When I thought of this community, I typically thought of Maxine Clarke, blogger and crime fiction reviewer at Petrona, who died this week after a long illness.
Despite being a prolific and thoughtful reviewer of crime fiction, and a diligent blogger, she found an extraordinary amount of time to encourage others, to comment and participate in debate and - to some extent - to anchor the crime fiction community.
Whenever I thought about how lax my blogging had become - no post since October - and a determination to improve it, I thought about being a lot more like Maxine, who to me set a very high standard.
I always assumed that when life calmed down a little and I had more time to devote to Material Witness, to reading, to blogging and to writing, that I'd get a chance to meet her. I figured that one year I'd get to Harrogate or somewhere and I'd finally have a chance to talk face to face and enjoy first hand the warmth and enthusiasm I'd encountered in e-mail discussions or comment debates. I'm certain that in common with those who have written so warmly about her this week, that I would have enjoyed her company. I am very sad not to have had that opportunity, and send my sincere condolences to her family and friends.
It's a strange business sometimes, being in an online community, somewhat less than real. But Maxine Clarke gave it substance and helped to make it an enjoyable and durable community for all. She will be hugely missed.