I was preparing a Vintage Treasures article on Melisa Michaels on Saturday, and particularly her two-volume urban fantasy series featuring private eye Rosie Levine, Cold Iron (1997) and Sister to the Rain (1998), when I stumbled on this disturbing Facebook post by Rich Horton:
I have just learned that Melisa Michaels has died. I knew she had cancer, and she had recently reported that there wasn’t much more to be done, but it’s still sad news, and it seems to have come more quickly than she thought.
But I wanted to celebrate her — she was one of the first people to, as it were, welcome me to the SF community, when I first went online, and when I joined SFF Net. We had many great conversations (online) about SF and other matters. She is one of the people I really owe a debt to for helping me make friends in this field.
I read her novels, the Skyrider SF series and the Rosie Levine Fantasy/Mystery series, with much enjoyment… Melisa always made tremendous contributions to SFWA — as I recall, she was the first webmaster of the SFWA web page, right at the dawning of the WWW. I didn’t keep close track of her later on, especially after the demise of SFF Net, but we had reconnected to a small degree on Facebook. I offer condolences to her family, and I celebrate a life well-lived.
I didn’t know Melisa the way Rich did, but I was still very saddened by the news. And I thought we could help celebrate her life here by showcasing her novels. Rich discussed Cold Iron when it first appeared over 20 years ago; here’s an excerpt from the review at his website, Strange at Ecbatan.
[Click the images for elf-sized versions.]
Cold Iron works as three different (well-integrated) books. It is a moving and careful examination of an outwardly tough woman’s character, and the scars which are holding her back from, I suppose one would say, complete maturity. It is also a mystery story, of the “female hard-boiled detective” variety, a la Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky. And it is a look at the scary but glamorous personalities of the members of the elfrock band, especially the very attractive, very unhealthy, leader, Jorandel.
The first level, Rosie’s story, is very successful, I think. Rosie is an appealing character. We care what happens to her, even as one is tempted to scream “Wake up!” at her every so often. And, as I say, her personal story is resolved (or, rather, moved towards resolution: I suppose no one’s life is ever really “resolved”) in a strong, believable fashion.
The second level, the mystery story, is decent but not wholly involving. The scheme at the heart of it struck me as a bit far-fetched, and possibly a bit under-motivated as well. In addition, Rosie’s relative slowness in catching on to things, while thoroughly believable and in character (and important to the story), does tend to distract from the mystery: the reader is for most of the book a bit too far ahead of her.
Finally, the third level, the metaphorical level at which elves are compared to rock stars and vice versa: this is what makes this novel a fantasy, rather than a crime novel… the elfrock band presents a spectrum of elves and halflings ranging from relatively sane, to purely childish, to the dangerous, fascinating Jorandel. Of elves it is said they are “fallen angels, not good enough to save, not bad enough to be lost…who have every charm but conscience”, and Jorandel is an excellent illustration of this description. (And the other band members are well portrayed also, ranging in character from an affectless sociopath to a unexpectedly delightful shy sweetheart.)…
In summary, this is a fine novel, with a contrasted pair of deeply hurt central characters, who solve their problems in ways which are true to their characters, and which nicely illustrate the nature of humans, and of elves.
Read the complete review at Rich’s website here.
Here’s the complete publishing details for both books.
Cold Iron (Roc, 364 pages, $5.99, August 1997) — cover by Romas Kukalis
Sister to the Rain (Roc, 320 pages, $5.99, October 1998) — cover by Julie Bell
See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.