Seeing Double: My Review of The Outsider

Ho, ho, ho!  Merry Christmas?

…in May?

Yes, in May.  It is a little known fact that December does not actually have the monopoly on Christmas!

And the reason why May got to have a little fun this is…

You guessed it…

Stephen King!

The Master is no ordinary author, after all.

Ordinary authors do not make Christmas happen in May.

But when you are The Master, you can call in favors.

Favors like giving the rest of the world Christmas in May, because you gifted us mortals with a brand new book!

Yes, we got a gift that keeps on giving this May, in the form of the latest Stephen King book, The Outsider.

No, not The Outsiders!

No one was telling those pesky kids to stay golden, although we could argue that a certain sewer dwelling clown is a Soc.

This Outsider was part police procedure, part detective story and part supernatural thriller, liberally seasoned with the dread and creepiness that only a novel written by The Master can contain.

Or maybe that was just a little nutmeg added to spice things up a bit…

So, let us sit back and sip at this Christmas in May beverage titled The Outsider, and delve into those spices!

And, as always:

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

The book begins with the introduction of Detective Ralph Anderson.  Ralph lives in Flint City, Oklahoma and is a detective for its police department.

At the beginning of the book, Ralph is preparing to make an arrest.  The arrest will be of Terry Maitland, a citizen of Flint City who has been accused of a terrible crime:  the murder and dismemberment of a young boy named Frankie Peterson.

Terry Maitland is a high school English teacher and also coaches youth baseball.  Ralph and the Flint City Police Department arrange for his arrest to occur during one of Terry’s baseball games.

Terry is arrested, and the arrest is public, given the gruesome nature of the crime and the fact that the person accused of the crime is one of Flint City’s upstanding citizens. Terry is arrested in front of a large crowd, which includes his wife and two daughters. Terry denies committing any crime, but is processed at the police department any way.

Almost immediately, Marcy, Terry’s wife, retains a lawyer for her husband.  Terry’s lawyer is Howie Gold, who also happens to be a family friend.  Howie promises Terry that he will do whatever he can to help Terry, as he does not believe that Terry has committed any crime.  Howie also calls on one of his friends, Alec Pelley, a former Flint City police officer, to offer some protection to Terry’s wife and two children against the media circus.

Statements are taken from multiple witnesses, all of which place Terry near the area where Frankie’s body was found.  One witness reports giving him a car ride.  More witnesses report that Terry was covered in blood.

Terry denies committing the crime, and states that he has an alibi to prove it.  When the crime was committed, Terry claims to have attended a conference with several of his colleagues.  The conference Terry attended was a several hours drive, which means that Terry would have had to have been in two places at the same time.

However, the physical evidence from the crime scene, collected by the forensic examiner Yune Sablo, is a match for Terry’s DNA.  Ralph and the prosecutor Bill Samuels believe that the case is an open and shut case, but Ralph decides to do some of his own investigating, to see if Terry’s alibi is legitimate or not.

In the meantime, tragedy occurs in the Peterson household:  Arlene Peterson, mother of Frankie Peterson, passes away from a sudden heart attack.  Her husband Fred and older son Ollie are left in shock.

Alec also does some investigating for Howie.  He finds incontrovertible proof of Terry’s alibi:  video footage showing Terry at the conference on the date of the murder of Frankie Peterson.

Ralph begins to have doubts once he learns of the video footage, as it seems almost too perfect of an alibi.    He makes a trip to the hotel where the conference attended by Terry was held.  Ralph discovers a book in a gift store that may have Terry’s finger prints.  He purchases the book to have it inspected.

Ralph meets with Bill and Yune.  He states that he had the book dusted for finger prints, and the prints matched Terry’s finger prints.  Ralph pays a visit to Terry and jail, telling him about the physical evidence tying Terry to the crime, including a white van with Terry’s finger prints.  Ralph also brings up the fact that Terry made a trip to Dayton, Ohio in April, which is where the van was found.  Terry states that he made a visit to his father in Dayton in April, as his father is dying from Alzheimer’s disease, but did not make the trip with a van.  Terry continues to deny committing any crime.

Finally, it is time for Terry’s arraignment.  There is a large crowd in front of the courthouse, which includes several reporters.  Ralph attempts to escort Terry to the safety of the courthouse.  The crowd seems to grow larger, and Ralph thinks that he sees a man with what appears to be a yellow kerchief on his head, and tattoos on his fingers.  The man’s face is also scarred, possibly from burns.

