The Official Archives Author Reveals His New Kolchak Project

Mike Powers

If you’re a fan of The X-Files, odds are you’re also a fan of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Though its entire 1972-1975 run encompassed just two TV movies and a single 20-episode season, the show has been a revered beacon of weird pop culture ever since, and is an oft-cited inspiration for X-Files creator Chris Carter.

Starring Darren McGavin as a rumpled reporter who continually stumbles upon supernatural news stories—always to the consternation of his newspaper boss and the local police—Kolchak: The Night Stalker saw its titular hero confront vampires, undead serial killers, zombies, aliens, a werewolf (on a cruise ship!), ghosts, Satanists, witches, a rampaging android, demons, increasingly obscure monsters from folklore… and more. You can stream the one and only season on Peacock (you’ll have to dig a little deeper to find the made-for-TV movies, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler, but they’re out there), but if you yearn for more Carl Kolchak adventures, publisher Moonstone Books has been keeping his spirit alive with a series of novels and stories.

Which brings us back to the X-Files connection: coming this spring from Moonstone Books is Kolchak: The Night Stalker: Haunted & Hunted, a five-story collection from author Paul Terry, whose The X-Files: The Official Archives books io9 has covered in the past.

Along with these exclusive cover reveals—the art is by Jay Piscopo—io9 got a chance to ask Terry all about his new release. First up, here’s a full look at the entire cover, including the book spine and back, followed by our email interview.

Image for article titled X-Files: The Official Archives Author Reveals His New Kolchak Project

Image: Moonstone Books

Image for article titled X-Files: The Official Archives Author Reveals His New Kolchak Project

Image: Moonstone Books

Cheryl Eddy, io9: Kolchak: The Night Stalker is known to be one of the influences on The X-Files—we had Kolchak himself, Darren McGavin, guest-starring as proto-Mulder FBI Agent Arthur Dales in seasons five and six, and Rhys Darby’s lizard man from season 10 wearing that unmistakable hat and seersucker suit. Beyond those overt nods, what do you see as the main connections between the two shows, thematically speaking?

Paul Terry: I love Darren as Arthur Dales so much, as well as Rhys’ Guy Mann costume mirroring Carl Kolchak’s. Two sublime connections. I think, in term of themes, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The X-Files both center around an impassioned, courageous, and unapologetic search for answers. Regardless of the professional road blocks, cynicism, and disbelief that get thrown at the heroes of both shows, they are relentless in their quest for the public to know the truth. Kolchak and Mulder are also always late filing their respective news story or case file, resulting in combative scenes with their bosses.

io9: And along those same lines, what are the key differences between the two shows?

Terry: In many ways, Carl Kolchak often finds himself falling into a supernatural case. Whereas Fox Mulder is always on the hunt, always researching for the next supernatural thread to pull. Darren McGavin’s Kolchak also has a very different energy to Mulder or Scully. Kolchak has this whip-smart, highly visual, but also extremely lean and efficient style to his reporting/voiceover, and speaking. It feels like a classic dogged reporter or private investigator character from the pulpy detective fiction era of the 1930s to 1950s. On the other hand, Fox Mulder has more of an elongated, very wordy, and lower energy style of talking/reporting. Not to say that Mulder doesn’t have his passionate bursts—he has plenty of those! But when it comes to how the audience receives his theories and information that he imparts to Scully during a case, it’s definitely lower on the pulpy/whip-smart scale than Kolchak is. Then you have Dana Scully who is extremely exacting and efficient with her choice of words, both with dialogue and her reports. Which is a long way away from Carl Kolchak’s vibe.

