News and Info from Mark Dawidziak
Recently, to my great pleasure, Mark Dawidziak came across my web site when he was directed
there by someone who suggested he read my review of Grave Secrets. In our correspondence, he has
since given me permission to pass on various background and tidbits of knowledge, which are presented
(11/10/99) Both editions of the "Companion" include characters which don't seem to appear in the
episodes (i.e., "Wax Museum Curator" in "The Ripper, "Mrs. Torres" in "Legacy of Terror.")
Mark: The credits I used for the "Companion" were the official MCA/Universal cast
lists for the episodes. They represent, I believe, everybody who worked on the
show, even if his or her scenes were ultimately cut. I used them because, at the
time the two versions of the book were written, I didn't know for sure how the
episodes originally aired. I had the episodes as they were aired (and cut) for
CBS, syndication, the Sci-Fi Channel, etc. Then, yes, I got the restored
versions from Columbia House, but these are at constant odds with fans'
memories. I've received conflicting reports from people who "remember" seeing
the original episodes. Several, for instance, swear they remember seeing Ivor
Francis as the Wax Museum Curator in "The Ripper." They describe the scene in
detail. Well, maybe. I was 18 when the episode originally aired and I watched
it, and I don't remember ol' Ivor, but, then, I don't trust my memory, either.
So, the safest route for me, I thought, was to go with the most complete and
official credits available. Obviously, these were prepared by Universal before
editing was done. Mark Schultz and his team at "It Couldn't Happen Here. . . "
do a fine job at tracing down unused scenes, which always turn out to be more
than I imagined. Just a bunch. And there's no one at Universal who even
remembers the show or can give any guidance on the matter. So we're left with
best guesses, probability and speculation.
What's up with 'Vampires & Slayers' Magazine, and what does it mean for Kolchak lovers?
Mark: "Vampires & Slayers," [is] a magazine that is the brainchild of former
"Scarlet Street" publisher Jessie Liley and, believe it or not, Ed Gross, the man behind the
now-defunct Image Publishing (which, of course, is the company that printed
"Night Stalking" in 1991). Jessie is the managing editor. As the title
suggests, it's a magazine devoted entirely to vampires and vampire hunters,
from Dracula, Barnabas Collins and Lestat on one side of the street to Van
Helsing, Buffy and Kolchak on the other. Every issue should have a Dracula, a
"Dark Shadows," a "Buffy" and a Kolchak representation of some kind. They do
have a web site, and a "Vampires & Slayers" search should bring it up fairly
quickly (Steve's note: it's at www.vampiresandslayers.com).
The first issue, which is supposed to hit the stands in September, should include the first
chapter of "Cancellation," a lighthearted Kolchak novella that gently lampoons
"The X-Files," and an interview I recently did with Richard Matheson about his
various vampire projects. "Cancellation," which starts with Kolchak being asked
to become a technical adviser on a hit supernatural TV show, was supposed to be
a short story. The publisher, though, suggested serializing it in four parts.
(8/19) Why doesn't their web site mention "Cancellation"?
Mark: As for "Vampires & Slayers," they are on the second version of the web
site. The first one heavily promoted "Cancellation." The second crammed in all sorts of new
information, and forgot to include the story. About par for the Kolchak course, and I've already mentioned
it to them.
(Steve's Note: Apparently there is a link: click on the Bela Lugosi photo.)
What happened after Grave Secrets? Would there have been more novels and/or novelizations
of the series itself?
Mark: Yes, many more novels. The deal between Cinemaker and Jeff was signed in
either 1992 or 1993. It was a five-year arrangement, and it was supposed to
produce 15 books (three a year). The first three books, all to be published
under the umbrella title of "The Kolchak Papers" (Jeff's original title for the
book), were to be the reprint of "The Night Stalker" (actually published in
1993 with original artwork by Kevin Barnes and Sterling Clark, Jr.), the
reprint of "The Night Strangler" and "Grave Secrets" (published in 1994 with
original artwork by Ed Silas Smith).
The fourth book was to be Doug Murray's
"The Grand Inquisitor" (a strong first draft was completed but never taken to
rewrite). The remaining 11 books would have alternated between original novels
and adaptations of the episodes. But planning didn't go far enough to decide
which of these episodes would have been the five or six to be dramatized. All
that was decided definitely was that no one wanted to adapt "The Sentry," and
since it was the last episode of the series, it was all right to mention it as
the case that got Carl fired from the INS bureau. The remaining episodes were
up for grabs. The ones deemed poor choices for adaptation would then become all
right to mention as cases Carl tackled in Chicago.