However, Ralph’s attention is diverted when he notices a young man pull a gun.  The young man is Ollie Peterson, the older brother of the murdered Frank Peterson.  Ollie begins to open fire into the crowd, and shoots Terry Maitland.  Ralph is able to shoot Ollie Peterson, but not before Ollie delivers what turns out to be the fatal shot to Terry.

Even when he is dying, Terry still denies any involvement in the murder of Frankie Peterson. After the death of Terry Maitland and the shooting of Ollie Peterson, Ralph is placed on administrative leave from his job at the police department.  Bill Samuels decides not to run for re-election as the county prosecutor.  Ralph feels an enormous amount of guilt for what occurred at the courthouse, even though his wife and Bill try to convince him otherwise.

Bill pays Ralph a visit.  He informs Ralph that the police have traced who originally stole the white van used in the murder of Frankie Peterson:  it was stolen by a twelve year old runaway.  Bill tells Ralph to let the case go, as Terry was guilty and somehow engineered an alibi.

The night after her father is murdered, Grace Maitland awakens her mother and sister with her screams.  Graces says that she a man hovering outside her window.  She says that the man had short black hair, and his face resembled play dough.  She also says that the man had straws for eyes.  Her mother and sister attempt to convince her that it was a vivid nightmare, and she goes back to sleep.

Ralph is unable to let go of the Maitland case.  He is unable to think of what it is, but he becomes convinced that he is missing some important detail.

Tragedy occurs again, as Fred Peterson attempts to hang himself, and becomes comatose.

Ralph decides to pay a visit to Marcy Maitland.  She is understandably upset to see him, as she blames him for the death of her husband.  Ralph accepts responsibility for his part, but Marcy slams the door in his face and refuses to speak to him.

Later on, Marcy contacts Howie and tells him of the visit from Ralph.  She agrees to meet with Ralph, so she can put her mind at ease in regards to the actual child killer, and has Howie arrange the meeting.

A young boy wanders out to a barn on the outside of Flint City.  He finds what appears to be a pair of Terry’s jeans, along with Terry’s belt.  There is also a strange substance on the jeans that has turned the hay black.  The local authorities are promptly contacted.

Howie arranges the meeting between Ralph and Marcy, telling Ralph that he is forbidden to bring anyone else to this meeting.

That evening, Ralph meets with Marcy in her home, along with Howie and Alec Pelley.  Ralph tells Marcy about the van, noting that the van was discovered in Dayton, where Terry and his family had visited a few months prior.  He also tells Marcy that there is physical evidence that Terry was out of town when the murders occurred.

Ralph asks Marcy if anything out of the ordinary happened during the visit.  Marcy struggles to remember the details of the visit, but one of her daughters, Sarah, interrupts the conversation, stating that Terry received a cut, due to a collision with one of the orderlies at his father’s nursing home.  Ralph takes in the conversation, and returns home.

After Ralph returns home, he receives a call from Yune.  Yune requests to meet with Ralph, so that he can discuss some new evidence uncovered in regards to Frankie Peterson’s murder.

Jack Hoskins, one of the other detectives on Flint City’s police force, is investigating the barn where the jeans and belt were found.  Jack is suddenly sure that he sees a person in the barn, but then chalks it up to the fact that he had been drinking earlier that evening.  Then Jack is certain that he feels a touch on the back of his neck.  But before he can react, the presence is gone.

The next morning, Ralph meets with Yune.  Yune tells Jack about the clothing that was discovered.  Yune says that the belt buckle contained Maitland’s finger prints, but that there is something odd about the fingerprints:  they are faint and appear to be the fingerprints of a much older man than Terry Maitland was at the time of the murders.  Ralph theorizes that Terry Maitland may have had an accomplice.

Yune also tells Ralph about the substance found on the jeans.  Yune thought that the substance was semen, but began to have his doubts, due to the look of the substance and the sheer volume of it.  Yune muses that they may be dealing with the supernatural, and tells Terry some Mexican folktales from his childhood, including a boogeyman who would kill children and use their blood to make himself immortal.  Ralph is understandably skeptical, and refused to entertain any supernatural explanation.

Ralph also makes note of the fact that Maitland’s pinky fingernail was abnormally long, and had apparently cut Claude Bolton, a bouncer at a nightclub where Terry was seen at the night of the murders.  Ralph thinks that this cut is similar to the cut Maitland received from the orderly at the nursing home in Dayton, but Yune dismisses it as coincidence.

