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.)

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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,

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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.

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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.)

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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?

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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!

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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.

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-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.

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-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.

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

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

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Top 10 Women in Stephen King Books

I am a nerd (well, duh).

I am also a woman (duh again, what was the name of this blog?)

Growing up, I loved things like horror, action movies and Batman.

In fact, I still love all of these things, although I have expanded my horizons a little bit (The Green Arrow is my show boo, thank you very much!)

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And don’t get me wrong, I love being a nerd, and I always have, even if my social calendar has always been strangely empty.  But being part of so many fan-doms, which have allowed me to meet so many wonderful people (Internet, where have you been all my life?), is simply rewarding…there is no other way to put it.  And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

However, being a female nerd has put me in a delicate position.  I love my Batsy, I love my dispensers of vigilante justice and I love being scared into a change of pants by evil, sewer dwelling clowns and whatever other “monster of the week” happens to either haunting the books I read or the movies I watch.

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But even as a child, I noticed something that made being a nerd that much harder, at least for me.

That’s right, you guessed it…the lack of female nerds.

At least, this was the case when I was growing up.  It is true that April O’Neil was a presence on one of my favorite shows.

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There was also Dr. Crusher.

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(The fact that both of these ladies are gingers is just purely coincidental.  Nope, no bias here at all).

But there was no denying it:  nerdiness was not geared towards the likes of me.  Instead, all the cool stuff was geared towards the boys.  And although we have made some pretty good strides in recent years, there is still that mentality:  meeting another woman who is versed in the story line of something like The Killing Joke and who is stoked for the upcoming movie is not common, even though this is something that is changing as well, although slowly.

In fact, when I was introduced to Special Agent Dana Scully, I wept.  At last, a female nerd!  She was smart AND could throw down some serious shade!  And do all that in three inch heels!

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As I got older, I began to look for female role models in my nerdy obsessions.  Slowly, I began to find them.

In other words, I picked up my Stephen King habit after an extended hiatus.  And I found some great female role models…

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Ok, glad you have let that sink in.  So quit laughing, and let’s talk about the ladies in the works of The Master.

Stephen King

King is the master of modern horror.  This fact is undisputed by most.  He knows how to terrify us, with his monsters, both human and inhuman.

But King also creates great characters that we can all relate too.  Jack Torrance, Larry Underwood and Johnny Smith are just a few examples of the Every Man.

King also has given us the Every Woman.  It is true that some of his female characters are mainly seen through the eyes of another character who is usually male.  Examples of those would include Wendy Torrance and Leigh Cabot.

But King has also created some great female characters that are either main characters, or “side characters” that actually stand on their own, sometimes even stealing the show from the guys.

So Stephen King is not only The Master, he has made some pretty cool contributions to the women’s movement…check!  I still don’t know if he has mastered interpretive dance, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

And I figure now would be a good time to pay tribute to some of these ladies via a post in this little old blog.

So, without further ado, here is a list of what I consider to be the most memorable women in King’s works.  This is a list containing only ten, so I apologize if I left out your favorite…ranking awesome is not easy!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


10.  Jo Noonan (Bag of Bones)

I am trying to stick with “human” ladies for this post, so I struggled with this one for a bit.

However, Jo Noonan won out in the end.  She was indeed a ghost, but she was living at one point.  Which makes her human to me.

Jo Noonan was a force.  In life, she was courageous and fought to the very end.

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Even in death, she was unstoppable.  Jo simply would not rest until her mission was accomplished:  expose the truth (which was not pretty) in regards to a small town’s questionable history.  Not only was Jo determined to expose the truth in regards to the small town that was her and Mike’s summer home, she was also determined to protect a child who had no tie to her or to Mike.  However, that did not matter to Jo, as she was determine to break the curse that had ruined the lives of so many, including her own.

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And Jo succeeded in that mission:  with her help, Mike was able to stop the curse and save the life of an innocent, and was able to ensure that no further generations would suffer either.

Jo Noonan was a constant presence in this book.  Even when her ghost was not around, we got to know her through her husband, Mike Noonan, as she was such a big part of his life, even after she died.  Even though she technically not living, this fact was easy to forget, as Mike’s memories served to paint a vivid portrait of her, making her as essential to the story as the living cast.


9.  Abra Stone (Dr. Sleep)

In many of King’s works, children are put in perilous situations.  Often, these children are faced with some adult situations that call for adult decisions.  And a wrong decision can literally be the difference between life and death.

Abra Stone is one of these “King children.”  And there are a couple of reasons why she is on this list.  One of them is that she is female.  She may be just a teenager when the events of Dr. Sleep take place, but she is forced to do quite a bit of growing up in a relatively short period of time, earning her a place on this list of distinguished women.  Another reason is that she is simply an ass kicker.  There is no other way to put it.

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In the novel Dr. Sleep, the grown-up Danny Torrance (of redrum fame from The Shining) is a major player.  Most of the adults that were in Danny’s life as a child failed him (especially his father.)  So it is up to Danny to not fail Abra, a girl who possesses PSI abilities similar to his own, although hers are much stronger than his ever will be.  And Danny succeeds in that mission, quite admirably.

However, Danny’s success was heavily tied to Abra and her abilities.  Abra is an extremely brave young woman who takes on the leader of a clan of psychic vampires who call themselves the “True Knot.”  In doing so, Abra risks her own, along with the lives of her loved ones.  The clan has cheated death for centuries, and is determined to “harvest” Abra’s abilities so that they may continue to cheat death for many more years.

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However, with the help of Abra, Danny is able to defeat this clan once and for all, saving the life of Abra and possibly several others.  In other words, Abra was able to work with Danny so that Danny could succeed where his father had failed.  Abra was able help Danny achieve something that he desperately needed:  redemption.


8)  Margaret White (Carrie)

No story is complete without a good bad guy.

Or bad gal, as the case may be.

Carrie is King’s first published work.  The book definitely has this feel, and makes for an interesting read.

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The title character, Carrie White, is fascinating in her own right.  As a survivor of childhood bullying myself, I identify with Carrie White on many, many levels.  In fact, I am pretty amazed that I survived high school and didn’t burn down my school on prom night (the fact that I could not get a date to prom to save my life has absolutely nothing to do with this.)

But the real strength of this book, at least to me, lies in the villains.  I could consider Carrie’s schoolmates to be villains (and they are pretty awful) but to me, Margaret White, the mother of Carrie, is the true villain of the book.

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Margaret is a religious fanatic who strives to raise her daughter to become the same way.  However, Carrie attempts to defy Margaret so that she can fit in with her peers and be accepted somewhere.  Usually, these efforts fail, and Carrie is left feeling even worse, which causes her mother to retreat even further into her religion, worsening the cycle.

Sex is considered dirty by Margaret White, and she does not explain “the birds and the bees” to her daughter.  Therefore, when Carrie gets her first menstrual period at age 17, all hell literally breaks loose.  Carrie thinks that she is dying, as she has no knowledge of what is a perfectly occurrence.  She is further alienated by her peers.  One of these girls feels some guilt, and attempts to help Carrie fit in by having her boyfriend take Carrie to her prom.  Carrie fights her mother, who vehemently opposes any kind of normalcy, in order to try to fit in with her peers once again.  However, once again, this backfires, but in a horrific way that no one could have imagined.

Margaret White

Throughout the book, Margaret White’s presence is felt, even up to the conclusion of the story.  If it had not been for Margaret’s fanaticism, the outlook for poor Carrie may have been quite different, and the reign of destruction experienced by her classmates, teachers and ultimately her mother, may not have happened at all.  So, in essence, Margaret White created the monster, and suffered the horrific consequences, along with many others.


7.  Dolores Claiborne (Dolores Claiborne)

Domestic abuse is a common theme in many King works, including It, Rose Madder, ‘Salem’s Lot, Insomnia and many others.  King writes about the every day issues we are all familiar, and domestic abuse is unfortunately one of those issues.

Dolores Claiborne is another King novel that deals with the issue of domestic abuse.  However, there is a twist:  Dolores Claiborne is one of the few stories of abuse told entirely from the perspective of the abused, a middle-aged woman named Dolores Claiborne.

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Dolores endures some horrific abuse from her husband, Joe.  Finally, Dolores takes a stand, and the abuse against her comes to a stop.  But the spousal abuse is only the beginning, as Joe transfers his aggression to someone else:  his and Dolores’ teenage daughter, Selena.  Joe begins to sexually abuse Selena, and Selena’s innocence is forever lost.  And Dolores realizes that her battle is not over.

