The DOME Is Back -- What Did You Think?

What did you think of tonight's episode of Under The Dome?

My favorite line: “Shut up and be dead, I’m busy.”

IGN's Matt Fowler posted a review of "Heads Will Roll."  (  Fowler writes, that it is "painfully obvious that the first few minutes of this episode were an attempt to very quickly un-do a lot of the thick-headedness that dragged Season 1 down so drastically."

In his verdict, Fowler declares,
"Under the Dome" is definitely going for a new "no one is safe" vibe. Though it would help of any of the characters who were no longer safe were characters I actually care about. Plus, the dome can make anyone pop back up as a ghost-type thing so no one really leaves. And since everyone's so flat, it doesn't actually matter if we're seeing them "alive" or "dead."
By the way -- the image isn't mine.  Anyone notice a grammar problem?

THE DOME is all things King

Tonight's episode of Under The Dome is all King.  The script was written by King.  The show is based on his book.  And Stephen King has a small cameo in  this episode.  I guess he's been writing from Under The Dome.  Actually, it's not possible that Stephen King is Under The Dome -- because he's everywhere right now!

Mike Vogel told Zap2it, "There's always that thing in the back of our minds that it's a Stephen King show and anyone at any time can go anywhere" 

"There's a lot of secrets coming up this season, which is exciting for us, because that's the rich stuff we get to play with."

And then there's this from Stephen King, "After the first season, I went to Neal Baer and Brian Vaughn, the producers of the show, because I was fascinated with what they had done, especially with Mike Vogel as Barbie.  So I asked, 'Would you like me to write the first episode of Season 2?' and they said yes, and I said, 'OK, well, tell me what's going to happen. How does the arc go?' And they said, 'We have no idea.' To me that was like a blank check. So we sat down and started to figure it out."

They have no idea?  

Anyway, King says that they actually talked  about hanging Barbie after season one, but CBS wouldn't have it.  (Is that a spoiler?  I don't know, I haven't seen the episode,  just quoting Mr. King.)  If they really wanted to push things away from the book, they would do away with Barbie.  In fact, I vote for it!  Because it would say, "anything really is possible."  But the truth is, anything's not possible.  Apparently with CBS, only popular things are possible.

Also, I liked this line, "King says he's more than happy to consider other projects for television, although he finds trying to anticipate network constraints to be 'like working for the Kremlin.'"  I wish one of those projects would be The Dark Tower.

Pictures From Tonight's UTD

does it seem like Margaret White  should be pinned here?

What Is The Dome?

Are you looking forward to tonight's episode?

Synopsis for tonight's episode: Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” (CBS at 10) returns for Season 2 with Barbie in danger and Julie coming to the aid of a girl who may have clues about the origin of the dome.  (

What is the dome?

Could be. . .
1. An alien force-field placed by leather headed creatures who consider  humans insignificant.
2. The dome is a living entity caused by the earth itself.
3. It's powered by the Dark Tower.
4. The result of an alien spaceship.


Here seems to be the guidelines (they're different than the book)

  • Weather, rain, so on can pass through.
  • The Dome itself gives some people visions of pink stars falling.
  • The Dome goes deep into the earth.  You can't dig your way out (sorry Maggie Simpson.)
  • The Dome gives an electric charge and can jolt people with pacemakers, hearing aids and other electrical devices.
  • The Dome appears to have a will of its own and can direct peoples behavior at times.
  • The Dome that appears to in some way control the Dome itself. 


Cody Collier posted an interesting story at that announces that the Dark Tower is set to be a live-action production.

Wait . . . WHAT?  Collier writes:
On the subject of The Dark Tower, much of the information about the production is still surrounded by speculation and mystery, but a few statements have been made clear. Academy award-winning director, Ron Howard has been attached to direct the adaptation of The Dark Tower series, but the form of adaptation the title is to take is still uncertain. The initial plan for the project was to create a trilogy of feature films deriving from multiple excerpts from the eight books included in the saga, but also, similar to Under the Dome, create two seasons of a television series that would seal up any gaps left in between each of the movies.
Stephen King may have this new series in the works, but the Under the Dome creator still suffers many difficulties in getting The Dark Tower on its feet. The two production companies, Warner Brothers and Universal have pulled their support for the project, most likely due to the complexity of its production. King states that he is still putting his faith in director, Ron Howard to see the project through at some point in the near future. Ties to the network HBO have been rumored and whispers of Russell Crowe playing the titular role of Roland Deschain have surfaced, but still nothing has been confirmed. The only official evidence that the project is still even happening can be seen on The Dark Tower IMDb, Internet Movie Database page confirming Howard as the director, Akiva Goldsman as the screenplay writer and Imagine Entertainment as the production company.
Since he's not citing a lot of sources, and most of the information here is a look BACK -- I'm not sure what Collier basing this on.  However, I'm always hopeful for a Dark Tower series.  HBO would be AWESOME.

At the heart of Collier's discussion seems to be that since Under The Dome series is doing well, maybe King might yet pull off a Dark Tower series.  I hope the fate of the Tower does not rest on the ratings of Under The Dome.

Esquire Offers New KING Story UPDATED

This was first posted at Lilja's Library -- which is a well written King site with LOTS of  news, information and interviews.  Check  it out at

Apparently the August edition of Esquire  will be running a new story from Stephen King.  Of course,  none of my local stores have Esquire -- and so I must wait patiently.  Waiting is only made easier by the fact that I still have a few pages of Mr. Mercedes to finish up.

UPDATED: (from Lilja's Library)

King's upcoming story in Esquire Magazine is called That Bus Is Another World.


PHOTO: liljas-library

Jeremy Wheeler Gives Us A Unique Stephen King Movie Guide

I like this 2013 "Everything You Need to Know About Stephen King Movies and Shows, A-Z" by Jeremy Wheeler at 

(yes, I did find it as I was trying to find out more about the new Stephen King story in the August edition of Esquire)

King Talks Dome

Right now the web is pretty flooded with Under The Dome Season Two stories.  This discussion with Stephen King is pretty good.

“I knew that George R.R. Martin had written a few episodes of ‘Game of Thrones,’ and I was very jealous,” King told the Seattle Times.

Why is King writing the first episode?  He explains (apparently as they eat pizza), “It gave me a chance to set the arc in motion for the season, and it gave me a little more input into what was going to happen.”

The article cites Neal Baer saying, “We thought this would be a great way to solidify the support of the fans...”  Does the fan base need solidifying?  Maybe.

What's my reaction to another season of Under The Dome?  Fearful.  Things took off with a bang  first season, then fell apart.

Is King Writing About Hodges? . . .
After discussing his "ritual" for writing, the article notes:
That’s not to say that King lives free of the self-doubt that afflicts most, if not all, writers. In fact, he’s currently a “mess” over the troublesome third act of an upcoming book.
“I don’t usually plot in advance, the book usually tells me what to do, but I’m getting to the point where there’s a lot of mist ahead and I just sort of hope things work out,” he said. “They usually do.”
 Makes me wonder if he is hard at work on the next installment with Detective Ret. Hodges.

Norris talks Dome

Some of my favorite lines from Dean Norris' comments on Under The Dome:

  • "Big Jim is a guy who loves  power.  He thinks he's doing it for the sake of the town."
  • "[Big Jim] is just a delicious character to play!"
  • "He's like a lizard that's  cooking along, when he sees the fly,  he eats  it. He doesn't think about it."
  • "He's manipulative, he uses salesman tactics when he needs to.  He's playing different characters for different people in the show."
  • "There's some new characters this season that Big Jim has to determine if he trusts  them, if they trust him.  It's always an interesting question of do you trust Big Jim."
  • "The Dome, even though it was a big character in season one, it's an even bigger character in season two.  The question is, is the Dome calling Big Jim to lead the town?"

