Wednesday 5 June 2019

Anthony Price, 1928–2019

I wasn't planning on commemorating Anthony Price, who died last Thursday, 30 May; I was content to let my 2011 two-part interview with the spy novelist stand as tribute (along with all my other Price posts). But Ethan Iverson – who has posted his own typically excellent tribute – encouraged me to do so, and so here are a few thoughts.

I still think fondly of the day I interviewed the author at his then-home in Oxfordshire: spotting red kites on the drive there; the warm welcome Rachel and I received from Price and his late wife, Ann, when we arrived, exemplified by the salmon lunch we were served; and Price's candour during the interview in his study, including the revelation – which I left out of the transcript at his request – that the reason he never wrote the 20th David Audley novel after 1989's The Memory Trap was because Ann had fallen seriously ill.

Something else I haven't since revealed is that following the interview, Price and I corresponded for a little while, exchanging the odd letter and Christmas card. When his wife died in 2012 he wrote of the funeral and his memories of Ann, and when Rachel and my daughter Edie was born in 2013, he commended the choice of her "lovely Anglo-Saxan name", and shared the news that he'd moved to Blackheath in London and had just been to a "wonderful, but terrifying!" Leonard Cohen concert at the 02. ("All those people!") I regret that I didn't keep up the correspondence past that point – I didn't want to pester him – but I shall always treasure my small stash of letters.

I'll also treasure the firsts of The Labyrinth Makers, The Alamut Ambush, and Our Man in Camelot he inscribed to me. And I'll continue to make my way through the David Audley series, which I'm ashamed to admit I'm still not even halfway through. Tomorrow's Ghost is next up for me, even though Price somewhat spoiled the fate of its protagonist during our interview. I wouldn't have it any other way though.

Addendum: There are now obituaries at The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Times, and The Telegraph, all of which refer to my 2011 interview.