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I have vague memories of a story. I am pretty sure it is a short story. I can't think how it would be fleshed out to be a novel, or movie. It is possible it might have been an episode of a TV show like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.

I probably read or saw it in the '80s.

It was set in a smaller remote quiet town (population a hundred or less.)

The protagonist is a sheriff or police chief. He notices a few people acting a bit off, or strange, but I don't believe bad enough that he needs to intervene. He also sees more people than usual are visiting the town doctor. It is possible it was the town funeral mortician instead of the doctor. It was mostly women who were visiting and he was thinking they might be just "fooling around" instead of doing business.

He discovers his wife is also visiting and suspects she is having an affair, so he goes there and looks in the office window trying to see what they are doing. I can't remember if he just sees her getting patched up, or if there actually was an affair also.

He rushes inside to confront the doctor/mortician and it is revealed that the sheriff/chief is also one of the dead. The doctor tells him something like: "Don't you remember your car accident xx months ago? You died, and I brought you back."

What's going on is, anytime someone dies, the doctor/mortician, brings them back to life, patches them up and they resume their life (sort of a voodoo thing.) He may also be initiating sex with the women too after bringing them back, and any time they come back for treatment.

When they injure themselves, or start acting strange, they come back for treatment and he fixes/patches them up and they return to their lives. He has by now puppeted most of the people in the town.

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    This sounds very much like the film DEAD & BURIED from 1981. The coastal town is called Potter's Bluff and the town mortician is reviving the dead - almost the whole town.
    – Cassfrank
    Mar 17, 2023 at 1:16
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    @Cassfrank Which had a 1980 novelization by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.
    – DavidW
    Mar 17, 2023 at 2:12
  • @Cassfrank Answers go in the box down there V not in comments. ;)
    – DavidW
    Mar 17, 2023 at 2:13
  • Saw the trailer for the movie Dead & Buried on IMDB.com. While a lot more gruesome than what I remember, it does look like what I described. not sure how close the Novelization follows the movie, (I assume its very similar) I may have read the book, or seen the movie.
    – NJohnny
    Mar 17, 2023 at 10:23

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As noted by others in the comments, there was a novelization of the 1981 film, Dead & Buried by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Front cover of Dead & Buried

The murders were bad enough but what Sheriff Dan Gillis couldn't understand were the newcomers to Porter's Bluff, and their eerie resemblance to people he had seen dead and buried.

He couldn't tell Janet, because even his beautiful wife was acting strangely lately. Was he imagining things? Or was something evil preying on the sleepy town of Porter's Bluff, something as shadowy as the faceless killers who roamed the land?

The Wikipedia entry on the film (which according to some reviews differs from the novelization, which was based on an earlier screenplay than the shooting script) goes into more detail, including the reveal that the local coroner-mortician has perfected a technique for bringing the dead back to life, and that Gillis is among the undead.

The Internet Archive has a copy you can check out to see if it matches your memories.

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  • Doing a quick page through the Internet Archive copy, it looks like the reveal is actually an arranged movie projection when Gillis comes home, possibly by Dobbs, that leads to the final confrontation, where it is revealed that Gillis (and Dobbs) is one of the undead, but it doesn't look like they say how he died exactly.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Mar 17, 2023 at 13:09

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