Welcome to Biting-Edge, a blog shared by authors and vampire experts, Mario Acevedo and Jeanne Stein. We’ll cover urban fantasy, vampires, pop culture, and all things Joss Whedon. Unlike other fantasy blogs, we don’t insist on body cavity searches (unless you ask politely). Snarkiness is most welcome...though we won't promise not to bite back!

Sunday, April 21, 2013
  Cort McMeel RIP--your passing casts a giant shadow
Mario here:

In a week brimming with bad tidings, we were still sucker punched by the news that Cort McMeel took his life.

We all know people who seem to teeter on self-destruction, and if they happen to do themselves in, we're not surprised.

But Cort was a different story.

You couldn't help but notice him. He was loud, boisterous, and earthy--a roman candle of mirth and optimism. Highly educated and exceptionally well-read, he wasn't shy about sharing his opinions, especially when it came to literature and writing. And he was just as gracious and friendly. Already a physically imposing character, his ebullient personality filled a room like exploding fireworks. Yet you never felt diminished by him, in fact we all shined brighter the closer we stood beside him.

 Me and Cort at a Lighthouse gathering.

His reputation truly preceded him as I learned about Cort through his Murdaland anthology months before actually I met him. And when we did meet, he instantly acknowledged that he knew of me through my books and that he had looked forward to the introduction. And he was as effusive with other writers. When he recently became acquainted with our own Jeanne, Cort gushed that he enjoyed her Doc Holliday story.

Above all, Cort loved hard-boiled noir. He'd summon a few of us fellow mystery writers like Benjamin Whitmer and Jon Bassoff to his favorite watering hole, The Thin Man in the Park Hill neighborhood, where we discussed books, teaching, and our writing projects. It was through Cort that I learned about Charles Bukowski, Graham Greene, and Daniel Woodrell. He was eager to receive our comments on his almost completed cage fighter novel, and he was equally excited to read my next work-in-progress. But foremost, Cort cranked the levers of those projects promoting his beloved mystery genre. Having already demonstrated his chops as an editor and publisher with Murdaland, Noir Nation, and Bare Knuckles Press, he was ready to move forward with an ebook publishing venture. He was the force behind Denver's Noir@Bar and saw that venue as the foundation for an ambitious mystery writing program.

 Dan Manzanares (L) and Cort at Lighthouse.

Cort led writing seminars at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop where he was fondly regarded as an exceptional and popular instructor. To appreciate his infectious radiance, check out these photos of the book launch party for his debut novel, Short.

It wasn't as if Cort didn't face challenges. He had recently lost his job as a day trader but assured me that he had enough money set aside and had several writing projects to help with the family cash flow. 

Writer, author, boxer, rugby player, hunter, Cort swung at opportunity with two-fisted bravado. He tackled life with Hemingway-esque drama, and ironically, died the same way.

Demons tormented Cort. Not mischievous imps or the devil's henchmen that we find in urban fantasy, but real demons--those destructive impulses that torment a person to madness.

I knew Cort as a raucous, happy drunk. Even with his reputation as a hard-drinking Irishman, around me he'd cut himself off at two drinks (more or less), claiming that he had to behave. The one time we did plan a late night of boozing, I was done at eleven but Cort still knocked the drinks down, slapping backs and making new friends around the bar. He dismissed my concerns about him getting home safe, and I let it go at that. After all, I wasn't his nanny. The next morning he texted that he had slept the night in his car and then driven straight to work. Two weeks ago at our Mystery Writers meeting, I bought him beers for his dinner. But the truth was, Cort struggled against the bottle. Concerned about the affect his alcoholism was having on his wife and children, Cort tried AA. And quit AA. And continued his lonely battle.

He kept his other demon well hidden. Behind his smiles and good-natured swagger, Cort habored a corrosive bleakness about the futility of life. Despite his accomplishments and plans and people in his corner, he somehow talked himself into believing that he had run out of hope.

Last Friday, Jon and I waited at The Thin Man to plan for the next Noir@Bar. Cort never showed up and I texted him, asking if he was okay. He never answered.

Many years ago, my father committed suicide (as well as other heinous acts), and it took decades for the wounds to heal. So while my grief for Cort is biblical in its pain, I cannot pretend that my anguish is close to what his family suffers.

I can't claim that I knew Cort as well as other writers, especially Les Edgerton. Even so, I deeply admired Cort and will miss him dearly.

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I'm sorry to hear about your friend. To me there is nothing sadder than a writer who dies. Writers always have another story. It sounds like Cort had a ton of friends who will miss him very much, too.
It's hard to believe. Mario, Cort and I were at the MWA meeting a little over a week ago. He talked enthusiastically about his writing projects. I didn't know him well, but I think I was as shocked as Mario when we heard the news. To Cort's family, my condolences. To Mario, I appreciate your pain, too.

Love, Jeanne
Betsy and Jeanne: thanks for stopping by.
I had quick discussions with him over the last year or so. Great guy, he was fighting the good fight. Maybe I'm sadder than I should be since I didn't know him that well, but I'm sad whenever one of the good guys passes...
So sorry for your loss Mario
He never lost his job as a trader, he was winning till his last day. Update your "tribute"
Ben and Dottie: Thanks for your comments.
Joe: I appreciate your comment and only wrote what Cort had told me.
I am always saddened when a writer leaves us, no matter the circumstances. My condolences to you and Denver's writing community.
Thanks for posting a passionate tribute about a passionate man. I didn't know Cort that well, but well enough to feel that sucker punch. I'm still in denial. It was so great to see him a few weeks ago at RMMWA. He was telling me about all his plans with his usual irrespessible enthusiasm. It's hard to believe he won't be there in May. Just like with my husband, who killed himself seven years ago, I can't comprehend why he would do what he did but I know I shouldn't even try.

