Monday, January 29, 1996

CompleatBellairs: More Brad Strickland Commentary

by Brad Strickland (Jan. 29, 1996)
(Originally published at the

remembering the good ol' days...

I'm younger than John, so lots of my "nostalgia" is actually the product of research (though I can remember the later fifties). I really enjoy doing research, although sometimes it's a little off the wall: calling pharmaceutical companies to make sure that Bactine really was on the market in the 1950's, checking to make sure that Lay's Potato Chips were available in the New England area at the time, and so on. For Drum, I even interviewed some people who had been at the University of New Hampshire in the early fifties (they told me to be sure to mention the stupid-looking blue-and-white freshman beanies, and to say that coming toward campus from the east, one first smells the cows before coming in sight of the University dairy barns!). Anyway, I certainly don't find it strange that a reader might want to learn more about the things mentioned in the stories. That's always been my reaction as a reader (I had to search for a long time before discovering that SALADA was a brand of tea--we don't have it down here in Georgia).

For what it's worth, sometimes I have to fight (but not very hard) to include some of these. In Drum, a copy editor objected to my comparing the crouching Dr. Coote to the White Rock girl, because no younger readers will remember the ads for White Rock. But really, I think some of them will happen across an old illustration and recognize the girl, and they'll be happy. Others may look her up in books on the history of advertising. Lots of things that both John and I put into the stories really happened or really existed--I put a real-life grand-slam home run by Clyde Vollmer into Ghost, for example, because in re-writing the ending, I had to let the readers know that in the world of the fifties, no time had passed during Mrs. Zimmermann's and Rose Rita's visit to the past. I think this realism of background helps: if the books feel real to me, they ought to feel real to readers, too.

the adventures of johnny dixon: the movie?

You ask for chances for a film or video production. Good news (or at least I hope it is!): my agent recently told me that the ENTIRE RUN of Bellairs books for younger readers has been optioned by a film production company. It's a long way from optioning to actual production, but the dramatizations will probably come out in the same order as the original books, roughly speaking; although I do suspect that the six Lewis/Rose Rita stories may be the first set, beginning of course with House, and then the Johnny Dixons, and then the Anthony Mondays. Keep your fingers crossed that the adaptors won't make these too childish or silly! I'll keep you posted as I learn more. Right now, I don't even know the name of the production company that has optioned the books.

By the way, these aren't exactly adaptations, but you should try to find copies of the audio versions of House and Ghost (there may be more, but I've heard only these two) from Dove. These aren't dramatizations, but readings, done extraordinarily well by an actor named George Guidall. They're on tape from the Dove company, and probably some library in your area will have them.

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