Friday, July 12, 2013

The Kolchak Papers - Grave Secrets!


What do Janos Skorzeny, Richard Malcom, and Louis Henson have in common? They are all the primary antagonists for the rumpled reporter Carl Kolchak. The first two names may well ring a bell, as they are the names respectively of the "Night Stalker" and the "Night Strangler". But that third one might be a bit more obscure, as that fantastic opponent only appears in The Kolckak Papers - Grave Secrets, the third authorized Kolchak novel written by Mark Dawidziak. Dawidziak is a Kolchak scholar and wrote this rather compelling novel in 1992.

Recently Moonstone Publishing, the current home of all things "Kolchakian" uncovered a big batch of these obscure novels and made them available. I'm very glad they did, as this is one of the best Kolchak adventures I've ever read, and one well worthy of the character. Dawidziak has real  feel for the rhythms of Kolchak's speech which is critical to presenting these first-person adventures.

This one deals not with vampires or immortal murderers, but with a plain old ghost. Now that's not strictly true, the ghost here is far from plain and the wonderful depth of detail really helps solidify the phantoms here and gives the whole adventure a real credibility. The novel is exceedingly well researched and that background is the kind of obscure lore that bristles throughout the story.

We meet some old favorite characters and meet some well-developed new ones as Kolchak spans the American continent in search of his latest nemesis. The story begins in Hollywood and switches to Ohio which is presented with great local color.

If I'd fault the book for anything is an overly detailed setting, specifically time. This story takes in place in late fall 1992 and that's locked in with a gaggle of specific details about the politics and affairs of the day. The references are very topical, but so specific that a reader coming to the book without a familiarity with the pop culture of the time might be sometimes mystified.

But that's a quibble. The story grabs you and never lets go, as Kolchak in typical fashion follows his leads and finds the truth, even if we all know he'll never get Vincenzo to publish it.

If you can find a copy of this handome tome, get it. If you like Kolchak's adventure, I suspect you'll enjoy this one.

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