Concept Art from Ron Howard's Cancelled Adaptation of Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower'

photo source: has posted concept art from Ron Howard's stab at The Dark Tower.  It includes this note, "Conceptual illustrator, Gregory Hill ("The Amazing Spider-Man 2"), has updated his website with concept art that he created for Universal's cancelled film adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, which Ron Howard ("Rush") was set to direct." Peter Hall remarks, "As much as we love to root for movies around here, we actually kind of hope that Howard and Goldsman's plans for a Dark Tower movie trilogy never do get off the ground. There's just too much material in the books to condense into even three movies. It really does deserve the Game of Thrones HBO treatment, but that will never happen so long as the movies are still in the works."

The current work on THE STAND movie should take note, as they are trying to squeeze  what could be an entire series into a feature movie.  (Yes, still sulking)

Hall explains the release of the concept art this way:
This week some concept art (and video; see above) created for the movie has been put online by illustrator Gregory Hill, and while it's not exciting material (it's basically just a tour through a few key locations from the books), it being published may be a sign that the movie has completely stalled. Universal was the last studio working with them on it, and this may be from the version that it nixed. Most movies don't let concept art out into the wild until after the movie has come out, so this could mean that whatever work Hill did would have never seen the light of day otherwise.

photo source:

photo source:

Stephen King A Face Among The Msaters AMAZON COUNTDOWN

Kindle is running a countdown special for Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters.

Get it at

Today you can get  the kindle version of my book, for 1.99.
Later, it will be 3.99.
Saturday it will be 4.99

The Kindle edition is usually runs for 7.50.  Unless you buy the print edition, in which case it is always .99cents.

Lego Stephen King

I've been obsessed with Lego's lately.  Might have something to do with the awesome Lego movie!  It was total mash-up at its best.

Here's  some Lego Stephen King:


Here's Carrie:

yeah, I like that one a lot.

Here's The Dark Tower

How cool is that, Roland?  Show up at the Dark Tower  and find that the beams all lead to LEGO LAND!





Creepy Happy Meal Would Please Pennywise

My fourteen year-old found this today at


The hollywoodreporter has news that Big Driver will be a Lifetime small screen adaptation.  The article notes that Big Driver marks the first collaboration between King and the A+E Networks-owned female-skewing cable network.

Here's the highlights from the Hollywood Reporter:

  • The show will star Maria Bello as Tess Throne.
  • She will be joined by Olympia Dukakis, Joan Jett and Will Harris also star in the revenge tale adaptation, expected to premiere this fall. 
  • Production begins in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this summer.
  • Poduced by Ostar Productions and executive produced by Bill Haber (The Trip to Bountiful) and Jeffrey Hayes (A Day Late and a Dollar Short). 
  • The screenplay was adapted by Richard Christian Matheson (Masters of Horror, Happy Face Killer)
  • Directed by Mikael Salomon (Drew Peterson: Untouchable).

Finally, the article reminds us that CELL, starring Sameul L. Jackson, is in postproduction.

The Shining by Stephen King (1977): Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy

I really like Will Errickson's blog, Too Much Horror Fiction.  It's like a cave full of horror books from the 60's and 70's.

I also enjoyed this article  on The Shining, which he declared, "unputdownable."  I think it's insightful.  And is reposted here with permission.

By the way, the first cover Errickson posted (the silver) is the version I first read.  I never liked that faceless, silver cover -- but the book grabbed me anyway.  My favorite is actually the first edition.  I wish they would print a paperback with that cover.

Reviews and insights on The Shining are all the more fun now that we have Doctor Sleep.

Be sure to check out,

The Shining by Stephen King (1977): Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy

by Will Errickson

Although it may be Stephen King's most famous horror novel and certainly the one that made him a household name, I must confess that for many years, The Shining was not a novel I really liked. It was never a book that I revisited as I did with many of King's other works, although I knew its reputation was stellar. About five years ago I skimmed through a copy and was even more disheartened as it seemed to me - yes, it's true - poorly written and conceived. Well, I don't know what the hell I was smoking: I picked up my recently-acquired Signet '78 first-edition paperback (only edition with that fantastic, yet easily faded, Mylar cover) on Friday morning, ready to give it another try and... could barely put it down all weekend: this time I got it. I raced through The Shining and barely gave myself the time to jot down a note or page number. It is awesome fun to find that a reread of a once-dismissed book is so rewarding. If you haven't read King, The Shining would be a fine intro.

Original 1977 hardcover

Do I even need to recount the plot and the characters? Jack Torrance is a struggling writer, trying to create believable people and conflicts in his play, when he's had no shortage of conflict in his life. His alcoholism has put serious rifts in his relationships with his wife Wendy and five-year-old son Danny; he's lost his job as prep school English instructor; he's also had two very grave moments of violence. But all that, he hopes - they all hope - that's in the past now that he's hired to be the winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, thanks to an huge favor from an old drinking buddy who's cleaned up. Sitting high atop a frigid, panoramic Colorado mountain, the enormous hotel is closed for the season and the only occupants will be the Torrance family.

Jack's feelings of inadequacy are front and center in the opening chapter, in his humiliating job interview with that infamous officious little prick, Mr. Ullman (one of my favorite scenes in the book is when Jack calls Ullman and tells him he's going to write a book about the history of the Overlook and Ullman freaks the fuck out). But Jack knows it's time to do right by his family, and taking this job is the classic point of starting over. He's not drinking and he's writing again, but Jack's about to go on one hell of a dry drunk, and have one motherfuck of a writer's block.

UK hardcover 1977

As for "the shining" itself: Danny's psychic power comes in the form of Tony, a little boy a bit older than Danny who appears inside mirrors and as a tiny shadow down a midnight street, always with some bit of information that Danny would have no other way of knowing. It is this ability of Danny's that the Overlook "wants," so it "employs" Jack's troubled past as it spurs Jack on to murder his family, to truly own the Overlook and inherit its foul nature. You almost ache for Danny, who so wants to please his parents, his daddy most of all (which makes Wendy feel guiltily jealous), who wants his daddy to be well and not do the Bad Stuff. King is great at getting inside kids' heads, their goggle-eyed yet strangely rational perception of the strange adult world that surrounds them.

Thematically, The Shining is one of King's richest. Yes, the Overlook Hotel is a repository of human evil; Jack knows this when, in the basement, he finds the scrapbook containing clippings of its unsavory past. Generations pass on their faults; sons pay for their father's transgressions. Abuse becomes a family trait. These are all very much in the grand tradition of haunted house and Gothic tales. Jack's creativity suffers; the real first sign of his madness is a complete 180-degree reversal of his feelings towards his play's characters. The relationship between Jack and Danny is mirrored in the memories of Jack's relationship with his own father, as both are fraught with a heartbreaking mixture not only of love and concern, but also of violence and alcoholism.

UK paperback 2007

It is the back-story in which King *ahem* shines, as he reveals what he wants when he wants for maximum impact. There's the Overlook's blood-drenched past, of course. We get glimpses throughout the novel of Jack's fearsome father, as well as harrowing moments from his drinking days with a colleague. The tortuous memory of accidentally breaking little Danny's arm plagues him, as does his beating of a debate student of his whom he had to kick off the debate team because of a stutter. Both Danny and this student had destroyed something of Jack's: Danny, as a toddler, pours beer over the manuscript of Jack's play, while the student slashes Jack's car tires. He was drunk when abusing Danny but sober when attacking the student, but no matter: it's all Jack Torrance.

