I was happily going about my days work, which primarily involves writing a Bible study Revelation 8, when mr. King popped his head into my world.  A star is thrown to the earth -- and the star is named wormwood.  It turns the waters bitter.  (This is during the "trumpet" judgments.)  And so I set down my commentary and did a quick glance at wikipedia to see how "Wormwood" is used in cultural references.  In the article, it included a lengthy discussion of Wormwood in the Stephen King works.

Here's the section regarding Stephen King:
  • In the Stephen King short story Home Delivery, an alien object enters Earth's orbit and causes the dead to rise as zombies and attack the living; the hellish object, a meteor-sized ball made up of many writhing worms, is referred to as "Star Wormwood."
  • Also in "The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger," Sylvia Pittson, the preacher-woman in the town of Tull, makes reference to the "Star Wormword" while she speaks of Satan during a Sabbath.(Located on p. 51 of the Revised edition.)
  • In another Stephen king book, "Under the Dome," Star Wormwood is mentioned several times by Chef Bushey.
  • Star Wormwood is also mentioned by Mother Carmody in both the Novel and Movie of Stephen King's short story The Mist.
  • Finally, in King's 2006 novel "Cell," a woman mentions star Wormwood when comparing the previous events in Boston to the Book of Revelation, shortly after Clay, Tom, and Alice leave the city.  wikipedia
In Revelation, Wormwood appears at the third trumpet, after the seals of the book have been broken open.  Wormwood causes the seas to turn bitter; thus making it a reverse miracle of what happened in Exodus at the waters of Mara, where God made the water sweet. 

Warren W. Wiersbe notes that "The word (wormwoo) means undrinkable and in the O.T. was synonymous with sorrow and great calamity.”

Brian Freeman Talks IT

Color interior artwork from the 25th Anniversary Edition of 'It.'
October Country

I really enjoyed October Country's interview with Cemetery Dance's Brian freeman about the upcoming anniversary edition of Stephen King's IT.  October Country: Freeman Interview

When asked about King's involvement in the project, Freeman says "King generally lets you run with your ideas for these special editions, but he does approve the artists and we send a lot of the artwork his way for feedback."

The interview is strong because while it says focused on the book, it covers a lot of different angles.  How the book is put together, King's involvement, how the project came about.  '

Here's a great question and answer. . .
October Country: It is often listed as a favorite among long-time King readers. In your opinion, what is it about the book that’s helped it endure?

Freeman: The way King deftly paints the very real lives and fears of children seems to resonate with readers of all ages. Plus, of course, most people are rightfully afraid of clowns.

Did You Put On Your DARK TOWER Clothes Today?


Someone call Ron Howard!  (You have to, I don't have his number.)  Go on, call him!  I found the wardrobe designer! 

Maria Garcia has a post titled "Preview: Luminaa Fall 2011."  What is "Luminaa" ?  Clothes. 

What's unique about this line of clothes is where it gets its inspiration!  Check this out, Garcia writes:
The Dark Tower, a seven book series by renowned author Stephen King, takes the mystique of the wild west and fuses it with more contemporary times. It also serves as an inspiration for the Luminaa Fall 2011 collection, which is fittingly entitled, "Live in a World with Cowboys and Robots." Dorothy Williams, the designer behind the line, captured western and modern elements in a way that made King's series come to life, through fashion.
Now to be clear. . . this isn't Roland's garb!  No sir, this is women's wear.  Based on the Dark Tower.  So, after taking a peek at the pics, did I see the Dark Tower's inspiration?  Well, I did. 


LaMarche: Stephen King's New Woodshed

Pat LaMarche writes in the Huffington Post, "I changed jobs this week. I went to work for one of my heroes. Perhaps you've heard of him, his name is Stephen King. Lots of folks like his books. He's more than an author though. He's a guy who gives a darn about his fellow man. A simple web search will tell you about the many soldiers, students, athletes and regular Joes he's helped over the years."

She then writes. . . "Too many Americans have accepted the rhetoric that innocents have to die so that we can clobber a bad guy or two that might be in our midst. That's the same logic used by Timothy McVeigh by the way."  That is true.  Americans also remember the Holocaust and a commitment we made to never again let large numbers of innocent people be slaughtered on our watch.  Sometimes that means clobbering bad guys! 

What is refreshing about LaMarche is that she truly seems to appreciate Stephen King.  She appears to have a working knowledge of his books, politics and values.  She doesn't appear to just be jumping into a job, but embracing something she is truly passionate about.  She promises humor over rhetoric.  I hope she can deliver on that! 

She closes with this, "Here's the last word from Mr. King, when he spoke about the morning show at our press conference last week, "We'd like to burn some feet once in a while -- make some people a little bit angry." Because, King added, "There are some people who deserve to be taken to the woodshed from time to time."


Duma Key Journal 3: The Writing

Duma Key is awesome! 

It is a heavily character driven novel; one of those books that becomes very real as you read it.  It's hard to believe all of this comes form a guy thumping away at his word processor.  It seems like somewhere out there, these people must actually exist!

A lot of Duma Key is about art.  I suspect it's as much about the art of writing as it is the art of painting.  King takes us inside the artist heard, and when he does we get the feeling that we are getting some personal notes from him.  For instance, when Edgar is asked what process he uses to paint -- how does he bring these paintings to such life? -- we quickly identify that age old question King has been asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" 

It is interesting when people in the book are amazed at Egar's output.  How can he produce so much art so quickly?  And we again think of King, writing book after book, sometimes so fast the publishers couldn't keep up! 

And King deals with the artist simple satisfaction in his own work.  Edgar, a wealthy man, doesn't need any money from painting.  He has a wonderful realization; it doesn't matter what anyone, especially snobs, think of his work.  He likes his art!  It brought him joy.  While there was a time that King's art paid the bills, you can since him grinning in the shadows at this scene.  It doesn't matter what all the book reviewers in the world think of his work, it brought him joy.  As he has often insisted, he never wrote a single word for the money.

Duma Key is a scary book.  Maybe not yet, not where I'm at (somewhere just beyond the halfway point), but you can sense it coming.  The book has certainly given its share of chills.  But what really strikes a chord is King's ability to bring home fears almost everyone has.  Few people are scared of ghost -- but how about public speaking?  YEP!  Most people are terrified of speaking in public.  When Edgar has to give a speech, everything goes wrong at first, and the reader can immediately identify.  The scene is, in its own way, every bit as much horror as the vamps in Salem's Lot.

The story moves slowly, but it has held my interest throughout.  The characters are worth the time.  You since King building something big.  There are dangers all around, but they remain in the shadows.  Why is it bad for daughters to be on Duma Key?  exactly what is under the house making that sound -- shells, or bones?  What gave Edgar his power, a ghost in the house or the accident?  All these issues have been gently put on the table, like a man setting up dominos for a spectacular display.

Haven's Emily Rose Talks Stephen King -- A Little

Emily Rose, who plays agent Audrey Parker has a pretty cool interview with David Martindale at Star Telegram.  It's not really quite an interview -- but she answers five pretty insightful questions.