Ralph and Yune also note that the no shirt was found along with the jeans and belt.

On his way home, Ralph suddenly remembers a detail from the day Terry Maitland was shot.  He had previously believed that the man with the burns on his face had been wearing a yellow bandanna.  However, Ralph realizes that the man was not in fact wearing a bandanna on his head, nor a kerchief. The man was actually wearing Terry’s t-shirt, wrapped around his head.

Ralph meets with Howie, Alec and Yune the next day.  Ralph tells them of the man with burns, and the fact that the man is not seen in the news footage of Terry’s arraignment.  Alec realizes that the man was wearing Terry’s t-shirt on his head.  Ralph comes to realize that the fingerprints found in the evidence in the abandoned barn were faint due to the fact that the fingers may have been burned, tying the man he saw to the murder of Frankie Peterson.  Alec also vouches that he saw the burned man at Terry’s arraignment.

In the meantime, Grace Maitland, Terry and Marcy’s daughter, attempts to take a nap.  Her sleep is interrupted, however, when she awakens to find a man sitting on her bed.

Grace recognizes him as the man that her sister encountered previously, although his face no longer looks to be made of Play Dough.  The man claims to be her father, but Gracie does not believe him.  In fact, the man makes fun of her for grieving, and calls her a baby.  Grace begins to cry and begs the man to leave.

Before the man leaves, he asks Grace to do something for him.  Then Grace is being awakened by her sister, and thinks that she had a bad dream.  However, she is still frightened and decides to what the man asked of her.

Grace calls Alec Pelley, using her mother’s cell phone.  She tells Alec that she does not know how to reach Ralph, but that Alec can pass on the message from the man to Ralph:  Ralph must stop his investigation, or something bad will happen.

Ralph and Howie then visit Marcy and her daughters.  Ralph listens to Grace’s story, and tells her that it was a dream and that no man is in her house now.  Grace describes the man, stating that he had short black hair, a goatee and tattoos on his hands and arms.

Alec Pelley decides to make a phone call after speaking to Marcy.  He contacts Holly Gibney, who works for the company Finders Keepers.  Alec has worked with Holly and the late Bill Hodges in the past, and believes that Holly’s investigative skills are what is needed to solve the murder in Flint City.

Alec tells Holly what has happened in Flint City, and asks if Holly can help.  Holly hesitates a little, but agrees to help Alec solve the murders.

Holly travels to Dayton, so that she can begin investigating the nursing home where Terry Maitland’s father is a patient.  Holly is able to determine that the van used in the murder in Flint City was actually gone before Terry and his family arrived in Dayton.

Next, Holly visits the nursing home.  She attempts to talk to Terry’s father, but is unable to visit him, as she is not a family member.

After her visit to the nursing home, Holly begins to research news stories in Dayton, as she believes that the behavior of the nursing receptionist is a bit peculiar.

She then discovers that a man name Heath Holmes was arrested at the end of April.  Holmes had also been an employee of the nursing home.  Holmes was accused of savagely murdering two young girls, along with sexually molesting them.  However, Holmes was never tried for the murder of the girls, as he committed suicide while in jail, not long after his arrest.

Holly believes that the murders in Dayton are tied to the murder of Frankie Peterson in Flint City, although no one else has connected the two cases.

Holly returns to the nursing home.  She convinces a woman named Candy Wilson to speak with her in regards to the home’s former employee and accused murderer, Health Holmes.

Candy tells Holly about Holmes.  She states that Heath was actually supposed to have been visiting his mother at the time of the murders.  She also states that Holmes seemed to be a normal person, even though she believes that her former coworker was guilty of the murders.  She also tells Holly that Heath’s murder committed suicide shortly after the death of her son.  Candy also states that she saw Heath at work right around the time of murders, and that Heath took a spill when leaving Peter Maitland’s room.

After speaking to Candy, Holly calls Alec.  She tells Alec that she believes Terry Maitland to have been innocent, and asks to speak to Ralph.  She asks Alec if he heard of anything unusual happening when Terry visited his father Dayton, and Alec tells her that Terry bumped into an orderly.  Holly realizes that Terry came into contact with Heath Holmes, and that now both men are accused child murderers, and both men are dead.

