WHO THE HELL IS JACK QUAID?
Last known photograph of Jack Quaid
Between the years 1980 and 1999, American novelist Jack Quaid produced a series of fun and wild stories where anything could happen, and with Quaid behind the typewriter, they usually did. He called these books his Electric Mayhem series.
Jack Quaid was born in West Hollywood, California, in 1953. He won a scholarship to UCLA but dropped out after six months for a reason that, to this day, remains unknown. Two years later, he sold his first short story to Startling Mystery Magazine, but it was the publication of his novel The City on the Edge of Tomorrow in 1980 and the film adaptation starring Bruce Dern that set him on his way.
Fearing his initial success would fade, Quaid wrote obsessively for the next two decades and published under many pseudonyms. It’s unknown just how many books he produced during this period, but despite the name on the jacket, savvy readers always knew they were reading a Jack Quaid novel within the first few pages.
His books have long been out of print, and they now live on the dusty shelves of secondhand bookstores and in the memories of those who have been lucky enough to read them.
Quaid’s current whereabouts are unknown.
THE JACK QUAID STORY
Here at Electric Mayhem Publishing, we’re dedicated to rereleasing Jack Quaid’s long, lost novels and unleashing them on unsuspecting bookshelves all across the country
The novels of Jack Quaid have had a strange and unusual path to publication. It’s a story that involves failed movie deals, gunfire, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’s very own Mia Sara, who played Sloan. But to tell the story of how our first title, Escape from Happydale, happened to be re-discovered, we need to go back to the ’90s—1995, to be exact.
Now, back then, I was fifteen years old, and I’d never heard of Jack Quaid, Escape from Happydale, World War Metal or any of the other unknown number of novels Quaid happened to punch out of his typewriter between the year 1980 and the year 1999. I didn’t discover Jack Quaid until he was all but forgotten and his books were long out of print, but I can still remember that very first moment I held one of those books in my hand and all the promise the pages held within.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and I had nine dollars in my pocket and an entire afternoon to kill. At that age, any money I had was spent on either ex-rental videos or secondhand books. The VCR was broken, so I caught the train into Chicago with one destination in mind: Galaxy Books on Wabash. The secondhand bookstore specialized in two types of novels and two types of novels only—science fiction and horror. If you wanted romance, crime, or heaven forbid, literature, you were shown the door and ridiculed later by the proprietor, Gary G, whom I never saw wear anything other than his Camp Crystal Lake T-shirt.
The shelves were always overcrowded, and books were even stacked on the floor, reaching all the way to the ceiling. At first glance, the place looked like a panic attack, but to me, those thousands of dusty books were gateways to fantastical worlds, distant planets, and alternate dimensions where all kinds of crazy stuff could happen. It was from those stacks that I pulled my first Jack Quaid novel, World War Metal, from the bottom of a tower of books that was dangerously close to toppling over.
The paperback looked as if it had been read a thousand times by people who were in a hurry and on the move. The cover was creased and worn white at the edges, and the spine was cracked in a couple dozen places. At some point in the book’s life, somebody had let a cigarette burn down in their fingers while reading, and it had singed a bunch of pages. Despite the wear and tear on that copy of the book, it didn’t detract from the absolute madness of the faded art on the cover, though. Among the mayhem of robots and battle spiders was the heroine of the story, Abigail Storm, firing two blasters while jumping backward out of a burning building. I didn’t even read the blurb; I just handed over my three dollars and walked out with my very first Jack Quaid novel. Up until that point, World War Metal was the most insane novel I had ever read. It was set in a 1980s vision of the future where the world’s robots rise up to destroy humanity and the only thing standing in their way is a supermodel hell-bent on stopping them. It was John Carpenter, ’80s neon pop, and Cyndi Lauper all rolled into one.
I read it in one night, and from that point on, I was hooked. For years, every single time I walked into a secondhand bookstore, I made a line for the Q section with hope that maybe, just maybe, I would discover another Jack Quaid novel. Most of the time, I left empty-handed, but every once in a while, in the dusty basements of bookshops and at secondhand fairs, I would find a new title. Over the years since I discovered World War Metal volumes 1,2 and 3. I’ve found The City on the Edge of Tomorrow, Star Blaster, San Angeles, and a handful more. The worn and beaten paperbacks of Jack Quaid were the mad bastards of literature where all bets were off, and if there were any rules to break, his books went out of their way to break them.
