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

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

 

My Review of The Dark Half

By nature, most human beings possess dual natures.

It makes sense if you think about it, actually.

We have our public selves.  That’s the self that we present to the world.  That self is polite.  That self observes “social mores.”  That self knows not to cut in line, for example.  Or it knows that we use eating utensils to eat, and not our fingers.  Our Sunday best self, in other words.

And then there is the private self.  That self has no problem eating with its fingers.  Or maybe cursing at someone to get out of its way already.  Some may call this the “id”, per Sigmund Freud.  Or, if we want to be kinder, the casual Friday self.

Often, being creative requires one to get in touch with that darker side.  Some of the best art is born from darkness, actually.  Art can be a good outlet for that darkness, allowing the artist to express those dark desires.  At the very least, people may admire the end result.  Or perhaps the artist can even make a viable living by expressing that dark side.

Usually, that dark side is kept under wraps.  Artist does his/her thing, perhaps gets praised for it in some way, lets off steam, and it’s done, right?

Well, most of the time…

However, (wait for it) if you are a character in a…you guessed it…Stephen King book, its not that simple.  No, nothing in a Stephen King book is ever that simple, is it?

(In case you forgot which blog you were reading.)

Simpsons SK

One of my favorite novels by The Master is The Dark Half.  On the surface, it is a horror novel.  After all, someone’s pseudonym comes to life and does horrible things.  And don’t get me started on sparrows…

But, as with most of King’s work, The Dark Half is much more that what it seems to be on the surface.  This is a novel that has much to say about the creative process, and the effect that process can have on the writer and the writer’s loved ones.

Plus, it takes place in one of my favorite King towns, aka Castle Rock.  And it has Alan Pangborn as a character…Pangborn has long been one of my favorite King book boos!

In other words, what’s not to love about The Dark Half?  It has a fascinating villain, along with some creepy imagery.  It’s perfect, in other words.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of The Dark Half.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins in 1960, and we are introduced to a young boy named Thad Beaumont.  Thad is an aspiring writer, and already receiving recognition for his writing.  Thad has also begun to suffer from serious migraines, but his doctor is unable to find a cause.  Along with the migraines, Tad hears the sound of birds.

One day, Thad collapses at the bus stop.  He is rushed to the hospital, and his doctors believe that he may have a brain tumor.  However, the doctors do not find a brain tumor when they operate on Thad.  Instead, they find eyes, teeth and other body parts in Thad’s brain.  The doctors believe that they have found an unformed twin that was digested by Thad in the womb.  The doctors elect not to tell Thad’s parents the full truth in regards to their discovery, and Thad’s parents are led to believe that the doctors have found a brain tumor.  The surgery is successful, and Thad is soon released and goes back to living a normal life.

We are again introduced to Thad, twenty five years later.  Thad is married to a woman named Liz, and is the father of fraternal twins named Wendy and William.  Thad is also a writer, but has only found success using the pseudonym of “George Stark.”  Under George Stark, Thad has written crime novels that have achieved commercial success.  The novels written under Thad’s own name have not been nearly as successful, commercially or critically.

Eventually, a man named Frederick Clawson discovers that Thad Beaumont and George Stark are the same man.  Clawson attempts to blackmail Thad, but Thad discloses the fact that he is also George Stark in a People Magazine interview, and even holds a mock “funeral” for George Stark. Thad then decides that he will attempt to write a “serious” novel under his own name, and is even glad that George Stark is “dead”, as Stark appears to be a violent, insane man.

Shorty after the “death” of George Stark, strange things begin to happen.  Homer Ganache, Tad Beamont’s caretaker, is beaten to death with his prosthetic arm.  Frederick Clawson is also murdered.  Thad’s fingerprints are somehow found at the scene of both crimes.

In the meantime, Thad writes a mysterious sentence in the novel he is working on.  The sentence is “The sparrows are flying.”  This sentence is also written in blood on the walls of Frederick Clawson’s apartment.  Tad also begins to hear the sound of birds again.

The fingerprints are traced back to Thad, and Thad is questioned by Sheriff Alan Pangborn, who is certain that Thad is guilty of both murders.  However, Pangborn becomes less convinced once he speaks to Thad, and everyone is mystified by the murders.

Thad visits his doctor and undergoes a CAT scan, as he has been hearing the bird sounds again.  At his office at the university, he appears to go into a trance, where he writes some seemingly random words on a piece of paper.  This incident frightens Thad, and he burns the piece of paper.

In New York City, a woman named Miriam is attacked by a blonde man who calls himself George Stark.  The man forces Miriam to place a call to Thad, and Miriam tells Thad that she is being attacked.  Miriam turns out to be the ex-wife of Thad’s agent, Rick.

Thad is frantic, and finally reaches Sheriff Pangborn.  He has Pangborn check on Miriam in New York, and tells Pangborn that Miriam’s attacker is calling himself George Stark.  Thad also gives Pangborn the names of everyone associated with the People magazine article on himself and George Stark.  Thad gives Pangborn a description of Stark, and tells him that he will fill him on the rest of the details in person.

In the meantime, in New York, the man calling himself George Stark murders three more people associated with the People magazine article in gruesome fashion, along with two police officers.  One of the murdered people is Rick, the ex-husband to Miriam.  While the murders occur, Thad dreams of them in his home in Maine.

The next morning, Thad tells Sheriff Pangborn everything, including the headaches he experienced as a child, and of how George Stark came to be.  Thad is convinced that George Stark has come to life, and is seeking revenge for his “death.”  Pangborn is skeptical, but says that he will speak to Thad’s doctors, including the doctor who operated on Thad as a child, to see if he can get any more leads.

The authorities wire-tap Thad’s phone, in an attempt to track down Stark.  Shortly after the phone is tapped, Stark calls back, and says that he has killed more people.  Later, it is discovered that Thad’s voice print and Stark’s voice print are nearly identical.

Pangborn also places a call to the doctor who operated on Thad as a child, and leaves a message for the man to call him back.

Thad also speculates that he knows exactly what George Stark wants:  for Thad to write another novel under Stark’s name.  Thad contemplates doing just that, if it will put an end to Stark’s violent rampage.

One day, Thad makes a trip to the local grocery store and receives a phone call from George Stark while he is shopping.  This call confirms Thad’s suspicions:  Stark does indeed want Thad to write another novel under the Stark name.  Stark threatens to hurt Thad’s family if Thad does not comply.

Over the next few days, Thad and his family are on edge, as they wait for Stark to make another appearance.  One afternoon, Thad and Liz’s infant daughter, Wendy, takes a tumble from the stairs and receives a bruise.  Later that evening, Wendy’s twin brother, William, also receives a bruise in the same place on his body, even though he was not physically injured.  This gives Thad some insight into George Stark and his relationship with Stark, even though he is still not sure what to do about Stark.

Thad attempts to communicate with Stark in his study one afternoon.  When he does so, he finds out that Stark needs him to write another book because Stark is dying and will only live if Thad writes another book.  Thad also sees a large group of sparrows outside of his house, and is forced to stab himself in the hand with a pencil, courtesy of George Stark.

In the meantime, in New York City, George Stark experiences what Thad is experiencing, and also stabs himself in the hand with a pencil.  We also learn that Stark’s body is deteriorating, presumably because Thad has not written any George Stark novels.  Stark leaves New York City, and makes his way to Maine and Thad.

One day, Thad goes to his office at the university where he is employed during the school year, under the guise of doing some work.  However, Thad is really attempting to get in touch with Stark again.  Stark contacts him on the phone of one of Thad’s colleagues, and again demands that Thad begin work on a new novel.  Thad also finds out that Stark is calling from Thad’s house, and also sees a large group of sparrows again.

Thad’s colleague Rawlie explains the significance of sparrows in folklore:  sparrows are psychopomps, or harbringers between the living and the dead.  The job of the sparrows is to guide lost souls back into the land of the living.

After speaking to Stark, Thad agrees to meet him at his and Liz’s summer home in Castle Rock.  Stark tells Thad that his wife and children are unharmed, but he has killed the two police officers who were supposed to protect Liz and the twins.

On the way to his summer home, Thad calls his colleague, Rawlie, and requests his help.  He meets Rawlie, and takes Rawlie’s car, so that he can drive it to his summer home.  While he is talking to Rawlie, Thad sees another large group of sparrows.

Sheriff Pangborn is finally able to speak to the doctor who operated on young Thad.  The doctor tells Pangborn that he did not actually remove a tumor from Thad’s brain.  Rather, he removed body parts of an unformed twin which had been consumed by Thad while he was still in the womb.  The doctor also tells Pangborn that a large group of sparrows was seen outside of the hospital during the operation.

Pangborn also receives a report of a stolen vehicle.  The stolen vehicle is an Oldsmobile Toranado, which happens to be the vehicle that Thad described George Stark as driving.  After receiving the report of the officers killed at Thad’s home, Pangborn deduces that Thad may be headed to his summer home, and follows him there.

Stark arrives at the summer home with Liz and the children.  He ties Liz up after discovering a pair of sewing scissors that she had hidden on her skirt.  Pangborn also arrives at the summer home, but Stark also captures him and ties him up.

Soon, Thad also arrives at the summer home, and sees that Stark is holding Pangborn and his family hostage.  Thad also notices the large group of sparrows, which Stark does not appear to see.

Stark demands that he and Thad begin writing a new novel, and Thad complies.  Stark holds Thad’s children as hostages, using them as a collateral of sorts.  Liz and Pangborn are forced into another part of the house.

For a time, Stark and Thad work on the new novel.  Previously, Stark had literally been deteriorating, but his wounds begin to heal.  Suddenly, the sparrow descend upon the house.

The sparrows invade the house and head for Stark.  Stark attacks Thad and tries to run from the sparrows but is unsuccessful.  The large group of sparrows descend upon Stark, and literally carry him away from Thad and his family.

Some time later, Thad meets with Sheriff Pangborn at his summer house, which has nearly been destroyed by the incident with Stark and the sparrows.  Pangborn is still having trouble believing what happened, but knows that he has witnessed something unbelievable.  With Pangborn’s blessing, Thad sets fire to the house.

For a time, Thad watches the flames, and then leaves with his family.  Pangborn wonders what will become of Thad’s marriage, as Liz has witnessed what Thad is capable of creating.


My Thoughts

The Dark Half.

In other words, never a more appropriate title.  Especially the second word in the title.

Stephen King has been known, obviously, for his dark subject matter (no pun intended.)

stephen-king-cover-ftr

Novels like Pet Sematary, Thinner, The Long Walk, The Dead Zone, Roadwork and quite are few others are books are known to be especially bleak.  The Dark Half is another one that it bleak.  And I think that The Dark Half may be one of his bleakest, possibly almost as bleak as Pet Sematary.

One of the things I noticed about The Dark Half is the character development.  King is known for creating likable characters.  I mean, who doesn’t love a Stu Redman, Eddie Dean, Beverly Marsh or even ole long tall and ugly himself?

Roland 1

However, I cannot say the same thing about the characters in The Dark Half.  In fact, I would have to say that my favorite character in The Dark Half is the minor character, aka Sheriff Alan Pangborn.

This isn’t to say that I actively disliked Thad Beaumont, who is the protagonist and so-called “good guy.”  I just found little to like about him, and thought that he was more of a prop for the bad guy, George Stark.

I would characterize The Dark Half as a book that is more plot driven than character driven.  There is nothing wrong with this, either.  I actually find the premise of this book fascinating, and yet another underrated Stephen King book.

One of the things I find fascinating about The Dark Half is actually George Stark himself.  And there are a few reasons why I find him so interesting.

George Stark

For one, he is just evil.  Pure evil.

With some of King’s bad guys (Jack Torrance comes to mind), sympathy can be summoned.  Sure, the person is bad, but they are human underneath it all, and may actually have reasons for being bad, even if we don’t necessarily understand or agree with those reasons.

Not so with George Stark.  There is nothing good about George Stark.  Nothing good at all.  The man (and I use that word loosely, more on that later) is just evil incarnate.

He’s ruthless.  He’s vindictive.  And creative.  He may not be able to write a story by himself, but he sure comes up with inventive, horrible ways to kill people.

In fact, I did think a bit of this guy when I read about Stark:

parker 1

It’s true that this guy may be a little more humane than Stark, but still, the comparison stands.

And there is just some about a guy who is evil simply for the sake of being evil…in other words, I love it!

So…

Mickey’s a mouse, Donald’s a duck, Pluto’s a dog…

So what the hell is Goofy?

Or, in this case, what the hell is George Stark?

The Master does tease a bit about Stark, but trying to determine his true origin is almost as difficult as trying to determine Goofy’s true species.

We know that Thad had an un-formed twin that he absorbed as an infant.  And that parts of that un-formed twin were found in Thad’s brain, of all places.

Somehow, this un-formed twin became an issue right when Thad hit puberty, and developed his writing talent. The doctors removed it.  And there was nothing unusual then, other than a large flock of sparrows that invaded the hospital where Thad was staying.

Dark half 1

Then, years later, Thad’s wife miscarries.  She was pregnant with…twins.  Not coincidentally, George Stark comes into being.  And Thad starts becoming somewhat successful as writer, using the George Stark pseudonym.

Then, Stark “dies” again, although he refuses to stay dead, and makes life miserable for a lot of people, including the man who is either his creator, or maybe just his brother, aka Thad.  And then the sparrows come back, although Stark cannot see them.  However, Thad is aware of their presence.

My theory is that Thad has the ability to create twins.  After all, he fathered twins twice.  He himself was a twin.

dark half 5

So did he create Stark?  I think that he did, actually.  I think Thad was perhaps blessed (or maybe cursed) with that ability to create and harbor other personalities, much like Susannah Dean of the Dark Tower series.  And Thad’s ability to create and harbor these other personalities seems to be directly linked to his creative ability.  In fact, maybe Thad’s ability to create other personalities is an extreme manifestation of his writing talent, similar to how Edgar Freemantle (Duma Key) is able to alter reality with his paintings.

duma key 5

Another reason why I love The Dark Half is because this is a book that has a lot to say about the subject of creativity.

