Welcome to the second installment of “What The Hell Ever Happened To…?” For any newcomers, let me briefly restate the aim of this column: to track down a writer who achieved some degree of notoriety in the horror genre in years past, but who has not been heard from in quite some time.
This time around, I decided to locate Jack Cady, who authored some very notable novels in the early ‘80s, but who has seldom been heard from lately –the only obvious exceptions being two stories, one in the anthology Prime Evil, and the other in the anthology Final Shadows.
Cady’s initial notoriety in the genre came in 1980, when Arbor House published his novel The Well. The book centers on a family trying to make sense out of the goings-on in their seemingly haunted house, and was met with no small amount of critical acclaim.
The author’s second novel, McDowell’s Ghost (Arbor, 1982), is a slightly more quirky, idiosyncratic work and was generally not as well received. However, with The Jonah Watch (Arbor, 1983; Avon, 1983), Cady’s name was once again associated with enthusiastic praise. The story takes place on an icebound Coast Guard cutter off the coast of Maine. The ship’s crew begins to hear strange disembodied voices, and the claustrophobic surroundings soon lead to widespread fear and anger..
The Man Who Could Make Things Vanish (Arbor, 1983) is a borderline SF/horror novel, which perhaps suffered a bit due to its failure to be easily categorized (a problem that is not unfamiliar to Cady, as you shall hear). After The Man Who Could Make Things Vanish, Cady’s career virtually vanished, with no new books in the ensuing nine years.
It’s a dry spell that hasn’t come about by choice, or through inactivity. Cady explains his disappearance from bookstore shelves thus:
“1 did not stop writing horror novels, exactly. I kind of tended more toward ghost stories [anyway]. During the ‘80s, I wrote a novel entitled The Off Season—although that title will have to be changed since someone else has since used it. It’s a book about a Victorian town where Victorian ghosts are as present as the living people. After a while, the reader (and the writer) no longer distinguish between who is alive and who is dead.
“The [apparent] problem with the book is that it was a satire. It’s being published by Glass Wings Press in Australia because no American publisher would touch it.”
During the past decade, Cady also wrote a novel entitled Inagehi, which concerns “…the Cherokee in North Carolina, [wherein] the Cherokee Gods return from the mountains to explain a murder.”
As if it’s not bad enough that the two aforementioned novels couldn’t find a home with a publisher, yet a third book—which sounds just as intriguing as the preceding two—sits unsold in Cady’s cupboard.
That third novel is Street, which “…takes place on the streets of Seattle, and which concerns a mass murderer. The burden of the novel is that not all demons died with the Middle Ages. The modern demon in this story is neither male nor female, but has male and female personalities. When in the male personality, he’s a consumer, and kills any kind of girl—even ugly ones. The female personality kills only pretty girls.”
“The problem (with these three novels) turned out to be that publishers could not find ‘slots’ for the books. They loved the books, but the stories did not fit the conventional genres of ghost stories (too funny) or horror (too realistic). I dunno…but it seems to me that there is a place in horror (fiction) for the horrors of our present civilization.”
But before one gets the impression that everything Cady has written of late has fallen on deaf ears (or blind eyes), it’s worth noting that there have been some successful sales as well.
“The good news is that I turned to writing short stories and novellas. I had a novella in Prime Evil. I have one coming out from Pulphouse in a limited edition; it’s called The Night We Buried Road Dog, and it’s a ghost story. I had another story, ‘A Sailor’s Pay’ in Charlie Grant’s Final Shadows anthology, and a kind of environmental horror story in Omni, January, 1991, titled “The Sons of Noah.”
“In October (in time for the World Fantasy Convention), I have a collection coming out from Broken Moon Press titled The Sons Of Noah And Other Stories. This is a collection of stories that have been published here and there. Three of the stories are dark, but not really fantasy or horror. The rest tend toward a subtle kind of horror.”
Despite the difficulties he’s had in the past decade, Cady remains unswerving in his dedication to dark, speculative fiction.
“I take the horror field seriously. My problem is that I write slowly, and really try to put full characters into my stories. The reason I write ghost stories is because ghosts are very real to me. Ghosts are a part of the past, and my feeling is that if we have no past we sure as hell do not have any future. Ghost stories are one way of understanding our past.”
Given the quality of Cady’s fiction in the past, we can only hope that there is much of his work awaiting us in the future.