Amy Turner and the Spider
FROM PETER STOTHARD
A A Gill in The Sunday Times this morning pays tribute to his friend - and my friend - Amy Turner who was found hanged in her London apartment a week ago, aged 29.
Amy was a writer for The Sunday Times, on her way to becoming a great newspaper writer and maybe more than that, and, as Gill says, an extraordinary and selfless support for other writers.
A week is a short time in Sunday journalism - and because no other paper carried the news (or none that I saw) I learnt of Amy's death only today. This has been a bad day, a matter of no account except, I suspect, that it has been a bad day for many.
Amy was a friend with whom I spoke not enough - and saw sadly less. But every conversation became a memory. She was a very memorable friend.
We met when she was the assistant to the editor of The Sunday Times Magazine some five years ago. The reason was an assignment of mine that did not succeed as planned. Her job was to ensure that I repeated the route of a Latin poet's journey (c 38 BC by foot and carriage) in a vintage Alfa Romeo Spider.
It was not my own idea to follow Horace's Iter Brundisium in a tiny red sports car. But the magazine editor insisted that the Spider was essential to ensuring that readers felt the full force of Satire 1.V.
Amy fixed the car. She was also at the end of a phone when the Italian traffic police in Ariccia had taken their fifth dim view of a driving machine that lacked seatbelts, a handbrake and the means to meet Rome's non-classical emission regulations. The car had to go.
Amy knew that without the ancient Spider the new Journey to Brundisium was unlikely to find editorial favour. She was right. She organised a replacement anyway. When the trip later became a book, On the Spartacus Road, she was pleased. I was pleased that she was pleased.
Soon afterwards she became the magazine writer that she told me she had long wanted to be. She was utterly realist about our trade in modern times. She was determined not to price herself out of work. She kept hold of her old job helping other editors and writers too.
Soon after that she won wide appreciation for her pieces - and a prize. I emailed congratulations. She replied with other plans. She had a book she wanted to write. We had lunch. I cannot remember a writer more aware of the difficulties, less starry eyed about the glory.
We spoke after that from time to time - about news and stories - and I remember all those all too few times.
And now comes the news today, not strictly news but brutal and new to me.
Gill notes the grim year that this has been for journalists, for confidence and for hopes. Just as he avoids speculation about why our friend should be found hanged so do I.
I just want to remember tonight that voice in Ariccia, that lunch companion in Covent Garden and Cheltenham Spa, the journalist and writer whose future successes I had looked forward to celebrating and now will not.