Sunday, December 30, 2007

Overhanging Second Stories

We found this kinda-sorta review of The Face in the Frost a number of years ago. We wondered about it then and – as we clean out some of the darker corners of our email inbox – we wonder about it again now. We thought maybe you’d like to wonder about it with us. Here goes:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Around the Office

First, a bit of a Christmas story as performed by the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company, December 22 and 23, 2007.  It's The Legend of the Poinsettia written by Brad Strickland.

Next, a reader last month began compiling a list of “American wizards of the fantasy type" – so far they have the Wizard of Oz along with Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann.  He (or she) seems off to a good start,

Finally we were starting in on some early spring cleaning here at Bellairsia HQ when I ran across my day-by-day Trivial Pursuit calendar and the fistful of sheets that I never tore off this year. I added them to my stack for scrap paper but thought, for grins, I’d at least look at a few and see if I missed anything good. Besides discovering the seven fruits that make up Hawaiian Punch and the most-used regnal names in the British monarchy, there was this:
Question: What best-selling children’s author considers himself “a literary training bra for Stephen King?”
Answer: R. L. Stine
Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Chessmen of Death

We’re not comic book experts but this bit caught our eye. One of the stories in the Wonder Woman comic from September/October 1952 (#55) was entitled "The Chessmen of Doom". It appears to have been rewritten as The Chessmen of Death! for issue #208 (Oct. 1973). The only bit of story we've ever found is that the Chequerians play chess with entire planets as pieces.

Go figure.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

48 Years for an Autograph?

This is easily one of the strangest stories about John that we’ve heard: someone uses the checkout card from the back of a library book (presumably owned at one point by the University of Chicago) as a bookmark and finds that John Bellairs checked the book out on November 10, 1959 – 48 years ago yesterday.

Adding to the mystique is that it was an Algernon Blackwood anthology, something we can easily see John enjoying (our favorite of his tales is Secret Worship - we do recommend it, just not after midnight...).

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Researching Bellairs the Boy Scout

In a 1990 article with the Haverhill Eagle-Tribune, when asked about his childhood, John Bellairs noted that he was somewhat of a loner until he made some "lifelong friends in the Boy Scouts."

We know John was a member of Marshall Boy Scout Troop 112 in 1951, and that some of his Scouting experiences snuck into his books over the years. Take the story of Johnny Dixon, also a member of Troop 112: he goes off to Scout camp and also meets a lifelong friend in Byron Ferguson [The Mummy, the Will and the Crypt]. Camp Chocorua was probably influenced by his attendance at Camp T. Ben Johnston on Sherman Lake outside Augusta, Michigan, itself about 8 miles west of Battle Creek.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bellairsian Trick-and/or-Treating

This...someone thinking of The House with a Clock in its Walls as a Halloween costume...this got us wondering....

Has anyone ever dressed up a Bellairsian character for Halloween?  Lewis Barnavelt doesn’t exactly strike me as exciting attire (sorry, Lewis) so maybe you went dressed as something else.  How about the Robot with Killer Eyes, the Oil Lamp Demon, charmin’ Jarmyn Thanatos, or maybe even a Shuffly?

Or maybe you actually did dress up as an actual Italianate manor house and stuck a metronome in your mid-section.  Thoughts?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Someone’s In My Fruit Cellar!

After watching the horror film The Evil Dead (1981) on someone-or-other's movie channel we went online to the trivia section at IMDb and found this tidbit:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dumpster Diving For Bellairs

Thought someone might find this of interest. Our library is starting to get rid of our audiobook on cassette collection. It seems our audiobooks on CD are rendering them obsolete. Our children's librarian was helping a 10-year-old child the other day find Harry Potter books on audio, and when she was informed all we had left on the shelves were cassette versions, the girl replied, "What's a cassette?"

Monday, October 1, 2007

Time Capsule: 1997

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since we first heard the strange tale of Jarmyn Thanatos and his desire to live forever. Thanatos was the spellbinder as seen in The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder, Brad Strickland’s second “solo” book in the Johnny Dixon series, where Johnny’s friend Fergie finds the last book in the library and sets forth a strange chain of events that reveals charmin’ Jarmyn's sinister secret for getting younger as the decades pass.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Haverhill Home to Bellairs; Zombie

The Hammersmith Group released an anticipated and controversial master plan for the future of downtown Haverhill, Massachusetts, one of the oldest cities in the country.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Of Every Nation a Residence

The Autumn 2007 edition of the Chicago International House newsletter has a brief feature about John Bellairs in their Travel in Time: Stories from the International House Archives series. There isn’t a lot of new information covered here (though the I-House is celebrating its 75th anniversary) but it’s nice to see their inclusion of John:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Seeing Double: The Eyes of the Killer Robot

Strange things are out there.