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At first, Dolores looks for a peaceful solution to her problem.  But society reminds her that she is a woman and powerless against the hierarchy.  So Dolores decides to forget the peaceful solution and resorts to killing her husband, making it look like an accident.  Society and her husband have pushed her, and she pushes back the only way she can: a fatal “accident” that does indeed turn out to be “her best friend.”

However, Dolores is NOT a cold-blooded killer.  She is a loving, hard-working mother who is doing the best she can for her family.  The law is not on her side and society has marginalized her.  But she has not given up the fight, and ultimately rises above it all.


6)  Sadie Dunhill (11/22/63)

Behind every good man, there is a good woman.  Or something like that, as the saying goes.  In other words, much of life is a partnership, and it really does take two to tango.

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And this was the case in the novel 11/22/63.  Jake Epping travels back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  In preventing the assassination of the president, Jake hopes to change history for the better.

Initially, Jake is alone in his question.  But this is not the case for long.  Jake meets and falls in love with Sadie Dunhill, a beautiful young woman who is in the midst of divorcing her abusive husband.  And Jake’s quest becomes even more complicated.

Ultimately, Sadie takes a bullet and sacrifices her life so that Jake may succeed in his quest.  When she learns of Jake’s mission, Sadie becomes an advocate, never letting Jake forget why he traveled back in time.  She encourages Jake along the way and becomes as passionate about his mission as Jake.  Her relationship with Jake changes Jake for the better, making him more vulnerable, opening him up to his feelings.

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Sadie is also amazing in her own right.  She has the courage to leave her husband at a time when divorce was heavily frowned upon, especially for women.  She fights back against her husband in two different timelines, and wins both times, even when she did not have the help of Jake.  Sadie survives her divorce, and makes a difference in the world (in both timelines.)


5.  Susan Delgado (Wizard and Glass)

Again, children in the Stephen King universe are often placed in awful situations.  This is a prevailing theme, and is a theme in the book Wizard and Glass.

Roland and Susan

Susan Delgado is still a child at the beginning of the story of Roland Deschain’s youth.  However, she falls in love with Roland and is forced to grow up quickly.  Because of the bad decisions made by the adults in Susan’s life, her life becomes endangered when she commits the sin of falling in love with Roland.

However, Susan is not just a love interest for Roland.  She is much more than that, and becomes an integral part of his ka-tet.  Susan risks her life to help Roland and his friends fight The Good Man and his forces, which include include most of the people in her town, who have turned against the Affiliation.  And she pays the ultimate price for her bravery:  she is burned alive for “treason.”  But Susan is never bitter about her fate, and her last words are her declaration of love for Roland.

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Throughout Wizard and Glass, Susan realizes that because she is a woman, life will not necessarily be “fair.”  She deals with her greedy aunt, an evil witch and unwanted sexual advances from a man nearly old enough to be her grandfather.  However, she remains true to herself until the very end, and is ultimately responsible for Roland beginning his quest to save the Dark Tower.


4) Susannah Dean (The Dark Tower series)

When one thinks of the Dark Tower series, Roland Deschain naturally comes to mind.  And Roland Deschain is a huge part of this series, as he is the main protagonist.

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However, Roland is not alone in this quest.  He had friends once, but they were lost.  But someone (or something) decided that he needed friends again.

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Enter Susannah Dean.  And Odetta Holmes.  And Detta Walker.  No, Roland was not given three women.  He was given one woman (along with another man, a young boy and even a creature known as a billy-bumbler but this entry is for the ladies only.)

When Roland first meets Susannah, she is a broken woman who literally does not know her true self.  One self goes by the name of Odetta Holmes, and is educated, well-spoken and gentle.  However, another personality, Detta Walker, wages war inside Susannah.  Detta is rude, crude and volatile, and threatens to destroy Susannah’s mind completely.

Eventually, Odetta and Detta are united, and a new being emerges:  Susannah Dean.  Susannah Dean has now married one of her tet mates.  She has also become a gunslinger, and a brave one at that, who refuses to back down from anyone or anything.  Susannah becomes the heart of the ka-tet, and makes sure that Roland retains a least a little of his humanity as he grows closer and closer to reaching his goal.

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Susannah endures unspeakable pain in the name of Roland’s quest.  First, she loses her husband, Eddie Dean.  Then she loses Jake Chambers, her spiritual son.  But Susannah is a survivor, until the very end, and reaches her own Dark Tower when she is finally reunited with her husband and son.


3)  Lisey Landon (Lisey’s Story)

A common theme in King’s work is the often taboo subject of mental illness.  Many of his books deal with this topic in its various facets.

One of these books is the novel Lisey’s Story.  Lisey’s Story can be considered a fantasy novel that is also a metaphor for the the creative process.  Lisey’s Story has much to say about mental illness as well, including its effects on the loved ones of people who suffer from mental illness.

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Before she meets Scott, Lisey is ordinary.  However, when she chooses to spend her life with Scott, it becomes clear that Lisey is no ordinary woman.

Scott Landon is a brilliant but troubled writer.  Mental illness has had tragic consequences for Scott’s family, and Scott (rightfully) fears tragic consequences for himself and anyone else who is close to him (namely, his wife, Lisey.)  However, Lisey loves Scott, and is determined to stand by him, no matter what kind of sacrifices that she may have to make.

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Lisey becomes Scott’s anchor.  When Scott becomes trapped in a kind of no-man’s land, Lisey is able to rescue him.  Lisey realizes that Scott is not ordinary either, but still accepts Scott along with all of his peculiarities.

Even in death, Lisey is still firmly anchored to Scott.  However, in order to save herself, Lisey must rely on her own strength.  And she is able to do just that, which allows her to return to the land of the living so that she can hear one last story from Scott, and allow him his final peace.


2)  Rose McLendon (Rose Madder)

I am a survivor of domestic abuse.  For years, I lived in hell.  At times, I thought that I would not live to see my 30th birthday (I was 29 when I escaped.)  I felt alone and carried a huge burden on my shoulders, as no one outside my relationship knew about about the abuse.  This was the case for many years, even after I escaped my first marriage.  The fact that I kept this secret for so long nearly destroyed me emotionally.  Even now, as I write this paragraph, the tears still well up in my eyes.

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But something kept me going for all of these years.  That something was the book Rose Madder.

Rose McLendon endures years of abuse and humiliation from her husband, Norman.  Rose finally escapes and attempts to build a new life in another city 800 miles away.  But the past catches up with her, when her husband Norman (who is also a police officer) tracks her down, killing several people who were friends of Rose and who helped her to build her new life.

Rose battles with her husband and wins that battle, even though she requires some help.  She goes on with her life and gets married again and has a daughter a daughter with her second husband.

I enjoyed the fact that Rose was able to defeat her husband, but my favorite part of this book was the description of the aftermath.  Even after Norman is no longer in her life, Rose still struggles.  She experiences anger over her ordeal that she has repressed for many years, and this threatens her new life.  Eventually, Rose is able to get her troubles under control, but struggles for some time.

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Most of the focus on abusive relationships is on leaving the abuser.  And this is indeed a major step.  However, not much advice is given on how to cope with the aftermath.  Reading about Rose’s feelings, which were similar to my own, made me love the book and this character that much more.  In Rose McLendon, King has truly created the Every Woman.


And now, for my favorite female Stephen King character of all time…

drum-roll-please

Allow me the pleasure of introducing…

Beverly Marsh (It)

Yes, Beverly Marsh, the sole female member of the Losers Club, is my top female Stephen King character.  There are many reasons for this, so let’s talk about them.

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Beverly may not be endowed with any special powers.  She may not technically be a “gunslinger.”  But Beverly is extraordinary, and deserves her spot on this list.

When I was a child, I was not interested in the typical “girly” things.  I did not play with Barbie dolls.  Instead, many of my interests were “male.”  I liked the Ninja Turtles.  I preferred Thundercats to whatever was marketed to girls at the time.

Because of my interests, I often felt that there was something wrong with me.  Nobody quite knew what to do with me, including my own family.  I thought that I was the one who needed to change, as opposed to thinking that our society needed to change and become more accepting of someone like me.

