Dallas Mayr ’68, who scared the living daylights out of Stephen King as “Jack Ketchum,” author of Bram Stoker Award–winning horror novels, died in January at the age of 71.
Mayr, as Ketchum, told tales of torture, murder, cannibalism, and dark secrets. He wrote 26 novels, novellas, and story collections, several of which he adapted into films, including The Woman, Offspring, and The Girl Next Door. He would sometimes even appear in cameo roles.
Novelist, Emmy Award–winning TV producer, and Emerson College Trustee Gary Grossman ’70 said it takes “colorful words” to describe Mayr.
“Dallas created wonderfully horrific, dynamically scary, you-better-keep-the-lights-on-while-reading bestselling thrillers,” Grossman said in an email. “All of this from a quiet, thoughtful, pensive Emersonian, who I remember as someone always willing to talk about writing while sitting on the wall in front of 130 Beacon Street, cigarette in hand.”
Trustee Chairman Jeff Greenhawt ’68 recalled Mayr as a “friend to just about everybody.”
“He became very successful, but he never really lost that affability and that friendship through the years,” he said.
Mayr was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award and eight Bram Stoker Awards, winning four, for “The Box” (1994, Best Short Story); “Gone” (2000, Best Short Fiction); Peaceable Kingdom (2003, Best Collection); and Closing Time (2003, Best Long Fiction). In 2011, he was presented with the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award.
According to the New York Times, Stephen King, one of the most prolific and acclaimed horror writers of modern times, credited Mayr and fellow terror scribe Clive Barker with “rema(king) the face of American popular fiction.”
A native of Livingston, New Jersey, Mayr initially took the pen name “Jerzy Livingston” before settling on Jack Ketchum.
At an Emerson alumni event one year, Greenhawt told Mayr that he had just finished reading one of his books.
“I said something like, ‘My God!’” Greenhawt said, remembering how terrifying the story was. “And he said, ‘Now you know why I never used my real name when I wrote. I didn’t want my mother to know.’”
Mayr studied writing while at Emerson, where he reported for the Berkeley Beacon all four years, was the literary editor for the Emersonian yearbook, and served as class president. He also sat on the Junior Vaudeville committee and was a member of the Phi Alpha Tau communications arts fraternity.
“For Emerson College, he is a true treasure from the then-emerging creative writing department and an inspiration to those who knew Dallas while at Emerson and those yet to discover his remarkable talent,” Grossman said.