Promoting A Rich Legacy

Fans and Friends Remembering John Bellairs

compleatbellairs.com
The Hand of the Necromancer
The Specter from the Magician's Museum

Bellairs became an author with a huge online following during the late-1990s thanks to the Compleat Bellairs, a website created by longtime fan Jonathan Abucejo. In its embryonic form the website served as the final semester project for one of Abucejo's elementary education classes at the University of Pittsburgh. Over the next few years it blossomed into a much-respected and beloved portal for fans of all ages to come together and share their thoughts, remembrances, and appreciations of the unique author. Abucejo also combined the eerie atmosphere of Bellairs' writing with graphics influenced by a variety of artist talent from Edward Gorey and M.C. Escher to Chris Van Allsburg and Wayne Douglas, plus even some anime. The site lasted eight years before disappearing in the autumn of 2004.

The Compleat Bellairs was able to attract a worldwide fan-base since many of the Bellairs and Strickland titles had been translated into numerous languages. Foreign translations were nothing new, as Italian and German editions existed in the 1970s and the British publisher, Corgi, released the first three Johnny Dixon titles in the 1980s. However, foreign titles catapulted into popularity at the onset of the Twenty-first century by riding on the coattails of the Harry Potter craze. Naturally Bellairs’ most-popular title has seen the most translations: The House with a Clock in its Walls has been published in Italian (La pendola magica), German (Das Haus das tickte), French (La Pendule d'Halloween), Polish (Luis Barnavelt I Zegar Czaroksieznika), Portuguese (O Mistério do Relógio Na Parede), and Japanese. With different languages come slight changes to the original text, most notably in the French editions of the books, where Lewis and Rose Rita became Kévin Barnavelt and Emily Pottinger, respectively. French illustrator Lalex, whose brightly colored artwork graced the covers of the Lewis Barnavelt and Johnny Dixon hardcovers, notes the publishers voted to change the names to give the books a more American feel for the French readers.

Based on the popularity of the four completed novels, Strickland was asked to try his hand at writing a set of new adventures in the Lewis Barnavelt and Johnny Dixon series. His first “solo” work came in 1996: The Hand of the Necromancer returned fan favorites Johnny Dixon and Professor Childermass to print and saw the debut of a new character, Sarah Channing. Strickland later revealed that Bellairs had thought of a girl character to 'stir up the mix' in the series, one who would go on to become a friend of Johnny and Fergie. Johnny introduces Sarah to the city of Duston Heights and to Professor Childermass, all while investigating the actions of stranger in town set on stealing a small, wooden hand that contains a sinister secret. Dixon returned the following year in The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder.

Strickland then turned his attention to a character he already knew well, Lewis Barnavelt, and began digging deeper into some of the lesser-known Marshal-area landmarks. One such location that caught his eye was the 20-year old American Museum of Magic, a cornucopia of conjuring props and costumes as well as posters, photographs, and audio/video materials celebrating magic as entertainment. Lewis and Rose Rita discover the museum and use its vast collections as source material for their school talent show in The Specter of the Magician’s Museum. Things take a turn for the worse when Rose Rita mishandles a scroll and is visited in turn by a spectral spider set on taking her life. In the following years, Strickland has given the most attention to the Lewis Barnavelt series, writing The Beast under the Wizard's Bridge (2000), The Tower at the End of the World (2001), and The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost. Due to contractual issues, the stories were put on hold after 2003 while the estates of John and Frank Bellairs were resettled. Strickland announced in May 2005 that the estates had come to an agreement and that new stories would be on the way, including The House Where Nobody Lived (2006) and The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer (2008).

In 2000, John Bellairs was honored by his adoptive New England home when he was inducted into the Haverhill Hall of Fame.