Shadows | Chill #7


Shadows | Chill #7
Jory Sherman | Pinnacle Books | 1980 | 181 pages

Against the advice of his physician, wealthy industrialist and toymaker, Adolph Zehring-Rand, moves to Mexico to receive an experimental treatment for his recently diagnosed terminal illness. Shortly after his arrival at the hacienda near the Mexican clinic, Zehring-Rand begins experiencing visions of shadows, amorphous shapes that seem to move and attempt to communicate with him. Convinced that these encounters are occult in nature, and not the hallucinatory side effects of his new medical regime, Zehring-Rand reaches out for assistance to famed psychic investigator, Russell V. “Chill” Chillders.

Although little doubt exists of the supernatural nature of the situation, several characters establish motivation for undermining, or even eliminating, Zehring-Rand. Dr. Spinoza, chief researcher at the Clinica Medica de Ensenada, is clearly a quack, with a sham facility in place to provide the illusion of research. Hattie McBain, Zehring-Rand’s personal assistant, has a personal history of chasing wealthy and powerful men. Several rival executives at Z-R Industries have open contempt for the way Zehring-Rand runs the company, and are impatient for his ouster. Meanwhile, young girls around Ensenada have been disappearing, including the daughter of the former owner of Zehring-Rand’s hacienda.

At book seven in the series, all the reductive traits for the Chill and his associates are obligatorily noted, with little variation or growth from book one: Chill is a vegetarian, but also a vintage gun enthusiast who will eat the game he kills (check); he munches on sesame sticks to concentrate (check); he has a platonic relationship with his psychic assistant, Laura Littlefawn, but both acknowledge a latent, deeper attraction (check); Laura, a native Sioux, displays a fondness for silver and turquoise jewelry (check); and Hal Strong, a New England professor and Chill’s occasional sidekick, is driven by the need to communicate with his dead son on some other plane of existence (check).

The industrial espionage subplot provides an opportunity for a private eye to discover, first hand, how capable ghosts are of murder. Another character ultimately changes allegiances, although even this twist—seemingly driven by a newly found heart of gold–is telegraphed earlier.

The dark shapes plaguing Zehring-Rand eventually congeal into the ghostly form of a little girl, and he rushes to manufacture a new toy, an articulated doll constructed to the specifications given to him by the spirit. Tapping into the inherent horror of dolls and laughing children, Shadows delivers a few suspenseful moments, some pseudo-science bunk, and a touch of psychic mumbo-jumbo, all the while deviating very little from the expected course.

But what psychic detective worth his weight in sesame sticks thinks giving a non-corporeal entity, with unknown and possibly murderous intentions, a fully functional doll’s body to inhabit is a good idea?

House of Scorpions (Chill #6)


House of Scorpions (Chill #6)
Jory Sherman | Pinnacle Books | 1980 | 176 pages

Things get personal for supernatural investigator Russell V. “Chill” Childers in this sixth outing of the occult series, when his psychic sidekick, Laura Littlefawn, comes under attack by a Navajo scorpion cult.

The cult actually consists of only Dan Crooked Creek, a disgruntled tribal outcast, and Rowena Carter, an impressionable young runaway who has fallen under his spell. Dan’s drive to destroy Laura springs from an exceptionally mundane source–not from some personal grievance or perceived injustice, but from her success selling Native American artisan crafts. Experiencing a series of threatening visions involving scorpions, Laura turns to Chill for help in battling her psychic attackers (or more correctly, she places a psychic phone call to his housekeeper).

House of Scorpions offers very little mystery for Chill to investigate, since alternating chapters completely reveal Dan’s obsession with the scorpion’s symbolism, his related messianic complex, and his plans against Laura. His own telepathic abilities are rather nebulously explained, since his main method of attack involves enticing his collected group of scorpions to attack. Rather than simply confronting Laura, Dan somehow telepathically projects his location–in a cave outside Rowena’s family house–to Laura in a dream, luring her and Chill into a rather dubiously conceived trap [Modest Spoiler Alert: he hits Chill over the head with a rock].

Passages involving scorpion handling, mating rituals of a captive breeding pair, attempted cult indoctrination involving stinging, and eventually an attack on Chill’s hippie handyman, evoke a kind of nature-run-amok horror, as the series trademark telepathic content takes a backseat to more naturalistic shocks. Epic struggles on the astral plane are conspicuously absent in this entry, replaced by more intimate corporeal encounters involving scorpions crawling out from under beds and down nightshirts. Rowena takes the mating dance of the scorpions to a logical conclusion in a grotesque scene late in the story, one of its few horrific highlights.

Readers with arachnophobia, rather than insectophobia (“Scorpions are not insects,” as Chill reminds us), will possibly discover something here to trigger a modest case of the creepy-crawlies.

