One of my friends passed on some bad news this week, one of the publisher’s reps I dealt with for many years has been ill recently and sadly tests have shown cancer spreading. It’s inoperable and the only care that can be given is to try and make him comfortable as the inevitable bears down. It’s a horrid thought and I hate to imagine what his family are going through, because basically they are in pretty much the same situation my family was in this time last year, facing the Christmas period knowing someone we loved was slipping away from us and there was nothing anyone could do. He was offered a very good early retirment package just the other year (one other rep I’ve known for years observed yesterday how jealous he was of his good fortune at the time, it just makes it all the more bitter because he should be kicking back and relaxing).
For those who don’t know, the publisher’s reps are the primary contact between booksellers in the stores and the publishers. I’ve dealt with all sorts in my years in the book trade; a few were annoying or simply just doing a job of work, but most, like many booksellers, do it because they care about books and because they enjoy interacting with people. This particular rep (I won’t name him, it wouldn’t be fair) is one we all enjoyed seeing – nice guy, good booklist, heplful and always cheerful. Even when things descended into the soulless mediocrity of the Dilbert-style corporate mentality he was a bright spot when he came in; you’d do business, sure, but you’d enjoy it, have a chat, share jokes. He’s a guy people looked forward to seeing. This comes quite soon after hearing a former colleague, only a few years older than me, passed away after a serious illness. I hate, hate, hate bad things happening to good people. I know, it’s life and life and death are rarely fair, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it or accept it, even if we do, sadly, have to deal with it.