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Before They Were Famous: Tom Perrotta/Teen Horror Edition

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Thrill_l

Thrill_lBack in August, I interviewed best-selling novelist/Oscar-nominated screenwriter Tom Perrotta about his new book, The Abstinence Teacher. When I was prepping for our chat, I had a look at the biographical timeline posted on his website, and was intrigued by the summary of 1993: “… Tom begins his own novel about a three-way race for high-school president. At the same time, he ghost-writes teen horror novel for best-selling series (don’t ask which one; he’s taken an oath of non-disclosure)…”

The novel about high school politics became, of course, 1999’s Election. (Which Alexander Payne also turned into a great flick starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick that same year.) But what was this teen-horror business? Brazenly ignoring Perrotta’s warning not to bother inquiring about which illustrious series helped him pay the bills in the early Clinton years, I grilled the guy. Cornered him. Made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Okay, not really. I simply guessed that perhaps the “Stephen Kingwith training wheels” collection he described to me was one of R.L.Stine’s creations. And he, being an honest, good-natured fellow,confirmed it. “Yeah,” he said. “Not Goosebumps, but Fear Street, which was the bigger one.” The particular tome to which Perrotta lent his verbal gifts was The Thrill Club (pictured),and though he describes it as “the stupidest book,” he actually looksback on writing it with fondness. “It’s good to take the romance out ofwriting,” he said, laughing heartily. “That certainly did it for me!”

Look for the full Q&A with Perrotta on EW.com on Tuesday. Inthe meantime, raise your hand if you were/are a fan of Robert LawrenceStine, whom EW columnist Stephen King recently called “Jo Rowling’s jovial John the Baptist.” And if you actually read The Thrill Club,do offer us a review. I haven’t read it, but promised Perrotta I would,if only to hunt for traces of his style within all that talk of mangledcorpses with purple tongues.