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Introduction and Acknowledgments, by Taffy Cannon

I first met Rebecca Rothenberg when I called her in 1992 to ask about the medium-sized New York publisher that had just published her first mystery, The Bulrush Murders, and was about to publish mine. She had visited their editorial offices and likened the operation to WKRP. I knew instantly that this was someone I could love.

As I got to know her over the next few years, I learned that she was witty, wise, accomplished, self-deprecating, and possessed of an enviable gift for language. She had been a songwriter in Nashville and an epidemiologist in Los Angeles. What's more, she had seized the vast and arguably unlovable San Joaquin Valley for her Claire Sharples series and had invested the region with charm and appeal.

Becky and I did a lot of book signings together, often with a sheaf of bulrushes quietly crumbling in the back seat. Her series was botanical and one of my books took place in the flower-growing industry, so we also ended up on a lot of the same mystery discussion panels. We lived less than a hundred miles apart, but much of our time together was spent a continent away at the Malice Domestic convention in Washington, DC. Becky's parents lived nearby and she attended as what she called a "day student."

In the fall of 1994, while Becky was staying with me during San Diego signings for The Dandelion Murders, my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. "I have a brain tumor," she told me matter-of-factly, adding that it had been diagnosed a full eight years earlier. This is a disease steeped in the rhetoric of hope, featuring dreadful treatments and appalling survival statistics—and she had survived eight years. With that astonishing revelation, she metamorphosed for me from a savvy and talented colleague into a shining beacon.

The beacon dimmed when that tumor finally caught up with her in 1998, and we lost her at the age of fifty.


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