In Memoriam: Jack Ketchum is Dead, Reflections From His “Idiot Bastard Son”

From Angela: The following has been written by Turner Mojica, a friend of the recently departed Jack Ketchum. I have been asked by my friend Soraya Murillo Hernandez and Turner to publish this in honor of Jack. How could I say no?

I thank them both for providing this beautiful eulogy for a man of rich words. You can read the interviews Soraya has generously shared on this blog at From Soraya.  A Spanish translation is available from Pili Rosique.

Turner Mojica and Jack Ketchum
Photo courtesy of Claudio-Sforza

“He is gone. Real gone.” I lay in the hammock, look out at the Pacific and let those words sink down into the shimmering blue. I swipe through Spotify and put on Tom Waits, “Sins of the Father” and sway for a moment eyes closed. Kiss my sweetheart by the Chinaball tree. Everything I done is between God and me.

Sadness wells up in me and I struggle to push it down back there into that dark place where tears are waiting. It pulls me to the glass door and leads me through the white villa into the kitchen. I take the knife, carve a piece of mango and rest my hand on the black marble top. Walking across the white ceramic floor in a slow drag dance, it takes me downstairs and I follow it outside closing the door behind me.

The music fades and I walk the fifty paces to the shore at Playa Marbella in Costa Rica. I don’t feel the heat of the sun or sand or hear the chatter of birds and howls of monkeys. I’m deaf to the iguanas that hiss at me and waves which pound me as I swim out. Another fifty strokes and look back at the shore, I hold my breath and sink into the current.

I met Dallas Mayr, his real name, at an Emerson College alumni gathering in midtown
Manhattan. He was pulled from a group of admirers, mostly women and introduced to me. We both drank the same scotch, Dewars rocks, I took a Winston from him which would later be a ritual of ours. It felt like we had met before and the rest of the party fell away except for the women around us. The next day we met at 4:30 at what he called “The Meeting” at what was then the World Café on the Upper West Side not far from where he lived. I knew I would be back to live close to him.

When I settled in Manhattan from Boston not long after graduation, The Meeting became a part of my life. Writers, artists, actors, white and blue collars mixed from the vibrant flow of Lincoln Center and ABC Studios nearby. Dallas led me like Charon through its waters. The men and women who attended became my extended family. The first few years I hadn’t read any of Dallas’ books, they weren’t easy to find then. It wasn’t until I got a marketing job at Playboy and happened to stumble upon a copy of “Joyride” at Barnes & Noble. I had to do something. Only two copies.

I took it upon myself to prepare his first press kit, all of his PR materials, whatever I could get my hands on. I dove into a treasure trove of material kept in his apartment on 69th and Broadway where I met Paula and their cats. Beast became my favorite. I threw his first big book launch party at Nell’s for ”The Girl Next Door: Special Edition” on 14th Street. That event was the beginning of our promotions together that for me were just excuses to drink, smoke, talk and laugh together. He had met every love of my life, witnessed every break up, saw my ascension amongst the ranks and my many descents into Hell. Dallas was responsible for my move to Italy. “Go” is what he said, “get outta here and hit Greece too. ” I left everything and went but always stayed in touch.

Dallas and I ate, drank, smoked and traveled together from dozens of towns in Italy, from Milan to the Amalfi Coast, to the island of Malta and the beaches of Costa Rica where I moved after thirteen years in Italy. I became what he called his “Idiot Bastard Son” from a song by Frank Zappa. I wore that badge with honor and would end almost every correspondence with him “XO IBS”.

I flew Dallas to visit me in Playa Tamarindo to consult on a script I was writing, he gave me wonderful feedback. He was pale and brittle, his eyes were gray and not the piercing blue I was accustomed to. His gait was slow but he smiled through the pain. The hot weather suited him. He was in better spirits. His cancer later dissipated.

I brought him back to Costa Rica for more work on the script but my real motive was to spend his birthday together. He escaped the New York winter and was pleased with our progression (on) the script.

I was grateful but felt overwhelmed by his cancer which had returned. He looked better than the last before but something told me that it would be the last time that would see him alive. On that trip, I slowly crumbled and developed what he called – “flopsweat.” A nervous fear of failing that for me meant failing Dallas. I ate from a variety of his pills and and washed them down with bottles of scotch and got soul sick but Dallas pulled me through. He knew I was suffering. The fear of losing him was unbearable. The man was closer to me than my own father.

