Jeff Mariotte

The Halloween Man

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I first met Ray Bradbury on November 22, 1980, when he came to Books Inc. in San Jose, CA (where I was a fledgling bookseller) to sign copies of The Stories of Ray Bradbury, although I had read him before that, and heard him speak. He survived that day, barely. In the store’s back room we had a system of ropes and pulleys that could haul bicycles to the ceiling, keeping them safe and out of the way.

ray Bradbury, 1980

After his signing, Ray went to the back room to use the men’s room. Not knowing Ray was in there, one of our employees (who I’ll call Doug, because that was his name–but this is Doug 1, not Doug 2, who also worked there) went to retrieve his bike from the ceiling–a bike that was positioned just in front of the men’s room door. When Ray unexpectedly stepped out, Doug 1, startled, lost his grip on the rope. The bike started plummeting down toward the skull of the unsuspecting Ray, who knew he’d surprised Doug 1, but not that a bike was about to land on him. At the last moment, Doug 1 caught the rope and saved Ray Bradbury’s life.

I still have my signed copy of Stories, of course, and several more books besides.

In 1983, I moved south to manage the Hunter’s Books store in La Jolla, CA. That was much closer to Ray’s Los Angeles home, so he visited more frequently and we became friends.

Ray and Jeff at Hunter’s Books

He called me at home. I visited his home and took him books to sign. At some point I gave him a signed copy of Robert Bloch’s book Screams, which he appreciated. He put me on his Christmas poem mailing list. He came down to La Jolla on his birthday in 1988 and signed Death is a Lonely Business for hundreds of fans. We all shared a cake I’d bought with the cover of Something Wicked This Way Comes edibly reproduced on top. The photo above might be from that visit, or another of his several visits. Any day that he came and signed was the best sales day of the month.

Typically of Ray, although he had been down on August 22nd of that year–his birthday visit–he wanted to come back and celebrate Halloween with us. A new edition of his classic The Halloween Tree had been released, so Ray visited again, spending much of Halloween at Hunter’s with his legions of fans. Below are the beautiful book-cover poster by artists Leo and Diane Dillon, and the inside of my copy of the book. Both are treasures.

After his death in 2022, his big, yellow, cheerful, memorabilia-filled house was sold and, tragically, destroyed. Marcy was kind enough to buy me bookends made from wood rescued from the house, with “451” burned into them, in honor of another classic work, Fahrenheit 451.

Most of our books are on shelves in bookcases. Ray’s hold a special place of honor, on top of a bookcase, held in place by pieces of his home. I’ll never not miss him.

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