John Anthony Bellairs (January 17, 1938 March 8, 1991) was an American fantasy author. While his first writings were aimed at adults, he later turned to writing three gothic fantasy series aimed at younger readers.
Bellairs' first published works were three adult novels: the satirical short story collection St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies (1966), the comic fantasy The Pedant and the Shuffly (1968), and the fantasy novel The Face in the Frost; he began a sequel, The Dolphin Cross, but it was never finished. All three works, and Bellairs' notes on The Dolphin Cross, were collected in the 2009 omnibus Magic Mirrors.
Bellairs next began work on a contemporary adult fantasy, The House With a Clock in Its Walls. It was rejected by two publishers, the second of whom suggested he rewrite it as a young readers' book. Published in 1973 with illustrations by Edward Gorey, the work introduced the character of Lewis Barnevelt, his magician uncle Jonathan and their friends Florence Zimmermann and Rose Rita Pottinger, who lived in the town of New Zebedee, Michigan. It proved a large success, and Bellairs would publish two sequels in 1975 (The Figure in the Shadows) and 1976 (The Letter, the Witch and the Ring). After taking nearly fifteen years off to work on two other series, Bellairs had begun work on at least three additional sequels at the time of his death.
In 1978, Bellairs released The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn, a non-supernatural mystery introducing the teenage Anthony Monday and his friend Mrs. Myra Eells, who lived in Hoosac, Minnesota, and her brother Emerson, a lawyer in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He wrote three more books about the characters, published in 1984, 1988 and (posthumously) in 1992. The Dark Secret of Weatherend, The Lamp From the Warlock's Tomb and The Mansion in the Mist gave Emerson Eells more involvement, and introduced supernatural elements into the series.
Bellairs' third major series for young readers began in 1983 with The Curse of the Blue Figurine and its direct sequel The Mummy, The Will and the Crypt, which introduced Johnny Dixon and his friends Professor Roderick Childermas and Byron Q. "Fergie" Ferguson, who lived in Duston Heights, Massachusetts. He would continue to write the series alongside the Anthony Monday books, publishing six additional sequels (The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull, The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost, The Eyes of the Killer Robot, The Trolley to Yesterday, The Chessmen of Doom and The Secret of the Underground Room) in his lifetime.
After Bellairs' death, Brad Strickland was hired by Bellairs' son to complete four of his father's unfinished manuscripts: the Lewis Barnevelt novels The Ghost in the Mirror and its sister novel The Vengeance of the Witchfinder (both published in 1993), their sequel The Doom of the Haunted Opera (1995), and the Johnny Dixon work The Drum, the Doll and the Zombie (1994). After this, Strickland began writing additional novels based on the characters, completing and releasing three Johnny Dixon novels (The Hand of the Necromancer, The Bell, the Book and the Spellbinder and The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost) and six Lewis Barnevelt novels (The Specter from the Magician's Museum, The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge, The Tower at the End of the World, The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost, The House Where Nobody Lived and The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer) as of 2008. He also submitted story ideas for at least two Anthony Monday novels, but they were never made into full books.
In 2015, Bellairs' manuscript for a standalone short story, The Gargoyle in the Dump, was discovered and published.
Works by John Bellairs with their own pages include:
- The Curse of the Blue Figurine and sequels
- The House With a Clock in Its Walls and sequels (and a film adaptation of the first book)
- The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn and sequels
Other works by John Bellairs provide examples of:
The Face in the Frost
- Brought Down to Normal: Prospero loses his magic powers after traveling into (evidently) the modern world. He gets better.
- Chekhov's Gun: The spell that Prospero has known for years that doesn't seem to do anything useful.
- Cool Old Guy: Prospero and Roger Bacon.
- Endless Winter: Whatever the villain is doing seems to be causing this to happen, though the heroes are operating mostly on guesswork.
- Green Thumb: The monk that the heroes encounter toward the end of the novel.
- Historical Domain Character: Roger Bacon, although he bears very little relation to the historical figure.
- Land of One City: The Southern Kingdom has been sub-divided so many times it has essentially become a collection of these.
- No Name Given: The narrator explicitly says he's not going to give the actual name(s) of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.
- Magic Mirror: Prospero owns a smart-aleck version of one of these.
- Mind Screw: It's never made entirely clear what the villain is doing or attempting to do.
- Orcus on His Throne: The villain develops a case of this, due to becoming obsessed with the eldritch tome he is reading.
- Reality Ensues: Relatively speaking. When the heroes try to magically turn a tomato into a coach, the result is a floppy useless mess. They finally find a squash, which works better.
- The Stars Are Going Out: Another result of the villain's reading the Tome. Evidently.
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: The villain gains possession of one of these, leading to... general weirdness.
The Pedant and the Shuffly
- Puff of Logic: The wicked magician Snodrog's favorite trick is persuading hapless passersby that, logically speaking, they don't exist, with this effect causing them to transform into stained handkerchiefs.