The Phoenix Man (Chill #5)


The Phoenix Man (Chill #5)
Jory Sherman | Pinnacle Books | 1980 | 175 pages

Psychic investigator Dr. Russel V. “Chill” Chillders returns in the fifth installment of the supernatural series.

Chill responds to a request for help from Wilbur Hornsby, who along with his twin scientist brother, Malcolm, has succeeded in creating a method for human cloning. Upon their test subject’s death, the soul of the recently deceased seeks out and inhabits the next in a series of fully grown cloned bodies, which wait indefinitely suspended in a row of fluid-filled bubbles in the pair’s laboratory. However, Wilbur suspects that his brother intends to use the clone—who in a glaring example of scientific oversight, happens to be violent drifter with a criminal history—to kill him and take the credit for their discoveries.

Unfortunately, The Phoenix Man plays out as more of a men’s action-adventure tale than an occult mystery, complete with descriptions of weapons and their impact on the human anatomy that flirt with becoming gun-porn.

“The Speer bullet slammed a hole in Samson’s forehead at the speed of 1625 feet per second. The soft lead core flattened against the frontal bone, crumpling the inner fluted jacket of the bullet, creating, in effect, a tiny lethal hammer. A spray of blood blew out with the brains, bone, and gristle of Samson’s head, leaving a gaping hole in the rear of his skull.”

Chill himself is cast in the role of action hero, with his burgeoning telepathic powers kept fallow. Laura Littlefawn, Chill’s half-Sioux psychic associate, only briefly enters a trance-state to elicit the location of a subject; otherwise, she tags along to provide the will-they-or-won’t-they romantic tension [they won’t], and falls into the hands of the villains—becoming another victim in need of rescuing by Chill. Hal Strong, the occult-minded professor who rounds out Chill’s usual team, literally waits out the entire story in an RV.

By this fifth book in the series, the characters have all become extremely reductive; Chill reflects by munching on sesame sticks, Laura wears turquoise and silver jewelry to accentuate her dark hair and eyes, and Hal wonders where he can pick-up road-loving ladies to accompany him in his recreational vehicle isolation. Even Malcolm Hornsby is defined by a distinctive facial tic, which conveniently proves quite useful later to differentiate him from his good brother.

The Hornsby brothers’ clone is driven by a rage from a single factor, not the greater existential quandary of his predicament, but rather his newfound impotence.

Chill #4 (Vegas Vampire)


Chill #4 (Vegas Vampire)
Jory Sherman | Pinnacle Books | 1980 | 173 pages

An enjoyable, but completely disposable entry in the “Chill” Chillders supernatural investigation series, with tacky Vegas fashions—ranging from pink polo shirt ensembles to a variety of dazzling pantsuits—stealing interest away from its tale of a vampire manipulated into serving its human benefactor’s interests.

Following his keynote speech at the First Annual Psychic Seminar in Las Vegas (greeted with a round of thunderous applause), psychic investigator Dr. Russell V. “Chill” Chillders is approached by Captain Loomis of the Las Vegas Police Department. Under the advice of pathologist Dr. Bill Patterson, Loomis enlists Chill’s aid in solving the mysterious death of a local showgirl, whose blood-drained body was found in the dry creek bed beyond the Gold Dust Queen Casino where she worked. But it was the puncture wounds on the victim’s throat that led Patterson to believe that the perpetrator was of supernatural origin—a conclusion Chill never doubts.

Chill and his team—Laura Littlefawn, his half-Sioux clairvoyant assistant, and Hal Strong, literature professor and expert in the occult—discover that this death is only the latest in a string of killings targeting the showgirls at the Gold Dust Queen. The casino’s owner Ramsey Bullock, a prancing, pink-clad caricature sporting an effeminate watch and gold slippers, suspects the involvement of his rival Amelia Robinson, owner of the neighboring Silver Foxxe Casino. After a brief meeting with Amelia, Chill quickly deduces her role in the affair, and in no time is exploring the underground tunnels beneath the casinos to uncover the vampire’s lair.

Vegas Vampire holds very little mystery, since Amelia’s role in controlling the vampire is revealed in the early pages of the story. Chill’s team is also severely underutilized in this outing, with Laura Littlefawn in particular reduced to a glorified clothes horse, existing solely to make dramatic entrances wearing her butter-yellow pantsuit and turquoise jewelry, rather than engaging in any feats of psychic detection. Speaking of pantsuits, Amelia sports her own tight-fitting model splashed with silver glitter, enhanced by her complete look consisting of false eyelashes, patent leather shoes, and long cigarette holder. Chill himself is in cool form, sipping his orange juice and munching on sesame sticks in his polo shirt and crisply pressed slacks, while doing very little actual detective work—psychic or otherwise.

