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 below.

(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 cut.

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 Washington 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 environment).

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, American history).

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 little.

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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