Live Nerdiness 3.0: Car Talk!

Join me and one of my fellow nerds, as we talk Christine (both book and movie), as well as some of the other happenings in the world of The Master!

 

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/jeremy-lloyd/dark-tower-radio

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Ride or Die: My Review of Christine

Many people remember their teen years with some sort of fondness.

And that is understandable, to a point.

After all, many milestones are reached during adolescence…

First bra…

First dates…

First kisses..

First loves…

First vehicles…

First vehicles that you fall in love with, and said vehicle demands exclusivity almost immediately, and luuvvvs you soooo much that she (since cars always a she, after all) will not allow you to date anyone else, see your friends or hang out with your family…

Well, adolescence in the Stephen King universe is not normal adolescence, after all.

Last month, it was the prom that we reminisced about so fondly.

And this month, we are going to talk about the first love, along with the first vehicle.

In other words, we will be reading and dissecting King’s novel, Christine.

(Yeah, this is the part where I should tell you we are talking about a Stephen King book.  Quit acting surprised, you knew it was coming!)

As always, King is one of the few writers who can capture childhood, along with adolescence.

And Christine is a book that has a lot to say on this subject.

So fasten your seat belts, and let’s hop into a certain bright red homicidal 1958 Plymouth Fury…you know you will be in one Hell (literally) of a ride!

And, as always:


Synopsis

The book begins by introducing us to a young man named Dennis Guilder.  Dennis has just turned 17 and will be starting his senior year in high school.  Dennis’ best friend is another young man named Arnold “Arnie” Cunningham, who has also just turned 17 and attends the same high school as Dennis.

Dennis is athletic and popular, and well liked by his peers.  Arnie, however, is a loner and is constantly bullied.  Despite the fact that they are polar opposites in so many ways, Dennis and Arnie remain best friends, even throughout junior high and high school.

One day, as Arnie and Dennis are returning home from their summer job, Arnie notices an old car for sale.  The car is a 1958 Plymouth Fury and does appear to be in good condition.

Arnie speaks to the owner of the car, an old man named Roland LeBay.  Almost immediately, Dennis dislikes the old man.  Arnie, however, is determined to purchase the vehicle, and bargains with LeBay.  Since it is not pay day, Arnie puts down $25 on the car, which LeBay sells to him for $250, with the expectation that Arnie will purchase the vehicle the next day.  Dennis is upset and tries to talk Arnie out of the deal, but Arnie will not budge, and appears to be besotted with the vehicle, which LeBay refers to as “Christine.”

When Arnie returns home that night, he informs his strict parents that he purchased a car.  They are upset, especially his mother, Regina, but Arnie still refuses to back down.

The next day, Arnie purchases Christine, and attempts to drive her home.  Initially, Christine will not start, but Arnie somehow coaxes the vehicle into starting.  Dennis sits in the car for a moment, and gets a very bad feeling about it.  On the way home, the car gets a flat tire, and Arnie is forced to change the tire on a resident’s lawn, which very nearly results in a fight between Arnie and the resident.

Arnie makes the decision to temporarily house Christine at Darnell’s Garage.  Darnell’s Garage is owned by Will Darnell, a common crook rumored to have dealings with organized crime, but really Arnie’s only choice if he wants to keep Christine.  Arnie believes that he can fix up Christine and turn her into something special, although Dennis is skeptical, and even begins to have nightmares about Arnie’s vehicle.

Arnie begins to spend more and more time making repairs to Christine, and less time with Dennis and the rest of his family.

One night, Dennis and Arnie stop for pizza on the way home from work.  Arnie has a black eye, and Dennis asks about it.  Arnie tells Dennis that he got into a fight with Buddy Reperton, a local thug, at Darnell’s Garage.  Reperton smashed a headlight on Christine, and this made Arnie furious.  Arnie was also able to injure Reperton before Darnell stepped in.  Dennis becomes worried, and does not want Arnie to continue to use Darnell’s Garage as a home for Christine.

One evening, Dennis gets the idea that Arnie can park Christine at LeBay’s house, possible in exchange for some minor chores and a little money.  However, Dennis discovers that LeBay has died, so this may not be an option for Arnie.

Arnie is in shock over the death of LeBay, and insists on attending his funeral.  Dennis accompanies Arnie, and meets George, LeBay’s brother.  Dennis tries to talk George into letting Arnie park Christine at his deceased brother’s house, but George refuses, telling Dennis that Arnie should get rid of the car, as it is bad news.  Dennis is curious, and agrees to meet with George later that evening so that he can obtain some more information on Christine’s history.

Later that evening, Dennis meets with George.  George gives Dennis a background on Roland and his vehicle.  Roland was always angry and bitter, even as a child.  Roland joined the army as a young man and became a mechanic, and a brilliant one at that.  However, Roland could not let go of his anger, as evidenced by the letters he sent to his family.

Eventually, Roland got married and became a father.  He also finally purchased a vehicle of his own, a 1958 Plymouth Fury who named Christine.  Roland became obsessed with the vehicle, devoting much of his time and money to it.

One day, Roland’s young daughter choked on a piece of hamburger while riding with her parents in the vehicle.  Roland and his wife are unable to save their daughter, and she dies.  Roland’s family begs him to give up the vehicle, but he refuses.

The vehicle also claimed another victim:  Roland’s wife, who committed suicide in the vehicle, via the fumes from the exhaust hose.  Roland still refuses to give up the vehicle, and spends the rest of days alone, only selling the vehicle to Arnie when it becomes evident that he will die soon.

The story makes Dennis uneasy, even when he returns home.  Dennis also has an unsettling conversation with his father in regards to Will Darnell and his dealings, which confirms some of Dennis’ suspicions that Darnell may be more than a small time crook.

School begins, and Dennis becomes busy with the start of his senior year.  Arnie is also busy, attempting to restore Christine to her former glory. Dennis notices that Arnie’s complexion begins to improve (he had previously had a terrible case of acne) and that Arnie also becomes more confident in himself.

One day, as Dennis and Arnie are eating lunch, they are confronted by Buddy Reperton and his band of friends.  A fight breaks out, and a teacher is called in to stop the fight.  The fight results in Buddy Reperton’s expulsion from the school, and the suspension of some of his friends.  Dennis is shaken, but is again surprised to see Arnie fight back against the bully.

Arnie’s confidence continues to grow.  He asks Leigh Cabot, a beautiful transfer student, out on a date, and she agrees to go out with him.  Arnie and Leigh attend a football game together, and Leigh meets Dennis.  Dennis is a little jealous of Arnie, as he also has a crush on Leigh, but is happy for his friend.

That afternoon, Dennis plays football, like normal.  However, he is injured in the game.  The injuries are severe, and Dennis spends several weeks in the hospital recovering.  Thoughts of Arnie and Christine, along with Leigh, are never far from his mind.

The book then changes to the perspective of Arnie, Leigh and the other characters.  Nearly everyone is concerned for Arnie, and they sense that his obsession with the car may be unhealthy.  The relationship with Arnie and his mother becomes strained, and they fight constantly over the vehicle.  Leigh also dislikes Arnie’s car intensely, and feels uncomfortable when she rides in it.

One night, Arnie’s father, Michael, takes a ride with Arnie in Christine, and has a serious conversation with his son. He suggests that Arnie park his vehicle at the airport, as opposed to Darnell’s Garage.  At first, Arnie is not happy with this suggestion, but agrees to it, as sort of a truce between himself and his family.

In the meantime, Buddy Reperton and his friends seek revenge on Arnie, as they blame Arnie for Buddy’s expulsion from school.  So one night, Buddy and his friends are able to sneak into the airport garage.  Once in the garage, they find Christine and vandalize the vehicle.

One day after school, Arnie heads to the airport garage with Leigh, to show off his progress with his work on Christine.  Arnie then discovers the vandalism to Christine, and becomes very upset.

Arnie argues with his parents over Christine and the vandalism.  He is reluctant to report the incident, but his father insists on doing so.  Arnie’s parents offer to replace Christine with a newer vehicle, but Arnie refuses, and states that he will restore Christine himself.

Christine seeks revenge on those who vandalized her.  She begins with with Moochie Welch, who was involved in the prank.  Christine chases down Moochie one night, running him over multiple times.

Arnie learns about Moochie’s death, and appears to be shocked.  He denies any involvement to local police, and his parents also confirm his alibi.  Arnie is also questioned by a state police officer.  The officer does not believe Arnie’s story, but cannot take any action, as he has no concrete evidence that Arnie was involved in Moochie’s death.  The officer also notices that Christine is nearly restored back to her prior condition, despite the fact that prior reports stated that she was damaged beyond repair.

One evening, Buddy and his friends are driving around town.  Buddy is still angry over being expelled from school, and has no remorse over vandalizing Christine.  Buddy and his friends then notice another vehicle which appears to following them.  It does not take long for Buddy to realize that the vehicle is Christine, and she appears to be driving herself.

Chrstine chases Buddy down, and runs him over, killing him.  Before he dies, Buddy sees the ghost of an old man, which can only be Roland LeBay.

Arnie feels badly that he has been neglecting Leigh, and he takes her shopping and out for dinner one weekend.  On the way home, Arnie and Leigh pick up a hitchhiker and drive him into town on their way home.

On the drive home, Leigh is eating a hamburger.  She then begins to choke on the hamburger, but she is saved by the hitchhiker, who uses the Heimlich maneuver on her, over Arnie’s protests.  Leigh is badly shaken by the incident, and realizes that she would have died if it had not been for the hitchhiker.  When she is choking, Leigh believes that Christine’s dashboard lights turn into eyes, and that the car tried to kill her.

When Arnie drops Leigh off at home, Leigh demands that Arnie get rid of Christine, as she believes that the vehicle is evil.  Arnie refuses, and the two argue.  Arnie then storms off, leaving Leigh in tears.

Arnie is again questioned by Junkins, the state cop who questioned him in regards to Moochie’s death.  Arnie provides an alibi for the night of Buddy Reperton’s death, and tells the state cop that there is no evidence that he was involved in Buddy’s death.  Junkins does not believe Arnie, and vows that Arnie will one day face justice.

Arnie’s personality begins to change, and everyone notices, including Arnie.  Arnie’s speech and mannerisms become similar to those of Roland LeBay, and Arnie even believes that he sees LeBay sitting in his vehicle.

One day, Arnie runs another errand for Will Darnell, his boss.  The state cops, however, have closed in on Darnell, who is arrested.  Arnie is also arrested, as the vehicle he was driving contains untaxed cigarettes.  Arnie’s parents are shocked by the arrest, but Arnie is eventually released from jail, and will likely not have a mark on his permanent record, due to his age.

Christine then seeks revenge on Darnell when Arnie is out of town for the Christmas holidays.  She traps Darnell inside of his house, and runs him over.  Darnell’s death is news, due to his pending criminal charges, and most people assume that his death was related to his criminal dealings.

Leigh, however, makes the connection between Darnell’s death and a few others.  She believes that Christine is the cause of those deaths, as does Dennis.  Dennis and Leigh team together, and research Christine’s history.  Dennis then begins to develop feelings for Leigh, but is hesitant, due to his friendship with Arnie.

Dennis spends New Year’s Eve with Arnie.  He is struck by the changes in Arnie’s personality, which he realizes is actually LeBay’s personality.  Dennis is unsettled, and becomes even more frightened for Arnie.

On the way home that night, Dennis witnesses Arnie transform into Roland LeBay.  When he glances through Christine’s mirror, he also sees the ghosts of Christine’s victims.  His town is also transformed into what it looked like in the 1950’s, when LeBay was still alive.

Christine then claims another victim:  Junkins, the state cop who investigated Darnell, and who also set his sights on Arnie, hoping to charge him with the murders of Buddy Reperton and Christine’s other victims.  Dennis and Leigh realize that they must destroy Christine.

Dennis speaks to LeBay’s brother, George.  George reveals more of LeBay’s early life, and the picture painted is disturbing, as people who harmed LeBay were likely to become injured or even dead.  George also states that the deaths of LeBay’s wife and child may not have been accidental.  Dennis then informs LeBay that he intends to destroy Christine.  After his conversation with LeBay, Dennis begins to make some phone calls.

