Saturday, April 18, 2009

Farewell to James Houston--author and friend

James Houston, novelist and essayist, died on April 16, 2009 at his home in Santa Cruz. He was 75 when he passed away.
I first met Jim in February, 1980, when he spoke to the Peninsula Branch of the California Writer's Club, of which I was a member. He and his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houson, wrote a book called Farewell to Manzanar, and it was a true story of Jeanne's experience as a seven-year-old when her family was forced to live in an internment camp, as did ten thousand other Japanese Americans. Jim was friendly and approachable to all of us and in the copy of his book that I bought, he inscribed: "For Tom Mach--All the best to a fellow writer" when he signed it.
This book was later made into a movie and helped launch his writing career to new heights Since then he went on to write eight more novels, but I was out of touch with him for several years as my career took me to other places. But I caught up with him again in September of 2006, when he talked at the Steinbeck Center to the California Writers Club about his newest novel at the time entitled Snow Mountain Passage about the ill-fated Donner Party. He told me he remembered me after all those years and this time he inscribed in my copy of his book: "How Great To Meet Again!"
I've always enjoyed meeting authors who, no matter how famous they are, remain approachable and are always eager to help other writers who haven't reached that level.
Goodbye, Mr. Houston. I and the literary world will miss you!
---Tom Mach

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