Thursday, December 29, 2011

Alert: Johnny Dixon & SF Gateway

In what probably will be our last post for 2011, we make note of yet another round of Bellairs e-books. Yes, we mentioned the American editions published by eReads earlier this summer and now we’re pleased to pass word along about the UK counterparts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Time Capsule: 1885

December 21, 1885: The sight of a comet, a brightly-lit fireball, blazing across the darkness of space can be a memorable and awe-inspiring scene. That’s just what happened 126 years ago tonight when such a chunk of rock landed on the Clabbernong Farm in Capharnaum County.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Where's There: Sorin Hall

Bellairs describes this Notre Dame dormitory as "South Bend's answer to the House of Usher" with one room being “at least 15 feet high, its exact height being a mystery because of the everpresent cloud formations, and...decorated to resemble a cross between a Victorian tenement and a Pompeian attic [the beginning: a little too much about the author; Oct. 3, 1958].

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chapter Thirteen Witch Craft

Hey, friends, it’s your ol’ pal, Broteus, again – refreshed after the last holiday and preparing for the next gathering. I hope your Thanksgiving was pleasant. There’s wasn’t a lot going on at the Mitchell’s this year ‘cept we decided to invite my former graduate assistant, Myron, over to spend the day. He did some sort of trick to amuse the grand kids by sticking olives on the ends of his fingers. I didn’t get it. Did check out some of the Marcy’s Thanksgiving Parade, though. Anyone here remember some of the original balloons? Felix the Cat? Harold the Barrel? The two-headed pirate? Dalcy and I aren’t really up on the new characters...sort of a grand parade of lifeless product placement. (The grand kids liked this more than the olives, so they're mostly normal.) No sign of the tree, though.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A History Of The Horror Genre

Two things about author Brian Keene that you learn from his website are that he 1) writes novels, comic books, short fiction, and occasional journalism for money, and 2) his 2003 novel, The Rising, is often credited with inspiring pop culture’s current interest in zombies. Keene gave the keynote speech at the 2011 Anthocon in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (the first Anthocon, held last month - November 11-13) and shared some of his thoughts on the "history of the horror genre":

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some Noble Memories

There's always a blog or two out there that dives into reminiscences of childhood and one’s reading habits from years ago. Here’s some memories from someone named Wolframharted:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Smoking Cthulhu Wedgewood

العين الشريرة
Hi, friends! It’s your ol’ pal Broty here, the long suffering interviewer from All About Evil. Yeah, I kinda gave up that ghost a while back after some health issues. Ol’ Doc Boothby said the diagnosis was macular degeneration...here’s a copy of the prescription pad if you’re interested.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Where's There: Our Lady of Lourdes

According to the Question Box moderator, Lourdes water is used to make Sacrosticky and can be used to repair broken statues of saints or rosary beads [Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies; 40].

Saturday, November 5, 2011

BiblioFile: La figura nell'ombra

A few months ago we discussed some of the artwork in the Italian edition of The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring as published by Happy Planet Books. We probably should have highlighted artwork from The Figure in the Shadows prior to Letter seeing how Figure takes place prior to the events in Letter, the Italian edition of Figure was published first, we discovered that edition’s artwork first...but it just didn’t work out that way. Deal with it. We’ll do it now.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Something Horrific In The States

We could hardly pass this map up this Halloween season.

Very Small Array has created a map of the United States that shows the thing people in each of the fifty states think is coming to get them. There's a helluva lot of zombies, a lot of ghosts, stay out of Rhode Island (of course), Daylight Savings Time In Indiana, and a clock in the walls of Michigan.

Nicely done.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Where's There: Aboukir Bay

Jonathan casts an illusion spell of being on a warship that Lord Nelson has sent into this bay [The Beast under the Wizard's Bridge; 92].

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Greater Scorns The Lesser

We all tend to talk about why we like book x and we express why we feel character y is the best. But how easy is it for us to drill down and explain why it is we don’t like a certain book or why certain characters or situations rub us the wrong way? That’s the latest discussion in our forum, posted earlier today by Kwan Hon Luen, who provides some of his less-favored forays:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

BiblioFile: eReads and Counting Words

Bellairsia gets read by John's American fans, sure, but we've also gotten some attention in France, the Netherlands, Italy, and even South Korea (안녕하세요 환영). One place we’re read regularly is Singapore, where contributor Kwan Hon Luen chimes in with occasional comments and reviews.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Time Capsule: 1951

September, 1951: On a chilly Monday night in late September – sixty years ago this month – 12-year-old Johnny Dixon walked home from his Boy Scout meeting and found his beloved grandmother sitting alone in the dark and wondering if her grandson was home from school early. As any child would be in such a situation, Johnny was thrown for a loop and unprepared for the battalions of sorrows that were to come his way over the next few months.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Interview: Deborah Nourse Lattimore