Holly returns to hotel room and receives a call on her cell phone.  The caller is Ralph  Holly tells Ralph that she believes Terry is innocent, and that a similar crime was committed in Dayton.  Ralph also tells Holly that Terry received a cut after bumping into Holmes.  Ralph requests that Holly fly to Flint City so that she can share her  findings.  Holly agrees, and in turn requests that Ralph contact the Dayton Police department for information on the murders that Heath Holmes had been accused of.

Holly again stresses that she does not believe that Terry Maitland or Heath Holmes is guilty of murder, and that she believes the crimes were committed by an outsider.

Jack Hoskins awakens in the middle night.  He has what he believes to be a sunburn on the back of his neck.  Jack believes that he sees something behind his shower curtain.  Jack then sees a hand fold around his shower curtain.  The fingers are tattooed with the word “Can’t.

The figure behind the shower curtain tells Jack that he does not have a sunburn, that he in fact has cancer.  Jack’s mother had passed away from cancer when Jack was a child.  The figure tells Jack that it gave him cancer, but that it can take him back.  The figure asks Jack to do something for him in exchange for taking away the cancer.  Jack agrees, and the faints.

Jeannie Anderson also awakens in the middle of the night.  She notices that a light is turned on in the living room, even though the light had previously been turned off.  She also notices that a chair is missing from the kitchen table.

A voice then tells Jeannie not to move or scream, or she will be killed.  Jeannie sees a man sitting in the guest chair in the living room.  The man tells Jeannie that Ralph needs to stop investigating the murders, or he will kill Ralph and his friends.  The man has short black hair, a goatee and the word “must” tattooed on his fingers.  Jeannie then faints from the fear.

Jeannie tells Ralph about her encounter with the man, and Ralph is skeptical.  Jeannie tells Ralph that he needs to carry his gun, and that she wants police protection.  Jeannie also believes that the supernatural is at work, although Ralph still refuses to believe.

Ralph gives Yune a call, and asks him to investigate Claude Bolton, a bouncer at a local night club.  Ralph had interviewed Bolton as a witness in the Frankie Peterson murder, but believes that Bolton may have actually been involved in the murder, as Jeannie’s description of the intruder matches Bolton’s description.  Ralph also determines that Bolton is now in Texas, visiting his mother.

The authorities in Texas pay a visit to Claude Bolton and his mother.  The officer makes note of the tattoos on Claude’s fingers:  the words “Can’t” and “Must.”  The officer also had Claude take a look at a photo of the belt Terry was wearing when Frankie Peterson was murdered, so that Claude can confirm that Peterson was wearing that belt.  The officers also confirm Claude’s presence in Texas, and pass the information on to Ralph.

Before she leaves Ohio, Holly continues her investigation of the child murders in Dayton.  She visits the grave of Heath Holmes, and notices that it has been vandalized,  She also visits a nearby train yard and takes some pictures.  Holly visits the area where the two girls were murdered and takes more pictures, and then heads to the airport to catch her plane to Oklahoma.

Finally, Holly arrives in Flint City, meeting with Howie, Alec, Ralph and Bill Samuels.  Yune and Jeannie Anderson are also present.

Yune presents the forensic evidence from the murders in Dayton.  Then Ralph tells the group of his investigation of Terry Maitland, along with his story about the man with the burned skin that he saw at Terry Maitland’s arraignment.

Yune also presents some fingerprints found on the van used in the murder in Flint City.  He states that Heath Holmes fingerprints were also found on his van.  Jeannie and Marcy also tell their stories of the man seen in their respective houses.

Holly then shows the group part of a movie on one her DVD’s.  The movie is a Spanish language movie with subtitles.  The movie is also an old movie.  In it, a child is kidnapped and then murdered by a man wearing a long black cloak with a mouthful of fangs.  A man is arrested for the murder, but states that he is innocent of the crime he is accused of.  The man is later hung for his crimes.  However, a man with a long cloak is seen in the crowed wearing the accused murderer’s face.  The man is referred to as “El Cuco.”

Holly states that El Cuco is a creature from Mexican folklore who lives on the blood and fat of children.  Ralph is skeptical and even angry that Holly believes that the murders in Flint City and Dayton were committed by such a creature, but the rest of the group seems willing to accept that there may be a supernatural cause for the murders.

In the meantime, Jack Hoskins is spying on the group. As he sits in his vehicle, a presence whispers instructions to him.  Jack agrees, as the presence says that Jack has cancer and will die if he does not do the creature’s bidding.

