On Saturday, April 25, at about 2:30 A.M., Cheryl Ann Hughes was tapping her foot angrily as she waited at the corner of Second and Fremont streets. She glanced repeatedly at her watch. The young man she was currently living with, Robert Lee Harmer, was supposed to be picking her up for "breakfast," and then a ride home. Harmer was nowhere in sight. He was at that moment quietly puffing away at a joint with some members of a local rock group, oblivious to the time.
Cheryl Ann Hughes: twenty-three, five feet five and a half inches tall, one hundred and eighteen shapely pounds, Clairol blond hair and light-brown eyes. Swing-shift change-girl at the classic Gold Dust Saloon, a gaudy western-styled casino built when Vegas was younger, smaller, and-- some say -- friendlier.
Cheryl Ann Hughes: Tired. Hungry. Disgusted at having waited twenty-five minutes for a ride, was now mad enough to walk the eight blocks to the small frame house she shared with Harmer just off the corner of Ninth and Bridger.
Cheryl Ann Hughes: now walking East on Fremont Street, past Schwartz Brothers' Men's Shop, determined to make it home in time for the 3 A.M. movie and a bowl of chili, but still keeping an eye out for Harmer.
Cheryl Ann Hughes: alone with her irritation, now crossing Las Vegas Boulevard having just passed the white-plastic dazzle of the latest Orange Julius stand, its three male customers giving her a brief appraising glance.
Cheryl Ann Hughes: a girl with less than fifteen minutes to live.
The passage catches one's attention, doesn't it? It comes from the book The Kolchak Papers, finished by author Jeff Rice on October 31, 1970. The odds are very good that you've never read the novel, but you are very likely to have seen, or at least heard of, its television adaptation, The Night Stalker (1972). The television series is so firmly ingrained in my mind that I cannot read the text above without hearing the voice of the awesome Darren McGavin narrating as streetwise reporter Carl Kolchak.
Rice's novel was unpublished when it was optioned for television, and only had a brief print run when the series grew in popularity. In 2007, however, Moonstone Books released a new edition which also includes the sequel, The Night Strangler:
I got this book as a Christmas book, and was very eager to read it: would the original novel live up to the fond memories I had of the television movies and subsequent series?
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