Flush with the success of their wonderful line of comics (Kolchak: Tales of the Night Stalker) and graphic novels (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) Moonstone has gone one step further, offering up a prose collection of twenty-six original Kolchak spin-off stories by some of the more talented comic and mystery writers out there. Fans can think of this as the second season of Kolchak: The Night Stalker that never was. Some of the stories (The Last Temptation of Kolchak, The Pretty Dead Girl) tinker with the concept and character of Kolchak a tad too much, for my taste. Others perfectly replicate the format and character of the cult show. (Shadows from the Screen, – the best of the bunch, as far as I’m concerned – Don’t Even Blink, Barrens, to name only a select few). Still more are playful examinations or ruminations on the meaning of Kolchak, or just what the character means to the writer writing the story. (Interview with the Vampire?, What Monsters Do, It Came from Monkey Skull Creek) With such a diverse selection of tales to choose from, this anthology will have something to satisfy any and all of Kolchak’s fans.
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Was there ever a more unlikely hero than Carl Kolchak? Or, for that matter, a more peculiar link in the well-established literary chain of “psychic detectives” such as Seabury Quinn’s Jules de Grandin or Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence? An unapologetically nosy, aggravatingly persistent, irredeemably rumpled little man with a Keaton-esque porkpie hat topping off a seersucker suit that had seen better days…and yet, Carl was and is indeed our hero. He was our man on the scene where all things macabre, preternatural, and downright weird were concerned, facing, at various times, a marauding robot, a perambulatory mummy, a shipboard werewolf, a subterranean dinosaur and the occasional vampire amongst other things.
Kolchak’s heyday was unquestionably the early 1970s, making his debut in THE NIGHT STALKER (which garnered the highest ratings of any made-for-television program up to that point), following through with another TV feature, THE NIGHT STRANGLER, and an hour-long series that lived an unmercifully short life. Although a third go-around (THE NIGHT KILLERS) was bandied about, Kolchak’s career seemed to be quite moribund in the wake of his cancelled series.
But in the realm of fantasy, anything is possible. Carl was duly resurrected by Moonstone to appear in a series of graphic novels for the old-timers who recalled his adventures of decades ago, updating the character in the process so as to introduce a whole new generation to his exploits. And now, we have a fully-fledged fiction anthology to savor. Each of these 26 tales can be enjoyably digested in the span of one sitting, appropriately like an episode of the series. What makes the collection work is the blatant love and familiarity that each author displays in regard to the protagonist. Or should that be plural? For not only does Carl make a return engagement, but fussy Ron Updyke, lovable Monique Marmelstein, sweet old Emily Cowles, and not least blustery boss Tony Vincenzo are on hand too.
Which brings me to my favorite selection here, Shadows from the Screen, penned by Richard Valley who also happens to be an inveterate Kolchak-aholic. As the title implies, Carl must contend with a phantom actress haunting Hollywood Boulevard and surrounds. Not only does Richard (being the editor and publisher of Scarlet Street, for which I write) display a lifetime of knowledge and inspire warmly nostalgic feelings in the reader where classic film is concerned, he even manages an historical first: “outing” Updyke!
Other segments take us to locations diverse as the sun-baked Arizona desert amid Native American mysticism (The Shadow That Shapes the Light by Ed Gorman and Alan Dean Starr), on location of a “Bollywood” extravaganza that quickly turns bloody (Kali’s Final Cut by Adi Tantimedh), and even a sojourn to foggy Collinsport, Maine for a meeting with a certain Mr. Barnabas (Interview with a Vampire? by Mark Dawidziak). Evil wonders, ancient sorceries, and stalking monsters await our dogged reporter at every turn – join the fun!
I like this new book of short stories of the continued adventures of Kolchak. The stories are great. They are almost better than the TV series. I also like the number of stories included 26 I believe.