Then, when I was 12 years old, I read It.  And I met Beverly Marsh.  Beverly didn’t like “girl” things either.  Beverly could hang with the boys and hold her own.  Beverly was tough and seemed fearless.  And it didn’t hurt that Beverly was also tall and a redhead, two things that I absolutely hated about myself at the time.

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Beverly may have faced an evil clown (twice!) but her extraordinary qualities extend way beyond that fact.  Don’t get me wrong, facing Pennywise the Clown on a semi-regular basis is nothing to sneeze at, but Beverly had to endure so much more.

As I have stated time and time again, one of King’s strengths as a writer is the fact that he writes about ordinary life so well.  And this is evident in a book like It.  The homicidal clown is just one facet of this book.  Compared to what the kids had to face on a daily basis, Pennywise was actually pretty mild.

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And Beverly had to endure so much real-life horror.  For starters, she was an outcast.  She was poor, so she was bullied.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, she was abused by her father, and in the summer of 1958, that abuse began to take on sexual overtones.  Of course, there was no refuge for Beverly, as most adults, even her mother, turned a blind eye on the abuse.

Even after facing Pennywise the first time, the horror did not end for Beverly.  She went on to marry an abusive man, and was trapped in a nightmare for several years.  However, it was a strength of a childhood promise that compelled her to finally fight back, and escape from the nightmare, once and for all.

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In facing Pennywise for the second time, Beverly finally finds her footing and a confidence that was missing for most of her life.  She is even able to find love, as she marries a fellow Loser, Ben Hanscom.  Beverly rode off into the sunset with Ben, but she earned that ride, given what she had to overcome.  And a clown living in the sewers was the least of it.


So there you have it.

My top 10 ladies in the Stephen King universe.  I am sure that maybe I missed a few, but this list did have to be cut down to 10.

Like all of King’s characters, these ladies are fascinating and are an integral part to the stories that they appear in.  They are also proof that Stephen King is much more than a writer of horror; he is also a writer who understands the human condition, along with the female condition.

And whoever you are, man or woman, do yourself a big favor and pick up one or more of these books, if you haven’t already, so that you can meet some fascinating characters and escape into the never-boring  world known as a Stephen King book.

RoaldDahl

People Can Be So Tasteless: My Review of Our Town

Often, when one is a fan of something, there are conflicting feelings.

On the one hand, it’s similar to being in love:  you want the whole world to know, and you tend to bore people, as you talk non-stop about your new love.

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On the other hand, you tend to be a little possessive.  Your new love is great.  Really great.  And if something is really great, like chocolate, why would you want to share?  Me, I like having my chocolate all to myself…I may love you, but I am not sharing that chocolate!

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Well, the above describes my feelings when I started watching The X Files perfectly.  I loved it!  Finally, a show dealing with the supernatural and other kooky topics that no one wanted to talk about, at least on network TV.  And it didn’t hurt that the show’s leads were smoking hot, either!

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But on the other hand, feeling like I was the only person watching it, (well, besides my dad, who actually got me into the show to begin with) made me special.  And the father-daughter bonding was nice too, since I am pretty certain I was either walking 20 feet in front of my parents, or 20 feet behind them, whenever we were seen in any remotely public place.  But we could bond over The X Files, and marvel over just how far the show went this week, what a work of genius it was really was, and that if everyone was cool like us, they would have no problem staying in on Friday nights and hanging with Mulder and Scully!

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But, like all loves, nothing really stay secret for long.  People began to talk about The X Files. I am not exactly sure when it became more “mainstream”, but I do remember when people began to talk.  And people began to talk for a good reason.

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Yes, the airing of the episode Our Town marked a watershed moment, at least for me, in terms of fandom.  And for good reason:  we actually had a show, on network TV (even it was Fox, which has only begun available as a standard channel relatively recently.  Yes, I am so old that I remember when the Fox network was blacked out…good times!), that dealt with one of the most taboo topics of all time: cannibalism.  Yes, for some reason, the discussion of man eating man is not one that is considered family friendly affair!  So of course our good friend Chris Carter needed to have an episode about it.  And that episode created chatter.  For once, I could talk with my peers and teachers at school, and we could agree on something:  that episode was nasty!

And trust me, that episode has withstood the test of time:  it is still nasty!  I watched it this weekend, and I will still never look at fried chicken the same way again…again, good times!

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of Our Town.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Our Town begins with a middle aged man and a young, attractive woman who sneak out in the woods near the town of Dudley, Arkansas, with amorous intentions.  The man has a seizure, but takes some pills for it, and follows the woman out into the woods, as she has run ahead of him.  The man loses sight of the woman, but is attacked by someone in a tribal mask with an ax.  The ax descends up the man, killing him.

The man’s name is George Kearns, who also worked as an inspector for the Chaco Chicken Plant in Dudley, Arkansas, and Agent Mulder and Agent Scully are assigned to investigate his disappearance a few weeks later.  Scully feels that the case is a waste of their time and a diversion from any “real” work, but Mulder argues that the disappearance may have a supernatural cause.

Mulder and Scully investigate place where some unusual fires have been spotted, and find the remains of a large bonfire.  They are interrupted by the local sheriff, Tom Arens, who tells the agents the fires are the result of the locals burning trash illegally.  Sheriff Arens also tells Mulder and Scully that George Kearns was a womanizer, who made himself unpopular in town because he had filed several health code violations against the plant.  The agents also interview Kearns’ wife, Doris, who appears nervous, but unconcerned over her husband’s disappearance.

The next day, Paula Gray, the young woman from the forest, prepares for her shift at the plant.  She appears irritable and nervous, dry swallowing some pills before her shift.  Mulder and Scully visit the plant and question Jess Harold, the shift manager, about George Kearns.  Harold informs the agents that no one was worried about Kearns’ report, as three other inspectors had given the plant excellent ratings. Harold also tells the agent the Kearns had a bone to pick with everyone, including the federal government.  Kearns had also filed a workers’ compensation claim against the plant, claiming that his work gave him terrible headaches.  The conversation is interrupted by Paul, who has begun to hallucinate and has taken Harold hostage, holding a knife to his neck.  Scully attempts to calm the woman, but Sheriff Arens fatally shoots her, and Paula falls into a feed grinder.

After the incident, Scully speaks to the plant doctor, Dr. Randolph.  Dr. Randolph tells her that he had treated both Paula and George for headaches and insomnia, but never made any official diagnosis on either one, as he believed that the symptoms were due to stress.  Scully asks for permission to perform an autopsy on Paula, but his told by the doctor that she will need to ask Walter Chaco, who is the owner of the plant and Paula’s grandfather and legal guardian.  Mulder and Scully speak to Mr. Chaco, who reluctantly agrees to allow Scully to perform the autopsy.

Scully examines the remains of Paula, and discovers that she was suffering from Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, and had only a few months to live.  It is also discovered that Paula was 47 years old, even though she appeared to be in her mid-twenties.  Mulder wonders if Paula and George both suffered from Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, but Scully tells him that would be statistically impossible, as the disease is hereditary and non communicable.  The conversation is interrupted yet again by a van that is wildly swerving on the road.  The van misses the agents, and crashes into the nearby river.  The driver has been exhibiting the same symptoms as George and Paula.

Scully theorizes that George Kearns was killed to keep him silent in regards to any health violations that the plant was committing, and that his body was dumped into the plant’s feed grinder to dispose of it, therefore contaminating the chickens.  Mulder disagrees with the theory, as the chicken meat is a product nation-wide, and that there should have been a nation-wide epidemic of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, as opposed to a local outbreak.

Mulder and Scully speak to the sheriff and request that the river be “dragged.”  The result is the exhumation of a large pile of human bones.  Scully examines the bones and identifies George Kearns among the remains.  Scully also notices the ends of the bones are smooth, as if they have been buffed, and that the skulls are missing.  Mulder thinks that the bones are smooth because they have been boiled, and that the townspeople practice cannibalism.  Scully says that if Mulder is right, the outbreak of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease would have been caused by the townspeople consuming the contaminated remains of George Kearns.  Mulder also notes that 87 people have disappeared from the town over the past several decades, and that all of the disappeared were “outsiders” in some way.  Mulder also thinks that Paula’s youthful appearance can be explained by the cannibalism, as many cultures practiced cannibalism in order to prolong their lifespans.

