Best-selling author Amanda Kyle Williams died early Friday at the age of 61 after a long battle with endometrial cancer.
Williams, who lived in Decatur, was known for her police procedural novels based around the character of Keye Street, a disgraced FBI profiler turned private investigator. Those novels — The Stranger You Seek (Bantam 2011), Stranger in the Room (Bantam 2012) and Don’t Talk to Strangers (Bantam 2014) — were set in Atlanta and in other areas of Georgia.
The Stranger You Seek was hailed by Publishers Weekly as an “explosive, unpredictable and psychologically complex thriller that turns crime fiction cliches inside out.” Her final book received the Yerby Award for Fiction in 2015.
She told ArtsATL in 2013 that she was inspired by writers such as Raymond Chandler and James Lee Burke and by how they made their locales of Los Angeles and New Orleans almost living and breathing characters in their novels. “When I started to write about the city I knew and loved, the neighborhoods, the state, it transformed my writing, gave it a realness it had been missing,” she said. “There’s a fine tradition of setting and place in crime novels. I love that. I want to know what the streets looks like in rain, the rhythm of a place, its weather and people and accents and restaurants and back alleys. I want to close a book knowing that town just a little better.”
Williams was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and spent her childhood between Colorado and Georgia. While she built her career as a novelist, she worked as a freelance writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and also took jobs as a house painter, property manager, sales rep, commercial embroiderer, courier and dog walker.
As she explored writing a crime novel, she worked with a private investigator firm in Atlanta on surveillance operations and became a court-appointed process server. She also studied criminology.
She was passionate about animals and was one of the founding directors at Lifeline Animal Project, a nonprofit, no-kill animal welfare organization.
Williams documented her fight with cancer on a website, BALD. “I learned that I could choose to be calm even in the midst of a hurricane, that I could laugh even when I had a giant problem in my life,” she wrote not long after her diagnosis. “I didn’t have to carry it around like a badge, this problem. It didn’t have to shadow my every moment. I didn’t want to give it that power. How you decide to live with cancer plays a huge role in living through cancer, I think.”
A memorial service will be announced at a later date. F.L. Sims Funeral Home will be handling the arrangements. Donations in her memory may be sent to LifeLife Animal Project, the AJC Decatur Book Festival or Three Graces.