Ralph and his friends agree that they must travel to Marysvile, Texas, as they believe that the outsider is starting to take over the body of Claude Bolton, who is currently visiting his mother in Marysville, and they make arrangements to travel the next day.

Holly spends the evening at Ralph’s house.  The next morning, she awakens early, as does Ralph.  Holly confronts Ralph over his skepticism.  She tells Ralph that his skepticism is harming the investigation, and that he needs to believe that there is a supernatural cause to these events, as his disbelief may be fatal.

Holly then uses an application on her phone to investigate Ralph’s house to find evidence of the intruder that Jeannie encountered.  She is able to detect trace amounts of unknown chemicals and fluids that are likely the same chemicals and fluids found in the barn.  These fluids and chemicals are also found on the chair that Jeannie claimed the intruder was sitting on.  This evidence makes Ralph skepticism vanish, and he begins to believe  that there is a supernatural cause.

The next day, Holly, Ralph, Howie, Alec and Yune travel to Marysville, Texas, so that they can warn Claude and attempt to prevent more murders.  They are not joined by Bill, who has dropped out of the investigation.  They are also followed by Jack Hoskins, who is still acting under the influence of the outsider.

The group locates Claude and his mother Lovie in Marysville.  Ralph and Holly fill Claude in on what is happening, and Claude believes the story, as he has been feeling off and has experienced some odd occurrences.  His mother Lovie also believes the story, due to tales from her childhood.

Lovie sends Claude out to run an errand, as the group believes that the outsider has begun to possess Claude, so any information that Claude possesses will be privy to the outsider.  Lovie realizes that there is a local spot, known as The Marysville Hole, where the outsider may be hiding.  The spot has been a place where tragedy has occurred, as two children were trapped in a cave many years ago, and many locals believe it to be haunted.

Ralph tells Claude that they will be investigating another area in town the next day, in order to trick the outsider.  Holly then prepares for an expedition to Marysville Hole.

The next day, Ralph, Yune, Holly, Alec and Howie head to Marysville Hole in an attempt to trap the outsider.  Again, they are followed by Jack Hoskins, who will stop the group in any way possible.

Ralph and his friends encounter Jack almost as soon as they arrive at the local spot.  Jack is armed and begins shooting.  He kills both Alec and Howie.  Ralph and Holly escape harm, but Yune is shot in the arm by Jack, although the wound is not fatal.  Ralph is armed with his own weapon, and shoots Jack.  Ralph examines Jack’s body and finds that Jack was also bitten by a rattlesnake.  The snake bite subdued Jack, so that he did not cause more damage

Ralph and Holly make their way into the cave.  They are then able to locate the outsider, who appears to be waiting for them.  Ralph is ready to shoot the creature, but the creature reminds him that if he shoots, the ceiling may cave in on them, trapping them in the cave forever.

Holly then begins to taunt the creature, in order to distract it.  She then beats it to death with a sock filled with ball bearings that she had concealed inside her clothes.  Ralph and Holly then watch the creature decompose before their eyes.

Ralph and Holly then make their escape from the cave and meet up with Yune, who is injured but appears to be all right.  They then come up with a story in regards to the death of Jack Hoskins, and the three head back to Flint City.

Back in Flint City, Bill Samuels gives a press conference, exonerating Terry of the murder of Frankie Peterson.  Bill tells the reporters and the public that the police believe that Jack Hoskins and another person were actually behind the murders, and that Jack attacked Ralph and his friends due to a grudge against Ralph.  Bill states that the evidence against Terry Maitland would have been dismissed, had Terry lived, and that the case is still open and the investigation pending.  This is done in an attempt to help Marcie Maitland and her daughters have some semblance of a normal life in Flint City.

Holly heads back to Ohio.  She and Ralph are haunted by nightmares of the outsider, and Ralph sometimes worries that the outsider has also contaminated him, despite Holly’s reassurances.  Ralph has learned to be more open-minded in regards to the mysteries of the universe, and often talks to Holly in order to work through his feelings.

My Thoughts

Christmas in May is just awesome!  We need to have it more often!

Now, King is known as the guy who writes horror novels.

Big news, right?

Water is wet, the sun sets in the West, blah blah.

But part of the reason why King’s novels are so effective and scary is that there is that element of reality in them.

Things scare us more when they are plausible.

