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- Johnny Dixon
- Roderick Childermass
- Duston Heights, Massachusetts
The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie is third book completed by Brad Strickland, written based on mere plot sketch drawn up by Bellairs before his death. This approach would follow for the next book, The Doom of the Haunted Opera.
"[The] one-page synopses [did not have] characters named - for example, Mama Sinestra and Todd Lamort were named by me - and the conclusion only sketched in. I elaborated [this] into [a] twenty-page outline, worked with the editor to refine..., and then wrote the book."
Strickland says the original sketch was something brief, similar to:
Dr. Coote returns from a trip with a small drum that is actually a voodoo item. When Fergie plays it, it summons up an evil spirit. Voodoo priests track down the drum and try to get it back by creating deadly voodoo dolls of Johnny's friends. Johnny, the Professor, and Fergie have to work together to save the lives of their friends.From this, Strickland plotted the novel and then wrote the book, taking in to account some of his own research. "I'm younger than John, so lots of my 'nostalgia' is actually the product of research (though I can remember the later fifties). I really enjoy doing research, although sometimes it's a little off the wall: calling pharmaceutical companies to make sure that Bactine really was on the market in the 1950's, checking to make sure that Lay's Potato Chips were available in the New England area at the time, and so on."
As the novel takes place in New Hampshire, Strickland interviewed people who had been at the university in the early fifties: "they told me to be sure to mention the stupid-looking blue-and-white freshman beanies, and to say that coming toward campus from the east, one first smells the cows before coming in sight of the University dairy barns."
Strickland confessed a" strong fondness for this book" because" after a lot of effort, I thought I finally got Professor Childermass's personality right. Of those I completed, I think it wound up being the most tightly plotted."
Thanks to Jeanne Sharp, reader and advisor."Jeanne is a super young woman who was a dedicated Bellairs fan. She got in touch with my agent when she learned I was working on completing the Bellairs novels and sternly told me I'd better do a good job! She seemed so well-read in John's work that I sent her the manuscript of The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie to check for errors. She found only a few, but made lots of suggestions ('You've got to mention Fergie's big feet!'). She vetted a couple more of the books, until she became so busy with college that she couldn't any more, but by that time I was ready to fly on my own."
Thanks to those who helped: Gregory Nicoll, Steve Neshiem, Wendy Webb.