UK paperback 1984

The novel is easily one of the most "unputdownable" - wretched word - I've ever read, at least it was this read. The pacing is relentless, lulling you at one moment and then shocking you the next. Suspense wracks up in the final chapters by interlacing chapters on the family's last stand against Jack - or whatever he is at that point - with Dick Hallorann's journey through the snowstorm, the Overlook head cook who also has "the shining" and is heeding Danny's psychic call. But still, we must ask: are there faults in The Shining? Of course. King's writing can be thin in places, too familiar, too pedestrian; there are times where a character's feelings of horror are told to us, instead of simply letting the horrific scenarios speak for themselves. The constant italicized interior thoughts, or maybe too many flashbacks. That final chapter, perhaps (King has intimated he may write a sequel).

Holy shit, they made a movie out of it?!

But these are to quibble; when you're reading King you know you're not getting an elegant flight of poetic prose or a delicately composed novel of modern manners and foibles. Fuck no! You're getting shrieking blasts of icy terror happening to real people. That might sound like one of the myriad cheesy critical blurbs from the first page ("REAL SCARE-ABILITY!" "DELICIOUSLY SHIVERY READING!" "BACK-PRICKLING!") but I don't know how else to phrase it. My moments of fear? When the wasps come back. When Jack hears his dead father's voice on the radio. When the unmanned elevator starts to clank into use. When Danny enters Room 217. When Wendy turns around and sees Jack. When the long-dead masquerade party guests screech "Unmask! Unmask!" and reveal rotting insect faces...

Mmm, now that's good horror, from a good little boy.

Bleak Movies Colouring Book: THE SHINING

Shortlist gives us an interesting look at coloring books themed around horror movies!
It's a shame that many of the great movies out there are rated 18, as it means that youngsters (well, those who haven't mastered YouTube and avoiding their parents) are unable to take in those cinematic masterpieces. 
So artist Todd Spence, of, decided to find a way to get the kids involved - and created this fantastic Bleak Movies Colouring Book. 
There's games to play and friendly characters to colour in; don't the Se7en gents look like they're having fun together? What larks they must have!

What books/scenes would you include in a coloring book?

Mr. Mercedes Journal #4: Funerals

Mr. Mercedes is a tough book to journal through because it's full of surprises, twists and unexpected turns.  You just kind of have to be there.  The story absolutely blindsided me -- more than once.  I find myself going, "I never saw that coming!"

There is a lot of funeral  talk in Mr. Mercedes. In fact, the last time King gave us a story that edged up this close to funerals was Pet Sematary.  Of course, Pet Sematary took things to a whole new messed up level, as Creed actually went to the cemetery and dug up his dead son.

So, here's some funeral notes. . .

  • I think it's interesting that King says the preacher used the Proverbs 31 text (the virtuous woman) as his sermon for the funeral.  That would indeed be a strange text to discuss the dead.  And King's perception is right on when he notes that it is uncomfortable when preachers try to eulogize people they don't know.  Best to just stick to preaching and giving comfort.

  • Perhaps one of the strangest customs we have is something called a "wake" in the South and a viewing other places.  At a viewing people come to view a dead body and give their goodbye.  From my chair, I think it's perhaps one of the most painful customs we ask mourning families to endure.  Second most painful custom has to be an open casket at a funeral.  This is pretty pointless, since most people are there to remember the person, discuss the hope of heaven and love on the grieving family.  Some funerals have a period at the end when people walk by the dead body to pay final respects.  

  • One objection raised by a family member is that cremation is unethical.  Of course, there are some who hold that view -- but I haven't met them.  Most people I encounter are pretty confused about what religion, and in particular Scripture, says about burial.  The truth is, there are no commands about burial methods, and no prohibitions to cremation.  So characters, such as we find in Mr. Mercedes, who are strongly against the practice are because of personal opinion, not Biblical scholarship.  
Speaking of funerals and Mr. Mercedes, check out this review,

Star Wars Misery

My kids wanted to watch Star Wars the other day.  That lead to a typical argument of "which one"they wanted to see.  Finally, we agreed to watch the whole series in order.  That was a mistake.  At the midpoint of the first episode, I was alone in the room, holding in there as something really bad happened on my screen.

My wife was surprised when I moved on to episode two.  Really, her look said, you're going to stick with it?  Yep.  Because sometimes when you don't like a movie, it gets better with the lowered expectations.  But it didn't.  I just kept saying, "This is so stupid!"  For instance, in the first episode, Jar Jar Binks brings help to his home planet;  so what do they do?  Give him his own speeder or a special house?  Maybe a medal?  Nope.  They make him a general!  A GENERAL!  Now in Return of the Jedi, Han was made a general; but it made some sense.  But who would follow Jar Jar into combat as a sergeant, just as well a general?  "Naboo deserves to lose against the trade federation," I murmered.

When it was time for episode three, I decided to move to something new.  That lead to The People v. George Lucas.  My favorite part were scenes from a longer fan movie (Forcery) in which a woman plays Annie Wilkes, from Misery.  In the first scene, she is explaining (by screaming, just like Annie) that the scene with Han Solo and Greedo doesn't make sense anymore.  In the final scene, George forces Annie to eat the Star Wars film he created just for Annie.  Message is: It's my toys, and you don't get to change it.  He will control what fans see.

So what exactly is wrong with the first three movies?  Here you go:
1. Jar Jar Binks is ridiculous. He's a cartoon character in the real world.  It's like Star Wars became Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
2. Metachlorians created a virgin birth for little Anakin.   Or something like that.
3. It's boring.  Turns out Jedi are like Vulcans, no emotion.
4. There's a rain/storm planet in episode two -- but the landing pad to the robot factory is in the open.  Good idea, when you live on a rain planet -- don't build a covered walkway to your landing pad.  I mean, we lowly earthlings can figure out the need for a garage and covered walkways, but apparently the people who are doing advanced human cloning can't think of a way to land a spaceship inside.
5. Darth Vader's, "nooooooo."
6. Is it me, or did Obi Wan age really bad between episode 3 and episode 4 ?  Really bad.

I'll stop.  Here's Forcery, I like it a lot.

Skeleton Crew First Edition

I found two copies of Skeleton Crew at a local used bookstore the other day.   Different boards and covers.  One cover wrap did not include the price and the copyright page did not have a number line.  Both clear indications it is a later edition.  However, the second copy had both.

Is  it "worth"  something?  I dunno.  Probably not  much.  I paid $1.99 for it.  But a find like that makes me pretty happy.  It appears to go on ebay for $15+.  I also have a British first edition of this book.  (I'm not sure why I bought a British edition of that particular book, except that I thought the cover cool.)

My favorite story in Skeleton Crew is by far The Mist.  The book as a whole remains among my favorite of King's short story collections.  As Kevin Quigley pointed out,
"Skeleton Crew is a frustrating instance, because a perfectly terrific version of Skeleton Crew on audio simply doesn’t exist anymore.  The collection Skeleton Crew: Selections is the only version available on audio, which is insane.  Sure, the narrators are fine – King reads “The Raft,” and it’s awesome – but there are only four stories.  Why let the terrific Frank Muller version rot in purgatory?" (interview with Kevin Quigley on THE MIST, at

Mr. Mercedes and Thinner

Mr. Mercedes Journal #3

I'm loving Mr. Mercedes.  It's a different style and tone than King usually employs.  I think one reason I respect him as an artist is that he is not locked into one form of story telling.  When it comes to King and genre, he's quite versatile.

