A few days ago, I heard the sad news that Sir Terry Pratchett had died at the age of 66, after an ongoing battle with Alzheimers. The news stopped me in my tracks.
There are some writers who you never really get to know - you remember their books (perhaps) but the writer stays in some hazy focus. This was never the case with Terry Pratchett. It wasn't that he was a publicity whore, although he never shied away from that visibility either. It was more that when you read one of his books, you read a little bit of him - his humour, his amazing talent with words and his slant on life.
I first came to his books at a time in my life when I was searching - for a writing style, for my place in life, for an identity that felt right. I don't even know how I happened on The Colour of Magic. I didn't know of any friends reading his books at the time (although they may well have been). I was attracted by the cover design and the genre. I had no idea of the joyful, magical journey I was letting myself in for.
When I finished that book (quickly), I couldn't say goodbye to Rincewind (the terrible wizard - he was terrible at being a wizard), so I snapped up the next novel, The Light Fantastic, which was, as the title suggested, a fantastic read. Here again was Rincewind, his home city Ankh-Morpork, and the tourist Twoflower with his faithful Luggage, but there were also other wonderful, colourful characters too (Death was a personal favourite) and a deeper understanding of the book's setting, the Discworld.
There were cameras that opened up to reveal a little man painting pictures, universities of wizards, a librarian who preferred to remain in the shape of an orangutang, and a warehouse for 'pork in potentia' (pork that didn't exist yet).
Pratchett was a prolific writer, publishing a book every year for most of his writing life. I must have read around twenty of his books which means I have as many again left to read, plus his latest venture in which he partnered with Stephen Baxter to write the Long Earth books.
My children have started to read my dog eared copies of the Pratchett books too. They love his irreverent, fantastical humour. I recently bought them his book of short stories - Dragons at Crumbling Castle. My husband completes the picture as a Pratchett-ite. We are a family of fans.
One of the things that most writers would like is to be remembered for their writing, to leave a legacy that will ultimately outlive them and leave an impression on the world. Sir Terry Pratchett just did that.
DON'T THINK OF IT AS DYING," said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.
- Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch