Archive for November, 2012

When Good Friends Leave Us
November 27, 2012

Recently, we had sad news: our very own Zona Rosan Ray Harrison, whose first novel, Blood on the Orchid, we recently posted on this page, and who had just finished his second, National Poison – had suddenly and unexpectedly died.

I first met Ray when his wife Barbara, who is a light in her own right, and whom I had known for years, called to say she wanted to give Ray the gift of a session at Zona Rosa, the writing workshops I lead here in Savannah and elsewhere. Ray soon became a regular member, and each month we heard a new chapter of  his mystery in progress, starring its cool protagonist, Wolfgang Fenstemier.

Over time, we began to realize that the lean, silver-haired Ray was a lot like Wolfgang; Wolfgang flew airplanes, and so did Ray. Wolfgang loved fast cars and so did Ray. Wolfgang had a dry wit and loved good food, and so did Ray. Soon Ray had become our very own resident James Bond.

At the same time, as he patiently revised and rewrote, his writing got better and better.  And before we knew it, he was publishing his first book, Blood on the Orchid  under the name R. Harris Harrison ( And after his death, Barbara reported to me that he had recently completely his second Wolfgang Fenstemier novel, National Poison. We had marveled at another chapter of the book only weeks before when we got the news.

And our next Zona Rosa meeting, we were all sad, knowing that Ray wouldn’t be there to share his insights and his wit with us. As I prepared refreshments in my kitchen just before the meeting, I kept thinking how he liked a cup of coffee during the evening, and a glass of red wine as we socialized afterwards – I readied them anyway, in his honor. As the group began that evening, everyone was thinking of Ray, and the hole he had left in our hearts.

Two days later, I attended his memorial service at a beautiful nature preserve on the water on the outskirts of Savannah, and Ray seemed to be there as friends described how much they loved him (there I also learned that like Wolfgang, Ray always carried a gun). Barbara wrote me afterwards of the sightings of wild things during the service – dolphins that came up to the deck, a hawk – Ray’s favorite bird – that flew overhead.

She wrote of a private aircraft and a helicopter that flew over, as though in affirmation of Ray’s love of flight, as he flew off to join Glynn, Dick, Sharon, Angela, Maggie and other beloved Zona Rosans who’ve left us over the years –

Who in your creative life has left you behind, and what do you remember of them?