John Russo is an American screenwriter and author of horror fiction and non-fiction. Russo’s springboard to fame was his collaboration with George A. Romero and Russ Streiner on the original Night of the Living Dead. When the film achieved unanticipated success, proceeds in the range of $30 million dollars were allegedly kept by the film’s distributors, so the creators made next to nothing. Romero and Russo planned to make a follow-up film, but disagreed on the direction of the sequel, so they went their separate ways. Russo went on the write the first draft of the screenplay for Return of the Living Dead, which became another cult classic and spawned its own sequels.
Russo went to West Virginia University where he enrolled as an English Education major, but then was drafted into the Army. He stated in an interview with Icons of Fright that his goal had always been to write novels for a living. His early association with Night of the Living Dead opened that door at a time when the market market was booming. Russo wrote a number of horror novels throughout the late-1970s and 1980s, most of which were published by Pocket Books. In addition to the novelizations of Night of the Living Dead and Return of the Living Dead, he wrote about ten other paperback originals through the end of the 1980s. The books were issued with silver spines and foil covers which gave them a distinctive look. Two of those novels, Midnight and The Majorettes, were adapted for film.
He has produced, directed, and acted in several other films, plus appeared in numerous documentaries through the years. His non-fiction focuses primarily on the business of independent film making; the list of filmmakers citing Russo’s books as having helped them launch their careers includes Quentin Tarantino. In recent years, Russo branched out to write comic books in association with Avatar Press. Kensington has reissued the Living Dead books in omnibus editions, including a new novel Escape from the Living Dead, which was paired with a reissue of Midnight in The Hungry Dead omnibus published in 2013.
To browse the list of John Russo titles currently available, click here.
These cover scans are from the library of author Christopher Fulbright.