TOPMAN ¶ Online Writings by and about John Preston

John Preston's Protégés Learn of His Death

By Michael Rowe

On the morning John died, Michael [Lowenthal] called me at home in Milton. Outside, the spring sunlight was coaxing new birth from the trees and gardens outside the fine brick houses lining Martin Street. Valentine and Ben had tracked in fresh mud from the lawn behind my house where the snow had melted.

"John died during the night," Michael said.

His voice was cracked and raw. He sounded tired, and the grief was blunted by the hours he had spent awake. As John's amanuensis during the final months of his illness, Michael, along with a coterie of John's friends (the famous and the not-so-famous moved interchangeably in John's circle) had handled the minutiae of his life. I don't think that the fact that it was all over had hit him yet, but I could be wrong.

"Has anyone called Owen?" I said stupidly.

"I called him this morning," Michael replied. "You're coming to the memorial service in Portland, right?" he asked, though both of us knew that there wasn't even a question.

"Yes, of course," I said. "I'll see you there."

After I hung up, I walked into the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face. I telephoned my travel agent . . .

On the flight from Toronto to Boston, I spied a man a few seats up sitting across the aisle. He was reading the full page obituary tribute that Anne Rice had written about John and published nationwide at her own expense. The man was exceptionally handsome, and I knew John would have savoured the aesthetic appeal as much as the poignance of the image. I heard the ghost of a laugh skip smoothly across the dark waters of memory.

Michael Rowe is a journalist, essayist, and speculative fiction anthologist. This passage was cut from the published version of his essay, Walking with the Ghost of John Preston. It is reprinted here with permission of the author.

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Copyright: All Rights ReservedPassage copyright © 1995 Michael Rowe. All rights reserved.

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Creative Commons License: Some Rights ReservedThis text, or a variation on it, was originally published at as part of Topman: Online Writings by and about John Preston. Copyright © 2004 Dusk Peterson. Some rights reserved. The text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License ( You may freely print, post, e-mail, share, or otherwise distribute the text for noncommercial purposes, provided that you include this paragraph. The author's policies on derivative works and fan works are available online (