NIGHT OF THE HUNTER Davis Grubb stopped at a local pool room in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and sat next to a customer nursing a beer. He noticed the man had the word LOVE tattooed on the knuckles of one hand and the word HATE tattooed across the knuckles of the other.

Disturbed by what he saw, Grubb got up and left.

But that one moment seared into his memory, proved a valuable device when writing his critically-acclaimed novel, The Night of the Hunter in 1953.

The story was inspired by serial killer Harry Powers, dubbed The Bluebeard of Quiet Dell, who romanced, then killed two widows and three children.

Powers, a grocer, and former vacuum salesman, also lived in Clarksburg. The convicted lonely-hearts killer went to the gallows in 1932.

In Grubb’s novel, the main character in the book—”Harry Powell”—had the words LOVE and HATE tattooed on his fingers.

Tattoos, Love & Hate

Critics labeled the story a minor American classic and described it as a “remarkable first novel … not without flaw,” pointing out that Grubb’s intelligence complicated the storytelling process at times.

A finalist for the 1955 National Book Award, The Night of the Hunter was also turned into a classic film starring Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters.

Grubb had the opportunity to write the screenplay but opted to draw elaborate sketches of the characters for Mitchum and director Charles Laughton. 

Creativity never seemed to pose a problem for Grubb, who didn’t hesitate writing in a different genre. He also experimented with various writing techniques during his career.

Literary critics, he said, “seemed to get very upset when you don’t write the same thing. They say you have sold your talent.”

Critics, however, countered that Grubb’s novels did tell similar stories, despite varying genres, and also tended to rely too much on stereotypes. 

Davis Grubb

Born 1919, Grubb grew up in Moundsville, West Virginia, and wanted to pursue a career that blended his skills in writing and painting.

Although color-blind, Grubb enrolled in the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spent a year studying painting and drawing, but left in 1939.

The following year, he moved to New York, got a job as an NBC page.

Later, he worked as a copywriter for radio broadcasts. He wrote fiction in his spare time. For a few years, he worked as a radio announcer in Florida and Philadelphia,

Grubb sold short stories to both the pulp market and better magazines, such as Good Housekeeping and Collier’s. In fact, the first sale he made was to Good Housekeeping in 1944, which earned him a check for $500. 

In addition to Night of the Hunter, his novel Fool’s Parade was also adapted for film, starring James Stewart, Kurt Russell, and George Kennedy.

Davis Grubb

Grubb focused mainly on mysteries and thrillers and wrote ten novels, short fiction, inlcuding short story collections.

In addition to the big screen adaptations, , his stories were often adapted for television.

The macabre events he wrote about, which featured vivid characters, made them popular for such TV programs as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962) and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (1969).

Grubb died in New York City in July 1980. He was 61


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4 comments to “AUTHOR DAVIS GRUBB”

  • Jim Meals

    Thanks for the interesting article, Tom. You encouraged me to read more of Grubb’s work. I have only read “The Night of the Hunter.” BTW: Despite the excellent job he did on the movie of “The Night of the Hunter” Charles Laughton never directed another movie.

  • It’s the only one I ever read too, Jim. And, I’ve always wondered by Laughton never again sat in the director’s chair.

  • Shawna Tucker

    Mr. Rizzo, I’ve been trying to do more research on Davis Grubb. Do you know if there is an official obituary on the web? I’m interested in whether or not he was married and had children, or who might own the rights to some of his works. Thanks so much!

  • Shawna,

    I didn’t find an “official” obit, but here’s something that might be helpful: http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/84 andhttp://streamline.filmstruck.com/2015/11/09/davis-grubb-the-writer-behind-night-of-the-hunter/

    Hope this helps. Thanks for stopping by.

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