Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Tribute to AJ Hayes

By Richard Godwin

I first met Bill on A Twist Of Noir. There followed a series of emails and we found an immediate affinity. We talked regularly on the phone about everything, from every type of fiction, to politics, travel, sport, music, and art. Bill had a fantastic sense of humour, always delivered with a deadpan expression. 

When he read another writer’s work he tried to engage with what the writer was doing, and he brought a wealth of knowledge and understanding to that. He took a library with him, a volume of knowledge, of a life’s learning. He used to mention how, born in the Virginia countryside, all he had was books growing up. He said his first pusher was a librarian who got him hooked. He also told me once he wanted to be known as writer’s writer, and I think he achieved that aim. His ability with prose is born of great skill, but he never pandered to popular taste. There were many strings to his bow. Bill rode AMA Class C in his younger days. And he pushed his fictions to the same edge as a professional racer. 

I was honoured to know Bill, and spend a week with him and his wife Thury in the late summer of 2012 in the UK. When Bill came to London he used to like to go to the Red Café in Richmond for his coffee with Thury. He told me he had started writing the following in his notepad:

“What is a boy from Virginia, who lives in California, doing in London in the Red Café, run by Indians?”

I told him there was a story there and he should write it. Bill wrote the most economical stories, full of wry humour, and passion, full of poetry and lacking any spare meat. He was an immense supporter of writers, an unerringly generous man. This was balanced by his modesty about his own writing. Bill was a great friend. He was arguably the best read man I ever met. He also wrote beautiful and honed verse.

In the early days of our friendship I interviewed Bill. He gave one of the best interviews of all time, and his Chin Wag At The Slaughterhouse can be found here 

Bill was a passionate man who held onto his principles, challenged corruption and fought for the vulnerable without trying to steal any glory. When he was diagnosed with lung cancer he battled it quietly and with a courage that is an example to us all. His parting has left the world diminished. I will never forget him.