I never knew Whitney Houston but...
The chances of my ever meeting the late Whitney Houston would have been a couple of million to one but, nevertheless like legions of other people I was in awe of her fabulous voice. Her untimely death (cause not known at time of writing) managed to make me stop and think. One of those 'what's it all about?' moments.
It's probably exactly the same anytime a well-known figure you admire passes away. I cite James Dean, Freddie Mercury, Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix and Heath Ledger and John F Kennedy as examples. Such is the way icons and legends are created.
But my writer's curiousity was piqued sufficiently to ask (for me at least) some interesting questions. The reason the good (and the not so good) died young may have been down to their own demons and life karma â€“ or even some celestial roulette wheel that clicked into a blank space directed by some unseen finger of fate.
A thought struck me forcibly. This iconography (in its current and broadest sense of the term) is essentially a Western phenomenon with some notable exceptions. I am sure the same emotional reaction erupted recently for a Bollywood star whose name escapes me. And Benazir Bhutto is another exceptional name that comes to mind.
But, are there equivalent outbursts of collective grief and fan mourning in other, non-Western societies? I ask because I don't know. Please comment if you do.
For instance, are there Mongolian, Iranian, tribal African, Maori, Inuit or Saudi Arabian equivalents. I mention these societies and cultures purely at random. I discount state organised grieving for the likes of North Korea's Kim Jong 11 and also wonder if the early demise of Vladimir Putin would result in icon-making outbursts of genuine emotional grief in modern Russia?
Heroic characters in fiction, the meat and drink of a popular novelist's trade, can also convince readers and fans that these characters are real enough to warrant similar collective mourning. I think of Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty as prime examples. This is powerful ammunition for a writer. I would love nothing more than for fan status to bless Mike Delaney, my charismatic and unusual Irish American protagonist in 'The Immortality Plot' or the nerdy 15-year old Morgan Lane in 'The Kingdoms Of Time And Space'.
Of course, I am incredibly humbled by the thousands of readers who have developed emotional ties to these characters judging by my email postbag.
It means I must be doing something right.
I am tempted to say 'I Will Always Love You' but fear it may be misinterpreted. But, the sentiment says it all.