Cort McMeel RIP--your passing casts a giant shadow
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
Labels: Cort McMeel, Murdaland, Short