Fast forward fifteen years and three thousand miles, and I’m sitting in the office of schlock horror movie producer Marty Marshall. Three days earlier, Marty was at a party and mentioned that he had an idea for a horror movie and needed a writer. Somebody gave him my number, and there I was, sitting in his office above a tattoo parlor on Sunset Boulevard. The joint was a mess, with stacks of yellow-paged screenplays against the wall and the posters for Chopping Mall, Girls Nite Out, and The Day After Halloween on the walls. Each and every one of them was a hack ’n’ slash classic.
Marty sat behind a big oak desk that was too big for the room. He had an oxygen tank by his side and a cigarette between his lips. “Listen up,” he barked. “You’re gonna love this title.” He paused for a dramatic buildup. “The Return of the Killer Kangaroos from Outta Space.” He slapped his hands together, smiled, and killed his cigarette in the ashtray. “What do yer think?”
I didn’t think much. “Do you have any money for a script?”“Money!” Marty snapped. “Hell no! You write the script, we make the movie, and everybody gets paid.”
As if I needed another reason to get the hell out of there, just in that very moment, I heard gunfire, and a round blasted through the floor from the tattoo parlor below.
I nearly had a heart attack. “What the hell was that?”
Marty hadn’t even flinched. “Oh, that,” he said. “The guys downstairs gets a little excited when they watch soccer and shoot their guns off.”
There were a dozen or so bullet holes in the ceiling right above my head. “I think I’m probably going to go now, Marty.”
“It’s nothing to worry about. Trust me.”
“No, Marty,” I said climbing to my feet. “I think it is something to worry about.”
“What about the movie?”
“I’ll get back to you,” I said, making my way to the door and trying to get the hell out of there as soon as I possibly could.
I was halfway between the massive oak desk and my escape when one of the manuscripts piled against the wall of Marty’s office grabbed my attention. The cover page was old and yellow. At some point, somebody had spilt coffee or whiskey on it, but despite the mess, I could still make out the lettering on the cover: ESCAPE FROM HAPPYDALE BY JACK QUAID.
In all my years of combing secondhand bookstores, I had never seen or heard of anything called Escape from Happydale. I picked up the three-hundred-page manuscript, brushed the dust off the first page, and held it up to Marty. “What’s this?”
The vintage producer picked up a pair of thick ’70s-style glasses from his desk and pushed them up the bridge of his nose. It took a moment for his eyes to focus and read the cover, but when they did, he wasn’t impressed with what he saw. “That son of a bitch, Jack Quaid.”
“Where did you get it?”
“I hired that son of a bitch, Quaid, sometime back in the ’80s to write me a horror movie for Mia Sara.”
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Mia Sara?”
“She was going to be a big star.”
“But she wasn’t.”
“Which is why the movie was never made.”I thumbed through the first few pages. “This isn’t a screenplay. It’s a novel?”“Tell me about it,” Marty said as his nicotine-stained fingers reached for another cigarette and lit it. “He was one of those overachieving types. I gave that son of a bitch twenty K for a screenplay, and he delivered three novels and a goddamned screenplay.
He told me that they were a trilogy. Back then, nobody knew what the hell a trilogy was. Nowadays, it’s trilogy this and trilogy that.”
“Do you have the other two novels?” I asked.
“Ah,” Marty said with a swipe of his hand. “Who knows?”
“Can I read this?”
“Keep the damn thing,” Marty said. “And if you see that son of a bitch, tell him he’s a son of a bitch from me.”
“What did he do?”
“He ran off with my wife and stole my Cadillac. I didn’t care too much about the wife, but that Caddy, that was a good vehicle.”
Two more rounds blasted through the floor of Marty Marshall’s office, and I got the hell out of there. A couple of blocks later, I walked into the first dive bar I found, ordered a drink, and turned over the first page of the battered manuscript.
For the rest of the day and half the night, I was fifteen years old again and grinning ear to ear as I read every single last word. Escape from Happydale is Jack Quaid at his most rebellious, his most sincere, and certainly at his most unpredictable.
For those of you who have read Jack Quaid over the years, welcome back. You’ve been here before, and you know what you’re getting into. But for those of you who are experiencing a Jack Quaid tale for the first time, I have a word of advice. Draw the shades, pour yourself a tall drink, turn some rock ’n’ roll up loud, and strap in.
See you on the other side.
We're always on the lookout for any long lost and out of print Jack Quaid novels. If you've happened to discover one on a dusty book shelf somewhere please contact Luke Preston as soon as humanly possible.