When asked if she is a Stephen King fan, Rose said, "I wasn't a fan in terms of reading all his novels. But I realized I was a fan of his storytelling. Some of my favorite movies are Stand by Me, The Green Mile and Misery, and all of them are Stephen King. I love the richness in character and the texture of them. I mean, I could live in Stand by Me, it makes me so happy."

Read more:star-telegram.com

WILLA Promo 1

Willa looks like it is going to be great!  I'm looking forward to it.  Thus far, what stands out to me ist he tone of the movie; very dark and subdued.  Here is a promo that was posted on youtube:

King Review Of "“The Leftovers”

King's Review Of "The Leftovers"

Stephen King's review of "The Leftovers" is insightful, energetic and at points gently critical.  It is the kind of book we would expect King to enjoy -- a strange event that brings out the best and worst in people. 

The novel is about the rapture.  Only. . . it's not the "rapture of the Church" as a few modern evangelicals expect!  It's a rapture that is a bit messed up from Biblical expectations.  King does a nice job explaining the basic idea of the rapture.

King writes, “The Leftovers” is, simply put, the best “Twilight Zone” episode you never saw — not “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” but “The Monsters Are Us in Mapleton.” That they are quiet monsters only makes them more eerie."

The reference to Twilight Zone is cool! 

King praises "Perrotta’s beautifully modulated narration."  This kind of generous review should put a big smile on Tom Perrotta's face.

On a theological note. . .

The Leftovers deals with the doctrine of "the rapture of the church" and the way some people go to seed on this one teaching.

In terms of Christian theology, the "rapture" is brand spankin' new on the scene!  It was invented in the last 150 years. 

The church has discussed the exact nature of the "tribulation" since the second century.  But the idea that there would be a Coming BEFORE the Second Coming (which would technically make the Second Coming the Third Coming) would have flat out mystified first century believers.  No where did the New or Old Testament promise a secret rapture separate from the Parousia (Second Coming.) 

So to be clear, the Bible does warn of a fiery end to planet earth.  That's considered basic Bible, accepted by ancients, moderns, liberals and conservatives.  It does teach that believers will be "saved" from the day of wrath.  We are told in Scripture that there will be a final judgment and a new earth.

But with the rapture teaching, things get changed a bit.  Believers not only expect to be saved on the day of judgment, but expected to be raptured out before things get really bad on earth.  But, simply put, that is not the hope presented by the Scriptures.  The promise of Scripture is that God would protect his people in difficult times, not suck them out of the world.  The hope of the believer relates to God's strength in a wicked world -- not in a sneaky ticket out of dodge.

I point this out because King does not say anything about the Second Coming.  He accurately discusses the rapture, which is also the subject of the book he is reviewing.

thanks to Bryant Burnette for the link.

Wind Through The Keyhole Short Summery

This is from Liljas Library

Here is a short description of The Wind Through the Keyhole

For readers new to The Dark Tower, THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE is a stand-alone novel, and a wonderful introduction to the series. It is a story within a story, which features both the younger and older gunslinger Roland on his quest to find the Dark Tower. Fans of the existing seven books in the series will also delight in discovering what happened to Roland and his ka tet between the time they leave the Emerald City and arrive at the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis.

This Russian Doll of a novel, a story within a story, within a story, visits Mid-World's last gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and his ka-tet as a ferocious storm halts their progress along the Path of the Beam. (The novel can be placed between Dark Tower IV and Dark Tower V.) Roland tells a tale from his early days as a gunslinger, in the guilt ridden year following his mother's death. Sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape shifter, a "skin man," Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, a brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast's most recent slaughter. Roland, himself only a teenager, calms the boy by reciting a story from the Book of Eld that his mother used to read to him at bedtime, "The Wind through the Keyhole." "A person's never too old for stories," he says to Bill. "Man and boy, girl and woman, we live for them." And stories like these, they live for us.

King To Launch THE PULSE Radio Show

At a Press Conference today, Stephen King announced The Pulse Morning Show will now be airing on his WZON 103.1 FM throughout Maine.  The program will start September 12.

"We're going to try to be informative. We're going to be provocative. We're going to be amusing, and we're going to try to be a positive community force."

The show will be hosted by former Green party vice-presidential candidate Pat LaMarche and Don Cookson, a former reporter. 

Covers For 11.22.63

Above is the U.K. cover for 11.22.63.  Find it at stephenking.com 
Below is the U.S. cover.  Feel free to discuss which is better.  I like them both.  The headlines and newspaper feel of the American version speaks to me, though. 

Marvel's The Stand Facebook

There are some great updates at Marvel's The Stand facebook page. 

Facebook THE STAND

Youtube: Interview With Ralph Macchio

See the 1:34 mark for Dark Tower Omnibus news, and an interview with Ralph Macchio, senior editor at Marvel Comics.  He gives us a peak at the two volume set, which includes the Dark Tower Companion.  The set comes out September 7. 

Ed Rossman Presentation: Stephen King's Colorado

The Rocky River Public Library has an interesting presentation lined up for August 25. 
Stephen King’s Colorado will be presented by Ed Rossman, 7 p.m. Aug. 25. This interactive presentation features the work of one of King’s most popular works, “The Stand.” 

Rocky River Public Library

Poll: Gerald's Game Not The Best Place To Start

Earlier this month, I posted an article titled Don't Start There!, in which I discussed which books were good for first time Stephen King readers -- and which should probably be avoided.  Bob LeDrew at The King Cast took a poll at stephenking.com.  He asked King readers "what's your worst first?"

The result?  Well, you can see it below.  Bob was kind enough to send me a screen image of the final tally.  Doesn't look good for Gerald's Game!  And I must agree, that is a pretty bad place to start reading Stephen King.

Why is Gerald's Game a bad place to start? 
Is it a bad book? -- Not at all!

Gerald's Game actually illustrates King's awesome strengths as a writer.  Ever narrowing the scope of a book, he built his story around a woman tied to a bed.  It was brilliant!  Would she survive?  Everything becomes a battle for her -- even a drink of water.  The story moves around her childhood and deals with some pretty serious issues.

I would highly recommend this book to aspiring writers.  It is a masterpiece in the art of writing.  However, the story itself, and the scope, don't lend well to first time readers.

what do you think? 

Portland Outdoor Flicks: Stand By Me

This is from http://blogtown.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2011/08/19/its-happening-tonight

BLUEBERRY PIE—Tonight marks the last installment of the outdoor Flicks on the Bricks movie series, featuring the classic, Stephen King-penned Stand by Me. Featuring youthful performances from River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, and—oh, hey—that guy from Leverage! MS

w/Jacob Merlin; Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 SW 6th, dusk, FREE, all ages

Where Are The Audio Books?

PICTURE: Too Much Horror Fiction

Once again, I find myself wanting to dig into vintage King.  Of course, reading King is really not what I do (gasp) -- listen!  Honestly, I think one reason I got hooked on King was because a lot of his stuff was on audio book, and it wasn't abridged.  That's what you do when you are a lazy nerd -- listen to books.

So, once again I find myself wondering where some audio books are.  Is no one else asking?  Most of these complaints can be filed under "What's wrong with Doubleday?"  They have the same problem as Universal -- they're afraid to make money.

