29 March 2022

You’re Only Famous When You Die

Leigh Lundin was the first to notify me of my untimely death, when he emailed me on March 16:

Michael, while speaking this morning with my friend Cate in South Africa, she bloody nearly gave me a stroke.

She: “I’m sorry to hear about your friend, the one we were just talking about.” (We’d been talking about how prolific you and John Floyd are, masters of quality and quantity.)

Me: “What? Who are you talking about?”

She: “Michael Bracken. I saw his obit. It’s online.”

Me: “No!”

She pulled up the article and read it to me. Whew. It quickly became clear the obituary was referring to someone else, BUT… here’s the kicker. That early edition of the article spoke of the novels and numerous short stories you’d written, mentioned EQMM/AHMM, and that you’re editor of Black Cat. They conflated your career with the other guy!

Cate emailed me the URL, but by the time I got it this evening, the mix-up had been resolved. I regret I couldn’t get a copy to show you the conflation, but better for us, they had the wrong Michael B. I don’t know if there’s a way to get that early copy. I include the URL below.

I haven’t said anything to anyone else in case you might find an article/story in this, Michael. AND—this is exciting—you are definitely renown internationally.

I often wonder what will be written about me after my death and, apparently, I almost found out.

But I do wonder, so much so that I once attempted to draft my own obituary when I suspected no one in my family would do it justice. After I discovered that the cost to publish my bloviated paean to myself would cost my heirs more than I’ve earned for most of my short stories, I decided the paltry inheritance I’m bequeathing them—what is the going rate for half a ton of recyclable paper?—might better be spent on a twelve-pack of Mountain Dew to be shared at the Wake while everyone listens to “Highway to Hell” and “Stairway to Heaven” in an unending loop because I want all my bases covered.

So how is it we wish to be remembered after we’re gone? Loving parent and devoted spouse? Or hermit-like creature whose occasional screeds entertained tens of people? Will the list of the left-behind be a litany of children’s and grandchildren’s names or a screen capture showing all the unfinished manuscripts residing on our hard drive?

Either way, most of us are likely to be forgotten soon after our passing… unless we have stories in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine’s submission queue. Then we will live forever.

Until then, may you live long enough for your friends to read your obituary and to express relief that the report of your death had been greatly exaggerated.


  1. Nice to have you back among the living!

  2. You are indeed upsides with Mark Twain. A nice obit, but glad it was before its time, well before, we hope!

  3. I see a Lazarus short story in your future.

  4. You were on a roll with this, Michael. I laughed out loud multiple times.

  5. The Revenant! Well, at least it didn't involve a grizzly bear. Welcome back!

  6. Michael has modestly refrained from mentioning the obituary appeared in the Irish Mirror, implying he’s well known on at least three continents, Africa, Europe, and North America, plus Oceania, the Australian continent, thanks to Stephen Ross. SleuthSayers has visitors from Asia and we’re not sure about South America. Thus arguably Antartica could be the only continent on the planet that might not be aware of Michael Bracken, famous author. But wait. It’s possible Antarctic research stations receive shipments of Black Cat and other magazines, which would seal his fame worldwide.

    And he can remain amongst the living.

  7. Glad you're still among us.

    Great column!

  8. You could try the Wayback machine to see if a copy of the original post is out there...

    1. Anon, they do indeed have a couple of snapshots, but unfortunately the earliest is at 15:00, long after our South African correspondent spotted it. This is the original URL:

  9. I remember an old joke where the punchline is something like "Isn't a shame we never say anything nice about someone until he dies?" I don't remember the rest of the joke, but you're certainly the living proof that it's wrong.

    Maybe you should change your name to something really unique so this kind of mistake doesn't happen again. Something like...oh, maybe John Smith...

    I'd love to see the short story you can come up with based on this, though.

  10. I'm a bit late checking in, but thanks everyone for your kind comments and for your relief that I'm still among the living.


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