Horror author Jack Ketchum, whom Stephen King once called "the scariest guy in America," died Monday at the age of 71.
Actress Pollyanna McIntosh, who starred in several film adaptations of his books, reported his passing on Instagram, with his webmaster Kevin Kovelant confirming the news to the Associated Press and on Ketchum's own site. Ketchum was apparently battling cancer at the time of his death.
The author, whose real name was Dallas Mayr, was best known for disturbing and relentlessly violent novels such as Off Season (about a family of cannibals), its sequels Offspring and The Woman, and the almost unbearably bleak The Girl Next Door. The latter three, along with Ketchum's novels The Lost and Red, were all adapted into equally unnerving films, with Ketchum writing or co-writing the screenplays for Offspring and The Woman.
Born in Livingston, New Jersey, in 1946, Ketchum worked in his parents' luncheonette as a young adult but developed an interest in writing and horror early on. He was befriended by legendary author Robert Bloch (Psycho, Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper), who mentored the budding author until Bloch's death in 1994.
Ketchum's first novel, Off Season, was published in 1980. He adopted the Ketchum pseudonym (taken from a real-life outlaw named Thomas "Black Jack" Ketchum, who rode at one time with Butch Cassidy) because he was worried the book would alarm his parents. Critical reaction to the novel's extreme violence was so harsh that the publisher, Ballantine, let the book go out of print after the initial run had sold out. The book was reissued years later in an unexpurgated edition by independent horror publisher Cemetery Dance.
Ketchum, who lived in New York City, was the winner of four Bram Stoker Awards and was named a Grand Master of the genre in 2011 by the World Horror Convention, bequeathing the world some of the most shattering horror fiction ever written.