Don't bother writing in the comment section that we should go to the "torrent" illegal downloads and steal this stuff.  That's not what I'm asking for (and I'll delete such links).  I'm wondering: When will we be able to buy this stuff? 

Where is. . .

1. The Stand Unabridged.

2. The Mist Unabridged.  Don't give us that 3D sound stuff and then pretend it's the same as the book.  King's craft is his words, and they don't translate perfectly to any other medium.

3. Pet Sematary.  Once again, I can find the radio version, but the actual audio edition doesn't exist as far as I know.  Even for the blind!  I love this book, but once again, actually reading is so much work!  (Check out too much horror fiction's review of this book -- it's super duper.  toomuchhorrorfiction.blogspot.com.  I like this blog)

4. Rage.  Yep, I would gladly listen.  I know, big fear that it might cause teens to go nuts.  But I promise, I'll just listen and blog. 

5. The Dead Zone.  Can't find it!  There was a TV series, a movie -- but I guess Doubleday still doesn't think anyone would want to listen to the book.

6. The unabridged version of Desperation.  They tried to pull a fast one on this -- and I bought it!  I never thought I'd have to check a Stephen King book to see if it was abridged or not.  More whining and uncalled for bellyaching about this below.

7. The Regulators unabridged. Nice try -- but I want the whole thing.

8. Audio version of Bev Vincent's The Stephen King Illustrated Companion. Okay, so it's not written by King -- but I would still listen. Yes, I do know the magic of the book is all the extra's Bev stuffed the book full of -- but his reviews are crisp and insightful.  And don't say companion books don't get put on audio, because I have the Twilight Zone companion from audible.

9. The Audio of Swan Song.  So long as I'm complaining -- why not offer this one up, too.  I liked the book a lot -- and I had to read it all!  But I would return to it much more often if I had it in an audio format.

At some point a couple years ago, Viking's eyes popped open, and someone said, "Hey, we're losing a ton of dough!  We own this stuff, let's make money!"  What a great idea.  Now it's Doubleday's turn.

Speaking of audio. . .

Something nice happened a few years ago.  Audio books went unabridged.  King was a pioneer in this field, since he so hated the abridgement of Thinner.  There was really nothing like trying to keep up with Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising in a 3 hour abridgement.  I think the unabridged is 30 hours! 

Aren't we all glad King wouldn't put up with that?  Imagine a 3 hour version of Duma Key.  But, for some unknown reason, he gave in when it came to Desperation.  I couldn't believe it when I bought the audio, only to discover it is abridged!  Of course, it is an 8 hour abridgement -- but that still means someone was ripping pages out of the book!

Still Hoping For The Dark Tower

Movie Line writer Christopher Rosen has an article titled "Ron Howard and Brian Grazer Still Hoping for The Dark Tower."  Bottomline -- they're back to shopping around for a big check writer.  I hope they find one.  One with deeper pockets.  “[T]he soonest we could do it would be June next year,” Grazer said.

More here:
Movie Line

Get Ready: Stupid Is On Its Way!

It's coming, and there is nothing on earth we can do about it -- Stupid is on its way.

This particular brand of stupid has to pop up every time Stephen King releases a new novel. 
  • Remember when everyone said UTD was just like the Simpsons Movie?  Only -- it wasn't at all like the Simpsons movie!  Most notably, one had characters named Bart and Lisa, while the other had serial killers and drug lords.  But there is always someone who can't see the differences. 
  • There was a guy who said King stole the plot of his book when he wrote Desperation.  Only, a Judge said that was not the case.
  • And remember when the author sued King, saying that Duma Key is exactly like his novel -- only they are nothing alike.  I wrote a blog article explaining how the two are nothing alike, and a whole bunch of nuts came out of the woodwork and posted all over the blog.  As if I can't find the delete key.  My favorite, "You seem bias toward Stephen King."  Well, the blog does contain his name!  But more than that, I don't think King is a hack who has to dig through used bookstores to find story ideas.
Well, someone let the stupid out early this time.  The book hasn't even hit shelves, and already I'm reading an article titled, "Stephen King's New JFK Assassination Novel Is Sorta Exactly Like Quantum Leap Episode."  Ma-Muh-Ma-MIGHTY Brain at work here.

Posted yesterday, the article says in part: "A friend of Mixmaster tipped us off yesterday that King's to-be-released novel, entitled 11/22/63, is about a teacher who travels back in time to stop the John F. Kennedy from being shot."  Hold on!  So mighty brain is JUST NOW finding out that 11/22/63 is about time travel and the JFK assassination?  This is news to him?

Okay. . . back to mighty brain: "Which, at this point, is when we ask: oh, hey dude, isn't that the exact plot from an episode of Quantum Leap?  Oh, OK, yeah it pretty much is. In 1992, Quantum Leap debuted an episode called "Lee Harvey Oswald," (a two parter) where, as IMDB puts it.... Sam finds himself leaping back and forth in assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's life while retaining part of his personality."

So, has Mighty Brain read the novel?  Nope! 
So this idea that King stole "the exact plot from an episode of Quantum Leap" is based on. . . what?  A one sentence summery of an eight hundred page book.  800 pages. . . he reads one sentence and declares King stole the story.

The caption under the Quantum Leap picture reads: "Stephen King's plausible inspiration for 11/22/63."  Plausible?  I thought mighty brain said 11/22/63 was "exactly" the same plot as the Quantum Leap episode.  Exactly doesn't leave room for Plausible

I warn you now, the stupid comments are on their way.  There will be no end to the people claiming King either stole the story from some 1990's TV show, or from their own out of print self published novel.

The only reason this gets really annoying, is that it amounts to an attack on King's credibility -- his character.  is he a hack?  I don't think so.  I don't think he has time to be replotting Quantum Leap episodes into 800 page door stops.  To accuse King of intellectual plagiarism before the novel is even in the Amazon warehouse is premature.  Hey, I have an idea. . . read the book before saying it is "exactly like" Quantium Leap.


Cujo And Mars Needs Moms

I watched what might be the worst movie ever the other night -- but the list of possibilities is so long, who really knows.  The movie was "Santa Clause Conquers The Martians."  It ranks up there with Plan 9 From Outer Space.  Really spiffy stuff. 

Tonight my kids and I were watching "Mars needs moms."  At some point I narrowed my eyes and looked up from the computer screen, "Hey!  This is almost the same plot as Santa Clause Conquers the Martians!"  This brought roars of protest from my children.  First, they thought Santa Clause Conquers The Martians was a great movie.  But then, these people will watch reruns of the Smurfs.  Second, they felt Mars Needs Moms was far superior to the Santa movie.  All the same to me, though.  Mars needs Santa -- Mars needs moms. . . you can't tell me someone wasn't making a play on the old film.

Early in Mars Needs Moms the cats name is called.  YEP!  It's Cujo!  Even my children caught it.  That's pretty cool, and definitely gives it grounds to rise far, far, far above Santa Clause Conquers The Martians.

But a cat named Cujo?

Jon Ferguson: The King And I

I really enjoyed Jon Ferguson's light hearted "The King and I."  It was posted at Lacaster Online and is reprinted here with permission.  Enjoy.  Laugh a lot, I did.