King has written several book that touch on the subject of creativity.  Duma Key, Misery, Finders Keepers, Bag of Bones and even The Dark Tower are all books that touch on the subject.

Additionally, many of King’s characters happen to be writers, or artists of some kind at, at the very least.  Mike Noonan, Bill Denbrough, Ben Mears and Jake Epping are all King characters that dabble in writing of some form.  Even poor Jack Torrance (The Shining) was an aspiring writer.  Writing is something that King is familiar with (for obvious reasons), so it often gets incorporated into his stories.

Sara Laughs 1

However, King is not merely content to incorporate writers as characters into his stories.  Since he is The Master, he needs to take an extra step or four.

In other words, King often writes about writing, not just the writer.  In fact, the art of writing is a major plot point to several of his stories, including Bag of Bones, Misery and even The Dark Tower.

The effect of fiction on both the writer and the reader is another major theme in many of King’s works.  Again, Misery, The Dark Tower, Finders Keepers and Bag of Bones, along with several other stories, also address this theme.

And it could be argued that The Dark Half addresses all of these themes in one fell swoop.

dark half 4

We have the main character, Thad Beaumont, who is a writer.  Thad struggles to obtain the kind of success he wants, since the “literary” books that he writes do not sell well, and he is forced to rely on the “pulp” books about Alexis Machine to pay the bills.  This is a struggle, and causes Thad to question where he fits in as a writer.

Obviously, The Dark Half deals with the effect of fiction on the reader.  When he wrote as George Stark, Thad found a rabid fan base.  When Thad writes as himself and not George Stark, his fans (although they could really be considered Stark’s fans) are disappointed, and refer to his work as “terrible.”  Often, fans of a particular offer become entitled, and grow angry when the author does not “deliver.”

dark half 3

The effect of fiction on the writer is also addressed in The Dark Half.  Thad claims to want to write a “serious” novel, but it seems his heart is never in it.  He blames the distraction of George Stark on not being able to write his “serious” novel,   However, Thad gets enjoyment when he starts writing the novel that Stark demands of him.  Again, this causes Thad to question just where he fits in as a writer, and just what success means.  Does success include writing something that he himself is satisfied with?  Does it include pleasing his fans?  Does include “critical” success?

As most Constant Readers know, Stephen King, for a time, wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.  In King’s mind, writing under the Bachman name would allow him to step outside his “genre,” or write works that were not “just horror.”  King had become typecast as a horror writer, and feared that he would be unable to explore any other type of writing, as people had come to expect him to write horror stories, and nothing else.

Bachman 1

Of course, anyone who pays attention to King should know that he is a great writer, period.  He does write scary stories, but there is so much more to King than “horror.”  The Dark Tower series is an epic fantasy series, much like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings.  11/22/63 is a story about time travel and King’s feelings in regards to the Vietnam War.  The collections Hearts in Atlantis and Different Seasons both contain stories that cannot be classified as horror stories.  In fact, it can be argued that King’s strength is writing about ordinary people faced with extraordinary situations.  This is evident even in his books that are horror stories, in characters such as Danny Torrance, the members of The Losers Club, Jack Sawyer (The Talisman and Black House) and so forth.  King’s writing is so effective because people can relate to it, and the situations become that much more believable,

morgan sloat

But early on in King’s career, he likely felt compelled to write horror fiction, at least under his own name.  People had come to expect that, after all, and wouldn’t read something outside the horror genre, something that dealt with “real life situations.”  Even today, there are people who are still prejudiced in regards to King:  they either still think he “only writes scary stories” or have no interest in the non-horror works written by King.  I have known more than a few people who have complained about that Dr. Sleep is not a direct sequel to The Shining, despite the fact that The Shining was written when King was much younger and in the beginning stages of his problems with drugs and alcohol.  Their reactions are similar to a fan’s reaction to Thad’s work not written under the George Stark name:  they are unable to read it, because it is not the formula they had grown used to.

In order to write other types of fiction, King developed the pseudonym of Richard Bachman early on in his career.  Under the Bachman pseudonym, he was finally free to write other types of fiction, i.e. not horror fiction.  And with the exception of Thinner, most of the Bachman books do not contain supernatural themes.  Roadwork, The Long Walk, Rage and The Running Man are all disturbing on some level, but they are disturbing because they deal with “real life horrors,”  such as the exploitation of our youth, corporate greed and our need to be entertained via television.  In other words, Bachman’s work may be a little more mainstream, even though the Bachman books could still be considered to be in the horror category, although not the supernatural or fantastical horror category.

Long Walk 1

For several years, Bachman, like George Stark did for Thad, provided King an outlet to explore other types of writing.  However, all good things must come to end.  Like Thad, King was forced to kill off his “twin” when it was discovered that Richard Bachman and Stephen King were in fact the same person.  And, like Thad, King went about the “murder” in humorous fashion, even saying that Bachman passed away from “cancer of the pseudonym.”

(Side note:  Bachman never died.  He just works on the Sons of Anarchy level of the Tower, helping Jax and his friends dispose of dead bodies, demanding to listen to music when he works.)

Cleaner 3

But, like George Stark, Richard Bachman will not stay dead.  Eventually, Bachman emerged in other King works, like the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, Misery and Cujo, which are all books that contain themes of real life horror, as opposed to supernatural horror.  Dicky Bachman even managed to publish posthumous works, such as The Regulators and Blaze.

In other words, an artist’s “dark side” can never truly be killed.  Richard Bachman is still alive and well, manifesting himself through the works of Stephen King.  And George Stark may have been carried off to parts unknown by an unimaginably large group of sparrows, but do we really believe that was the end of him?

sparrows

Darkness lives in all of us.  And like it or not, it is a vital part of the creative process.  And any attempts to bury that darkness will backfire on us.  Eventually, the darkness will be unleashed.  And the world is not usually able to accept or handle that darkness.


Well, that’s it for The Dark Half!  Join me next month, when I review and dissect Black House.

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

batman and robin


Connections

Like of all of King’s work, The Dark Half is set squarely in the King universe and is connected to several other King books.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-Part of The Dark Half is set in the town of Castle Rock.  Castle Rock is the setting for several King books and short stories, including The Dead Zone, The Body (Different Seasons), Needful Things and Cujo.

Castle Rock 1

-Thad Beaumont is mentioned by Mike Noonan in the book Bag of Bones.  It is revealed that Thad commits suicide several years after the events in The Dark Half.

Bag of Bones 11

-Alan Pangborn is a major character in the book Needful Things.  Pangborn also alludes to Thad’s suicide and the fact that his wife divorces him shortly after the events in The Dark Half.

Needful things 2

-The town of Ludlow is mentioned.  Ludlow is the setting for the novel Pet Sematary.

Pet Sematary 7

-The town of Harlow is also mentioned.  Part of the novel Revival takes place in Harlow.

Revival 7

 

The Final Concert: My Review of End of Watch

So, the month of June is upon us.

And we all know what that means…

Yes, it’s my birthday month.  Yes, I really will be 38 years old (ugh.)  And yes, I accept donations of any kind.  I prefer cash, but checks are ok too…haha!

But, that’s not actually why this month is special (even if my birthday is pretty special…duh.)

No, the month of June is special because of Stephen King.

Stephen King

(Don’t forget, it is this blog, after all.  The Master trumps everything, even the birthday month of yours truly.)

And it’s not because of the book The Dark Half, which could be construed to be a book written about Thad Beaumont, the ultimate Gemini…but I digress.

dark half 5

June is special, or has been special the past couple of years, because The Master has been releasing his Mercedes trilogy books the first week of June.

The fact that he releases these books right before my birthday (back to that again, yes) is a nice courtesy, don’t you think?

And June of 2016 is extra special, because we have the release of End of Watch, the third and final (maybe) book of this series.

So finally, we find out what will happen to good old Bill Hodges, along with his friends Jerome and Holly.

Finally, Hodges gets to square off one more time against his nemesis, Brady.  And quite possibly put this obsession to bed, one way or another.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of End of Watch.

As always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with a flashback to the Mercedes Massacre, which had occurred in 2009.  The flashback is told from the perspective of Rob and Jason, two paramedics who are called to the scene after a then unknown killer uses a stolen Mercedes as a weapon to kill and injure several people at a job fair.  One of the victims is Martine Stover, who is unconscious when Rob and Jason arrive at the scene.  Rob and Jason manage to save Martine from death, but it appears that Martine’s injuries have made her a quadriplegic.  Rob and Jason are saddened by the deaths and injuries, and hope that the perpetrator faces justice.

The book then flashes forward to January 2016.  Bill Hodges is awaiting an appointment with his doctor, when he receives a call from his soon to be retired former partner, Pete Huntley.  Huntley tells Hodges about his final case, which looks to be a murder-suicide.  One of the victims is Martine Stover, who was rendered a quadriplegic after the Mercedes Massacare.  Huntley tells Hodges that Martine appears to have been murdered by her mother, and that her mother then committed suicide.

Hodges picks up Holly Gibney, the woman who is his partner in the private investigation firm that he started after his retirement.  He then meets with Huntley and his partner, Izzy, at the crime scene.  It is confirmed that Martine’s mother used oxycontin and vodka to kill her daughter and herself.  Hodges thinks there is nothing special about the case, but Huntley believes otherwise.

Huntley tells of another murder-suicide that occurred the previous year.  Keith Frias and Krista Countryman were also victims of the Mercedes Massacre.  The two had met in a therapy group, and had planned to get married.  However, they committed suicide by overdosing on pills one day, and died in each other’s arms.  Holly notices a mysterious letter Z in the bathtub where Martine died.  Hodges and Holly are reminded of Brady Hartsfield, the man responsible for the Mercedes Massacre.  Hartsfield was stopped by Holly and Hodges, but not before he was able to manipulate several people into committing suicide.  One of these victims was Olivia Trelawney, Holly’s cousin and the owner of the Mercedes used in the murders.  Hartsfield was able to steal the vehicle and use it to murder several people, and was also able to manipulate Olivia into committing suicide.

On the drive back to the office, Holly voices her suspicions to Hodges.  She tells him that she investigated the upstairs room to the house, and discovered a computer.  The computer contained no indication that either Martine or her mother had ever researched suicide.  Holly also finds a Zappit, which is an electronic device used for playing games.  She and Hodges both feel that this is odd, as neither woman was an expert on gadgets.  Holly says that she will be tracking down Nancy Alderson, the housekeeper employed by Martine Stover and her mother, in the hopes that the housekeeper can shed some light on the mystery.

Hodges is able to speak to Nancy Alderson, the housekeeper for Martine and her mother.  Nancy is extremely surprised by the deaths of Martine and her mother, telling Hodges that Martine had accepted her condition, and that she also got along well with her mother.  Nancy also sheds light on the mystery of the Zappit, telling Hodges that the gadget was a gift for filling out a questionnaire.  It is also revealed that a mysterious man in a parka had been seen around the house, and that he would look into the windows of the house.

Holly and Hodges have lunch that day.  Hodges points out that the Zappit is actually an outdated piece of technology, and that Martine may have fallen victim to a scam.  Hodges also checks out the house across the street from Martine Stover, and discovers the casings to a pair of binoculars, indicating that someone may have been watching Martine and her mother.  Hodges also finds a letter Z carved into the wall of the garage.  Someone driving down the street in a Chevrolet Malibu is also spying on Hodges, but Hodges is distracted by a terrible pain in his knee and his stomach, and is reminded of his doctor’s appointment that he has rescheduled for the next day.

That night, Hodges speaks to Holly and schedules a meeting with her and Huntley, before his doctor’s appointment.  Hodges’ health also appears to worsen, as he vomits blood later that night.  Hodges becomes extremely worried about his future.

Meanwhile, something strange occurs at the hospital where Brady Hartsfield is a patient.  Brady is thought to be comatose, but speaks to Nurse Valdez, badly startling her.

Earlier that day, a nurse named Ruth Scapelli had paid a visit to Brady Hartsfield.  Nurse Scapelli had expressed her disdain for Brady by twisting his nipples, as she believed that Brady had given her an obscene gesture earlier.  Nurse Scapelli is paid a visit that night by Dr. Barbineau, Brady’s doctor.  Barbineau tells Nurse Scapelli that he knows of her earlier actions, and that she will face consequences for them.  After Dr. Barbineau leaves, Nurse Scapelli receives a visit from what appears to be Brady Hartsfield.  Brady appears to flicker in and out of existence, but starts to convince Nurse Scapelli that she is worthless, and that no one will help her now that she caught breaking the rules.

Later that night, Hodges is unable to sleep, so he gets up and turns on his computer.  He discovers he has a message on program called Debbie’s Blue Umbrella, which is the program that he had used to talk to Brady Hartsfield.  The message is from someone named Z-Boy, and simply states;  He’s not done with you yet.

Hodges and Holly meet with Huntley and Izzy the next morning.  The meeting does not go well, as Izzy is upset that Holly took the Zappit from the scene, possibly compromising evidence.  Huntley and Izzy also feel that the investigation should be closed as a murder suicide.  This upsets Holly, but Hodges comforts her, telling her that they are done with the case yet, as he hurries to his doctor appointment.

At his doctor appointment, Hodges receives some terrible news:  he has been diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer, and learns that he may only live for another year.  His doctor urges him to see a specialist right away, but Hodges declines, saying that he needs to think things through first.

The body of Ruth Scapelli is discovered later that day.  Nurse Scapelli’s daughter had contacted the police earlier, after receiving a strange email from her mother.  The cause appears to be suicide, but there is a letter Z written in blood on the floor.

We also learn that Brady Hartsfield has been given experimental drugs by Dr. Babineau, in the hopes that Brady will regain consciousness at some point.  Dr. Babineau does not have much hope for his patient, and eventually stops giving him the medication, as it appears that Brady is still in a vegetative state.

