I recently received a phone call from one of my predecessors as CWA Chair, Danuta Kot (also known as Danuta Reah). She gave me the sad news that another former CWA Chair, Lesley Horton, had just died, and today I'd like to pay a short tribute to Lesley by way of personal reminiscence.
I first met Lesley about sixteen years ago, shortly after publication of her first novel, Snares of Guilt. Lesley was a Yorkshirewoman, and she and her husband became regular attendees at CWA northern chapter lunches. In those days, when there were fewer literary festivals in the calendar, the northern chapter members, led by Peter Walker and Reginald Hill, used to organise week-end breaks, which were highly convivial. Lesley and I had a number of chats at those get-togethers. I enjoyed her company, and on looking at her website when preparing this post, I was touched to see that it still links to my website, as well as that of our mutual friend, another Yorkshire writer, the late Stuart Pawson.
Lesley had been a schoolteacher for many years before becoming a full-time crime novelist, and she joined the CWA Committee, organising an annual conference at Ilkley, one of the highlights of which was a guided tour of Bronte Parsonage arranged by Robert Barnard.It was a terrific weekend.
My final memory of Lesley dates back to her time as Chair of the CWA in 2008. At an unforgettable dinner, she awarded me the CWA Short Story Dagger for "The Bookbinder's Apprentice". At that stage, I was still a full-time partner in a law firm, and I'd never won any literary award at all, although I'd made several shortlists. It was a fantastic moment. There's a wonderful account of that evening by Ali Karim on The Rap Sheet.
I certainly never imagined that night that Lesley's literary career had already come to an end. She'd published five novels, the last of them appearing in 2007, but for whatever reason, she dropped out of the crime writing world following her spell as CWA Chair. In recent times, she suffered a stroke, and lost touch with many of her author friends. But we'll miss her, and remember the good times in her company with affection.