|Born||John Anthony Bellairs|
January 17, 1938
Marshall, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||March 8, 1991 (aged 53)|
Haverhill, Massachusetts, US
|Education||University of Notre Dame (BA)|
University of Chicago (MA)
|Genre||Fantasy, horror, humor|
|Notable works||The House with a Clock in Its Walls, The Face in the Frost|
John Anthony Bellairs (January 17, 1938 – March 8, 1991) was an American author best known for his fantasy novel The Face in the Frost and many Gothic mystery novels for children featuring the characters Lewis Barnavelt, Rose Rita Pottinger, Johnny Dixon, and Anthony Monday. Most of his books were illustrated by Edward Gorey. Thirteen unfinished and original sequels to Bellairs' books have been written by Brad Strickland. At the time of his death, Bellairs' books had sold a quarter-million copies in hard cover and more than a million and a half copies in paperback.
Early life and education
Bellairs was born in Marshall, Michigan, the son of Virginia (Monk) and Frank Edward Bellairs, a saloonkeeper. His hometown inspired the fictional town of New Zebedee, where he set his trilogy about Lewis Barnavelt and Rose Rita Pottinger. Shy, overweight, and often bullied as a child, he became a voracious reader and a self-described "bottomless pit of useless information" by the time he graduated from Marshall High School and entered the University of Notre Dame in 1955. He competed in the College Bowl and wrote a regular humor column for the student magazine Scholastic.
Bellairs received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame in 1959 and a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of Chicago in 1960. He received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in 1959.
Career and interests
Bellairs taught English at the College of Saint Teresa (1963–65), Shimer College (1966–67), Emmanuel College (1968–69), and Merrimack College (1969–71) before turning full-time to writing in 1971. In the late 1960s, he spent six months living and writing in Bristol, UK, where he began writing The Face in the Frost. Bristol would later feature in his novel The Secret of the Underground Room. His personal interests included archaeology, architecture, history, Latin, baseball, kitschy antiques, bad poetry, visits to the UK, and trivia of all kinds. His favorite authors included Charles Dickens, Henry James, M.R. James, Garrett Mattingly, and C.V. Wedgwood.
Death and legacy
Bellairs died suddenly of cardiovascular disease at his home in Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1991. He was 53 years old. He was survived by his wife, Priscilla (Braids) Bellairs, whom he had married on June 24, 1968, and their son Frank J. Bellairs. Frank Bellairs died in 1999 at the age of 29. Priscilla Bellairs is alive and lives in Newburyport.
In 1992, a historical marker was placed in front of the historic Cronin House in Bellairs's hometown of Marshall, Michigan. Built in 1870 for local merchant Jeremiah Cronin, this imposing Italianate mansion with its 60-foot tower had inspired the titular house of his 1973 book.
Bellairs was inducted into the Haverhill Citizens Hall of Fame in 2000.
Books for adults
Bellairs' first published work, St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies (1966), is a collection of short stories satirizing the rites and rituals of Second Vatican Council-era Catholicism. The title story of St. Fidgeta grew out of humorous stories Bellairs made up and shared with friends while living in Chicago. After committing one such story to paper, he sent it to the Chicago-based Catholic magazine The Critic, which published the story in summer 1965. The following year, the hagiography of St. Fidgeta was supplemented by eleven other humorous stories, including an essay on lesser-known popes of antiquity, a cathedral constructed over the course of centuries, and a spoof letter from a modern-day Xavier Rynne about the escapades at the fictional Third Vatican Council. Library Journal hailed St. Fidgeta as "religious burlesque" that delivered "strokes of inspired foolishness." A writer for the National Catholic Reporter called it a "gem."
The Pedant and the Shuffly, his second book, is a short illustrated fable featuring the evil magician Snodrog (the titular pedant), who ensnares his victims with inescapable (and nonsensical) logic until the kindly sorcerer, Sir Bertram Crabtree-Gore, enlists the help of a magical Shuffly to defeat Snodrog. The book was originally published in 1968 and rereleased in 2001 and 2009.
"The Face in the Frost was an attempt to write in the Tolkien manner. I was much taken by The Lord of the Rings and wanted to do a modest work on those lines. In reading the latter book I was struck by the fact that Gandalf was not much of a person—just a good guy. So I gave Prospero, my wizard, most of my phobias and crotchets. It was simply meant as entertainment and any profundity will have to be read in."