However, Brady has regained some form of consciousness, and is aware of the actions of the doctors and nurses in his hospital room.  Brady has also gained some form of telekinesis, as he is able to move objects without touching them.

One day, Brady discovers another PSI ability:  he has the ability to switch consciences with other people.  In other words, he can momentarily take over the minds of other people, in certain instances.  Brady realizes that he needs to practice using his new abilities, and alerts the doctors and nurses that his head hurts, along with asking for his mother.

After Hodges discovers the message on his computer, he returns to work and hides his cancer diagnosis from Holly.  Hodges and Holly discuss Brady Hartsfield.  Hodges believes that Brady is not actually unconscious, and may have somehow convinced a nurse to commit suicide.  Hodges decides that he will pay another visit to Brady, and Holly urges him to be careful, as she believes that Brady may now be gifted with PSI abilities.

While Hodges riding the bus to the hospital where Brady is a patient, he is preoccupied with thoughts of his health, and does not notice the Chevrolet Malibu, or the old man in a parka who appears to be watching him.

Holly suspects that Hodges is not telling the truth about his health, and sneaks a peek at his computer files while he is gone.  She finds out that he has terminal cancer, and becomes very upset.

Hodges also receives a call from his former partner Huntley, who informs him that the Zappit may have a virus on it, as it is not functional, and there is no way that Martine Stover or her mother could have used it.  Huntley also tells Hodges to stop badgering him and his partner Izzy, as his input is no longer wanted.

While Hodges is on his way to the hospital, his neighbor, 16 year old Barbara Robinson (sister of Jerome) has made her way into a dangerous part of town.  Barbara is African American, but feels she has very little understanding of her culture, due to her family’s relative wealth and success.  Barbara is also in possession of a Zappit device.  The apparition of a young man appears in a store window, and convinces Barbara to commit suicide.  Barbara steps in front of a bus, ready to do just that.

Back at the hospital, Dr. Babineau, who is actually under the control of Brady, informs Brady that Hodges has figured out what he is doing.  Brady becomes furious, but is still trying to convince Barbara Robinson to commit suicide, as she is associated with Hodges.

Barbara’s attempt at suicide is interrupted by the arrival of a young man who takes her Zappit.  Barbara becomes furious and tries to get the gadget back from him.  Barbara grabs her device back, and runs right into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

Brady orders Dr. Babineau to keep Hodges out of his room, as he is flushed and does not actually appear comatose.  Dr. Babineau agrees to do what he can.

In the meantime, Tanya Robinson, Barbara’s mother, receives a call from the police, letting her know that something has happened to her daughter.

When Hodges arrives at the hospital, he is refused visitation of Brady, by Dr. Babineau.  Hodges brides an intern to take a message to Nurse Norma Wilmer, who has helped him the past.

Jerome Robinson, who is in Arizona volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, receives a call from Holly, who tearfully informs him of Hodges’ cancer diagnosis.  Jerome also receives a call from his mother, who tells him that something has happened to his sister Barbara.

Hodges meets with Nurse Wilmer, and agrees to meet her for a drink.  Hodges then receives a call from Tanya Robinson, and rushes back to the hospital.

At the hospital, Hodges finds that Barbara has a broken leg, but is not otherwise severely injured.  She also tells Bill that the young man pushed her out of the way of the oncoming vehicle, preventing a much worse injury, maybe even saving her life.  Hodges makes contact with the police station where the young man is being held, so that he may question him about the incident.

Hodges receives a call from Holly, who is upset and confesses to her snooping regarding his health.  Holly picks up Hodges, and together they head to the police station to talk to the young man who may have saved Barbara Robinson’s life.

Holly and Hodges learn the name of the young man who was responsible for saving Barbara’s life:  Dereece Neville.  Dereece is also a star athlete and a good student, and will likely go to college on a scholarship.  The police have told him that he is free to leave, but he has elected to stay at the police station until he finds out that Barbara is all right.

When Hodges speaks to Dereece, he confirms that Barbara was carrying a Zappit device.  Dereece though that Barbara was under the influence of some substance, but tells Hodges that Barbara appeared to return to her normal self once the Zappit device was taken away from her.

Later on, Hodges meets Nurse Wilmer for a drink.  The nurse agrees to see if she can find Brady’s so-called visitor list for Hodges, and tells Hodges that she thinks that Dr. Babineau may be experimenting on Brady.  She also confesses that she and some of the other nurses believe that Brady can move objects with his mind.

Holly visits Barbara at the hospital.  Barbara confesses to Holly that she has been feeling depressed, as she has experienced harassment at school and other places due to the fact that she is African American.  She also tells Holly that a strange man gave her the Zappit for filling out a questionnaire.  Barbara tells Holly that she has heard of the voice of a young, who convinced her to commit suicide.  Barbara also tells Holly that one of her friends may also have a Zappit, which could be dangerous.

At the hospital, Brady switches consciousness with one of the orderlies, named Brooks.  It appears that Brady is using Brooks’ body to hand out Zappits and spy on Hodges.

We also learn how Brady used the Zappit device to control the body and mind of others.  Once Brady discovered his ability to take over the minds of certain other people, he also discovered a game on the Zappit that had an hypnotic effect on certain people.  Brady was able to use this device to take over the body of Brooks and Dr. Babineau, along with other people.

Brady takes over the body of Brooks, and shows up on the doorstep of Dr. Babineau.  He attacks the doctor’s wife, and takes over Babineau’s body, which is younger and stronger than Brooks’ body.

Hodges visits Dinah Scott, one of Barbara’s friends, who also owns a Zappit device.  Hodges learns that Dinah obtained the device as a consolation prize for a missed concert.  The concert was cancelled due to Brady Hartsfield attempting to set off a bomb.  Brady was stopped by Holly, Jerome and Hodges.  Hodges takes the device from Dinah, so that he can possibly use it to track down more clues.  Hodges brings up the fishing game (the game that is being used by Brady to hypnotize people) and confirms that it does indeed have a hypnotic effect.

We also learn that Brady has bribed a woman named Freddi, one of his former coworkers, to accept questionable packages at a condo that has been set up for this purpose.  Freddi begins to suspect that Dr. Babineau is actually her former coworker.  Brady has Freddi execute a computer program that he needs for his future plans.  When he determines that the computer program works, Brady attacks Freddi so that she will remain quiet.

That night, Hodges receives a call from Holly.  Sunrise Solutions, the company that was giving away the Zappit, was not actually a sponsor of the cancelled concert.  Holly also advises to see Barbara, as Barbara is still suffering the effects of Brady’s invasion of her mind.  Hodges also receives a call from Huntley, telling him that Nurse Scapelli, Brady’s nurse who committed suicide the day before, also owned a Zappit.  Huntley also tells Hodges that Martine Stover’s mother had purchased a computer for her daughter, which is not the act of someone planning to commit a murder-suicide.

In the meantime, Brady has completely abandoned his own body and taken oven Dr. Babineau’s mind.  He heads back to Dr. Babineau’s house and speaks to Brooks, telling Brooks that he murdered Babineau’s wife.  Brooks is upset, but Brady tells him that he was hypnotized and unable to help himself.

Freddi regains consciousness.  It turns out that she is not dead, as her pack of cigarettes protected her from Brady’s bullet.  Freddi is hesitant to call 911, she is involved in some illegal activities.  She wants to leave town, but is afraid that Brady will track her down.

Early the next morning, Hodges receives a call from Huntley informing him that Brady has died.  The cause appears to be a suicide, via an overdose of prescription medication.  However, both Hodges and Holly are skeptical that this is the last of Brady Hartsfield.

Hodges places a call to the bankruptcy trustee who had represented Sunrise Solutions.  The attorney tells Bill that he received a call from someone calling himself Myron Zakim, who had bought several Zappit units when the companies assets were liquidated.  Hodges also speaks to Nurse Wilmer, who is skeptical that Brady committed suicide, and tells Hodges that besides himself, the only other person to ever visit Brady was an unrelated woman.

Holly returns to the office with Jerome, and she and Hodges bring Jerome up to speed on what has been going on.  Holly conducts some research, and finds out that there has been some concern over the fishing game on the Zappit, which seems to have a hypnotic effect on some people.

Hodges then receives a call from Huntley, informing him of the murder of Dr. Babineau’s wife.  Huntley also tells Hodges that Brooks has confessed to the murder, and appears to be under the influence of someone or something.  Huntley confirms that the pills found in Brady’s mouth were not ones that he was prescribed, and that there are questions as to how he was able to obtain them.

While inspecting the Zappit, Jerome falls under a trance, and tells Holly and Hodges that he is viewing his own funeral, which is beautiful.

We learn that Brady is using his newfound abilities, along with the program created by Freddi, in order to induce mass suicide.  He tries to invade the mind of a young woman named Ellen, but she is unsuccessful in her suicide attempt, which frustrates Brady.

Holly is able to bring Jerome out of his trance state.  Hodges deduces that Brady is behind it somehow, and that he distributed the devices to the young girls who attended the concert as a form of revenge.  Holly also discovers that there is a new program on the devices that has just become active, and it appears to be a program that encourages people to commit suicide.  Hodges then attempts to trace the source of the program, so that it can be destroyed.

Brady reminisces about how he came to control Dr. Babineau, by blackmailing him (after he had taken over Brooks’ consciousness) in regards to the experimental drugs that were being given to Brady.  Brady uses Dr. Babineau’s body, along with his money, to carry out his plan to induce mass suicide.

Freddi attempts to crash Brady’s mass suicide program but is unsuccessful.  Brady figures out that she is still alive, and becomes furious.

Hodges, Holly and Jerome connect Freddi to Brady, as they spoke to her when they were previously investigating the Mercedes Massacre.  They track Freddi to her apartment, where she is packing her bags, in an attempt to leave town. Jerome discovers the device that is sending the signals to the Zappit devices that Brady purchased, and destroys the device.  Freddi also tells Hodges and his friends that Brady is not dead, and they learn the story of how Freddi came to be involved with Brady and his plan.

In the meantime, a young gay man commits suicide in front of his father, while he is under the influence of Brady Hartsfield.

Holly begs Hodges to shut down the suicide website that has now infected several Zappit devices.  Hodges places some phone calls to the police department, and finds out that Huntley has officially retired from his duties as a police officer.  Hodges is only able to speak to Izzy, who reluctantly agrees to help.  Hodges deduces that Dr. Babineau/Brady may have headed to Dr. Babineau’s vacation home, and makes plans to head there too.

An overweight young woman commits suicide by overdosing on pills, while she is under the influence of Brady.

Hodges and Holly head to Babineau’s cabin, leaving Jerome behind, as they do not want him to be involved in what could potentially be a messy situation.  Hodges and Holly learn of three more suicides that Brady likely had a hand in.

Holly and Hodges arrive on the property and are almost immediately accosted by Brady.  Brady forces Hodges to play the fishing game on the Zappit, telling him that if he scores a certain number of points, he will allow Holly to live.  As Hodges plays the game, he feels Brady invading his mind.

Hodges fights Brady, hitting his face with a ceramic pen holder.  Brady then fires his gun, and shoots Hodges in the shoulder.  Holly regains consciousness, and begins shooting at Brady with her gun.  However, she is unable to get a clear shot, and Brady gets away from her.

However, Brady is not able to run far, as Jerome comes to the resuce in a Sno-Cat.  He tells Holly and Hodges that Barbara told him to come help them, as she thought Brady would kill them.  Jerome runs over Brady with the vehicle, but that does not kill him.  Brady begs for mercy, and Jerome shoots him.  Hodges receives a text message from his daughter wishing him a happy birthday, and passes out.

A few days later, Hodges, Holly, Huntley, Barbara and Jerome celebrate Hodges birthday at the hospital.  Huntley tells of several more suicides and suicide attempts that have occurred due to Brady’s program, but thinks that the situation will be under control soon.  Hodges has begun his cancer treatments, although the prognosis is not good.  However, his friends still have hope for him.

Eight months later, Hodges loses his battle with cancer.  A funeral is held.  Hodges’ company was left to Holly, who hires Huntley so that the detective work can continue.  Jerome and Holly decide to attend a movie, and leave an empty seat between them, so that they may remember their friend.


My Thoughts

Oh, so much to say, and so few words to say it in, unless I want the word count to be sky high in this post…the struggle is real, yo!

In the past, I have thought of the books in the Mercedes trilogy as Bachman books.

As we all know, Bachman faked his death from cancer of the pseudonym, and really works as a guy who drives a funny looking motorcycle and helps out Jax and his friends on the Sons of Anarchy level of the Tower.  Oh, and he likes to take macabre souvenirs…

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And I still think of these books as Bachman books, make no mistake about it.

However, End of Watch had much more of a Stephen King flavor, if you will.

For one thing, there was the supernatural element.

Typically, most of Bachman’s work does not contain anything supernatural. Books like Rage, Roadwork, The Long Walk and so forth are about human fuckery, as opposed to haunted hotels, sewer dwelling clowns, evil shop owners and the long list of other supernatural pests that haunt the King universe.  Human fuckery does play a part in most if not all of King’s work, but there is usually a supernatural backdrop.  Not so in the Bachman universe, as most of his stories can be considered “real world” stories.

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End of Watch still had a “Bachman flavor.”  In other words, we had the real world:  a murderer at large, who posed a threat to a lot of people.

However, enter the supernatural.  The murderer (Brady) now possesses supernatural powers, which make him even harder to stop.  And no, this is not King taking the easy way out, and writing what he knows.  The fact that Brady acquired PSI abilities made the story that much more interesting, and provided that much more suspense, as Hodges and everyone else needed to figure out what was going on in order to put a stop to Brady.

In other words, we have King doing what he does best:  writing a damn good story that we don’t want to put down, until we finish it.