One day, Dennis and Leigh are talking in Dennis’ car in the parking lot of a local restaurant.  Arnie appears, and realizes that Dennis is in love with Leigh.  This infuriates Arnie, who has fixated on Leigh, determined to make her love him again.  Dennis is frightened for Leigh, as he realizes that it is actually the ghost of LeBay who has fixated on Leigh, and that LeBay will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Dennis confronts Arnie one morning in the school parking lot.  He tells Arnie that LeBay has possessed, but that he can fight him.  Arnie tries to fight, but LeBay is stronger.  Arnie and Dennis then get into a physical fight.  Dennis challenges LeBay, telling him to meet him that night at Darnell’s garage, and to bring Christine.

Leigh and Dennis wait for Christine at Darnell’s garage.  Christine soon appears, along with the body of Michael Cunningham, Arnie’s father.  Dennis and Leigh battle Christine with a wrecking truck that Dennis had obtained earlier that day.  They are able to destroy the car, but are injured in the process.

Dennis awakens in the hospital the next day and inquires about Arnie.  A FBI agent named Mercer tells him that Arnie and his mother were killed in a car accident on the highway right after Christine was destroyed.  Witnesses saw a third person in the vehicle, which could only be the ghost of Roland LeBay, who attempted to possess Arnie after Christine was destroyed.  Dennis tells his story to the FBI agent, and Leigh corroborates it.

Dennis and Leigh graduate from high school and date for about two years.  Eventually, they drift apart and Leigh moves to New Mexico.  She marries and becomes the mother of twin girls.

Dennis becomes a junior high school history teacher.  He recovers from his injuries, even though his leg still pains him at times.  He sometimes experiences nightmares in regards to Christine, but they become less frequent.

One day, Dennis receives the news that a young man named Sandy was killed after being hit by a vehicle.  Dennis begins to wonder if Christine has somehow regenerated, and if she will find him and seek revenge.


My Thoughts

Well, that was quite a ride…

Okay, okay…I will brake from the bad car jokes…

But seriously, wow, this book was really quite the ride.

Now, Stephen King writes scary stuff.  Duh, he is the King of Horror, and we all know this.  And Christine has plenty of scary moments (more on that later.)

But really, King’s major strength as a writer is his ability to write about reality, as strange as that may seem to some.

In other words, King does not just write about monsters, like possessed cars, haunted hotels and evil clowns.

He writes about people.

And that’s why we love him.  Once again, he is our literary Everyman.

And there are plenty of Everyman moments in Christine.  When Christine is mentioned, most people think “Car bad.  Very very bad.  Arnie go crazy.  I hate rock and roll.”

(Well, something like that.  And yes, it may owe a little bit to the movie of the same name, thanks to John Carpenter, God love him.)

One of my favorite parts in this book was the description of the friendship between Arnie and Dennis.

There are some people, in the Hell otherwise known as high school, who are actually popular because they are…wait for it…genuinely nice people…gasp…

Dennis Guilder is proof of the above.  His friendship with Arnie is an exception rather than a rule in the Hell known as high school (yes, I keep using that word.  Hell.  And yes, I do know what it means, aka the DMV and high school.  Hell has less screaming, though, than either of those.)

But it is proof that there are some out there with actual character, who can see beyond the surface, and who is willing to dig for gold.

I loved the fact that Dennis and Arnie built ant farms as children.  There is just something endearing in that.  Maybe it’s because that is a project that requires investment and patience, much like being Arnie’s friend.

But, as I stated before, Christine is scary.  And actually, it is a lot scarier than what I had previously given it credit for.

First of all, we have Christine herself.  Notice how I say “herself,” and not “itself.”

In other words, Christine may technically be an “object”, but she (again, with the pronouns) is definitely a character in her own right.

And that is the genius of King:  he writes wonderful characters who are people (and even animals.)  However, he can turn anything into a character.  In fact, I am sure a novel will be out one day that features a plastic Wal-Mart bag who we either end up rooting for, in its quest to not be replaced by paper bags, or perhaps we learn to fear Wal-Mart plastic bags because this one tries to take over a store in its anger over being replaced by the paper bags and ends up killing the customers in a totally gruesome manner…

(And yes, that book will be a “take my money now situation,” natch.)

Well, humor aside, Christine may be a vehicle, but she is a character in her own right.  And a villain, to boot (King has written more than a few of those, both human and inhuman.)

And one scary character as well.

The scenes when Christine in on the rampage are some of the most frightening scenes that I have ever read in any book, let alone a King book.

In particular, the scene when Christine hunts down Buddy Reperton particularly stands out in my mind.  Now, Buddy really did have that coming to him.  He was an asshole, there is no other way around it.  But still, being hunted by Christine and being toyed with in much the same manner as a cat toys with a mouse that it is about to kill…yikes is all I can say!

And the little touch at the end, when Buddy sees the ghost of Roland LeBay is just what the doctor (or is it writer?) ordered to scare us Constant Constant Readers into a change of pants!

Speaking of which, Roland LeBay…

Let’s talk about him for a bit.

.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Or, as a certain well-known and beloved character in the Dark Tower series may have stated:  Coincidence has been cancelled!

The two share a name, but they could not be more different, right?

Well, they are pretty different.  But there does seem to be an underlying theme.

And that theme would be obsession.

Think about that for a moment.

Roland Deschain is obsessed with his Tower.

In fact, he is so obsessed that he is willing to sacrifice his spiritual son so that he can progress in his quest.

Roland LeBay is obsessed with his vehicle.

In fact, he is so obsessed that he is willing to let his daughter choke to death, and refuses to get rid of the vehicle even after her death.

So yeah, sounds pretty familiar, huh?

However, I think #teamLeBay wins the obsession contest over #teamDeschain.

#teamDeschain is at least capable of showing some humanity at certain points, and does try to redeem himself.  So he loses this contest, although this is contest one probably does not want to win.

In fact, #teamLeBay is so obsessed with this vehicle, that it carries over to his death. The ghost of Roland LeBay is the other major player in this story, even though it gets overshadowed by the crazy vehicle.

But I need to give the ghost of LeBay its due.

After all, it is seen several times in the story.

The scene where Arnie is eating pizza in Christine, and sees LeBay sitting next to him, is tres creepy.  I didn’t know whether to laugh at the piece of pizza that went MIA, or shudder even more.

What was even scarier was the fact that Arnie also saw himself in LeBay’s ghost (more on that later, though.)

I think the scariest scene in the book is the scene when Arnie drives Dennis home via Christine on New Year’s Eve.

Dennis sees the ghost of LeBay in the rear view mirror.  Somehow, that’s gruesome right there.  Just looking in the rear view mirror…

What do you see?

Oh, nothing, ghosts of dead, decaying, rotting bodies of evil guys and stuff…

And the fact that Christine was able to momentarily travel back in time, taking Arnie and Dennis back to the 1950’s…wow!

Suddenly the streets are not familiar, and Dennis can’t find his house, because it hasn’t been built yet.

Wow, wow and wow again.

There was a wonderful, dreamlike surreal quality to that scene that I just loved.  You are pretty sure that Dennis is not hallucinating any of it, but you aren’t 100% sure.  And that makes it even more frightening.

Another thing to love about this novel is the fact that it addresses a taboo topic:  bullying.

Now, Christine is a scary book.  It has ghosts and a possessed car.  And those also make for a great story.

But at its heart, Christine is a novel about bullying, and how it affects people.

Too often, people tend to dismiss bullying.  They will say it’s kid stuff.  They will tell the victim to ignore it, and it will go away.

In other words, kids have no rights.  I was bullied constantly as a child.  But I was a child, and I had no rights.  If I was an adult, I could file a police report for either harassment or assault, and start a paper trail.

But children don’t have that option.  Children are forced to see the bullying as some twisted “rite of passage.”

And people wonder how we get a Carrie White, or Arnie Cunningham.

Again, it goes back to Laverne Cox:  Hurt people hurt people.

And like Carrie White, Arnie was a hurt human being.

In the book, various characters, such as Dennis, talk about how Arnie has “changed.”

My question is:  did Arnie really change?

My answer:  no, he didn’t.

Sure, he may have hid his pain for a long time, and managed to convince everyone (his parents, Dennis, etc) that he was okay.

However, Arnie was actually pretty similar to the deceased Roland LeBay in a lot of ways.

LeBay was obviously an angry person throughout his life.  He was a man who never really loved anyone or anything, other than Christine, his vehicle.  They were a match made in hell.

Arnie Cunningham was also angry man.  He may not have shown his anger in the way that LeBay did, but it was obvious that he was angry.

An ex of mine once told me that “depression is anger turned inwards.”  I think this is actually a good description of Arnie Cunningham.

Arnie spent his life being marginalized.

He was bullied at school.  Most of the other kids would not accept him.  In the world of high school, Dennis Guilder is an exception, not a rule.

Even at home, he was marginalized by his parents.  Arnie had talent as a mechanic, but his parents would not accept that, and put pressure on him to attend college, rather than pursuing his talent for working with cars.

So, is it any wonder that Christine and the ghost of Roland LeBay were able to exert their influence on Arnie?  After all, kindred spirits.

The fact that when Arnie saw the ghost of LeBay in Christine, and then saw an older version of himself is telling.  After all, the two really are cut from the same cloth:  angry, never experienced any type of true love.

And that is the only antidote for an Arnie Cunningham or Carrie White: we must have a world where everyone, even the “ugly pizza faces,” can find love or acceptance.

There may not be possessed vehicles in our world which are capable of exacting revenge on bullies, but there are worse things, such as bombs and guns.  Until we realize this, our Arnie Cunningham’s will remind us that bullying has unpleasant consequences.

Continue reading

Stephen King’s Holiday Newsletter

Written last year, but re-blogging because I can!

Oh, and happy holidays, everyone!


 

Dear Constant Reader family,

I hope that you are doing well, and that your year has been happy and productive.  I know mine certainly has!

SK give me what I won

So proud of my boy here, he has a new book coming out in May of 2016…he is on fire!

Joe Hill 2

And Molly is quite well, too.  Although the evil grows stronger, day by day…

Molly 1

But enough about my blood family members.  I love them to death (ha!) but let’s talk about my “other” family…

Yes, my “other” family…

I consider my characters to be my babies, so that makes them family, right?

Sutter and Martin

And if killing off your main characters is a sign of love, well then, I love them to death as well!

So, where to start?  Since so much is happening with these guys, it’s a little hard to keep track, but here goes nothing…

Let’s talk about my childe, Roland.  With Roland, it begins and ends with him chasing an unknown male in dark clothing across an arid region.  Gotta love Roland, although he can be a bit repetitive at times…

Roland 24

And then there are Roland’s friends

Roland and tet 1

In fact, I have trouble keeping track of them, it seems like he has a different group of friends each time…

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

Speaking of friends, those kids who live in Derry!

Losers club 1

Poor Pennywise, always getting tripped up by those meddling kids!

balloon2

But when I get tired of Derry, I take vacations to other scenic towns…

Salem's lot 2

Well, actually ‘Salem’s Lot wasn’t much fun…seemed kind of dead, actually!  Personally, I prefer visiting Castle Rock, the shopping there is fantastic!

Needful things 2

But I don’t get out nearly as often as I would like…I seem to be prone to car trouble!

Christine 3

Although the Plymouth Fury is a bit more reliable than, say, a Buick.  In fact, I think that Buick is trying to trick me into thinking it is a actually a car, for all the good that it’s done me…

From_a_Buick_8_by_nosprings

Now, I love to travel, but some family members certainly have me beat in that department

morgan sloat

Jack gets around, or so I hear.  I don’t envy him though, especially when it comes to the houses he has to visit!

black house 1

Although he does encounter some interesting folks along the way, I suppose.

wolf and jack

Really interesting…

sunlight_gardener_by_nekomell-d5hncx8

Sometimes my children take it one step further and do some really crazy things…

Like traveling back in time, for instance.  I hear November in 1963 is really nice, for instance, especially in the Dallas, TX area.

Jake Epping 1

Every now and then I need to take a break.  So I just stay in a remote hotel, because sometimes I need to get away from it all.  Although I would advise against drinking anything suggested by the management at the hotel (and if Lloyd or Delbert offers to help you, my suggestion would be to run).  I hear the red rum is a house specialty, though, so try it if you dare.

the-overlook-hotel

All in all, most of the family is doing quite well, health-wise at least.  Well, except for Brady…I can never wake him up!

And then there is the matter of Annie

She is a bit spoiled, always thinking she comes first.  I don’t want to hobble her growth in any way, but I did have to take away the sharp objects from her, especially the axes. Cockadoodie children, I tell ya…what can you do but love them, right, Mr. Man?

