Q. I am trying to remember the title of a Dean Koontz book I read sometime before 1995. As I recall, it started with or included a scene in which the occupants of a house looked out at night to find that animals — squirrels, rabbits, etc. — were sitting in the yard and staring toward the house from all sides. Any idea of the title?
— L.J., of Swansea
A. Considering Koontz’s love for furry demons and the fact that he seems to turn out a book every month, I can’t guarantee this is the one that had you locking your cat in the basement at night 20 years ago. But when you put together the plot and the timing, it’s possible you may be remembering a creepy rewrite now called “Winter Moon.”
It’s a story that started in 1975 as a relatively short science-fiction novel (190 pages) entitled “Invasion” and published under the pseudonym Aaron Wolfe. At that time, Koontz was publishing so frequently in so many genres that publishers convinced him to write under several names so that he did not alienate readers with his prolificacy and genre merry-go-round. The list even included a female persona — Deanna Dwyer — as well as “Invasion,” apparently the only novel he wrote as Wolfe.
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In the original story, Koontz weaves the tale of a three-member family living on an isolated farm in Maine. Obviously, alien invasion is the furthest thing from their minds, but when the snow starts to fall one winter, they begin finding strange tracks in the nearby woods. Mysterious amber lights are soon seen, and their horses become spooked. They eventually find themselves cut off from civilization. Then, “the unthinkable happens!”
Well, apparently that didn’t send enough shivers up readers’ spines so Koontz reworked the story in the early 1990s and turned it into a 500-page epic that he retitled “Winter Moon” and published in 1994 under his own name. See if this is similar to what you remember:
This time, Jack Garvey, a 32-year-old L.A. police detective, learns that he has inherited the Quartermass Ranch in Eagles Roost, Mont., from his late partner’s father, Eduardo Fernandez, who died suddenly after some strange events.
Fernandez started seeing glowing lights in the trees accompanied by weird sounds, which Fernandez believed were signs of an alien invasion. Soon, he starts seeing wild raccoons that invade his house and die mysteriously. Then, he spots birds and squirrels eyeing his house. Finally, after challenging the invader to reveal itself, Fernandez opens his front door one night to find the stranger riding piggyback on his late wife’s reanimated corpse. Understandably, Fernandez keels over from a heart attack, and the plot sickens from there.
If that’s not the one, get back to me so I can take a couple of sedatives and hunt further. You can buy both versions on Amazon.
Q. On TV, I recently saw an ad with a guy on the hood of a pickup truck yelling, “Call the police for me!” What was that all about?
— C.L., of Cahokia
A. If it seems a little fishy, it actually was.
The ad apparently was based on a real-life event that occurred in Baton Rouge, La., in 2013. A man was selling shrimp by the side of the road, when the truck driver, who had a history of removing private signs on public property, pulled over and picked up the shrimp-seller’s sign, according to a story on Baton Rouge’s WBRZ-TV.
As the driver started to pull away, the enraged shrimp-seller jumped on the hood of the truck and hung on for dear life. Fortunately, it all came to a safe and peaceful end when the driver drove to a nearby police station. No charges were filed, no names apparently were released and the original YouTube video has been seen tens of thousands of times.
Q. My BND flops over while I am trying to read it, and the pages will not flip back! The paper is suddenly thinner! What’s with that?
— Kathy Rainbolt, of Belleville
A. Just as the airline industry has started to cram more seats on every plane to boost revenue, we’re trying to save money by buying rolls of paper with more newsprint on them. So, we have started buying paper that’s about 7 percent lighter, going from a 26.4-pound paper to 24.6, said Don Bradley, our production director.
It’s a thinner paper, so there is more on every roll, but as you can guess it may be more prone to fold over like a limp noodle. On the bright side, it helps keep your subscription costs in check because, believe it or not, that tiny change saves us close to $200,000 per year, Bradley said.
“So we try to save as much as we can,” Bradley said. “If we would use 30-pound versus a 24.6, we’d just be blowing money out the door.”
In early 1967, Donovan scored a No. 2 hit with “Mellow Yellow,” but in what famous work was the phrase apparently first used — and to what did it refer?
Answer to Saturday’s trivia: When you hear the Teddy Bears sweetly singing “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” it’s hard to imagine that it was a dark tragedy in Phil Spector’s life that ultimately inspired him to write the first record he ever released. When Spector was just 9 years old, his father committed suicide. On his tombstone were etched the words “To Know Him Was to Love Him.” Reportedly inspired by those words, Spector, just 18, would write his first hit, which would hit the top of the Billboard charts on Dec. 1, 1958 — and would stay there until it was replaced by “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” on Dec. 22. It was the only one of his many hits on which Spector actually performed. The Teddy Bears, which also included noted rock drummer Sandy Nelson and vocalist Annette Kleinbard, would disband the following year. Years later, Kleinbard, who changed her name to Carol Connors, would co-write “Gonna Fly Now” for the first “Rocky” movie.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-239-2465.