As I drift underwater I hear his laughter. The music of Tom Waits returns to my head. “Hoist That Rag” roars below the surface. We pick our fingers in the ground, heave and turn the world around. l gasp for air then swim back to shore and lay exhausted and laughing on the beach. My father is gone but he left me with the most powerful words that for me carries as much weight as “Jesus wept” and those words were “words evoke.” I am meeting the sadness and dancing with it. I feel Dallas there with me on the beach and let the flood of memories fill me with joy.

My father was a generous and gentle soul who was a drinker, smoker and loving philanderer as I loved to call him. He just happened to be Jack Ketchum. He taught me lessons not found in any book and led his life by example. Stephen King called him “an archetype.” He was that in every sense of the word at work and in play.

I walk back to the villa, pour an iced tea and take my laptop from the table top to the hammock. I see beautiful women on the beach and dogs playing. I take the sip from my glass and start writing.

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Haiku Month Begins

Be still my beating heart… that’s PETER STRAUB sitting next to me!

Just back from Borderlands Bootcamp and it was absolutely worth it. I don’t have time to give a full recap now (the day job calls) but watch for that early next week.

Now that this huge event is in my past, I can focus on finishing up Mr. Smith’s edits, getting my newest (Bitter Suites) released and start some new projects.

For now, here are some highlights of the last week:

  • Visiting my first daughter, husband and the grandkids
  • Sitting on a couch with Peter Straub, passing notes and talking about writing.
  • Visiting Edgar Allen Poe’s grave
  • Seeing a shooting star
  • Seeing a snow tornado (or something!) just after escaping a mountain blizzard
  • Exploring an abandoned pizza building with Cordelia Abrams

And, since National Haiku Month begins today, a haiku. You may recognize it, but recycling is hip, right?

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AFK For the Weekend

Away from keyboard.

I won’t be here all weekend long as I learn to sweat ink at Borderlands Pres Writers Bootcamp.

I also plan to visit the grave of Edgar Allan Poe to celebrate his belated birthday (Jan. 19) and, most exciting, visit my oldest daughter, the grand kids and her husband.

No updates here, but if you miss me I will be making regular posts on Instagram which feed to my Facebook page. Catch me there or catch me here early next week.

Find me on Instagram!

Find me on Facebook!

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The Passing of Jack

Jack Ketchum and me at the premier StokerCon event 2016

Today I woke up to a world without Jack Ketchum. I won’t say we were friends, but I knew him well enough to know I liked him, and after I read The Girl Next Door, I worried about liking him. When I first met him it was to bum a cigarette off him at World Horror Con in 2015.

We were both hanging out outside the hotel. Almost everyone had gone to bed. We struck up a conversation about cats. I had no idea who he was. Later, I pointed him out to a friend.

“That guy really loves cats,” I said. She asked me how I knew and I told her about the early morning conversation in the parking lot as I bummed all his cigarettes.  Then she told me who he was.

This was my first horror convention and I was in the middle of a soul searching quest to stop myself from writing horror or accept and embrace it. Because of meeting people like Jack Ketchum, I accepted. He was supportive and warm.

At WorldHorrorCon 2015

I would have liked to know Jack better. One of the last conversations we had he asked me where I lived and I mentioned in Northwest Florida near Destin. He said he visited a friend in Destin about once a year and next time he did we should get together and have a few drinks.

Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to chat over drinks with a man like that, chit chatting over a beer about horror and writing? At the same time, the idea was a frightening one… probably because I’d read The Girl Next Door. Sadly, I don’t have to worry about it now.

I am happy that I was able to have an interview with Jack on my blog, courtesy of my dear friend and Spanish correspondent Soraya Murillo Hernandez. I link it here.

First Ursula, and now Jack. I am starting to think of January as a cruel month.

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Spilling It

At the moment I write this, it’s night. Since mid-November, it’s always night. I’ve seen the sun fully up three times since then.

Aside from those few times, day has been reduced to glimpses of a flaming corona encroaching upon the everlasting midnight. The sun has become a rude dream.

Of course, this affects me. I feel much quieter. I am always listening. I can discard the constructed Self into a corner where it is forgotten, blending with the pools of shadow. The raw Me ventures out among the whispers, brave enough to explore a twilight world.

As the people around me settle into slumber, an entire existence is left unclaimed, like an unwanted plaything. The night is like chocolate—the darker it is, the less takers there are. But there are still plenty of takers. Quiet is not lonely.

The past few months have been busy as our lives morph into something new, but I find myself just about ready to come back. Tomorrow I head off to Borderlands Bootcamp and a visit with my first daughter and the grand kids. I’ll return home to an empty schedule.

An empty schedule is a blank page, and I look forward to less frenetic activity and a deep sinking into work. If the day is a rude dream, the long night has become a vivid reality colored pale—a backdrop for an inner world to spill out.