Annie Wilkes 1

I take care of my health too, so I can be in good shape to watch out for my family. I see my doctor on a regular basis (he is a little bald doctor, actually).  I watch out for speeding vans now, when I am out walking.  I avoid eating too much pie, especially if it’s a strawberry pie given to me by the white man from town.  Most importantly, I get my flu shot every year!  M- O- O- N, that spells good health, I’m told.

Captain Trips 2

So, Constant Reader, I enjoyed this recap of my year, and I hope that yours has been a bloody good one as well.  It is time for me to make my final Christmas preparations, I hear the bazaar will be closing soon, so I hope I don’t miss any good sales!  I wish you a Happy Holidays, and may you get a bunch of my books good books under the Christmas tree!

Christmasland 1

My life for you,

The Wordslinger

RoaldDahl

P.S.,

Little disclaimer:  This letter was not actually written by The Master.  It just comes from the imagination of one crazy nerd with too much time on her hands.  But you knew that!

P.P.S.,

Happy Holidays both  all of my readers.  Thanks for stopping by, and you guys are awesome, every single one of you.  Peace out, and I hope your year has been a bloody good one!

SK christmas 1

 

Caveat Emptor: My Review of Needful Things

Once upon a time, two stories got together.

These stories were named Wall Street and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

gordon gekko

They fell in love, and got married.

something-wicked-this-way-comes-1

One day, there was so much love that a new story came into existence.

And that new story was kind of like its parents.

It dealt with many of the same themes and messages.

needful_things_move_poster

But make no mistake, that new story was also distinct from its mom and dad stories.

It had its own voice, along with a large cast of characters and a pretty awesome villain, to boot.

So, what was this story named?

Surely, it had to have an awesome name to live up to all this hype, right?

Well, since you asked, the name of this story is…

Needful Things.

Yes, *that* Needful Things, written by none other than The Master himself!

Simpsons SK

You are visiting the right blog, in case you were wondering.

Where this month (much like the book in question), we end 2016 with a bang!

Or maybe a stink bomb…now that would be more appropriate, wouldn’t it?

So, strap in, and get ready for one Hell (this is a Stephen King book, after all) of a ride, as we review and dissect one of my all-time favorite Stephen King books!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Needful Things begins with an introduction of the town Castle Rock, by an unknown narrator.  The narrator seems familiar with the town and its inhabitants, describing, in particular, the various feuds and rivalries between the inhabitants, and some things that the inhabitants would wish to keep secret.  The narrator also advises the reader that new store, named Needful Things, has opened in Castle Rock, and that the new store will bring some kind of change to the town.

There is much talk and gossip about the new store in town.  However, the store’s first customer is an eleven year old boy by the name of Brian Rusk.

Brian wanders into Needful Things one fall afternoon.  There he meets the owner, a man by the name of Leland Gaunt.

Almost immediately, Brian takes a liking to Mr. Gaunt, and is in awe of the new store.  When Mr. Gaunt asks Brian what he desires, Brian replies that he would like a 1956 Sandy Koufax baseball card to complete his collection.

Somehow, Gaunt is able to produce that exact baseball card, much to Brian’s amazement.  The card is signed by Koufax, and even has the name “Brian” written on it.

Even though Brian has very little money, Gaunt sells him the card.  Gaunt also makes Brian promise to do something for him.  The deed is never specified, but Brian walks out of the store and is very happy.

When the store finally opens for business, it receives another visitor:  Polly Chalmers.

Polly is a long time resident of Castle Rock, although she spent several years living elsewhere.  Not much is known about Polly, other than the fact that she became pregnant, left town and possibly attended business school.  Polly keeps to herself and does not reveal much about her past.  Polly also suffers from a painful case of arthritis, and is desperate for a cure.

Polly also immediately takes a liking to Gaunt.  She pays him a visit and brings him a cake, and they chat about the town.  Polly reassures Gaunt about his new store, telling him that he will likely have many more customers.

That claim proves to be true, as Gaunt receives several more visits from the townspeople that day.  Some even purchase items from him, negotiating the prices with Gaunt.

The book then introduces us to a man named Alan Pangborn.  Alan is the sheriff of Castle Rock.  Alan has recently lost his wife and younger son due to a car accident and is mourning their deaths.  Alan is also in a relationship with Polly Chalmers.

Later that evening, a man named Hugh Priest is walking down the street, and notices a fox tail for sale in the window of the new store.  Hugh also notices that Needful Things appears to be open for business, even though the hour is very late.  Hugh is alcoholic whose life is beginning to fall apart due to his drinking.  When he sees the fox tail, he is reminded of his high school days and happier times.

Hugh walks into the store and meets Gaunt. He purchases the fox tail from Gaunt, and makes a promise to play a prank on a woman named Nettie Cobb, who is Polly’s housekeeper.

The new store does more business the next day.  Myra Evans, the best friend of Cora Rusk (Brian’s mother) purchases a picture of Elvis from Gaunt, and makes a promise to play a prank on another person in town.

Nettie Cobb, Polly Chalmers’ housekeeper, also becomes a customer of the new store.  Nettie is a troubled woman, as she has spent time in a mental institution, after killing her abusive husband in self defense.  She was released as part of a work rehabilitation program, and came to work for Polly Chalmers.   Nettie purchases a piece of carnival glass, and agrees to play a prank on Danforth “Buster” Keeton, a town selectman.

Meanwhile, Alan has a busy day as sheriff.  He has his deputy, Norris Ridgewick, write Keeton a ticket for parking in a handicapped spot.  Keeton becomes irrationally angry at this, and attacks Ridgewick after he receives the ticket.  Alan is able to break the fight up, but wonders why Keeton is so angry over a five dollar ticket, and speculates that Keeton may be deeply troubled.

Alan also meets with the Reverend William Rose, the pastor of the local Baptist church.  Reverend Rose is upset because the Catholic church in town will be sponsoring a bingo night in the name of charity, and the Baptist church believes that gambling in any form is a sin.  The reverend tries to convince Alan that this is illegal, but Alan has done his research, and tells the reverend that the Catholics will be able to sponsor their gambling night.  This upsets Reverend Rose, but he finally leaves the police station.

That afternoon,, Alan meets Polly for coffee, and they talk about the new store.  Polly is actually pleased that Nettie visited the new store, as Nettie is timid and tends to shy away from new experiences.  Polly also mentions that Gaunt returned the cake container, along with a note inviting her to visit the store that Sunday, as he has an item for sale that may be of interest to Polly.

Brian realizes that it is time to play the prank that he promised Gaunt that he would play.  Brian convinces himself to play the prank, as he fears his new baseball card may be taken away from him if he does not fulfill his promise to Gaunt.  Brian has not told anyone of the purchase of the card, as he fears that the fact that he now owns an expensive card may rouse suspicion.

Brian heads to the house of a woman named Wilma, who is a neighbor of Nettie Cobb’s.  The two women have been feuding for some time, and simply do not get along.  Brian smears mud on Wilma’s wash that is drying on the clothesline.  He feels some satisfaction after playing the prank, and heads back home to enjoy his new baseball card.

When Wilma returns that evening, she discovers her ruined sheets and becomes angry.  Wilma also assumes that Nettie is responsible, and places a threatening phone call to Nettie.  This upsets Nettie, who has no idea why Wilma is angry, but vows to not let Wilma bully her any more.

Deputy Norris Ridgewick passes by the store and his attention is captured by a fishing rod.  Ridgewick agrees to buy the fishing rod from Gaunt, and agrees to play a prank on another citizen of the town.

Gaunt makes several more deals with various citizens of Castle Rock, where his customers buy items from them that they deeply desire, and agree to play (seemingly) harmless pranks on other citizens of the town.

Danforth “Buster” Keeton also pays a visit to Needful Things and Leland Gaunt.  Keeton has become increasingly unstable and paranoid over the past several years, as he has become addicted to gambling and has been stealing from the town’s treasury to finance his gambling habit.  Keeton is now under the threat of an audit, which means that his embezzling will be discovered.

Keeton purchases a horse racing game from Gaunt, which he believes will help him predict the winner of the actual horse races.  Keeton also promises to play a prank for Gaunt, as payment for the horse racing game.

The next morning, Alan drops by Needful Things, hoping to meet with the owner.  Gaunt is in the store, but Alan does not see him.  Gaunt does not trust Alan, and does not want to meet him.

Polly sits on her porch, anticipating that she is going to experience a very bad bout of pain from her arthritis.  Polly also recalls her past, which she has not been honest with Alan.  When Polly was 17, she became pregnant out of wedlock with her son, Kelton.  She refused to marry the father or accept any help from her parents, who were ashamed of her.  Polly ran away to the West coast and ended up in California.  One night, while she was working, she left Kelton with a babysitter.  There was a fire at her apartment that killed both her son and his babysitter.  Eventually, Polly returned to Castle Rock, as she realized it was her true home.  However, she never told Alan the truth about her son, telling him instead that Kelton died of SIDS at three months old.  Polly knows that she must reveal the truth to Alan, sooner or later, but is not sure how to do that.

That night, Polly’s prediction about her arthritis proves to be correct and she is in terrible pain, and has trouble sleeping.  The next day, Nettie pays Polly a visit and becomes very worried about Polly’s health.  Polly is grateful for the concern, but tells Nettie not to worry and that she will be okay.

After Nettie leaves her house, Hugh Priests breaks into her home, in order to play the prank that Gaunt has ordered him to play.  Hugh kills Nettie’s dog Raider with a corkscrew, and leaves a threatening note on Raider’s collar.

Nettie leaves Polly’s house, and is ordered by Gaunt to play a prank on Buster Keeton.  She complies, breaking into Keeton’s house and leaving several parking tickets with obscene messages, signing one of the tickets as Norris Ridgewick.

Brian Rusk also realizes that he must finish paying for his baseball ticket.  Again, he heads to Wilma Jerzyck’s house, and throws several rocks with the windows, with threatening notes.

Nettie returns to her home.  She finds Raider’s corpse and is heartbroken and angry that someone has killed him.  She also notices the note, and believes that Wilma has killed her dog in retaliation for something.  Nettie finds a large, sharp kitchen knife, and heads to Wilma’s home.

In the meantime, Wilma returns to her home and finds the broken windows and the note.  She is furious, and assumes that Nettie is responsible.  Wilma also finds a large, sharp night, and leaves her house, looking for Nettie.

Wilma and Nettie meet on the sidewalk, and immediately exchange words.  This escalates to blows and the two women begin to stab each other.  Both women are able to inflict fatal blows on each other, and both die in the ensuing fight.

Polly begins to feel a little better and decides to take Gaunt up on his offer, meeting him at his shop.  Gaunt seems to understand how much pain that Polly is in, and offers her an Egyptian charm he calls an “azkah.”  Polly is skeptical, but Gaunt convinces her to try the charm, telling her that she has nothing to lose by trying.  Polly begins to feel better even before she leaves the store, but realizes that Gaunt had put her in a trance.

Keeton returns home from a rare, pleasant outing with his wife, Myrtle, and finds the fake tickets.  He is humiliated and attempts to remove all of the tickets, but his paranoia and instability become apparent.  Myrtle is worried about her husband, but is unable to reach him.

Alan and Norris complete the investigation on Nettie’s death.  Something does not sit right with Alan, but he does not know what.  He sends Norris home for the night, telling him to enjoy his fishing trip that Norris has planned for the next day.

Norris returns to the police station and changes back into his civilian clothes.  He finds a package on his desk, but does not know who the package is from.  When he opens it, his hand is snapped by a rat trap, and Norris nearly loses his fingers.  Norris is outraged and humiliated, and is also convinced that Keeton is responsible for the trick.

A prank is played on the Reverend William Rose, in the form of a nasty note left in the parsonage.  The note is signed by the concerned Catholic men of Castle Rock, but is left there by a young man named Ricky, who has played the prank in exchange for an item from Needful Things.

Gaunt watches over the town in the apartment above his shop, which is void of any furnishings.  He is planning something unpleasant for the town of Castle Rock, and various citizens stir in their sleep, plagued by disturbing dreams.

Pranks continue to be played on the unsuspecting citizens of Castle Rock, including the Baptist church, which receives a threatening note believed to be from the Catholic church.

More trouble rolls into Castle Rock: Ace Merrill, a former resident of Castle Rock, decides to return to town.  Ace was arrested by Alan several years ago in a drug bust.  Ace has been released from prison and is still a cocaine addict.  Ace also owes money to some unsavory people due to his drug habit, and has been given a deadline of November 1st to pay back the money, or he will be killed.