Writing in 1973, Lin Carter described The Face in the Frost as one of the three best fantasy novels to appear since The Lord of the Rings. Carter stated that Bellairs was planning a sequel to The Face in the Frost at the time. An unfinished sequel titled The Dolphin Cross was included in the anthology Magic Mirrors (New England Science Fiction Association Press, 2009).
Books for children
Bellairs's next novel, The House with a Clock in Its Walls (1973), was originally written as a contemporary adult fantasy. To improve the novel's marketability, his publisher suggested rewriting it as a young readers' book. The result was The House with a Clock in Its Walls, which was named as one of The New York Times Outstanding Books of 1973 and nominated for other awards.
Following the success of The House with a Clock in Its Walls, Bellairs focused on writing Gothic fantasy adventures aimed at elementary and middle-school children. "I write scary thrillers for kids because I have the imagination of a 10-year-old," remarked Bellairs. "I love haunted houses, ghosts, witches, mummies, incantations, secret rituals performed by the light of the waning moon, coffins, bones, cemeteries and enchanted objects." Bellairs also wrote his hometown influenced his creative bent: “In my imagination I repeatedly walk up and down the streets of the beautiful old Michigan town where I grew up. It’s full of old Victorian mansions and history, and it would work on the creative mind of any kid.”
Writing for The New York Times, Marilyn Stasio characterized Bellairs' children's books as fast-paced, spooky adventures involving "believable and likeable" characters, generally a child and an older person (usually a "lovable eccentric") who are friends and must go on adventures and solve a mystery involving supernatural elements such as ghosts and wicked sorcerers. Beyond these supernatural elements, Bellairs's novels evoked "a child's concern with comfort and security in his real world," addressing childhood fears of abandonment, loneliness, and bullying, as well as coming of age. His stories are described as spooky but ultimately reassuring as the characters conquer evil through friendship.
On his death in 1991, Bellairs left behind two unfinished manuscripts and two one-page synopses for future adventures. The Bellairs estate commissioned Brad Strickland to complete the two unfinished manuscripts and to write novels based on the two one-page outlines. These became The Ghost in the Mirror; The Vengeance of the Witch-finder; The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie; and The Doom of the Haunted Opera, respectively. Starting in 1996 with The Hand of the Necromancer, Strickland began writing his own stories based on the established characters.
Strickland announced in spring 2005 that new adventures of the Bellairs characters were under way, following contract negotiations with the Bellairs estate and a two-year absence since his last-published novel. The first of these new adventures was The House Where Nobody Lived, which was published on October 5, 2006.
Critical attention has focused on The House With the Clock in Its Walls as exemplar of Bellairs' literary merit and style. Critics argued that Bellairs wrestled with notions of masculinity, femininity, and queerness in his works. One scholar contended that Bellairs' Lewis Barnavelt and Rose Rita Pottinger trilogy traced the "emerging acceptance of self" by the two main characters, who struggled with internalized gender norms. One of the most substantial academic treatments of Bellairs comes from Dawn Heinecken, professor of women's and gender studies at the University of Louisville. Heinecken situates Bellairs in 1970s-era anxieties about gender and changing discourses around masculinity, which were reflected in the era's children's literature.
Conservative critic William Kilpatrick observed of Bellairs that "While his books are quite frightening, they are well written and undergirded by a moral vision" and recommended them to parents who wish to expose their children to age-appropriate literature that both entertains and edifies. Randi Dickson suggested that Bellairs' oeuvre evidenced greater literary merit than the works of R. L. Stine, whose horror fiction appeals to a youthful demographic similar to Bellairs'. Educators have used The House With the Clock in Its Walls as a case study for using storytelling techniques to draw in reluctant readers or assigning The Curse of the Blue Figurine to students in a book club. One critic noted that Bellairs relied on tropes of magical realism.
Bellairs' books have been translated into Czech, French, German, Japanese, Polish, and Spanish, among other languages.
Edward Gorey provided cover illustrations and frontispieces for all but three of Bellairs's 15 children's novels and continued to illustrate the Strickland novels until Gorey's death in 2000. The novel The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge featured Gorey's last published artwork before his death. Despite the strong association of the novels with Gorey's illustrations, Bellairs and Gorey never met and probably never even corresponded. The Gorey covers are no longer in print, though some newer editions of the novels still contain interior Gorey illustrations.
