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McDowell, Michael, 1950-1999

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: 1950 - 1999

Michael McEachern McDowell was the author of a number of horror novels, including The Amulet (1979), Cold Moon Over Babylon (1980), and The Elementals (1981), as well as six serialized novels known as the Blackwater series (1983). He also has screenwriting credits for Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and wrote for the TV series Tales from the Darkside. McDowell was born June 1, 1950 in Enterprise, Alabama, to an accountant and a social worker, and attended public schools in southern Alabama until 1968. He earned highest honors at Harvard University, graduating in 1972, and in 1978 was awarded his doctorate degree in English and American Literature from Brandeis University.



McDowell began writing in college, and after graduating worked to support himself as a teacher, a theater critic, and a secretary at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before royalties began paying his way. His first novel, The Amulet, won McDowell particular praise for his ability to balance mundane normality with supernatural activity. McDowell was adept at writing within many genres, and collaborated with Dennis Schuetz under the joint pseudonym “Nathan Aldyne” to write four gay detective novels between 1980 and 1986 (Vermillion, Cobalt, Slate, and Canary). McDowell preferred to work in such fiction genres as horror and detective stories, and also wrote under the pseudonyms Axel Young, Mike McCray, and Preston Macadam, the latter two related to men's novels about rogue mercenaries written in collaboration with John Preston.



McDowell moved to Medford, Massachusetts in November 1973. After becoming engaged with the film industry in Hollywood, McDowell began shuttling back and forth between Boston and Los Angeles in 1985. By 1986 he had rented a flat in West Hollywood, and co-founded Pecos Productions. McDowell found success in film and TV writing, penning scripts for Tales from the Darkside and Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories. In 1988 he co-wrote the screenplay for Beetlejuice with Warren Skaaren, which was based on an original story by McDowell and Larry Wilson about a dead couple returning home. He went on to write screenplays for Nightmare Before Christmas in 1993 and Stephen King’s Thinner in 1996.



By 1994 McDowell had returned to Boston full-time to stay with his partner, Laurence Senelick, and taught screenwriting at Boston University and Tufts University. McDowell continued to write commissioned screenplay treatments. Shortly after McDowell’s return to Boston, he was diagnosed with AIDS. He died in Boston on December 27, 1999, at the age of 49, from AIDS-related illness. Tabitha King, wife of author Stephen King, completed an unfinished McDowell novel, Candles Burning, which was published in 2006.



For McDowell, whose dissertation at Brandeis was titled “American Attitudes Towards Death, 1825-1865,” the Death Collection was a conscious accumulation. It was primarily acquired from antique stores and antiquarian dealers throughout the 1970s.
Citation
Author: Benn P. Joseph

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Michael McDowell Death Collection

 Collection
Identifier: AS10
Abstract Michael McEachern McDowell was the author of a number of horror novels, including The Amulet (1979), Cold Moon Over Babylon (1980), and The Elementals (1981), as well as six serialized novels known as the Blackwater series (1983).  He also has screenwriting credits for Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice and The...