Ace happens to notice a “for hire” sign on the window of Needful Things.  He also notices what he thinks to be a book about hidden treasure in New England that is written by his late uncle, Reginald Merrill.  Ace has been convinced that his uncle had held out an inheritance that should have been due to Ace, and his greed is sparked.

Ace enters the store and speaks to Gaunt.  Gaunt convinces Ace to work for him so that Ace can pay back the money he owes to his creditors.  Gaunt also sells Ace the book on buried treasure, telling him that maybe the book will lead him to his fortune.

Alan soon finds out that Ace is back in town and confronts him.  Ace tells Alan that he has no intention of staying in town and that he will leave soon.

Brian Rusk begins to feel extremely guilty over his role in the deaths of Wilma and Nettie.  However, he receives a call from Gaunt advising him that he was not seen by anyone, and that he will be able to lie if necessary.  Brian does not feel any better, and begins to have thoughts of suicide.

Sally Ratliffe, the speech teacher at the local junior high school, becomes the latest victim of a prank.  Sally is engaged to Lester Pratt, the physical education teacher.  Both are devout Baptists and seem devoted to each other.  However, Sally finds what appears to be a love note from Lester’s ex-girlfriend in his vehicle.  Sally is extremely upset when she finds this, but calms down a bit when she returns home and begins to meditate.

Ace completes his first job for Gaunt.  He travels to Massachusetts and picks up a vehicle, per the instructions of Gaunt, along with a large amount of guns and ammunition.  Ace notices that the there is something strange about the car, as it appears to drive itself, but he return the car and the rest of his cargo to Gaunt, and then proceeds to hunt  for treasure.

Polly buries Nettie, and has Alan drop her off at Gaunt’s shop, so that she can pay for the azka charm.  Alan is skeptical about the charm, even though Polly is feeling better than she has in years.  The two argue, but Alan convinces Polly to pay for the charm with a check, so that she can cancel the payment if necessary.

When Polly enters the shop, Gaunt senses that she is troubled, and tells her that he will accept a check.  He also tells Polly that she must play a prank on someone, and that someone is Ace Merrill.  Polly agrees to the prank, and leaves the store with her azka charm.

Alan deduces that Brian Rusk may have either been involved somehow in the deaths of Nettie and Wilma.  Alan believes that Brian either played the prank, or perhaps witnessed it.  He tries to speak to Brian, but Brian seems distressed and will not open up to Alan.  Alan is then interrupted and called back to the station.

In the meantime, pranks continue to be played on various citizens of Castle Rock, with varying consequences.  In one instance, it is revealed that the principal at the middle school is involved in pedophilia.  In another instance, Lester Pratt, the fiancee of Sally, finds the wallet of Sally’s ex boyfriend in his vehicle, along with a picture of Sally and her ex, leaving Lester to believe that Sally is cheating on him.

Polly returns home and finds a letter waiting for her.  The letter appears to reveal that Alan has made some inquiries about her past and the death of her son, Kelton.  Polly is furious and calls Alan when he is at work and ends their relationship.

Alan is bewildered by the phone call from Polly, but has to put his feelings aside, as fingerprints were discovered at Nettie’s house.  The fingerprints do not belong to Nettie, but actually belong to Hugh Priest.  Alan suspects that Hugh killed Nettie’s dog, and sets out to arrest him.

Chaos erupts in the town, as people begin to seek revenge against those who they believe to be responsible for the tricks that were played on them.  One of Alan’s deputies, John LaPointe, is attacked by Lester Pratt at the police station, as Lester believes John was dating Sally behind his back.  Sheila, the dispatcher, attacks Lester and kills him, defending John.  The phones at the police station begin ringing off the hook, and Alan is bewildered.

Brian Rusk is unable to shake his distress.  Brian ends his life in his father’s garage, shooting himself with his father’s rifle.  Before his death, Brian makes his horrified younger brother Sean promise to never set foot in the store Needful Things.

Polly then makes good on her promise to play a prank on Ace Merrill.  She buries some torn pictures and stamps in a coffee can on some abandoned property, along with a letter addressed to Ace.  Polly questions her actions and her argument with Alan, but still plays the prank anyway.

Shortly after Polly buries the coffee can, Ace uses his book and maps and tracks down the location where the can is buried.  Ace eagerly digs and finds the coffee can, thinking that he has found buried treasure from his uncle.  However, his hopes are dashed when he finds the letter.  The letter appears to be written by Alan Pangborn and taunts Ace, telling him that his uncle left his treasure to Alan and not Ace.  Ace becomes furious, and vows to find Alan.

Chaos continues to erupt in the town.  Danforth Keeton finally becomes completely unhinged and kills his wife, Myrtle, beating her to death with a hammer.  Hugh Priest is also killed by the bartender who believes Hugh played a prank on him.  Alan Pangborn is bewildered, and attempts to question Sean Rusk, Brian’s younger brother, as he is unable to obtain any information from Cora Rusk, Brian’s mother, who appears to be in a daze.

While the chaos erupts in Castle Rock, Gaunt continues to make sales.  This time, he is selling guns, and the guns appear to have poison bullets.  It is also revealed that Gaunt is extremely old, and has been in this business for many centuries, causing chaos wherever he appears.

Alan is finally able to question Sean Rusk, and is disturbed by what he finds out.  Sean tells him that Brian made him promise not to ever enter the store known as Needful Things before his death.  Sean tells Alan about the baseball card that Gaunt sold to Brian, along with the sunglasses sold to his mother, Cora, and that Cora believes that those sunglasses allow her to visit with Elvis Presley.  Alan realizes that Brian was responsible for the pranks played on Wilma, and that Gaunt is the one actually responsible for the chaos in town.  Alan issues out a warrant for Gaunt’s arrest, and realizes that he must find Gaunt.

Gaunt recruits both Keeton and Ace to help him in his final act of mischief in Castle Rock:  he plans on using dynamite to destroy the town.

A stink bomb is set off in the Baptist Church.  The Baptists blame the Catholics, and the two groups meet with vengeance in mind.  The Catholics and the Baptists begin to fight, and people are badly hurt and even killed in the brawl, as both groups are intent on destroying the other.

Alan is on the hunt for Gaunt.  He vows vengeance on Gaunt, for his actions in Castle Rock.

Norris Ridgewick plans on committing suicide.  He believes that he is at least partially responsible for the chaos in town, as he purchased an item from Gaunt and played a prank.  However, something makes Norris realize that committing suicide is not the answer.  Norris then sees the fishing rod he purchased for what it is:  a piece of old bamboo.  Norris escapes from his noose and destroys the fishing rod, and vows that he will seek revenge on Gaunt.

Polly also has a revelation:  the letter she found earlier that day was addressed to Patricia Chalmers.  However, Polly had always been known as Polly during her time in San Francisco.  Therefore, Polly realizes that the letter was a fake, and that Alan has not made any inquiries into her past.

Polly rips the azka charm away from her chest.  When she does, a spider escapes from the charm.  Polly realizes that this is the manifestation of her arthritis pain, which never really went away, but was transferred elsewhere.  Polly chases the creature into her bathroom, and begins to attack it.

Alan finally arrives at Needful Things and notices that the store that the store appears to be abandoned.  However, Alan finds a note from Gaunt, along with a video tape claiming to capture the last moments of his deceased wife and son.  Alan pops the video into the VCR, and prepares to watch.

Polly continues to battle the spider, attacking it with her mouth and then a toilet plunger.  Finally, she defeats the creature, and realizes that she must find Alan.

Keeton and Ace begin the destruction of the town, using the dynamite.  They are seen by Norris, who orders them to halt.

Unable to stop himself, Alan watches the video tape.  The tape appears to show his wife car being hit by none other than Ace Merrill, whom Alan had previously arrested for selling drugs.  Alan becomes angry, and wants to seek revenge on Ace, who he now believes to be responsible for his wife and son’s death.

Norris attempts to arrest Ace and Keeton.  However, he is shot, and Ace escapes, looking for Alan.

While Norris is attempting to restore order, several buildings in Castle Rock begin to explode.

Polly finds Alan, and begs him to stop his search for Ace.  She is able to get through to Alan, who realizes that something is wrong with the video tape that he watched.

Ace interrupts the conversation, by pointing a gun at Polly.  Alan then has his own revelation: in the video tape, his wife’s seat belt is shown to be buckled.  However, Alan recalls that this was not the case and realizes that he has been tricked.

Alan also sees Gaunt leaving the store, with a valise that appears to contain the souls of his unhappy customers.  Alan has brought a container that has paper snakes with him.  This was something that his son, who enjoyed practical jokes, had purchased before his death.

Alan unleashed the joke on Gaunt.  The snake springs from the can, and is actually a real snake, not a paper one.  Gaunt is fooled, and grabs for the snake.  The snake bites Gaunt, and he screams in pain.   Alan takes advantage of this, and grabs Gaunt’s valise.

Polly breaks free of Ace’s grip and attacks him.  Norris sees his opportunity and shoots Ace, killing him instantly.

Alan continues to use his magic tricks to fool Gaunt, and demands that he leave town.  Alan brings out some trick flowers, which turn into a blazing bouquet of light.  Again, Alan casts out Gaunt.  The valise bursts open, and the trapped souls escape, free to make their journey to their final destiny.

After the valise is opened, Gaunt escapes the town, in his Talisman Tucker.  However, the Talisman transforms into a horse with burning red eyes, and Gaunt transforms into a dwarf.  Gaunt and his supernatural vehicle then vanish, and Castle Rock returns to normal.

Polly, Alan and Norris leave town, to seek medical attention for Norris.  They are heartbroken over the destruction of the town, but relieved that Alan has defeated Gaunt.  Alan tries to let go of his grief for his wife and son, so that he continue to live his life.

An unnamed narrator advises the reader that a new store has opened in the town of Junction City, Iowa.  The store is named Unanswered Prayers and is presumably owned by Leland Gaunt.


My Thoughts

Well, this was unexpected.

When I planned to read and review Needful Things, I purposely picked the month of December to do this.

I mean, Black Friday Christmas shopping, people losing their minds over big screen TV’s and Barbie dolls…

It fit, in other words.

Well, then this happened.

BOCA RATON, FL - MARCH 13: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during his campaign rally at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater on March 13, 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Trump continues to campaign before the March 15th Florida primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Just when you thought only Stephen King could scare you, huh?

Whoa, I take that back.  Sorry Molly, didn’t mean to ruffle your evil fur!

Molly 1

At first was I was like:

Hurr

Then I was all:

ermahgerd-1

But now I go back and forth…

Either at this end:

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3066

Or at this end:

Spike

And what, you are probably asking, does the dried up, racist Cheeto that is the bane of existence to *kitty cats* everywhere have to do with this month’s read and review?

Well, I see a lot of parallels.  So, let’s get to talking about the book and discuss those.

Again and again, as I have been re-reading the King classics, I have been reminded of something:  The Master has the ability to create characters who are so realistic that they practically jump off the page and make you want to ask them out for coffee.

There is Polly Chalmers.  She fled the small town life and wanted to forge her own path.  People can’t even decide if she is from Castle Rock (even though she was born there and spent most of her childhood there) or if she is from “Outside,” as they put it, because she spent so many years away.  Being from a small town in Indiana, this struck a chord with me.  I may consider myself to be “from” Bloomington, Indiana, but I am sure there are some that would debate me on that, because I left to forge my own path.  Small towns, aren’t they so (not) funny?

There is Alan Pangborn.  Let me confess, if I ran into Alan Pangborn, I would have much more than “coffee” on my mind…*let awkward throat clearing commence.*  Alan is the consummate good guy, even though he does have his vulnerabilities.  And he loves magic tricks (magicians are always hot, duh.)  Those magic tricks do everything from put frightened kids at ease to save the day!  How much hotter can you get?

 

Alan Pangborn 1

Let’s also not forget the character of Brian Rusk.

Now, as I’ve stated many times before, King likes to write about topics that many would consider to be taboo.

*That* scene in the sewers in It, anyone?

Well, that is one example, but King covers subjects like addiction, child abuse, domestic abuse and quite a few others.

Things that so-called nice people don’t talk about, at least in public.

However, I think the most “taboo” that King has ever gone is his portrayal of the character Brian Rusk.

In the beginning, Brian is innocent.

He’s a good kid.  He loves his family.  He collects baseball cards.  He has a crush on his speech teacher.

needful things 1

However, he loses his innocence, by becoming Gaunt’s first customer.

