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". . . every minute of life is education,
especially if you live in
interesting times."

Elizabeth Daniels Squire

Anne Underwood Grant | Margaret Maron


A Tribute to Elizabeth Daniels Squire

by Anne Underwood Grant

A few short weeks ago, my friend and fellow mystery writer, Elizabeth Daniels Squire of Weaverville, died suddenly and unexpectedly. Her death was a shock to all who knew her because Liz was someone we thought would live forever. Seventy-four at the time of her death, Liz could run circles around those of us several decades her junior. Mystery writers are unusually close and supportive compared to other fiction writers I've known. Within other genres, oftentimes writers are into one-upmanship, isolationism and elitism and back-bite without provocation; mystery writers, as a whole, go out of their way to help each other through the tangled maze that is the current publishing industry. Liz was always the first to show newly published mystery writers the ropes. She had a theory she shared frequently about why mystery writers are, with few exceptions, such nice people. "Compare what we do to romance authors," she'd say. "All day they write about love and beauty and romantic interludes. Then look at what we write about." She always grinned at this point in her telling. "My theory is that we put our evil parts onto paper everyday, leaving our goodness for the real world to experience. As for romance writers, no wonder they're so hard to get along with!"

Liz lived a life of accomplishment. Her family founded the Raleigh News & Observer and, for the last several hundred years, has wielded influence rarely paralleled in North Carolina. Her grandfather was ambassador to Mexico; her father, press secretary to President Truman. Few people knew Liz was one of those Daniels; in fact, I never heard her mention her heritage. She graduated from Vassar in spite of a life-long battle with dyslexia. She tackled her dyslexia the way she approached everything - directly and lightly, as if somehow the difficulty was a gift from God. A couple of years back, she was the keynote speaker to the annual gathering of the National Dyslexia Association.

She used her handicap to inspire kids to embrace words and the books they come wrapped in. "If I can become published," she would say, beaming to a classroom full of dyslexic youth, "just think what you can do!"

At the time of her death, Liz was returning from two weeks in Alaska, where mystery authors had gathered for a conference known as Left Coast Crime. Her second week there she had agreed to fly by seaplane out into the Alaskan bush, to an island called Skagway. While in Skagway, Liz spent each day in the schoolhouse or the library where she shared her love of books and taught creative writing to kids who never imagined they'd meet a real author.

Her trip to Skagway was the last unselfish act of a woman who lived her life unselfishly. A true ambassador for the mystery world, an inspiration to both kids and adults with reading difficulties and a light-hearted friend to all of us who knew her well, Elizabeth Daniels Squire has a place in our hearts forever. The road ahead is lighter and brighter because she lived.


These remarks were delivered in July 2001 at the North Carolina Writers Conference by Margaret Maron:

It still seems unbelievable to me that I could come to a North Carolina Writers Conference and not see Liz smiling at me from across the room. Because we lived on opposite sides of the state, we didn't physically see each other all that often and when we did it was usually at mystery conventions or literary gatherings like this. She was a letter in my mailbox, a voice in my ear, a cheerful e-mail on my computer screen. I suppose that's why I'm having such a hard time coming to grips with her loss.

One of the first times we met face to face was in 1989 when her first book, Kill the Messenger, came out and there was a launch party for the book in Raleigh and she invited me to come because we were both members of Sisters in Crime, a fairly new organization at the time. She collected regional news for the national newsletter and I'd get little nudges in the mail from her every time a new one was due. When we organized the Southeastern Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, Liz immediately jumped right in and offered to do all she could to help, agreeing to serve on the board of directors. She had such a distinctive voice that all she had to say was "MARgaret" and I knew instantly who was calling. She was such an uncomplaining volunteer that I'm afraid we all took advantage of her generous nature. She edited our newsletter for years, all the time grumbling that she'd forgotten to do this or overlooked that...which is how her absent-minded sleuth, Peaches Dann was born.

With her dry, sly, self-effacing wit, it was always a delight to do book talks and signings with Liz. And I never came away from a dinner or lunch with her without a new memory trick. "If you absolutely must remember to take something with you when you leave the house," she said, "then put your car keys with it. You can't drive very far without them." It works for cellphones, library books, or if you drop in on a friend on your way home from grocery shopping and stick your ice cream in her freezer. Your keys may be cold, but you won't forget your ice cream.

I did a signing in Asheville in 1998 on my way to a talk in Tennessee. Liz insisted that my husband and I spend the night with her and Chick and try out their brand new guesthouse. It was a lovely evening and an even better morning. That wonderful atomic cook stove in their kitchen. And those delicious muffins that she made from scratch.

I miss her notes, I miss her phone calls, I miss seeing her here at this conference. She was a very special person, a true Sister in Crime. And I don't need any of Peaches Dann's memory tricks to know that I'll never forget her.

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