For the record, I should stop being surprised by Sai King.  He may write about the supernatural or the fantastic, but he constantly weaves “real world” issues into his stories, even if they are horror stories.  In The Drawing of the Three, we get a discussion on mental illness, along with racism.  In Insomnia, we discuss aging and how our society treats it (not kindly, for the most part.)  In Misery, we glimpse how fiction can have a huge impact on the reader, and the writer as well.  A novel like The Gunslinger could be considered a good metaphor for addiction.  I could go on.  And on…

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End of Watch is no different.  I was pleasantly surprised at the glimpse I got into Barbara Robinson’s life.  Barbara may have looked like she had everything under control, and had everything a person (or a teenage girl, at any rate.)  But appearances are deceiving, and Barbara is no different.  I understand the pain of not having a peer group quite well, as I don’t find too many other nerds I can relate to (although the internet is wonderful.)  Now, this is not the same a Barbara’s pain, as she is the only African American in her school.  But my heart broke for her when she described how she was treated when she went out on a date with a white boy, and I understood the feeling of disconnect quite well.  Often, we don’t really know what a person may be going through at any one moment, and that someone can appear outwardly happy, but that person is really experiencing a great deal of pain inside.  And this is probably the case more often than not.

King’s description of Barbara Robinson and her inner battles was probably not “necessary” to the story, but it sure did add a great deal of depth to the story.  And that is why King is The Master.

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And we have the character of Holly, who has turned out to be one of King’s most fascinating characters, in this little old blogger’s humble opinion.

With Holly, King has created a strong female character.  And one who we can relate too, as Holly is not perfect.  I would guess that Holly is somewhere on the autism spectrum, given her quirks.  Holly has also suffered her share mental health issues, as she candidly talks about her suicide attempts.

I love how Holly, over the three books, has broken free from her prison.  In Mr. Mercedes, she is almost a minor character, at least at first.  However, she becomes a major player in the chase for Brady, and saves the day at the end, by hitting him on the end.  This allows Holly to stand up to her non-supportive family, and start living life on her terms.

In Finders Keepers, Holly continues to be an integral part of Hodge’s team and life.  She uses her smarts and computer skills to help track down the bad guys, and also keeps Hodges at least somewhat grounded, as she looks after him, in almost the same way that spouse would.

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And in End of Watch, Holly continues to shine.  She talks to Barbara after her suicide attempt, and is the only able to get Barbara to open up (this really was one of the most beautiful moments in the book.)  She fights Brady again.  And she will be responsible for the continuation of Hodges’ legacy, as she the business has been left in her (more than) capable hands after his death.

Will Holly continue to be a presence in the Stephen King universe?  Hopefully, us Constant Readers will be so lucky as to catch another glimpse of her.  But only time will tell.

Then, there is the ending, along with the build-up to said ending.

So let’s talk about that.

Now, when I first heard the title of the final novel in the Mercedes trilogy (which I had to look up the meaning of…gotta love Google!), I cautioned myself not to take anything too literally.

“End of watch” is police-speak for the death of an officer, but this is Stephen King.  He is always full of surprises, right?  The title could mean anything, so don’t read too much into it, right?

Well, sometimes we need to take things literally.  The title to the final book in this trilogy is meant to be taken literally: it is the end of watch for our beloved Bill Hodges.

I was somewhat reminded of this season of Arrow, in fact.  At the beginning of the season, Damian Darhk tells Lance that he will kill his daughter if Lance does not comply.

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And the show teased a funeral of a major character, from the first episode of the season.

But I told myself not to take things too literally.  After all, anything could happen, right?

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Well, it turned out that Darhk’s threat could in fact be taken at face value.  Laurel Lance, aka the Black Canary, was killed, and Damian Darhk was in fact responsible for her death.  In other words, he carried through on his threat.

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And Stephen King also carried through on his threat, with the death of Hodges.  Seriously, the man likes to kill off main characters.  Maybe the tears of his readers provide seasoning for his food?  Well, I guess that’s one way of making sure that chicken turns out right…kill off a major character, and use the tears from your readers as seasoning.  Works every time!

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The second I found out that Hodges had pancreatic cancer (and you know you had to read up until that point to find out what was the matter with him, because, like Holly, you didn’t buy the whole ulcer theory), it felt like I found out that a friend or family member had terminal cancer.

Because that is what Stephen King characters do:  they become friends, or maybe even family.  And finding out that your friend or family member has terminal cancer is hard.  In fact, my heart felt heavy the day I finished reading that part of the book.  And I thought to myself that maybe the title can be taken literally, even though I still held on to a thin thread of hope that somehow Hodges would conquer his cancer.

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Finding out that Hodges had cancer also made the story that much more tense and suspenseful.  I knew that Hodges was ill, but I still wanted him to have the satisfaction of defeating Brady.  Ka is a wheel, as some other King character stated.  It started out with Brady, and it ended with Brady.  And if anyone deserved some closure, it would be Hodges.

I also feared that Hodges would die in his attempt to take down Brady.  And that ending would not have worked for, as that would have meant that Brady would have still won, even if Brady himself died.

But my man did not let me down.  Even while in the grip of terminal cancer, Hodges (and his friends) still managed to kick some major ass.  So Hodges won, and Brady lost.

The last chapter in the book made my eyes just a little bit leaky (seriously, what is wrong with my plumbing these days?)

I had hope that Hodges could beat cancer as well, but deep down, I knew that hope was futile.  But still, there was that tiny glimmer.

So I was saddened at the end, although not too surprised.  Hodges passed on to the clearing at the end of the path.

Holly and Jerome did something beautiful to remember their friend, by placing a popcorn box in an empty seat at the movie theater.

In other words, they saved him a seat.  And that’s what you always do for your friends, as they will always be there, right by your side.  In life and death.

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So this concludes The Mercedes trilogy.  To paraphrase a certain famous King character, ka is a wheel that comes back to where it started.  And that was the case for William Kermit Hodges.  He came back to where he started.  And he ended it in grand fashion.  A true gunslinger, right to the end.

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RIP, Hodges.  You will live in my memory forever.

That’s the great thing about Stephen King characters.  Somewhere out there, there is a Constant Reader discovering his characters for the first time.  And since they are always being discovered, they can never die.

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Join me next week as I review and dissect the underrated gem otherwise known as The Dark Half.

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

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Connections

Just for fun, here are some of the connections to King’s other work that I found in End of Watch:

-Brady’s hospital room is room 217.  Room 217 is a room that has significance in the novel The Shining.

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-Brady awakens from his coma with PSI abilities.  This is similar to what happens to Johnny Smith in the book The Dead Zone.

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-There is a character named Brooks in the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which is a part of the collection Different Seasons.

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-Brady’s abilities are similar to the abilities of several other characters, including Carrie White, from the novel Carrie.

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-A pink Zappit device is mentioned.  In the short story UR (part of the collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams), there is a pink Kindle device that is able to access stories and books from alternate realities, along with newspaper articles from the future.

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-The song Don’t Fear the Reaper, by Blue Oyster Cult, is mentioned.  This song is also mentioned in the book The Stand.

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11/22/63: Episode 6 Recap and Review

Sometimes, being a hero means that one has to do things that may not exactly be…well…good.

This guy can testify to that, actually…

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And this guy can as well, as he is has done more than a few things that could be considered morally ambiguous, in the name of the greater good.

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And now, this guy has made it onto my list of heroes who don’t always do good things, but we can justify it because they are trying to save their fellow man, dammit (an anti-hero, for the uninitiated).

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Yes, Jake Epping, the mild mannered English teacher who (probably) wouldn’t say boo to a goose, is now a anti-hero!

And no, he has not joined a biker gang in northern California…

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No, Jake is on a mission…to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy, that is.  And his mission has caused him to make some interesting choices, to say the least.

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Apparently, changing history is not as easy as it sounds.  For one, the past can be kind of a bitch about being changed, and will “fuck with you.”

And then there are feelings…

Yeah, those.  Apparently, even hardened English teachers have those.  They make friends when they are on their mission.  They start caring about the people they meet.

They even fall in love…gasp, the horror!

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The clock is ticking down for Jake, and he doesn’t have much time to complete his mission.  The past realizes this too, and is pushing back with a vengeance.  In other words, the mini series 11/22/63 is getting really interesting, and shaping up to be quite the ride wild, if I do say so myself.

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of 11/22/63 episode 6, titled Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The episode begins about six months after the end of the previous episode.  Lee Harvey Oswald is interviewing for a job at the Dallas book depository.  According to history, this is where he will try to assassinate John F. Kennedy.  Oswald has also lost his wife, Marina, and is upset about this.  Outside his new employer, Oswald is confronted by a FBI agent, who is apparently spying on him.  The agent also taunts Oswald about Marina.

Oswald then visits Marina, who is now living with a friend.  He tells her that he is now employed.  Marina is happy, but tells her husband that she will not move back in with him, as she has tired of the abuse and his unpredictable mood swings.  Marina is also several months pregnant.  Oswald becomes upset, and Marina’s friend tries to reassure him, telling him to just allow her a little more time.

Jake pays Bill a visit at his apartment.  Bill has become upset with Jake, as he has been left to his own devices while Jake cares for Sadie.  Bill and Jake hear George de Mohrenschildt speak to Oswald via the surveillance equipment, telling Oswald that General Edwin Walker was shot by an unknown assailant.  Lee laughs off the shooting in the conversation, but Jake is sure that Oswald was the assailant.  Bill then argues with Jake, telling him that they have possibly changed history for the better by simply being there in Dallas.  Jake disagrees, reminding Bill that they have not actually had any interaction with the Oswalds.  Bill tells Jake to kill Oswald if he is so sure, but Jake is hesitant, reminding Bill that he has already killed two people and is not happy with himself over his actions.

Sadie is at Jake’s house in Jodie, playing cards with Principal Simmons.  Deke tells Jake to ask Sadie to marry him, but Jake shrugs this off.  Sadie asks Jake more questions about the future, but Jake reminds her to focus on her surgery, which is scheduled for the next day.

Back at school, Jake speaks to Mimi, who also wants him to marry Sadie.  Mimi also tells Jake that she has cancer and does not have much time left.  She tells Jake that she loves Deke, but that they have spent their lives next to each other and not with each other, and that Jake should not make the same mistake with Sadie.

In order to pay for Sadie’s reconstructive surgery, Jake places another underground bet with seemingly impossible odds.

When Jake returns to his Dallas apartment, Bill is nowhere to be found.  However, Jake hears a party upstairs at the Oswalds, and also hears Bill and Marina talking.  Jake confronts Bill at the party and they argue, knocking over a lamp.  This reveals the bug Jake has placed inside the lamp.  Oswald becomes upset, blaming the FBI for the bug, and starts trashing his own apartment.

After Jake returns to his apartment, he sees Bill kissing Marina.  When Bill returns, Jake fights with him about this.  Bill becomes upset with Jake, as Jake has a relationship with Sadie, but will not allow Bill to interact with the Oswald family.  Bill then pulls a gun on Jake, telling him to never come back to the house.

Jake tells Sadie about the incident with Bill, and Sadie encourages Jake to contact the police.  Jake tells her that this will do more harm than good, and again reminds her to focus on her upcoming surgery.

The next day, Jake accompanies Sadie to the hospital.  He tells her that he loves her, and she is taken into the operating room.  However, the Yellow Card Man makes another appearance, which frightens Jake badly.  The Yellow Card Man begins tampering with Sadie’s equipment, but Jake is locked out of the operating room.  Jake finally breaks the doors with a fire hydrant, stopping the surgery.  It is discovered that Sadie was not receiving enough oxygen, and would have died if it had not been for Jake’s intervention.

When Jake returns to the Dallas apartment, he discovers Bill on the porch talking to Oswald, and realizes that Bill may be the second shooter in the JFK assassination.  Jake then comes into the apartment, and tells Bill a story that Marina Oswald is in labor at the hospital.  However, Jake actually takes Bill to a mental hospital, where Bill begins to rant about Jake and his mission.  This confirms to the doctors that Bill needs help, and Jake has Bill committed.

After Bill is hospitalized, Jake confronts George de Mohrenschildt and garrotes him, threatening to hurt de Mohrenschildt and his family if he does not cooperate with Jake.  de Mohrenschildt tells Jake that Oswald has never been a recruit, and that he helps Marina because she has no family.  de Mohrenschildt also denies any involvement in a plot to assassinate Kennedy, confirming Jake’s theory that Oswald acted alone.

Later that night, Jake calls Sadie from a pay phone, telling her that he is about to do what he came to do (i.e. kill Oswald).  Jake also proposes to Sadie.  Sadie is thrilled and promises to give him an answer when he comes home.

After Jake hangs up, he is confronted by the bookies with whom he placed the risky bets.  The men are extremely angry with Jake for costing them money, and beat him into unconsciousness.  Jake later awakens at the hospital with Sadie by his side, but he does not remember her, which the doctor says is due to the extremely traumatic head injury he has suffered.


My Thoughts

So, how far do you go to make the world a better place?  To what lengths will you go?  Is it okay to hurt someone, if hurting (or killing) that person will save others?

And there are no easy answers to these questions.  11/22/63 is a work that explores questions like these, and the answers are actually…well…pretty gray.

Jake Epping is struggling with the color gray.  He has killed two people so far on his mission to save President Kennedy and to potentially make the world a better place.  One of them was Frank Dunning, who killed his present day friend’s entire family.  The other one was Johnny Clayton, who was going to kill Sadie, with whom he has fallen in love.

11/22/63 EPISODE 103a Photo Credit: Sven Frenzel

It is clear that Jake is struggling with his decisions, and that he is not actually a cold blooded killer.  The mini series is doing a good job showing this struggle, in having Jake contemplate alternatives other than murder in order to stop Lee Harvey Oswald.  Nothing can ever be clear-cut, and I love that the mini series is actually reminding us of this.

