Kolchak: The Night Stalker Chronicles

Kolchak: The Night Stalker Chronicles

by Joe Gentile

For the first time ever, a monster collection of 26 new original Kolchak short fiction stories by noted authors from comics, horror fiction, and film!

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But the TV show was always a careful balancing act between horror (creatures of myth and folklore, usually, transplanted into odd, resonant urban settings) and humor (the sitcom aspect of the reliable newsroom cast: Tony, Ron, Miss Emily, occasionally Monique; Carl's near vaudevillian interactions with witnesses, experts and this week's police chief - all roles filled by great character actors) and even if the authors realized that, the novella form is more the length to replicate that blend. Action might be hard to pull off ("He came at me..." is the only glimpse we get of Kolchak's written work, flashed on the typewriter as he pounds away in the iconic show opening) and, I'd say, the stories would have to be set in-period. There are a number of unwanted character explorations or attempts to needlessly grapple with questions best not asked - "why does Kolchak always run into monsters?" being the predominant one (essentially, engaging that question is exposing the bare wall of genre to the light of day and is a thankless task - although that doesn't stop some of the authors from painting clumsily on that wall) and there's quite a bit of Carl endlessly musing on all the monsters he's stalked, which also seems like an unfruitful detail (as much fun as it is to reference your favorite episode and invent new ones you don't have to write) because it undermines the real-world tone that makes the rather bizarre situation Carl finds himself in so believably scary. Character explorations and investigations not to my taste include "The Why of the Matter" by P.N. Elrod (Kolchak reassured that heaven is on his side by an eternal assassin), "The Last Temptation of Kolchak" by Steven Grant (that old chestnut where a character is offered everything he wants, kind of an extension of the offer Kolchak got in the tv episode "The Devil's Platform" - a shame about this, as I was a big fan of Grant's comic book series WHISPER), "The Pretty Dead Girl" by Brett Matthews (Kolchak falls for dying woman who sees proof of good in all the evil he fights) and "What Every Coin Has" by C.J. Henderson (actually the character examination in this - in which Kolchak is set against an exploitative TV producer and star of a show about paranormal phenomena - makes for a nice contrast, but the story itself is kind of silly). The aforementioned "It Came From Monkey Skull Creek" by David Ulanski is probably the most successful character examination, pulling a nice twist (in truth, effective because of the expectation created by the weaker writing in other stories presented here) in a tale of Kolchak's childhood (if one ignores some logical inconsistencies, like a campsite going undisturbed for 40-odd years in rural New Jersey, and a comic book surviving out in the wild for equally as long). There's lots and lots of lowered expectations/"just okay" stories, many of them too complicated for their own good (stories with ghosts always seem to be a problem, as making a ghost reasonably threatening is always hard - "Wet Dog of Galveston" by Jason Henderson, for example, doesn't even try and just tells a good-natured story that would never have been an episode, while one of the biggest names here, Max Allan Collins, turns in "Open House" about a haunted dwelling, notable for featuring a plot twist in which Kolchak finally "gets some"). The most successful stories, as I said, attempt to replicate a compacted version of an episode of the series (Kolchak investigates killing and discovers strange monster) although a number of attempts at this are so compacted as to feel like cheats. Also a small moment to mention Mark Dawidziak's "Interview With A Vampire?" which (on the down-side) combines two aspects of the fan fiction approach of these stories: unneeded character exploration (Kolchak is reassured about the good he did by killing Janos Skorzeney, the vampire, so many years ago, even if no one believes him) and the media cross-over (said reassurance comes from one Barnabas Collins of TV's horror soap opera DARK SHADOWS). As I said, with a direction like that, this seemed unlikely to entertain me, but I found it well-written and I must say that Mr. Dawidziak did one of the absolute best jobs I have ever read of capturing a particular character's voice in dialogue - in this case, Willie Loomis (Renfield to Barnabas Collins' Dracula, if you will).

We get to see Kolchak facing all types of threats we never got to see on film.

But, it was nice to read the sarcastic lines coming from Kolchak's mouth once more, the torture he put his boss Vincenzo through, and of course THE MONSTERS!

I will let you know that, in one story, Kolchak goes a trip to meet with another iconic TV character.

For all of you who are either too young or aren't a nerd like myself, Kolchak was a book about a journalist who turned vampire hunter.