The best we can tell the name of the band is The Eyes of the Killer Robot (or so suggests the title at YouTube).

N.J. Kailhofer also has written a short piece entitled The Eyes of the Killer Robot.

Stranger things are out there, I’m sure. That’s why we probably need robot insurance from Old Glory.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Book Alert: The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer

Brad Strickland has announced via his website the twelfth title in the Lewis Barnavelt series. The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer is to be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2008.

2007 Living History Portrayal Walk

Oakridge Cemetery, one of the oldest continuously operated cemeteries in Michigan, is home again this year to the annual Living History Portrayal Walk. This guided walking tour will feature actors portraying significant persons from Marshall's past at each of those individual's gravesites. This year’s famous Marshallnites include Nathan Benedict, William H. Brown, George Emery Church, Dulcenia Daily, Mary Edgerton, Augustus Hyde, and Thomas Sullivan. The event will take place rain or shine so participants are encouraged to bring flashlights, wear comfortable walking shoes, and carry an umbrella.

When: October 6, 2007
Time: 7:00 pm

For more information, please contact the Marshall Chamber of Commerce.

Walter’s excuse for missing last year’s program was that he got lost after taking the advice of a grifter – listening to so-called “City Slang” – and ended up in Canada. When he crossed the borderline back into the USA, the city was burning with people dancing around shouting, “Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa.” It must have been a sight to see, I’m sure. Still, we hope Walter manages to show up for an appearance this year.

Monday, August 13, 2007

44th Annual Historic Home Tour

“The Marshall, Michigan Home Tour offers exquisite private homes and businesses for public viewing and enjoyment. The tour will feature eight vintage homes and will include six historic museums covering diverse specialties such as unusual architecture, antique home furnishings, Civil War memorabilia, and a restored antique post office. To close out the tour's seventeen structures will be one business from Marshall's well-maintained historic business district. Marshall's Home Tour was voted the Best Home Tour by the readers of AAA's Michigan Living magazine.”

When: September 8-9, 2007
Time: Saturday 9:00 to 5:00, Sunday 10:00 to 5:00

For more information, including cost, please contact the Marshall Chamber of Commerce or Marshall Historical Society.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Bibliofile: Luis Barnavelt I Potwór Dzikiego Strumienia

Longtime visitors to Bellairsia may recall how a number of years ago (c.2001-02) we found a handful of book cover images from the Lewis Barnavelt series when they were published in Poland:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Researching Laughlin Hall

If you're from the Windy City, then this one is for you....

A couple of years ago, one of John's friends, the late Bernie Markwell, sent us some notes about meeting John for the first time four decades ago in Chicago. His notes were somewhat sparse and he indicated he would send more. He never did, he never will, and so we're sort of stuck with what we have.

At any rate, Markwell says he first met John when he "moved to Laughlin Hall (now destroyed) to get more work done."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Come Hither, Harry

A few lines composed inside Bellairsia HQ:
A tip of the hat to the author for creating that mythical force,
A spellbinding sense of wonder derived from staying your course.
Yes, the mystery’s finally over, the secret’s been spilled from your pen.
Much praise for getting those children back to the ol’ library again.
And we laud the legions of readers who we hope don’t end up and weep,
But you’ve got the whole stinkin’ weekend - so head home and go get some sleep!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Wit! Whither Wander You?

Now you can set out on your own and see the world of John Bellairs without even leaving your house. Wanderlust is the beginning of a new map-plotting project that will identify the locations and inspirations found in the books by John Bellairs and those continued by Brad Strickland. Become an armchair cartographer as you visit distant points in England and Germany, as well as those sights from Bellairs’ backyard in Marshall and Massachusetts.

Monday, July 2, 2007

17th Annual Welcome to My Garden Tour

The Marshall Area Garden Club prepares for their 17th annual Welcome To My Garden Tour later this month, showcasing some of the Marshall area’s private and public landscaped gardens.

For more information visit the Marshall Chamber of Commerce.

