PERSONAL: Born in AZ.
CAREER: Animator, engineer, and writer. Former senior artist for Mattel, Inc.; Intel Corporation, Santa Clara, CA, animator and senior technical marketing engineer. Has worked as an editorial cartoonist for Tombstone Epitaph and as a courtroom sketch artist.
(Under pseudonym Steve Zell) Wizrd (horror novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Also author of Starting Out: Your Guide to PC Audio HW and SW.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A second novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Horror novelist Steve Pitzel, who writes under the pseudonym Steve Zell, is a professional animator, marketing engineer, studio session vocalist, and computer graphics instructor. He has also taught 3-D and computer animation to traditional "cel" animators at Disney Features Corporation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, the University of California Los Angeles, and elsewhere. Pitzel also served as lead animator on the CBS television feature The Nuttiest Nutcracker, and has been a senior artist for noted toy producer Mattel.
In his debut novel, Wizrd, fourteen-year-old Bryce Willems and his ten-year-old stepsister Meg have moved with their parents to the Arizona town of Pinon Rim. While the old town has been through many cycles of boom-and-bust—most recently when the Wizard mine (spelled "Wizrd" by the ill-educated locals) gave out—it is currently enjoying another renaissance. Where once a bustling gold-mining town stood, a modern artists' colony thrives, and the children's father hopes to regain his artistic inspiration there. Pinon Rim seems a quiet-enough place to raise a family and recharge creatively, but soon strange things begin happening. An old man and his dog inexplicably go berserk and kill a sheriff's deputy; Bryce sees faces of the local artists reflected in the ancient tintypes depicting former Pinon Rim residents, and a Navajo boy is found drowned under mysterious circumstances. The lurking menace is finally released when Meg, exploring a cave behind her house, unwittingly provokes an ancient Navajo spirit. Bryce discovers that it was the spirit, not the failure of the mine, that devastated the town a century before. As the spirit seeks an innocent human to spark a new explosion of violence, it falls to Bryce to find a way to stop the ancient presence.
Wizrd "is an impressive debut: a novel that builds slowly and lets out a large held breath in the final quarter," remarked an essayist for the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers. The "author's narrative skill keeps the pages turning," noted Library Journal contributor A.M.B. Amantia, while a Publishers Weekly reviewer added that Zell's "characters are exceptionally well drawn and engaging." The same critic found that the first half of the novel is slowed by excessive character-building and exposition, but concluded that the carefully laid threads of Zell's narrative "furiously unwind in a hair-raising, fast-paced climax." "Readers can feel the evil flowing out toward them even before Zell begins to describe it," commented School Library Journal reviewer Cathy Chauvette.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Library Journal, February 15, 1994, A.M.B. Amantia, review of Wizrd, p. 186.
Publishers Weekly, December 20, 1993, review of Wizrd, p. 51.
School Library Journal, April, 1995, Cathy Chauvette, review of Wizrd, p. 167.
Intel Corporation Web site, http://www.intel.com/ (May 15, 2005), "Steve Pitzel."