Again, this mini series is based on something written by Stephen King.  And this mini series is doing a pretty good job reminding us of this fact.  In particular, the scene in the hospital where the Yellow Card Man attempts to tamper with the medical equipment (which would hurt or maybe kill Sadie), is a really good reminder of this.  The use of the color red in the doors and the fire hydrant was particularly striking, and added an element of the disturbing to this scene.  I also thought the music was done well, giving another surreal layer to this scene.  The Yellow Card Man himself is also another reminder that we are watching something based on a novel written by Stephen King, aka the modern day boogey man.  In the novel, the past is a character, in the same way of Jake, Sadie, Oswald and all the other players in the book.  I wouldn’t say that the past is a villain, but there is certainly something foreboding about it.  And so far, this is has been translated quite well to the screen, especially with the use of the Yellow Card Man, along with the creepy things that keep happening to Jake and his friends.

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Again, I have to give a shout out to the overall acting on this show.  And as much as I like James Franco as Jake Epping, I am going to focus on some other characters.

Namely, the women on this show.

King’s women’s characters are a bit of a mixed bag.  Some are extremely well-drawn, like Annie Wilkes, Dolores Claiborne and Beverly Marsh.  Some are not so well drawn, like Frannie Goldsmith.

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And we have Sadie Dunhill.  Also, we have Marina Oswald.

I have said it before, and I will say it again:  Sarah Gadon seems to be have been born for the role of Sadie Dunhill.  She brings just the right amount of wistfulness to this character, along with that bit of innocence.  In other words, she lights up the screen every time she makes an appearance.  A perfect casting choice.

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Lucy Fry, the actress who plays Marina Oswald, is another perfect casting choice.  Marina’s role has been expanded a bit from what it was in the book, since we are seeing the characters from something other than a first person narrative.  In the book, Marina is depicted as somewhat pitiful.  In the mini series, she is a victim as well, but Fry has managed to make her more sympathetic, and it almost as if she is another version of Sadie, but without the resources to fully escape the situation with Oswald to build a new life for herself and her children.  Her performance also brings a little more depth to Oswald’s character, making him to be a little more “human”, although he is still a pretty bad guy (he shoots JFK, can’t get more evil than that.)

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My only complaint about this episode is in regards to the Bill character…

Yes, I gotta rag on him again.  I understand the need for this character, but ugh.  Just ugh.  And that accent.  And the premise that he was the second shooter?  Ridiculous much?  Hopefully, Jake had him committed so we see the last of the Bill experiment.  But I will still keep my fingers crossed for the last episodes.

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Well that’s it for Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald.  Join me next week as we review and dissect episode 7, titled Soldier Boy.

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

batman and robin

 

Out of Egypt: My Review of Rose Madder

Nine years ago (almost to this very date, in fact), I began a journey.

For seven years, I was trapped in a prison.  Sometimes this was only a metaphorical prison.  However, sometimes it was also a literal prison.

I had gotten married at the relatively young age of 22.  I had thought that I was lucky to find love at a  young age, and figured I was set for life.

But I was wrong on that.  Very wrong.

Somehow, I found myself in an abusive relationship.  No, I did not grow up with parents who abused me in any way.  In fact, I had a pretty good family life.  Nor do I consider myself to be stupid.  In fact, I have been told I am quite intelligent.  I also consider myself to be resourceful, even scrappy.  And I consider myself to be strong and independent.

For nearly seven years, I endured abuse.  The abuse was both emotional and physical.  I was choked.  I received black eyes.  I was called “fat”, “worthless,” “stupid,” “bitch,” and probably lots of other names that I now choose to forget.

Ostensibly, I left because my ex had cheated on me.  However, this was finally a way out for me, as I was unable to leave prior to this.  I blamed myself for the abuse, assuming that I had brought this on myself, due to my poor decision making skills.  I also blamed myself for not leaving the situation much sooner than I did.

In short, I did everything but face what had actually happened to me.

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When I finally left this awful situation, I felt alone much of the time.  Sure, I had family…700 miles away.  I had a couple of friends help me move into my own apartment, but I felt no one would understand my situation, or even worse, pass more judgment on me.

So I did what I have done my entire life:  I turned to books (like a good nerd).

More specifically, I turned to Stephen King books (don’t forget what blog you are reading).

Stephen King

As I have stated countless times, Stephen King is not just a good horror writer, he is a good writer.  Period.  While he may be known for homicidal clowns, rabid dogs and possessed vehicles, he also writes about “real life” horrors, and those real life horrors are often more frightening than his fantastical monsters.  They are frightening because they are plausible, and we can relate to them.

One theme that is prevalent in King’s work is the theme of abuse.  Many characters in the King universe endure some sort of abuse.  Beverly Marsh, a character in the book It, is abused by her father, and later on by her husband.  Danny Torrance endures abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, Jack, in the book The Shining.  Abuse is even mentioned in the book Insomnia, a fantasy novel that is closely connected to the world of The Dark Tower series.

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The novel Rose Madder is also a book that deals with domestic abuse.  However, this book does not just mention abuse.  Rather, domestic abuse is the main, underlying theme in the book.  The book can also be considered a fantasy novel, with elements of Greek mythology and perhaps even Christianity, but spousal abuse is still the main theme in the book.  The book is also slightly different from most of King’s other work in that fact that is told from the perspective of the abused woman, Rose McClendon.  However, make no mistake about it:  we are reminded many times that we are reading a novel set squarely in the Stephen King universe.

This is a book that has a lot of personal meaning to me, as it was a guide when I began my journey to get away from my marriage and find myself again.  Unlike Rosie, I did not travel across the country.  But I felt that the journey may as well have been a bus ride across the country, as it was long and even scenic at times.  In fact, this book reminded me that I was not alone, but facing what countless survivors of an abusive relationship face:  a journey to free myself from the demons, and find my true self again.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of Rose Madder.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an introduction to a young woman named Rose, who is married to Norman Daniels, who is a cop.  Norman is also abusive to Rose, both physically and emotionally.  One evening, Norman comes home and finds Rose reading a book.  For some reason, this enrages Rose, and Norman beats her quite badly.  Rose is pregnant with the couple’s first child, and the beating causes her to have a miscarriage.  Rose is heartbroken, but endures another nine years of abuse from Norman.

One day, nine years later, Rose is cleaning the house while Norman is at work, and notices a drop of blood on the sheets.  Something awakens in Rose, and she flees her marriage.  Before she flees, Rose takes Norman’s bank card, and uses it to obtain money so that she can escape.  Rose catches a bus that takes her to a city 800 miles away, and throws the bank card in the trash before she leaves the city for good.  All the while, Rose is terrified that Norman will still find her and hurt her, but decides that if she stays, she will risk at least her sanity and maybe even her life.

Over the next month, Rose works on re-building her life.  When she arrives in her new city, she meets a man named Peter Slowik at the Traveler’s Aid Booth.  Peter directs her to a shelter of sorts for battered women, called Daughters and Sisters.  There, Rose meets a woman named Anna, who tells her that she can stay for at least eight weeks, and also finds Rose a job as a chambermaid at a nearby hotel.  Rose gradually begins to adjust to her new life and form friendships, but still wonders about her future, as she knows that she will need something other than her life than not having Norman in it.

In the meantime, Norman is angered that Rose has left him.  After Rose threw away his bank card, a young man stole it and attempted to use it.  Norman brutally beats the information out of the man, and learns that Rose caught a bus out of town, and what time that bus may have left.  This information is enough for Norman to begin to track Rosie down, and he does just that.

One day, after finishing her shift at the hotel, Rose decides that she wants to sell her engagement ring.  Norman has told her that this ring is valuable, and Rose has believed this statement over the years.  Rose finds a nearby pawnshop, and meets a man named Bill Steiner.  Bill appraises Rose’s ring, and Rose learns that the diamond is not a real diamond.  She is actually not surprised, due to the fact that Norman has deceived her many other times.  Rose nearly leaves the pawnshop, to spare her dignity.  However, she catches a glimpse of a painting and becomes entranced.  The painting depicts a temple, with a woman whose back is turned, but holding her hands out to the sky.  Rose decides that she must have this painting, and trades her engagement ring for it (as the ring itself is real gold).  Right after she obtains the painting, an elderly man named Robbie Lefferts stops her, and requests that she read a paragraph from a book.  Rose is apprehensive, but humors the man.  The man tells Rose that her reading voice is fantastic, and offers Rose a job at his company as a reader of audio books.

In the meantime, Norman is still obsessed with Rose and her whereabouts.  He has obtained a promotion at his job after a large drug bust, but is unable to let Rose go.  He has used some information from the bus station to attempt to find Rose, but his lead did not pan out.  However, Norman’s luck changes when he receives a call from the man who sold Rose the bus ticket.  With this break, Norman is able to deduce what city Rose had fled to and resumes his hunt for her.

Rosie starts her new job the next day.  She is apprehensive, but manages to make it through the day by thinking of her painting and the woman in it.  That night, Bill unexpectedly shows up at her apartment, and takes Rosie out to dinner.  Rosie feels an attraction towards Bill, and also accepts a date with him for the following weekend.

In the meantime, Norman arrives in the city where Rosie now resides.  He is able to track down Peter Slowik, the man who assisted her in finding shelter upon her arrival.  Norman then murders the man, and vows to track Rosie down and do the same to her, along with whoever else who may stand in his way.

Rose impresses the people at her new job, and realizes that her boss will likely offer her a contract.  She begins to feel hopeful for her future and grateful for her new friends.  Rose always dyes her hair blonde, to match the hair of the woman in her painting.  That night, both Rose and Norman go to sleep and remember a woman named Wendy Yarrow, a prostitute who Norman murdered several years ago.  Norman and his partner beat the woman in order to try to extract some information from her, and the woman threatened to sue the police department before she was murdered by Norman in order to keep her quiet.

Rose also comes to realize that the painting she purchased has taken on a life of its own, as she finds crickets in her second floor apartment, along with other items that should not be there.  However, Rose’s investigation of her painting is interrupted when she receives a call from Anna Stevenson, the founder of Daughters and Sisters.  Anna tells Rose of the murder of Peter Slowik, and that Norman is the prime suspect.  Rose becomes upset and even calls Bill, telling him to stay away from her, for his own protection.

The next day, Rosie flounders at her new job.  However, she receives a visit from Bill during her lunch hour, and tells him of the abuse she endured under Norman, and also of the prostitute Wendy Yarrow, who was likely killed by Norman.  Bill tells Rose that he will not run, and that she cannot be held responsible for Norman’s actions, as it is not her fault.

That night, Rose notices more odd behavior from her.  In fact, the painting opens up, and allows her to step into another world.  There, Rose meets the woman in the painting, along with a woman named Dorcas who resembles Wendy Yarrow, the prostitute murdered by Norman.  Rose dubs the woman in the painting Rose Madder.  Rose Madder appears to be Rose’s mirror image, except that she is suffering from a disease that has driven her insane, and also altered her appearance, as she has several red blotches on her skin.

Rose Madder requests that Rose help her by rescuing her baby, which is being held captive by Enryies the bull in The Temple of The Bull.  Rose Madder also tells Rose that she will repay the favor when needed.  Dorcas helps Rose get ready for the quest, telling her not to eat the fruit or drink the water, no matter how tempted she may be.  Dorcas also soaks a piece of of Rose’s nightgown with her blood, as Enryies is blind and relies on his sense of smell, meaning it is possible to trick him.

Rose sets off on her quest, and uses the sound of the babies cries to guide.  She encounters several ruses on her way, but is able to reach the baby (whom she names Caroline).  Rose tricks Enryies with the nightgown, and rescues baby Caroline, bringing her back to Dorcas and Rose Madder.  Reluctantly, Rose surrenders the baby to the two women, and is again reminded by Rose Madder that she “repays.”  Rose exits the world of the painting and returns to her apartment, falling asleep almost immediately.

The next day, Rose awakens.  She is in pain from her previous night’s excursion and notices that the painting has changed again, but still dismisses the experience as a dream.  Rose goes to work, and loses herself in her day’s routine.  She is also offered a contract by her boss, Robbie Lefferts.  When Rose returns home that evening, she finds the missing gold armlet worn by Rose Madder in the painting, along with a piece of her nightgown, and realizes that her experience was not a dream.

Rose and Bill then go on their date the following day.  Bill takes Rose on a motorcycle ride and they have a picnic in a woodsy area.  Bill and Rose also see a mother fox with her babies.  Rose worries about the fox, but Bill tells her they should be fine as long as they are not infected with rabies.  Rose also begins to realize how attracted she is to Bill, and Bill tells her that he loves her.  They then head back to town, to attend the benefit concert for Daughters and Sisters.

While Rose is on her date with Bill, Norman has disguised himself as a veteran in a wheelchair, and managed to slip into the all day fair that will proceed the benefit concert for Daughters and Sisters.  Norman waits for Rose for most of the day, and is uneasy when he can’t find her.

Norman then attacks one of Rose’s friends, Cynthia, in the restroom.  However, he is interrupted by Gert Kinshaw, another member of Daughters and Sisters, who fights off Norman.  Cynthia and Gert are both severely injured in the fight and end up at the hospital.  Norman is able to escape and continues his hunt for Rose.

Rose and Bill meet Gert and Cynthia at the hospital and get a recap of what happened that afternoon.  Rose is upset, and talks to the police, who try to reassure that they want to catch Norman and bring him to justice.  After the interview with the police, Rosie and Bill head back to Rosie’s apartment.

While Rosie speaks to the police, Norman continues on his rampage.  He has found a mask in the shape of a bull that seems to speak to him, although even he understands that he has gone completely insane.  Norman kills Rose’s friend Pam at the hotel where she works, to try to obtain information from her.  He then heads to the shelter owned by Daughters and Sisters, encountering Anna Stevenson and murdering her after he obtains the address to Rose’s apartment.

When Bill and Rosie come back to Rosie’s apartment, the encounter Norman, who has killed the two police officers who were supposed to be the police protection for Rose.  Norman attacks both Rose and Bill, but they escape to her apartment and hide in the close where Rose has stored the painting.  Once again, Rose escapes into the world of the painting, bringing Bill with her.

