J.N. “Jerry” Williamson, who started a local Sherlock Holmes fan club as a boy and went on to churn out more than 30 horror and science fiction novels, has died, his family said Saturday. The 73-year-old Noblesville resident, who received the Horror Writers Association’s Lifetime Award in 2002, died Thursday, his sister, Marylynn Stults, said.

Mr. Williamson grew up in Indianapolis and attended Shortridge High School, where he was co-editor of the school newspaper. He studied journalism and music at Butler University. He founded an Indianapolis chapter of the Baker Street Irregulars, a fan club of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, at age 12, Stults said.

While in his 20s, Mr. Williamson sang and performed at Starlight Musicals at Butler University with family members in a group known as the Williamson Variety Serenaders. He then worked as an editor with an astrology publication based in Indianapolis.

He published his first novel in 1979, but it was a nightmare about a Satan-like creature with tentacles that he had had years earlier, while in his early 40s, that sent him on a path to writing horror stories, Stults said.

Most of his works were published in paperback form and included titles such as “Horror House,” “The Evil Offspring” and “Flesh Creepers.” Mr. Williamson also edited a number of anthologies and wrote “How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction.”

“He cranked them out. He was very efficient with words,” Stults said.

Mr. Williamson also had a “great sense of humor and a belief in the Lord,” not to mention a phenomenal imagination, she said.

It’s interesting how we choose to remember our beloved departed. There has been quite the debate on my message board about the types of legacies writers leave behind. There was a memorial service for Jerry Williamson today and quite the evangelistic outreach it was. It was quite apparent that his sister was a devout woman who struggled with the work of her brother seeming to be incongruous with her faith (a struggle I can relate to). She presented her brother in a way that she found most comfortable, even if it sort of recast the end of his life, and you know what, that was okay. (One of the highlights was her playing a 45 release of a song Jerry, obviously influenced by Frank Sinatra, had recorded. You can believe that when I get a copy of this, I will post it. The idea of Jerry as crooner is absolutely priceless).

Funerals are for the living and she was saying good-bye to her brother and needed such a service to comfort her during her time of grief. I knew where she was coming from. When you have spiritual convictions assuring you of heaven, you want the people you love to be in heaven with you. You want their legacy, the memory of them, to be one of pursuing that which is most important, Jesus Christ. And you want to believe they have the same saving faith you do because your hope is a shared eternity in heaven.

I was troubled by the seeming repudiation of what Jerry Williamson did.

My objection centered mostly around the reverend who led the service. Admittedly, I was put off by him from the beginning as a bit too slick, a bit too much the showman [NOTE: he greeted me, took one look at my suit, and declared that “you look like you could be a minister of the Lord.” On one hand, well, I am – a fact I didn’t reveal until after the service. However, to judge this based on how I dressed, well, let’s just say that warning flags went up.] He went on to give a (long, meandering) sermon which was a ham-fisted sales pitch aimed at “saving” folks (and stopped somewhere short of condemning horror writing as the work of the devil). It reminded me of an attempted revival meeting. He declared the near-pointlessness of J.N. Williamson spinning horror! stories, while delivering a sermon designed to scare us into heaven. A sermon to get us to turn from the ways of this world, because God promises us a big Lotto ticket in the sky. Because the point of this life is to make sure our butt makes it into heaven.

It was a coordinated attempt to make something “worthwhile” out of what he did. Including his death. To share his faith after he was gone. Because telling stories isn’t enough. Funerals, the idea of our eventual deaths, is an opportunity to think about what will happen afterwards. That’s one of the points of horror. Wrestling with our fear of mortality and staring into the face of eternity.

Here’s what I know about the horror! community whose work begs to be condemned. I sat in the horror writers section of the chapel with people who loved Jerry Williamson: Gary Braunbeck (whom I hope posts his stirring eulogy), his wife, Lucy Snyder, and Ron Horsley. The horror community, HWA and the Shocklines message board, in under 6 hours, pulled together the money needed to see to Jerry’s funeral costs. Why? Because J.N. Williamson had touched a lot of lives with his own. And that’s what this memorial service was about.

Jerry (J.N.) Williamson was a horror writer. He was a kind-hearted man, not a perfect man, but a thoughtful wordsmith whose life was spent trying to do the best he could. He wrote scary stories, some of which he may have regretted because, well frankly, not everything a writer produces is a classic for the ages. He was a man of faith who kept that faith close to him as a heart matter that he lived out in quiet ways. He had talent, a gift from God, which he used the best ways he could. He tried to live his life to be a blessing to other people.

That’s the point of a life of faith.