Author/editor J.N. “Jerry” Williamson died this past Thursday. He was a friend of mine, a kind man and an excellent writer whose work has largely fallen out of print. If you find the following books, I encourage you to look past the garish 80s horror covers and titles that he so often got stuck with and read them:
The following biography and appreciation were written by John Maclay; they may be freely reprinted/reposted.
J.N. Williamson Biographical Facts
J.N. Williamson was born April 17, 1932, Indianapolis, IN
Graduated Shortridge High School, where he co-edited the school’s daily paper with later writer Dan Simmons and later U.S. Senator Richard Lugar. Studied journalism at Butler University and served in the U.S. Army.
Sang in the style of Frank Sinatra professionally with his parents’ band and for Broadway-style musicals at Starlight Musicals in Indianapolis, where he met his wife of many years, Mary
The father of two sons, Scott and John, stepfather of four children, and grandfather of many.
An avid I.U. and Indiana Pacers basketball and Indiana Colts’ football fan
A precocious Sherlockian, he published his first book, The Illustrious Client’s Case Book, while still in his teens
Worked in sales management and as an astrologer, and sold short stories intermittently
Published his first novel, The Ritual, in 1979 at the age of 47, and went on to sell 31 more in the next 15 years
Editor of the acclaimed Masques horror anthology series and other books
Recipient of the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003
Died December 8, 2005, Noblesville, IN
J. N. Williamson: An Appreciation
I first met Jerry Williamson in the fall of 1982. At that time, just since 1979, he’d sold 16 horror novels, and was to go on in the decade to double that total. He and Stephen King were the most prolific and excellent horror novelists of the 1980s, so it was only fitting that they received the Horror Writers Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award together in 2003.
As a short story and nonfiction writer, and as an editor, Jerry also excelled. He edited and I published the first Masques horror anthology in 1984, to be followed by three more volumes (two of which I published) in 1987, 1989, and 1991. And Williamson’s encouragement of new writers in the genre is well known. In fact, he arranged my own first short story publication in 1983.
Jerry never let financial and physical ills deter him, and was still working on new projects when he passed on. He remained bright, and a writer’s writer, to the end. He was an inspiration to so many, including myself, not to mention a warm and dear friend.
There’s much more to say, of course, but I’ll conclude by quoting from Stephen Vincent Benet’s reaction to the career of F. Scott Fitzgerald (a writer Williamson loved): “You can take off your hats now, gentlemen, and I think perhaps you had better. This . . . may well be one of the most secure reputations of our time.”
So it is with you, Jerry. We love you, we honor you, and your presence on this earth will be sorely missed. Rest in the Lord.