In Remembrance of L.A. Banks, 1959-2011

Leslie Esdaile Banks, who wrote fiction under the name L. A. Banks, died this morning, Tuesday, August 2nd, from a rare and virulent form of adrenal cancer.

Leslie became a friend of mine the very first time we met. We were doing back-to-back holiday book signings at a Barnes & Noble. I was promoting Fitcher’s Brides at the time, and as any writer who’s endured this will tell you, it was amazing how instantaneously I became invisible to the Christmas shoppers. For two solid hours. When my sentence was up, I cleared my stuff from the table for the next writer. That turned out to be Leslie. She came in, absolutely larger than life, and organized to a frightening degree with posters, professionally prepared PR materials, and her books. I’d never seen anyone do book postcards before. Now you can’t avoid them.

But the first thing Leslie did was set all that stuff down and hug me. We’d never met. I was unprepared for that much open, shared joy at just being in the company of another writer. It was both disarming and infectious.

That was, and always will be, Leslie Banks.

I stayed around to talk with her and watched her do nothing more than I had done; but by the sheer warmth of her personality she drew shoppers to look her way, to come over to the table, to investigate her novels. She didn’t have to work the room. She bonded with it.

I didn’t see her again for a number of years, until another excellent writer, Jonathan Maberry, and I started tossing around the idea of assembling a group of authors to campaign collectively at book signings and book fairs and conferences. We decided to call it the Liars Club (because, as Jonathan pointed out, lying was what we do for a living). The first person he brought in was this author he knew, L. A. Banks.

Once again there was that glowing sun of pleasure, of pure delight. Being in her company, you never wanted to be out of it. That was true every single time we ever saw each other.

She was also the hardest working author I’ve ever known, constantly in motion, always traveling to promote her books, connecting up her fans to form a nationwide following for the Vampire Huntress series. Nine times out of ten when the Liars Club had business to discuss and emails were traded, we would all receive an auto-response from Leslie that she was (a) traveling somewhere to promote a book; or (b) on deadline and not reading emails right now.

I suspect if I sent her an email today, that’s what I would get back: “I’m busy and not able to read emails at this time.”

The Liars Club is putting on a benefit for her this Saturday in Philadelphia to raise money to help with her catastrophic medical expenses. I’m creating a poster for it and have spent some hours going through photos, trying to find some we could use. But in virtually every shot Leslie seems to be squinting…because she’s laughing so much. All that joy. That’s Leslie.


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