Deborah Nourse Lattimore has been writing and illustrating books for young readers since 1986, including such titles as Cinderhazel, Zekmet the Stone Carver, and The Dragon’s Robe which was nominated for the Caldecott medal. To date she has almost 40 books published, as well as numerous magazine illustrations and articles, and, to top that, teaches at Otis College of Art and Design in the Marina del Rey area of Los Angeles. Deborah also happens to be an avid John Bellairs fan. We spoke with her about some of her upcoming projects as well as her appreciation for the works of John Bellairs.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where's There: Hailes Abbey

Emerson Eells reads in J.K. Borkman's private papers that Borkman purchased the Blood of Hailes from a crooked antique dealer near the ruins of this abbey [The Dark Secret of Weatherend; 177-8].

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Time Capsule: 2001

September, 2011: Ten years ago this month, fans of Lewis Barnavelt were introduced to Ishmael Izard and S.D. Schindler.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011 Living History Portrayal Walk

Marshall's Oakridge Cemetery was first used in 1839 and is one of the oldest continuously operated cemeteries in the state. For the eleventh year Oakridge will be home to the "If These Stones Could Talk...", a walking tour where actors and actresses portray significant people from Marshall's past at that person’s grave site. Small groups will be guided by hosts in a predetermined lantern-illuminated pattern through the cemetery and the once-prominent residents will rise up and share their stories.

This year’s event takes place Saturday, October 8 at 7pm come rain or shine. For more information, including associated costs, please contact the Marshall Chamber of Commerce.

Walter attempted to attend last year’s walk but when his car broke down he ended up stranded in the community of Romulus longer than he planned. There was that unflattering run-in with a wolf and then, inspired by the work of Bailey McDonald, he said he met up with a teenager named Demetrios Ypsilantis who was trying to solve the mystery of the missing men from Ypsi. Walter didn’t stick around long enough to see the search end (and therefore missed out on Demi finding a heron nest within a painted kiosk) but he generally had a good time and looks forward to this year’s walk where he’ll try to make an appearance.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

O Lamentable Day

Earlier this summer something made me realize that we need a holiday. No, not a holiday like Arbor Day or Pirate Week but something Bellairs related. Why, you’re no doubt asking? In short, because a number of other literary people, places, and things seem to have a day set aside for fans to rally around and show their appreciation. For example (and this list is by no means inclusive):

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

BiblioFile: Luis Barnavelt I Widmo Z Muzeum Magii

We’re about due for another stirring of the pot that is the Polish editions of the Lewis Barnavelt series. Yes, we’re going about these very gradually because too much głupota tends to wear us (and our readers) down.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What's What: Seven Runic Alphabets

It is said that Prospero and Roger Bacon knew “seven different runic alphabets” [The Face in the Frost; vii], which is pretty good considering the characters from runic alphabets sort of look like they could be interchangeable.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

48th Annual Historic Home Tour

The Marshall, Michigan Historic Home Tour has been called the Granddaddy of Midwest Home Tours and is famous all over the country for its traditions and heritage. The 48th annual tour will be offering exquisite private homes and businesses for public viewing and enjoyment.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Alert: Johnny Dixon & eReads

We often wonder what John’s reaction would have been to the Internet (to Wikipedia, to YouTube, to iSchtuff, and even the CompleatBellairs) and the rise of mobile electronic devices. For someone who wrote such a celebration of olfaction by describing a book as smelling like Old Spice talcum powder (and adding that “books that smelled that way were usually fun to read” [The House with a Clock in its Walls; 19]), it might be unfathomable for a book to exist without smells, without textures, without the chance of paper cuts, and without...well...paper.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

An Heir To Our Affections

Parker Peevyhouse (!) posts about books finished posthumously and a majority of her text is devoted to John Bellairs and, more so, Brad Strickland:
"This isn’t exactly an unusual occurrence, and it has also taken place in children’s publishing. The series that starts with the quirky and Gothic The House With A Clock In Its Walls, by John Bellairs, was completed by author Brad Strickland after Bellairs’ death. Strickland finished two manuscripts Bellairs had started before his death: The Ghost in the Mirror and The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder. He also wrote two more books based on Bellairs’ notes, and then wrote four more novels of his own using Bellairs’ characters.

...when I hear that an author is finishing a book or series created by another author, I get very suspicious. Is this an act of generosity to readers who want more...Bellairs? Is it a plan to take advantage of a dead author’s good name? We can’t know how...Bellairs would react to Strickland’s commandeering of his series–but we do know that these authors’ estates felt it wise to approve these new books.”

