The 40th Anniversary edition of William Peter Blatty’s iconic horror novel The Exorcist has hit shelves and is finding its way into the hands of fans everywhere (get your copy from Amazon if you haven’t already!)
After 40 years being recognized as one of the scariest novels ever written, Blatty has personally updated his Author’s Note for the Anniversary edition (which I will paste below) and revealed the novel itself has been updated in places, to adjust for things such as “references to President John F. Kennedy and detente with Russians.”
Blatty recently gave interviews to various websites, promoting the release of the highly anticipated best-seller.
In The Huffington Post, Blatty attributes part of the ongoing public fascination with The Exorcist to “the widespread and apparently rampant perception that the novel was based on a true story, the so-called “1949 case of demonic possession of a young boy in Cottage City, Maryland. That perception was “ and is “ totally false.”
While writing the novel, the only facts that I had at hand were the classic symptoms of possession that had somehow remained an identical constant in every culture and in every part of the world going back to ancient Egyptian times.
The 1949 case was the novel’s inspiration, the jump-starting electrical jolt being the last line of my first letter from the exorcist in that case, the Jesuit priest Fr. William Bowdern. After informing me that he was bound by the boy’s family to total confidentiality, he ended: œI can tell you this. The case I was involved in was the real thing. I had no doubt about it then and I have no doubt about it now.
The words charged me with the confidence to write about possession with the heat of conviction.
Read the entire Huffington Post interview here.
Blatty also spoke with our good friend Ryan of The Ninth Configuration website last month, giving juicy details about the potential of revisiting his Legion work, the possible production of Dimiter and The Exorcist screenplay, and, of course, his revising of The Exorcist novel.
There is only one new character and one new extended scene, as you mentioned. There is new dialogue, and a minor rewrite of a portion of the ending that, though it still leaves it slightly ambiguous, will make it clear to the careful reader that Karras, not the demon, has won. Other than these, the bulk of the rewrite consists of a polish of the dialogue and prose throughout.
Read the entire discussion with Ryan here (highly recommended!)
Here is the Author’s Note as found in the 40th Anniversary release of The Exorcist:
œIn January 1968, I rented cabin in Lake Tahoe to start writing a novel about demonic possession that I’d been thinking about for many years. I’d been driven to it, actually: I was a writer of comic novels and farcical screenplays such as A Shot in the Dark with almost all of my income derived from films; but because the season for œfunny had abruptly turned dry and no studio would hire me for anything non-comedic, I had reached James Thurber’s stage of desperation when, as he wrote in a œPreface to His Life, comedy writers sometimes take to œcalling their home from their office, or their office from their home, asking for themselves, and then hanging up in hard-breathing relief upon being told they ›weren’t in.’ My breaking point came, I suppose, when at the Van Nuys, California, unemployment office I spotted my movie agent in a line three down from mine. And so the cabin in Tahoe where I was destined to become the caretaker in Stephen King’s terrifying The Shining, typing my version of œAll work and no play makes all boy hour after hour, day after day for over six weeks as I kept changing , the date in my opening paragraph from œApril 1 to April something else, because each time I would read the page aloud, the rhythm of the lines seemed to change, a maddening cycle of emptiness and insecurity “- magnified, I suppose, by the fact that I had no clear plot for the novel in mind “- that continued until I at last gave up the cabin and hoped for better luck back œhome, a clapboard raccoon-surrounded guest house in the hills of Encino owned by a former Hungarian opera star who had purchased the property from the luminous film actress, Angela Lansbury, and where I overcame the block by realizing that I was starting the novel in the wrong place, namely, the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., as opposed to northern Iraq. Almost a year later I completed a first draft of the novel. At the request of my editors at Harper and Row, I did make two quick changes: cleaning up Chris MacNeil’s potty mouth, and making the ending œless obvious. But because of a dire financial circumstance, I had not another day to devote to the manuscript, so that when I received a life-saving offer to adapt Calder Willingham’s novel Providence Island for the screen for Paul Newman’s film company, I instantly accepted and left my novel to find its fate.
For most of these past forty years I have rued not having done a thorough second draft and careful polish of the dialogue and prose. But now, like an answer to a prayer, this fortieth anniversary of the novel has given me not only the opportunity to do another draft, but to do it at a time in my life “- I will be 84 this coming January “- when it might not be totally unreasonable to hope that my abilities, such as they are, have at least somewhat improved, and for all of this I say, Deo gratias!
— William Peter Blatty