Review by Patrick R McDonough
Ronald Kelly’s combination memoir and writing guide, Southern-Fried and Horrified, is going to stick with me for the rest of my life. It covers everything an ardent Horror fiend could want: social and racial commentary, the history of Horror from the ‘60’s to present day, interspersed with helpful grits and bits on the writing trade.
I’m sure it’s no secret, but Ron was southern-raised (Tennessee, to be exact). In the period he was raised in, he lived through segregation amongst white people and black people. In one particular Valentine’s Day story, Ron demonstrates that, even as a young boy, his heart was as loving and accepting as the man I’ve come to know. Early in our friendship, he demonstrated empathy, love for everyone, patience and understanding that flows into his writing beautifully. It’s why he’s such a good writer, because no matter who he writes about, no matter their walk of life, his concern is who they are inside. His roots begin at the person’s heart.
When Ron dives into the history of the horror scene, from the point of view of an author that tried getting published since the early 80s, and sold his first story in the latter part of that decade, it’s both educational and fascinating to read about little thing’s I would have never thought of before, such as the author having no control over the covers under Zebra; Ron going from typewriter to word processor to eventually an early computer; the lack of interaction between creator and fan; his wife, Joyce, printing out discussion boards to show Ron people missed his work when he had a ten-year-hiatus. Horror has gone through so much: the general public’s love, hate, and indifference. Horror is uncomfortable. It just is. Some struggle to admit that, but it’s that uncomfortableness which makes up the truest part of what makes our species tick—greed, love, hate, insecurity, self-worth, and so on. All of those elements are so hard for us because it’s what we see when we look in the mirror. Ron handles all of that too, with anecdotes, or revealing things he both feared and loved from the horror literature industry.
I’ve heard some of the stories in here from Ron before, yet, they landed a gut punch and choked me up as if it were my first time hearing them. Some even made me bust out laughing! Displayed through various stories, Ron faces down any challenge that comes his way. If an obstacle blocks his path he’s going to beat it. His unquenchable thirst to craft a story and share it with the rest of us is not only inspiring, but it’s reflective of the human species as a whole—always in need of a story, even if it’s one you heard a time or two before.
Ronald Kelly is a name that not only deserves, but demands, a legacy that matches the likes of Mark Twain, L. Frank Baum, and Richard Matheson. If you love Horror, you’ll learn real quick why you need this memoir in your life.