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The Halloween Tree: Previously Unpublished Author's Preferred Text

Ray Bradbury, edited by Jon Eller, compiled and designed by Donn Albright
Gauntlet (496p) $75. ISBN: 1-887368-80-9
(October 2005)

book cover Expensive volumes exploring the work of modern writers are, at worst, exercises in triviality published to milk money from devoted fans; at best, they reveal something of the creative process, bits of publishing business, and an occasional kernel of insight into the work itself. But Gauntlet's Halloween treat is something else altogether: an impressive archeological expedition by editor Jon Eller into several permutations of a near-classic creation by a writer who has become a legend during his own lifetime. Reproduction of Bradbury's own art is integral; drawings by Joe Mugnaini enhance. The evolution begins in 1959 with a few pages of a never-completed short story that is reborn when a negative reaction to television's "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" results in a 1967-68 screenplay intended for an MGM animation that never came to be, but led to a "juvenile fiction" for Knopf. The editor and publisher insisted on keeping the novella within the 1972 bounds of the juvenile genre and the author's version restores such dark deletions as a barn "canopied with lust, pasted over with animal murder poster on poster..." and a "most strange smile...with a leer of death and twist of dry-rot and a lurk of funeral-candle illumination shadowing its lips." The Halloween Tree became a radio play in 1980 and, coming full circle, an animated teleplay in 1993. Since the study is made possible due to typescripts, carbon copies, printed galleys, and hard copy correspondence, the appreciative reader cannot help but wonder if -- in this digital age of word processing, PDFs, and email -- such illuminating scrutiny is still possible. -- (from Fantasy #1)