I had a long drive the other night to get my wife; and that meant lots of time to listen to Mr. Mercedes.  It's pretty cool, driving down long stretches of moon lit desert highway listening as King's story unfolds.

There is genuine mystery involved here.  King keeps me guessing -- how did the killer steal the car if the key wasn't in the ignition?  And, there's a great mid-novel plot twist.  I can't say a lot about it, except that it reminds me a lot (A LOT) of the ending to Thinner.  But in Thinner, King was just messing with readers.  In Mr. Mercedes, King is down to the serious business of story telling.  Where King ended Thinner, he is just getting started with Mr. Mercedes.  It is the sign of a more mature writer. This isn't just a Twilight Zone twist, it's a defining moment in the book and will be a driving force for the plot here on.

Anyone want some strawberry pie?

Under The Dome Wardrobe

Curious about the fashion in Chester's Mill? Take a tour of the Under The Dome wardrobe with Costume Designer Robbie McKeithan.

Mr. Mercedes Journal #2: It's In My Head

It's Friday the 13th, and Stephen King has me uncomfortably close to a serial killer known as Mr. Mercedes.  Thankfully the book alternates back and forth between Mr. Mercedes and Detective Hodges.

King does a nice job of getting us inside the killers head.  Awful thoughts, images, ideas are passed from the killer to the reader; and the reader is startled because maybe  those same thoughts went through their head at some time in the past.  Mr. Mercedes would suggest that everyone has some pretty wicked ideas, but he's the only one with enough courage to act on them.

The letters and correspondence from the killer are particularly haunting and well done.  I'm generally not a fan of letters in books.  The epistolary novel has never really engaged me.  (Sorry Dracula fans -- including Mr. King.)  However, these letters are brilliant.  Mr. Mercede's might be messed up, but this guy can really mess with your head.

One thing King does that almost relieves the tension the reader feels when reading the book is gives Mr. Mercedes a sick/sexual relationship with his mother.  So just about the time the reader might say, "I've had thoughts like that" -- some nasty scene between  sicko and mama comes along and the reader breathes a sight of relief, "nope, I'm not that sick!"  I actually dislike those portions of the novel quite a bit.  Is King trying to give us the Bates family?

The novel is written almost entirely in the present tense.  This is a little strange to me, but King pulls it off effortlessly.  This style is usually utilized by new writers, or experimental fiction.  It gets really awkward in the first person, which King stays away from.  "I'm walking down a long hallway. . ."

Thank You For The New Fears, Mr. King:

Oh, and you can add to the list of things Stephen King makes me uncomfortable with. . . THE ICE-CREAM TRUCK.  Thanks Uncle Stevie.  Just thanks.

I was in another city tonight, and heard something we don't hear in our town; yep, it was the ice-cream truck.  "That is disturbing," I thought.

Does the ice-cream truck have some root in a real case?  Maybe.

FROM creepypasta: Ice_Cream_Truck
Several years ago, a string of child-abductions struck residents of a small American suburban community. Eventually these abductions were found to be the work of a travelling ice-cream truck driver who used to lure children away with his charm, sweets and the sing-song tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy. 
Convicted of at least a dozen child abductions and murders the driver was convicted and sentenced to death. 
With his execution came a bittersweet sense of ease for the community as he had refused to tell where he had hid their children's bodies. 
After a few years, the continued search for the victims' bodies finally came to an end. To this day, authorities are unable to trace the whereabouts of the children. Many suspect they were burned, and their remains dumped in a nearby river. 
However this is not where this tragic tale ends, for according to local legend every day on the anniversary of the murderous ice-cream van driver's execution, a ghostly van appears on the streets of the same suburban community he once terrorized. One can hear the playing of Yankee Doodle Dandy and see the van, never stopping as it makes its way out of the community and into the unknown.
So what's this story missing?  Names.  Places.  Dates.

Here's some creepy ice-cream trucks:

WAIT. . . before you go, check this out:

Now I would swear, Pennywise is on that truck.

Alright, sweet dreams.

Neurotic Friday The 13th

I enjoyed this 1984 article in the New York Times by Stephen King, titled, "A Bad Year if You Fear Friday the 13th."  HERE.

I had to check this, since there is that other Stephen King who posts economic news.  But I'm pretty sure this is our writer friend, since it's hard to imagine the economist being that concerned about Friday the 13th.

King wrote:
I always take the last two steps on my back stairs as one, making 13 into 12 (there were, after all, 13 steps on the English gallows - up until 1900 or so - and executions were traditionally carried out on Fridays). When I am reading, I will not stop on page 94, page 193, page 382, et al. - the digits of these numbers add up to 13. Such behavior is, of course, neurotic, but I sometimes think it is neurosis and not love that reallymakes the world go round - think of all those basketball players who cross themselves before taking foul shots, not to mention stockbrokers who carry lucky coins and carpenters who wouldn't think of completing a house without first nailing a branch to the rooftree.
King gives special attention to years with a triple Friday the 13th.  For instance, " In 1956 Bela Lugosi died and was buried in his Dracula cloak."

Finally, the 1984 Stephen King informs us that the year he's reallydreading is 1998. "In that triple- whammy year I'll be 49. Can you add 4 and 9?"  So what did happen in 1998?  He gave us Bag Of Bones.  Not so bad!  However, 1999 would be the year that wasn't so friendly.

Rachelle Lefevre Reads Script Excerpt

Want to hear a bit of the script that Stephen King wrote for the Season 2 premiere? Indulge below.

Stephen King Summer Vacation

Let's have fun. . .

1. If you could go anywhere in the Stephen King universe for Summer Vacation -- where would you go?

2. If you could SEND someone you don't like anywhere in the Stephen King universe, where would you send them? 

A few suggested vacation spots:

1. Under The Dome (Chester's Mill)

Points of interest:

  •  Cloud Top Ski Resort
  • The Sweetbriar Rose 
  • Drippers Roadhouse
  • Chester Pond
Talk Stephen King recommends you avoid Big Jim's Used Cars. 

2. Midworld

Points of interest:

  • The Dark Tower
  • Lud
  • Gilead
  • The Way Station

Talk Stephen King recommends you avoid The Wastelands

3. Castle Rock

Castle Rock is the flagship town in Stephen King’s work, and is located in southwestern Maine, between Rumford and Augusta. The town, created by SK was to be more than a mere location for a story. The Complete Stephen King Universe asserts that it was designed to “function as a scale model of contemporary American society”. 
On the surface, Castle Rock is a postcard snapshot of everyday America. It is the exact kind of town that politicians are referring to when they mention “helping Mainstreet America”, and Norman Rockwell painted in his Saturday Evening Post covers. However, this tranquil town, filled with Mom-and Pop stores and community spirit, has had a violent history; most of the tragic events occurred after 1978. Many people wonder what exactly happened in the little rural town in Maine that ultimately led to its destruction.
FROM: Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters:
In Lord of the Flies, the bullies name their headquarters on the island “Castle Rock,” which is what King named his fictional town . More than a few bullies found their way to Castle Rock, Maine, including the gang in the novella, The Body, led by Ace Merrill.