Dr. Randolph and Harold confer at the plant.  The townspeople are growing uneasy, due to the spread of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease and the presence of the FBI agents. Harold promises he will speak to Chaco, who will listen to him.

Harold speaks to Chaco, who reassures him that he can handle the problems.  Doris also pays a visit to Harold, as she has grown tired from keep the town’s secrets and is feeling guilty over her part in her husband’s death.  Chaco reassures her, and tells Doris to go home and get some rest.

Mulder and Scully discover that all the birth records at the town’s courthouse have been burned.  Mulder receives a call from Doris, who tells him she needs to speak to him.  Scully goes to meet Doris, while Mulder heads to Chaco’s house to take Chaco into custody.  However, Doris is murdered by someone in a mask before Scully arrives.

Mulder arrives at Chaco’s house and is told Chaco is not home.  Mulder discovers some interesting memorabilia at Chaco’s house, including a picture of Chaco next to a WWII fighter plan, a human skull and four shrunken heads.  Chaco appears to be the same ago as he was in the pictures of him taken during WWII, which were taken 50 years prior.  It is also revealed that Chaco spent some time in Papua New Guinea with a group of people known to practice cannibalism.  Mulder receives a call from Scully, who tells him she is at Doris’ house but cannot find Doris.  However, Chaco is hiding in the house and attacks Scully, and Scully’s phone goes silent.

Chaco arrives at a town meeting, where the townspeople are lined up to receive portions of a “stew,” with Scully as his captive.  Chaco tells the people of the town that they have lost control and should not have killed Doris.  Harold tells Chaco that he is no longer fit to be town leader, and disarms Chaco of his gun.  Chaco is then forced into a metal harness and decapitated.

Scully is then placed into a metal harness.  However, Mulder shows up just in time and shoots her would-be executioner.  None of the townspeople are arrested, as most of them flee the scene while Mulder is busy freeing Scully.  Mulder and Scully remove the mask from her would-be executioner, who is revealed to be Sheriff Arens.

The chicken plant is closed by the Arkansas authorities.  Before the plant is closed, a worker is seen emptying a bucket of chicken feed from the trough and carrying it to the chickens.  The worker reaches into the feed and finds a clump of gray hair (presumably belonging to Walter Chaco).  The worker shrugs and continues to feed the chickens.


 

My Thoughts

First of all, I would just like to congratulate myself on the timing of this re-watch, given all the jokes and memes about snacks and how some people are just poor planners

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Maybe those folks should save themselves the trouble and just pay a visit to Dudley, Arkansas…no shortage of snacks there!  The people there are always willing to have you for dinner!

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Oh wait, they want someone to bring them snacks, not to be the snacks…well, it was a worth a try, anyway!

Our Town is a disturbing, creepy and even one of the more disgusting episodes of The X Files.  And it’s also hilarious!

Yes, you heard me right…it is hilarious.  Like in so many other episodes that deal with gross and even taboo topics, Our Town contains some much needed humor.

One of my favorite funny scenes is when the agents come to the realization of what is really going on in Dudley, and realize that they have to take action.  Scully apparently got the munchies and brought in a big bucket of chicken.  And the look on her face when she drops that chicken like it’s a grenade…you couldn’t pay her to eat anywhere in Dudley after that point…I loved it!

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Believe it or not, Our Town was a episode that was also a ‘shipper’s dream…

Yes, a ‘shipper.  There, I said it…

A ‘shipper, for the uninitiated is someone who believes that your protagonists, who pretend to be just friends, keeping it strictly platonic, blah blah, should become a couple.  And, in the case of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, the ‘shippers were on to something, as the chemistry between was just unbelievable.  For years, Mulder and Scully were my favorite television “not a couple.”

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And it was episodes like Our Town that made me long for the ‘ship…

The look on Mulder’s face when Scully’s call cuts off…we know that Scully had been abducted, and was probably still dealing with the trauma from that abduction.  And Mulder was also dealing with that trauma as well.  You could practically hear his thoughts, as he raced to save Scully from those horrible people who couldn’t be bothered to bring their own snacks, as FBI agents would do just fine, thank you.  The rescue and look on Mulder’s face once he frees Scully from her captor…well, that momentarily made me long for the ‘ship that could be!

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Ok, you have read this far, so let’s get to the good stuff already!

Yes, the cannibalism.  Since you know that’s what you really want to talk about!

Cannibalism is gross.  Cannibalism is gruesome.  Cannibalism actually scares me shitless.

So, of course I have to joke about it…don’t worry, it’s all in good taste (see what I did there)!

Human flesh can be the ultimate snack, at times…

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Sometimes, you just get a taste for “long pork“…

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Or those friends (who shall remain anonymous, now that they are blog fodder) who tell you that if you get stranded on a desert island with them, they will have no qualms about resorting to cannibalism if necessary!

On a side note, boiling a ham bone to make a stock after watching this episode is not recommended.  Trust me, your mind will conjure some unpleasant images…or is that just me?

But cannibalism really does scare me to death (hence the horrible jokes).  Humans eating other humans is another taboo, ranking up there (or maybe down there) with incest.  Any movie or show that deals with cannibalism is sure to come with some sort of warning label, and for a good reason:  the thought of humans eating their own kind is just horrifying!

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If any species had to resort to cannibalism, that particular species would not survive for very long.  After all, if you can’t find a food source, then you probably don’t deserve to survive, after all.  So, like incest, cannibalism had to become taboo, to ensure survival as a species.  And the distaste for it is almost instinctive:  I remember finding out that cannibalism existed when I was around 7 or 8, and being absolutely horrified.  This caused me many a nightmare, and the subject still horrifies me to this day.

Our Town 2

But although cannibalism is taboo, it also seems to have a bad ass quality about it.  Several tribes throughout history have been known to consume the remains of their enemies.  Sometimes this was done because people believed that by consuming the remains of an enemy, that the powers of the enemies would be passed on to them, strengthening their powers that much more.  However, sometimes cannibalism was practiced as the ultimate act of disrespect, or the final “fuck you” to the enemies.  In other words, it wasn’t enough that the enemies were dead, they needed to be consumed as well, so that they could not be given a proper burial and safe passage to the afterlife.  Also, some people believed (like the tribe mentioned in this episode), that by practicing cannibalism, they would obtain eternal life, or at least slow the aging process.  And we are all afraid of death.  However, some are more afraid than others, and will resort to extreme tactics to avoid or at least slow down the inevitable.

Humans are at the top of the food chain (or would like to believe so, at least).  And no species want to lose that spot on the food chain.  So we take measures to make certain acts, like cannibalism, repulsive.  In other words, we make it a taboo, so that it does not become acceptable.  Mostly, it works.  But sometimes, people forgot.  And the forgetting would have consequences which were sometimes dire.  However, dire consequences are needed, lest we become, in the words Walter Chaco, “not worth saving.”

Our Town 7


 

Well, that’s a wrap for Our Town…I hope this post was in good taste (ok, I will stop now…maybe)!

silence of the lambs

Join me next week, as we review and dissect another classic, Darkness Falls.

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

batman and robin

 

 

 

 

Picture This: My Review of Duma Key

Art is life.

Life is art.

Art imitates life.

Life imitates art.

Art…well…

Anyone who knows me knows that art is extremely important to me.  It is one of my favorite forms of expression.  I am always drawing, painting, woodburning, glass etching…

So I guess I am a little obsessed…this guy might understand something about that…

Roland 14

But art has kept me.  Kept me from losing my mind when my ex had legal troubles of the worst kind, and that was all he would talk about, day in and day out.  Kept me from feeling completely worthless after I finally left my ex (yes, the same one), and going out of my mind with loneliness.  Recently, I had to euthanize my poor 15 year old dog Igloo, who had been my best friend for about the same length of time.  This was one of the most agonizing decisions that I had to make, and I questioned it constantly, never sure that I was doing the right thing, even though I saw the gratitude in her eyes at the very end.  The next night, I finished a woodburning piece with the phrase “Stand and be true” included on it.  The irony was not lost on me, reminding me once again that coincidence had been cancelled.  The tears came, but it was cathartic and I needed it.  Once again, art healed me when I was at my most broken.

critters 1 007

So, art has kept me.  Kept me in the land of the living when it seemed nothing else would.  And I imagine that is true for most creative people.  We may appear to be escaping, but really, we do it so that we can stay engaged with “the real world.”  And art, of any kind (literature, paintings, comic books, you name it), is just one of the few things that makes “the real world” just a little less cold.