The King And I
by Jon Ferguson

My expectations were absurdly high when we visited Stephen King's house in Bangor, Maine, last month.

I wanted more than to stand on the sidewalk and stare at the spiders, bats and dragon woven into the wrought-iron fence that encircles his handsome home.

I wanted more than to have my picture taken next to the golden "K" that adds a splash of color to the black fence.

I wanted more than to wonder if King was inside the house, concocting a tale of horror that would someday keep me awake at night.

What I wanted was some face time.

That's why I wore my baseball cap with the Rolling Stones' lip-and-tongue logo.

I figured King would spot me from an upstairs window, recognize a kindred spirit and come outside for a chat. And he'd probably be wearing a Boston Red Sox cap.


King and I, you see, have a lot in common. We're both baseball fans, we both love rock music and we both have a taste for horror stories: He writes 'em and I read 'em.

And I've read a lot of 'em. A quick count shows I've paged through 29 novels he wrote under his own name, seven novels he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, two novels he co-wrote with Peter Straub, eight collections of short stories and a memoir.

I don't remember which of King's books I read first, but it was either "Salem's Lot," a novel about vampires and the "sucking sounds" they make, or "Night Shift," a collection of stories, including one about a man who starts growing eyeballs on parts of his body where they do not belong. Creepy stuff.

I do remember that he immediately won me over. After devouring those two books, I bought "Carrie," his first novel, and then eagerly awaited the publication of new books.

Happily, the wait between books was never long because King has been nothing if not prolific. Not everything he's written has been great, or even good, but he's as durable a storyteller as there is in popular fiction.

And King is a good writer, though he doesn't get the respect he deserves because of the genre he inhabits. His prose is clean, he creates believable characters, he can plot with the best of them, he has a wicked imagination and, when everything is working in perfect synchronization, he can scare the absolute bejesus out of you.

I vividly remember reading "The Shining," arguably his best book.

I was living by myself in a second-floor apartment on East Orange Street in Lancaster city. It was 2 or 3 in the morning and I was reading in my dimly lit bedroom, deeply engrossed in the novel as King unspooled his story about the Overlook Hotel.

There's a section in the book that involves the sound of a shower curtain in a bathroom being pulled back, revealing something unspeakable in the bathtub.

At that moment I realized I really needed to go to the bathroom. I put the book down, glanced around the darkened room, listened for the sound of a shower curtain and realized there was no way I was going into the bathroom.

There was a window in the bedroom that looked out on a deserted parking lot. I opened the window, hoisted the screen, made sure nobody was below and relieved myself.

I crept back into bed and finished the book.

I wanted to tell King that story when we visited his house. I think he'd appreciate it.

But the writer never did make an appearance. We milled around for a few more minutes, took some pictures and headed to the car.

Reaching for the door handle, I glanced over my shoulder and thought the curtain in a second-floor window shifted slightly. I squinted and spotted a single malevolent eye peering around the parted curtain.

We skedaddled.


Bryant Burnette: Review Of Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts

This is a guest article from Bryant Burnette.  Check out his blog at http://honkmahfah.blogspot.com/

The Afterlife Was Always On His Mind:
Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts
by Bryant Burnette

As you might have guessed, I am a bit of a nerd on the subject of Stephen King. I guess we’re all gonna have to agree to just be okay with that, and odds are good that if you’re reading these words, you’re already okay with it.

However ... sometimes I think I might have taken my obsession too far. No, no, don’t misinterpret me: I haven’t set any traps in the road so that the next time Big Steve comes driving by I can topple his car into a ditch and then spend the next few months nursing him back to health at an isolated farm all so I can force him to finish writing The Plant. No, no, that’s not something I’ve been planning; why, that’d be crazy.

Instead, I have occasionally wondered if I haven’t taken my obsession a bit too far by moving from collecting S.K.’s books and stories to collecting the various books written by his family members. I’ve got most of Tabitha’s novels, and while I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read any of them, I plan to read Small World before the year has finished. I’ve also got Owen King’s excellent collection of short stories, We’re All In This Together.

But today, however, I’m here to chatter at you about Joe Hill. Having just finished reading his collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts, I find that the urge to chatter about it is almost entirely irrepressible. I can say without any reservation that I am now roughly as addicted to reading Joe Hill as I am to reading Stephen King, and let me tell you, that realization comes paired with a big ole sigh of relief. See, my S.K. obsession dictates that I buy all of Hill’s stuff anyways; even if it was awful, I’d have to buy it. So finding out that not only is Hill’s writing decidedly not awful – that not only is it good, but awesome – is a relief somewhat akin to the jubilance crackheads might feel if the Surgeon General were to issue a press release tomorrow revealing that smoking rock is actually an aid to good blood pressure, whiter teeth, and a sunnier all-around disposition.

That’s unlikely to happen.

On the other hand, it seems entirely likely that Joe Hill will be continuing to provide mildly shame-faced Stephen King-obsessed bloggers with the reassurance that they are not, in fact, stalking the print versions of S.K.’s family; no, Joe Hill assures those bloggers that they are first and foremost reading really really really good writers who just happen to be related to S.K. I don’t want to say the relation is unimportant; but by the time I’d finished approximately two short stories by Joe Hill, the relation had long since ceased to be the primary motivating factor in terms of why I was reading.

With that in mind, let’s move on to my review of 20th Century Ghosts.

The short version:
First, let me give you the short version: it’s extremely good, with not even one bad story contained within its pages. At least nine of the fifteen stories are drop-dead awesome, and I might be selling a few of the other six a bit short by not including them in that tally. If you’re a Stephen King fan, you owe it to yourself to read this book. If you’re not a Stephen King fan, you, also, owe it to yourself to read this book ... although you should probably first find something better to do with your time than hanging around King-centric blogs like this one!

So that was the short version of the review. We’ll be transitioning to the long version two paragraphs from now, but before we do that, I wanted to issue a warning: you should stop reading this review. That’s right, I said it; there’s no need for you to bother reading the rest of what I’ve got to say. I’m not going to be spoiling the stories, so don’t fear that you’re going to be reading my review and regrettably stumble upon the Joe Hill equivalent of Darth Vader turning out to be Luke Skywalker’s father. That won’t happen, but in a few places I will be mentioning some of the broad strokes of what the stories are about in a vague plot sense. And you don’t really want or need to know these things; even if you think you do, you don’t. It’s just that I feel like writing about them, and David has so kindly provided me a forum from which to do so on his excellent blog, so ... I feel a bit obliged.

But that doesn’t mean you need to read it! No, not at all. You’ve already been given all the info you need: that you should read 20th Century Ghosts, and the sooner the better. The stories are going to be good one way or another, there’s no way on Earth I could spoil that; but part of the delight I had in the reading of them had to do with the sudden sharp turns some of them took, both in terms of plot and in terms of character. My recommendation is that you approach them in much the same way I approached them: with virtually no clue of who or what they are about. In fact, don’t read Christopher Golden’s introduction to the book, either ... not, at least, until you’ve read the stories. He gives a bit too much away, in my opinion.

Still here? Okay, you’ve been warned. All quotations are from the stories (obviously), and all of them come from near the beginning ... so as to avoid giving anything substantial away.

