The Johnny Dixon series began in 1983 with the publication of John Bellairs’ The Curse of the Blue Figurine. Similar to his Lewis Barnavelt series from the previous decade, the Dixon series introduced readers to a timid, young hero who has been forcibly moved from his comfort zone into a new environment; the difference here is that Johnny’s mother is dead of cancer and his father is overseas in the Korean War. The two series are also alike in that they each have supernatural overtones, unlike the initial outing in the Anthony Monday series.
Bellairs spent a majority of his writing career documenting the adventures of Johnny and his elderly friend, Professor Roderick Childermass, churning out eight novels in a seven year period, including The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt; The Spell of the Sorcerer’s Skull; and the time-traveling jaunt, The Trolley to Yesterday. The series expanded in its subsequent years to include a stalwart secondary cast of Byron “Fergie” Ferguson, Professor Charles Coote, Sarah Channing, and Father Thomas Higgins, through which Bellairs injected a number of Catholic rites and remembrances into the novels.
In 1994, Brad Strickland completed The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie - as well as three Lewis Barnavelt novels - from notes Bellairs had compiled prior to his death. Due to the popularity of the four manuscripts Strickland had completed, he undertook the formidable task of composing new adventures in the Lewis Barnavelt and Johnny Dixon series. The Hand of the Necromancer (1996), the first novel in the entire Bellairs corpus written entirely by Strickland, proved successful enough to warrant two additional books before the 12-book series went on hiatus in 1999. Following the 2005 settlement of the Bellairs estate, Strickland agreed to compose new adventures, though time will tell if Johnny Dixon returns.