We are very saddened to hear of the death of August Sedgwick, who wrote as Marcus Sedgwick, on 15 November.
August was a brilliant writer who wrote novels for children, young adults, and adults (though he wasn’t fond of the ‘YA’ classification and, like many novels with YA protagonists, his intelligent and deeply engaging books have value for readers beyond this group). His fictions are frequently historical narratives, often tinged with the fantastic or Gothic. I would single out as personal favourites White Crow (2010) and Midwinterblood (2011), but they are all marvellous. August was nominated for and awarded many prestigious literary prizes. He also wrote a dystopian graphic novel (Dark Satanic Mills (2013), with his brother Julian), a picture book, illustrated a folklore collection, reviewed books for the Guardian, published guides on coping with chronic illness, and wrote literary essays (of which more below).
August had collaborated with OGOM from our very first conference, Open Graves, Open Minds: Vampires and the Undead in Modern Culture, in 2010 where he gave a fascinating plenary talk on his adaptation of the folkloric vampire in his novels My Swordhand is Singing (2006) and The Kiss of Death (2008). We then invited him to our Bram Stoker Centenary Symposium in 2012 where he was in conversation with Kevin Jackson. He returned as a similarly engaging keynote speaker at further conferences and symposia: ‘The Company of Wolves’: Sociality, Animality, and Subjectivity in Literary and Cultural Narratives—Werewolves, Shapeshifters, and Feral Humans (2015); ‘Some curious disquiet’: Polidori, the Byronic vampire, and its progeny (2019); The Black Vampyre and Other Creations: Gothic Visions of New World (2020); Nosferatu at 100: The Vampire as Contagion and Monstrous Outsiders (2022). He wrote a special vampire story for the participants of the Polidori event. He also contributed incisive essays to three of our books: ‘The elusive vampire: folklore and fiction – writing My Swordhand is Singing’, in Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day (2013); ‘Wolves and lies: a writer’s perspective’, in In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves, and Wild Children (2020); and ‘Sexual contagions: Vampirism and tuberculosis; or, “I should like to die of a consumption”’, in The Legacy of John Polidori: The Romantic Vampire and its Progeny (2023). He generously spared time to talk to Sam’s students on several occasions. One of his finest books, Midwinterblood (2011), was, August told us, inspired in part by his collaboration with OGOM on vampire research:
working with OGOM and the team around Dr Sam George has encouraged me to voyage more deeply into the relationship between folklore and fiction, and I can see the result in all my work. It has been consistently inspired, enriched and informed by it . . . I strongly see a connection between this work with OGOM and a book I wrote some time later, Midwinterblood, perhaps the book for which I am best known. The Monsters We Deserve was very influenced by our discussions and my thinking about gothic monsters. One of the central questions . . . was inspired by OGOM!!.
(Midwinterblood won the Michael L. Printz Award, America’s most prestigious prize for writing for Young Adults).
We came to know August as a good friend. He was intelligent, erudite, and engrossing in conversation, and a sensitive and amusing companion. His generosity to other writers is well testified to on social media. A lovely man. His passing is a terrible loss.
(Sam will be posting a fuller tribute with her own personal reflections later.)