“The Season To Be Wary”: A Night Gallery Book

In his last interview, Rod Serling said he wanted to be remembered simply as a “writer.” There’s little doubt that he achieved that. Countless authors cite him as one of their primary influences.

Yet nearly all of his fans experience his words via a TV screen, not the printed page. How many of us have enjoyed a book by Serling?

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True, that wasn’t his typical medium. He was famous for dictating scripts in a hurry by the poolside, not fiddling with some florid prose in a quiet study. Small wonder that the few books he did author were out of print for years.

That changed in 2014 when Rod Serling Books republished several volumes that almost any fan of the fifth dimension will want to check out. Each one merits its own post, but today I want to focus on one that should interest any Night Gallery aficionado: “The Season To Be Wary.”

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Two of the three stories in this 1967 volume (“Eyes” and “Escape Route”) will be familiar to anyone who’s watched the Night Gallery pilot movie. But they’re still worth reading. Freed from the dictates of a network time schedule, Serling uses his considerable talents to paint more vivid portraits of the key characters, creating a memorable theater of the mind that puts many bestselling authors, past and present, to shame.

Richard Kiley does an excellent job bringing the loathsome Nazi fugitive Joseph Strobe to life. Joan Crawford’s turn as Claudia Menlo, who’s willing to exploit the downtrodden and blackmail the vulnerable to get her way, is equally chilling. Serling’s words, however, add something that can’t be captured by a camera.

You know how his Twilight Zone introductions make the episodes more enjoyable? It’s kind of like that.

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But the main draw for Serling fans is the third story, which was never filmed. “Color Scheme”, unlike the other two stories, has its own introduction, which notes that the idea came from Sammy Davis, Jr. 

Serling sketches a story about racism in the Jim Crow South, a world in which a white supremacist known as King Connacher preaches undiluted hatred toward people guilty of having a different skin color. Through a Twilight Zone-esque twist, he somehow switches bodies with a black man outraged by a deadly act of arson — a crime inspired by Connacher’s poisonous words.

Only then does Connacher understand the pain and suffering his actions have caused. It’s “Freaky Friday” meets “To Kill a Mockingbird,” ending on a grisly note that punctuates just how unspeakably ugly a world ruled by unreasoning prejudice can be.

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“Quick, raw and fiery,” notes one of the book’s blurb reviews. Indeed it is. If you prefer your tales of vengeance straight, no chaser, “The Season To Be Wary” is the book for you.

***

For more on Night Gallery, try this amazing book. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post.

Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

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About Paul

Hard-working, hard-playing fan of all pop culture, especially the Twilight Zone. Which led to a Twitter page. And then to a blog. And then to ... stay tuned. Yes, that's a picture of Rod Serling, not me. You can find the real me under the "Your Host" tab on my blog, along with biographical details that, while 100 percent accurate, sound kind of boastful and braggy. Sorry.

Posted on 11/14/2015, in Night Gallery, Rod Serling and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I read “The Season to be Wary” several years ago. Great book.

  2. OK Paul, this will be my introduction to Night Gallery. I’m going to slip a copy of this post to Santa. I have read and reread several Twilight Zone books, including one that I frequently checked out of our Junior High School library. This sounds like a winner. If I wasn’t likely to think so, the comment about his introductions got me.

    • There you go, Dan. Marking the season to be jolly with “The Season To Be Wary”? Works for me. Hope St. Nick cooperates!

  3. Victor De Leon

    I need to track this one down! I don’t think I’ve ever read it. Also, just found out my library received some of the volumes of the TZ radio dramas on CD! So excited to be finally getting around to hearing those. Great post, Paul! Thanks for the head’s up!

    • Hey, Vic! Glad to hear you enjoyed this one, especially since it spotlighted a work you’re unfamiliar with. Much as I love fanning over the famous stuff, I feel better when I bring a lesser-known work to light for others to discover and enjoy. Feel free to swing by with your thoughts when you do get a chance to read it. And that’s very cool about the TZ radio dramas. Perfect for listening in the car or on the run. Thanks for the comment!

  4. This comes six months late. I’m the guy who repeatedly asked you to do a post on TSTBW and when you did,I was silent. I read your post but didn’t comment,was having an off day or felt it had taken too long. Well,belatedly,thanks for discussing this work. It has somehow always loomed over me. I grew up in a very small town and tried in vain as a boy to find this book. It was different then,no internet,search services or options for a kid. I then forgot it through my twenties and thirties. Finally,in my forties,I obtained a first edition hardcover and a Bantam paperback. The quest was over! I read it and found it blistering,powerful and totally Serling. It’s also the only such work we have from that incredible man. I know I’ll reread it again soon. It should be better known. It may not be a masterpiece but I cherish it. Even in my fifties.

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