Monday, November 2, 2015

Kolchak - A Black And Evil Truth!

When Moonstone got the rights to Kolchak; The Night Stalker they really went all out in putting material into the marketplace featuring the idiosyncratic 70's paranormal reporter. Comics of course, short stories eventually, and finally novels. A Black and Evil Truth by C.J. Henderson published in 2007 claims to be at the time the first Kolchak novel in over a decade (since Grave Secrets by Mark Dawidziak I'm guessing) which would make it the fourth novel in the series overall (by my unofficial count).

The Kolchak of this story is a much more restrained and reflective individual, less the mildly cartoonish bumbler so beautifully overplayed at times by Darren McGavin and more the conflicted protagonist of Jeff Rice's original novel. Still in all there are times in the book when it doesn't feel like Carl Kolchak at all.

The story is a whopper as Kolchak is sent by an unexpectedly sympathetic Tony Vincenzo to the Virginia and West Virginia border town of Gore in West Virginia to examine the weird murders of two people in two towns separated by a twenty miles and a state line. The murders are savage and utterly mysterious and that mystery grows even more pronounced when an entire family falls victim to the brutality. Kolchak finds a town full of people who are mostly friendly and he finds cops who greet him without the usual skepticism he encounters from big city police forces. He also finds love of a sort and that is really strange.

There's nothing that Kolchak does or doesn't do in this novel that strikes me as implausible for the character, but the tone seems at times too relaxed given the wild nature of the crimes encountered. Henderson does do a great job of dropping hints at the ends of chapters which keep you pulled into the narrative and it is an entertaining diversion, though I have to confess the finale left me a bit cold. The mythology of the Kolchak stories is intact here so fans of the movies and the TV series won't be left out, that's true enough.

I found A Black and Evil Truth a rousing read which works for me right up until I find out the answer to the mystery, then it sort of stops working for me. There's a heavy-handedness to the ending which undermines the great build up, but maybe that's just me. This strikes me as a "your mileage might vary" kind of book big time.

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