Joseph P. DeSario died on August 31, 2016. Readers of this blog may be unfamiliar with DeSario, though that certainly couldn’t be due to my lack of effort. As detailed in a 2011 article I wrote for Booklist—few things in my life am I prouder to have written—DeSario published a book in 1989 called Sanctuary, a book that influenced my own novels more than any other.
Meeting DeSario was a singular thrill for me, and it would have been enough that he had written Sanctuary. That he was one of the most generous, curious, insightful people I knew was something I couldn’t have predicted. It was the first of many surprises: that I came to know him as “Joe”; that we spent many lunches talking about writing; that we became, in every sense of the word, friends.
That I helped get Sanctuary and Limbo re-released was surreal. That I had a part in encouraging him to write a new novel—I still can’t really believe it. The book, Echo, is wonderful, and it would have found a major publisher if Joe hadn’t been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His struggle was brutal, and Joe, showing awe-inspiring purpose, made the decision to self-publish it while he still could, which involved loads of additional work. I consulted as much as my knowledge allowed; Booklist production editor Chris Simon assisted Joe in settling on a cover concept; and Joe’s wife and children helped him get all the technical pieces worked out.
Joe had more books in him; he always did. But seeing the long, long line at his wake reminded me that we are more than the objects we produce. At the end, we are only who we see reflected back in the eyes of people who knew us. I hope Joe saw his reflection in my eyes. Joseph P. DeSario was my hero and I will miss him.
Where to buy his books: