John Farris is an American author of horror, mystery, and suspense. His first novel, The Corpse Next Door, was published in 1956, followed by mystery and suspense novels alternately published under his own name and the pseudonym Steve Brackeen. Farris has consistently produced novels almost every year since then, amassing a long and impressive bibliography.
Farris’s early success came from a series of books set at the fictional Harrison High, once a highly-regarded upper-class high school that’s suffered a fall from grace and now is populated by troubled kids in troubled times rife with crime, sex, and corruption. The six books in the series were spawned from what some reviewers have called the Juvenile Delinquent fiction era. My best guess is this trend was kicked-off by books like The Blackboard Jungle by Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain) and street-gang novels. Maybe it even grew out of the success of The Catcher in the Rye. I admit I don’t know much about the sub-genre — just the books I noted above (does William Goldman’s The Temple of Gold fit here?) along with the early novels of Harlan Ellison.
I discovered John Farris’s work in my early teen years, when I bought 50-cent books off the rack in the back room of the Woodland Park Library. More often than not, what I found there were gothic mysteries and romance novels, but occasionally some other stuff turned up. When Michael Calls caught my eye, so I picked it up and have fond memories of the novel. I later read Nightfall, Shatter, and Scare Tactics, which fairly well sold me on the idea that I really liked this guy’s fiction. It wasn’t until many years later that I read The Fury and All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By, which I tend to think are pretty important novels in the history of modern horror. Three of his novels have been made into movies, including The Fury, directed in 1978 by Brian De Palma, featuring a star-studded cast including Kirk Douglas and John Cassavetes (who also starred in Rosemary’s Baby) and Amy Irving (who also appeared in Carrie). Farris’s adaptation of The Fury was just one of several screenplays he wrote, including Dear Dead Delilah, which he directed in 1973.
Farris was born in Jefferson City, Missouri in 1936. He was raised in Tennessee and attended Southwestern College, where he worked for two newspapers covering sports. He worked on a graduate degree in English at the University of Missouri. His Wikipedia entry says he also paints and write poetry. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
To view a list of John Farris novels currently available, click here.
Half of these scans were kindly provided by paperback collector David Dodd. The other half are from the library of author Christopher Fulbright.