John Anthony Bellairs (17 January 1938 – 8 March 1991) was an American author, best known for his well-respected fantasy novel The Face in the Frost as well as many gothic mystery novels for young adults featuring Lewis Barnavelt, Anthony Monday, and Johnny Dixon.
After earning degrees at University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, Bellairs taught English at various midwestern and New England colleges for several years before turning full-time to writing in 1971. He maintained a lifelong interest in archaeology, architecture, kitschy antiques, bad poetry, traveling to the UK, and studying history and Latin. His favorite authors included Charles Dickens, Henry James, C.V. Wedgwood, and Garrett Mattingly, as well as M.R. James, from whose ghost stories he occasionally borrowed elements to work into his own fiction.
His first published work, St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies, was a collection of short stories satirizing the rites and rituals of Second Vatican Council-era Catholicism. The title story of St. Fidgeta grew out of stories Bellairs made up and shared with friends while living in Chicago. After committing one such story to paper, it was sent to the Chicago-based Catholic magazine the Critic and published in its summer 1965 edition. The following year, the hagiography of St. Fidgeta was supplemented by eleven other humorous stories, including an essay on lesser-known popes of antiquity, a cathedral constructed over the course of centuries, and a spoof letter from a modern-day Xavier Rynne about the escapades at the fictional Third Vatican Council. The book remained out of print for decades until it was rereleased in a 2009 anthology.
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