Sunday, June 15, 2008

Under the Spell of Scary Stuff

It’s nice - even if it is all these years later - to come across something new about John Bellairs. This week we were directed to Marilyn Stasio's article in the June 9, 1991 edition of the New York Times that gives some praise to the then recently-deceased author.

Plus we sort-of like the phrase "chiller-dillers" and welcome it back into polite society PDQ.

I have just spent a long rainy weekend buried under a quilt, devouring salty peanuts and a stack of John Bellairs mysteries. It was heaven. Do I hafta get up from the couch and grow up?

The catchy titles of these chiller-dillers -- all 12 of them, beginning in 1973 with The House With a Clock in Its Walls and including The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull and The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost -- sound like something a kid might think up in the dark. The creepy Edward Gorey illustrations -- of tumbledown mansions and inclement weather and frightful creatures peering out from thickets of crosshatched pen strokes -- look like something a kid might tape to his walls. The stories themselves, in a sense, are also the work of a child's mind.

"I write scary thrillers for kids because I have the imagination of a 10-year-old," the author, who died earlier this year at the age of 53, once said. "I love haunted houses, ghosts, witches, mummies, incantations, secret rituals performed by the light of the waning moon, coffins, bones, cemeteries and enchanted objects."

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