Mourning real people is one thing, but is it ok to lament fictional characters as well?

To an extent I can see why people get so upset and teary when celebrities die. The untimely death of Matthew Perry the other week being the latest case in point. Now, the appeal of Friends always bypassed me. To quote something I seem to recall the great Billy Connolly saying when describing Neighbours many years ago it was “just a bunch of fwits avoiding the furniture for half an hour’’.

But fair enough. Friends appealed to many and Perry was part of that. Maybe the grief is part nostalgia, part sentiment. The only celebrity whose death that ever bothered me in an emotional sense was David Bowie. There probably hadn’t been a week since I was about 15 when I hadn’t played some Bowie track.

There is certainly some rationality about mourning the passing of an actual human being. Which makes it weird that part of me right now is preparing to mourn the passing of made-up people.

I just finished reading the new Michael Connelly book, The Resurrection Walk. The review will be in The Advertiser soon but safe to say it was another highly enjoyable excursion into the world of Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller and his half-brother, the former LAPD detective Harry Bosch.

Regular Bosch fans will know the detective is unwell. At death’s door really. A cancer picked up from a case many years ago when he was exposed to radioactive material. Without giving too much away, Bosch rallies a bit in this latest chapter but there is surely not much longer to go.

Then there is Ian Rankin’s John Rebus. Like Connelly, Rankin has aged his Edinburgh detective in real time. Like Bosch, Rebus has a nasty disease which appears ever more terminal.  Rebus also ended his latest instalment A Heart full of Headstones in jail, so his end is presumably also imminent.

I’m not sure how I’ll cope with the end of these fictional characters. Which seems like a weird thing to admit. Given, they are, you know, fictional. As in not real. They never lived. They can’t die.

But yet I know it’s going to be tearjerker. Although I doubt anything could make me weep more than the last few pages of Cormac MCarthy’s The Road.

In my own defence, I have been reading both series for a few decades now. Each new book has been keenly anticipated. And while, inevitably, some have been better than others, I can’t remember any letting me down.

The great skill of authors such as Connelly and Rankin is to keep fans happy while always bringing in new readers. And to carry off the trick of keeping and building jeopardy while every reader knows their heroes will eventually triumph.

I had the same sense of loss when Peter Temple died. Although Temple was clearly a real person, his death meant no more Jack Irish. Temple is also a favourite. Someone whose books I open when I feel the need for a little inspiration in my own writing. Not just Jack Irish but The Broken Shore and Truth. Something about reading them makes me want to write. Not because I would have the remote chance of matching Temple but that it’s at least something to aim for. To write with wit, elegance, brevity and tell a cracker yarn.

Temple was so good he made horse racing sound interesting. He made carpentry fascinating. That’s a remarkable talent.

I suppose there is always the various TV versions, but I have trouble connecting with them. I think I have built such Rebus, Bosch, Irish worlds in my mind that anything less than the way I carry it with me will be a let down.

Bosch is a well-regarded TV series but I could never bring myself to watch it. Same for the Lincoln Lawyer. There have been various attempts to bring a TV Rebus to life. And while Guy Pearce made a decent Jack Irish, I found it impossible to care when they moved on from the stories written by Temple himself.

So I have started to prepare myself, to put up my emotional defences in readiness for the day when there are no more new Rebus and Bosch books. The only comfort is all the old stories will be there for all time. And as someone with a bad memory for plot points and what happens in which yarn means I can keep enjoying the old books for a long time yet.