The Dark Half

Now here's a Stephen King novel that reads like -- well, what everyone thinks a Stephen King novel should read like.  None of that Stand by Me, Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile hope and optimism here.  (I do realize two of those were prison novels.)  This is old school King, and I love it.

Here's what's striking about The Dark Half:

1. It's very violent.  This isn't like in the Dead Zone, where we come upon the bodies left behind by a serial killer.  In The Dark Half, we are taken right to the murder scenes as Stark (or Machine) do the dirty work.

2. It reminds me of The Outsider.  A man is obviously guilty of a  crime he could not commit.  He has an alibi, witnesses and more to prove he didn't do it.  In the Dark Half, there are finger prints left behind; in The Outsider it's DNA.  The early portions of both books run down very familiar paths.

3. Kings narration is crisp and to the point.  He doesn't spend a lot of time with scenes to just build the characters; he gets right to it.  He seems like a man driven here.  He wants to nail this down, almost rushing toward the meat of the story.  In fact, the book moves with such intensity, the reader can sense King himself exited to find out what happens next.

King gave us the Dark Half in the late 80's.  It' interesting again to note signs of the times.  As in Dead Zone, there is no 911 emergency system in place; people have to hunt for Law Enforcements phone number.  And phones themselves sure have changed since the days when King could describe a phone in the cradle as looking like a broken barbell.  

One thing I don't like about the Dark Half is the original cover.  There's just nothing fun about it.  Like the Tommy-knockers, which preceded it, the cover does nothing to make you want to read the book.

The Dark Half serves as a prequel to Needful Things, introducing the reader to the Sheriff and several of the towns people.  While Dark Half focuses on a much smaller cast in a horrible situation, Needful Things would bring the entire town to life and then rip it apart.

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