I first came across Louis in his own blog, where he critiqued black mystery authors and novels featuring black protagonists. He contributed articles to Criminal Brief and, as SleuthSayers was being formed, we invited him to become a permanent member. I often thought of Louis as ‘our academic’, because he studied literature more than most of us.
After his discharge from the Navy in 1958, Louis never lost his joy of learning and pursued higher education at Illinois Institute of Technology. Halfway through a degree in engineering, his love of literature induced him to change majors to English lit.
There he encountered… or more correctly didn’t encounter studies of black authors such as he’d appreciated in high school. When made aware of this shortcoming in their curriculum, IIT invited him to lecture about black authors in American lit.
Louis was familiar with Richard Wright and had begun reading James Baldwin. As he immersed myself in the research, he discovered Zora Neale Hurston (whose Florida home is minutes from mine), Ralph Ellison and many more.
Following formal retirement from the government decades later, he returned home to Knoxville from Richmond, California with his youngest daughter and her son to care for his mother who died a year later in 1997. With time on his hands, he returned to his love of learning and enrolled in a graduate degree program at the University of Tennessee and graduated in 2004 with a Masters in English.
Louis also has a son who attended Lemoyne Owen College in Memphas and had three sons himself, the youngest born a year ago on 31 December, nearly a New Year’s baby.
Louis’ favorite authors are Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Hemingway, Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, Anton Chekhov, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jorge Luis Borges. Recently, he's studying Eudora Welty. In crime fiction, his favorites are Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, Richard S. Prather, G. K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dame Agatha Christie, and of course all SleuthSayers authors.
— Leigh Lundin
The Long Goodbye that Isn't
“Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone”
by Louis Willis
I usually limit myself in writing an article to no less than 300 and no more than 700 words. Because goodbyes should be short, this post is under 300 words.
The title of this post is in quotation marks because I took it from a forgotten novel, a poem, or a line in a blues song. It expresses how I feel in having to say goodbye to all my SleuthSayers friends. I won’t be posting any more articles but I won’t be gone either, for I shall continue to read and occasionally comment on your posts. I’ll also continue writing critical reviews of African American crime fiction novels on my blog, which you can access here.
During the past three years, I’ve learned how writers think in constructing their stories. As I read your post, I experienced the sweet misery you go through while constructing your stories. Your posts also confirmed something I’ve always thought: writers write because they cannot not write.
As I write this post, I’m glad you can’t see me because I’m getting all choked up. Saying goodbye to good friends is not easy.
Thank you Leigh for giving me the opportunity to write for an appreciative audience.
Thank all of you for being an appreciative and encouraging audience.