The tricky time issue
regarding the gap between "Night Strangler" and the '90s stories also wasn't
worked out, except as it was explained in "The Night Stalker Companion" -- that
is, not to mention it and to allow the 20 years to be something of a magical
jump, meaning "The Sentry" happens simultaneously in 1974 and 1994. That's as
good as it got. There were, however, leading contenders among the episodes for
novelization. Some might surprise you. Sometimes a lesser episode, for
instance, provided more opportunity for the writer. One episode everyone
thought would make a good novel was "Werewolf." Think of how that one could be
fleshed out. You could go into the background of Bernhardt Stieglitz and his
past killing sprees. You could have a lot more fun with the chararacters on the
ship. And you could take your time with the conclusion, which seems so abrupt
in the episode. Another frequently mentioned candidate for novelization won't
surprise you: "Horror in the Heights." I'd say those two would have made the
Some more background on Grave Secrets, and Mark's connection to Ohio:
Mark: For the record, I was born and raised in New York. I attended George
University in Washington, D.C., earning a bachelor's degree in journalism in
1977. Before graduation, I was working in D.C. news bureaus, where I got my
start in the business. After two years at the Knight-Ridder and Associated
Press bureaus, I followed the journalism trail from Washington to Virginia (for
a year), Tennessee (for four years) and Ohio (for the last 15). I've spent most
of my 22 years in the business as a theater, film and television critic. I'm
currently the TV critic at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
I'm 42 and the author of
two produced plays and three other books: "The Barter Theater Story: Love Made
Visible" (1982), "The Columbo Phile: A Casebook" (1989) and "Mark My Words:
Mark Twain on Writing" (1996). I thought you had more than guessed about the
Ohio connection because my association with the Akron Beacon Journal (where I
was a TV and film critic) was mentioned in bio blurbs for "Night Stalking,"
"The Night Stalker Companion" and "Grave Secrets." But I also spend two months
out of the year in Los Angeles for business purposes, which is why, I suppose,
I used both Southern California and Northeast Ohio for "Grave Secrets."
Jeff and I scouted all the locations used in "Grave Secrets," hoping it would
establish a new home base and universe for the future Kolchak books (the old
Hollywood Citzen News building, still standing on Wilcox, is the model for the
Los Angeles Dispatch, and, yes, there is a hotel across the street that is the
model for the Gilford). You can follow the directions in the book and find
almost all of the buildings as they are desribed (including, if you dare, the
chop shop behind Kolchak's hotel). My greatest compliment was a lawyer telling
me how perfectly I had captured the L.A. County morgue (and Gordy the Ghoul's
The publisher wanted the family of regulars from the series, and
I wanted at least two of the characters from Jeff's original book, Kirsten
Helms and Janie Carlson. Lt. Rogers and Laurence Stockman, both based on real
people, were meant to give Carl ying-and-yang police contacts (I have a circle
of friends and acquaintances who are private detectives, police officers and
public defenders in Los Angeles). Monique was going to be added to the mix in a
later novel. She will make an appearance in "Cancellation."
The other reason
Ohio was chosen was because Jeff wanted it. I submitted four story outlines to
Jeff and the publisher -- two set in Los Angeles, one set in West Virginia and
one set in Ohio. Both zeroed in on "Grave Secrets." Both liked the whole notion
of the Ohio area known as the Firelands (which, by the way, is not the area of
the state where I live; I found out about it through one of my other hobbies,
Jeff served as editor, giving particular attention to the
authenticity of Kolchak's voice. So part of the book's function was to
introduce new guidelines and serve as a kind of bible for other writers. Jeff
was working on fully updated bios of Carl and Tony to address the time-lap
problem you addressed in your last e-mail. That was one of our great
frustrations. A tremendous amount of work went into project that produced very
What's the situation with sites that sell Kolchak scripts?
Mark: There are several shops in Hollywood that illegally sell stills and scripts
(Xeroxed copies, of course) for almost every movie and TV show imaginable. They are trading in others
copyrighted goods, but little is done to stop them. Jeff Rice knows that such
buying and selling goes on, but it has become so commonplace, he, like everybody
else, just gives it a shrug of the shoulders. So I'm guessing that it would be
all right to link to these guys. This stuff falls into the category of
information that leaks through the many cracks of Hollywood, and fans gobble the
stuff up as fast as they can. I've certainly known "Night Stalker" fans who have
had copies of the scripts for more than 20 years. Hope some of this helps guide
you in deciding what to do.
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