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In Fitting Postscript, Terry Pratchett Had His Unfinished Works Steamrolled

Terry Pratchett, pictured in 2008 in London.
Peter Macdiarmid
Getty Images
Terry Pratchett, pictured in 2008 in London.

It's a pair of rites we see often at the passing of great authors: first, the tributes from those who loved their books; then, the good-faith effort to find their unfinished works and shepherd them to the bookshelves they never would have found otherwise.

In the case of Terry Pratchett's death in 2015, those tributes were voluminous and poignant, penned for a writer whose deft touch could leave readers laughing, thoughtful or crushed. As for the prolific Discworld author's unfinished works — well, those are just crushed.

As in, literally crushed.

Per Sir Terry's wishes, a hard drive containing his unfinished books was introduced to the unforgiving end of a steamroller last Friday. The manager of Pratchett's estate, Rob Wilkins, tweeted the ritual act's before-and-after from the writer's official account, displaying the hard drive — said to have contained 10 separate works in progress — then displaying what it looked like after meeting a steamroller named Lord Jericho at the Great Dorset Steam Fair.

Richard Henry, an official at The Salisbury Museum, where the remains of the hard drive will be displayed along with other artifacts of Pratchett's life and work, noted with Pratchett's characteristic mordant humor that Lord Jericho proved "modern technology is no match for the might of the Industrial Revolution."

Henry told the BBC that Pratchett, who died at age 66, wanted his unfinished works destroyed after his death to prevent them from seeing the light of day without his blessing.

Pratchett had struggled with early-onset Alzheimer's disease for nearly a decade before his death.

"It's really nice that they have followed his requests so specifically," Henry said — though he admitted the effort was not without complications.

"It's surprisingly difficult to find somebody to run over a hard drive with a steamroller. I think a few people thought we were kidding when I first started putting out feelers to see if it was possible or not."

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Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.