When: July 14-15; 10:00 to 4:00 (rain or shine)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Riveting Collection of Bridges

The Calhoun County Road Commission and the Parks Trustees Board will be holding its annual "Living History Demonstration" at the Historic Bridge Park on the Kalamazoo River in Emmett Township this coming Saturday. The event will include demonstrations of industrial building techniques such as forge welding and black-smithing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Journey to John

We’ve heard some great stories of young people (and some probably a bit older) writing John (who would usually write back and include one of his drawings), calling him on the telephone, and talking with him after a speaking engagement at a library or convention.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Spreading Michiganess

From time to time we like to share some of what we get in our inbox (you know, printable stuff - not news of our winning the Kiribati lottery or stuff like that). A note over the weekend was from an Instructional Technologist at Kalamazoo RESA. Haven’t you always wondered what Instructional Technologists do?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Bellairs the English Instructor

Before “Bellairs the author” there was “Bellairs the English instructor,” a quick-witted, intelligent young man, fresh from college and starting out in his chosen profession (maybe like a young Roderick Childermass).

After John returned from England in 1968 he chose to reside in the New England area and would teach English for a few years at Emmanuel (1968-69) and Merrimack (1969-71) colleges. With such a short stay on both of these campuses, it has been difficult establishing contact with any student or faculty member that remembers John. If you were associated with either institution during the time periods mentioned as a teaching colleague or student (and the name "Bellairs" rings the right bells with you) we'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hauntings at Massachusetts' Hoosac Tunnel

This article, entitled "Ghosts of the Bloody Pit", from talks about hauntings at Massachusetts' Hoosac Tunnel. We were interested since the name of the tunnel (and the mountain range) figures into some of John's books that take place in Minnesota.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Memoriam: Kurt Vonnegut

Author Kurt Vonnegut has died. He was 84. Some of his best-known works include Cat's Cradle (1963), the #1 best-seller Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973).  We're not really sure what else to say.
"No good at life, but very funny sometimes with the commentary."
- KV

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Key of Aramath

We recently received an email from a budding author who goes by the handle A.A. Riley who - besides being a big fan of John Bellairs and Brad Strickland - has attempted her own children's book, The Key of Aramath. The synopsis below is part of her press release:

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Books on Tape

We recently came across an old newsletter, the Talking Book Topics from January-February 1999, that highlighted the then-recent books that were read to cassette and/or CD for the blind and physically handicapped. We were surprised to see three books of John's were listed in the mix:
  • The Doom of the Haunted Opera, read by Erik Sandvold. 
  • The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie, read by Erik Sandvold 
  • The Secret of the Underground Room, read by Christopher Hurt.

We would appreciate hearing more about these editions, if more is to be told (or heard).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Time Capsule: 1967

February, 1967: Prospero and Roger Bacon could sing the Dies Irae and apparently John Bellairs could, too.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Edward Gorey: The Doubtful Guest

It came fifty years ago - and to this day....

The Edward Gorey House is currently closed but reopens on Sunday, April 15, 2007 when it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Doubtful Guest [review] with special exhibitions of original illustrations, dolls and ephemera for one of Edward Gorey's most popular books.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

About The Legion of Decency

We've noted over the years that the Bellairsia email inbox garners some interesting comments and questions. Enough time has probably passed to share this unexciting anecdote we received a few months ago - not because there was any sort of security issue but because we managed to lose it amidst everything else. It also proved to of us that that people were actually visiting the site – and not primarily always as Bellairs fans.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Book Alert: La Poupée et Le Zombi

February 15 is the release date for the new French language Johnny Dixon adventure, La Poupée et le zombi (titled, for some reason, without the tambour).

Time Capsule: 1649

January 30, 1649 - "Of the Witch-Finder, and the Troubles He Brought" reads the chapter title of a moldy manuscript tucked away within Barnavelt Manor, near Dinsdale in Sussex. Lewis Barnavelt learns of his magical ancestry: Puritans of olde believed strongly against witches and warlocks, leading some people to go into business as witch-finders - drifting through duchies and traipsing through towns, exposing men and women for practicing their evil sorcery.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Geoffrey Chaucer and the Internette

Anybody who has ever received chants of support from his peers that go something like, "Go Bellairs! Quote Chaucer!" (read the story behind that escapade) would undoubtedly enjoy the fact that said person named Chaucer has a blog. To be specific: Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog.

Wife of Bath – eat your heart out.

Looks like there are some Steppenwolf lyrics in there, too. Go figure.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Memoriam: Ann LaPietra

Marshall, Michigan and fans of John Bellairs lost a friend this week: Ann LaPietra, owner of the kids' place bookstore in Marshall, died Wednesday, January 3, 2007. She was 73.