Jere Cunningham is an American author and screenwriter. His first novel, Hunter’s Blood, was published as a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback original in 1977. Cunningham followed up later that year with a horror novel, The Legacy, another Fawcett paperback original (a novel increasingly difficult to find in good condition). His third novel, The Visitor, was published in hardcover by St. Martin’s in 1978 and picked up for a paperback edition published by Berkley in 1979. The artwork of the paperback edition borrowed a concept from other popular novels that preceded it (namely Carrie and the hardcover edition of The Other), by featuring only the title and a face — this time the face of a doll behind broken glass. The first page of The Visitor featured the obligatory and inaccurate comparison to Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist.
It seems The Visitor met with enough success that Wyndham Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, made a compelling offer in picking up his fourth novel, The Abyss. In an interview with Robert Morrish, posted on his blog Twilight Ridge, Cunningham said Simon & Schuster promised a large budget for promotion and a large first printing for the hardcover, but never delivered on all of their promises. Ballantine picked up rights for the paperback edition, which was published with a complimentary blurb from Stephen King.
Throughout the early-1980s, Cunningham was publishing short fiction in a number of top notch venues, including Night Cry magazine, Omni, and the Modern Masters of Horror anthology edited by Frank Coffey. He received top billing on the anthology cover along with Stephen King, John Coyne, and George Romero. Despite the fact that Cunningham seemed well-regarded and on the verge of a breakout, he turned down a $75,000 deal from Ballantine for his next novel Horror Story, which was never published. In a quote from the Morrish interview cited above, Cunningham explained his decision, which stemmed from a run of promises broken by publishers, and requests for rewrites that he felt compromised his vision.
“I looked at the situation and said ‘I’ve already put a year into writing this book. It’ll take me six months more to rewrite this book. I can’t afford to live on $75,000 for the period of time that this would involve’—there was the year-and-a-half I’d already have put into it, and then probably another year to write the next book, so I was looking at a period of about two-and-a-half years, during which I’d have to live on $75,000. I put that book in a box and didn’t sell it. I decided not to write novels anymore if that was the best I could do financially.”
Cunningham and his family left their home in Memphis, Tennessee and moved to Hollywood, where he pursued a career writing for the film industry. Blessed, talented, lucky, or all of the above, Cunningham did very well in Hollywood. He had sold film rights to Hunter’s Blood, which was a small budget independent adaptation, and had several works optioned. His biography at IMDb says he went on to write for many major studios, including Disney, Warner, Imagine, and HBO. His last novel published as Jere Cunningham was Love Object, released by a small press in 1985. Cunningham recently returned to writing novels under the name Jeremiah Pearson with The Villeins Trilogy, a historical epic set in the early 1500s that begins with Brethren, which was published in 2013.
To browse the list of his titles currently available in print, click here.
These cover scans are from the library of author Christopher Fulbright.