S. D. Schindler and Bart Goldman have created cover art for the Strickland books published since 2001.
Marilyn Fitschen provided the covers and illustrations for Bellairs' first three books: St Fidgeta and Other Parodies, The Pedant and the Shuffly, and The Face in the Frost.
|01||The House with a Clock in Its Walls||American Library Association Children's Books of International Interest Award||1973|
|02||The House with a Clock in Its Walls||New York Times Outstanding Books of 1973 Award||1973|
|03||The House with a Clock in Its Walls||South Carolina Children's Book Award Nominee||1978–1979|
|04||The House with a Clock in Its Walls||Michigan Young Readers Award Nominee||1980|
|05||The House with a Clock in Its Walls||Maude Hart Lovelace Award Nominee (Minnesota)||1982|
|06||The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring||South Carolina Children's Book Award Nominee||1979–1980|
|07||The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring||Utah Children's Fiction Book Award||1981|
|08||The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn||Maud Hart Lovelace Award Nominee (Minnesota)||1983|
|09||The Curse of the Blue Figurine||Utah Children's Fiction Book Award Nominee||1985|
|10||The Curse of the Blue Figurine||Indian Paintbrush Book Award Nominee (Wyoming)||1986|
|11||The Curse of the Blue Figurine||Virginia Young Readers Award, Middle School Division||1986–1987|
|12||The Curse of the Blue Figurine||Read-Aloud Books Too Good to Miss List (Indiana Library Federation)||1990–1991|
|13||The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt||Iowa Teen Award Nominee||1985–1986|
|14||The Dark Secret of Weatherend||Utah Children's Fiction Book Award Nominee||1987|
|15||The Eyes of the Killer Robot||Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award Nominee (Illinois)||1991|
|16||The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb||Edgar Allan Poe Award, Best Juvenile Division, Nominee||1989|
|17||The Specter from the Magician's Museum||Georgia Author of the Year Award, Young Adult Division||1998|
|18||The Specter from the Magician's Museum||New York Public Library "Best Books for the Teen Age" Awards|
|01||St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies||Jun||1966||12||123||John Bellairs||Marilyn Fitschen|
|02||The Pedant and the Shuffly||Feb||1968||NA||79||John Bellairs||Marilyn Fitschen|
|03||The Face in the Frost||1969||11||174||John Bellairs||Marilyn Fitschen|
|04||The House with a Clock in Its Walls||Jan||1973||Lewis Barnavelt||11||179||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|05||The Figure in the Shadows||1975||Lewis Barnavelt||13||155||John Bellairs||Mercer Mayer|
|06||The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring||Jan||1976||Lewis Barnavelt||13||188||John Bellairs||Richard Egielski|
|07||The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn||May||1978||Anthony Monday||17||180||John Bellairs||Judith Gwyn Brown|
|08||The Curse of the Blue Figurine||May||1983||Johnny Dixon||12||200||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|09||The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt||Nov||1983||Johnny Dixon||16||168||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|10||The Dark Secret of Weatherend||Jul||1984||Anthony Monday||15||182||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|11||The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull||Nov||1984||Johnny Dixon||11||170||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|12||The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost||Nov||1985||Johnny Dixon||15||147||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|13||The Eyes of the Killer Robot||Oct||1986||Johnny Dixon||17||167||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|14||The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb||May||1988||Anthony Monday||14||168||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|15||The Trolley to Yesterday||Jul||1989||Johnny Dixon||18||183||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|16||The Chessmen of Doom||Nov||1989||Johnny Dixon||16||155||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|17||The Secret of the Underground Room||Mar||1990||Johnny Dixon||13||127||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|18||The Mansion in the Mist||Aug||1992||Anthony Monday||17||170||John Bellairs||Edward Gorey|
|19||The Ghost in the Mirror||Apr||1993||Lewis Barnavelt||13||169||coauthors||Edward Gorey|
|20||The Vengeance of the Witch-finder||Sep||1993||Lewis Barnavelt||15||153||coauthors||Edward Gorey|
|21||The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie||Sep||1994||Johnny Dixon||15||153||coauthors||Edward Gorey|
|22||The Doom of the Haunted Opera||Sep||1995||Lewis Barnavelt||16||153||coauthors||Edward Gorey|
|23||The Hand of the Necromancer||Sep||1996||Johnny Dixon||18||168||Brad Strickland||Edward Gorey|
|24||The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder||Oct||1997||Johnny Dixon||16||149||Brad Strickland||Edward Gorey|
|25||The Specter from the Magician's Museum||Mar||1998||Lewis Barnavelt||16||149||Brad Strickland||Edward Gorey|
|26||The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost||Sep||1999||Johnny Dixon||15||166||Brad Strickland||Edward Gorey|
|27||The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge||Sep||2000||Lewis Barnavelt||15||151||Brad Strickland||Edward Gorey|
|28||The Tower at the End of the World||Sep||2001||Lewis Barnavelt||15||146||Brad Strickland||S. D. Schindler|
|29||The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost||Aug||2003||Lewis Barnavelt||14||152||Brad Strickland||S. D. Schindler|
|30||The House Where Nobody Lived||Oct||2006||Lewis Barnavelt||18||173||Brad Strickland||Bart Goldman|
|31||The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer||Oct||2008||Lewis Barnavelt||13||168||Brad Strickland||Bart Goldman|
- Some Lewis Barnavelt and Johnny Dixon books were outlined by Bellairs and completed by Strickland, who subsequently created new stories in both series.