Gaunt takes that innocent love of baseball cards, and uses it to further his plans for the destruction of Castle Rock.

He forces Brian to play pranks on other citizens of the town, in the name of “paying” for that beloved baseball card.

So Brian is rather rudely pushed into adulthood, when he is forced to take responsibility for what he feels to his role in the deaths of Wilma and Nettie.

However, not all of the child has left Brian.

And because of that, he is unable to cope with his supposed role in a horrific tragedy, and sees no way to live with it.

So, he does the unthinkable, and ends his life at eleven years old.

I have read this book several times, but I am never prepared the part where Brian commits suicide.

I tend to see Needful Things as one of King’s more humorous works (Brian’s mother’s obsession with Elvis and her interaction with Gaunt may have something to do with that, along with the fact that I find the phrase “I’ll be butched” hilarious), although the humor in it is dark.

But at the same time, I find this book to be tragic too, because of the fact that someone who is still a child is forced into adulthood long before before he should be, and this child does not see any way to cope with this tragedy other than taking his own life.

In fact, this may be one of the most tragic incidents in any book I have ever read, let alone a King book.

Stephen King

And we have our bad guy, Leland Gaunt.

We also have another character:  the town of Castle Rock itself.

And the inter-play between these two characters is just fascinating.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think that Gaunt is a cool bad guy.

Gaunt 1

In fact, this guy came to mind:

phantasm-2-8

Somehow, the idea of The Tall Man driving a Talisman Tucker (why does even typing that out make me shiver, and shiver in a Lovecraftian way?) is not that far off, actually.

He doesn’t quite stack up to the likes of Pennywise, or Flagg, or even some of King’s “human” villains, like Margaret White, Charles Burnside, etc.

Pennywise 11

But he does have his place in the King universe, so I pay him respect.

However, what was striking to me when I re-read Needful Things, was the fact that most of the horror was of the non-supernatural variety.

Sure, Gaunt planted the seeds, but the ground was already fertile anyway.  Most of the people playing the pranks just needed a little “watering” to grow the seeds of hate and resentment, and off they were, once they got a little drink of that water.

It is a known fact that King excels at writing characters that are realistic and believable.  In fact, this is my favorite thing about King’s work:  he writes believable people and believable situations.

pet sematary 11

After all, who hasn’t dealt with addiction, unemployment, the loss of a loved one, terminal illness, parenthood and the many other scenarios that crop up in all of King’s works, even the ones billed as “horror”?

King also writes the small town extremely well.  This is evident in works such as It, Salem’s Lot, Dolores Claiborne, and quite a few other novels.

Small towns are almost human in some ways, and can be complex characters.  This is definitely the case with Needful Things and its small town character of Castle Rock.

small towns 1

In the beginning of the book, we have that coy narrator (and oh, I so want to know who that is) introducing to the town of Castle Rock and its inhabitants.  It is actually akin to gossiping with someone, maybe a family member or friend, or perhaps a coworker, who just seems to have all the dirt on everyone.

Castle Rock 1

This introduction is brilliant, because it sets up the story so beautifully.

In any organization, whether it be a work place, a family or perhaps a small town, you have all these little interconnections.

There are the people, of course, who are friends and know each other well, perhaps even intimately.

There are the people who are passing acquaintances.  They don’t dislike each other, but they don’t really like each other, either.

Then there are the people who can’t be in the same room with each other.

The people who are the end of the candle to their counterparts’ matches.

In other words, get them together, and you will have a fire, perhaps even an explosion.

In one part of the book, Gaunt even compares his scheme to electrical wiring.  If you do it just right, you can connect a couple of wires and have an explosion.  I found this to be apt, for the events that transpired in this book.

Gaunt 2

As stated before, Gaunt is one bad dude.  No question about that.

However, most of the horror from Needful Things is of the human variety.

People playing pranks on one another to make others think that their sworn enemies were responsible is actually something that happens pretty frequently in “real life.”

Right away, anyone who was the victim of a prank was quick to blame his/her sworn enemy.

Alan Pangborn, the most level headed of them all, even fell victim to this.

And the results of this prank were just horrible.

Well, not entirely horrible.  I did get a good chuckle when the Baptists and Catholics were victimized by the stink bomb and created their own Barf-o-Rama.

barforama

But I was still horrified when people began to hurt and even kill each other, and it was basically for nothing.

Nettie and Wilma killing each other was bad.

Well, Wilma dying wasn’t that sad (crazy bitch) but Nettie’s death was one of the saddest in the book.  She had tried so hard to get her life together, but she was knifed to death over some muddy sheets.  Muddy sheets that she was not responsible for.

Needful things 3

A few citizens, like Polly, Norris and Alan, saw the error of their ways.

However, most did not, and the results were horrific.

And the town of Castle Rock literally went up in flames.

What is happening in our country right now is not unlike what happened in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine.

We have a stranger that has suddenly appeared in town.

It is true that Donald Trump is (probably) not a supernatural creature, but I will take Gaunt or even The Tall Man over Trump any day.

Trump has done exactly what Gaunt has done.

He has swooped into our country.

He is selling people dreams.  At least, he would like us to believe that he is selling us dreams.

Donald Trump 1

He has made promises, and those promises sound good.  After all, who doesn’t want the manufacturing jobs to return to this country?  Those jobs gave everyone, no matter his/her background, a shot at the good life, the so-called American Dream.

For reasons beyond most people’s control, significantly fewer people are now able to obtain this dream.

But we have Gaunt, er Trump, swooping into town.  And he has sold something.

But like the sales made by Gaunt, that something will have a price tag attached to it.

Already, we are witnessing the true price of allowing a man like Trump into our country.

Like Castle Rock, America has gone crazy.

Since Trump was elected, the “pranks” have begun.

We may not be flinging mud at each other’s sheets, but like the citizens of Castle Rock, we are attacking each other, nonetheless.

There has been racist graffiti scrawled on walls.

People of the non-Caucasian persuasion have been attacked for being…well…of the non-Caucasian persuasion.

People have decided to let their hate loose, and it has not been pretty.

Castle Rock literally burned to the ground after the boogeyman paid it a visit.

Will the same thing happen to America?

The boogeyman is here, and he is already working his magic, and he has not even moved into his suite at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, although I don’t think that he even needs to, in order to accomplish his goals.

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But, I try to hold on to something positive.

After all, Castle Rock may have gone up in flames.

But it was able to emerge from the ashes, and eventually it rebuilt itself.

Fire can be used to destroy, but it can also be used to create.

Perhaps, like Castle Rock, this country may burn to the ground (hopefully only in the metaphorical sense.)

But maybe it can also emerge from the ashes and be reborn.

Being reborn is not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, death and rebirth lead to new beginnings.  And new beginnings are often desperately needed.


Well, that’s it for Needful Things!

And I have to pat myself on the back, actually.

I was able to stick to a New Year’s resolution!

I read at least one King book a month and reviewed it, just like I said I would.

So, it goes without saying that I plan to continue this trend into 2017 and beyond.

I don’t know what my plan is, but I am sure I will figure something out.

There are classics, like Cujo and Christine, that I have not read in many years.

Cujo

There is that Richard Bachman fella…I heard that he is kinda like The Master, actually.

Cleaner 3

There is also The Master 2.0, aka Joe Hill, who has some books that are worth exploring as well.

Joe Hill 2

So, what will next year hold?

Well, guess that is up to me!

So, we will talk next year!

Until then, happy holidays to all!

SK christmas 1


Like all of King’s works, Needful Things is set squarely in the King universe.  Here are some of the connections that I found:

-Needful Things takes place in the town of Castle Rock, Maine.  Castle Rock is the setting for several King stories, including The Dark Half, Cujo, The Body and The Dead Zone.

dead zone 9

-Ace Merrill is a character in the short story The Body, and references the events in that story.

Ace 1

-Reginald “Pop” Merrill is referenced.  Pop Merrill is a character in the short story The Sun Dog, which is part of the collection Four Past Midnight.

sun-dog-1

-Norris Ridgewick also makes an appearance in the novel Lisey’s Story.

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-Alan Pangborn is a character in the novel The Dark Half, and references the events in that story.

dark half 3

-The tabloid The Inside View is mentioned.  This publication is mentioned in several other King works, including The Wolves of the Calla, The Dead Zone and The Night Flier.

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-In the novel Bag of Bones, Mike Noonan encounters Norris Ridgewick and inquires after Polly Chalmers and Alan Pangborn.

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-Reference is made to Shawshank State Prison, which is the setting for the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

Red and Andy

-Junction City, Iowa is the setting for the novella The Library Policeman, which is part of the collection Four Past Midnight.

The_Library_Policeman_by_TheHouseOfIdeas

-Gaunt’s Talisman Tucker appears to be similar to the vehicles driven by the Low Men in the Dark Tower series and the story Low Men in Yellow Coats, which is part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis.  Gaunt’s vehicle also appears to be similar to the title “vehicle” featured in the novel From a Buick 8.

From_a_Buick_8_by_nosprings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen King’s Holiday Newsletter

Dear Constant Reader family,

I hope that you are doing well, and that your year has been happy and productive.  I know mine certainly has!

SK give me what I won

So proud of my boy here, he has a new book coming out in May of 2016…he is on fire!

Joe Hill 2

And Molly is quite well, too.  Although the evil grows stronger, day by day…

Molly 1

But enough about my blood family members.  I love them to death (ha!) but let’s talk about my “other” family…

Yes, my “other” family…

I consider my characters to be my babies, so that makes them family, right?

Sutter and Martin

And if killing off your main characters is a sign of love, well then, I love them to death as well!

So, where to start?  Since so much is happening with these guys, it’s a little hard to keep track, but here goes nothing…

Let’s talk about my childe, Roland.  With Roland, it begins and ends with him chasing an unknown male in dark clothing across an arid region.  Gotta love Roland, although he can be a bit repetitive at times…

Roland 24

And then there are Roland’s friends

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In fact, I have trouble keeping track of them, it seems like he has a different group of friends each time…

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

Speaking of friends, those kids who live in Derry!

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Poor Pennywise, always getting tripped up by those meddling kids!

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But when I get tired of Derry, I take vacations to other scenic towns…

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Well, actually ‘Salem’s Lot wasn’t much fun…seemed kind of dead, actually!  Personally, I prefer visiting Castle Rock, the shopping there is fantastic!

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But I don’t get out nearly as often as I would like…I seem to be prone to car trouble!

Christine 3

Although the Plymouth Fury is a bit more reliable than, say, a Buick.  In fact, I think that Buick is trying to trick me into thinking it is a actually a car, for all the good that it’s done me…

From_a_Buick_8_by_nosprings

Now, I love to travel, but some family members certainly have me beat in that department

morgan sloat

Jack gets around, or so I hear.  I don’t envy him though, especially when it comes to the houses he has to visit!

black house 1

Although he does encounter some interesting folks along the way, I suppose.

wolf and jack

Really interesting…

sunlight_gardener_by_nekomell-d5hncx8

Sometimes my children take it one step further and do some really crazy things…

Like traveling back in time, for instance.  I hear November in 1963 is really nice, for instance, especially in the Dallas, TX area.

Jake Epping 1

Every now and then I need to take a break.  So I just stay in a remote hotel, because sometimes I need to get away from it all.  Although I would advise against drinking anything suggested by the management at the hotel (and if Lloyd or Delbert offers to help you, my suggestion would be to run).  I hear the red rum is a house specialty, though, so try it if you dare.

the-overlook-hotel

All in all, most of the family is doing quite well, health-wise at least.  Well, except for Brady…I can never wake him up!

And then there is the matter of Annie

She is a bit spoiled, always thinking she comes first.  I don’t want to hobble her growth in any way, but I did have to take away the sharp objects from her, especially the axes. Cockadoodie children, I tell ya…what can you do but love them, right, Mr. Man?

Annie Wilkes 1

I take care of my health too, so I can be in good shape to watch out for my family. I see my doctor on a regular basis (he is a little bald doctor, actually).  I watch out for speeding vans now, when I am out walking.  I avoid eating too much pie, especially if it’s a strawberry pie given to me by the white man from town.  Most importantly, I get my flu shot every year!  M- O- O- N, that spells good health, I’m told.

Captain Trips 2

So, Constant Reader, I enjoyed this recap of my year, and I hope that yours has been a bloody good one as well.  It is time for me to make my final Christmas preparations, I hear the bazaar will be closing soon, so I hope I don’t miss any good sales!  I wish you a Happy Holidays, and may you get a bunch of my books good books under the Christmas tree!

