Finders Keepers Journal #3: Spoilers and Whining

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I finished Finders Keepers the other night.  Obviously --

there are spoilers ahead.

The purpose of this blog is to talk about the book.  There is also a lot of whining ahead.  Not because I didn't like the book; I liked it every much.  The whining is just that, me thinking and rethinking things perhaps beyond necessity.  Feel free to comment and tell me I've lost my mind -- or that I sound like a sulking child.

1. Surprises.  I'll admit: King got me.  I thought mama bear was dead.  Then it turns out to be -- A SCALP WOUND?  Okay, Mr. King, you're directing this movie and I'll go with it -- but I'm getting doubtful.

2. Hodges.  Did he need to be in this book?  Of course, he's needed to save Peter, so his presence is important if you're Pete.  But I'm not sure that other than the final scenes, Hodges and company really did anything to advance the plot.  There was a lot of running around, and a lot of talking -- but when it really got down to it, they were stuck in traffic and only showed up at the last minute to serve as Pete's trap door of escape.

For a hard boiled crime book, may I ask -- did Hodges do any mystery solving this time?

I think I enjoyed the story more when it was focused on Pete and Morris.  That was a great story line!  A crook hides his loot, and a boy finds it.  The boy uses the loot to pay his parents bills.

Would a real teenage boy be able to pull off half of what Peter does in the novel?

3. Misery.  Finders Keepers reminds me of Misery.  It's a novel about books -- and writing.  While Misery was a very closed novel -- just two people -- Finders Keepers happens on a much bigger stage.  Remember Paul Sheldon jamming his burning novel into Annie's mouth?  Remind you of the end of Finders Keepers?

4. Frustrating.  The final plot twists between Morris and Peter are frustrating.  First, the entire thing seems illogical.  So Peter's plan is to stave off Morris by holding a lighter over the precious manuscripts?  As soon as the book took this turn, I was going, "Wait. . . what?!"  The scene plays out not the way I really think it might have, but the way King wants it to.  His direction feels heavy handed in the final scenes.  He's forcing the plot along, making it work because he wants it to work out for Pete.

Why would Pete burn the only existing Rothstein manuscripts?  Obviously the answer is that it was the only way to get himself out of the mess he was in.  But it really did make for a ridiculous scene as he held a lighter over the notebooks and Morris held a gun on him.  I was thinking, "Is this seriously a stand off?  Morris the murderer is held off by a boy with a lighter?"

That whining aside, I really liked it when Morris began to dig though the flaming notebooks.  Realistic? No.  But great stuff!  A man burning alive as he chases the thing he's killed to get.  Ultimately the very thing he's had to have, he's done anything to get -- is the thing that has him.

5. Ending.  The novel returns to the world of Mr. Mercedes, as Bill goes to visit Brady.  Is Brady possibly finding a way to get up and play tricks -- maybe even murder -- on the hospital staff?  The ending, which has a splash of telekinesis, is the only place I can think of where the paranormal has entered the trilogy.  Makes me wonder: Will the next novel center on Brady?  Will it involve more element of horror?

All that whining aside, I liked this a lot more than Mercedes.  Why?  Well, the plot itself, the engine that drove the book, was much more engaging.  And, King didn't try to make Morris sympathetic.  In Mercedes there were those strange scenes between mama and her boy; stuff that served to help us understand what made Brady tick.  Morris might be jut as complicated (he did, after all, kill his favorite author because he felt the guy sold out) but we don't have to spend too long in his head or his past.

Can A Writer Write Too Much?

What do readers want?  More books. What does Stephen King give us?  More books.  But not nearly fast enough, some of you would scream.

Here's a great essay by King Can A Novelist be Too Productive? that appeared as a NY Times opinion.

King not only looks at the volume of material some authors produce, but the gaps.  (I expected him to mention Harper Lee.)

A couple short notes:

Interesting, King discusses the relevance of  John D. MacDonald, a writer who praised King in his introduction to Night Shift. I'll never forget this idea: MacDonald suggested that King is a good writer because he's written piles of junk. (My summary.) But staying faithful to the craft made King a strong writer.

King mentions that he wrote Running Man in a week. And that he once published four novels in a year. Not a bad pace!

I love this:
As a young man, my head was like a crowded movie theater where someone has just yelled “Fire!” and everyone scrambles for the exits at once. I had a thousand ideas but only 10 fingers and one typewriter. There were days — I’m not kidding about this, or exaggerating — when I thought all the clamoring voices in my mind would drive me insane.


What's nice about a writer like King -- a writer who produces a lot -- is that I can look back at seasons in my life and remember what King book I was reading. I am particularly fond of Needful Things, Gerald's Game, Dolores Claiborne and The Wastelands because they came out around my senior year of High School and freshman year of college. This was the first time I found myself waiting for King to write another novel.

