A little late I know but let me explain.
I have taken a rather righteous stance on social media. By that I mean I actively don’t use it. I am in such a state of defiance with it, that if the only way to call an ambulance was to use Facebook or Twitter, I’d rather drag myself to the hospital on broken bones. This lets me feel good about myself not getting pulled into the rather stagnant pool of peoples opinions pasted onto what I see as an advertising platform. But the downside is I miss important news about things which don’t make the national papers. The sad passing of Dallas Mayr, who wrote books under pseudonym Jack Ketchum, being one of them.
He passed away on 24th January this year and I found out thanks to an email from the guys at ‘This Is Horror’ telling me their new podcast was available when I was ready. When I eventually opened it and read it I found out about Dallas Mayr loosing his battle with cancer.
This was a sad day for me.
There is more than one Dallas Mayr book on my bookshelf heavily highlighted with notes scrawled where there is space on the page.
I loved his work and have read all of it. Each piece I found instantly approachable and readable. The ability for him to create fully formed characters with a single page that helped me, the reader, feel empathy or hate. A true skill. And for me Dallas preferred to write mainly in the horror genre and gave all of us sick puppies the dose of violence and sex we craved.
I live in Worcestershire in the United Kingdom and didn’t really know much about the horror genre as a teenager other than King and Koontz. Brian Keene got a mention here and there, and me shelves in certain book shops had Richard Laymon titles. So plodding I was plodding along using these guys as example of good writing. Then one day I read a best horror books of the year list on Amazon and came across a Jack Ketchum title Off Season.
If you read ‘Off Season’ on thanksgiving, you probably wont sleep until Christmas.
This was the credit on the front of the book written by none other than Stephen King. So I accepted the challenge and ordered the book. Man oh man did that book blow my tiny little mind. Sex and violence mixed together with such class and simplicity. This was a glimpse into the dark realities of the real world. This was the debased underside of humanity laid bare for us all to see.
I then went through all of the book of his I could find. Scouring eBay and Amazon, libraries and books shops. ‘Ladies Night’, ‘She Wakes’, ‘Red’, ‘Off Spring’, ‘The Lost’, ‘Stranglehold’ and one of the best books I have ever read ‘The Girl Next Door’. This also led to other authors that have had a profound effect on my reading and writing. Edward Lee and John Everson are good examples of authors in the same rich vein or creative talent.
I started writing in part, because of the books he was publishing. I can remember thinking wow if he can do that, if this is what literature can be accepted as, then I should try it. No longer does horror have to be suggestive and atmospheric. It can now be as true and as gritty as real life.
There was also a lesson to be learnt from the way Dallas was inspired by real life events. Everything that happened in ‘The Girl Next Door’ actually happened in real life. True also of the events in ‘Weird Species’. This taught me to pay closer attention to the real world. I’ve been keeping a scrap book on interesting stories and ideas since reading ‘The Girl Next Door’. Dipping in and out when I need too.
But for all of the lesson I have learnt from his words. It is the stories that have made a lasting impression on me.
Simply put, his work left me in awe.