Friday, March 22, 2013

RIP Rick Hautala -- a lifetime is not long enough.

Yesterday evening a friend emailed me to let me know some sad news. Rick Hautala, Maine author and someone I’d just started to become friends with in the last few years, died suddenly yesterday afternoon of a heart attack at age 64.

Rick at NECON 2006
I couldn’t quite believe it was true, but when I went to his website at, there it was. Rick’s wife Holly had posted the following on his Facebook page Thursday afternoon: “Hi all and thank you. Just to let you know there will be no funeral, as that was not Rick’s thing. I am hoping to put together a celebration of his life in a month or two. We are just devastated here, and I really appreciate your kind words. Will keep you posted…”

As shocked as I was, I can’t even begin to imagine what Holly and the rest of Rick’s family and friends are going through. My heart goes out to them.

UPDATE: Fellow author Christopher Golden has posted on his blog about how you can assist Rick's family:

Those of you who attended the Lovecraft Lounge short film showing at my shop in August of 2011 to hear him speak and answer questions about the short film "Lovecraft's Pillow" which we screened will remember how nice he was, and how willing he was to give even the smallest crowd of fans his time and energy. He was even patient in explaining over and over again how to pronounce his name [HOW-tah-lah].

Rick was the most positive, friendly, and helpful "Ink-Stained Wretch" I have had the pleasure to meet. I am having a hard time realizing I'll never get a chance to tell him this. This post is simply one more small step towards reminding local folks of Rick, the writer-next-door that so many took for granted as being forever nearby. He will be missed. I'm glad he wrote as much as he did, it's going to have to last us a long while. Here's to Rick Hautala. Maine has lost a good inky friend.

I came to read Rick’s work only recently, though like many of us here in Maine I knew of him for years. I sampled his books here and there, invited him to speak about his screenwriting work for “Lovecraft’s Pillow” at my bookshop, and almost got to give an introduction for his talk at October 2012’s “Little Festival of Horrors” at the Portland Public Library (the event was cancelled by the arrival of Hurricane Sandy). I was looking forward to having another chance to introduce him this fall, but sadly that will not happen now.

Here is the short film, Lovecraft’s Pillow, if you haven’t seen it yet:

Little Brothers, 1988
I also spent some time last year interviewing him about his “Little Brother” stories as part of my research for a Strange Maine related book I am working on right now about Bigfoot in Maine history and culture. Rick was always ready to answer my questions and set me straight on what his goals in writing were.

As Rick said to me, “Honestly, I was (and am) just trying to tell stories to entertain and amuse people … and, yeah! … to creep them out.” What more could we ask from one of our state’s longest publishing horror authors? All he wanted to do was entertain us.

To quote Rick:
The most dominant theme I see (and what do I know? I’m just the writer) is people being tested to:

1) Accept something that they believe or have been told is “impossible,” and
2) Do something about it. Face it. Deal with it. Try to come out on top.

All of the LITTLE BROTHERS stories—and THE MOUNTAIN KING, too, I think, are about people coming to grips with something that, according to their limited belief structures, is impossible … yet real, nonetheless.

Losing Rick so suddenly has thrown myself and others who always thought he’d be around into just that position. How we deal with it is up to us.

For those of you who didn’t know much about Rick, here is the introduction I wrote for his postponed appearance at the Little Festival of Horrors:


Hello everyone, and welcome to the second author talk of the Portland Public Library’s LITTLE FESTIVAL OF HORRORS. I have the pleasure today of introducing Maine author Rick Hautala to you. He is the published author of over 90 novels and short stories, many of which have been translated to other languages and sold internationally. His short story collection, Bedbugs, was selected by Barnes & Noble as one of the most distinguished horror publications of the year 2000.

Most recently the Horror Writers Association awarded him the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement for 2011, which was presented to him at the annual banquet in spring 2012. Rick lives just outside of Portland with fellow author Holly Newstein. He moved to Maine to go to college back in the day, and never left.

His stories, which are sometimes supernatural in nature, most often deal with monsters of all sorts. He enjoys monsters, whether they’re real or not. That’s how he approached his novel The Mountain King which he aimed to write as a rip-snorting, limb-rippingly fun monster book. The story places a family of Bigfoot-like creatures in the mountains of New England, and lets the reader in on what exactly happens when the inevitable culture clash between hikers and homicidal Bigfoot families happens.

His novel Little Brothers is a favorite of many of his fans, and spawned a handful of stories and pseudo-myths about these creatures which haunt the Maine woods. There is a new Little Brothers novella titled Indian Summer which is coming out soon from Cemetery Dance Publications. Other forthcoming books include Chills and Waiting (also from Cemetery Dance), and Star Road, which St. Martin's is slated to release in 2014.

In addition, Little Brothers was recently optioned for a film, and a team is currently working on adapting it into screenplay form.

In fact, Rick writes screenplays himself. His adaptation of award-winning author Kealan Patrick Burke's "Peekers" is currently on the film festival circuit. My personal favorite of these projects is the short film “Lovecraft’s Pillow,” which was based on a story suggestion from Stephen King. In this speculative story, a desperate and bankrupt man buys a pillow that once belonged to famed horror author H.P. Lovecraft in the hopes it will inspire his own writing. The results are … understandably uncanny, to say the least.

But enough from me. I’ll let Rick speak for himself. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Rick Hautala!

Where ever he may be headed to now, I hope his audience has a warm and friendly welcome for him, as he well deserves.

At the end of January, he was interviewed on the Francy and Friends podcast. You can download the MP3 on their site here. Rick shows up about 24 minutes into the otherwise raucous show, and talks candidly, as always, about life as a writer. His personality shines through. He was always a wonderful conversationalist. Enjoy.
Listen to internet radio with FRANCY AND FRIENDS on Blog Talk Radio

No comments: