Beloved Young Adult Horror Writer Quit the Genre After Her Teen Daughter's Unsolved Murder

Lois Duncan, known for writing thrillers for a teen audience, died at the age of 82 from a stroke in 2016. But even after her death, though, a mystery from her personal life lives on with no answers.

Duncans's work is known for pushing the boundaries of young adult horror. But she stopped writing all the way back in 1997 for a personal reason, a dark one that she could have very well created for the subject of one of her own books.

Duncan became a published author at the ripe age of 13. "From then on," she said, NPR reported, "my fate was decided. I wrote what I knew about, and could hardly wait to rush home from school each day to fling myself at the typewriter."

Her writing career changed dramatically in 1992 when she released a book titled Who Killed My Daughter? Unlike Duncan's other work, this piece was a nonfiction title, which explored the murder of her teenage daughter, Kaitlyn Arquette. At the time of the teen's death in 1989, Arquette was 18.

Arquette's death came as a giant shock: Duncan initially expected her daughter had died in a car accident when she received a late-night call from police. But Arquette was shot in an odd attack that still doesn't have answers. While driving, Arquette was shot in the head with two bullets.

Books
Books sit on a shelf at the Cecil H. Green Library on the Stanford University Campus December 17, 2004, in Stanford, California. Getty/Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The teen's death has yet to be solved over 30 years later, and though Duncan tried to continue writing thrillers, it was nearly impossible for her to imagine a young woman in a scary situation after her own daughter's devastating murder.

She released her final thriller, Gallows Hill, in 1997. The book's plot follows a woman who moves to a new town for high school. After a school fair, it appears the girl may have psychic powers, as she's predicted the fate of many of her classmates. Between mystical moments and relations to the Salem Witch Trials, the book was the last of the thrillers that Duncan released in her writing career.

Duncan's writing went on to live on the screen, too, though she wasn't pleased with it. I Know What You Did Last Summer, the 1997 film starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, was based on a novel released by Duncan in 1973. Duncan was displeased with the film, which strayed from the book's plot and glorified the violence that Duncan aimed to write tastefully. She turned to mystery and intrigue, while Hollywood turned to sex and gore.

Despite the odd Hollywood manifestation of the book, which critics surely didn't love either, Duncan remains a widely-respected creative who paved a path for teenage thriller content.

Beloved Young Adult Horror Writer Quit the Genre After Her Teen Daughter's Unsolved Murder | Culture