During the last few weeks, I read two books by an author named Paul Zindel. I was looking for examples of Middle Grade horror novels, and a blog I subscribe to recommended several titles by this author. I’d never heard of him, but when I read the author bio on the jacket cover for Raptor I was fascinated by his story so I decided to do a little bit of research.

In 1964, Paul Zindel wrote a play titled The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. After playing in smaller cities, the play opened Off Broadway in 1970. In 1971, it earned Zindel a Pulitzer Prize for drama. When I read that, I became curious about the career arc that led Zindel from a Pulitzer to writing schlock horror books for teens.

What I found out was that Zindel wrote over 50 books after writing his prize-winning play, all but one of them for teens. He said that he wanted to write books for “people who don’t like to read” – mainly teenage boys. The answer to my question was relatively simple; the man wrote whatever he wanted to. In 1968, he wrote a book titled The Pigman, which some people consider to be the very first Young Adult novel. His last novel was published in 2003 – the same year he died. He also wrote several screenplays for movies and television.

The Effects of Gamma Rays… and several books he wrote later on mirrored his own childhood and home life. The amateur psychologist in me says that writing those books provided a kind of therapy for him, but what do I know?

Several biographical articles about Paul Zindel are available on his website. By all accounts, his books (even the horror stories) had lots of fans. As I said above, I’ve only read two of his works – Raptor and The Gadget. If you’ve read any of his other novels, I’d love to hear your impressions of them.

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