The stakes are different between each show too. Although there’s a little bit of carry-through between the Kolchak episodes, in terms of character development and call-backs, the stakes are fairly localized to the city Carl is in (Chicago, LA, etc). The X-Files generally broadens its stakes to imply that, even with a small-town monster-of-the-week event, the ramifications for the whole of the U.S., or the world, were often stated and used to amp up the threat the antagonist imposes. Related to this, I also think, although the cases are often scary, Kolchak: The Night Stalker has more of a consistent air of wit about it, mainly because of Darren McGavin’s brilliant characterization and entertaining acting choices. The X-Files is often very funny, but having a witty pulse at all times was not the main focus for The X-Files. That was mainly tension and terror.

io9: Which came first, your X-Files fandom or your Kolchak: The Night Stalker fandom? What do you think draws you to these types of stories?

Terry: If my memory serves me correctly, I think Kolchak actually came first. In the UK, we didn’t get season one of The X-Files until September 1994. But around maybe 1991 (and I believe it was repeated in the following years) there was this anthology show on BBC2 called Mystery Train. It was hosted by Richard O’Brien (of The Crystal Maze and The Rocky Horror Picture Show fame), and included surreal animations, classic monster movies, and episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. My buddy and I would tape Mystery Train (as it ran late into the small hours), then watch what it featured the next day, and talk about it endlessly. It was an amazing portal of discovery. Also, because the programmers would put similarly related weirdness on after the Mystery Train broadcast. For example, it’s how I saw David Lynch’s terrifying 1970 short film The Grandmother.

I’ve always been drawn to weird tales because of the mystery aspect, much more than the horror or scary aspect. I do love scary stories, but if there’s a compelling mystery that is the strongest component within the terror, I am all in. I’ve always loved Columbo too, and did a rewatch recently. Still brilliant.

io9: What are your top three favorite Kolchak episodes?

Terry: That’s a tough one. Probably: the UFO episode “They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be…” as it’s full of inventive scenes and some great twists; “Horror in the Heights” because it’s probably the scariest episode, but it’s also very provocative and poignant; and “The Trevi Collection,” as I love the mannequin sequences. They create a ton of tension with very simple filmmaking techniques. I also want to give some love to the second feature film, The Night Strangler, as I don’t think it gets enough praise.

io9: What can you tease about the short stories in Kolchak: The Night Stalker: Haunted & Hunted?

Terry: I had an absolute blast coming up with these five new Carl Kolchak stories for Moonstone Books. I rewatched both Kolchak movies and the whole series, and took notes about: the kinds of cases/monsters, the situations Kolchak gets himself into, unusual character moments, but also throwaway lines that felt intriguing. Then, I let my mind wander about a bunch of scenarios that I hadn’t seen Kolchak get himself into. I wanted these to include: a terrifying haunting in a airport during a blackout; shocking abductions on Catalina Island; a provocative story mired in Lake Tahoe’s forgotten past; a car breakdown in the black of night; and one of the most historic visuals in all of gothic horror: the gargoyles of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

The biggest spark for these five ideas was coming up with situations fans would enjoy because they are, in part, new places/predicaments for Carl to deal with, while at the same time feeling like it’s the Kolchak they know and love dealing with them. I always love horror-mysteries that kind of feel impossible for the hero to escape or resolve. That was a big driver of these stories too. The more I developed the tales, this theme emerged which does thematically tie all five together: being “haunted and hunted.”

io9: What’s the most fun part about writing new adventures for Carl Kolchak?

Terry: Writing in his voice, definitely. I spent a lot of time studying how he talks, and I hope the fans feel I captured that essence in these new stories. I also loved doing a balancing act of sprinkling in supporting characters from the TV show/films, alongside brand new characters created for these stories. Because that’s something else Kolchak: The Night Stalker struck an excellent balance with: great recurring characters and guest stars.

It’s funny because, now I think about it, I’ve spent the past bunch of years making these in-world X-Files books that require me to study the vocal patterns of several characters that are very familiar to fans. So, for my first fiction anthology/novella to require me doing that for characters from Kolchak: The Night Stalker—one of the “spiritual ancestors” of The X-Files—feels like a slice of insanely appropriate synchronicity.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker: Haunted & Hunted will be released later this month or in early May; you can pre-order a copy now.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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