Rose changes into the same clothes worn by Rose Madder, and tricks Norman into chasing her to the Temple of the Bull.  Rose Madder then attacks Norman and kills him.  Rose and Bill then escape back into their world.  Dorcas gives Rose a small vial of water from the river, and tells her to give it to Bill as necessary.  Rose Madder also gives Rose a cryptic message, telling her to “remember the tree.”

After she and Bill return to their world, Rose speaks to the cops and tells them that Norman has disappeared.  She also gives Bill a bit of the water from the river, in order to retain his sanity. Rose dyes her hair back to its natural color and destroys the painting. Eventually, the questioning in regards to Norman stops, and Rosie is able to obtain a divorce from him.

Bill proposes to Rose and they get married in a simple ceremony.  Rose gives him the last of the water from the river, so that he forgets the experience in the world of the painting entirely.  Shortly after their honeymoon, Rose finds out she is pregnant, and gives birth to a baby girl named Pamela Gertrude Steiner.

Over the years, all appears to be going well for Rose.  However, Rose begins to experience bouts of irrational anger, where she imagines seriously injuring her friends and even her husband.  Eventually, Rose remembers what Rose Madder told her about the tree, and finds the seed that is left.  Rose then plants the tree, praying that her rages will stop and she can live out her life like a normal person.  Her wish is granted, as the rages soon depart.

Every year, Rose returns to the spot where she planted the tree, and gives thanks for her blessings, knowing that she is strong and a survivor.


 

My Thoughts

Here, we have Rose Madder.  And I consider this one to be one of my favorite King books of all time, for a few different reasons.

However, Rose Madder also seems to be bit polarizing.  Well, a lot polarizing, actually.  People are divided (well, at least in Internet-land):  some love the book, some detest the book.

Obviously, I am on #teamlove, but I can understand how this book may be off-putting to some.  Not only is the main character a woman (big departure from most King books), along with the fact that the book is not “traditional horror,” there is also a lot of symbolism that may be difficult to understand.  I have read this book many, many times and I am not sure if I understand all the symbolism, but I will definitely give it my best shot.

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For example, there is the title character.  Rose Madder.  Just who is she, and how does she relate to Rosie Real?  And what does the “madder” part mean?  Anger?  Insanity?  Or maybe both?  And how does all this tie into that weird color that keeps getting mentioned?

Truthfully, I don’t really have the answers to those questions.  What I do believe is that Rose Madder is indeed a reflection of Rosie Real, or perhaps even a Twinner.  Rose Madder is shown to be suffering from sort of disease.  Is this Rosie’s repressed anger towards Norman?  I actually think that I may be on to something with this thought, that Rose Madder is actually Rosie (maybe on another level of the Tower, or something even deeper) but the manifestation of anger, which can eventually lead to insanity, unless something is done.  And the color rose madder somehow ties into all this, I believe.  That color is pretty close to the color of blood (the book alludes to this several times).  And blood is associated with anger, along with madness.  The color could also be associated with simply being female, as blood is associated with menstruation and childbirth (oh, the fun imagery on that one…you are welcome).  So, there may be many ways to interpret Rose Madder.  Are all of them right?  Possibly.  Are all of them wrong?  Could be as well, such is the mind of The Master…

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And the world of the painting…how surreal is that?  Well, a lot.  Enter the fantasy element.  Was the fantasy element necessary to the story?  Probably not, the story of Rosie’s escape from Norman was a good stand alone story.  Did it ruin the book?  Absolutely not, especially since a nod to our friendly neighborhood gunslinger was given by mentioning the city of Lud, along with a possible reference to Randall Flagg and company.  The Temple of the Bull and the river that had water you couldn’t drink unless you wanted your memory wiped clean were also nice touches, and made me think of the days I spent reading Greek mythology, which is also loaded with symbolism.  The hero has to accomplish some task so he (or she in this case) can move forward in his life.  And that is exactly what Rose had to do:  she had to rescue a baby (which possibly symbolizes something too, like Rose’s true self, which is fragile like a baby) so that she could move past the “Norman stage” (or is that bullshit?) of her life and finally grow into her true self.  And that is not a bad metaphor at all.

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Another thing that I loved about this book was the characters.  You had the two main ones:  Rosie and Norman, along with all the minor characters that may not have been a huge part of the book (Peter Slowik aka Thumper-stein is one of many examples).  King can create memorable characters, and it shows.  I was rooting for Rosie right from the beginning. I cried with her, when she lost her baby, thanks to Norman’s actions.  I was nervous for her, when she started over in a new city, with a new job and a new boyfriend.  I was afraid for her, when Norman finally tracked her down.  And I cheered with her, when she was finally rid of Norman for good.  Not only can King write the Every Man character really well (Jack Torrance, Johnny Smith), he can also write the Every Woman character.  And that is just what Rose is:  an Every Woman.  There is nothing special about Rosie, but that is exactly why she is so special:  we can all relate to her, because we could so easily become her at any time.  And most of what Rosie accomplishes is accomplished through hard work, pluckiness and even a little of luck.  Definitely the Every Woman we can all identify with.

the-overlook-hotel

And we have Norman.  Norman is on the list of King bad guys that I love to hate.  Actually, I just hate.  With every fiber of my being, as a matter of fact.  With some of King’s bad guys, I can think of something good to say about them.  Eldred Jonas does have good hair, after all.  But I cannot think of a single good thing to say about Norman Daniels.  He is racist.  He is sexist.  He has no regard for other human beings in the slightest, and will use them and then dispose of them (in grisly ways) when they have served out their purpose.  Oh, and he beats the shit out of his wife.  And kids aren’t safe from him, since he literally beats the baby out of Rosie, causing her to miscarry their only child.  His view of the world is so skewed that it isn’t even funny (well, it is in kind of disturbed way).  Norman makes assumptions about EVERYONE that turn out to have very little, if any, basis in actual fact (makes me wonder if he would be supporting Donald Trump, I am sure Norman would have ideas about making America great again and would fit right in at a Trump rally).  But most frightening of all, guys like Norman Daniels actually exist.  Norman is not a clown from the sewers or an evil wizard.  He is a human being (at least in appearance).  To boot, he is a human being in authority who abuses his power to hurt others.  This is something that occurs quite often in the “real world.”  Once again, King has proven himself to be the master of real life horror, along with made-up horror.  And a character like Norman Daniels is proof that the real world will suffice just fine for horrifying us and giving us a sleepless night or two.

norman daniels

I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
I saw my reflection in a window, I didn’t know my own face.

Bruce Springsteen, The Streets of Philadelphia

I constantly thought of the above lines when reading Rose Madder.  This book may be a fantasy novel with a tie-in to the world of Roland Deschain himself, but at its heart, it is a book about abuse, and what it takes to overcome the abuse and become a healed, whole person.

Towards the end of the book, Rosie refers to the items she still had left from her life (her purse, a grocery, etc) as the items she brought “out of Egypt.”  And the phrase “out of Egypt” is not a bad description of fleeing from an abusive marriage.  In fact, it is a pretty good description.

Like Rosie, it was a journey fleeing from my own abusive marriage.  Like the lines in the song, I was unrecognizable to myself, and did not recognize the person in the mirror who looked back at me.  And like Rosie, I brought a ton of baggage out of Egypt that I did not know what to do with.  Baggage such as memories of the time he tried to strangle at a hotel in Tennessee.  Baggage such as the black eyes that I had to explain away.  Baggage such as the thought that I would not live to see my 30th birthday.  Baggage such as the humiliation, and feeling about two inches tall, as I was told what a worthless human I was on a regular basis.  Even the strongest of us can only carry so much, and like Rosie, I feared that my anger and pain would poison the new life I had managed to build, unless I could find an outlet for it, where it could be tended and harm no one else.

Eventually, I did find that outlet.  I still have the memories, but to paraphrase a quote in the book, I have become ruthless with the past.  Again, to paraphrase the book, it is better to have bad dreams than bad wakings.  Unlike the wakings, the dreams will fade upon awakening, and I am left with only the blessings that have become my life.


 

So that’s it for Rose Madder.  Join me next month for another sleepless night in Derry, as I review and dissect Insomnia.  Although I am seriously considering taking a detour to a certain “sour ground” in the King universe in the meantime…

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

batman and robin


Connections

All of King’s work is inter-connected in some way, and Rose Madder is no different.  Here are some of the connections I have found:

-Rose reads a book written by Paul Sheldon.  Paul Sheldon is the main character in the novel Misery.

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-Cynthia Smith is a minor character in Rose Madder, but plays a more prominent role in the books Desperation and The Regulators.

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-Rose Madder makes reference to “ka.”  The word “ka” is one used many times in the Dark Tower series.

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-Dorcas speaks of the city of Lud and some other events that have occurred in her world.  The city of Lud is featured in The Wastelands, the third book in the Dark Tower series.

Jake and Gasher

-There is a picture of Susan Day in Anna Stevenson’s office.  Susan Day is a character in the novel Insomnia.

atropos

 

11/22/63: Episode 1 Recap and Review

So who here has ever wanted to travel back in time, and try to change the past for whatever reason?

*raises hand slowly*

Yes, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I have fantasized about traveling back to the past.  Giving past me a warning about her taste in men would be a top priority (geez, you would think my first marriage was right out of a Stephen King book or something).  Appreciating the good cartoons that you had to get up really early for on Saturday morning for would also be a top priority.

But even if we have the ability to travel back in time and try to change the past, should we exercise that power?  It worked out for Marty McFly in the end, but would it work out for mere mortals like me?  As painful as that first marriage was for me, my life may actually not be the awesomeness it is today (my ex still is, and always will be, King Douchey McDoucherson of Doucheville in the state of perpetual douche, however) if I did not have the experience of that marriage.  I probably would not have moved to South Carolina, where I happened to find a job in the tax resolution industry, aka my chosen career.  I would not have been able to open my home to the true thing of evil, aka a blue heeler puppy whose government name is actually Duncan.  Most importantly, I would not have met my husband, the co-parent to the thing of evil, my partner in crime, my lucky 13, the love of my life.  So as difficult as the past was, I would be afraid to change it, as I may come back to the present, and find it all jacked up, with the town bully in charge, even (per Back to the Future Part 2 Marty McFly).

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Apparently, when The Master is not writing about child-killing clowns, proms gone wrong, rabid dogs and other things to haunt my nightmares, he thinks about time-travel.  And he decided to write a book about the subject, possibly because he was bored one afternoon…

Stephen King

Yes, Stephen King has written a book about time travel.  Yes, he can take on almost any topic, and write a compelling book about it.  No, he is not just a writer of scary stories…oh the horror (see what I did there)?

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The name of this book is 11/22/63, and it centers around a school teacher named Jake Epping, who travels back in time to attempt to make a major change in history:  prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Jake was born 1976 and, like yours truly, had only an academic sense of a major historical event that shaped a generation (i.e., the generation of King and my own parents).  However, Jake learns that the past does not want to be changed, and that nearly everything he does has an effect on those he meets.  Try as he may, Jake is unable to keep his distance from the people he meets, and the relationships he forms have an effect on his mission to thwart Oswald.

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Many consider this to be the best King book ever written, and rightfully so.  So, I heard last year that it would become a Hulu mini series.  All of a sudden, I had a reason to reactivate that account.  And for the past four months or so, I have been muttering, at random, “Please be good.  Please be good. Please be good.”  After all, JJ Abrams, Stephen King and James Franco…could that combination ever be bad?

Well, the tentative answer is probably not.  In fact, this combination is shaping up to be pretty good.  And it’s pretty early still, but this combination may even be great.  I don’t want to jinx it, but I am seeing something there.  And I really like what I see, although only time will tell.

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of 11/22/63, episode 1.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode begins with schoolteacher Jake Epping, who resides in Lisbon, Maine, listening to one of the students in his adult education classes read an essay about an event that transpired on Halloween 1960.  The student, Harry Dunning, was attacked by his psychotic father.  Harry’s father killed his mother, sister and two brothers, while also injuring Harry.  This event has been traumatic for Harry, affecting his life in every way imaginable.  Jake applauds Harry’s essay, and agrees to write a recommendation for Harry so that he may obtain a promotion at his current job.

After class, Jake heads to Al’s Diner, where he meets with his friend Al, the owner of the diner.  Jake’s soon to be ex-wife Christy arrives, and Al excuses himself and heads to the back of the diner.  Jake briefly chats with Christy, and signs their divorce papers.  Christy leaves the diner, wishing Jake the best.  Al reappears a few minutes later, but is literally a changed man.  Al tells Jake that he has cancer, and looks to be dying, instead of the picture of health that he appeared to be when Jake first walked into the diner.  Jake helps Al home, and Al promises to give Jake an explanation the next day.

The next day, Jake teaches his high school English class, and tries to impart the importance of seemingly small events in history to his students.  However, most of his students are not paying attention, and one is distracted by a video of a dancing parrot on his cell phone.  The student promises to send Jake the video at the end of class.

Jake meets Al at the diner after class.  Al takes Jake back to a closet in the back of his diner, and has Jake walk through it.  Jake is skeptical until he is not longer in the closet and appears to have stepped back in time.  Al confirms that Jake indeed has stepped back in time to October 21st, 1960.  Jake appears to be invisible to most of the people he sees in this particular moment in time, although a strange looking man with a yellow card in his hat repeatedly tells him that he “should not be here.”

Al tells Jake the rules for what he calls “the rabbit hole”: every trip through the closet leads back to exact same moment on October 21st, 1960; no matter how long one stays in 1960, the time in the present will only be 2 minutes later upon return;  and going through the door will always erase what was done on previous trips to the past.

Al then proposes a trip to the past for Jake, so that Jake may accomplish what he could not:  preventing the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Al believes that the past can be changed, although this is difficult (Al’s sudden cancer diagnosis being an example of the past “pushing back”).  Al believes that if Kennedy had lived, the Vietnam War would have been prevented, and fewer lives lost. Al also wants Jake to find out if Oswald also attempted to assassinate Edwin Walker, as the same kind of rifle was used in the assassination attempt on Walker and the killing of John F. Kennedy. Jake is skeptical, and argues with Al.  He then leaves to attend the graduation ceremony of his adult education students (Harry Dunning is included in this group).  Jake then learns from another school employee that Al will not be getting the promotion, and changes his mind about traveling to the past.