Disappointingly, the text hints at, but never develops, the idea that monsters of myth such as vampires exist as projections into reality from our own primordial dream state. Following this conceptual strand could have taken Vegas Vampire to a much more original and satisfying place than its silver-staking and burning-in-the-sun finale.

The Bamboo Demons (Chill #3)


The Bamboo Demons (Chill #3)
Jory Sherman | Pinnacle Books | 1979 | 182 pages

Occult investigator Dr. Russell “Chill” Childers returns in a new adventure that takes him and his assistant, half-Sioux psychic Laura Littlefawn, to the Philippines to battle an aswang—a mythological shape-shifting demon from Filipino folklore.

Felix Bulatao, a Manila scholar well-versed in local mythology, witnesses his young friend Paco’s girlfriend Caridad being violated and torn to pieces by a creature they believe to be an aswang. This fiendish beast shares similar traits with the werewolf and vampire in Western culture, feeding on human blood (and entrails) and having the ability to change form, often to that of a large dog. Felix reaches out to Chill, author of Modern Occultism and renowned investigator of the supernatural, for help in tracking down and destroying the monster. Chill and Laura Littlefawn fly to the Philippines to meet Felix and travel to Caridad’s village, looking for clues to put them on the aswang’s trail.

During a psychic session, Laura sees a vision of a man wearing military clothes, and produces a cryptic clue in the form of a single word, “Yesterday”. While driving around the countryside, the investigative team of Chill, Laura, Felix and Paco encounter sporadic fighting amongst armed rebel groups. However, violence of a more supernatural kind descends upon the home of Paco’s parents, as the aswang attacks during the night, brutally killing—and partially eating—Paco’s father. Even while examining scenes of gory carnage, Chill takes timeout to munch on his trademark sesame sticks. [Other series checkboxes ticked off: Chill is a vegetarian who likes to make salads, Check! Chill shows great interest in vintage firearms, Check! Chill and Laura have unexpressed feelings for each other, Check!]

Since the identity of the primary aswang villain is revealed almost immediately, the story slogs along as Chill tries to catch up to the reader’s knowledge. Perhaps as a nod to the Marcos-era Philippine setting and the aswang’s role as a guerrilla leader, the play of various insurgent and governmental groups becomes important, but these passages bore when compared with less frequent encounters directly between our team members and their supernatural opponents—such as when a hypnotically beautiful female aswang visits a vulnerable Laura (during a psychic vision in the bathtub). From the initial click of the radio turning off in the next room, to Laura following her unexpected visitor outside, to her finally fainting at the site of the aswang’s physical transformation (and in the process losing her hastily-wrapped bath towel), this sequence delivers in way disappointingly absent in the rest of the story.

Occasionally, The Bamboo Demons does inspire a certain kind of monster-fighting giddiness, as the group prepares to go aswang hunting with Chill’s modified Spanish dueling pistols—loaded with his homemade bamboo-tipped ammunition. Then it’s time to pass the sesame sticks and wait for the next installment.



Jory Sherman | Pinnacle Books | 1978 | 244 pages

“The door opened, and a tall man stepped out into the morning sunshine. He wore aviator-type sunglasses to keep the glare from his eyes. He was trim and muscled in a short-sleeved light blue tennis shirt and dark blue double-knit slacks. His shoes were white-textured leather Florsheim loafers.”

Fashionable psychic investigator Russel V. “Chill” Childers (“Satan’s Seed”) returns to solve a mysterious case involving a girl seemingly trapped in a state of suspended animation. After moving into an old Louisiana mansion she inherited from a great-uncle she hardly knew, Patty Brunswick begins to have strange attacks of dizziness. Whenever she looks at her new house, her vision swims and the ground underneath her seems to waiver. She discovers that her condition is not unique; her husband Tom, a Hollywood documentary producer and Chill’s old friend, is also suffering from these bizarre episodes. While questioning the estate’s long-time groundskeeper Moses Petitjean, the couple is shocked when he points an accusing finger at their 15-year old daughter Joan as the source of the trouble. Joan immediately faints as a shudder runs through the house, and is unable to be revived.

Chill arrives on the scene and instantly squares off against Stan Morgan, the skeptical family doctor who cannot medically explain Joan’s condition; she cannot be awakened from what appears to be a deep and peaceful sleep. Chill suspects Joan is being held in a trance-like state, perhaps under the external control of some unseen force. But when creeping vines climb up the side of the house and attempt to invade her bloodstream through the intravenous drip in her arm, even Dr. Morgan’s rationalism is challenged.