4. Derry

Points of interest:

  • The Sandpipe: The Standpipe was a large watertower in Derry. In its earlier days, it remained unlocked so that patrons of an adjoining park could climb a spiral staircase around the tank to look out over Derry from the top. The Standpipe was closed to the public after several children drowned in the tank, most likely the fault of It. The Standpipe was where Stan Uris first encountered It, which took the form of drowned children.  After the grown-up Losers Club kills It in second Ritual Of Chüd in 1985, a huge storm ensues, destroying many buildings and landmarks in Derry, including the Standpipe. In Dreamcatcher, Mr. Gray drives to Derry to find the Standpipe, only to discover a memorial featuring a cast-bronze statue of two children and a plaque underneath, dedicated to the victims of the 1985 flood and of It. The plaque has been vandalized with graffiti reading, "PENNYWISE LIVES". In 11/22/63, Jake Epping buys a pillow with a picture of the standpipe on it. He hides a gun in it, the gun he uses to kill Frank Dunning. (SOURCE)
  • 29 Neibolt Street, a run-down, abandoned house near the trainyard. It is in this house – or rather, under the house's front porch – that Eddie Kaspbrak first encounters It, which shows itself as a mix between a homeless leper and its familiar Pennywise form. Later, after Eddie tells them his story, Bill and Richie go to investigate the house and are chased off by It, the creature having taken the form of a werewolf. (source)
  • The barrens
  • The Canal
Talk Stephen King advises you not to feed the clowns.  


5. Palm Desert, Ca (mentioned in Duma Key)
6. Duma Key
7. Desperation
8. Las Vegas of The Stand
9. Chamberlain (home town of Carrie)
10. Little Tall Island - Just off the coast of Maine (Dolores Claiborne)
11. Tarker’s Mills - The small town of Tarker’s Mills was a nice place to live, except during the full moon. As chronicled in Stephen King’s “Cycle of the Werewolf” (
12. Haven
13. 'Salem's Lot (also known as Jerusalem's Lot)
14. Dallas (11/22/63) -- NOT!

Of course, if you really want a Stephen King vaction, Stu Tinker, who used to run Betts Bookstore has a tour that has great reviews.  "Stu's knowledge, love of the subject, friendship with Mr King all make this tour THE BEST and most important thing to do if you're a King fan. So much knowledge, humour and honesty in this man. Loved it!"

Mr. Mercedes Is The First In A Trilogy

Stephen King posted today, "MR. MERCEDES is the first novel in a projected trilogy. Hodges, Jerome, and Holly will return in FINDERS KEEPERS next year."

I can't wait!

Stephen King's "N"

Burnette reviews "Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters."

Check out Bryant Burnette's review of my book, Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters at

(spend some time while you're over there -- I love his blog)

"It made me feel as if my King-ly horizons had been expanded a bit, which is more than I can say for most of the other about-King books I've read and reviewed lately."

What really pleases me is when people tell me I got them authors they had not previously considered.

Lilja's Pictures Of Mr. Mercedes

I'm loving the pictures Lilja's Library is posting of people with the new Stephen King book, Mr. Mercedes.  (It's not a contest, just fun)  Check it out here:

And -- that's my Susie girl.

IT trailer

This is fun.  It has nothing to do with the IT remake coming up.

King's Fingers Are "Crossed" On The Stand Movie

King talked with Damon Lindelof at on a range of issues, mostly related to Under The Dome.  He assured us that though he did not expect it to be picked up for a second season, the story arc is great.

About The Stand, King said, “When I worked with Mick Garris on the miniseries, it was really sort of a rewarding experience because we had a chance to [focus on] the characters and I think I wrote the entire miniseries just so I could hear Gary Sinise say, ‘Country don’t mean dumb’ … Now I’ve been involved with Josh Boone who did The Fault in Our Stars and he’s working on the screenplay. He’s young and he’s ambitious and he’s totally behind the book and he seems to be doing a great job and seems to have a lot of support behind him from Warner Bros. So I have my fingers crossed, but that’s all that you need to do right? You just cross your fingers and hope.”

The Stand Movie Is In Trouble

Josh Boone gave a glimpse at his plans for the theatrical version of The Stand.
We’re gonna do one three-hour, R-rated version with an amazing A-list cast across the board. Every single one of those characters will be somebody you recognize and somebody you relate to. And it’s gonna be awesome. I’m really excited. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever got to do in my entire life. If 12-year-old me had ever known that one day I’d be doing this, to even just go back and look at that kid, I’d be like, Keep doing what you’re doing! It’s just crazy. I’ve met so many actors over the years, and like, when I met Stephen King, I hugged him with tears in my eyes. He meant that much to me when I was young. I still say everything I learned about writing I learned from Stephen King. I don’t read screenplays. I don’t read screenplay how-to books. It’s always just, establish the character. Establish the character.
Vulture's Gilbert Cruz did not follow up on that statement at all.

So let's size that up:

1. It's going to be "ONE" three hour movie.
One.  ONE!  Uno.

Okay, the hobbit is about 276 pages.  It is being made into three movies.  The Stand is over 1,000 pages; and it is going to be made into one movie.  See a problem?  They are turning an epic story into a three hour cram session.

The Stand is enormously complex in terms of plot and character alone.  It simply cannot (CANNOT) be done in 3 hours.  Remember the History Channel's adaptation of The Bible miniseries?  It skipped and dipped and made such a mess of things it left anyone who knew much  about the Bible cringing.  In fact, the final scenes tried to accomplish the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles  and the Revelation all in just a few brief scenes.  It was terrible.  Will we have to suffer through similar carnage with The Stand?

Here's  what's frustrating: When a book has a really great scene, and the movie barely gives that a cursory nod.  The film doesn't have time to build up suspense as Larry heads  toward the Lincoln Tunnel, just as well spend much time with him navigating through it.  There isn't time to build the scenes, because the plot is so big, it has to just keep bombarding us with more information.

There is no room for character development. Characters will have to be combined, cut or barely mentioned.

King released the "Complete and Uncut" edition.  Now Boone is going to give us a version even Readers Digest wouldn't recognize.  A three hour version of The Stand is like a circumcision that cuts off the entire. . . never mind.  Let's just say that three hours isn't enough time to set the stage and tell the early stories; just as well complete the entire novel.

2. There's going to be lots of big names.  Yeah -- I don't care.  King once said it's the tale, not he who tells it.  And sometimes with movies, it's about the story, not the actors.  Some movies get so focused  on the actors that it loses sight of the most important thing; the story.

A cast of unknowns made Star Wars.  However, Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Anna Faris, Emma Stone, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman, Chloë Grace Moretz, Gerard Butler, Halle Berry, Stephen Merchant, Terrence Howard, Elizabeth Banks, and Julianne Moore couldn't save Movie 43, about which Lou Lumenick of the New York Post worte, "If you mashed-up the worst parts of the infamous Howard the Duck, Gigli, Ishtar and every other awful movie I've seen since I started reviewing professionally in 1981, it wouldn't begin to approach the sheer soul-sucking badness of the cringe-inducing Movie 43."

3. It's going to be an R-rated version. 
Okay, I guess.  I'm not sure I'm really familiar with movies aiming to get an R-rating.  Surely what he is trying to say is that the movie will be more gritty, scary and so on than the mini-series was.

What's really going on with this R-rating talk is an apology.  "Sorry we're only making one movie when we should make three.  But hey, we'll put a lot of gore and sex into it, and that should make things better."  Toss in there, "And, don't get mad yet, because we are going to get a lot of really super name actors that you'll recognize right off the bat.  That will make it a great movie."  He's apologizing!  Groveling.  Begging. "Please don't give up on my movie.  I'll make a lot of things go boom and spend a lot of money."

Can it be done?  I guess.  Can it be done well?  No way.  Thus far, I like the cover of Revival better than I like this news about The Stand.

