By MICHAEL GINGOLD
The world of horror fiction lost one of its most powerful voices today, as author Jack Ketchum has died at age 70.
News of the author’s passing was posted on his Twitter page: “Jack Ketchum passed away this morning, after a long battle with cancer. He was grateful for all of you, and he will be sorely, sorely missed.” Born Dallas Mayr, he was, like Stephen King, a high-school teacher before becoming an author, starting out with short stories in magazines (some written under another pseudonym, Jerzy Livingston) before the publication of his controversial first novel, OFF SEASON, in 1980. Taking cues from the splatter-film trend of the era, and going way beyond even those movies in its descriptions of bloodshed and savagery, it tells of a group of vacationers in Maine who fall victim to a brood of inbred cannibals (modeled on the Sawney Bean legend). Publisher Ballantine Books, in fact, insisted Ketchum cut down some of that material, and dropped the book after its first printing due to severe criticism of its excesses.
OFF SEASON was later republished by Cemetery Dance, and Ketchum sequelized it with 1989’s OFFSPRING, which he adapted into a screenplay for a 2009 movie version by director Andrew van den Houten. Two years after that, van den Houten produced, Ketchum scripted and Lucky McKee directed THE WOMAN, in which actress Pollyanna McIntosh reprised her eponymous role from OFFSPRING and became a horror-fan favorite as a result. Other movies adapted from the author’s works include Chris Sivertson’s THE LOST, Gregory Wilson’s THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, McKee and Trygve Diesen’s RED and Jovanka Vuckovic’s segment of the anthology XX.
Other Ketchum works include LADIES’ NIGHT (which Stuart Gordon once attempted to film), SHE WAKES, JOYRIDE, COVER, HIDE AND SEEK, STRANGLEHOLD and OLD FLAMES, as well as numerous collections of short stories. He will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by the RUE MORGUE team and horror fans everywhere.