|#||Title||Amber||Artist House||Bantam Skylark/BDD||Barnes & Noble||Corgi||Dell Yearling/BDD||Dial/Penguin||Editions du Rocher||Editora Record||Gallimard Jeunesse||Harcourt Brace Jovanovich||Heyne||Macmillan||Mythopoeic Press||NESFA Press||Puffin/Penguin||Shueisha Publishing|
|01||St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies|
|02||The Pedant and the Shuffly|
|03||The Face in the Frost|
|04||The House with a Clock in Its Walls|
|05||The Figure in the Shadows|
|06||The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring|
|07||The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn|
|08||The Curse of the Blue Figurine|
|09||The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt|
|10||The Dark Secret of Weatherend|
|11||The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull|
|12||The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost|
|13||The Eyes of the Killer Robot|
|14||The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb|
|15||The Trolley to Yesterday|
|16||The Chessmen of Doom|
|17||The Secret of the Underground Room|
|18||The Mansion in the Mist|
|19||The Ghost in the Mirror|
|20||The Vengeance of the Witch-finder|
|21||The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie|
|22||The Doom of the Haunted Opera|
|23||The Hand of the Necromancer|
|24||The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder|
|25||The Specter from the Magician's Museum|
|26||The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost|
|27||The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge|
|28||The Tower at the End of the World|
|29||The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost|
|30||The House Where Nobody Lived|
|31||The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer|
|33||The Best of John Bellairs|
|34||The Best of John Bellairs 2|
On November 18, 2011, Mythology Entertainment, founded by Brad Fischer, co-president of production at Phoenix Pictures; Laeta Kalogridis; and James Vanderbilt announced that they hired Eric Kripke, creator of Supernatural and Revolution, to write and produce a feature film based on John Bellairs' work through a partnership with John's estate. "Jamie, Laeta and I are thrilled to launch Mythology Entertainment and to be partnering with Eric Kripke and the estate of John Bellairs for our first feature project,” Fischer said.
“As a kid, Eric was inspired by Bellairs’ work and these books have stayed with him through the years…. As a company, we aspire to be a haven for artists and friends who believe in the power of myth and remember that feeling we all got as kids, when the lights went down and the images came up and anything was possible.”
The film adaptation of Bellairs' novel The House with a Clock in Its Walls stars Jack Black as Uncle Jonathan, Cate Blanchett as Mrs. Zimmerman, and Owen Vaccaro as Lewis Barnavelt, and was directed by Eli Roth. It was released on September 21, 2018.
|01||The Face in the Frost||1995||Recorded Books||George Guidall|
|02||The Ghost in the Mirror||1995||Recorded Books||George Guidall|
|03||The House with a Clock in Its Walls||1995||Recorded Books||George Guidall|
|04||The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb||1995||Recorded Books||Betty Low|
|05||The Mansion in the Mist||1995||Recorded Books||Betty Low|
|#||TV program title||Book title||Producer||Year|
|01||Once Upon a Midnight Scary||The House with a Clock in Its Walls||VideoGems||1979|
|02||The Clue According to Sherlock Holmes||The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn||VideoGems||1980|
|03||The House with a Clock in Its Walls||The House with a Clock in Its Walls||Barr Films||1991|
|04||The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn||The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn||Barr Films||1991|
- Lewis Barnavelt (series)
- Johnny Dixon (series)
- Anthony Monday (series)
- List of horror fiction authors
- Olendorf, Donna (1992). Something About the Author. Detroit: Gale Research. pp. 23–25. ISBN 978-0-8103-2278-3 – via Internet Archive.
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- "John Bellairs". lookingglassreview.com. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
- Stasio, Marilyn (June 9, 1991). "CHILDREN'S BOOKS; Under the Spell Of Scary Stuff". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
- Reginald, R. (September 2010). Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Vol 2. ISBN 9780941028776.
