The horror community lost one of its bright lights this week, when Rick Hautala passed away on March 21st from a heart attack. He was 64.
It was the capper of an already bad week for horror fans, with the deaths early in the week of David B. Silva, the author and editor who gave us the legendary magazine THE HORROR SHOW (which ran from 1982 to 1991), and who created the industry newsletter, Hellnotes (his novels included THE DISAPPEARED and CHILD OF DARKNESS), and British author James Herbert, who gave us such classics as THE RATS and THE FOG.
Many of us here at Cinema Knife Fight knew Rick personally, and wanted to do something special in his memory, thus this article.
Rick was the author of more than 30 books, starting with MOON DEATH back in 1981, and including such titles as THE MOUNTAIN KING, LITTLE BROTHERS, BEDBUGS and COLD RIVER, as well as several novels using the pseudonym A.J. Matthews.
Here at Cinema Knife Fight, we mostly talk about movies, and Rick was active in that medium as well. He wrote the screenplays to several short films he did with director Mark Steensland. These include Lovecraft’s Pillow (based on an idea by Stephen King), Peekers (based on the short story by Kealan Patrick Burke), Dead @ 17 (based on the graphic novel by Josh Howard), The Ugly File (based on a short story by Ed Gorman) and Grafitto. All of them are worth seeing, and can be found here.
Many of us first met Rick at writers’ conventions, specifically the New England convention, NeCon, which he had been attending for decades. We got used to seeing his smiling face every year, and looked forward to it. Rick had a great sense of humor and was laughing a lot of the time. He also had a knack for putting people at ease, especially newbies who hadn’t attended very many conventions before. I remember Rick being a highlight of my first NeCon (in 2000), and subsequent ones to follow. I wish I had known him better, he seemed like was a lot of fun to hang out with. He was a seasoned veteran, yet he was always accessible and easy to talk to. He was a fun and talented guy, and he will be missed a lot by those of us who had gotten used to having him around.
My best memories of Rick include sitting with him in a gazebo at NeCon, smoking cigars and laughing. The time Nick Cato and I made a parody of his short film “Peekers,” that made him laugh. And the last time I saw him, last November at AnthoCon in New Hampshire, when Pete Dudar and I had the pleasure of sitting with him and his wife Holly at dinnertime, and sharing some conversation and laughter.
Our thoughts go to out Rick’s wife, Holly Newstein Hautala, and his family, in this sad time.
Some of my other Cinema Knife Fighters wanted to add their own remembrances. Here a few of them.
~L.L. Soares, March 24, 2013
From MICHAEL ARRUDA:
Rick and I were never close friends, but he was a good friend, which says an awful lot about the type of man Rick was. I met him at NeCon, back in 2001, and immediately, here was this best-selling author talking to me, this horror fiction newbie, like we’d known each other for years. Sure, part of that is NeCon, and for everyone who’s gone to NeCon knows what I mean, how friendly and accessible everyone is, but most of it was Rick.
Through the years, seeing him at NeCon was for me like getting a chance to hang out with a favorite uncle. I loved listening to his stories, and a highlight for me was always the opportunity to sit in on whatever panel Rick was on. Inevitably, in a weekend where I’d come away with valuable information (not to mention the occasional “valuable prize” or two) about the genre and the craft, it was always Rick, it seemed, who’d say that one thing that I’d remember most. Whatever topic he spoke on, he always seemed to nail it, and I’d be sitting there thinking, “That’s it. That’s what it’s all about.”
I’m going to miss him.
—Michael Arruda. You can read my entire post remembering Rick at my blog .
From DAN KEOHANE:
One of the first people I met at my very first NeCon back in 2000 was this shag-haired bearded man named Rick Hautala. A fantastic writer—and I’m sure there are plenty of other posts and honorariums discussing his work elsewhere—he was also a fantastic man. Laid back, to the point a few years back when I swear he stayed in one spot the entire weekend casually drinking scotch and smoking cigars. For him, and the rest of us, NeCon was vacation. A time to hang out with like-minded souls and talk about nothing but writing. I would search him out every summer and try to spend some time and talking with him about everything. It was funny, everyone else did the same thing, whether he was alone or sitting with his uber-cool wife, writer Holly Newstein, people would search for him and do what I did. Just spend time with him. He was kind to everyone he met, never judged, never put himself over or under anyone else. Welcoming, and funny. Rick loved to laugh, and loved it when the people he was with laughed along. Aside from a few, very enjoyable events outside of the con when I hung out with Rick and others, NeCon was the place he’d be. And if with such limited contact I’m sitting here mourning him and writing this less than a day after his sudden death at the too young age of 64, I can only imagine with a very heavy heart how hard his absence will be to those who were privileged to be called his closest friends. I’m going to miss you Rick. Be well.
From BARRY LEE DEJASU:
Ten years ago, I went to my very first Northeastern Writers Conference (Necon). No small amount of my welcome came from a grinning, bearded guy, who as it turns out was also the face to put with the name of many a book I’d seen before then: Rick Hautala. His ease and helpfulness were so empowering, as well as endearing; no amount of laughter or booze from any other camper could match that, not in a whole decade of my attendance there. And only last November, I got to see him again, at AnthoCon! Two shots of Rick in one year? Consider me a happy camper! To have to say goodbye to him is…well, it’s simply not going to happen; I’m only going to say hello every time as we pass by each other with a grin and a laugh (and the occasional raised bottle or glass), forever. Hey buddy, having fun? Me too. Me too.
From PAUL MCMAHON:
I only met Rick a couple of times, and I always walked away looking forward to the next time. It’s hard to believe someone I’d only chatted with briefly could leave such a big hole in my life.
From PETER DUDAR:
The first time I met Rick Hautala was back in 2000. The moment Rick saw me he came right up and shook my hand. He was all wispy hair and smiles, and donned in his “Hauty” garb of tee shirt, shorts, and Birkenstock sandals. He literally looked like a road manager for the Grateful Dead. By the following year at NeCon, Rick was hugging me hello (which caught me very off guard).
Rick’s a fellow Mainer, so it was always cool to shoot the breeze about Maine stuff, about writing, about the business (and all those shady characters in the publishing industry to beware of), about beer and cigars, and whatever else was going on. Rick played softball with us at NeCon. He played miniature golf. He sat on panels and freely shared his wisdom and experience. He participated in roasts, and made us laugh our asses off. And, recently, he’d been elevated to the status of NeCon Legend and was awarded the HWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
And he was always cool about autographing his books for me. Always an intimate little note, with his scribbly name and that telltale trademark skull he’d inscribe. My library has more than a few. I’d wager yours does, too. Rick Hautala was a great writer. He was an even better human being. And he is every bit the legend he will be remembered as. God bless ya, Hauty! You will be missed.
(this is an excerpt from Pete’s blog. Read more here)
(Note from LL: Anyone who knew Rick and would like to leave comments below this article, please feel free.