Friday, July 15, 2011

What's What: Queen of Spades

Lewis was dreaming that he was being chased by the Queen of Spades [The House with a Clock in its Walls; 19].

Friday, July 8, 2011

Goreyana: The Beast under the Wizard's Bridge

Notes from Goreyana about The Beast under the Wizard's Bridge:
  • The preliminary art for the "beast" was still on [Gorey's] drawing table when Kevin McDermott photographed Mr. Gorey's home just days after he died. It can be seen in Mr. McDermott's book, Elephant House, The Home of Edward Gorey.
  • The dust jacket painting and the black and white frontis illustration were included in the 2001 Bromer Booksellers catalog.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thou Seest The Twilight

I caught a few episodes recently of The Twilight Zone marathon that was on one of the cable channels. Airing I think twice over the course of the marathon was was the classic "Time Enough at Last" (1959). The program tells the story of a Henry Bemis, a bank teller "who loves books, yet is surrounded by those who would prevent him from reading them." Then something happens and he finds himself with more than enough time to read. And then something else happens and we’re left with one of the most popular and parodied episodes of the original run of Twilight Zone episodes. (I won’t tell you what happens – you’ll have to go out and spoil it for yourself or, better yet, watch the program.)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Goreyana: The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost

Notes from Goreyana about The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost:
While completely appropriate for this title, I have never cared for the dust jacket design for this book. I have the original artwork for the frontis illustration in my collection. The image features a fantastic map with sea monsters and flowers with faces - the flowers are reminiscent of some very early illustration work by Mr. Gorey for books by John Ciardi.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

This Isn’t Your Usual Alpheus Winterborn

In fact, we don’t know exactly what this is. Anyone?
Home of the fabled Alpheus Winterborn, the wizard lord of this mansion, Winterborn Mansion reflects its owner’s nature. Filled with creatures he has created, it is now one of the most dangerous residences in all of Alyria especially since the dread Lord Pumpkin may be found within its walls.

Though the lower floors are generally safe, the upper stories are full of evil creatures such as terrible cthons. Take a bit of time to do some exploring and you just might find some of his most deadly experiments like the Imp of the Perverse, this would be a good time to pray you brought eight of your friends and that they all have a good sense of rhythm.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Goreyana: The Specter from the Magician's Museum

Notes from Goreyana about The Specter from the Magician's Museum:
Published in 1998 by Dial Books for Young Readers, the wrap around dust jacket painting is beautifully surreal. I saw the painting in person at Gotham Book Mart, and without the distractions of the lettering and bar code, it is a truly spectacular work by Edward Gorey.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

BiblioFile: La lettera la strega e l'anello

The original House trilogy, as published in the United States during the mid-1970s, was illustrated by three different and distinct artists: Edward Gorey, Mercer Meyer, and Richard Egielski.

Egielski’s illustrations for The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring (1976) were only his second published bookwork and are a marked departure from the widely-known pen-and-ink work of Gorey that has come to define most of Bellairs’ novels. Such was the difference that one reviewer took to call the gray-washed images “dark Americana" – something that immediately brought to our mind Grant Wood’s classic, American Gothic. Maybe it’s the way the perfectly round frames of Rose Rita’s glasses reminded us of the circular trees in his Wood’s paintings? Anyway, Regionalism as an art form may not have been on the forefront in the 1970s when Letter was published, but the illustrations work to describe a story that originates in the American heartland and takes us into a nightmarish world of witches and magic.

Monday, June 20, 2011

That Unbodied Figure Of His Thought

We’ve joked in years past that The Figure in the Shadows could be titled The Reader in the Shadows due to the way the story unfolds: we’re witness to a lot of things happening but we have no idea what horrific evil is prompting it.  It’s not until the end that Mrs. Zimmermann finally connects a lot of loose threads together (based on smell, of all things...).  Without giving too much away, a spell is cast over a talisman, a spirit is trapped within this amulet that wants out, and then it is set loose into the world.  Ms. Z tells the story better so - well, Bellairs does, too, so just go read the book and then come back here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's What: Phi Beta Kappa Key

Professor Childermass has a Phi Beta Kappa key dangling from his gold watch chain [The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt; 83]. He occasionally toys with it when thinking or nervous [The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost; 41,97].

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time Capsule: 1692

June 7, 1692: Today's the day when a 7.5 Magnitude earthquake struck Port Royal, Jamaica, the unofficial capital city and one of the busiest and wealthiest ports in the West Indies. It was known both as the "storehouse and treasury of the West Indies" and "one of the wickedest places on earth". The earthquake caused most of the city to sink below sea level and about 2,000 people died as a result of the earthquake and the following tsunami.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A View Through The Spook-House Mirror

We're going back through the archives and sharing some thoughts about John and his work that have crossed our path over the years.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bibliofile: The Face in the Frost

We have a double shot for those who love the Southern Kingdom – specifically, two editions of The Face in the Frost from overseas that we came across recently.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What's What: Civil War Spy Codes

Miss Eells apparently knows something about Civil War era spy codes - and what she knows is apparently interesting enough to share with, and impress, Anthony Monday [The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn; 7].