Christmasland 1

My life for you,

The Wordslinger

RoaldDahl

P.S.,

Little disclaimer:  This letter was not actually written by The Master.  It just comes from the imagination of one crazy nerd with too much time on her hands.  But you knew that!

P.P.S.,

Happy Holidays both  all of my readers.  Thanks for stopping by, and you guys are awesome, every single one of you.  Peace out, and I hope your year has been a bloody good one!

SK christmas 1

 

My Top 10 Scariest Stephen King Books

So, it’s that time of year again…

Yes, Halloween is drawing upon us…

The season for scary stuff!

Like watching scary movies…Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, here we come!

Oh, and don’t forget watching NFL football, especially Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts!  And I am not talking about the good kind of scary here, unfortunately…

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts

But there is a good remedy for when your football team is so embarrassing that the local Fox syndicate switches from the Colts game to the game played by the other not scary good team (the Washington Redskins, as a matter of fact)…

Yes, a little therapy from The Master!

stephen-king-cover-ftr

Football team got ya down?  Go read some Stephen King, and be reminded as to what is really scary!  Suddenly, two interceptions thrown by your darling quarterback (sorry Andrew, you know I still got love for ya) seems pretty tame!

Yes, Stephen King is scary.

Well, his writing, at any rate.  He doesn’t look too threatening in that picture, but one never knows.

Stephen King is many things, and I have spent an incredible amount of time on this blog (who knew) addressing those things.  Most importantly, he is a great writer.  He has the ability to even appeal to the non-horror fan (well, the one who will give him a chance, anyway).  He creates characters that readers get attached to (and kills them off and seems almost gleeful about it, but I digress).  He is also the Everyman, giving the reader realistic scenarios, and then casually placing in the horror and/or fantastical element, making the story that much more believable.

But, I would like to get back to fundamentals for a moment, if I may.  Stephen King writes scary stories.  This may sound like Captain Obvious tooting his horn, but the man is able to frighten folks.  And frighten folks badly.  It could be the fact that seemingly “good” characters often go “bad”, at the drop of a hat.  Or maybe it’s the element of realism that makes it seem a certain room in a hotel really could be bad news.  Or maybe because he makes great villains, including evil clowns, that haunt the dreams of many a 90’s kid.

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Whatever the reason, people find Stephen King books frightening.  And many enjoy being frightened.  Some people skydive (eek).  Some watch Indianapolis Colts football (eeek, maybe I should skydive instead).  Some people enjoy drag racing.

And then there are the stalwart, the steadfast, the bold (you know, like me?)…we read Stephen King for our fear fix!  After all, gotta get the good old adrenaline rush somehow, right?

And a King book will give you that and then some!  In fact, many King books may just scare you into a change of pants!

With that being said, here is my list of the top 10 scariest books of all time.  Please note, this is my opinion only, and not to be taken as gospel…

Oh, and as always:

Homer spoiler


 

10)  Rose Madder

As I have stated before, one of King’s strengths as a writer of horror is the human horror.  Sometimes (well actually, a lot of times), men are beasts to their fellow man…

And woman.

The villain in the book Rose Madder is human.  Well, in appearance at least.  However, on the inside, Norman Daniels does not pass for human.  Not even remotely.

Norman Daniels savagely abuses his wife Rosie, for the nearly 14 years of their marriage.  To boot, he is racist.  And uses his position as a police officer to grossly abuse his power and literally get away with murder.  It is only a mere drop of blood on the sheets that awakens Rosie one morning, when she runs away from her hellhole of a marriage and attempts to begin a new life, free of the horrific abuse.  But, as can be expected, Norman does not take Rosie’s flight lightly, and leaves behind a trail of bodies in his quest for revenge and his hunt for Rosie.  It takes a magical painting set in the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger for Norman’s trail of blood to be halted.  Even then, the death count is enormous, and Rosie is barely able to cope with the events.

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There is a line in the book that where Rosie thinks that after surviving her horror of a marriage to Norman, anything else is pretty cut rate.  As a survivor of an abusive marriage, I would have to agree with that assessment.  When you are married to an abuser, you don’t need to Stephen King or scary movies to get your fear fix.  An argument with your spouse will give you that fix in spades.

norman daniels


 

9)  From a Buick 8

The unknown is scary.  HP Lovecraft played upon on our fears of the great beyond, with stories such as The Colour Out of Space and The Dunwich Horror.

the_colour_from_out_of_space_by_vashar23-d62vcjn

Stephen King has cited HP Lovecraft as an enormous influence.  This is evident in his novel From a Buick 8, which tells the story of a mysterious vehicle that becomes the charge of a police department in a small town in Pennsylvania.

It quickly becomes evident to one of the officers of that police department that the “vehicle” is not actually a vehicle at all, but rather an object from another dimension beyond human understanding.  The vehicle becomes the center of many odd occurrences, and the police department struggles to do damage control.  However, the vehicle is responsible for the disappearance of at least one person and the death of the department’s mascot, a dog named Mr. Dillon.  There is even a confrontation of sorts with one of the creatures from the unknown dimension.  The images King paints are disturbing, especially when he references the fact that our world may be as frightening or even more frightening to those creatures as their world is to us.

What is perhaps most disturbing about this novel is the fact that the “vehicle” very nearly traps a young man who is the son of a fallen police officer, and sees the “vehicle” as his one remaining connection to his father.  The young man is saved by timely intervention from another officer, but barely.  Sometimes, a person with an obsession is the most frightening of all.

From_a_Buick_8_by_nosprings


8)  Revival

Revival is another novel that deals with our fear of the unknown.  More specifically, Revival deals with the last of the unknown frontiers:  death, and what may happen once we die.

Revival is also a morality play, much like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  If we have the means to find out what happens after death, should we?  And what will be the consequences if we intervene in matters that we (probably) have no business intervening in?

MaryShelley2

The consequences for Jamie Morton and his friend Charles Jacobs are not pretty.  Jamie Morton first met Charles when he was a child, and Charles was the pastor in his rural hometown.  However, tragedy strikes Charles Jacobs, and he is forced to leave town after a disastrous sermon that comes to be known as “The Terrible Sermon.”  The experience shakes Jamie’s religious beliefs to the core, and Jamie is never quite the same afterwards.

Charles is also shaken to the core by this tragedy, and quickly becomes a man obsessed.  Charles discovers what he refers to as “the secret electricity”, and believes that this mysterious force will allow him to find out what happens after death.  Jamie refers to Charles as his “fifth business” throughout the book, and encounters him by chance when he is an adult.  Jamie is addicted to heroin, and Charles is able to use his “secret electricity” to cure Jamie of his addiction.  Jamie feels that he owes Charles a debt, and agrees to help him conduct what turns out to be his final experiment: using the “secret electricity” to find out what happens when we die.

And it turns out that sometimes ignorance is bliss.  As stated before, the consequences are not pretty for Jamie and Charles, and Jamie’s “cure” for his heroin addiction has come at an enormous price.  The ending is disturbing, reinforcing the belief that at least sometimes, not knowing is the best option of all.

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7) Desperation / The Regulators

Yes, I know that this entry actually consists of two books.  However, I am considering one work for my purposes, since both books mirror each other, with one being written by Stephen King, and the other being a posthumous script from the poor, beleaguered Richard Bachman, who died an untimely death due to cancer of the pseudonym.

Stephen-King-Sons-of-Anarchy

Both Desperation and The Regulators are also tied together by one of King’s uber-villains, Tak.  Tak may not be as creepy as Randall Flagg or Pennywise the Clown (at least to some), but he is able to hold his own in the King universe.  Tak is frightening because he is able to drain people almost like human batteries (mostly), and discards them in the same manner.  However, there is one human that Tak cannot drain, and that is Seth Garin (the autistic boy in The Regulators).  What Tak does to Seth is perhaps even more frightening:  he uses Seth body to manipulate his surroundings, causing the suicide of Seth’s uncle, exploiting Seth’s aunt and killing many people in Seth’s neighborhood.  Ultimately, Tak is beaten, but at the cost of Seth’s life and many others.

Desperation and The Regulators are not only frightening because of the entity Tak, but also because they deal with a theme that many of us can relate to:  isolation.  Desperation begins with a couple who becomes stranded in a small, seemingly abandoned desert town after they experience vehicle trouble.  In The Regulators, Seth and his aunt are isolated due to Seth’s handicap and Tak’s effort to alienate Seth’s family from those who might help them.  Isolation is a big theme in many King books, and once again it adds that element of realism to the story to make it that much more frightening.

Tak_Likes_TV_by_bluefreak


 

6)  The Stand

It is no secret that horror and fantasy are closely related.  In fact, one could almost say that horror is fantasy taken to the next, darker step.  From the Orcs in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, to the witches in SA Hunt’s Malus Domestica, to the Others in the Game of Thrones series, many works that are considered to be fantasy and not horror certainly contain some frightening elements.

samfrodo

The Stand is another book that toes the line between dark fantasy and horror.  On one hand, there are reluctant heroes (Larry, Stu and Nick).  But on the other hand, there is an evil wizard figure (Randall Flagg).  The evil wizard tends to be a common archetype in fantasy stories (Sauron is a good example).  But Flagg is something beyond the ordinary evil wizard (if such a thing exists).  Flagg invades the dreams of the survivors of a great plague that has wiped out most of Earth’s population.  Frannie Goldsmith is one of those survivors.  Frannie is pregnant, and dreams of being chased by The Dark Man (Flagg), who has a coat hanger in his hand.  Nick Andros and Tom Cullen, two other survivors who are a deaf-mute man and mildly mentally handicapped man respectively, encounter Flagg’s presence when they seek shelter from a tornado that may have been sent by Flagg to dispose of them.  Mother Abagail, who is Flagg’s counterpart on the side of the White, encounters Flagg when she is gathering food for her charges.  Flagg has transformed to a weasel, the one creature that frightens the old woman.  Mother Abagail is nearly beaten by Flagg, but is still able to best him the end.

Randall_Flagg_by_Clayman84

The Stand is one of King’s best books, blending both elements of fantasy and horror to make it a truly frightening, yet fantastical read.

Trashy 1


 

5)  Black House

Black House is another novel (co-written by Peter Straub) that may be considered part of the fantasy genre, along with its predecessor, The Talisman.  However, it is Black House (much like The Stand) that toes the line between fantasy and horror.

morgan sloat

One of the reasons Black House is so frightening is because it contains a human villain that is unfortunately all too realistic.  There is a supernatural villain, a creature known as Mr. Munshun, and King’s ultimate uber-villain, the Crimson King, is also alluded to in the book.  However, the human villain, Charles Burnside, is another person that is human in appearance only.  Charles Burnside appears to be a senile man suffering from the indignities of dementia and living out his final days in peace in an unsuspecting nursing home.  However, the reader learns that Burnside is actually a serial killer who targets children.  Burnside has made a grisly contract with Mr. Munshun and the Crimson King:  he allows Mr. Munshun to possess his body so that he may murder children, in exchange for seeking out children PSI abilities who Munshan and the Crimson King can use for their evil purposes.  Charles Burnside and Mr. Munshun are eventually defeated, but not before Burnside has murdered several children and left a small town nearly paralyzed in fear.

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Charles Burnside is another one of King’s chilling examples of man’s inhumanity to man.

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4)  ‘Salem’s Lot

If I mentioned ‘Salem’s Lot to you, and you responded with “vampire story”, you would be correct…

But, wait…there’s more!

‘Salem’s Lot is indeed a book about vampires.  And those vampires are scary.  The head vampire is killed but his TEETH are still alive and bit Ben Mears…so the vampires in this book are indeed gruesome.

salem's lot

But, like most really everything single thing he has ever written   of King’s work, ‘Salem’s Lot is much more than a vampire story.  Much, much more, in fact.

‘Salem’s Lot is a story about a small town, and how the small town succumbs to the vampire plague.  There is clinical language and some medical terms included when the “patients” are diagnosed, and that just adds another level of gruesomeness to what is already frightening.  Also, the description of how quickly the people in the town are either transformed to vampires or killed in some awful manner is quite disturbing, given how attached the reader gets to these characters and the town itself.

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However, ‘Salem’s Lot is also a haunted story.  Most of the action centers around the Marsten House, which is the local haunted house.  We learn some of the history of the house through Ben Mears, who believes he saw the ghost of the former owner as a child.  The house was a site for many terrible deeds that involved children, and King is able to weave this seamlessly into the vampire tale, thus adding an extra dimension of terror to an already scary story.

