November 4th – Jay Anson

“Advice for beginning writers? Sure. I got advice for them. The Amityville book is a good book because when I didn’t write it well I listened to Tammy Mossman. When Tammy said something needed to be fixed I didn’t argue. I fixed it. So my advice to beginners is to listen to your editors. Your words are not golden.”

Jay Anson, Writers Digest Interview, March 1979

Author Jay Anson was born November 4th, 1921, in New York City. 

He became a copyboy and reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and served in WWII. After the War, he worked in advertising and publicity, then wrote short documentaries for television and hundreds of movie featurettes. He also worked as a script doctor. 

In 1975 Anson was introduced to George and Kathleen Lutz, who had lived for a very short time, at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island. During the 28 days they lived at the large Dutch Colonial house, 120 unexplainable and extremely frightening incidents occurred: like doors being unexplainably ripped from their hinges, an infestation of flies (in the winter), and disembodied voices and hands. Terrible things also happened to people that tried to investigate their stories: sicknesses, fires, and car accidents. When Anson said he would write a book about their experiences, he had a heart attack. He wrote the draft during his three-month recovery based on recorded interview tapes the Lutz’s gave him. 

The Amityville Horror: A True Story was published in 1977. It was Anson’s first book and sold millions of copies. 

In 1979 a blockbuster movie based on the book, starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder, was released. It became the highest-grossing independent film of all time. In 2006 there was a remake starring Ryan Reynolds. 

The short book, just 65,000 words, was sold as ‘non-fiction’ – a fact that riled many readers who claimed it was fiction. Anson did go on to write a novel, 666, published just after he died in 1980. Anson had been in California working on a screenplay of the book when he died. 

He died on March 12th, 1980. From Unknown causes. Just kidding. He died after heart surgery, but he was only 58 years old. 

He had two children, Lisa and Andrei, and was survived by his wife, Lesia. 

The house is still in Amityville, although the address has been changed to dissuade visitors.

Lesson from Anson:

Anson sharpened his writing skills his entire life through his experience writing for television and movies and doctoring other people’s scripts. A chance meeting led him to create what would be his best-seller, which is still producing spin-offs to this day. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much time to enjoy the success or write more. Seize the day. 

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