Those Damned Haunted Interviews... Jack Ketchum

Is Jack Ketchum, The Scariest Man in America? A rare interview by Tina Hall

Most readers who are familiar with his work, are likely well aware of a piece in Entertainment Weekly released during the time George W Bush was still in office in which Stephen King, when asked who was the scariest man in America, was quoted as saying, "probably Jack Ketchum".
No small praise, though well earned, it is without a doubt one of the highest compliments anyone could receive in his field. In 2011 he earned The World Horror Convention Grand Master Award for outstanding contribution to the horror genre. A knack for creating stories and a love of written word from a young age led up to what was to become a lifelong career. Ketchum was mentored by Robert Bloch (Psycho,) who in turn had been mentored by H.P. Lovecraft during his early days as a writer, and who remained a friend and supporter of Jack's until his death in 1994. In the earlier days of his career Ketchum sold a rather impressive amount of articles and short fiction under his original pen name, Jerzy Livingston, which he later changed to Jack Ketchum when he began writing novels. He worked with director Lucky McKee on his most recent work, the novel and the movie version of "The Woman."

As child with a rather rough way to go, do you think that the escapism found in books, music, film and the imagination in general fostered your creativity and helped shape you into who you are today? Do you enjoy having the chance to offer your readers the same bit of escapism that drew you into this field? 

Yes on both counts. And no. Escapism is great. But I think fiction should have an element of gravitas as well, it shouldn't just waste my time.

You claim T-Rex as your first monster. Why do you think dinosaurs are so appealing to most of the young? I know you have some very strong feelings on the theory of extinction. Is there anything you'd like to say about that?

The world of dinosaurs is an almost unimaginable world. Only kids, who are still discovering their world, have minds open enough to give it a really good shot.

You also credit Elvis with giving you your first taste of the freedom of rebellion and a sense of identity. How did the idea that if he could get out you could too influence your life from that point on? Do you remember what you thought the very first time you discovered his music?

I'll quote Bob Dylan here. "When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody, and nobody was going to be my boss. Hearing him was like busting out of jail." I felt exactly the same. 

What was it like to be befriended by Robert Bloch? Do you think you would have accomplished all you have without his support? What was the most important thing you learned from you friendship with him? 

Many things. To apply ass to chair. To keep your sense of humour intact at all costs. To try to be generous to young writers. That loving books doesn't make you a woos (?)....all kinds of stuff. Bob was a wonderful man. 

How have things changed most for you since you first started your career? How have you changed most as person? 

Well, I'm making a decent living at it for one thing. I'm more confident that that will continue. How have I changed as a person? I'm generally happier, less angry with the world, more accepting. On the downside, when I was twenty I didn't have to worry about throwing my back out.

Do you find written word has held a certain comfort during the trying times of your life?

Sure. Another quote, this time from Jean-Claude Lauzon. "I don't try to remember what happens in a book. All I ask of a book is to give me energy and courage, to tell me that there is more of life than I can take in, to remind me of the need to act."

She Wakes was your only novel to deal with the supernatural. Why was that?

Greece has a huge spirit, a wonderful sense of the spirit. You could sense ghosts and grandeur there. I wanted to write a kind of Gothic love-letter to what I felt there.

Do you yourself believe in any supernatural elements?

Not really. But I don't entirely disbelieve either. I think there might be something to pantheism. And nothing whatever to organised religion.

Were you honoured to receive a Grand Masters Award from The World Horror Convention? Did you ever imagine when you started writing it would lead you were it has?

Of course I was honoured -- these are my peers, the best kind of appreciation a writer can get. But no, I never imagined awards. It was always enough for me just to write the stories.

To find out more about Jack Ketchum visit, Photos by Steve Thornton, for 
Photography (c) Steve Thornton.