- MacNee, Marie J. (1995). Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Writers. 1. New York: Gale Research. pp. 49–52. ISBN 0810398664.
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- Dunne, Patrick (2011). "John Bellairs: Author of the Imaginary". Notre Dame Magazine. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
- "John A. Bellairs, 53, A Children's Author". The New York Times. March 14, 1991. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
- "Press release" (PDF). University of Notre Dame. March 15, 1959. Retrieved August 28, 2021.
- Hyde, Paul (October 15, 1986). "Quenti Lambardillion". Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature. 13 (1): 33. ISSN 0146-9339.
- Shea, Jack (April 18, 2018). "Newburyport woman gets glimpse at film on late husband's book". The Daily News of Newburyport. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
- Hahn, Daniel (2015). The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-19-174437-2. OCLC 921452204.
- Washburn, Susanne (October 29, 2004). "The marvelous St. Fidgeta: Tales of a 7-year-old martyr are a gem of religious burlesque". National Catholic Reporter: 16–17.
- "The Mythopoeic Society - Mythopoeic Press, The Pedant and the Shuffly". www.mythsoc.org. Retrieved August 31, 2021.
- "Magic Mirrors – NESFA". Retrieved August 31, 2021.
- Commire, Anne (1971). Something About the Author. 2. Detroit: Gale Research. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-8103-0052-1 – via Internet Archive.
- Lin Carter, Imaginary Worlds. New York: Ballantine/Random House, 1973, pp. 1165-67 (Cites Carter's correspondence with Bellairs).
- Heinecken, Dawn (2011). "Haunting Masculinity and Frightening Femininity: The Novels of John Bellairs". Children's Literature in Education. 42 (2): 118–131. doi:10.1007/s10583-010-9127-7. ISSN 1573-1693.
- Hedblad, Alan, ed. (1996). "John Bellairs". Children's Literature Review. New York: Gale Research. pp. 1–29. ISBN 0810389517. ISSN 0362-4145 – via Internet Archive.
- Gardner, Craig Shaw (November 11, 1984). "Reading on the Edge of Your Seat". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 8, 2021.
- Huskey, Melynda. "A Specter is Haunting New Zebedee: Reading John Bellairs as Queer-Kid Gothic" (PDF). Retrieved September 5, 2021.
- Skowera, Maciej (July 24, 2019). "Lewis Barnavelt and the Rainbow over New Zebedee: Queering The House with a Clock in Its Walls". Dzieciństwo. Literatura i Kultura. 1 (1): 85–108. doi:10.32798/dlk.29. ISSN 2657-9510.
- Schmidt, Gary D. (March 1, 1987). "See how they grow: Character development in children's series books". Children's Literature in Education. 18 (1): 34–44. doi:10.1007/BF01135437. ISSN 1573-1693.
- Kilpatrick, William (1994). Books that build character: A guide to teaching your child moral values through stories. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-671-88423-9. OCLC 937954417.
- Dickson, Randi (1998). "Horror: To Gratify, Not Edify". Language Arts. 76 (2): 115–122. ISSN 0360-9170.
- Raymond, Kettel (1994). "Motivating the Reluctant Reader: Using the Storytelling Episode Model". Storytelling World. 3 (1): 31–33 – via ERIC.
- Lewis, Mark A.; Zisselsberger, Margarita Gómez (2019). "Scaffolding and Inequitable Participation in Linguistically Diverse Book Clubs". Reading Research Quarterly. 54 (2): 167–186. doi:10.1002/rrq.234. ISSN 1936-2722.
- Laily, Vany Rizkita (2020). "NARRATIVE OF MAGIC REALISM IN THE JOHN BELLAIRS' NOVEL: THE HOUSE WITH THE CLOCK IN ITS WALLS". ANAPHORA: Journal of Language, Literary and Cultural Studies. 3 (2): 88–101. doi:10.30996/anaphora.v3i2.4621. ISSN 2656-3967.
- "Goreyography: West Wing: Seeking Gorey: Available from Amazon.com". www.goreyography.com. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
- "Brad Fischer – Co-President, Production". September 10, 2009. Archived from the original on March 17, 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2012.
- Mike Fleming (November 18, 2011). "Phoenix Co-President Bradley Fischer Forms Mythology With Scribes Laeta Kalogridis And James Vanderbilt". Deadline New York. Retrieved June 17, 2012.
- Lizzie Plaugic (March 27, 2018). "Watch the first trailer for The House with a Clock in its Walls". The Verge. Retrieved March 27, 2018.