'Salem's Lot 4

Note:  Nowhere is it mentioned in ‘Salem’s Lot that vampires sparkle!

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3) The Shining

The Shining is another King work where there is more than meets the eye.  Perhaps the most famous, or perhaps infamous (thank you, Stanley Kubrik), of all King’s work.  On the surface, the story is another haunted house story (well, haunted hotel actually).  The ghosts wreak havoc on the Torrance family, and there are some truly scary moments involving the supernatural aspect of the story (the blood from the walls, the dead woman in the bathtub and a ghostly New’s Year Eve party all come to mind, along with several others).

the-overlook-hotel

However, what many people may fail to realize is that The Shining is also frightening because it tells the story of the disintegration of the family unit.  Humans are social animals, and to most of us, the family is the most important unit of all.  The Torrance family feels the same.  Danny loves his parents, even they (especially his father, Jack) have failed him on many occasions.  Wendy and Jack Torrance love Danny, and each other as well.  Jack wants to do nothing more to provide for his family, which is why he takes a job that is less than ideal, given his education and his addiction to alcohol.  But that family unit slowly begins to dissolve even at the beginning of the story.  However, we are led to believe that maybe there is hope for this family, as they make an effort to draw together and achieve a fresh start.  Tragically, this is not the case, as Jack ultimately succumbs to his demons, and Wendy and Danny barely escape with their lives.

Again, Stephen King is a master at including that element of realism in his stories, making them that much more believable and terrifying.

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2)  It

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Obviously, John F. Kennedy did not ever encounter Pennywise the Clown

We all have fears.  When you are an adult, they may be more abstract, such as fear of failure, financial worries, fear of divorce and so forth.  But children’s fears are pretty concrete:  most fear things such as movie monsters, vampires, spiders and so forth.  So what if there was a monster out there that could take the form of whatever a child feared most, and literally scare them to death?  And maybe this monster needs to only be visible to kids (since adult fears are too abstract to capitalize on) and live under the sewers, where It can quietly do its dirty work?

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Enter Pennywise the Clown!

And yes, Pennywise the Clown makes the novel It terrifying.  He is a clown that lives under the sewers…first strike.  He can take on the form of ANYTHING that one fears…strike two.  And Pennywise is an extra dimensional monster…I know, not really giving that clown a good character reference, am I?

However, as frightening as Pennywise is (which is at a level 19, at least), there are so many other aspects to this book that nearly beat out the clown that lives in the sewers.  It deals with spousal abuse, child abuse and bullying.  The Losers Club spends most of that terrible summer in a lot of danger, but much of that danger is NOT supernatural.  The children face bullying from the local town bully, and must constantly watch their backs.  The adults in town do not care about either the danger under the sewers (even though most can’t see it, nearly everyone is aware of its presence).  Nor do the adults care about the bullies, even though they are as aware of the bullies as they are of the monster under the sewers.  The lone female Loser, Beverly Marsh, is being abused by her father, and the abuse is becoming increasingly sexual in nature.  Other children are abused or neglected.  It seems that no one is safe from the town of Derry, and if one is not killed by Pennywise, his/her parent or spouse will step in and do the job instead.

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Childhood is hell.  There is no other way to put it.  And It capitalizes on that concept, showing us just how much more hellish it is for some than others.

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And now, for what I believe to be the scariest Stephen King book of all time…

drum-roll-please


Pet Sematary

Yes, Pet Sematary has made the top of the list, and I consider it to be King’s scariest book of all time for a multitude of reasons.  So let’s talk about those reasons.

pet sematary book 1

First of all, the concept of Pet Sematary is really scary.  An ancient Native American burial ground, poisoned by the spirit of a Wendigo that has the ability to re-animate dead animals that come back as zombies, which teaches kids that “sometimes dead is better.”  Can anything get scarier than that?  I have read a lot of stories about the Wendigo too. and the Wendigo is one of the creepiest entities I have ever come across.  So, yes, very disturbing right there…

Pet Sematary 2

But the burial ground is not only for animals.  No, the burial ground can be used for humans too, so yay?

Well, not really.  When humans are buried at the site, they do not come back right either.  And the problems are way more serious than a nasty smell or the need to hunt more rodents than usual.  The Wendigo is able to possess the body of the human, and render its subject with knowledge that he/she should not have.  And this knowledge is not pleasant.  Most of the knowledge is of the hateful variety: affairs and other dastardly deeds that were better off to remain secret.  The Wendigo is not benevolent, and has malice towards the living.

Stephen King's Pet Sematary (1985)

However, to me, the scariest thing about Pet Sematary is that I relate to Louis Creed.  The only evil in the book is the Wendigo spirit.  Gage Creed is not evil, he is the victim of a terrible tragedy, in both life and death.  Jud Crandall is not evil, he is a kind man who was only trying to help his friend.  Rachel Creed is not evil, she is only a protective mother who has an (understandable) fear of death.  Church the cat is not even evil, he is simply a beloved pet who also became an unfortunate victim of circumstances.

pet semetary 1

Most of all, Louis Creed is not evil.  He is a loving father who (again, understandably) became mad with grief, and was willing to do anything to bring his son back and make his family whole again.  He believes that he has found a way to do that, and that he can also use science to combat any problems.  Sadly, he is proven horribly wrong, condemning himself and his family to an eternity of damnation.  But if I were Lewis, and placed in his tragic situation, who is to say that I would not do the same thing?  I am close to someone who has lost a child, and the pain is unbearable.  You will do anything to stop it, even if it is something that may have dire consequences later on down the line.

So if I knew there was a possibility that I could bring back a deceased loved one, who is to say that I wouldn’t?  I would be thinking about my loved one, not about any consequences.  And that is frightening to me:  to be that mad with grief that I would be willing to ignore Nature, and get involved with matters that I really have no business being involved with.  And grief is frightening in that way:  the pain blinds us, so we cannot see what is in front of us that may actually be worse than the grief.

kinopoisk.ru


 

Ghosts are scary…

Vampires are scary…

Haunted hotels are scary…

Heck, Indianapolis Colts football is scary!

But what is the scariest thing of all?

That’s right, someone who has never experienced the awesomeness that is a Stephen King book!

Why should Christmas get all the fun?  It is also allowable to give gifts on Halloween, so do your part, and give someone who has never had this experience the greatest Halloween gift of all:  a Stephen King book!

Happy reading!

RoaldDahl

Love can be a killer: My review of Wizard and Glass

Who doesn’t remember the first time he/she fell in love?  While I am happily married now and would not trade that for the world, nothing can compare to my first.  I was 19 and maybe a bit of a late bloomer.  I also spent most of high school being invisible to the guys.

late_bloomer

Then came college.  I think my parents had been gone for all of 15 minutes or so when I started dating.  Or something like that.

Yes, I fell in love.  It was glorious.  My body began to behave in ways I never knew that it could.  Let’s just say I became a woman rather quickly.  And I started actually living for another human being and began to build hopes and dreams around him.  And I let someone see the side of me that was previously only for behind closed doors.  Previously, the line “I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch” was one that applied to me.  But I started being able to feel, and boy did I touch too!

Sadly (or maybe correctly) it was not meant to be.  And the heartbreak was excruciating.  This was definitely not something advertised when I fell in love!  And even to this day, that breakup still hurts me a little bit, even though I consider myself a (mostly) happy, well adjusted adult in a great relationship.  But the lessons (and the scars) from that first experience of falling in love still remain, and will probably remain for a long, long time.

heartbreak

As I have stated in my previous entries, it turns out that Roland Deschain is actually human and has feelings…who knew?  Do cold-blooded killing machines fall in love and experience heartbreak?  Do they experience intense sexual desire for another person that is born out of genuine attraction, as opposed to a simple need for release?  It turns out that they do.  Or at least the one we call Roland Deschain does.  And the story of his first love, from the initial meeting to the torrid affair to the truly sad ending makes my experience of falling in love and breaking up for the first time seem like a ride on the kiddie roller coaster.

roland-and-susan-kiss

So strap in, and get ready for the ride of your life, as I review The Dark Tower IV:  Wizard and Glass.

 

roller coaster 1

 


 

 

Synopsis

Wizard and Glass begins where the cliffhanger in The Wastelands left off:  Roland and his friends are aboard Blaine the Mono, a sentient train that has also gone insane.  Roland has challenged Blaine to a riddling contest, as Blaine loves riddles.  If Roland and his friends lose the contest, Blaine will commit suicide and take the ka tet with him.  If Roland and his friends win the contest, Blaine will spare their lives.  It is revealed that Blaine is cruel and loves to hurt other living creatures.

Blaine 2

Each member of the tet takes a turn at asking Blaine a riddle.  Blaine easily answers all of them.  Eventually, Jake, Eddie and Susannah run out of riddles and Roland takes over, as riddling contests were something Roland participated in as a child.  However, even Roland is unable to stump Blaine, and the tet becomes more sure of the death that awaits them, with each passing mile.

During the riddling contest, Eddie becomes lost in thought.  And to the surprise of his friends, especially Roland, it is Eddie who figures out how to stump Blaine: jokes.  Blaine’s programming cannot handle jokes (which are still a form of riddle).  Eddie begins to tell Blaine jokes, and Blaine is unable to answer these kinds of “riddles.”  Eventually, the jokes cause Blaine’s systems to short circuit, leading to his “death.”  The tet steps off the train to continue on in their journey.

Short-Circuit_13_03_25

Much to the surprise of Eddie, Jake and Susannah, Roland and his friends encounter a world that is eerily similar to “the real world” once they step off of Blaine the Mono.  There are signs indicating that the tet has entered Topeka, KS, which does not “exist” in Mid-World.  Roland and his friends also find vehicles and newspapers, both of which are not found in Mid-World.  However, this world differs from the world of Eddie, Jake and Susannah in one very important way:  99.99 % of the population has been killed off by the “super flu“, making it more similar in its nature to Mid-World, as it also has appears to have “moved on.”  Roland informs the rest of the tet that they have entered a “thinny“, a sort of gateway between worlds that has formed due to the deterioration of reality.  Roland also begins to remember the thinny he encountered in his childhood, and realizes that he must tell the tale to his friends, and soon.

thinny 1

 

Roland and his friends come to a stop and set up camp.  Roland then begins to tell the tale of his childhood, and his first love, Susan Delgado.

Susan Delgado 6

We learn that Roland was the youngest to ever best his teacher, Cort, and earn the title of gunslinger.  However, Roland has made an enemy in Marten Broadcloak after he wins his guns, as Marten committed acts of adultery with Roland’s mother Gabrielle, in the hopes of angering Roland into taking an early test of his manhood.  Marten hoped that Roland would fail the test, and be sent West as punishment.  Roland was indeed angered, but Marten’s plans went awry when Roland became the youngest ever (age 14) to pass the test and earn his guns.  Roland’s father Steven becomes concerned for his son’s safety, and sends Roland and his friends Alain and Cuthbert to Meijis, under assumed names, in an attempt to protect them all from Marten’s evil schemes.

cuthbert and alain

Roland and his friends arrive in Meijis under the guise that they will be taking an inventory of everything in Hambry, including horses.  Roland almost immediately notices that the number of horses in Hambry is extraordinarily high for a town of its size.  Roland also almost immediately notices a young girl by the name of Susan Delgado, who is very beautiful.  And the attraction between Roland and Susan is mutual even upon their first meeting.  However, Susan hints to Roland that she is promised to another, and Roland does not pursue her.  We also learn that Susan is promised in marriage to Mayor Hart Thorin by her greedy aunt, Cordelia Delgado.

HThorin

 

King also introduces us to a group of men called The Big Coffin Hunters.  This group includes a man named Eldred Jonas, who appears to have once been a gunslinger.  These men appear to act as bodyguards of sorts for Mayor Hart Thorin.  Roland and his friends become almost immediately suspicious of them, and Eldred and his friends return the favor.

eldred_jonas

We are also introduced to a woman known as Rhea of the Coos.  She is known in Hambry as the local witch woman, and is described as a crone.  Eldred and his friends entrust with the guardianship of a mysterious pink crystal ball that they refer to as “Maerlyn’s Grapefruit.”