“Best New Horror”

This is the tale of an editor of year’s-best-horror anthologies who is more than a bit jaded by his lot in life. Then, he comes into contact with an author he’s never read before, and a story that re-energizes his zeal for the genre. This is a good story. It’s my least favorite in 20th Century Ghosts, but that’s not really a criticism at all.

“He didn’t finish most of the stories he started anymore, couldn’t bear to. He felt weak at the thought of reading another story about vampires having sex with other vampires. He tried to struggle through Lovecraft pastiches, but at the first painfully serious reference to the Elder Gods, he felt some important part of him go numb inside, the way a foot or a hand will go to sleep when the circulation is cut off. He feared the part of him being numbed was his soul.”

“20th Century Ghost”

The most useful thing I can say about this story is that it is about a haunted movie theatre, and that it had brought tears to my eyes by the time it had ended.

“There is the well-known story of the man who wanders in for a late show and finds the vast six-hundred-seat theater almost deserted. Halfway through the movie, he glances around and discovers her sitting next to him, in a chair that only moments before had been empty. Her witness stares at her. She turns her head and stares back. She has a nosebleed. Her eyes are wide, stricken. My head hurts, she whispers. I have to step out for a moment. Will you tell me what I miss? It is in this instant that the person looking at her realizes she is as insubstantial as the shifting blue ray of light cast by the projector. It is possible to see the next seat over through her body. As she rises from her chair, she fades away.”

Pop Art

Easily my favorite story in the book, this might also place quite well in a race to determine my favorite short story of all time. I’m aware that, having read the story only once, it’s premature to make claims like that latter one, but still, there you have it. This is a funny, sad, sweet, and brilliant story about friendship between two boys: one a normal flesh-and-blood boy and the other a walking, talking inflatable boy. Arthur is the best L. Frank Baum character never written by L. Frank Baum, and the story is as undeniably plausible as it is undeniably impossible.

“My best friend when I was twelve was inflatable. His name was Arthur Roth, which also made him an inflatable Hebrew, although in our now-and-then talks about the afterlife, I don’t remember that he took an especially Jewish perspective. Talk was mostly what we did – in his condition rough-house was out of the question – and the subject of death, and what might follow it, came up more than once. I think Arthur knew he would be lucky to survive high school. When I met him, he had already almost been killed a dozen times, once for every year he had been alive. The afterlife was always on his mind; also the possible lack of one.”

You Will Hear the Locust Sing

One of Joe Hill’s great gifts as a writer appears to be a masterful ability to utilize point-of-view. It’s too early to make sweeping statements, but the evidence of these stories indicates that he might even be better at point-of-view than is his father ... and to say that is to say something meaningful. In “You Will Hear the Locust Sing,” he’s telling the story of a high-schooler who wakes one morning to find that he has transformed into a man-sized locust. This, apparently, is something he’s been hoping would happen. Hill does about as good a job as I can imagine any writer ever doing of showing what it might be like if you suddenly found yourself transformed into an insect, and what it might be if – even though the experience isn’t entirely what you’d imagined it would be – you very much liked the change.
A lot of writers, I think, would have been tempted to write this from a first-person perspective. Hill writes it from the third-person perspective, but entirely within his protagonist’s point of view. This provides an excellent feeling of being simultaneously close to and distant from Francis. That’s nothing new as far as prose goes, of course, but Hill uses the technique exceptionally well; it’s kinda like the prose equivalent of the track-out, zoom-in camera move used first by Hitchcock in Vertigo. And if you don’t know what I mean by that, get yourself to Netflix posthaste and find out. After you’ve finished reading 20th Century Ghosts, of course.

“Francis Kay woke from dreams that were not uneasy, but exultant, and found himself an insect. He was not surprised, had thought this might happen. Or not thought: hoped, fantasized, and if not for this precise thing, then something like it. He had believed for a while he would learn to control cockroaches by telepathy, that he would master a glistening brown-backed horde of them, and send them clattering to battle for him. Or like in that movie with Vincent Price, he would only be partly transformed, his head become the head of a fly, sprouting obscene black hairs, his bulging, faceted eyes reflecting a thousand screaming faces.”

Abraham’s Boys

A tale of two boys who just happen to be the children of Abraham Van Helsing, who may or may not have been a vampire hunter. Sold? I thought so.

“This time last fall, Mrs. Kutchner had been agreeably plump, dimples in her fleshy cheeks, her face always flushed from the heat of the kitchen. Now her face was starved, the skin pulled tight across the skull beneath, her eyes feverish and bird-bright in their bony hollows. Her daughter, Arlene – who at this very moment was hiding with Rudy somewhere – had whispered that her mother kept a tin bucket next to the bed, and when her father carried it to the outhouse in the morning to empty it, it sloshed with a quarter inch of bad-smelling blood.”

Better Than Home

One of several stories in the book which are not even vaguely horror stories, this one is also not even vaguely fantastic in terms of its subject matter. Instead, this is pure New Yorker-style mainstream fiction, and it’s very good. It proves that Stephen King’s mania for baseball has definitely passed into the next generation: it is about a neurotic young boy’s relationship with his father, who is the manager of a major-league baseball team.

“I know he’s going to be thrown out because the home plate umpire is trying to walk away from him but my father is following him everywhere he goes. My father has all the fingers of his right hand stuck down the front of his pants, while the left gestures angrily in the air. The announcers are chattering happily away to tell everyone watching at home about what my father is trying to tell the umpire that the umpire is working so hard not to hear.”

The Black Phone

In which a boy is kidnapped and held prisoner – for what purpose we can only sickly guess at – by a very fat, very crazy man.

“He wasn’t any kind of fat, but grotesquely fat. His head had been shaved to a glossy polish, and there were two plump folds of skin where his neck met the base of his skull. He wore a loud Hawaiian shirt – toucans nestled among hanging creepers – although it was too cool for short sleeves. The wind had a brisk edge, so that Finney was always hunching and turning his face away from it. He wasn’t dressed for the weather either. It would’ve made more sense for him to wait for his father inside, only John Finney didn’t like the way old Tremont Poole was always eyeballing him, half-glaring, as if he expected him to break or shoplift something. Finney only went in for grape soda, which he had to have, it was an addiction.”

In the Rundown

The only thing I’m going to say about this story is this: another of Hill’s great talents seems to be in making thoroughly unappealing people serve as wholly compelling, understandable, and relatable protagonists.

“Kensington came to work Thursday afternoon with a piercing. Wyatt noticed because she kept lowering her head and pressing a wadded-up Kleenex to her open mouth. In a short time, the little knot of tissue paper was stained a bright red. He positioned himself at the computer terminal to her left, and watched her from the corners of his eyes, while he busied himself with a stack of returned videos, bleeping them back into the inventory with the scanner. The next time she lifted the Kleenex to her mouth, he caught a direct glimpse of the stainless steel pin stuck through her blood-stained tongue. It was an interesting development in the Sarah Kensington story.”

The Cape

A boy’s security blanket is fashioned into a superhero cape by his mother, and he learns – the hard way – that it gives him the power of flight. And then stuff happens.

