The sad passing of William Peter Blatty
The man who wrote arguably the scariest novel of all time has passed away, aged 89. I never met William Peter Blatty, yet I knew him well and will miss him dearly.
I had gotten to know Blatty from afar. Covering movements of his great creation, The Exorcist, on my former website dedicated to that masterpiece: captainhowdy.com.
It was always a one-sided, long distance relationship.
What started as a small, just-for-fun web project later blossomed into the leading online resource for Exorcist news and information. I managed it all from the sunny centre of Australia, probably the farthest I could possibly be from anyone involved in the project.
And yet, thanks to that website and the ongoing contributions over the years, I felt involved.
I was invited to the set when the prequels were filmed in the early 2000s. I’ve met Linda Blair. I’ve briefly spoken with the director, William Friedkin. Exchanged emails with the First A.D., Terence Donnelly.
It seemed our paths might’ve one day crossed, but they never did.
Having seen the film in my early teens and being blown away, terrified, and enamoured all at once, I visited my local library to seek out a copy of The Exorcist to read. (Long before anyone could order any book over the internet.)
I found only one copy — a tattered old paperback with faded yellow pages breaking away from the spine. It was heaped on a pile of over-loved books, ready to be discarded forever.
The library didn’t let me borrow the book. Instead, they let me keep it.
I carefully glued the loose pages back onto the spine and laminated the cover to keep it all in tact. Being in rural Australia where the nearest bookstore was literally a three hour drive away, I had to make sure those pages were safe, never to slip away again.
I’m not sure how many times that book was borrowed and read over the years, but I’d like to imagine I’ve come close to matching it in the 22 years since it came into my possession. Pun intended.
Many nights I would read under my covers. Often flipping to random pages and sinking into those masterful words. It reminded me of flipping open a Bible and finding random passages. Both were equally inspiring to me.
I was just a boy. I had no idea The Exorcist sold 13 million copies worldwide. I was oblivious to the fact it was on the New York Times Bestseller list for a year. A fucking year.
It was just me and this amazing book I had discovered and restored.
I would eventually get copies of the screenplay and pore over those pages. Every action line. Every line of dialogue.
Then came special edition releases on VHS (that’s video tapes, kids). DVDs. Blu-ray. All with special features of Blatty talking about his story, his characters, his approach. There was no turning back.
I ate it all up and excitedly shared thoughts on my website.
Through countless interviews, articles, videos, and back-and-forth communication with others via the great community we forged at captainhowdy.com, I continually kept in touch with Blatty and his work without ever making personal contact.
A good friend of mine who was close to Blatty once confirmed that he had seen and appreciated my website. I remember how good it felt hearing that.
I privately sold captainhowdy.com in 2015. A decision I often regret. Today, more than ever.
Now, with Blatty’s passing, he’ll forever be that distant entity. Forever out of my reach. I’m surprised to find I’m okay with that. After all, the saying goes: Never meet your heroes.
He absolutely was a hero of mine.
A humble talent who’s career spanned decades and forever changed an entire genre. Destined to be remembered forever, and deservedly so.
“I’m not aware that I was consciously influenced by any director, though these things often happen unnoticed, submerged in the unconscious.”
A man of Faith, certainly he is in Heaven now, personally shaking the hand of God and thanking Him for his muse.
Rest peacefully, William Peter Blatty.
And thank you.