The Stand is one of those novels the Constant Reader really doesn't want Hollywood to touch unless  they know what  they're doing.  It's an American classic.  Look, don't mess up To Kill A Mocking Bird, The Grapes of Wrath or The Stand.

Vacation Under The Dome

CBS has a cool list titled, "12 Best Vacation Ever!" Destinations" (  

1. Hawaii, U.S.A.

2. Vence, France

3. London, England

4. Las Vegas, NV

5. The Dome

. . . WAIT A MINUTE! The Dome?  CBS' blog post reads, "So it might be a little hard to get inside the dome, but once you're there it's sure to be exciting! Britt Robertson, Colin Ford and Mackenzie Lintz star in Under The Dome, don't miss the season 2 premiere Monday, June 30 at 10/9c on CBS!"

King takes on Poe

The relationship between Poe and King is discussed in Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters.  Here are a couple of short quotes from the chapter, "The Ghost Of Edgar Allan Poe,"
Stephen King’s story, Dolan’s Cadillac, is a brilliant tale of revenge. And guess who’s lurking in the shadows; why, it’s none other than King’s twisted grandpa, Edgar Allan Poe. King’s story is quite reminiscent of The Cask of Amontillado. 
. . . 
The two stories are similar in plot, tone, perspective, and even dialogue. King does more than just update Poe’s story; he adds a layer of richness to plot itself. Why does Montresor despise Fortunato? We’re not told. Frustrating , isn’t it? King supplies a motive for Robinson to so carefully plan Dolan’s demise. Poe was interested in the straight plot of the story, how the revenge might be carried out. King understood that giving the reader an emotional reason to hate Dolan would make his death all the more delightful. And as Dolan dies, the reader is invited to celebrate with Robinson.

Gardner, Brighton (2014-05-04). Stephen King A Face Among The Masters (Kindle Locations 448-450).  . Kindle Edition. (

Link: Stephen King Mr. Mercedes Interview

Here's the link to a short interview with King about Mr. Mercedes. And a glimpse at his Bangor office.  Not quite as cool as the house. . .


mr. Mercedes Journal #1: Creepy King

Creepy King is at work in mr. Mercedes.  Sure, it's a crime novel; cat and mouse and all that -- but we all know it's Stephen King at work.  I'm loving the novel.  Loving the fact that it is indeed Stephen King, unafraid to be himself.  He might be diving into some new sub-genre's, but he doesn't try to become anyone else.  King is willing to allow stories to remain free from the need to walk a narrow genre line.
  • Mr. Mercedes is flat out creepy.  A killer who wears a clown mask as he runs people over.  That's nasty!  Oh, and the clown mask looks like -- Pennywise.  That's sweet!  The killer also likes happy faces.
  • The characters are almost immediately engaging on both sides.  What's quite amazing is that King is able to make you feel a kinship to the killer.  As Hodges reads a letter from the murderer, the reader is taken into the killers mind.  Is he crazy?  Maybe.  But as he points out, he just does the crazy stuff most of us think about.  By the way, this killer is also smart.  Very smart.  Dr. Lecter smart?  I don't know yet.  I can't see ole Hannibal sticking happy faces on things.
  • King also does a nice job recreating male banter; especially among cops.  It's the kind of stuff we've all heard (at least guys have) but would be hard pressed to actually recreate it.  King has done it nicely.  It feels kind of like he's giving away something to the opposite sex; revealing, this is how we guys operate.
  • Add happy faces to my list of things Stephen King has weirded me out over.  I already didn't like them, but now, they're just plain nasty.
  • King gives us the mass murder scene from almost every imaginable angle -- except the Mercedes itself.  We get it from the victims, the police and the killers point of view.

1970's Stephen King

This is reposted with permission from:

1970s Stephen King
by Daniel Otto Jack Petersen 
I only really started reading King’s fiction in earnest about three or four years ago (I had read 1987’s The Eyes of the Dragon as a fantasy-reading teenager and a few short stories in my 20s).  After sampling a few novels, novellas, and short stories from his early, mid, and ‘late’ career (the dude churns out so many books that his ‘late’ phase is ever becoming his ‘mid’), I decided I wanted to try to read his output chronologically.  I’m not super strict about it, but it’s fun and somewhat enlightening.  I’ve now finished his 1970s publications (not every one of the Bachmans, but all the Kings).  
King is a fascinating phenomenon to writers and publishers who don’t quite know what to make of his practically unparalleled success as a bestselling author.  Is it a fluke?  Sheer luck?  Some sociological phenomenon?  I suspect it’s real talent mixed with a certain uniqueness and, yeah, probably some sociologically driven moment-in-history ‘luck’ too.  And also due to the fact that the guy is maybe the hardest working writer ever – or the most prolific hard working writer anyway.  And, still further, that he felt personally challenged and driven, despite his success, always desiring to be better as an artist, and actually getting better through endless practice and growth.  
Anyway, at the very least I think I’ve discovered that King did come out of the gate really, really strong in the 1970s, his debut decade.  Most of those novels became almost instantly iconic and have probably only become more so – not just due to cinematic adaptations of varying success and quality, but due to King’s own original narrative and imagination behind whatever form of cultural production the stories take (not at all unlike Mary Shelley’s first novel and the endless mutations of Frankenstein monsters it yielded – her genius is ultimately behind them all).  Here’s my brief report on each one.  (I don’t think there’s anything massively spoiler-ish in what follows, but this discussion is mostly for those who have also read the books already.)

Carrie (1974)
In a weird, twisted way this somewhat threadbare little first novel seems like an ‘All-American’ classic.  Or the kind of twisted classic America really needs in its canon.  It’s the Prom Gone Wrong teen novel full of sincerely believed-in telekinetic powers, graphic language, and claustrophobic social and sexual mania. It luridly describes a horrifically repressive, isolationist, and mentally ill version of religious fundamentalism brutally crashing into a cynical secular high-school hedonism and hate – the resultant copiously bloody mess of fire and broken steel is very much the car wreck you can’t tear your eyes away from.  
In a world now tragically and terrifyingly overfull of school shootings and bullying (and it’s sadly easy to play that scenario out to the international level), this somewhat pulpy (but always promising more than that, as King ever does in his fiction) little book is one of the central narratives for our times.  In terms of the writing, it’s definitely King still finding his feet, but it’s pretty smartly done for all that and an uncharacteristically short number anyway.

‘Salem’s Lot (1975)

I wish I could have read all of these novels as they came out in the 70s.  I think the impact must have been like a fetid roar and a raking of claws to the face.  I suspect it was all so fresh and ferocious back when it first appeared, especially to the general audience it so immediately reached.  I wish I could’ve read King’s vampire novel when it came out more than any of these other early works.  It must have been exquisitely thrilling to encounter vampires in a contemporary, small town setting for (one of) the first time(s).  
King really hits his stride here in terms of his trademark gregarious tone, his plentiful ‘porch-swing’ sort of storytelling.  The autumnal New England setting is gorgeous in its Bradbury-esque bitter-sweetness.  The prose is occasionally marred by a slightly lazy Lovecraftian floridity when describing Gothic elements of the story, moments which made me cringe and laugh simultaneously.  But overall I think King has more or less matured as a writer at this point.  The characterisation takes solid hold and the monsters are lean and mean and nasty, either killing off or taking over some already nasty characters as well as more tragically offing or enslaving characters you root for.  But I have to admit that reading the novel in the midst of our oversaturated day and age of Mod Vamps, King’s stab at the genre didn’t feel especially vivacious.  It was, of course, refreshing that the vampires were simply inhuman blood-drinking overlords from some darkness in the Old World come to roost in the New World – instead of (poorly written) tormented teens or detectives or whatever. And King’s vampire book can still be very profitably mined for themes in my pet area of ‘theology of monsters’ since a priest’s earnest soul-searching about ‘traditional’ vs. ‘progressive’ Christian faith are a central conceit and concern of the novel.  It’s quite powerful in that regard actually.  At any rate, it’s good classical monster fodder if not as remarkable and original as the rest from this era.