Jake returns to Al’s home the next day, and finds that the man passed away during the night.  Jake then gathers all Al’s notes in regards to Kennedy, the money Al left him and some fake identification (his new name is Jake Amberson), and returns to the diner.  He steps through Al’s “rabbit-hole”, and returns to 1960.

When Jake enters the past, he immediately gives himself a makeover of sorts, which includes a haircut, a shave and a new suit.  Jake also purchases a yellow convertible, and places an improbable bet on a sporting event at the local dive bar.  Jake wins the bet, but brings some unwanted attention upon himself.  Later that night, a man is sent to the hotel Jake is staying at to rough Jake up and discourage him from placing any more bets.  Jake is able to distract the man with his modern cell phone, and flees town.  While he is fleeing, Jake catches another glimpse of the mysterious “Yellow Card Man”, who again tells him that he does not belong there.  Jake throws his cell phone into the river, permanently cutting off his ties to his own era.

Jake then travels across the country, heading to Dallas, Texas.  While he is traveling, he is reminded that life in 1960 was not great for everyone, as he encounters segregated restrooms and is reminded of the deplorable conditions that existed for many.

While scouting Dallas, Jake meets a pretty blonde by the name of Sadie Clayton.  Sadie is a fellow book lover, and nearly leaves her pocketbook behind on the bench she was sitting on when she was talking to Jake.  However, Sadie is married, so Jake sees her on her way.

Jake rents a room in a boarding house recommended to him by Al.  He meets the owner’s son, who tells Jake that he intends on enlisting in the military when he is old enough and serving his country (and will likely die in Vietnam).  Jake attempts to contact his father in Chicago, but is again reminded that the past pushes back:  he gets nothing but static on the pay phone, along with a car that careens through the phone booth, killing the driver almost instantly.  Before she dies, the driver of the car tells Jake that he does not belong there.

Although he is badly shaken after he witnesses the car accident, Jake continues on his mission to prevent the assassination of Kennedy.  More specifically, he spies on a man named George de Mohrenschildt, who may have ties to the CIA.  Jake follows de Mohrenschildt to a CIA ralley and attempts to sneak into the event.  However, Jake is caught by security, and winds up in a room that is literally a dead end, teeming with roaches and red lights, and the space-time continuum appears to be breaking down.  Jake is then escorted out of the building by the security guards, and is again reminded that he does not belong there.

That night, Jake follows de Mohrenschildt to an upscale restaurant, and learns that de Mohrenschildt does indeed have ties to the CIA.  However, Jake is nearly burned on his arm and barely escapes a collapsing ceiling, reminders of the past “pushing back.”  When he returns home, the reminder is even more gruesome, as his boarding house has caught on fire, destroying all of Al’s notes.  Even worse, the son of the owner is burned alive and perishes in the fire.  Jake feels responsible for the death, and decides to head back to Maine and return to the present, before he causes any more damage to innocent people.

However, Jake makes a stop in Humboldt, KY on his way home, with the intention of preventing Harry Dunning’s crazed father from killing Harry’s family.


 

My Thoughts

Before anything else, let’s talk about the elephant in the room…

elephant in the room 1

Yes, the dreaded part of any book that is adapted to film…

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The Changes.

Yes, The Changes.  You know, when your character is wearing blue sneakers in the book, and the movie changed them to brown penny loafers…just what was wrong with the sneakers, Hollywood?  Sneakers are beautiful too, why do they need to be changed to meet your standards of shoe?

In other words, I am aware of some major changes to the details of the book.  Do they bother me?  Well, my inner book douche is extremely bothered by them, but I will have to keep her busy with noting the kind of shoes each character wells.  That should be a project to shut her up for a bit…

I am actually ok with the changes made to the story.  11/22/63 is a novel that consists of a lot of internal Jake dialogue.  Internal Jake dialogue makes for a fascinating book, but does not translate very well to the screen.  Movies and television consist of interactions between characters, so it is understandable that adjustments need to be made, much to the chagrin of book douches.

11-22-63 3

However flexible I may be about adaptations, there are a few things that I am looking for in any adaptation of 11/22/63:

 

  1.  Jake’s effect on the past.
  2. The past’s effect on Jake (i.e. the people he meets, the places he visits, etc).
  3. Jake and Sadie’s relationship, which is one of the sweetest, enduring and heartbreaking relationships in any book.
  4. The character of Jake himself.  Jake has built up walls (intentionally or not), and is a man who obviously feels, but has a hard time conveying to others how he feels (we get the feeling that this may be why he is divorced).
  5. How obsessive Jake becomes in his attempt to change the past, no matter what the consequences may be.
  6. The time period Jake visits itself.  I want to see 1960-1963 in all its splendor, along with its darkness.

It’s still early to make a complete evaluation, but if I were Jake Epping and grading this, I would definitely give this a solid B.  In other words, above average, but there is still room for improvement in order for it to reach its full potential (nope, didn’t ever hear that one growing up.  not at all).

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In regards to the first item on my list, I would say that 11/22/63 is doing fairly well.  In fact, it may be doing a little too well, as the phrase “you shouldn’t be here’ is tossed around like it’s going out of style.  However, the visual representations of “you shouldn’t be here” are fantastic, in my opinion.  For one, there is the Yellow Card Man.  The producers and writers did a great job of transferring an enigmatic (on a good day!) character from the book to the screen, and making him a major player in the film.  I also loved the scene where Jake gets trapped in what appears to be a sub-sub basement room, and is immediately accosted by cockroaches under a bright red light.  This scene in particular (especially with the use of the color red) served to remind us that we are watching a visual representation of a book written by the man who many consider to be the inventor of modern horror.

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Like I said before, it is still early.  However, I am beginning to see bits and pieces of 2-5, even in the first episode.  We may only being seeing glimpses right now, but I enjoyed those glimpses immensely.  Jake’s interaction with his ex-wife Christy was brief, and his interaction with Sandy was also brief, but in watching those interactions, the show gave us some insight into who Jake is:  he may appear cold on the outside, but inside there is actually feeling and maybe even a little bit of passion.  Jake’s applause for his student Harry Dunning (another fine acting job on what I call a “major minor character”) when Harry obtains his GED also demonstrates that Jake is capable of caring, even if he doesn’t always communicate that to those he cares about (see part on why he is divorced).  Even in the first episode, we can see that the past is starting to have its effect on Jake, from the way he enjoys a piece of homemade apple pie (nothing can replace real butter.  NOTHING!), to his decision to head back to Maine, realizing that his presence is a danger to innocent people, to his decision to make a quick “pit stop” on his way back to Maine so that he may help his friend have a better life.  So far, so good.

I will say this much:  number 6.  As in, the mini series is doing really well in portraying the 1960’s, in both its glory and dark side.  The scene where Jake steps through the “rabbit-hole” back into 1960 is simply stunning.  There were the cars and the kids playing ball.  The milk truck was actually my favorite part of that scene.  There is just something about the truck itself and the shattering milk bottles that almost feels like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, but also has an ominous feel to it.  Speaking of ominous, I also loved the scene where Jake finds the “colored restroom.”  This scene is powerful in the book, and powerful in the mini series as well.  It serves to remind that the 1960’s may have appeared idyllic, but were actually anything but that to many people.  History is not something that is objective, but something that can be influenced by mere observation.

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Oh, and as if I didn’t need more reminders that I was watching something based on a Stephen King book…

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Yes, I caught them.  Jake making the innocuous (well, not really) statement that he was Kennedy’s number one fan…uh huh…

Misery

And the mention of Castle Rock made me squee a bit too.  Although I really hope Jake doesn’t get an urge to go shopping there…

Needful things 2


 

So that’s it for The Rabbit Hole.  Join me next week for the review and dissection of The Kill Floor, where we see Jake take on a formidable foe:  Mr.  Fergie er Josh Duhamel as Frank Dunning!

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

batman and robin

 

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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!

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

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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!

Needful things 2

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

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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…

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

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

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

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Really interesting…

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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

 

Just Another Day…

Today is June 19th.

Well, duh.  Water is wet, the sun sets in the west…all that good stuff.  Its just another day for most…

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Well, except if you are an avid reader of this blog (yeah, avid…work with me here, ok?)

And you guys know who you are…

Mention a certain number between 18 and 20…do I have your attention?

Mar Barses?  Got your attention, huh?

Or you really like roses.  Or maybe its turtles that you really like.  Or…well, I could go on and on, actually…

Rose

So in case it wasn’t clear yet, I am talking about a certain niche fan base…

Yes, fans of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  The rest of the world may not know who we are, but we recognize each other at first sight.  Maybe you have a Dark Tower related t-shirt that you wear sometimes.  Or maybe you have a Dark Tower related tattoo.  The rest of the world will either ignore the shirt (at worst), or make a comment in passing (at best).

But we know who we are.  And our obsession may be odd to most (you know, like devoting a blog almost entirely to Stephen King and his magnum opus…who does that?), but finding others who share our obsession is priceless, and something that not even MasterCard can buy!

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And we are one devoted fan base.  In fact, there is a particular number that is almost reverential in the world of The Dark Tower series…

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Yes, the number 19.  Its pretty significant to the series as a whole, for some reason…

Seems that the master suffered a bad accident on June 19th, 1999.  Stephen King went out one day for a walk, and nearly came back home in a body bag.

And this accident had a big effect.  It affected not just King and his family, but this Constant Readers as well.  See, King’s magnum opus, The Dark Tower, was unfinished at the time of the accident.  And many feared that it would remain unfinished.  Fortunately, that is not the case, as Sai King made what can only be called a miraculous recovery, and churned out the last three books of the series over the next few years, and is still writing new books to this day, and is probably even writing a new book as we speak.

But this accident was a big thing.  And its effect on Sai King was enormous.  It inspired him to finish the Dark Tower series (a terrible thing to be an inspiration, but an inspiration, nonetheless).  In fact, the accident became a major plot point in the series…

Yes, King wrote his own accident into his books.  And…gasp…he even incorporated himself into the series!

Stephen King is a character in the Dark Tower series.  And his accident is a plot point.  A major plot point, in fact.  An this has been controversial, to say the least…

In talking to some other fans who have read the series, some have got this impression upon reading about the character of Stephen King and how his accident had the ability to affect the existence of our universe and all of the other universes contained in the multi-verse:

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Well, its a metaphor, at any rate…

Many think that King including himself in his series was arrogant, or simply ridiculous.  And having his own character rescue him and give his life for him?  Crazy, right?

Well, no.  I don’t think that King’s inclusion of himself in his series was arrogant, nor do I think that King being rescued by his characters is crazy.  In fact, this could not be further from the truth.

When Sai King was hit by that van, we nearly lost one of the greatest writers that this world has ever known.  To boot, this great writer is purely American as well, and is responsible for the invention of the modern horror tale.  HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe were great writers, but King was able to take the horror story, and make it into something readers could relate to.  Salem’s Lot was the first modern vampire tale.  And then there is The Shining, the first modern ghost story.  Jack Torrance may be one of the most famous villains in any story or movie, but who hasn’t felt like him at some point in his/her life, struggling to provide for family, and wanting to do the best he/she could for the ones that mattered the most?  And that is what makes that particular novel so frightening:  the setting (an isolated hotel) and the themes (family, addiction, domestic abuse, etc) are so realistic and reel in the reader, so it is not so difficult to believe that there may be ghosts around the corner and that fire hoses could actually come to life and attack us, and that if we are smart, we won’t look over our shoulder, and instead we will make a mad dash down the hall, and dive into the bed, under the covers, into what we hope is relative safety?

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And then there are the Dark Tower books.  To paraphrase King himself, the Jupiter of his solar system, or his greatest work.  And these are the books that contain all of King’s other works.  In other words, everything in King’s universe is connected, from the crazy obsessed fan girl who hobbles her favorite writer, to the gang of kids who battles the evil clown in the sewers, to the gunslingers who strive to protect the Tower itself, the nexus of all existence.

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The thought of the series not being finished must have been on King’s mind, and must have been a frightening one.  In fact, he may have felt that he was letting someone down.  His fans.  Or maybe his characters, actually…

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Yes, his characters.  If something happened to Stephen King, how would Roland continue his quest?  The quest that originated from the mind and heart of King himself…

Some say that we all write our own stories.  The Dark Tower series was a big part of King’s own story, as he had spent so many years writing it, and incorporating it into his other works.  The Tower was a part of King, and King was a part of the Tower.  So it would make sense that he felt the need to include himself in the story, as it was (and still is) so intertwined with his life.  Often reality and fiction blur, and King’s inclusion of himself in his books is a great example of this.

As an artist myself (I dabble in writing, drawing and painting), I can tell you that my art has saved me many times.  I have gone through divorce, job loss and many other stressful life events, and my art was the one constant in my life, and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without it.  And I am sure that this is true for King as well:  his art has kept him grounded, and the thought of finishing his magnum opus, the Dark Tower series, may have played a part in his recovery.  In other words, he was saved by the characters he created, and what better way to pay homage to that lovely idea than to include it as a plot point in the Dark Tower series?

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In the world of Dark Tower fan-dom, “going 19” is a phrase used to describe a situation where everything is going wrong and things are FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair for the uninitiated).  It is used in a somewhat joking manner, but many take this somewhat literally.  But to me, that phrase could not be more wrong.

To me, 19 is a number that is a symbol of hope.  On a day that many would describe as “just another day”, we nearly lost one of the greatest writers this world has ever seen.  However, whether by sheer luck, sheer determination or possibly even the intervention of some other force, this writer continued to live.  And he was able to finish his magnum opus, and provide us with a series of books that has united people, sparked some lively debate and has provided countless hours of joy and entertainment to so many Constant Readers.

