Friday, July 19, 2024

Vale: Mystery writer Claire McNab

Katherine V. Forrest pays tribute to her friend and fellow pioneering author, Claire McNab.

Claire has left us, complications ending a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s Disease, with Sheila, her devoted spouse of twenty-eight years, in loving support of her throughout the entire journey. I know that a great many of you join me in mourning the loss of this pioneering writer who was a close, dear friend of mine for many years. Our lesbian community worldwide has lost one of its most beloved writers and teachers.

Claire McNab’s contributions are numerous and remarkably wide in scope. Born in Melbourne, Australia, she began a storied teaching career in the high school system in Sydney. Under her birth name, Claire Carmichael, she opened her literary career with an outpouring of children’s literature, textbooks, self-help books, and plays. She became (and remains to this day) a renowned author of children’s books in Australia.

Adopting the name Claire McNab to distinguish her lesbian work, she created her most celebrated series, the Detective Inspector Carol Ashton mysteries, in 1988 with Lessons in Murder, published by Naiad Press, soon followed by Fatal Reunion and Death Down Under (1989). Over the years she gifted us with fourteen more books in a series filled with entertaining stories, wit, and memorable characters, set against the background of one of the world’s most beautiful cities. The books concluded in 2012 with Lethal Care, a Goldie-winning novel for which I was honored to act as her assistant as she battled the increasing disabilities of Parkinson’s.

A remarkably prolific author in diverse genres, from 1992 to 2006 Claire produced four romance novels, beginning with the enduringly popular Under the Southern Cross. She greeted the millennium with another new series, espionage/adventure featuring Denise Cleaver, an agent for ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, introducing her in Murder Undercover. Yet another series began life in 2004, this one set in a detective agency in Los Angeles, featuring an Aussie transplant named Kylie Kendall. These droll, witty stories, beginning with the fancifully titled The Wombat Strategy, continued with four other novels highlighting unique Australian animals in their titles. Thirty-two novels in all, all of them published by Naiad Press/Bella Books.

A quintessential Aussie, Claire left her beloved country in 1994 for America to be with the woman she loved, Sheila Jefferson. On these shores she accepted a teaching position at UCLA extension where she taught advanced fiction writing for twenty years, receiving high accolades and awards for her inspirational teaching, including UCLA’s Teacher of the Year award. She mentored many writers who would go on to publish, including our own Victoria Avilan.

Many times a Lambda Literary Award finalist, Claire served a term as a president of Sisters in Crime. In 2006 she received the GCLS Alice B medal for her lifetime of work.

Claire McNab was brilliant, vital, witty, big-hearted, kind. She will be forever mourned, missed, remembered.

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