For example, the novel It is known as the book about the scary clown, and anyone who describes it that way would not be wrong.

However, that particular novel is much more than a book about a scary clown.

That (literal) monster of a novel covers a variety of issues, such as bullying, spousal abuse, child abuse and the importance of friendship.

In one way or another, we can relate to these issues, which makes the shape-shifting inter-dimensional creature that is attempting to be a clown but is not quite pulling it off that much more believable.

Another great example of King using the element of reality to create an effective, scary story is The Shining.

We are nearly halfway through the book before the existence of ghosts is confirmed.

King does let the monsters loose in a spectacular way in The Shining, but not before he covers a myriad of issues, which include child abuse, unemployment, financial predicaments, spousal abuse and the theme of familial relations.

We become invested in the characters, so the supernatural part of the story impacts us that much more.

And we can add The Outsider to the list of King works that contain that element of reality that makes for an effective, scary story.

Police procedural is a running theme throughout the book, in much the same way that it is in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy (more on that in a bit, I promise.)

The story begins with a cop who is (understandably) eager to arrest a man for a horrific crime.

The evidence appears to be airtight.

Witnesses are interviewed.  DNA evidence is gathered.

Most of us watch shows such as NCIS, so this is something we understand.

Unfortunately, most of us are also all too familiar with murder, since we don’t live under a rock.

Even more unfortunately, we are also familiar with child murders.

King describes the murder of Frankie.

This is not gratuitous.  He wants us to understand that a horrific crime has occurred, and the rape and murder of a young boy is pretty horrific.

So we become invested, just as Ralph became invested.

We want the crime solved, and the murderer brought to justice.

Unfortunately, life is never that black and white.  We only have to read about a quarter of the book to be reminded of that fact.

Ralph thinks that he has an open and shut case.

But, like the melon that looked okay on the outside but was filled with maggots on the inside, things are not what they seem.

(Really, Uncle Stevie, that was an great metaphor, but way to make me fear melons for the rest of my days on this Earth!  Ewwww!)

Terry Maitland also had an airtight alibi.  The alibi was basically thrown right in front of stubborn Ralph’s face, forcing him to realize that he is human and may have made a terrible mistake.

So, the unstoppable force meets the immovable object.

What gives?

Now we are getting to the supernatural part!  After all, this is a book written by The King of Horror!

But let us talk about the Mr. Mercedes trilogy for a moment.

And have our little reunion with the one and only Holly Gibney.

It is true that the insertion of Holly into the story felt a little deux ex Holly, but who cares?  We got to see Holly again.

And since doubles are a theme in this book, the insertion of Holly was actually a good thing.

Holly is the perfect foil to Ralph.

Ralph is bull-headed and has a hard time seeing past his own nose, so he needs a foil.

And Holly is the perfect foil to Ralph, as she can suspend disbelief to get the job done.

Really, Ralph and Holly are doubles, or two sides of the same coin.

One is a policeman, with a knack for using physical evidence to make deductions, as most cops can do.

The other is a detective, but not a policeman.  She has a extraordinary sense of intuition, as the ability to accept that there are forces in this universe that we may understand, but those forces can still affect our lives.

And this where we get to the horror.  Things start getting pretty creepy.

Almost like we are reading…

A Stephen King book?

King has taken the police procedural and detective story, and combined both of those with good old fashioned horror elements.

By almost anyone else, this may have come across as forced.

But when you are The Master, you can do stuff like that.

Now, The Outsider is not scary like some of these other novels we have been talking about, like ‘Salem’s Lot, Black House, It and The Shining.

But it can hold its own on the horror front.

I thought that was actually a lot of good horror moments in this book.

One of the best was when Renfield er the Trump voter (is there really a difference?) er Jack Hoskins is first approached by the outsider.

The description of the creature’s touch, and how it used weenie’s fear of dying of skin cancer was nightmarish, for lack of a better word.

King also lets us into the mind of our Renfield, so we get to learn about the horrible way his mother died, as she died from skin cancer.

We never really know if Jack actually has skin cancer, or if perhaps the outsider has managed to manipulate his mind and convince him that he has cancer, and it doesn’t matter.  Jack has become the creature’s Renfield, and will do its bidding in order to save himself.