Before that, earlier in High School, I was just blown away by all the stuff he'd already written. It, The Stand and all those early novels just had to be read. But once I made it to my senior year, I'd read most of the "old" stuff. There were a few false starts -- Tommyknockers and Salems' Lot. I don't know why I couldn't do Salems' back then, but it was tough.

Finders Keepers Journal 2: There's A Lot Of Blood Here

I was out walking tonight, innocently reading a well written mystery novel when -- the mystery novel turned into a horror novel.  Oh yeah. . . this is Stephen King at the wheel.  Sweet!

A few random notes on Finders Keepers thus far.  (I'm in the final pages.  1 hour 30 minutes left on ipod.)

1. There are no "nice" bad guys here.  Often Stephen King makes you feel kind of warm toward those monsters in his books..  You might not like them, and yet when their scenes came you quietly rooted for them.  That's not the case here.  There's nothing to like in ole Morris; the sooner King dispenses with him the better.

2. King is a master not only of horror, but suspense.  Yes, I know that's Hitchcock's playground, but King fits in just fine.

3. The story is built on an interesting premise.  What if. . .
What if a famous author was murdered and along with a small fortune in cash, his hand written first drafts of some unpublished novels were taken.  Then, after hiding the loot, the criminals were either killed or landed themselves in prison.  And then, what if. . . a boy found the loot.  What insues from there is edge of your seat stuff.

4. I like Hodges.  Not sure why, since he seems your run of the mill gumshoe.  But I like the guy.  He really is cut of the most simple "mystery novel detective" cloth.  Maybe that's why I like him; I don't have to take a lot of time to get to know Hodges, because I already know him from American lore.

5. As is so normal in a King story, characters make decisions that are absolutely nuts.  You want to yell at them.  They ought to get knocked off just for being so stupid.  I'm not saying who, because some of you whine about spoilers -- but let's just say there's a certain teen who isn't good at decision making.  What's more, teeny boy resists the most natural "outs" for the difficult situations he gets himself into.  He consistently makes his own path more difficult.  Just like a teen, right?  Not really.  Teens tend to take the path of least resistance.  This character is actually pretty self assured.

6. King has not forgotten how to identify with the working family.  The stolen cash is given to the family in increments of about $500.  For them -- this is life changing.  For King, its a drop in the bucket.  (Not that he showed me his checkbook recently.)  But it can be easy for a person with means to forget when just an extra hundred or more can do for a family.  My wife started working this year and it was almost instantly life changing; and we're not even talking about a lot of money.  I'm glad King didn't bump the number up to something like a thousand or more.

Like Mr. Mercedes, Finders is told in the present tense.  I like it a lot -- but I didn't know it was legal.  Sure, the kid in creative writing did it; but he was weird.  Stephen King does it justice.

Finally, I want to note something that should be an entire blog post: Finders Keepers is about books.  Books King made up and books we all know.  The murdered author, John Rothstein, reminds me of J.D. Salinger, who wrote the acclaimed Catcher int he Rye. (I'm not sure why I had to read that in High School.)  

Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters

This is my book:

Stephen King did something crazy; something brilliant – he interconnected his many books and stories. Characters appear in one story only to have their story completed in other books.  Worlds collide and genre’s crumble.  But King did more than just connect railroad tracks through his own stories, he built long, wonderful stretches that moved through the lands of Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe and even Alfred Hitchcock.

Ride the train long enough, and you might see a door coming toward you, because you are about to enter the Twilight Zone with Mr. King as your host. King’s stories are more than just a rich texture of classic works, they include long bridges over theologically deep waters.  What does Pet Sematary tell us about resurrection?  What is the real meaning of The Stand?  Is the Green Mile meant to be read on a spiritual level?

Pause long enough, and you will hear the not so distant voices of a generation ago as they pass their stories over the radio waves.  Perhaps the scariest medium ever invented, radio once drove a nation to sheer panic, and scared a little boy named Stephen King.

Brighton David Gardner has spent years researching the world of Stephen King.  He has interviewed Stephen King scholars, enthusiast and film makers.  Brighton has been interviewed by CNN on the subject of Stephen King.  He is a frequent contributor to

Is there more to Stephen King than just haunted cars, rabid dogs and cities trapped under a dome?  Will his work be lost in histories unforgiving shuffle, or has he created a lasting body of work?  In Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters, Brighton Gardner discusses how King’s work compares to other outstanding artist.

Exploring not only King’s lasting legacy, Gardner takes a closer look at the novels themselves.  Did Stephen King write the father who abandoned his family into his novels?  What Stephen King movie did Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds inspire?

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