We lost a great writer this month.
A graduate of Reed College, Roger Hobbs was the author of two books, including the New York Times bestseller, “Ghostman.” He died after an overdose Nov. 14 at McMenamins’ Edgefield, with a crowd of friends around him. He was 28 years old.
“Ghostman” is a thriller. It’s a story about a shadowy thief under a 48-hour deadline to clean up after a heist gone wrong. The book is loaded with thrilling details: how to rob a casino, where to pick up an untraceable gun on short notice, and other things you might imagine lie outside the experience of an author who — at the time — was still living in a dorm. The novel published in 17 different countries. Warner Brothers picked up the movie rights.
And it all happened before before Roger Hobbs turned 25.
A second book, “Vanishing Games” followed, with expectations for a third. And then, two weeks ago, Hobbs’ death shocked fans and those who knew him.
We called up the editor who worked with Hobbs on his books.
Gary Fisketjon is a vice president and editor-at-large at Random House. He’s worked with writers like Raymond Carver, Haruki Murakami, Cormac McCarthy, Donna Tartt, and many others. Fisketjon doesn’t usually work with crime fiction, but said Hobbs made it a pleasure.
“Roger was such a solid writer,” Fisketjon said. “I had plenty to connect with there. There was so much intelligence, a lot of subtlety, fascinating detail. These aren’t things you could learn about in school.”
Fisketjon said for all the encyclopedic grasp Hobbs displayed of the practical details of crime, he was never excessive. Expressing a well-researched narrative, Fisketjon said, “ is a selective process, and he was very good at that. I never felt like I was getting canned information.”
Roger Hobbs left at least one unfinished manuscript for another sequel to “Ghostman” in the works. Fisketjon read through some of it, and felt Hobbs continued to expand the boundaries he’d established in “Ghostman”.
“I read maybe 50-odd pages,” he said, but not enough to get a sense of the arc of the story. But “writers are always evolving, he was evolving. The great sorrow is we won’t know how far he could have taken this.”
Hobbs wrote Ghostman during his senior year at Reed. At the same time he was working on his thesis with Robert Knapp, a professor of English and Humanities.
“He was the only student I had ever seen at Reed College who routinely wore a suit and tie,” Knapp said. He described Hobbs as always “ simultaneously genial, witty, and a bit masked.” All Hobbs friends would tell you, Knapp said, he was unfailingly generous — including the period after he found literary success.
Knapp found Hobbs a fascinating character, widely read, adept at analyzing difficult texts, and well-versed in Latin. To be sure, his persona was something of a self-styled creation, Knapp says he was never able to find out why Hobbs was so intent on creating and recreating himself.
As readers, friends and family are left to wonder what drew Hobbs toward his end, Knapp has this caution:
“We need to avoid easy repackaging, [suggesting] that the life and the art somehow are congruent. The art is a version of the life, but it’s a version that’s full of noise and other paths the writer didn’t take. I don’t think we should resist thinking about some kind of complex relationship between the books and the life, but I think we need to resist any easy mapping of one onto the other.”
Listen to the attached clips to hear Robert Knapp’s full remembrance of Hobbs.