This story has also been adapted into a comic book, which is excellent. That comic book in turn has been sequelized (by another writer, though extremely well) as a comic miniseries, the first issue of which was released last month. Hill, of course, is a major comics talent himself, as the writer of the much-lauded series Locke & Key. I’ve read the first trade of that series; it was terrific, and is well worth the time of anyone who has bothered to read this far into this review.

“The cape had started life as my lucky blue blanket and had kept me company since I was two. Over the years, the color had faded from a deep, lustrous blue to a tired pigeon gray. My mother had cut it down to cape size and stitched a red felt lightning bolt in the center of it. Also sewn to it was a Marine’s patch, one of my father’s. It showed the number 9, speared through by a lightning bolt. It had come home from Vietnam in his foot locker. He hadn’t come home with it. My mother flew the black P.O.W. flag from the front porch, but even then I knew no one was holding my father prisoner.”

Last Breath

One question most Stephen King fans probably have about Joe Hill’s writing is this: does he write the same type of stories that his father writes? Well, the answer to that is mostly a no: even his horror stories tend to be a bit more eclectic in their sensibilities than King’s. However, sometimes the answer is a yes, and I’d say “Last Breath” is probably the most patently King-like of the stories in this collection. It could have fit into either Night Shift or Skeleton Crew quite nicely, in fact.

“Before they could get away from him, Alinger cleared his throat to draw their attention. No one ever left once they had been spotted; in the battle between anxiety and social custom, social custom almost always won. He folded his hands together and smiled at them, in a way he hoped was reassuring, grandfatherly. The effect, though, was rather the opposite. Alinger was cadaverous, ten inches over six feet, his temples sunk into shadowed hollows. His teeth (at eighty, still his own) were small and gray and gave the unpleasant impression of having been filed. The father shrank away a little. The woman unconsciously reached for her son’s hand.”


A mere two pages (and that just barely), this lovely short-short is perhaps best described as a prose poem.

“It has been argued even trees may appear as ghosts.”

The Widow’s Breakfast

Another non-supernatural story, this is a well-told character piece about a train-hopping hobo during the Great Depression. One almost expects Dick Whitman to show up to meet him. Or perhaps Wild Bill Wharton. And (again), if you don’t get those references, get thee to Google.

“He was in New Haven for a while but didn’t stay. One morning, in the early dark, he went to a place he had heard about, where the tracks swept out in a wide arc, and the trains had to slow down almost to nothing going around it. There he waited. A boy in an ill-fitting and dirty suit jacket crouched beside him, at the base of the embankment. When the northeastern came, Killian jumped up and ran alongside the train, and hauled himself up into a loaded freight car. The boy pulled himself into the car right beside him.”

Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead

This story, too, is a “mainstream” piece rather than a horror story. However, it takes place on the set of Dawn of the Dead, and is a touching and slightly illicit love story. It’s one of my favorites in the book.

“Her face was a silvery blue, her eyes sunken into darkened hollows, and where her right ear had been was a ragged-edged hole, a gaping place that revealed a lump of wet, red bone. They sat a yard apart on the stone wall around the fountain, which was switched off. She had her pages balanced on one knee – three pages in all, stapled together – and was looking them over, frowning with concentration. Bobby had read his while he was waiting in line to go into makeup.”

My Father’s Mask

To be honest, I wouldn’t quite know where to begin in terms of summarizing this story. So I’ll restrict myself to saying this: this is the oddest, most surreal story in the collection, and for a collection that includes a story about a sentient inflatable doll, that’s saying something. Great story, though.

“On the drive to Big Cat Lake, we played a game. It was my mother’s idea. It was dusk by the time we reached the state highway, and when there was no light left in the sky, except for a splash of cold, pale brilliance in the west, she told me they were looking for me.”

Voluntary Committal

The longest story in the collection, “Voluntary Committal” is also one of the best. Additionally, it’s one of the stories most comparable to Stephen King. This one reminds me a bit of “The End of the Whole Mess” from Nightmares & Dreamscapes, but it’s better even than that story. It’s about two brothers, one of whom is perhaps autistic, and is definitely talented when it comes to constructing forts from cardboard boxes. His brother, meanwhile, is less talented, especially in terms of choosing his friends.

“I don’t know who I’m writing this for, can’t say who I expect to read it. Not the police, anyway. I don’t know what happened to my brother, and I can’t tell them where he is. Nothing I could put down here would help them find him.”

*  *  *  *  *
Well, I suppose that’s about all I’ve got to say on the subject of 20th Century Ghosts for the time being. It’s a great book, and hopefully I’ll have convinced one or two people to go out and pick up a copy.

If you’ve enjoyed this, you might want to consider checking out my blog, Ramblings Of A Honk Mahfah. Drop by sometime, won’t you?

And thanks again to David for running my review!

11.22.63 Promo Video From Hodder

King's British publisher, HodderStoughton, has posted this promo for 11.22.63. 

Lilja's Library is reporting that the book is 850 pages.  That should keep more than a few constant readers wide awake this fall!  I usually enjoy King's longer stuff, as it gives him time to build characters and interweave complex plots.  Now add the element of time travel, and we're in for a real ride!  The last time King dealt with time travel was in the Dark Tower, and it was awesome.


11/22/63 Optioned For Big Screen

The Hollywood Reporter has an article saying that filmmaker Jonathan Demme has optioned the rights to Stephen King's upcoming novel, 11/22/63.  Of course, this also happened with UTD right before it came out.  There was speculation that HBO would be quickly making a mini-series, that has yet to materialize.

Demme is expected to write, direct and produce 11/22/63.  I guess that means he got an advance copy and likes it a lot!  King is expect to exec produce the movie if it "gets off the ground."

Fully Story Here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/stephen-king-jfk-jonathan-demme-222328

TCM: The Horrors Of Stephen King

AWESOME news! TCM plans to air a documentary featuring Stephen King discussing films that influenced his writing.  This is part of TCM's "Night at the Movies" -- all of which so far have been excellent! 

Stephen King's newsletter reports the following:

Titled "The Horrors of Stephen King," the DreamWorks Television production will premier on October 3rd at 8pm. Topics will include everything from the staple vampire and zombie films of yesteryear to progressive stories of horror, demons and ghosts.
Films to be discussed will include Freaks, Cat People, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Jaws, Halloween and The Changeling to name a few.

I LOVE TCM!  They run great films, without commercials.  Also, most movies are usually introduced -- giving background and some neat aspects of the films.  My favorite TCM Documentary is "Watch The Skies" which interviews people like James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas o what influenced them.  Now consider a whole session dedicated to Stephen King.

Aric Mitchell: The Best And Worst Stephen King Movies

Very glad to introduce Aric Mitchell.  I think you'll enjoy this post a lot, I did.  Discuss freely, as I know you will. 
While it would be surprising if you’ve never read at least a few words of what Stephen King has written, it would be a bombshell to hear you’ve never seen any of the films based on his work. Sometimes his movies turn out pretty darn good. Sometimes they’re celluloid disasters. We thought we’d take a look at 10 cinematic adaptations of King’s work and determine, once and for all, the best from the worst.


1. The Shawshank Redemption: There’s nothing altogether controversial about ranking director Frank Darabont’s prison drama at No. 1. Based on the moving novella, “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” this film has a stellar cast, more than one powerful scene, and an ending that will stay with you for a very long time.