Maerlyn's rainbow

 

It does not take long for Jonas and his friends to clash with Roland and his friends.  Cuthbert comes to the defense of a mentally disabled man named Sheemie one night at a bar, and draws the ire of Eldred Jonas.  The altercation is broken up by local law enforcement, but both sides quickly become suspicious of each other’s true natures.

sheemie

Roland and Susan try their hardest to stay away from each other so that Susan may fulfill her contract to Hart Thorin, but the mutual attraction is too powerful, and they begin a torrid affair.  They attempt to keep the affair a secret, but Roland’s friends quickly realize that their leader has become lovestruck, and begin to question his decisions, as they fear that danger is coming to Meijis.  And they are right to fear danger, as it is revealed that Eldred Jonas and his friends are secretly working for someone named The Good Man, who is anything but good and intends to destroy the Affiliation and the way of life in Roland’s world.  Rhea of the Coos also discovers the affair between Roland and Susan, via Maerlyn’s Grapefruit.  Cordelia, Susan’s aunt, becomes suspicious of Roland and her niece, and passes these suspicions on to Eldred Jonas.  Jonas uses this information in an attempt to begin the demise of Roland and his friends.

Cordelia

Roland, Alain and Cuthbert soon come to blows over Roland’s behavior and what Cuthbert feels to be poor decision making on Roland’s part.  However, the three also come to realize that Susan is part of their ka tet, and that she will be involved in whatever plans that are made to take on Jonas and the others working against the Affiliation.  Roland, Susan, Alain and Cuthbert meet, and agree to set fire to the oil patches in Hambry on Reaping Day, as that is when Jonas has planned his attack.  The four know it will be risky, but are willing to take on the challenge.  Roland also promises Susan that he will help her escape from Hambry, along with Sheemie, as they will be considered fugitives if the attempt is successful.

In the meantime, Jonas schemes with the mayor’s sister, Coral Hart.  Mayor Hart is then murdered by Jonas and his friends, and the murder is pinned on Roland and his friends.  Roland, Alain and Cuthbert are then arrested by Sheriff Avery, and are thrown in the Hambry jail, so that Jonas and the Good Man may continue with their plans.

John_Farson

 

Susan is able to free Roland, Cuthbert and Alain from jail, with the help of Sheemie.  The two reunite with Roland and his friends, so that they may carry out their plans to set fire to the oil patches and stop Jonas and the Good Man.

Roland leaves Susan alone with Sheemie in a hut outside of town, and he, Cuthbert and Alain begin to set fire to the oil patches, which causes quite a few explosions.  However, Susan is discovered by Jonas, who was in turn aided by Maerlyn’s Grapefruit.  Susan is arrested for treason and taken back into town to face her punishment.

Roland and his friends are successful, and are able to defeat Jonas and most of his men.  The encampment set up by the Good Man and his cohort, George Latigo, is burned to the ground by Roland, Alain and Cuthbert.  Roland also captures Maerlyn’s Grapefruit from Jonas, and experiences visions while trapped within the glass.  Roland realizes that the Dark Tower itself has become corrupted, and that he must embark on a quest to save the Tower.

dark tower

 

However, Susan Delgado is not so lucky.  Susan is burned alive for treason by a mob led by her Aunt Cordelia.  Roland witnesses this in Maerlyn’s Grapefruit, but is powerless to help Susan.  Susan’s last words before her death are those expressing her love for Roland.

Susan Delgado

Roland, Cuthbert and Alain then head back to Gilead, leaving the destruction of Meijis behind them.  Roland is still under the influence of Maerlyn’s Grapefruit even as he and his friends leave Meijis, and has become a changed man, in more ways than one.

The story then returns to the present.  Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy continue on The Path of the Beam but encounter a strange sight:  there is an image of what appears to be the castle in the Emerald City of Oz.  Roland and his friends then head into the castle and are given red shoes of various styles to fit their personalities.  Even Oy is given red booties.

wizard of oz 1

The tet then encounters some familiar faces in the “castle”:  Andrew Quick and Randall Flagg.  Andrew Quick is shot in the head and easily dispatched.  However, Randall Flagg is not so easily disposed.  Maerlyn’s Grapefruit makes another appearance, and this time traps Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy.

Eddie and the others are then subjected to one last vision of Roland’s past.  They learn that Roland committed one of the worst sins: matricide.  Rhea of the Coos followed Roland back to Gilead, and was able to trick him into (accidentally) murdering his mother, as she was seeking forgiveness from her son for her indiscretions with Marten Broadcloak.  This is something that Roland had been keeping secret from his new friends, but is brought to light by Flagg in an attempt to break up the tet and convince them to abandon their quest.  However, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy refuse to give and swear their loyalty to Roland.  The castle then disappears, and the tet wakes up about 30 miles away from their previous location.

The book ends with Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy again pointed on the Path of the Beam, continuing their quest to seek the Dark Tower.

the dark tower cover_0

 


 

My Thoughts

So many thoughts on Wizard and Glass.  In fact, maybe too many thoughts.  But I will try to keep it brief (ha!).

Before I go into the love story, Roland’s past, etc, let me give some credit where credit is due.  And that credit needs to go to my main man, Eddie Dean.  After all, he saved the day.  When things looked bleak, Eddie was able reach deep down inside himself, gather up his reserves and…tell a few silly jokes!  But those silly jokes are what save the day, as they destroy Blaine and save the ka tet from certain death at the hands of an insane mono.  Roland was right to want kiss Eddie’s feet (not really, but I did get that feeling), as Eddie was the only member of the tet to come up with a solution.  And for that, Eddie deserves much commendation.

Eddie 1

 

In the previous books (The Drawing of the Three and The Wastelands), I discussed the fact that Roland the cold blooded killing machine seemed to be developing a bit of a personality (his love for Jake and his vulnerability being two great examples of this).  But Wizard and Glass will always be the book where we see major growth in Roland.  The story of his childhood in Meijis provides a lot of that growth.  But don’t discount Roland’s interactions with his companions, who have really become his peers at this point in the journey.  Roland shows even more vulnerability, especially when telling the tale of Susan Delgado and when the circumstances of his mother’s death are revealed.  Roland’s reaction and apologies to Eddie when Eddie rescues the tet from certain death on Blaine the Mono are also evidence of his humanity, and demonstrate how his new friends have humbled him.  All of this serves to emotionally invest the reader as well in Roland’s quest.  His quest not only becomes the quest of Jake, Eddie, Susannah and Oy, but also becomes the quest of the reader as well.

I hate love stories.  Romance sucks.  Chic flicks suck (except for The Heat, Miss Congeniality, and Legally Blonde).  Did I mention that I HATE romance?

In case you can’t tell from the above paragraph, the best part of Wizard and Glass was the romance between Roland and Susan.  No, really!  Romance when its in a Stephen King book is not like other romances…its a a cool romance!

Seriously, the romance between Roland and Susan is one of my favorite parts of this book.  And that includes almost everything about their relationship.  I loved how they met and were almost instantly attracted to each other, but still tried to stay away from each other, even as the tension kept building.  And boy, does that tension build!

roland and susan 2

But Roland and Susan are unable to stay away from each other, and finally the tension snaps.  And that snap has to be one of the hottest, sexiest snaps in anything I have ever read, far better than certain, other popular romances Fifty Shades of Grey, you have nothing on the master.  Not only is the relationship between Roland and Susan incredibly sweet (the image of the hardened gunslinger kissing away his love’s tears always gets me.  Every.  Single.  Time.), it is also incredibly erotic and passionate.  Roland is not only capable of kissing away Susan’s tears, he is also capable (almost in the same breath) of kissing her on the lips until her lips bled.  And he is able to illicit sexual feelings in Susan almost from the moment they met (I loved the image of Susan “taking care of herself”, so to speak.  Its rare that female sexuality is addressed in literature, especially in a book that is supposed to be a mix of fantasy, horror and western).  Really, does any mortal man  jackass Christian Grey sure doesn’t  have anything on Roland the gunslinger?  Whew, time for me to take a cold shower!

cold shower

I mentioned that I loved almost everything about about the romance in Wizard and Glass.  But what I didn’t love was the demise of Susan Delgado.  I just can’t imagine being burned alive by a mob.  And that mob included her own aunt.  And Roland could do nothing about it, except watch in the same manner people watch car wrecks because they can’t look away.  But the part that got to me the most was Susan declaring her love for Roland as she is being burned alive.  When I first read that part in the book, I was introduced to the concept of the “ugly cry.”  Only people with ice water running through their veins could not be affected by the death of Susan Delgado.

ugly cry

Wizard and Glass is also rife with bad guys.  Eldred Jonas, George Latigo and Blaine the Mono are a few.  But lets pay homage to a baddie that does not get nearly enough press.

Yes, Rhea of the Coos.  I am talking about you.  In the past, I envisioned you as this lady:

maga-magc3b2

Hey, don’t knock it, she even has a pink dress, and I understand that pink is a very special color for you!

Although some people may have this image in their minds:

beverly hillbillies irene

Rhea of the Coos is horrible.  And manipulative.  Evil.  I can’t think of any redeemable qualities.  None at all.  In other words, a perfect villain.  One of King’s most underrated villains, in this blogger’s humble opinion.  And when King describes her “relations” with her pet snake and pet cat (and they are mutants…gross much?), I shudder.  Even the image of Rhea herself is frightening, especially when King describes her appearance after the obsession with Maerlyn’s Grapefruit has taken over her life.  I love to be scared, and Rhea of the Coos fits that bill quite nicely!

rhea of the coos


 

Ah, young love.  There is nothing quite like it.  And nothing quite so painful when it ends, as Wizard and Glass reminds us all too well.  But its still fun to revisit that feeling, if only to be reminded that some experiences are more painful that others (Wizard and Glass also drives that point home).

Well, be prepared for an interlude…

No, not an interlude from this blog, silly!  I am going on vacation soon, but I will still be visiting the world of the Dark Tower, as my next book to read and review will be The Wind Through the Keyhole, where our favorite tet will be taking a break from their journey for more story time from Roland himself!

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 


 

Connections

Here we go again.  Some of the connections to King’s other work that I found in Wizard and Glass:

-After Roland and friends  leave Blaine the Mono, they encounter a thinny that seems to lead into the “real world”.  However, this world has been decimated by the super flu.  This world is none other than the world of The Stand.  The tet also sees graffiti referencing The Walkin’ Dude and Mother Abigail, both of whom are the major characters in The Stand.

Mother Abigail

-The tet also encounters a deserted park in what is Kansas in the world of The Stand.  The park has a children’s ride that is actually a train eerily similar to the train in the book owned by Eddie, Susannah and Jake.  In the book Cell, the main characters also encounter a similar ride in what is also an abandoned theme park.  Roland remarks that the deterioration of The Tower is likely responsible for such maladies as the super flu.  In  Cell, the malady experienced by the world in that book was known as The Pulse, which caused anyone using a cell phone to turn into a zombie.  This is interesting, as it implies that Mid-World, the world in The Stand and the world in Cell may actually be very close neighbors on The Tower, as all three have “moved on” in similar fashion.

RaggedyMan

Wizard and Glass is the first book to discuss the concept of a “thinny” or a deterioration between worlds that allows people to travel between worlds.  This is a concept discussed in several other King novels and short stories.  King’s most notable work featuring a thinny is the novella The Mist, where a doorway between worlds (a thinny, in other words) is accidentally opened up in a secret military experiment, and allows monsters from another dimension to invade that world, killing off most of the population.

the-mist-mons__big

Henry Dean is mentioned to have a friend by the name of Skipper Brannigan.  Skipper Brannigan is also mentioned to be an enemy of Dinky Earnshaw in the short story Everything’s Eventual.  This implies that Henry, and therefore Eddie, grew up in the same neighborhood and time period as Dinky Earnshaw.

Dinky

 

-The name of the park where Roland and his friends encounter children’s ride is Gage Park.  Of course, Gage is the name of the unfortunate little boy in Pet Sematary.

Gage 1

 

-Roland uses the alias “Will Dearborn” during his time in Meijis.  There is a character by the name of Sandy Dearborn in the novel From a Buick 8.

From_a_Buick_8_by_nosprings

 

-Sylvia Pittson is mentioned in Wizard and Glass.  Sylvia Pittson was the mad preacher woman who helped turn the town of Tull against Roland in The Gunslinger, causing him to kill every single inhabitant of the town, including women and children.

tull 2

-Rhea of the Coos is also mentioned in the book Eyes of the Dragon.  This seems to confirm that the world in Eyes of the Dragon is the same world that Roland inhabits.

Eyes of the Dragon 1