Chill and his assistants, half-Sioux psychic Laura Littlefawn and university professor/occult-specialist Harold Strong, research the house and its history, suspecting that a clue to Joan’s present state exists in the details surrounding the unexpected inheritance and family lineage. They ultimately discover Joan’s ancestor, a nun in 17th-century France named Joan of Angels, was found to be possessed by Iscaaron, demon of lust, leading to an inquisition and its resulting tortures in the monastery. Laura conducts a séance to contact one of the nun’s spirits, and confirms Chill’s belief that the reincarnations of the players in the original possession are reenacting their occult drama in the present, with Joan as the point of demonic entry.

Beyond hacking and slashing the vines growing towards the sleeping Joan, Chill doesn’t really spring into action until the final face-off with the possessing demon. Even then, he is mostly unaware of the danger that surrounds him; Laura Littlefawn, with her sensitive psychic impressions, later relates to him the demonic forces she witnessed him battling. Perhaps intended to echo the influence of the lust demon on the assembled party at the estate, the greatest suspense comes from whether or not Chill will score with Tom’s beautiful blonde administrative assistant, Kim Michaels.

***Spoiler*** Their “dance of tongues” is interrupted by a phone call from Laura, just as Kim is “reaching for his manhood.” ***End Spoiler***

A subplot involving Ozzie and Clare Branson, the other (somewhat unwanted) guests at the estate, also underscores the influence of Iscaaron, as their 19-year old daughter Ginger attempts to seduce Tom Brunswick. An incestuous foundation for her behavior adds a little yuck-factor to the proceedings. But since Joan spends most of the story unmoving in her sick bed, Ginger becomes the stand-in as the girl-in-peril for some related mischief.

Through it all, Chill nibbles on his trademark sesame sticks and reflects upon the special nature of his relationship with Laura Littlefawn.

Satan’s Seed


Satan’s Seed
Jory Sherman | New English Library | 1978 | 159 pages

A bloody bull carcass drained of blood, with entrails exploded across the pen, alerts ranch owner Sam Hinton that a supernatural presence is prowling his land. Assuming the death of his bull is the latest episode in a series of unsolved cattle mutilations plaguing the West, Sam calls for the assistance of psychic investigator Dr. Russell V. “Chill” Chillders. During the phone call, the sound of screams and scuffling interrupt the conversation, and Mrs. Hinton picks up the receiver to report shocking news; the body of their fourteen-year old son Jimmy was just discovered, killed in the same grotesque manner as Hinton’s prize bull.

Chill immediately travels to meet the Hintons at their California ranch, along with his partner, Laura Littlefawn, a half-Sioux beauty with a fondness for jade and silver jewelry. Laura is a “sensitive”, whose telepathic powers are summoned from a self-induced trace-like state. But she doesn’t need her psychic abilities to recognize the cool reception from some of the guests at the ranch; the belligerent foreman Tony Stubbs, nervous ranch hand Ralph Loman and his young assistant Earl Dickens, Sam’s strangely detached daughter Donna, and fellow mourner Peggy Owensmouth. The severed calf head Laura discovers staring up at her from her toilet also provides a corporeal clue to their unwelcome presence.

Chill’s investigation leads him to a suspected ritual site in a nearby cave, and to a bloodstone magic circle inscribed in the floorboards of a ramshackle cabin on the ranch. Other evidence left behind, including candles and a hazel wood wand, suggests the site was used for a satanic incantation. Meanwhile, a poltergeist torments Donna, trashing her room at the ranch. The destructive spirit interrupted her while she was reading a book on the occult borrowed from Mrs. Owensmouth—one of many from her large library of titles on witchcraft and demonology. Convinced that someone on the estate has made an infernal pact with Satan, Chill and Laura hold a séance to contact the spirit of Jimmy Hinton.

After the séance fails to reveal the killer, more gruesome murders occur at the Hinton ranch. Realizing the escalating violence will continue, Chill contacts an old friend and arranges for an exorcism to purge the demon he suspects inhabits one of the suspects, who are gathered together at the cabin for a final confrontation. Of course, since the devil is suspected to be bisexual, any one of them could have summoned him through the prescribed pact of blood and intercourse.

Satan’s Seed, the first book in a series featuring the psychic detective at work, quickly establishes the appeal of Chill and Laura Littlefawn, teasing out their romantic tension without becoming too formulaic. Although the investigation ultimately is a foregone conclusion—BAM! It’s Satan—the characters are engaging enough to propel them through a narrative featuring exploding livestock, ghosts of nineteenth-century miners, a Jesuit exorcist with an interest in Satanism, and a conventional human murder mystery involving apple seeds.

Plus, the sesame-stick-nibbling “vegetarian” Chill expounds on the virtue of eating the wild game he shoots himself.