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Goreyana: The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder

Notes from Goreyana about The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder:
Edward Gorey created a wraparound dust jacket design that features his most colorful rear cover of the series. The lurid orange color used for the background of the tattered poster leaps out at you. Mr. Gorey also created a frontis illustration and several small interior spot illustrations. The frontis drawing may just be his most disturbing illustration from the entire series, and possibly his career. It shows a deceased, dry mouse who still has the power to move due to magic. As the mouse tries to move, it begins to pull itself apart.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

That Took Some Pains In Writing

One story about John that gave us a chuckle was relayed to us years ago by one of his friends from Marshall. As the story goes, high school history teacher, Henry Cunningham, told young John that, "You must learn to type, because no one will ever be able to read your writing."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Someone Who Really Cared For Kids

We're going back through the archives and sharing some thoughts about John and his work that have crossed our path over the years.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Michael and Marc Leighton

Director Michael Shane Leighton and writer Marc Leighton are the brothers responsible for the terrifying found footage horror film Pursuit of a Legend. Gorepress’s Scullion was hugely impressed by their feature debut and wanted to discuss where their ideas came from and how they created such a believable “found footage” film.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Whither travel you?

We were combing through our archives and came across a note dated 2004 from fan and occasional contributor James Card discussing some of his Bellairsian travels over the years:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Alert: La lettera la strega e l'anello

Chalk it up to someone changing their minds. Maybe. A few months ago we discussed the Italian editions of the original Lewis Barnavelt trilogy published by Happy Planet Books. We noted for La lettera la strega e l'anello (The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring) that Dhyan Sahido was to be the cover artist and that the cover image was to be a twilight-hued sky with a hovering mask, snake-shaped shadow, and so on.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Beshrew The Witch!

We’ve always admired John’s ability to mention something in passing that may seem unimportant but find out later that it’s something of a joke. Take Roger Bacon’s slightly deaf Brass Head and the instructions for a wall of glass it spews out late one night. It’s a funny story on its own but it’s not until you realize John is having a bit of fun with the brazen head legend that you realize John really knows his historic legends. John did some of this in Saint Fidgeta, too - Dragomira, Sporus, Floradora, and Pope Joan’s true identity come to mind.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Time Capsule: April 1, 1986

April 1, 1986: We wanted to pause our Bellairsian endeavors to note the 25th anniversary of the publication of To Stand Beneath the Sun, the debut novel of author Brad Strickland.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Odds and Ends from the Haunted Opera

We’ve been going through our archives of late – trying to make sense of a decade of information – and found a file of notes we took from the old Compleat Bellairs forum provided by none-other-than Brad Strickland. Brad was known to hop on once in a while and answer questions from readers and fans about nearly every aspect of writing and publishing and the like. Apparently at one time (prior to the site's demise c. 2003) the topic was The Doom of the Haunted Opera (1995) and Brad offered up some interesting tidbits.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Driving Mister Bellairs

We're going back through the archives and sharing some thoughts about John and his work that have crossed our path over the years.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Goreyana: The Hand of the Necromancer

Notes from Goreyana about The Hand of the Necromancer:

Once again, Edward Gorey has created a color wraparound dust jacket painting and a black and white frontis illustration for this title. While perfectly serviceable, Mr. Gorey's work on this book lacks a spark of inspiration and drama he exhibits on other titles from the series.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who's Who: Vaughn Monroe

Johnny Dixon comes home from a movie and listens to the radio, which is tuned into Camel Caravan, “a musical program that did the hit tunes of the week” and featured Vaughn Monroe and other singers Johnny liked [The Curse of the Blue Figurine; 56].

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Twenty Years, And Yet I Am Remembered

Arvid Nelson is a comic book writer who lives in Northampton, Massachusetts and pays tribute to John on the twentieth anniversary of his death, back on March 8:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Call Again, He Is Made Of Stone

A contributor to our forum named Dan wrote to us last year to say he was making his way through The Chessmen of Doom for the first time in over a decade. In the early chapters of the novel something “tugged at [his] memory” when he read the description of Peregrine “Perry” Childermass’ tomb:
The massive bronze doors of the tomb were flanked by two Grecian columns, and the Childermass name was chiseled on the cornice. A few feet from the entrance stood a white marble statue of a bearded man in old-fashioned formal dress. He held a top hat and gloves in one hand, and with his other hand he pointed at the tomb [The Chessmen of Doom; 16].

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