Harold Adams: The Man Who Came to Our Party and Ate All Those Cookies

Harold Adams died on April 4, 2014. He was 91.

In all, Harold wrote an impressive sixteen mystery novels in his depression era South Dakota “Carl Wilcox” series, plus two novels featuring Kyle Champion. He was a three-time nominee for The Private Eye Writers of America “Shamus Award”, winning for The Man Who Was Taller Than God.

We first met Harold way back in 2003 when we were organizing our first “Write of Spring” author party. Fortune had smiled on us—we had just found out that Five Star was publishing a new Harold Adams book, The Fourth of July Wake. It was his first book in three years, and his second Kyle Champion (When Rich Men Die, 1987). We decided to name Harold our “Guest of Honor” and use the party to launch his new book.

Harold had become a bit frail, and he was just beginning to show signs of dementia, but he very much wanted to attend, so arrangements were made to get him to our store from his assisted living facility in Eden Prairie. Everything about that first Write of Spring was a success. We sold tons of his books, while the other twenty-some authors, plus a legion of fans, paid their respects to this gifted author and his work. Harold came through like a trooper, acknowledging everyone—though, we found out later, he was embarrassed that he didn’t recognize anyone but thought that he should.

When he wasn’t greeting fans and signing books, he ate cookies. After it was all over, and his drivers came to fetch him, we asked him how he enjoyed the afternoon, to which he exclaimed “Too many cookies!” Harold was able to attend two more of our Write of Springs until time quietly took its toll, and he was moved to the memory unit of his care facility.
We continued to see Harold on occasion at his home, in the company of his long-time friend, first reader, and “personal editor” Barbara Mayor. During one visit, I noticed a few pages of a short story he’d written. I asked Barbara about it later. She wasn’t able to find the rest of it, but did find a story and a novel of his that never got published. Very long story later, we used the story (“The Outsider”) and a chapter of the novel (“A Million Miles of Sky”) as “bookends” to our short story anthology Writes of Spring (2012), which we dedicated to Harold. So once again, we threw a Write of Spring party to launch a book featuring Harold Adams. Thirty-three of the thirty-five authors who contributed to the anthology were in attendance; about all we were missing was the Guest of Honor. Now, just about exactly two years later, we miss him dearly, and with a sadness in our hearts.

After that tenth (and final) Write of Spring was over and Pat and I were cleaning up, Pat looked at me and said “sure seems we have a lot of cookies left over.”

Gary Shulze
Once Upon A Crime