Testimony: My Tribute to John Bellairs
by Jeremy Schrag (1997)
(Originally published at the compleatbellairs.com)
For those who have not had the opportunity to read a book by John Bellairs, he was an author primarily of novels for young adults. His novels, always insightful, were always entertaining with their mysterious themes and chilling stories.
I have never, unfortunately, had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful author, but his work has deeply affected my life. When I first noticed at about ten years old The Mummy, The Will, And The Crypt sitting by itself on a shelf at the library in Swift Current; I thought to myself, "That looks like a scary book. I'd better not read it." But something in the title and cover art intrigued me, and I ended up changing my mind. Before I knew it,I was sitting at home with my eyes glued to its pages; I couldn't put it down for the life of me.
The book kept me looking over my shoulder for a few days for fear of running into a mummy or two, but after reading this book I became a fanatic for the work of Mr. Bellairs. I had been a bookworm since I was old enough to read, and I now started to frequent the library in earnest. I read every single Bellairs book I could get my hands on, checking out dozens of other books at the same time. My love for books started to become an obsession, and my imagination got so much exercise I was able to create whole worlds in my mind by the time I was eleven.
My longing for the newest Bellairs book was a constant companion, but a welcome one. His books have always been able to blend together wonderful stories with the hopes and fears of every young person born on this planet. At that age (or at this age for that matter), I was a very lonely person who was always wondering if he fit in with the others his age; and John Bellairs understood how I felt. Somehow, an author I had never met could identify with my situation; and when I thought of this I wasn't quite so lonely.
When I learned of Mr. Bellairs' death, I felt as if I had been hit by a truck. I found it impossible to face the fact that there would be no more stories of Johnny Dixon, Anthony Monday, or Lewis Barnavelt; but I felt strangely calm, as if he hadn't really gone. Sure enough, a few months later, I saw something that made my lifetime. It was a new book by John Bellairs, but there was an unfamiliar name underneath his. "Who is this Brad Strickland?" I thought to myself as I warily checked out the new book. I was worried and concerned that this new author would somehow mess things up by not being true to the original characters, but I was determined to give the book a chance.
My fears were unfounded. The new book sucked me into its pages just as readily as The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt had several years earlier. I tried hard to find places where Mr. Strickland's work contrasted with my favorite author's, but it was impossible. And when The Hand of the Necromancer appeared, I couldn't see the difference. It was like John Bellairs had written it himself.
One of the things I have struggled with in my work as an author is wondering whether or not I can make it as an author. But there is one line that always helps me whenever I need cheering up:
There is one big rule in life:
the things you worry about never happen,
and the things that happen are never the ones you expect.
-- John Bellairs