Wednesday, May 21, 2014

AJ Hayes: Advocate, Wordsmith, Good Citizen

By Travis Richardson

I first met AJ in early 2012 at the third Noir at Bar in Los Angeles put on by Eric Beetner and Stephen Blackmoore. I was the opening act, reading two 100-word micro flash stories followed by a longer piece. AJ followed and blew the crowd away with two stories. Afterwards we talked, joking about how we each had a story with castration in it. AJ had a big mustachioed grin, and his eyes were full of energy and enthusiasm. Every time my wife and I went to Noir at the Bar, we looked forward to talking to him and his lovely wife Thury. The two of them would drive 130+ miles each way from the San Diego area to LA to support the authors reading at the bar.

We were fortunate to meet up with AJ and Thury in their neck of the woods for some coffee late last year. I loved that visit because we weren’t shouting over the din of the bar. I got to find out a little bit more about AJ/Bill as a salesman in Los Angeles, his trip to England, and much more. I had hoped to meet with them again on my next visit to the San Diego area, but unfortunately it won’t happen.

AJ was a humble soul who hardly ever talked about his own writing without prodding. But he never hesitated to discuss other authors and stories that he had read. His support and encouragement was invaluable and felt throughout the entire crime writing community. Whenever I had anything published, AJ was always the first to rally support for it, as he did many other writers. I found many wonderful stories that he championed on Facebook.

The last time I talked to AJ was on February 9 at the Noir at the Bar. I brought up his story “Baby Boy” in Yellow Mama. He said that he was surprised that it had been nominated for a Derringer award. Humble as always, he said he had no idea how big the award was and it blew him away when he found out. It’s too bad he didn’t win it last year, but I think the nomination in itself was a win for him.

The loss of AJ reminds us of how the moments we have with others are fleeting and we need to cherish the little time that we have. Also, his advocacy of noir/hard-boiled/gritty crime fiction was tremendous, and the void left in this community is enormous. I’m blessed to be a part of this supportive community, and even more blessed to have met AJ. He is a Hall of Famer in both the Good Citizen as well the Prose categories of the genre. Up in the ether, he’s probably rubbing elbows with the Thompson, Goodis, Willeford, and other soiled saints of the downtrodden and screwed.

In honor of AJ, we should emulate him by being good citizens of this unique and wonderful community. By giving attention to and celebrating writers and publications, we become the heart (like AJ) that keeps the beast of crime fiction alive and thriving.

(You find the recap of the 3rd LA Noir at the Bar at Stephen Blackmoore’s LA Noir blog:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Travis, for your touching tribute. I miss Bill deeply.