One of the joys of Bellairsia over the years has been the response we get from fans. Some are new to the Bellairs-game and have questions about books, while others are long-time readers and appreciate the site memorializing John and his work. It’s also been nice to hear from John’s close friends and have them express their pleasure in us keeping John’s memory alive. And we’ve had fun doing it, too.
So we found it interesting a few weeks ago that another such fan surfaced to tell his story.
James Strayer, a filmmaker out of Portland, Oregon, wrote to say that it took a recent dose of Bellairs to get excited about putting together a new film. Strayer read the books growing up and was re-introduced to them recently, providing him with a bit of inspiration for his latest project.
His film is Widow's Walk Lake and we will be shooting later this year if all goes well. The story is set in the 1930s that follows a young man as he goes off to war leaving his wife behind. It takes a turn for the macabre when the young man does not return—all in one piece. A tragic mistake followed by a fatal decision leads to a spooky tale of loneliness and despair, told best on a dark and stormy night.
Strayer says in the past his work has been influenced by dialog-heavy filmmakers like Woody Allen, or playwrights that focus on script and character. “This time around, I wanted to go more visual and tonal, so I'm starting with Bellairs, but also thinking about old monster movies I like, children's movies like Return to Oz and musicians like The Legendary Pink Dots and a bit of Nick Cave.”
The young boy in the story “is kind of my Johnny [Dixon], though in this short, he doesn't get to do much but listen,” Strayer explains. “I suppose the Bellairs connection is not just the inspiration, but this film would be the part where Childermass tells the old legend of whatever is the cause of the mystery that he and Fergie and Johnny are wrapped up in.”
As far as the books ago, some of Strayer’s favorite memories are going to the bookstore to pick out a new book to read. “The first few I read were on family trips. My mother would buy my two sisters and me new books to keep us quiet in the van and one look at the Gorey art and this 9 year old was hooked. I would just look at all the covers and pick the one I liked best each time I went in. I've always been a Johnny Dixon and Professor Childermass fan...as a favorite I'd have to go with The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull. It was the first one I read, so it obviously left a major impression. I loved the cover, and the miniature room within the clock and the tiny skull. Oh, and Cemetery Island, too!”