Scott Hollifield: Book's main lesson -- Always listen to Steve McQueen

Who knows more about protecting the planet from a massive, gelatinous, flesh-eating menace, the King of Cool Steve McQueen or some man from the Pentagon?

Darn right, it’s Steve McQueen.

That’s the important lesson of the 1982 kids’ book “The Blob,” based on the 1958 movie of the same name (and later remade in 1988). I found the book in a bin at the last-chance thrift store where nothing is sorted, everything is sold by the pound and what isn’t purchased quickly is wheeled back through the swinging double doors and shredded or vaporized for all I know.

Crestwood House, formerly an imprint of Simon and Schuster, published the hardback edition of “The Blob” I found.

According to JacketFlap, a website devoted to publishing, Crestwood House put out nearly 1,000 books between the mid-1970s and the late 1990s, most aimed at kids ages 9-12. The topics covered sports and leisure (“Marvelous Marvin Hagler,” “Jogging – Back to Nature Sports,” and “Evel Knieval: Motorcycle Daredevil”), history (“Doomed Expeditions,” “Hiroshima and the Atomic Bomb” and “Little Bighorn”) and social issues (“Interracial Marriage,” “Gun Control,” and “Transplants,” all from the “Facts About” series).

But, it seems, none of those books or series made quite the impression on certain young people of the ‘70s and ‘80s as what are affectionately referred to by fans as The Orange Monster Books – a reference to their distinct orange covers. It was series of 15 or so that focused on classic monster movies, recapped the plots and printed stills from the films – “The Deadly Mantis,” “Dracula,’ “Frankenstein,” “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” and, of course, “The Blob.”

Internet tributes to The Orange Monster Books are many.

“For a generation of children, happiness was an orange hardcover,” one of the site authors on Vorpalizer.com writes. “The Crestwood House series of books on classic movie monsters was a near-constant presence in my life for years, perpetually borrowed and re-borrowed from my elementary-school and public libraries.”

For me, a fan of horror and all things weird, The Orange Monster Books came along a bit too late in my childhood to make that kind of impression, though I was aware of their importance to those a few years younger. “The Blob,” as a movie though, left a scar on my young psyche when I saw on TV at a tender age, so latching onto anything “Blob”-related at the last-chance thrift store was a special find.

The book, according to the writing inside, was discarded from the French Broad School Library in Asheville, but not before it was checked out by Kevin, Travis, Melissa, Travis again and a host of other kids who signed the card still inserted in the back.

The book closely follows the plot of the movie, which, for the uninitiated (spoiler alert) is a meteor crashes, a hunk of goo emerges, eats people, grows and eats more people as Steve McQueen and Aneta Coursaut before she became Helen Crump on “The Andy Griffith Show” try to warn the people who have not been eaten. Steve figures out that cold can stop – but not kill – The Blob, so they freeze it and dump it in Arctic.

But not before the book recaps a telephone conversation between police Lt. Dave Barton, who learned from Steve McQueen about freezing The Blob, and “the man at the Pentagon” who had other ideas:

“We’re got this thing under control,” he said. “But we won’t rest easy until it’s frozen solid.”

“It might be better to blow it up,” said the man at the Pentagon.

“You can’t do that,” Dave protested. “That would spread the thing all over!”

So, the lesson here for kids 9-12 is, when confronted with a massive, gelatinous, flesh-eating menace, ask yourself WWSMD – What Would Steve McQueen do?

Kevin learned it, Melissa learned it and Travis learned it twice.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, N.C. and a humor columnist. Contact him at rhollifield@mcdowellnews.com.