copy of A Heartbeat Away. The inscription is one that I valued then and treasure now: To John – You’re a terrific writer – Keep at it – Michael Palmer
On that day, and the few occasions that followed where we happened to occupy the same space (namely, ThrillerFest), I marveled at his energy, enthusiasm, and the easy rapport that he shared with those around him, whether fellow writers, enthusiastic readers, or just the ever curious passers-by. There was no pretense; he was as happy and willing to talk to you as you were to him.
While the merits of his books speak for themselves, I believe that it’s this generosity of spirit that will bear out his legacy above all else. Michael Palmer was intelligent, funny, and kind, and he made those of us who had the pleasure of knowing him feel important, if only for a moment …