Remembering Camille Minichino

Daisy Bateman — I met Camille in the early 2000s, through a grad school classmate. Mary knew I was writing a mystery novel (my first), and she offered to introduce me to her godmother who was a published writer. Camille not only met with me, she took the time to read that first (terrible) book, to offer me praise and encouragement, and even to loan me her copy of the Jeff Herman guide. That mystery was (mercifully) never published, and I don’t think I ever managed to return her book, but I never forgot her kindness and generosity to someone just starting out in the field. The last time I saw Camille was at Bouchercon in San Diego, where she was filled with righteous anger at a member of the mystery community who was not being all they should be—a fitting memory of a woman who never lost sight of her principles. 

Dale Berry — Camille was the first author I ever met that truly made me realize writers hadn’t just spent their lives becoming wordsmiths. On our first real meeting, over a hotel breakfast, we bonded, of all things, over Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I had spent a year living there growing up; she had been part of the government clean-up crew that tackled the nuclear meltdown on Three Mile Island.  I had merely run around the city’s streets; she was on the team—and the only woman!—that was the first to use a remote-controlled robot to enter a radiation zone. Then I learned she’d been a nun for years even before becoming a nuclear physicist. And all that was before becoming a crime and mystery author. My mind was officially blown. She was honest, truthful, tough and brilliant. A New Yorker through and through. And hosted wonderful Oscar parties. She was a dear friend whom I still love… and who genuinely makes me feel richer for knowing her. 

Mysti Berry — Camille was: the fiercest nun, the kindest scientist, the most generous writer, and the funniest elder stateswoman of our NorCal community. She never stopped growing or learning and I can only hope to follow in her tiny little, very giant footsteps.

She made me promise to never give up on a manuscript until I’d queried it 100 times (in batches, to adjust whatever wasn’t working, of course). I hereby nominate this rule to be called the Minichino rule in her honor.

John Billheimer — In one of my first encounters with Camille, she talked me into being a reader on the MWA’s best novel Edgar panel.  Following her advice meant reading 500 books that year.

In subsequent years, when I chaired Edgar panels myself (being careful to choose panels with a lower number of submittals), I would always start by asking Camille to help judge, reminding her that she “owed” me a certain number of readings because of my 500-book investment.  She always volunteered gladly, insisting that we keep an ongoing tally of the reading required.  

It didn’t take me long to realize that she didn’t need the impetus of a hyped-up “account” (currently down to 252 books) to volunteer for a reading panel.  Volunteering was ingrained in her DNA.  I imagine that right now she’s raising her hand to help St. Peter process the lines at the pearly gates.

Cara Black — After hearing the news of Camille’s passing, for a moment I wondered if somehow Camille sensed Ann Parker and I had literally just been talking about her in Paris. If somehow Camille had sensed we compared notes about Parisian miniatures we’d seen and photographed. We were excited to share them with her and she was on our mind. The impact of her passing brought to mind her generosity with writing craft benefiting me and so many. I’ll always remember Camille’s Christmas cards, her insight, her smarts and yes, her wonderful wry humor.

Journey well Camille.

Rhys Bowen — Camille was a tiny force to be reckoned with. I learned she was an ex-nun and she seemed a quiet and humble sort of person. Wrong!  I took over as MWA chapter president from her at the same time she chaired the Edgar awards. She was a physics professor, led writing groups, attended every convention and was a generous mentor to fledgling writers. She also wrote goodness knows how many series. And those miniatures! So meticulous. So perfect. I seriously believe there was nothing she couldn’t do if she put her mighty mind to it. Dear Camille, you were loved and you will be sorely missed.

Colleen Casey — Camille was the ultimate “can do” kind of gal. Everyone wanted to be her friend. No matter the issue, Camille knew how to fix it, always with humor and kindness.

Her father, Joe, a WWII volunteer, was her hero. Her stories were replete with quiet examples of his courage and innate humanity. A few weeks ago, I asked if a portrait on her wall was Joe. “Yes,” she beamed. “He was one of the greats. There will never be another one like him.” I nodded and thought, except for you, Camille, except for you. You are the greatest of them all.

Diana R. Chambers — I remember Camille’s sly wit, the twinkle in her eye. As if when you were with her, she was letting you in on the joke. But her generosity was no joke. Nor her brilliance. She was dogged, and that was an inspiration. Camille Minichino is unforgettable.

Janet Dawson — I met Camille in the 1990s when both of us were on the board of the Northern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Here was this interesting and friendly woman who was a physicist and wrote mysteries about the periodic table of elements. I learned later that she’d been a nun before leaving the convent for a life in science, married to Dick, the Engineer, who was always a presence in the background of our get-togethers.