The Shining (1977)

Uh oh.  Now it really hits.  By his second novel, King had more or less matured into a young prose craftsman.  In his third novel he intentionally ups the ante for himself.  He wrote in a 2001 introduction to The Shining that it was a crossing-the-line sort of novel for him and he felt that was the case as he wrote it.  He decided to go deeper and darker with his central character, creating a hybrid protagonist-antagonist.  I think I’d say this is one of King’s best books that I’ve read so far.  It is one of his most internal.  If Kubrick’s visually brilliant film version is an exercise in atmospheric and rather inexplicable horror, King’s novel is nearly the opposite.  It’s one of the most inwardly labyrinthine tales I’ve read.  The characters are trapped inside the endless interlocking and haunted rooms of the infamous hotel and we are trapped inside the endless interlocking and haunted rooms of the characters themselves.  It feels almost like the entire novel is a series of counterpoised internal monologues.  It also features King’s ability to nest story within story, reaching back and back into characters’ lives to round them out and make you care about the horrific tragedy they endure in the chilling preternatural circumstances at hand.  
Of course, it’s not really just the craftsman’s ‘rounding out’ to make his characters effective – you feel like King wants to know why they are the way they are as much as you do and he’s just digging up the dirt on them and publishing his finds.  Indeed, King tends to have a very ‘juicy’ or ‘gossipy’ tone that makes you turn the pages to know why So-and-So has become so warped.  He even ends up getting you just as invested in the antecedent warping of the mothers and fathers or whoever that have warped the character all this backstory began with.  It’s a feat to make fellow writers feel very, very jealous.  (Philip Roth’s The Human Stain is the main other example I’ve run into of this endlessly stacked and breathlessly related backstory characterisation.)  I’m often surprised we don’t all just wish King ill in our jealousy and insecurity in the face of his obvious God-given talent.  He’s nothing if he’s not a hard worker.  He has clearly sweated, bled, and cried to achieve what he has achieved.  But he started with the Gift, there’s no doubt.  And some of us can’t help being a rather sick shade of green with envy.  But he wins you over.  Ultimately, you just go:  ‘You lucky dog.  Good for you.  And thanks.’  (It helps a lot that he’s so disarmingly humble, honest, and charming when he comes out from behind the authorial curtain and talks frankly to his Constant Readers in introductions and notes.)  There are enough differences with Kubrick’s film to keep you going even though you essentially know the novel’s story already if you’ve seen that film.  It’s good.

Night Shift (1978)

Ah, now this is just a delightful collection of short stories.  I admit it has a bit of personal history with me that adds to its glow.  I was very ill with the flu and trying to meet an essay deadline and take care of five children (also ill) while my wife was out of town when I read most of the stories in here.  They enthralled and appalled me deliciously and soothed my overwrought brain through a tough time.  
They’re all early stories, most of them first published in ‘gentleman’s magazines’ (what the hell is so gentlemanly about viewing pornographic photos of women will always be a mystery to me).  The earliness of the material shows.  This is not always King at his best in terms of skill, but it is often King at his best in terms of sheer imagination and verve.  And sometimes in terms of skill too, to be honest.  
A few of these stories are some of the most gripping suspense stories I’ve ever read – even when they were about themes or scenarios I wouldn’t normally be the least interested in.  Most of the stories stick pretty firmly to more or less familiar horror genre territory.  But there’s an originality and flare here!  I nearly tossed my cookies once or twice at just a few descriptive words of gore.  I’m still haunted by one or two of the monstrous images.  I even cried at the end of one of them it was so tragic and poignant!  This is pulp fiction in the best sense:  sensational and thrilling and chilling and pleasantly garish.  
There are also a few in here that push beyond that.  ‘Night Surf’ and ‘I Am the Doorway’ are two of my very favourite atmospheric horror pieces.  The former gives a tantalising slice of dystopian post-apocalypse (it’s apparently a first-run at the material that will make up The Stand) and the latter is, for my money, one of the best contemporary translations of Lovecraftian ‘cosmic horror’ I’ve come across – simple and impossible and inexplicable and cree-eepy.  The collection contains one of King’s New England small-town elderly ‘voice’ pieces too (it’s one of the things King does best and I think it might still largely be a secret to the majority of his readership and the critics).  The yarn is called ‘Gray Matter’ and it too is an exemplary contemporary take on Lovecraft, but this time his more terrestrial horror.  Many of the stories have King’s infectious emphasis on the potential malice of inanimate objects, which could be analysed fruitfully by those interested in ‘object-oriented ontology’ and the like.  The story ‘Trucks’ (upon which was based the hilarious and awesomely bad Maximum Overdrive movie) was a great little piece in this vein.  Many like it in the collection are fanciful exercises in grim imaginative play and some are delightfully absurd, such as ‘Battleground’.   ‘The Lawnmower Man’ (utterly unrelated to its later film ‘version’) and ‘The Children of the Corn’ are other standouts of the weird.  Lots of good stuff in here.  A great addition to the 70s output.

The Stand (1978)

I actually lucked upon a first-edition paperback of this book, so I’ve only read the 70s cut version and not the later 90s expanded version.  But even this earlier shorter version is the longest thing King wrote in the 70s, coming in at around a thousand pages.  It’s a beast.  Once again King tops his previous game.  Now he shows he can do thrilling, page-turning characterisation for a whole sprawling cast of characters, not just a few.  This is high-octane King in the form of plague-decimated and supernaturally haunted post-apocalypse.  The scope is nationwide and the tone is brutal, warm, chilling, and visionary by pretty quick turns.  I don’t think I really took much of a breath until about halfway through.  This is one of a number of King’s tales that turns the USA’s highways and geography into an epic painstakingly journeyed quest-scape of darkness and light.  King has mentioned a number of times his desire to emulate Tolkien in various ways, but specifically in a North American instead of British setting.  Though King and Tolkien couldn’t be more different in so many respects, King does manage to capture that feel of a very long and costly journey on foot through terrible dangers and against towering odds that is central to much of The Lord of the Rings.  He succeeds in reminding me how incredibly large and diverse and scary and beautiful the sheer landscape and roadways of modern North America are, an ample testing ground for the souls that travel through it.  I think the middle of the book lags a bit, but it picks up again and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss anything.  I do think most of the real power and magic are in the first half.  I’m actually looking forward to reading the later revised and expanded version someday.  It’s definitely a long, strange and dark adventure I want to revisit.  
On a different note:  I have to say, it seems to me like it’s some kind of well-guarded secret that this is a flat-out Christian novel.   No, no, not ‘Christian bookstore’ fiction or the like.  It’s got all the copious profanity and graphic content so characteristic of King, which alone would disqualify it (thank God) from getting anywhere near the sanitised industry of ‘Christian fiction’.  (Whether King goes overboard with graphic content is whole other issue.)  Think more along the lines of Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy.  Regardless, The Stand is decidedly not merely a generic Good-vs-Evil or Triumph-of-the-Human-Spirit saga.  Crucial to its whole plot and theme is the ‘intervention’ of the Christian God himself – yeah, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that deity.  I’ve probably never read so much actual prayer in a modern novel (indeed, this spiritual activity recurs throughout King’s works, even those that are otherwise in no way blatant about matters of faith).  God-given visions and faithful obedience to God’s call are key characteristics of the story.  
The Christian characters are downright attractive too, real people with real flaws and struggles who nevertheless shine in their integrity and leadership – as do characters who are not explicitly ‘of the faith’; it’s not that King portrays the Christian characters better than the rest, but simply as good as some of the other admirable players in the drama, something many (most?) modern writers seem unwilling to do, if they acknowledge the existence of people of faith at all.  King wisely weaves in doubt and agnosticism and so on also.  He’s not beating anyone over the head.  You can take the side of rationalist reductionism or conscientious epistemic doubt if you want.  But real supernatural faith is right there on the table too.  And this is the early King we’re talking about here.  Not some later ‘converted’ King.  And he’s only going to go on developing and circling back to this blatant Christian spirituality in the face of horror again and again in various later novels and stories (1996’s Desperation is a shining instance).  And The Stand itself remains one of King’s single most celebrated novels.  Why does no one really talk about the central Christian aspect of it?  At any rate, it’s a book for everyone, regardless of worldview, a classic of contemporary urban fantasy writing and the kind of rich and engrossing tale you can really live with for a while.