2. The Green Mile: This serialized novel made for a terrific, though depressing film, with Tom Hanks at his best. The parallels to the Christian story of Jesus are a little obvious, but the acting and direction (again from Darabont) make for a gripping drama, proving that King’s imagination is best used outside the horror genre.

3. The Shining: King wasn’t fond of Stanley Kubrick’s take on his horror novel of the same name, but you can’t deny that Kubrick had a handle on disturbing imagery and his casting of Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall is the perfect chemistry for terror.

4. Carrie: King’s spot-on ability to capture teen angst and humiliation makes Carrie a compelling story. Brian De Palma’s once unique directorial style brings it all to life in a visual feast that catches steam through the unhinged and sometimes sympathetic performances of Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. Kids can be so cruel.

5. Pet Sematary: King said that writing Pet Sematary was one of his hardest experiences as a writer. He actually set aside the manuscript prior to finishing and had trouble revisiting it. One look at the scene in director Mary Lambert’s adaptation where little Gage Creed is mowed down by a semi-truck and you can understand why. But even that paled in comparison to the horrifying Zelda (Andrew Hubatsek).


1. Sleepwalkers: Stephen King and director buddy Mick Garris had no one to blame but themselves for this dreck starring Brian Krause and Alice Krige as a mother-son team of incestuous creatures bent on finding and destroying a young virgin in small town America. The story had potential to be gripping, but it all plays out like a cheaper than cheap B-movie effort. Would have probably made a better novel.

2. Maximum Overdrive: Killer semi-trucks, a theme that would come up again in Pet Sematary, although this time they’re idiotic, not disturbing. King’s sense of humor is on display, but this was very early in his movie stage, and he just wasn’t ready for writing and directing his very own feature yet. It shows. Badly.

3. Graveyard Shift: Brad Dourif’s role as The Exterminator is about all this feature, based on the Stephen King short story and directed by Ralph S. Singleton, has going for it. It’s a cheap and forgettable Saturday afternoon movie that you watch half heartedly while napping to take away attention from how bad it is.

4. The Running Man: It’s not the worst of the worst, but compared to some of King’s other efforts—see the 5 at the top of this article—it has no business being in the same classification. For one, Arnold Schwarzenegger can’t act. He’s terrible and always has been. The good movies he’s done are good in spite of him. The bad guys and fantasy world, as brought to life by director Paul Michael Glaser, are beyond cheesy and really take away from the thoughtfulness behind King’s original novel.

5. The Night Flier: This made for HBO feature comes from a Stephen King short story. Neither are very imaginative. Miguel Ferrer (Robocop) plays a reporter looking for a murderer with vampiric tendencies, who travels by plane. Wholly forgettable and lacking in substance, but not quite the standout of bad of, say, Sleepwalkers or Maximum Overdrive.

Disagree with any of our selections? Which movies should be here that we left off? Share your thoughts below.

Guest author Aric Mitchell is a movie buff, novelist and regular blogger on Halloween Costumes and other scary things. He can be reached at aric@starcostumes.com.

Lilja Goes To HAVEN

It's Haven Week over at Lilja's Library! 

The standard remains high over at the best King fansite.  Lilja's Library garnered some attention when he was mentioned on Haven's facebook site.  Haven facebook post reminded fans, "It's your last chance to enter to win a signed Haven cast photo from Stephen King super-site Lilja's Library! Go now!!"

Here's a quick list of links to Lilja's Haven week:

The King Cast


I really like The King Cast. 

This is Bob LeDrew's Stephen King blog/podcast, and it rocks!  There is something everywhere.  In particular the blog focuses on interviews and discussion.  So there's news, but also episodes of the King Cast.  Bob is good about telling you where in the podcast to find various discussion points.  Here's a list of some of the podcast episodes:

  • Episode 1: Explorers Dolan's Cadillac.
  • Episode 2: Discusses Rose Madder, one of King's lesser known books.
  • Episode 3: Writers and Artist. 
  • Episode 4: Developmental Disabilities With King.
  • Episode 5: Eveything's Eventual, The Movie
  • Episode 7: "Bag of Bones" and "Barn Dance", a discussion of some of King's doomed romances and a feature interview with singer-songwriter Nicole Christian.
  • Episode 8: Patrick Danville.  a mini-review of "Full Dark No Stars" and a discussion about Patrick Danville's role in King's universe.
  • Episode 9:  A peek inside the office with Marsha DeFlippo.  An interview with "Ms. Mod" at the Stephen King board.
  • Episode 10: Two Books To Help You Navigate King's World.  These are "Stephen King A Literary Companion" by Rocky Wood and "The Road To The Dark Tower" by Bev Vincent.
  • Episode 11: King And Real Life Violence, part 1.  An interview with Dr. Carole Lieberman.
  • Episode 12: King And Real Life  Violence, part 2. An interview with Dr. Brad Ricca.
  • Episode 13: The Dark Tower Movie With Bev Vincent.  An interview with Bev Vincent.
The neat thing is, even if you are new to The King Cast, all the episodes are still up and running.  Some of these are stories I remember -- like the King and real life violence.  Exciting to see interviews attached to the stories.  Also, the interview with Ms. Mod (Marsha DeFlippo) is particularly good.


Stephen King Bingo

These are Stephen King bingo cards.  No, I don't know why.  No, I don't understand.  No, I don't play bingo.  No, I don't know why you would need a program to make little cards. 

Here's what the website says:
These cards are about Stephen King Books. These are some of the most famous works written by Stephen King. These include words like Black House, Desperation, IT, Salem's Lot, and The Running Man.

We made the cards using Bingo Card Creator. You can download a PDF file of eight cards ready to cut up and play.  http://www.bingocardcreator.com/bingo-cards/literature/stephen-king-books

Aren't you glad you know that? 

Don't Start There!

photo: http://ourstack.blogspot.com/2010/10/stephen-king-spooktacular-book-blog.html

When I tell people that I read Stephen King, there are a lot of reactions. 

Most common is, "I would have never expected that of you."  As if I've done something very naughty.  Of course, King's main stream work has served to tone down some of that attitude.  I did once speak to a woman who insisted The Green Mile was written by someone else -- she just couldn't remember who. 

Another reaction people have to my Stephen King collection is mild interest.  "I like some of his stuff," they'll say.  Or, "I've seen some of his movies."  Oh no! 

More often than not, someone will respond like this: "Oh, Stephen King!  I read one of his books -- it was terrible!"  Well, I'll ask, which one did you read?  Without a doubt they'll list something that we Constant Readers will defend to the death, but the truth is, it might not be a good starting novel.

Where you start when reading Stephen King matters.  Reading King is a journey.  It is learning his voice, his pace and his character development.  It is learning patience pays off.  It almost takes a seasoned King reader to dive into some of King's work. 

So what books give me the cringe factor when a friend lists it as the book that pushed them away from King?  How about "that cowboy fantasy novel thingy..." the first Gunslinger.  I love the Gunslinger, but even I got tripped up on this one.  I was handed two King books as a young teenager.  The first was The Stand, and the other was The Gunslinger.  I started with Gunslinger -- wow!  I didn't understand anything going on. 