At one point I was chapter president and Camille stepped into that role a few years later. While she was president, I was editor of the Lineup. That was back in the days before the newsletter was sent out by email, the days of printing out copies and mailing them. I’d go over to Camille’s house with a stack of newsletters. We’d spend the afternoon slapping on mailing labels and stamps. Good company and good conversation, ranging from writing to a host of other subjects. We shared panels at all sorts of conventions and at local libraries. I also attended one of Camille’s fabled Oscar night parties, which was great fun. Camille loved her trips back east, where she’d go to the museums, and she loved coffee. At times, we would meet at a Peet’s near her home, talking shop and getting caffeinated.

She was a wonderful friend and I will miss her.

Vinnie Hansen — This is where I met Camille.


Heather Haven — Nearly twenty years ago, Camille Minichino became my very first friend at a Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference weekend. When I got breast cancer and was going through chemo, she sent me a quilt she’d had made just for me. She wrote me constantly, sending me little sayings, little surprises, always letting me know I was on her mind and in her heart. And she was certainly in mine. Camille made the world a warmer, more giving place. I will never stop missing her. I will always love her.

Rae James — Camille was the first published author I had ever met. It was many years ago at a book signing when I asked for her signature. I had finished her amazing miniature mystery series and I was ecstatic to meet her. She took the time to sign with a personal message of encouragement for a rookie writer. I remember her kindness and generosity. I still have that book. I shall miss her. 

Laurie R. King — Camille Minichino was one of those quietly remarkable people you find in the mystery community. She had the crime-writer’s requisite background of wildly mixed professions, from nun to nuclear physicist. She was a hard-nosed New Yorker with a heart of 26 carat gold. She was ridiculously funny. She was hard working, astonishingly experimental, and incredibly generous with her time and energy—whether serving on the MWA board (two years as NorCal President) or running events or writing and editing the newsletter: basically, she never said “No.” And I loved how endlessly curious she was. Who enrolls in an MFA program in her eighties, after a writing career? Camille.

I miss you, Camille. I wish you were here, to still say, Yes. 

Margaret Lucke — Camille Minichino was one of my favorite people. A talented writer, a supportive mentor, a role model, and above all, a close friend. For years we were in a writers group together, reading and commenting on each other’s work. Her suggestions were invaluable, but more important than the critiques was the camaraderie. 

One of her many talents was creating miniature rooms, and when my novel House of Whispers came out, she gave me a gift—a tiny rug bearing a three-inch chair, a cozy shawl, a tea caddy, and a stack of my books with their actual cover. It occupies a place of honor on my desk.

I’ll miss you, Camille!

Gigi Pandian — Camille Minichino was one of the first people who welcomed me to this wild world of mystery writing. As an unpublished author, I was fortunate to have her take me under her wing and offer to blurb my debut novel. I quickly learned that her generous spirit was matched only by her sharp wit, making her one of my favorite people. Her thoughtfulness and outlook on life will be greatly missed.

Ann Parker — Forty-six years ago, I arrived at work after vacation to find a stranger (aka Camille) sitting at my desk. We exchanged glares, primed to dislike each other. She’d been temporarily assigned to my spot and was not impressed with my wall of nature photos. (The great outdoors was not her forte!) As for my part, well, she was sitting at my desk! We eventually declared a truce. Once I got to know her and the remarkable person she was, I slipped into her orbit—like so many others. Camille was one in a million, nonpareil. RIP, my dear friend.

Meredith Phillips — Camille had an amazingly varied array of talents and interests, and the energy and drive of someone half her age. She was among my favorite mystery writers. Our interests also intersected over miniature-making. She was so generous that she crafted and gave away (for good causes) many more impeccably made mini-scenes than she kept. We published the last four in her series about miniaturist Gerry Porter solving mysteries with her granddaughter. I still remember the fun meeting with Camille and Dick at a dollhouse store where he photographed the cover crime scene for Mix-up in Miniature.

Priscilla Royal — Dearest Camille—That wasn’t just a salutation of respect, it was a statement of what place she held in my heart as well as in the hearts of so many. She was witty, clever, brilliant, and kind. So many superlative adjectives, yet none adequate to describe the person and spirit she was. It is often said of respected and beloved people that the world is diminished by their loss. Nothing could be truer here. I grieve.

Sheldon Siegel — Camille was a brilliant scientist, an extraordinary writer, an exceptional artist, a supportive mentor, a cherished friend, and a warm and generous soul. She excelled at multiple careers, and she never stopped learning. She was also funny as hell. Hers was a long and illustrious life well lived. She touched many people, and she will be missed by all.

Kelli Stanley — Camille was among the first authors I ever signed with—at Sisters in Crime panels and library events all over the Bay Area when I was first published. I was struck by her brilliance, her Renaissance Woman background, her knowledge of and devotion to her craft, her forthrightness and her humor.  I loved her ever since and was proud to call her a friend. Her creativity was exquisite, from mysteries to miniatures, and her kindness and wisdom were unbounded. I wish I could have spent more time with her in recent years—but I’m grateful for every moment we did spend. She was a unique treasure of a human being, as beautiful and mellifluous as her name and her namesake flower. Hers is an ineffable loss.