The Dead Zone (1979)

This seems like it’s probably the least known of the 70s books, but to me it’s probably the very best – indeed, one of the very best of King’s whole canon out of what I’ve read so far (and I think I heard somewhere that King himself felt that way about it).  Except for ‘Salem’s Lot, the rest of the novels from this era I would only call ‘horror’ fiction in a hybrid sense:  they are woven as much of ‘realistic’ thriller or suspense fiction and paranormal fantasy and adventure fiction and just plain ‘homespun’ social drama as they are of actual horror tropes.   There’s certainly enough of a centring emphasis on supernatural fear and grotesque violence to warrant his label as a horror writer, but anyone who’s read more than a few books by him will surely have discovered that there’s just so much more to him than that label implies.  

If I’d never heard of King before and the first thing I read by him was The Dead Zone, I seriously doubt I would have labelled it a horror novel.  It is very dark, very magical and mysterious, at times incredibly menacing or nerve-racking, and there’s a serial killer subplot in there that is indeed out and out horrifying.  These are all elements that could be found in, for example, a Neil Gaiman novel and we don’t call Gaiman a horror writer.  We call his work ‘dark fantasy’ maybe and there’s a significant distinction there.  I think a lot of what King writes could be better described under this rubric than bald ‘horror’.  Anyway, The Dead Zone is primarily a highly poignant character-driven tale of deep loss and coping with that loss.  It describes a man finding purpose in choosing to do good with what gifts tragedy has left in his hands whether he wanted those costly gifts or not.  It is social and political too, as all of King is, but whereas The Stand was his most blatant book in this era on spirituality, The Dead Zone is his most blatant on politics.  Indeed, the political baddie in this book is as terrifying as any supernatural baddie in King’s others.  And the novel makes contemporary socially-torn America seem every bit as dangerous and scary as post-apocalyptic America.  Yet this is such a personal novel too.  It’s rather beautiful, the paranormal powers and the people both.  (It’s worth noting that King gives a much more gentle and sympathetic portrait of a religious fundamentalist mother here, almost in counterpoise to the one in Carrie that opened this decade’s publications – and he also provides an alternative example of a more admirable faith in the father in this novel.)  He really crowned his first decade with this book I think.  It’s slightly less furious than the rest but no less urgent and searching.  It’s like he’s taking a deep and calming breath before plunging on into the 80s (which turned out to be a troubled drug- and alcohol-fuelled, if still wildly successful, decade for him). Good show, Mr. King, good show.

Addendum:  The Long Walk (1979)
This is the only of the 70s Bachman books that I’ve read so far.  By the end of it I was really won over.  This is quality disturbing dystopian fiction, ultimately very effective in its mesmerising and inexorable brutality.  I do quite a few miles of walking in getting to where I need to every day.  Doing so during the days in which I was reading this book invested those long-ish walks with a heightened sense of perception and urgency (and maybe, to be honest, a hint of terror!).  If the […vague SPOILER…] ‘dark figure’ at the end of the book is akin to the ‘ragged figure’ that Flannery O’Connor spoke of in the introduction to her novel Wise Blood, then King’s The Long Walk may be the darkest and most brutal version of the (otherwise rather saccharine) ‘Footprints’ poem ever created.  Indeed, the whole of King’s output strikes me, theologically, as something of a long and variegated Dark Theodicy.  Don’t get me wrong, King is no C. S. Lewis.  He’s not a Christian apologist.  His method is very different (though complementary I would maintain).  Theodicy is odyssey for King.  He throws every amount and kind of monstrous evil and suffering at his journeying characters and then shows faith, hope, and love somehow, in at least some of them, miraculously surviving the onslaught (again echoing Tolkien’s own sort of Dark Theodicy).  King does not at all deny the plausibility of Lovecraftian ‘cosmic horror’ or Nietzschean nihilism, that we are utterly alone in an utterly indifferent universe.  These worldviews are given a full and fair and even rather seductive hearing in all of King’s works, indeed a particularly compelling one in The Long Walk.  And yet, in King’s fiction, ‘these three remain’ (1 Corinthians 13:13).  Just look at the self-sacrificially communal actions of the protagonist Garraty and the friends he has made out of his competitors by the end of the horrific Walk, even in the face of inexorable death and tyranny.  That’s just one in a long line of such examples throughout King’s fiction.  We are all of us on the terrifying and self-revealing Long Walk and it remains to be seen whether at the end of the line we are awaited by the sinister Major and his Prize or some other figure harder to see in all this obscuring inhumanity.  What will we become during the journey?  That’s what King’s fiction seems to ask.  ‘This inhuman place makes human monsters’ is a refrain in The Shining.  But not all the characters were turned into monsters by the hotel’s malevolent influence.  Some made it through, wounded but wiser – and even, miraculously, more humane, more fully human.  This redemptive motif is often left out of King’s public persona (usually crafted by others, not himself).  For example, his words toward the end of his 2001 introduction to The Shining are often quoted and memed:  ‘Monsters are real, and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.’  I’ve even passed this one on myself on social media.  It’s a cool little sound bite.  But, inexplicably, what King wrote right after that cool little sound bite, the conclusion to his introduction, is never included:  ‘That our better angels sometimes – often! – win instead, in spite of all odds, is another truth of The Shining.  And thank God it is.’
So as I say, King comes out of the gates very strong in his first decade of writing.  He’s made his mark and in some ways has no need to say anything further.  Yet I am so very glad he did.  I think some of his very best stuff is yet to come in each of the subsequent decades, probably including the one we are currently in.  The quality of the writing in the 70s, as throughout the rest of his career, is mixed – mostly quite good I think, and doing some things better than anyone else.  The good for me far outweighs the ‘bad’ and the bad is often trying to get at something good.  I don’t, like others, fault King for being ‘homespun’ or ‘sentimental’.  I mean, come one, surely part of his genius is being something like Lake Wobegon in Hell, or Mark Twain meets H. P. Lovecraft, or Norman Rockwell meets Hieronymus Bosch.  I only fault him for his at times faltering or out and out unsuccessful execution of that sentimentality or rocking chair storytelling.  But no writer is perfect and King has hooked me for good.  Maybe in another five years I’ll be able to do a report on the 1980s Stephen King.  (In the meantime, I’ll definitely review some individual novels from time to time, including some more recent stuff like Doctor Sleep.)