Jack Ketchum: Loss of an Icon
Today, the horror community was shaken by the devastating loss of author Dallas Mayr, better known to readers as Jack Ketchum, who passed away after a long battle with cancer. Ketchum was best-known for his books The Girl Next Door and The Woman, which were both made into films sharing the titles of their source material. He is also known for the quote attributed to Stephen King, “Who’s the scariest man in America? Probably Jack Ketchum”.
Dallas’ writing style was powerful, brutal and unrelenting. He made you feel for the characters in his stories and either root for or against their continued success. He was able to weave complex stories that evoke real emotion from his readers. He truly was one of the country’s most talented writers, but that’s not why his death impacted me as much as it did.
I first met Dallas in 2008 at the Rock and Shock convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. I was an aspiring writer and had just published my first novel. I took the opportunity to pick his brain and get some feedback from him. He gave me a lot of good advice and we chatted for a long time about a lot of different things over the three days of the con. From then on, anytime he was in town, I would make sure to chat with him, bounce ideas off of him and eventually become friends with him.
There was a point where he stopped signing my books “Jack Ketchum” and began signing them “Dallas”, along with personalized messages. One that particularly stuck with me was a message he wrote after we chatted about a new idea that I had. After explaining to me what would be the most important piece of information, he wrote in my book “Patrick- WRITE THE BOOK!” because he really liked my premise and told me that in no uncertain terms that he was looking forward to reading it. I regret that I have not yet written the story.
Dallas was a man who always had time for his fans, always had time for his friends. He always had a smile on his face when you chatted with him and he always thanked you for choosing to come over and spend your minutes with him as well. He was genuine, warm, and kind in every interaction I ever had with him. In my experience, today marks not only the loss of an exceptional writer with a brilliantly macabre imagination but a wonderful man. He will be missed by many.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to write the book.
Patrick Rahall covers entertainment for MFST.