And one those things that makes our world a little less could is…wait for it…

Yes, a Stephen King book!

Stephen King

Don’t be surprised, it is this blog, after all.

The art of Stephen King has been making my world brighter for the past 25 years, and I imagine that he has been brightening the worlds of many, many other folks as well.  He is an artist, and much needed warmth in our world.

I am also sure that, like most other artists, King needs his art to stay engaged, especially after the horrific accident that nearly claimed his life.  I would like to think that thoughts of writing more books and finishing his magnum opus helped to keep him engaged with “the real world”, and provided a source of healing for him when he needed it the most.

Enter the novel, Duma Key.  On one hand, it is a ghost story…Perse on her ghost ship…shudder.  But on the other hand, Duma Key is about art, and the healing qualities that art can have on the human spirit.  Once again, King has taken the ghost story, and elevated it so that it is no longer a ghost story, but something far more than the tale of a haunted island.  But then again, we are talking about The Master, after all!

Without further ado, here is my recap and review of Duma Key.

Oh, and don’t forget:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

At the beginning of Duma Key, we are introduced to a man named Edgar Freemantle, or Eddie.  Edgar is a seemingly ordinary man:  he is married, owns a successful construction company and is the loving father to two children, Ilse and Melinda.  However, all of that changes when Edgar is in a near fatal accident on a job site, when his truck collides with a crane.  As a result of that accident, Edgar loses his right arm.  He also suffers severe brain damage, and his personality undergoes a drastic change for a time.  Edgar is unable to control his anger after the accident and stabs his wife Pam with a plastic butter knife, and also tries to choke her.  Edgar also has trouble with language, and is unable to find the right word for common objects and even the people he loves.  This contributes to his anger problems, but Edgar undergoes much therapy and slowly begins to recover.  However, Edgar’s marriage never recovers from the fallout of the accident, and Pam files for divorce shortly afterwards.  Edgar is devastated, but understands how Pam feels and does not contest the divorce.  Edgar also begins seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Kamen, who gives him a doll to use as a punching bag for his rages.  Edgar names the doll Reba, and becomes attached to her.  Dr. Kamen suggests that Edgar consider a geographic change. Edgar agrees, and decides to temporarily re-locate to Florida from his Minnesota home, and picks a house on the island of Duma Key, located off the coast of Florida.  Dr. Kamen also suggests that Edgar take up a hobby to keep his mind off of his injuries and other problems.  Edgar remembers that he used to enjoy drawing, and packs his art supplies when he moves.  Money is no object, as the success of Edgar’s construction company will allow him to live out the rest of his life in comfort.

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We are also introduced to a small girl who seems to have suffered a similar injury to Edgar’s, but the events are indicated to have taken place many years ago.

Edgar arrives on the island of Duma Key and is introduced to Jack Cantori, a college student who will be driving Edgar to places he needs to go, and also assisting him with duties such as grocery shopping.  Edgar immediately likes Jack and is glad to have his assistance.  Edgar also falls in love with his rental house on first sight.  The house is nicknamed “Big Pink”, and Edgar finds immediate peace in his surroundings.

duma key 9

Edgar continues to convalesce at Big Pink and Duma Key.  He also continues to hone his drawing skills, sometimes adding in a surreal element to his work.  Many people, including his psychiatrist, Dr. Kamen, tell Edgar that he has a real talent and should consider a second career in the arts.  Edgar walks on the beach, which helps him with his mobility and makes him less dependent on pain killers.  On the beach, he sees a middle aged man and elderly woman, and the man waves at Edgar every time he sees them.  Edgar also finds out the his daughter Ilse has a new boyfriend, and is somehow able to draw a picture of the young man, even though he has never seen him.  Edgar  finds out that Ilse is engaged, through his clairvoyant visions.

Ilse visits Edgar shortly after Christmas, and the two take a drive on the island to the lone other house on the island.  However, this drive does not go well.  Ilse becomes violently ill and Edgar’s missing limb begins to madly itch.  Edgar is able to drive his daughter back to the house so that she can recover.  While Ilse is resting, Edgar is overcome with an urge to draw, and draws a picture of what appears to be his anger doll Reba surrounded by an ocean of tennis balls.  Ilse is impressed with the drawing, so Edgar gives it to her, naming it The End of the Game. Edgar receives a call from the owner of the other house on the island, an elderly woman named Elizabeth Eastlake.  Elizabeth is kind and cordial to Edgar, but warns him that Duma Key is a dangerous place for daughters, and to immediately send Ilse away from the island. Ilse also confirms that she is indeed engaged to her new boyfriend, and Edgar experiences a sense of dread, and thinks that Ilse is moving too fast in her relationship.  Ilse also convinces Edgar to invest in some paints and canvases, which he does after dropping her off at the airport so that she can return to college.

After Ilse leaves, Edgar continues to hone his craft, becoming better and better at painting.  He also researches limb loss and “phantom limb syndrome”, and finds out that there are others who have experienced strange happenings after the loss of a limb.  Edgar asks Pam for a pair of her old gardening gloves, telling her that he wishes to include those in one of his paintings.  However, he is really trying to find out if Pam is dating another man by using his clairvoyant abilities.  Edgar continues his walks on the beach, and the middle aged man tells him to come join him and the elderly woman when Edgar is able.

We also learn more about the young girl who suffered a head injury years ago.  The young girl has also developed the ability to produce extraordinary drawings that sometimes predict events that the little girl could have no knowledge of.

Edgar decides he wants to use Pam’s gloves to try paint his ex-wife.  He almost talks himself out of the attempt, but falls down on the floor.  However, when he falls, he is able to touch the floor and save himself with his missing right hand.  Edgar then appears to become possessed, and produces a painting of ex-wife.  The painting reveals that Pam has had a relationship with a man in California who lives in her parents’ neighborhood.  Edgar also learns that Pam has had an affair with his friend and accountant, Tom Riley.  Edgar is upset by this vision, but tries to forget about it and move on.  He titles the painting “Friends With Benefits.”

duma key 3

Edgar finally makes the acquaintance of the middle-aged man that he has seen while walking on the beach.  The man is named Jerome Wireman, but tells Edgar that most people call him “Wireman.”  In talking with Wireman, Edgar learns more about the island and its peculiar history.  Wireman tells him that his employer, Elizabeth Eastlake, owns the house Edgar is renting and a few other properties.  Wireman also informs Edgar that his rental house has been occupied by several artists, the most notable name being Salvador Dali.  Wireman invites Edgar to come visit him at Elizabeth’s Eastlake’s home, and Edgar agrees to take him up on the offer sometime.

Dali painting 1

When Edgar returns home, he receives news that a local art dealer wishes to look at his paintings, which makes him nervous.  However, Edgar does not cancel the appointment, as he has promised his daughter that he would meet with the art dealer.  Edgar also sees a vision of his friend, Tom Riley.  Tom appears to be dead, and Edgar thinks that he will commit suicide.  Edgar is unable to reach Tom, but is able to reach Wireman.  Edgar tells Wireman that he needs to talk, and Wireman invites him for a visit the next day.

Edgar visits Wireman and tells him of all the strange happenings since he moved to the island, including his vision of Tom Riley.  Wireman tells Edgar that he must talk to Pam about Tom Riley, even though the conversation may be uncomfortable and that Pam may not believe his story.  Edgar also meets Elizabeth Eastlake, who immediately knows that Edgar is an artist, and shows him a sketch that Salvador Dali had given her when he stayed in the house.  We also learn that Elizabeth has Alzheimer’s disease, and is not always of clear mind.  Before he leaves, Edgar reads to Elizabeth from a book of poetry, as she enjoys being read to.

Per his promise to Wireman, Edgar contacts Pam in regards to Tom Riley.  Pam is upset, but when the phone call ends Edgar is certain that she will act in regards to Tom.

There is a storm that night, and Edgar produces another painting that is of seashells on the beach, but also contains roses.  Edgar also has a vision of Wireman, and realizes that Wireman attempted suicide in the past but was not successful.