Another novel that may not be best to start with is Lsiey's Story.  Why?  Well, I haven't read the whole book yet!  But I'm pretty well read when it comes to Stephen King, and if I struggle on this one, I'm not sure it's the best first book.  Will I read Lisey's Story?  Sure I will!  Because I know that even though I struggle on this one, I will one day read it and the magic will fall.  My problem was primarily pacing.  It felt slow.  But I know that with King, he will ultimately give big rewards for pressing ahead.

Worth mentioning is that some King novels are simply abnormal!  They don't move like other King novels.  They might be unusually dark (Pet Semetery) or require knowledge from previous books.  For instance, Gerald's Game is really enhanced if you read Dolores Claiborne.

One more thing -- age matters.  Almost always, young men like the horror.  But my mother (yes, my mother) thinks the supernatural elements in King's story's are unnecessary.  She thinks they actually take away from the plot.  Don't worry, gang, she's wrong!  But she's not alone.  I have heard several women (and yes, some men) mention this same thing.  They like King's characters and plots, but don't like the spooky-doo stuff. 

Consider this: Without the elements of horror, we also would not be given other supernatural wonders in the King novels.  Green Mile would be pretty depressing without J.C.'s ability to carry anthers pain! 

The Talisman seems to be a book that readers are divided on.  It seems George Beam mentioned in one of his companion books that he had not yet made it through the novel!  Meanwhile, many people appear to have jumped in with Talisman being their first King novel.  And they love it.  Personally, I'm with Beam on this one! 

While I think King is consistently good (home run level good), some novels take more work to get into.  This is my completely subjective list of books I don't think are good to start with: 

1. The Gunslinger.
2. The Tommynockers
3. The Talisman or Black House
4. Gerald's Game
5. Insomnia.
6. Rose Madder

Books that appear to connect with first time King readers:
1. The Stand
2. IT
3. The Shining
4. Carrie
5. Duma Key
6. Cell
7. The Shawshank Redemption
8. The Green Mile (Though on this and Shawshank, most people are more familiar with the movies)
9. Misery
10. The Body.

Some would argue that the best approach to reading King is in order, Carrie to Under The Dome.

Reflections On IT miniseries

My kids and I watched IT the other day.  Their request, I promise.  "Won't you be scared of clowns?"  There was a resounding "NO!"  Sure enough, there was no fear in our house.  To quote a five year old, "Oh, IT. . . I love that show so much!"  I'm not sure she understood that the clown. . .

Some reflections:

1. IT falls into the "drama" category more than "horror."
2. IT is very much like Stand By Me.  We watched that the night before.  Both Bill D. in IT and Gordie in Stand by Me have lost a brother.  Both have become the invisible boy.  Both are told not to go in their brothers room.  Both are part of a larger club of losers. 
3. The special effects were not the best. --11 year old.
4. The first half is definitely stronger than the second.  I find it funny to listen to the commentary, which is all the adult actors.  They say things like, "The kid who played me. . ."  Huh?  Why not find out that kids name before doing the commentary?  I think the kids out performed the adults.  Both in individual scenes, and as a group, the kids shine.

Here's our rating:
5yr old: . . . doesn't understand ratings.  But in her book, it did not rise to the Indian In the Cupboard level of great.
8yr old: 4 out of 5
11yr old: 4 out of 5
Me: 3 out of 5  (But I read the book and so I know how awesome it could be)

All agreed that we wanted to give it a better rating, if only for the special effects.  One girl said, "all the lines were great!  But the special effects weren't so good."

Having watched this again, I am more excited about a movie version.  Something that leans more toward the scary.  Seriously, the werewolf was laughable!  And while Tim Curry was an awesome Pennywise, very energetic, I don't think he was scary.  I look forward to a true horror flick.

Dark Tower Publicity

As we get ready for the release of another Dark Tower book, it's neat to glance back at the early days.  A fellow Constant Reader (David LaRochelle) recently sent me some pictures about a flyer/ mailing from Donald M. Grant Publisher. David explained the mailer to me:
It announces the publication of Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger. The mailing is printed on both sides with color photos on one side. It has a price list on it to order the book and others by the company at that time. This mailing is intact, meaning it has not been folded the way I assume it was meant to be for mailing as it has the publishing co. return address, postage paid 1st class permit and FIRST CLASS printed on it.
Now for a question, King readers. . . does anyone have any info as to exactly when it was printed, how many copies were produced and its worth ?

Pictures courtsay of: David LaRochelle.

The Darkside

Do any of you enjoy the really dark novels?  I noticed someone posted at the S.K. message board that they liked the depressing, dark stuff.  Me too! 

Stephen King's dark side comes in a couple of varieties.  There is the stark reality of Richard Bachman. Then there is the more mainstream stuff.  Almost all of King's work contains dark elements. But some of it holds tight to the shadows.  The dark novels, in my opinion, don't have happy endings. They leave us uncomfortable. They are full of death.

Here's my list of truly dark stuff:
  • Pet Semetery
  • Christine
  • The Mist (the movie is darker than the book!)
  • Rage
  • Full Dark No Stars  (All of it)
  • Gerald's Game
  • The Dark Half
  • Cujo
  • Salem's Lot
  • Carrie
  • The Long Walk
  I'm up in the air about Needful things.  I remember it being a very dark book, but it's been too long since I read it to be completely sure!

Stpehen King American Express Commercial

Since we had a recent discussion about this commercial the other day, I thought this blast from the past would be a lot of fun.  What other products has King endorsed?

NEW KING STORY to appear in Anthology

Stephen Jones is editing an anthology of original stories titled "A Book Of Horrors."  First in line is a story by Stephen King titled "The Little Green God of Agony."  I don't know anything about the story itself, except that Cemetery Dance energetically says, " we're pleased to report this story is good old fashioned Gothic horror at its best!"  old fashioned gothic horror. . . sounds good to me.

Editor Stephen Jones has been widely published, but is probably most known to King fans for his book about Stephen King movies, titled: "CREEPSHOWS: THE ILLUSTRATED STEPHEN KING MOVIE GUIDE."  This is actually my favorite comapnion book to the Stephen King movies. 

Jones' website warns that you "Open this book at your own peril!" because it is exactly what it claims to be: A book of horror! 

Order the anthology here: http://www.cemeterydance.com/page/CDP/PROD/jones02

Table of Contents:

"Introduction: Whatever Happened To Horror?" by Stephen Jones
"The Little Green God of Agony" by Stephen King
"Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint" by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan
"Ghosts With Teeth" by Peter Crowther
"The Coffin-Maker's Daughter" by Angela Slatter
"Roots and All" by Brian Hodge
"Tell Me I'll See You Again" by Dennis Etchison
"The Music Of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer" by John Ajvide Lindqvist
"Getting It Wrong" by Ramsey Campbell
"Alice Through The Plastic Sheet" by Robert Shearman
"The Man In The Ditch" by Lisa Tuttle
"A Child's Problem" by Reggie Oliver
"Sad, Dark Thing" by Michael Marshall Smith
"Near Zennor" by Elizabeth Hand
"Last Words" by Richard Christian Matheson