Cort, miss you, my friend. You won't be forgotten.
This is very shocking news, hard to take, but you've put together a wonderful, moving tribute, Mario, one you should be proud of.
Wonderful, wonderful tribute to our friend, Mario. You've captured him perfectly! We'll all miss our friend.
Daven: It is a great loss.
Bonnie B: Incomprehensible is correct.
Beth: Shocking and painful. Thanks for your comment.
Les: We all lost so much.
Mario, what a wonderful, moving tribute. I only met Curt once at the RMMWA meeting, but he seemed so upbeat and talked so enthusiastically about writing. It's so sad to lose him.

My condolences to his family and to you in the loss of your friend.

Becky M.
What a moving tribute to your friend, Mario. I'm so sorry for your loss -- and for Denver's loss.
I was fortunate to know Cort for about three years when he worked in Baltimore. Amidst the bustle of a trading floor, often filled with glib talk of sports and weekends, Cort stood out. Friendly and jovial, I would engage him on topics of history, philosophy, and literature.

Before leaving for Denver, he awarded books to his favorite intellectual heavyweights on the trading floor. I was fortunate enough to be mentioned and he promised to send a suitable book when he left. Although I never received the book, I have many fond memories of a man that pursued the beauty of the written word and a thirst for learning, a rarity on a trading floor.

I am grieved to hear of his demons and his untimely passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family. Rest in peace, Cort.

~ Andy
Becky and Cindi: we did lose much. Thanks for your comments.
Andy: thanks for stopping by.
It is clear Cort thought very highly of you and your friendship, Mario. You brought light into his life by sharing your time, your good humor, and your company, and those are precious gifts, indeed. We spoke of you admiringly at Noir@Bar, where he signed my copy of Short (which I tried to buy, and he insisted on giving me): "A friend of Mario's is a friend of mine." Thank you for this post. I'm sorry to learn of Cort's, and your father's, end. As Quakers say, I will be holding you all in the Light.
Maria: thanks much. What you just wrote brought back the better memories.
Moving tribute, Mario. Condolences for the loss of your friend.
Frank: Thanks.
So, sorry, Mario. My next project that I'll be polishing is a suicide book I wrote years ago. I've spent my fair share of time in the darkness. So sorry he couldn't seem to find his way out. I'll keep him and you in my prayers.
This cuts deeply. Cort was the 'warrior poet' of HRFC. Who else could have conjured Homerian battle from behind a keg in a third-worldly Baltimore rowhouse but Cort?

Rest easy buddy
Aaron and Anon: Thanks for your comments. The Homerian battle behind kegs will continue.
I'm so sorry, Mario. Addiction is a horrible disease. My brother died recently [a long suicide] from alcohol and prescription drugs. There are no words for the pain of the loss. No matter how hard we try, we can't truly know the demons of another. All we can do is grieve and remember.

While I can understand you wanting to pay tribute to Cort, I find it HIGHLY inappropriate to write about personal things like his job, alcoholism etc.. That is no one else's business and certainly not something you should put out there on the internet for people to read. No one should speculate on why he did what he did. My husband was one of Cort's oldest and closest friends and was quite frankly taken aback by your post. Some things should be left private and kept that way. We all loved Cort very much and will miss his greatly. His wife and kids are what we should think of now.
Lynda: I appreciate your comments. Thanks for stopping by.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Second anonymous: Thanks for your comments. I noticed that you feel so strongly about this matter that you signed in as "Anonymous."
I’m not anonymous – My name is Jim Griffin and I grew up with Cort in Boston - My wife posted that comment about respect, privacy and the inappropriate nature of public internet speculation as to what led to Cort’s unfortunate decision - and I could not agree with her observation more. His family’s loss is not fodder for an internet chat room. He was in my wedding party and I in his and I will hold my memories of our times together over the last 25 years close to my heart every day for the rest of my life. He is in my soul and my fiber, he is part of who I am and I will miss him terribly until we meet again. Cort was a great friend with a huge heart. He accepted all the people he came across in his days on their own merits, and attacked life with a fearless passion and unequalled aplomb, which makes the manner of his passing all the more shocking. He taught me so much in my life and graced it with his camaraderie, conversation, compassion and laughter. We were the Beantown Bastards, the Crappy Boys and he is my brother in every sense of the word, and will always be. There was never a time when he did not have my back unquestioningly no matter what the odds, and he was always available when you just needed someone to talk to. This is a time to grieve our loss and celebrate the man, not to give our personal insights on the web about what we believe may have led my brother to a place of such quiet sad desperation.
James: Thanks for your comments. We in Denver miss Cort very much. Take care.
The loss of Cortright McMeel is great, and greatest of all for his wife, childen, and parents.

Out of respect for Cort's family I do not think the personal details of his life and death ought be discussed in a chat forum.

Bear in mind...his children may very well end up reading these things one day. Let us all be respectful. Thank you.

A family member
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