Jack, Wireman and Edgar head to the local gallery so that an art dealer can look at Edgar’s paintings.  The meeting is a success, and patrons offer to buy Edgar’s work on the spot.  Edgar also catches the attention of a local art critic named Mary Ire.  Jack, Wireman and Edgar go out to a nice restaurant to celebrate.  On the way home from the restaurant, Wireman suffers a seizure, and Edgar becomes worried.  However, Wireman brushes off Edgar’s concerns, and refuses to speak of his past.  Edgar also receives another message from Elizabeth Eastlake on his answer machine that night, again warning him that the island is not a safe place for his daughter.

duma key 6

The days pass, and Edgar continues to work on his painting.  He receives a call one day from Pam, who has confronted Tom Riley in regards to his intent to commit suicide.  Pam is angry with Edgar, and does not believe that he has clairvoyant powers.  Edgar tries to convince Pam otherwise, but she will not listen to him.

One afternoon, Edgar agrees to watch Elizabeth because Wireman is busy.  He discovers photos and information in regards to the Eastlake family.  He is also able to draw a picture that shows details of Pam’s life, such as her new television and her new cat.  Edgar relays this information to Pam, but she is still angry and accuses him of spying on her.

Edgar receives a frantic call from Wireman one afternoon.  Wireman has lost the vision in his left eye, and Edgar rushes him to the doctor.  The doctor tries to keep Wireman in the hospital, but Wireman refuses, as he knows his condition is deteriorating.  Wireman tells Edgar about the accident that caused his problems:  he attempted to commit suicide after the death of his wife and daughter, but was unsuccessful, as the bullet was deflected by an apple on his kitchen table.  However, the bullet lodged in his brain, causing his current problems.  Edgar and Wireman also hear of a man named George “Candy” Brown on the news.  Candy Brown was caught abducting a little girl on a mall video camera, and later murders the little girl.  Both men are horrified by the story.

That night, Edgar returns home and tries to sleep.  He is awakened in the middle of the night by the itching on his missing right arm.  Edgar then paints a picture of Candy Brown and the little girl he murdered.  After he is finished, Edgar returns to sleep, the itching in his missing arm gone.  The next morning, Edgar receives a call from Wireman.  Candy Brown passed away his sleep in his jail cell.  The official cause of death is sleep apnea.  Edgar again looks at his painting of Candy Brown, and notices that he painted the accused murder with no mouth or nose.

Edgar realizes that his paintings can alter reality, and that he may be able to help Wireman.  He takes one of the x-rays of Wireman’s brain that shows the bullet that has been lodged in his head for so many years.  He paints a picture of Wireman’s brain minus the bullet, and receives a call from Wireman that his headaches, which he had suffered from ever since his suicide attempt, have disappeared.  However, Wireman still does not have full vision in his left eye.

Realizing that there is more work that needs to be done, Edgar begins to paint Wireman’s portrait.  He also accepts the offer from the local art gallery, and makes plans to invite people, including Pam and his daughters, to his first show.  Edgar begins a series of paintings that he titles “Girl on Ship.”  He realizes that the “girl” is actually his daughter Ilse.  As he paints the ships, he begins to see lettering, namely a P, E and R.  Edgar wonders what the lettering spells, and is determined to find out what these letters will spell out.

duma key 7

One night, Edgar continues working on Wireman’s portrait. He paints in a frenzy, and has another vision after he is done painting for the night.  He sees two little girls, whom he recognizes as the ghosts of Elizabeth’s deceased twin sisters.  Edgar faints.  When he awakens, he receives a telephone call from Wireman, who tells Edgar that his vision has been restored.

Edgar makes his opening speech to introduce his artwork.  He is nervous at the beginning, but discovers that Dr. Kamen, his psychiatrist from Minnesota, is in the audience.  The speech is a success, and people are demanding that he sell his paintings.  Edgar catches the attention of Mary Ire, a local art critic.  Edgar meets with Ms. Ire, and learns that Elizabeth Eastlake may have also been an artist as a child.

Finally, it is the night of Edgar’s show.  Edgar has made sure that his close friends and family will be attending, but not staying on the island of Duma Key.  Per Elizabeth Eastlake, Edgar also instructs the art gallery to sell his “Girl In a Ship” paintings to separate buyers.

Edgar’s show is a huge success.  He is able to sell all of all paintings, bringing in nearly half a million dollars.  Edgar’s ex-wife, daughters, psychiatrist, Wireman, Jack and even Elizabeth Eastlake attend the show.  However, tragedy strikes when Elizabeth is stricken with a seizure that night. She warns Edgar of a being she calls Perse, and says that “she must be drowned in fresh water.”  Elizabeth also tells Edgar that there is a red picnic basket that he must find. Elizabeth is rushed to the hospital, but passes away that night.

Wireman shows Edgar an article published in the 1930’s in regards to Elizabeth.  The article confirms that Elizabeth was an artist, but gave it up when she was just a four year old child.  Elizabeth also suffered a brain injury similar to Edgar’s, and her artistic ability emerged shortly after her injury.

Edgar returns to his hotel, and seeks momentary comfort in the arms of Pam.  The next morning, Edgar also speaks to Ilse, who tells him that her boyfriend has cheated on her.  Edgar has a heart-to-heart with Ilse, and tells her not to rush things with her boyfriend.  He then sees his friends and family off, and returns to his hotel room.  Edgar receives a message from Wireman telling him that something odd has happened on the island and that he must return right away.

When Edgar returns to his home, he discovers that it is in a shambles.  He also discovers that Jack and Wireman have located the red picnic basket.  The picnic basket contains drawings and paintings that were the work of a young Elizabeth Eastlake.  Edgar realizes that he must find out her story, and that he must use his own artistic ability to do so.  Wireman agrees, but says he will check on Edgar to make sure that nothing happens to him.

Edgar begins to flesh out Elizabeth’s story through a series of drawings.  Her story is familiar and also tragic:  the being known as Perse used Elizabeth’s gifts for her own evil purposes.  When Elizabeth tried to stop her, Perse punished horribly, by murdering her sisters.  Edgar, however, is still unable to come up with a way to stop Perse.  When he returns to the downstairs part of his house, he sees the ship that carries Perse coming towards his house.  Edgar also encounters the ghost of a young man who is intent on harming him.  However, Wireman steps in just in time to save Edgar.

Jack, Wireman and Edgar convene, and Edgar relays what happened to them.  Edgar realizes that the ghost he saw was the fiancee of Elizabeth’s older sister, who was also likely a victim of Perse.  He also receives a call from Tom Riley.  Tom tells Edgar that he is dead, and intends to take Pam with him.  Edgar panics, and calls Pam.  Pam confirms that Tom has committed suicide.  Edgar tells her that she must warn anyone who has purchased his paintings, as Perse’s influence extends far.  Later, Edgar finds out that Dr. Kamen has died from a heart attack after purchasing one of Edgar’s paintings.  Pam assures Edgar that neither she nor their daughters have any of his paintings, but Edgar is still uneasy.

Edgar realizes that he must try to destroy Perse before she can do any more damage, and makes plans with Jack and Wireman to do just that, by the light of day.

Unable to sleep, Edgar awakens and remembers that he gave the drawing titled “Hello” to his daughter Ilse.  He calls Ilse, who has been under the spell of Perse.  Ilse believes Edgar to be dead.  Edgar reassures her that he is still alive, and tells her to burn the drawing.  Ilse complies, and Edgar goes back to sleep, believing his daughter to be safe.

The next morning, Edgar receives a frantic phone call from Pam.  Pam tells him that Ilse is now dead.  It turns out that Ilse has been murdered by Mary Ire, who later commits suicide.  Mary drowned Ilse in the bathtub before killing herself.  Edgar is grief-stricken, but still determined to defeat Perse.

Jack, Edgar and Wireman head to Elizabeth’s childhood home.  They encounter a few tricks, including a lawn jockey that appears to come to life, but are not fooled.  Underneath the stairs of the old mansion, Edgar finds Noveen, Elizabeth’s favorite childhood doll.  Jack is able to use his gift of ventriloquism to have the doll speak, and the doll speaks, even though it is actually the ghost of Nan Melda, Elizabeth’s childhood Nanny.  Nan Melda tells them that Edgar must paint, which he does.  Edgar spends hours in a painting frenzy.  The pictures reveal what happened to Elizabeth and her family, and how to defeat Perse.  Perse can only be defeated by drowning the doll that contains her essence in fresh water.  That doll is located in a cistern under the house.