And I will end this post with a quote from another inhabitant of the Stephen King universe.  I can’t think of a more appropriate quote to sum up my feelings on this day:

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Getting the Band Back Together: My Review of Finders Keepers

Well, looky here folks…

Christmas came over six months early this year!

Christmasland 1

Um no, my birthday is in June and it is an awesome day but that’s not what I’m talking about!

Nope, the master has graced us with a new book!  And a couple weeks before my birthday…how considerate of him!

Stephen King

And Finders Keepers was a great gift.  Not that anything was wrong with Mr. Mercedes, but oh man, Finders Keepers!  If Finders Keepers is what I got for my upcoming (eek) 37th birthday, then I can’t imagine what my present (The Suicide Prince) for my 38th birthday will be like…already looking forward to next year’s birthday release of the third book in this series.  Thanks Uncle Stevie, you know me too well!

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But seriously, Finders Keepers was a fantastic read, and really does have me excited for the release of the third and final book.

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With all that being said, here is my review of Finders Keepers

And as always…

Spoiler alert

 

 

 

 


 

Synopsis

Finders Keepers begins with a murder in 1978.  The reader is introduced to Morris Bellamy, who is obviously troubled.  Morris and his friends break into the home of John Rothstein, who is a famous writer admired by Morris.  Morris and his friends steal cash from Rothstein, and Morris also takes some notebooks belonging to Rothstein that contain letters, musings and even a draft to a novel.  Morris becomes upset at Rothstein for what he believes is the wrong treatment of a characters in Rothstein’s novels, and murders him.  Morris and his friends escape, but Morris then murders his friends, and hides the cash and notebooks in the woods near his house.  Morris is later imprisoned on unrelated charges, and spends over 30 years in prison.

The novel then shifts shifts to 2009, and tells the story of Tom Saubers and his family.  Tom is unemployed and desperately seeking employment, so he attends a job fair in his city.  Tom becomes one of the victims of the Mercedes Massacre when he is injured by a Mercedes that is deliberately driven into the crowd waiting in line at the job fair.  The driver turns out to be Brady Hartsfield, who is later apprehended when he tries to place a bomb at a concert.  Tom and his family were suffering before the Mercedes Massacre, but their situation becomes even worse, as Tom is unable to work.  The family is forced to move and fears losing their home.  The oldest child, Peter, becomes worried about his parents and fears their financial situation will cause them to divorce.  Peter takes a walk in the woods near his house one day, and finds the cash and notebooks buried by Morris Bellamy.  Peter finds a way to make it appear that the cash is being anonymously mailed to his family, and the family receives several hundred dollars in cash per month for the next four years.  Pete considers selling the notebooks of John Rothstein, as his family is still needy, and speaks to an owner of a used bookstore, Andrew Halliday.  Andrew also happens to be a former friend of Morris Bellamy.  Andrew threatens Peter and attempts to blackmail Peter into handing over the manuscripts, but Peter stands firm in his insistence that Andrew share in any proceeds he receives for the notebooks.  Peter then hides the notebooks at a recreation center.

In the meantime, Morris is paroled from prison, and begins to wonder about the money and the notebooks that he buried so many years ago.

The story then switches over to the perspective of Bill Hodges, the primary character in Mr. Mercedes.  Hodges has now opened his own detective firm called Finders Keepers, and specializes in apprehending fugitives, especially ones that have defrauded wealthy people.  He is assisted by Holly Gibbey, another character in Mr. Mercedes, who also happened to be the cousin of Janey, the woman who Hodges had a brief relationship with, before she was killed by a car bomb that was meant for Hodges.  Jerome Robinson, the third member of the trio, stays in touch with Hodges, but is attending Harvard and unable to assist Hodges with most of his cases.  Hodges has also made several positive changes in his life, including adapting to a healthier diet and exercise program.  However, he still feels remorse over the death of Janey and feels responsible for it.  He also remains close to Jerome’s family, and is considered an honorary member of that family.  Hodges visits Brady Hartsfield, the Mercedes killer, in the hospital, every so often.  Hartsfield is supposedly in a vegetative state, but Hodges sometimes doubts that Hartsfield is actually in that particular state.

Jerome’s younger sister Barbara pays a visit to Hodges in his office.  Barbara brings Tina Saubers, the younger sister of Peter, with her, because she has heard a troubling tale from Tina.  Tina has deduced that Peter is responsible for the “mystery money” and worries that her brother may have committed a robbery or other illegal act to obtain it.  Tina tells the story to Hodges and to Holly, and also mentions that Peter may be in possession of some old notebooks.  Hodges agrees he will speak to Peter when the next school day ends.  Barbara also tells the tale to Jerome, who is back in town for the weekend, and Hodges and Jerome make a plan to follow Peter and confront him.  Holly also spends time thinking about the new case, and believes that the notebooks may actually be an important detail.

Morris Bellamy tracks down his old friend Andrew, and confronts him at his bookstore.  He threatens Andrew into giving up the name of the now owner of the stolen notebooks, and then beats Andrew to death in his own store.

Hodges confronts Peter outside of his high school, and tries to obtain information regarding the “mystery money.”  However, Hodges is not successful in obtaining any information from Peter, and has Jerome tail him.

Peter enters the bookstore, and discovers the body of Andrew Halliday.  He also encounters Morris Bellamy and is nearly shot by him, but manages to escape.  Peter then contacts Hodges and arranges to meet him again, but takes a detour to his house, as he receives a call from Bellamy indicating that his family is in danger.  Peter rushes home to find his mother shot in the head by Bellamy, and his younger sister kidnapped.

Peter tracks down Bellamy at the original hiding spot for the notebooks.  Bellamy uses Peter’s younger sister as bait, and Peter leads Bellamy to the recreation center where the notebooks are hidden.  Peter and Bellamy scuffle over the notebooks, and Peter douses them with gasoline to burn them.  Hodges and his friends track down Peter and Tina, and are able to rescue them from the now burning recreation center.  Morris is left in the recreation center, and is burned alive.  The notebooks are also destroyed by the fire.

The story then moves ahead a few months.  Peter’s mother has recovered from her bullet wound and is doing well.  Tina has also recovered from her ordeal and has resumed a normal life.  Peter has been offered a job by a major newspaper.  The newspaper wants him to write summaries of the writings of John Rothstein, and will pay him $15,000 for the job.  Jerome will be returning to college for his senior year.  Holly has gained even more confidence and will take a trip to visit her mother on her own.  Everyone is doing well, except for Hodges.  Jerome and Holly worry that his fixation on Brady Hartsfield has become unhealthy.

Hodges makes another visit to the hospital to check on Hartsfield, after he receives news that a nurse has committed suicide under suspicious circumstances.  Hodges also learns that some employees at the hospital believe that Brady has the power to move objects with his mind, as he has heard stories of odd things that seem to occur around Brady.  Hodges pays another visit to Brady but nothing seems to have changed.  However, once Hodges leaves Brady’s room, a picture falls over, confirming that Brady is not what he seems to be.

 

 


 

My thoughts

So let me start off by saying this:  I liked Mr. Mercedes.  I really did.  I have a lot of like for Mr. Mercedes, in fact…

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And I would also like to set the record straight on one other matter;  I loved Finders Keepers!  Much love for Finders Keepers!

For the record, this does not diminish my feelings for Mr. Mercedes in any way.  I just happen to think that Finders Keepers is the stronger of the two books.  And if the trend continues with the third book in the series, I may have to write another statement to reassure the master that my feelings for the other two books are still valid…

Last year, when I read Mr. Mercedes, I immediately thought of Bachman

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You know, Bachman?  That guy who died of cancer of the pseudonym.  Although we all know he is not really dead, he is actually still alive on the Sons of Anarchy level of the Tower, disposing of dead bodies as we speak and requesting that 80’s music be played while he is working…

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In all seriousness, Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers have the feel of a Richard Bachman book.  The story line is of the “real world” and the supernatural aspect is practically non-existent (although if the ending of Finders Keepers indicates what I think it indicates, that may change in the third book).

One of Bachman’s, er King’s, strengths as a writer is his ability to incorporate reality into his works, which makes them that much more believable.  This is particularly evident in books like The Shining, in which themes such as financial problems, domestic abuse, alcoholism and divorce were prevalent.

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Like The Shining, Finders Keepers was also rife with “real world” themes.  And this Constant Reader could emphasize with the struggles of Peter and his family.  I have lost my job.  My husband has also lost his job.  We came close to losing our house.  We have had to rely on the kindness of friends and family to get by.  Although our situation has much improved, I have not forgotten our struggles, and I never will.  And if I had found a box full of money while out walking in my neighborhood (hey, work with me and suspend disbelief for just a minute), I would have used it to help my family, just like Peter.  And I would have felt no guilt.  The money may have had “blood” on it, but anyone who uses that kind of money to help his/her family is not a bad person in the slightest.  I admired Peter in his conviction to help his family and keep it together.  Because without family, what is there?

As I have mentioned before, Uncle Stevie has quite the sense of humor.  And it will show up where it is least expected.  You know, like in a book about a crazy obsessed fan who murders his favorite writer because he didn’t like the ending to the latest book?

Yes, Finders Keepers had some funny moments.  Tina describes the arguments between her parents as “arkie barkies” (I am stealing that one, thanks Uncle Stevie!)  “Shit don’t mean shit” was a popular phrase uttered throughout the book (imagine if we Constant Readers could get that one trending on social media!)  And perhaps my favorite no my mind is not in the gutter   was the description of the act of copulation… in other words, a guy putting his “John Hopkins” into a woman’s “Sarah Lawrence”…good one there, Sai King!

Finders Keepers also incorporated an element of creepiness that was not present in Mr. Mercedes.  Mr. Mercedes was a bit unsettling, and suspenseful, but the story took place before the obsession…

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Well, maybe not quite like these two guys!

Maybe more like a certain friendly neighborhood gunslinger who spends his time chasing a man dressed in dark colors across a region that sees little rain?

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Yes, Brady Hartsfield is the creepy element in this book.  And Hodges concern obsession (calling a spade a spade) is also unsettling.  And the ending…whew!  That ending left frightened for Hodges and anyone even remotely associated with Hodges (Hodges third cousin once removed better watch his/her back…you don’t mess with Brady Hartsfield!)  I have a feeling that the third book in this series will deliver, and we are in for a bang (no pressure, Sai King.  No pressure at all)!  Brady Hartsfield was a bad enough guy before he slipped into a vegetative state (although the jury is still out on that), but Brady with PSI powers?  Not good at all!

Writers and writing are a big theme in King’s works.  The Dark Half talks about the effect of fiction on the writer.  Misery discusses the effect of fiction on the reader.  The Dark Tower series even takes a stab at this theme, as Stephen King is a character in his own books (that’s meta-fiction, for the uninitiated).

Finders Keepers continues on with these themes.  Morris Bellamy becomes obsessed with John Rothstein, and that ultimately becomes his own un-doing.  Peter also develops an obsession, and narrowly escapes being killed by that obsession.  Obsession and addiction are also huge themes in King’s work (The Dark Tower series could be said to be a metaphor for the journey of an addict), and King successfully weaves these themes into Finders Keepers, adding a level of depth and richness, which makes a what appears on the surface to be a simple detective novel, into something that is far beyond a simple detective novel.


 

Christmas in June?  Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!  In other words, Finders Keepers works very well when one wants to celebrate Christmas in June.  Or maybe Thanksgiving in June.  And I am sure some culture has celebrated New Year’s Day in June.  Or heck, get Finders Keepers if you want to give a Flag Day present to yourself!

Who am I kidding?  New Stephen King books do not need a holiday behind them!  So no matter what you celebrate, treat yourself and read Finders Keepers, and take a holiday into the awesomeness known as the Stephen King universe!

 

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Connections

Again, here we go with the connections.  There are enough of them in Finders Keepers to remind you that you are, in fact, reading a Stephen King novel.  So here is what I found:

-Burt Hodges apprehends a criminal who has been accused of stealing a car (among other crimes).  This vehicle just happens to be a Rolls Royce Wraith.  The Rolls Royce Wraith also happens to be the vehicle owned by Charlie Manx, the main villain in the book NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.  This connection is worth noting because there are tie-ins in Joe Hill’s work to King’s work, especially in NOS4A2.  Charlie Manx is also mentioned in passing by Dick Halloran in the book Dr. Sleep, during a flashback experienced by Danny Torrance.

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-Brady Hartsfield is housed in Room 217 in the hospital.  217 is also the room number to a famous haunted room in the novel The Shining.

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-Jerome’s alter ego, Tyrone Feelgood, makes a brief appearance.  Tyrone’s manner of speaking is similar to Detta Walker’s speech in The Drawing of the Three.

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-Andrew Halliday’s pin number consists of the digits 9118.  9+1+1+8 = 19.  As most Constant readers know, 19 is a significant number to King and his work, especially to Roland and his friends in the last 3 books of the Dark Tower series.

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-Pete Saubers’ mother refers to her son as a “do-bee.”  “Do-bee” is a phrase used by Craig Toomey in the novella The Langoliers (which is a story in the collection Four Past Midnight), and also by Jack Mort in The Drawing of the Three.

Jack Mort

-Andrew Halliday was the owner of a used bookstore and had an obsession with books, especially rare books.  Another character in King’s work is the owner of a used bookstore and is obsessed with rare books:  Calvin Tower in the Dark Tower series, who first appears in The Wastelands.  It is possible that Tower and Halliday are Twinners of sorts, as both are owners of used bookstores, both are obsessed with rare books and both are even described as being overweight.

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-Morris Bellamy is described as having lips that are extremely red.  In the book Black House, the villain Charles Burnside is also described as having lips that are very red.  This may be another example of people who are Twinners, or doppelgangers to each other.

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-Brady Hartsfield has been in a comatose state, but appears to have awakened with PSI powers.  This is similar to what happened to Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone, as Johnny awakened from a five year long coma with the ability to see future events.  Brady’s powers are also similar to Carrie White’s telekinetic powers in the novel Carrie, as she had the ability to move objects with her mind.

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