Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Jack Ketchum is Gone

Thats a sad thing to me. I read most of Jack's works and loved them. He had a way with a phrase and he could tell a truly terrifying story without ever adding a single supernatural element. I said to many a person that reading THE GIRL NEXT DOOR was like watching a horrifying car wreck in extreme slow motion. You maybe didn't want to see it, but looking away was impossible.

Much as I'll miss Jack, I'll miss Dallas Mayr even more. They were actually one and the same person, but Jack Ketchum was a man who write stories and Dallas was a man who had levels and levels of depth that would likely never be seen where jack Ketchum hung out, which is to say where Dallas hung out when he was signing books at conventions, et. al.

The difference is actually very minor in this case, but when you're "on" and working on a convention floor, there's a level of civility and politeness that goes away when you can relax with your friends. The difference, again, is minor in this case. In all situations, Dallas was gracious and friendly.

he used to hit on my wife constantly. I remember one time at a convention he snuck up behind her, put his arms around her waist, purred unintelligible (from my distance) words in her ear and ground himself against her. he did not do this to actually be a letch, but to make her laugh, which worked brilliantly. Trust me, most guys trying that would have been looking desperately for their testicles four minutes later, and like four hours later, too.

Dallas could pull that sort of thing off, because he was honest and sweet and intelligent and respectful all in his own unique way. He had a well earned reputation as a Casanova, but it was only one facet of a delightfully complex man who was incredibly intelligent, quick to debate on almost any subject, and loved to tell stories as much as he loved to breathe.

By the way, the times when he would sneak up behind my wife and pull stunts like that? They were always out in the open and in front of me.  He had a sense of humor that was as multifaceted as him and tended to only pull stunts like that when he knew they would be well received.

I remember once calling him on his advances. I looked right at him and said, "Hey! Dallas!" When he looked my way I asked, "Have you seen that prick, Jack Ketchum around anywhere? I heard he was hitting on my wife!"

Trust me when I say this: I had Dallas by at least eight inches and a hundred pounds. I also have a booming voice, he looked my way for a moment and did the mental math. For one half of a second, he looked worried, wondering if perhaps he had gone too far with one of his jests, and then he chuckled, smiled, and shot me the finger with a cheerful, "Fuck you, Moore!"

I met Dallas the very first time I went to a professional convention. He was charming and friendly and we had a hell of a time discussing books and movies alike. A few times we even exchanged stories or novels. he gave me THE GIRL NEXT DOOR and RED to read and I gave him UNDER THE OVERTREE and a story of mine called "The Best of Friends." Both Red and my short story are about dog owners and their love of a lost friend. His is a lot darker than mine and involved bloody retribution.

One of my favorite memories involves doing one of my first public readings, a story called "My Brother's Keeper." the story came to me in a storm one night and I got out of bed and wrote it down in one sitting. Then, for reasons I can only qualify as temporary insanity, I read the story the very next day at the HWA annual meeting in New York City. Dallas was one of around three people who actually showed up for my reading. I think at that point I had only two novels in print.

When it was done and I had received my polite applause, Dallas looked at me as I headed fro the door and said, "You, sir, are a sick and twisted fuck." My chest swelled with pride at that. Jack fucking Ketchum said that to me. High praise indeed from one of the principal writers of dark fiction.

Jack Ketchum is dead. Dallas Mayr is dead. I will never hear their laughs again, or see their smiles. I will never pick up Dallas in a massive bear hug and squeeze until he gasps/laughs as the air os forced from his lungs (That one actually stopped a long while ago: later years just saw a warm and sincere hug instead of a bear hug.). I will never have a debate over the moral implications of whatever it was we were discussing. Nor will we trade opinions on the latest horror stories or compare notes on up and coming writers.

But I will always remember that smile and that laugh, and the way his eyes would shine when he was having a good time, and I will always remember his collection of t-shirts that I would have gleefully stolen from him if they would have ever had a chance to fit me.

Jack/Dallas was a wonderful man and kind to damned near everyone he met. He was incredibly smart, strongly opinionated and an absolute delight to be around. he loved me and he loved my wife Bonnie and we loved him right back because, well, because Dallas was just plain good people.

He is missed. He will be missed by me for as long as I draw breath.

If there is an afterlife, I suspect that he and my wife, Bonnie, who left my side back in 2009 will be chatting it up in no time.



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