Speaking of Renfield…

Once again, King goes back to his roots.  King cut his…um fangs…er teeth on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Vampires are a part of his work, most notably in the novel ‘Salem’s Lot, but in other works and short stories, such as One for the Road, Popsy and The Night Flier.  Vampires even make an appearance in the Dark Tower series, when we meet Pere Callahan in The Wolves of the Calla, and we are introduced to “type one vampires,” how to kill vampires and creatures known as the “grandfather fleas.”

And once again, we meet a type of vampire in The Outsider.

Sure, this one may not be a Kurt Barlow or a Popsy Night Flier, but it is a vampire, nonetheless.

It finds victims and steals from them, so that it may survive.

Ralph’s wife Jeanie is the first to point out that the outsider does not show up on the video camera, despite the fact that it was seen by both Yune and Ralph, because it is a vampire, and vampires do not cast reflections, so of course they won’t show up on a video, amateurs!

The creature even finds himself a Renfield, in the form of the weak willed Jack Hoskins, who also apparently is not a good cop.

King then combines the age old story of Dracula with a Latin American myth about a creature who can shape-shift, aka El Cuco.

(We may need to credit El Cuco with the urban legend of Slenderman, as there appears to be some gruesome similarities, but I digress.)

Once again, enter Holly.

Holly does her research and is able to connect the child murders in Ohio to the child murder in Flint City, because Terry happened to visit a nursing home in Ohio.

She then theorizes that this is also a creature who feeds on sadness, as well as blood and fat.

In order to be classified as a vampire, a creature does not simply need to feed on blood.  The creature just needs to be a taker, and end up causing misery wherever it happens to go, which is exactly what the outsider did, as the murder of Frankie Peterson caused a chain reaction of misery, culminating in two families (the Maitland family and the Peterson family) being torn apart.

This must have been an all you can eat buffet to the outsider.

Holly is even able to use technology to prove the existence of this supernatural creature, as she is able to find evidence that the outsider was in Ralph’s house, by using her Iphone to detect trace amounts of whatever (awful and disgusting, I really don’t what to know what exactly it is) substance that the creature leaves behind.

Finally, she is able to turn Ralph into a believer.

And Dracula is not killed by having his head chopped off and stuffing garlic into the mouth.

But there is something like a stake that is used.

Holly comes in for the kill with a sock filled with ball bearings, and knocks the outsider into next week.  Or maybe into Todash space, as this is a Stephen King book.

So our vampire is bested, and the village can be at peace again, and try to heal.

At peace for now at least, as Ralph has realized that the universe is filled with mystery.

If there is one creature with powers like the outsider and capable of such acts, who is to say that there are more unpleasant mysteries, just waiting for the next unlucky person to stumble upon them?

So that’s it for The Outsider.

Not bad, Uncle Stevie.  Not bad at all.

You still have a spring in that literary step of yours, and hopefully will continue giving us Christmas in whatever month you see fit.

Join me in the upcoming weeks and months as I revisit our old friends Nick Andros, Mother Abagail, Larry Underwood and the rest of the crew when I revisit the world of The Stand!

Tune in next week…

Same bat time, same bat channel!

 

Connections

It’s that time again…time to point out the connections to other King works in The Outsider!  There are fewer connections that connect The Outsider to the King universe than most other novels, but the ones I found are pretty significant.  So here is what I found:

-The appearance of Holly Gibney is the biggest connection.  Holly is a major character in all three books of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, and was a major contributor to the outcome of that trilogy.

-Holly references Bill Hodges multiple times, along with giving Ralph and his friends a brief summary of the events in all three books in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy.

-Holly theorizes that the outsider lives off of human emotions, specifically misery and sadness.  This is similar to the creature Dandelo and Pennywise the clown, who are also shape shifters who feed off of human emotions.  Pennywise is best known as the clown in It, and Dandelo appears in the final book of the Dark Tower series.

-Child murders are a theme in The Outsider.  Other books deal with the same subject, most notably Black House.

-The outsider takes up residence in an underground cave.  This behavior is similar to that of Tak, the villain in Desperation and The Regulators.

-The subject of doubles is discussed in The Outsider.  Doubles, or different versions of the same person, are a theme in several King novels, including the Dark Tower series, The Talisman, Black House and The Dark Half.

-Vampires are discussed in The Outsider.  Vampires appear in several King works, including ‘Salem’s Lot, the short stories Popsy and The Night Flier (both of which are part of the collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes) and even in the Dark Tower series.

-Holly references the movie version of The Shining.  The movie was directed by Stanley Kubrick, but of course it was inspired by the King novel of the same name.

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