The three men locate the pool, and Edgar locates the doll that represents Perse.  After a struggle, he is able to trap her into a flashlight so that she can be contained.   The three then head back to the house that Wireman shared with Elizabeth.  Edgar insists on heading back to Big Pink.  When he arrives, he encounters what appears to be his dead daughter, Ilse.  However, this is one final trick of Perse’s, and Edgar is able to resist, and defeats the entity one last time.

Some time later, Wireman travels to Minnesota to meet up with Edgar.  It is also revealed that Jack is currently attending college and has moved some miles from Duma Key.  Edgar and Wireman head out to a lake in Minnesota, which happens to be quite deep.  There, they drown the flashlight containing the essence of Perse, so that the creature is unable to do any further damage.  Wireman tells Edgar that he is heading to Mexico, where he plans on opening a resort.  He invites Edgar to join him.  However, Edgar never joins Wireman, as Wireman dies of a heart two months later.

Edgar travels to Duma Key, with the intent on creating one final piece of artwork.  And he paints one last picture:  a picture of a storm destroying the island.  After the painting is completed, the wind begins to blow.

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My Thoughts

Well, they say that the third time is the charm…

And I do believe that the nebulous group known as “they” may actually be correct, at least in regards to Duma Key.

See, this is the third read of Duma Key.  And it has taken me three times to finally appreciate it and love it…

I know, bad me!

breaking bad

And there is much to love and appreciate, in regards to this fine book!

First of all, Wireman…

I know he is probably a little old for someone who just turned 21 for the fifth time this year, but boy, does this nerdy blogger have quite the crush on him!

I can just hear him speaking Spanish to me…swoon…

Nero 1

Yes, he reminds of Nero from one of my (and The Master’s) all time favorite TV shows…what can I say?

Oh, and the reference to “water brothers” and Stranger in a Strange Land…that made me want to give him a wet, sloppy kiss that Duncan the pup at arms would envy!

And speaking of great characters, let’s not forget the main one, aka Edgar Freemantle.

I love Wireman, but I think I may have found another spirit animal in Eddie.

Obviously, the art.  I may work in the exciting industry of tax resolution and rock to the beat of IRS hold muzak, but I do consider myself to be an artist.  I even try my hand occasionally at the works of The Master…

Duma key acrylic

While I may not (thankfully) have had a traumatic brain injury, I feel a kinship with Edgar.  Like me, he used his art to draw himself back into the world, in a manner of speaking.  Like me, he often does not feel like he is complete, unless he is working on a piece of artwork.  And art really does draw some of us back into the “real” world.  Most artists, if their capacity to create more art is taken away from them, would probably wither like a flower that lacks sunshine and water.  I can relate when Edgar describes his need to paint as an “itch”;  often, I feel that itch myself.  And if I ignore it too long, it becomes unbearable and has to be let out, in the form of a painting, drawing or possibly a woodburning.  And it must be let out, for the sake of myself and anyone who is stuck caring for me and loving me.

And again, I have to give a shout out to Sai King for his treatment of mental illness in Duma Key.  King has dealt with this topic in a few of his other books, including Lisey’s Story, The Dark Tower series, Dreamcatcher and several others.  As always, King deals with the topic in a sensitive, thoughtful way and does not disappoint.  Wireman, Edgar and Elizabeth all suffer from various mental illnesses, including aphasia, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.  However, King is able to make these characters much more than their illnesses, and yet still make them sympathetic because of their various illnesses.  He does a fantastic job with Elizabeth in particular, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.  My grandmother has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for nearly four years now, so I am familiar with the lows of this condition.  There is nothing more heart-breaking that someone who has known you for your whole life being terrified of you because she thinks you are a complete stranger, and having to lie to that woman and telling her that yes, Grandpa is just in the next room and he will be back soon.  But the disease also has highs:  like Elizabeth, my grandmother is occasionally able to remember the past in perfect clarity, bringing back hope, at least momentarily.  And to paraphrase a certain writer, hope is a good thing, and also the best of things.

Red 1

While I think that Perse is a terrifying King villain, I consider this book to be more tragic than scary.  Again, that is the power of Stephen King:  he can scare you into a change of pants, and he can also make you reach for the tissue box in almost the very same breath.

For example, there is the scene that depicts the final confrontation with Perse, who comes to Edgar under the guise of his now deceased daughter, Ilse.  Yes, the scene was spooky.  The description of the apparition as a sandstorm did make me shiver.  But it also made me feel sad, seeing how tempted Edgar was by Perse, at the chance to see his daughter one last time. And then he literally watches his deceased daughter turn to dust. So Sai King creeped me out, and then gave me a case of the feelsies a few minutes later…yes, he is that talented!

duma key 2

I think that Duma Key must King’s most tragic book, or at least in the top five.  So.  Many.  Feelsies.

For example, Wireman.  Yes, we are back on that subject again.  But Wireman is one of King’s most tragic characters, along with being one of my book boyfriends.  He loses his wife and child literally moments apart from each other, attempts to commit suicide but is saved by an apple and then begins to lose his vision.  He also loses his one remaining family member when Elizabeth Eastlake passes away.  However, Edgar cures him of his blindness.  But he still passes away from a heart attack while dickering over tomatoes in Mexico…greedy old ka, as a certain character from  a certain other King series would say.

roland and susan 2

And the ending to this one.  King has had some interesting endings in his books (Under the Dome, The Stand, 11/22/63 and The Dark Tower series all come to mind, for various reasons).  But I think that the ending to Duma Key is probably his saddest.  Yes, the evil is technically defeated, after Perse is drowned in fresh water.  But did anyone really win?  Elizabeth did not, she was Perse’s last victim.  Wireman did not, he may have been cured of his blindness, but he died after escaping Duma Key and trying to make a life for himself.  Edgar was perhaps the biggest loser of all:  he lost his marriage, his daughter and his new-found calling as an artist.  He also lost Wiremen, who could be considered the last of his remaining family. So it turns out that Edgar has only one choice:  return to where it all started, and destroy it, no matter the cost.  And at that point Edgar has nothing to lose, as everything has been taken from him.  And he does just that:  destroys Duma Key, and ultimately puts his hobby to good use so that no one else will be subject to the suffering.

duma key 1


Any kind of creative process, whether it be writing a novel, painting on a blank canvass, composing a song or any other piece of art, often requires an enormous sacrifice.  The artist gives a piece of himself or herself, so that something new is born.  And often, demons are roused during this process, and must be faced.  So the creative process can be a battle.  Duma Key symbolizes this perfectly, reminding us of the pain, and also utter joy, that is the creative process.

duma key 5

 


 

 

Connections:

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

-Edgar’s abilities are strikingly similar to Patrick Danville’s abilities, another King character who is also an artist.  Patrick Danville is a character in the novels Insomnia and The Dark Tower, and he also has the ability to alter reality through his art.

Insomnia 4

The number 19 makes an appearance in Duma Key.  Edgar’s email address ends with the number 19, and the room number to Pam’s hotel room is 847 (the digits add up to 19).  The number 19 plays a huge role for Roland and his friends in the last three books of The Dark Tower series.

The-dark-tower-19

-Edgar shares the same last name as Abagail Freemantle, who is a main character in the novel The Stand.  The two also seem to share similar clairvoyant abilities.

Mother Abigail

-The house that Edgar lives in when he relocates to Duma Key is described as being pink in color.  In the novel Wizard and Glass, there is an object known as Maerlyn’s Grapefruit that is also pink in color, and whoever looks into that object gains clairvoyant abilities that are similar to the ones Edgar gains after he moves to Duma Key.

Maerlyn's rainbow

-Ilse tells Edgar that Perse talks to her through the drain in the kitchen sink.  This is similar to how Pennywise the Clown communicates to his intended victims in the novel It, and may suggest that Perse and Pennywise are the same type of creature.

balloon2

 

 

 

A Blood Curdling Look at Small Town Life: My Review of ‘Salem’s Lot

Ah, autumn…

Is there anything better/

What’s not to love about my favorite season?

The temperatures are finally cooling down…

(The fact that I live in South Carolina and am still wearing capris and a tank top while typing this is completely irrelevant.  I originally hail from the Barony of Indiana…and…well…you can take the girl out of Indiana, and I think we all know the rest…)

autumn 1

And the food too.  I can finally make soups and drink hot mulled apple cider without looking ridiculous…yum.

(But no pumpkin spice.  I am already pretty white, and ingesting anything with pumpkin in it…well, I just might be washed out!  Plus pumpkin spice is just plain nasty anyway.)

pumpkin spice meme 1

And Halloween is almost upon us!