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To Write Like He Sings

I struggle getting back to my writing groove after being immersed in the real world for the past few months. Words blossom in my mind but I’ve been busy and had no where to put them. They just wilt and blow away. It’s nice.

There’s so much less work involved when the stories stay in my head. No pressure, no editing, no adverb hunts… unwritten words are daydreams. I’ve been ‘writing’ just for me.

As I prepare for the upcoming Borderlands Bootcamp I’ve had to get back in the work mindset. It’s been a vacation to play in the snow instead of with books. But here I am…

Tonight I searched for inspiration on YouTube (also known as stalling) and stumbled across a voice that set my fingertips to itching. I’ve been away from the keyboard far too long. If I can ever write like this man sings…





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Frontier Poetry Publishes 11 Opportunities

Frontier Poetry just published the details for 11 magazines and contests with deadlines in January.

Start your new year off by treading new territory and submitting. Find all the details on these publishing opportunities here.

You can also submit poetry for free to Frontier Poetry’s New Voices. If you do send anything, let me know in the comments.

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Submissions: Etchings Press Book Prizes

Announcing the Etchings Press 2018 Book Prizes! Etchings Press, a student-run publisher at University of Indianapolis, welcomes submissions of any theme for its annual contests: a chapbook of poetry, a chapbook of prose, and a novella. The deadline for all contests will be Monday, January 29, 2018.

UIndy graduate and undergraduate students will read the submitted manuscripts and choose a winner in each category. The students will then edit, design, publish and promote the chapbooks and the novella. Please visit their website to review past winners.

Chapbook winners will receive a $200 honorarium and 15 copies of the published chapbook. The novella winner will receive a $400 honorarium and 15 copies of the published novella.

Students are interested in editing and publishing authors in their region using the 370 miles between Flannery O’Connor’s Milledgeville, Georgia, and William Faulkner’s Oxford, Mississippi, as the relative mileage for regional literature.

Using UIndy’s campus on the south side of Indianapolis as a starting point, that distance makes a circle which includes all of Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia, most of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri, and parts of Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Arkansas, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and even Ontario.

Alumni and current students of University of Indianapolis and former students of its faculty are not eligible.

Contest details may be found at etchings.submittable.com. Winners will be notified in March, 2018. Books will be released and available for sale in May 2018.

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Submissions: Love Like Salt

A new submission opportunity is available for the upcoming “Love Like Salt” anthology. Accepting poetry that reflects upon experiences and the emotions they evoke. Previously published poems welcome.

Send submissions to lovelikesaltanthology@gmail.com by Jan. 28. For more details, read the image below.

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My Anti-Resolutions

This time of year I get annoyed by all the pressure from New Year Resolutions. We make big plans on December 31—lose 50 pounds, start exercising, get out of debt!—only to beat ourselves up for failure by sunset January 1.

I am all for positive growth and change, but the traditional New Year pacts with perfection set us up to fail. What standard are we trying to achieve and who set it there for us?

Men and women, especially in America, are pressured by the media to adhere to ridiculous standards. We are told we have to be lingerie models in the bedroom, fashion models out in public and maintain photo-spread worthy houses (filled with the best gadgets!) all while working prestigious, higher education jobs. Who profits from these ridiculous standards? Everyone but us.

Success is in the eye of the beholder. Corporations publish these ridiculous ideals to make money off of us. I don’t blame them. I like money myself.

My gripe is the vacuum of joy that results in failing to achieve the impossible. I know many beautiful people who feel worthless because they aren’t the desired income/measurements/education level. It isn’t right.

It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others. There always has been and always will be a drive to keep up with the neighbors. Is it possible to recreate the standards of success to be real ones that are achievable and beneficial?

What if men and women were judged on how kind they are? Instead of strutting down the catwalk with cold, vacant looks, models could instead smile and pass out compliments instead of expecting them.

To emulate them, we would all stand around in coffee shops connecting and building each other up instead of making snide comments behind our cappuccinos.

From an email I recently sent to a friend that set me on this ponder path—

Freedom comes with accepting our imperfections and flaws. When we accept ourselves as we are, flaws are no longer negative. They are part of us, like the knot that interrupts the grain. It is character.

We are perfect as we are, so there can be no mistakes or wrongness as long as we recognize ourselves with truth. Rocks, trees, animals and us… we all have our crags, chips, knots and scars. That’s what makes us Us. Proud to be flawed.

I’ve decided to make anti-resolutions this year. I vow to keep myself open to improbability, see my flaws as facets, and emulate the real beautiful people—those that make everything around them better.

We are good enough as we are, and by being good as we are we become even better.

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