William F. Nolan is an American horror, science fiction, fantasy and crime writer who’s produced a massive quantity of brilliant tales during his long career. He was born in 1928 and is probably best known as the co-author of Logan’s Run (1967) with George Clayton Johnson, which was adapted to the big screen in 1976. He’s written screenplays for films such as Trilogy of Terror (1975) and Burnt Offerings (1976). Here we’re going to look at a few of his short horror tales. Give them a read and you’ll soon see why William F. Nolan is considered a master of the genre.
1. “Gibbler’s Ghost” (1974) – A tongue-in-cheek tale about a famous actor who remains a virgin despite repeated attempts to rectify the situation because each time he’s intimate with a woman the apparition of man in a suit of armor carrying a horse over his head appears to scare her off.
2. “Saturday’s Shadow” (1979) – A mentally unbalanced narrator tells about the nature of the shadows which relate to each day of the week with Saturday’s Shadow being the most deadly. He then talks about a lonely woman who loves going to movies and what ultimately happened to her in this tale of madness.
3. “Lonely Train A’Comin” (1981) – This story follows a rugged cowboy who’s driven to discover what happened to his beloved younger sister who disappeared just after sending him a letter excitedly telling him about the old steam locomotive she was about to board on her way to the big city. No one else seems to have seen this train and no one uses steam powered engines anymore either. His investigations into the case leads him to discover a series of strange disappearances. He’s able to determine when and where this mysterious train will appear again in its search for new prey and positions himself to ensure he can board it when it returns. This is a fantasticly creepy tale which would have made for a fun Night Gallery or Tales From the Darkside adaptation.
4. “Something Nasty” (1983) – A little girl finds a way to get revenge on the mean uncle who delights in upsetting and scaring her.
5. “Dark Winner” (1984) – This story is told through the transcripts of a wife who’s being questioned about the mysterious disappearnce of her husband after he took her to visit his childhood neighborhood for the first time in years. He said he hated himself as a child and was glad to be past it, yet he’d suddenly been overtaken with the intense need to go back. This is an excellent, very chilling tale.
6. “Ceremony” (1985) – A hitman who suffers from triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13) takes a long bus ride to Providence, Rhode Island to eliminate a target. The bus is forced to stop early in the small town of Doour’s Mill due to engine trouble. The town is inhabited by a handful of skeletally-thin locals who keep wishing him “Happy Holidays” in reference to it being Halloween. Each person he meets informs him he’s invited to a ceremony later that night. They seem to indicate his attendance is mandatory.
7. “In Real Life” (2001) – A series of murders are occurring but who’s actually killing whom?
8. “Dark Return” (2005) – A man named David Neville, who’s become an occult investigator, recalls the bizarre events that led him down that path after he attempted to duplicate a demon summoning spell from one of his late mother’s books even though he didn’t really believe it would work. A demon named Thorgon does appear however and pulls him into the blood circle with it. David suddenly finds himself back in the hometown where he grow up in the 80’s. Nothing’s changed there except that all his friends and the townspeople are the same age as they were back then, and they’re all cold to him, telling him he’d better find a way to leave before midnight or he’ll be sorry. This is another fun, well-told tale.
Article by Matt Cowan