A Conversation With the Scariest Guy In America
Laurie Lamson, editor of the new Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror book of writing exercises, recently had a conversation at Center for Fiction in New York City, with one of the contributors: Jack Ketchum.
You might think a true-life crime and horror speculative fiction author, who Stephen King has referred to as, “the scariest guy in America”, would be intimidating. But meeting and speaking with Jack Ketchum was quite the opposite. He is a warm and caring person who uses his skill as a writer to exercise (and probably exorcise) his imagination, expose evil in the world and entertain audiences with a fascination for the darker side of life.
He was generous in sharing his insights about craft and answering a lot of thoughtful questions from the audience:
More about Jack Ketchum
Jack Ketchum is the pseudonym for novelist Dallas Mayr. As a teenager, he was befriended by Robert Bloch (author of Psycho) who became a mentor to him. He supported Ketchum’s work, just as his work was supported by his own mentor, H.P. Lovecraft.
Before becoming a full-time writer, he worked as a private garbageman, a lumber salesman, a copywriter, editor of the paleontological magazine “Fossils,” and as a literary agent for Scott Meredith, Inc., where he served as agent for author Henry Miller. He also worked in off-off Broadway and summer stock as a reviewer, playwrite and director.
In 1980, Jack Ketchum published his first novel Off Season, about a real-life family that lived in a cave and had a lifestyle of murder, cannibalism, and incest. Mainstream reviewers hated it, but fans felt otherwise.
His next publication was Hide and Seek and more of his successful novels include She Wakes, Cover, Road Kill (aka Joyride), Only Child (aka Stranglehold), Ladies’ Night, and Triage (a collection of novellas) with fellow writers. In 1990 he published Offspring, the sequel to Off Season.
He concentrates mainly on real-life monsters, but also writes otherworldly and surreal stuff, like a dark Western novella The Crossings, and “The Haunt”, a short supernatural tale.
Two short stories were made into short films: “Mail Order” and “Olivia”. By the way, you can hear Jack read an excerpt from “Olivia”. He also wrote a book that is auto- and biographical of influential people in his life called Book of Souls.