Not that horror really needs a season…Michael Myers, Jack Skellington and Pennywise the Clown are welcome (in my head at least) any time of year!

Pennywise 5

As are Stephen King and his various creations! And not just in my head, either! Heck, if The Master wanted to visit me at my humble abode, who I am to turn him down?  (Hey, an obsessed fan can dream, can’t she?)

Stephen King

So yes, we are back to Stephen King.  A total surprise on the blog, I know.

But, again.  It’s fall.  It’s the season for monsters.  And serial killers.  And scary clowns.

And let’s not forget one of the baddest Big Bads of them all…

Yes, the vampire!  Those blood sucking, nasty evil creatures!

And for the record, real vampires don’t sparkle!  That’s right folks, you heard it on this little blog first!

Blade Twilight

No, I am talking about the ones that are bad ass motherfuckers!  The ones you DON’T want to run into in a dark alley!  The ones who may still be sexy in a creepy way, but who will still murder and/or enslave you in a heartbeat!

And vampires have permeated our culture.  They are everywhere, from the world of Anne Rice, to the Twilight trilogy (shudder) and have even made appearances as characters in professional wrestling.

E&C 1

So much love for the vampires.

But none of these guys would likely be here and would be discussed in this little old blog if it wasn’t for The Master

No, I am not talking about their creator, whoever (or whatever) he/she may be.

The Master 1

No, I am talking about the novel ‘Salem’s Lot.  Written by The Master.

Yes, Stephen King is responsible for the birth of the “modern” vampire.  In essence, he is the “father” of the modern vampire.

Before ‘Salem’s Lot, you had Bram Stoker and Dracula.  Which were (and still are) awesome.  But even King himself said that Dracula probably wouldn’t make it in modern day New York City.  Would probably get mowed over by a cab or something, and that would be the end.

So King, being The Master, did what a good Master does:  he improvised.  He moved Dracula to small town USA.  And it was brilliant:  the result was the masterpiece we call ‘Salem’s Lot.  With (my imaginary) subtitle:  Dracula discovers 20th century small town life.

And it’s a bloody good book…it doesn’t suck (see what I did there.)

And here it goes:  here is my attempt to recap and review this masterpiece…

So buckle up, all both  of you, and let’s take a journey to that unfortunate hamlet known as Jerusalem’s Lot!


 

Synopsis

The book begins with the introduction of an unnamed man and unnamed adolescent boy.  We are told that the boy and man are not in fact, father and son, even though many people make that mistake.  The man and boy appear to be on the run from something, and end up traveling the country, but they eventually settle in a village in Mexico.  The man buys an American newspaper, and is looking for information on a town in Maine called ‘Salem’s Lot.  He then reads an article stating that the town has become a ghost town, and that several people from the town are inexplicably missing. The man tries to speak to the boy about ‘Salem’s Lot, but the boy clams up. The boy, who has become fluent in Spanish, then seeks out a Catholic priest to make a confession.  With the help of an interpreter, the boy makes his confession.  The priest and the interpreter later speak to the man, confirming the veracity of the story.  The priest tells the man that it is one of the strangest stories he has ever heard in his lifetime.

The story then switches over to the perspective of a man named Ben Mears.  Ben is a writer who has moved back to his hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot (‘Salem’s Lot for short) so that he may gain inspiration for his next book.  Ben meets woman in park named Susan Norton, who happens to be reading one of his books.  Ben immediately notices that Susan is reading his book, and also immediately notices how attractive Susan is.  Ben takes Susan out for an ice cream soda, where the two reminisce about their childhood in ‘Salem’s Lot.  Ben asks Susan out on a date, and she accepts.  Ben and Susan’s chemistry becomes more apparent on their date, and Susan invites him to her house the next evening, so that he may meet her parents.  Ben also talks some more about his childhood, and tells Susan that he attempted to rent the old Marsten House, the local “haunted” house.  Ben tells Susan about an experience he had as a boy in the Marsten House:  he accepted a dare to enter the Marsten House and steal a “souvenir.”  Ben stole that souvenir, but also encountered what he believed to be the ghost of Hubie Marsten, the house’s previous owner who had killed his wife and committed suicide.  Ben believes that he has seen Hubie Marsten right before his death, and his description is gruesome.  When Susan asks him why he did not rent the house, Ben informs her that the house has been sold and is not available to rent.

Ben Mears 1

The book begins to introduces some other characters.  These include:  Mike Ryerson, a grave digger who finds the body of a dog who has been crucified; Mark Petrie, a pre-teen boy whose family has just moved into town and who has a confrontation with the school bully; Matthew Burke, an English teacher at the local high school; and Larry Crockett, a real estate agent who sells the Marsten House to a man named Richard Straker, in a questionable deal where Crockett also promises Straker that he will keep all of their dealings a secret from the rest of the town.

The next evening, Ben has dinner with Susan and her parents.  Susan’s dad approves of Ben, while Susan’s mother does not.  That same evening, two local boys named Danny and Ralphie Glick leave their parents house to visit Mark Petrie, the new kid in town.  On the way to Mark’s house, the boys sense an unknown presence in the woods.  Hours later, Danny returns to parents’ house, minus his brother Ralphie.  Danny is unable to tell his parents and the local authorities what happened, and seems to be dazed.  Danny later collapses at home, and is rushed to the hospital to be treated for an unknown ailment.  A dark presence is said to be prowling the local cemetary, and appears to be carrying the body of a child.  Two men who were hired to help Larry Crockett move some packages for Richard Straker see what appears to be the body of a child when moving those packages.

Ben continues to spend time with Susan.  He discusses his research on the Marsten House with her, telling her that Hubie Marsten likely murdered children while he was alive.  Ben is worried because the house is occupied again, and a child has disappeared.

Ben heads to the local bar one night for a beer.  He meets Matt Burke at the bar, and the two become fast friends.  Matt asks Ben to speak to one of his classes, and Ben happily obliges.

Danny Glick suddenly passes away and the causes are unclear.  His funeral is officiated by Father Donald Callahan, a Catholic priest who is an alcoholic.  The entire town, including Ben and Susan, is shocked by the death.

Mike Ryerson is tasked with burying Danny Glick, and feels that something odd is happening when he tries to bury the boy.  Mike begins to feel ill and not himself almost immediately.  Mike encounters Matt at the local bar.  Matt becomes considered for his former student, and invites him to spend the night at his house.  However, Matt hears some odd noises in the middle of the night, and checks on Mike.  It appears that Mike had died in his sleep.  Matt becomes upset and calls Ben, who immediately comes over to help Matt.  Matt also requests that Ben bring him a rosary or a cross.  Ben then suggests that Matt call the police, along with a doctor.  The local police come to Matt’s house, along with one of the local doctors, Jimmy Cody, who is also one of Matt’s former students.  Dr. Cody confirms that Mike has died, and the police ask Matt and Ben the routine questions.  The authorities also notice that the window is open and the screen door is missing.  Matt realizes that something odd is going on, and tells Ben that he believes Mike was attacked by a vampire.  Ben is skeptical, but is also afraid to not believe what Matt is telling him, as he believes Matt to be a credible source.

Susan argues with her mother over Ben, and tells her parents that she plans to move out.  Susan’s mother becomes upset, and insinuates that Ben may be involved in the recent disappearance of Ralphie Glick.  Susan mother also tells her that Ben was involved in a motorcylcle accident that resulted in the death of his wife.  According to the research by the local authorities, Ben was was cleared of any wrongdoing, although Susan’s mother is still suspicious.  However, Susan receives a troubling phone call:  her ex boyfriend, Floyd Tibbits has attacked Ben, putting him in the hospital with a concussion and several other injuries.

Susan visits Ben in the hospital, and Ben gives her some information about what is going on in the town and what happened at Matt’s house.  Susan then visits Matt, who fills her in on the rest of the story.  Susan is also skeptical, but does not quite disbelieve Matt.  Matt then hears an odd noise in the guest bedroom, and goes upstairs to investigate, holding his cross, while Susan stands guard.  Matt then encounters a creature who resembles the supposedly deceased Mike Ryerson.  The creature tells Matt that “he will sleep like the dead.”  Matt brandishes his cross and the creature vanishes.  Matt then suffers a massive heart attack and is rushed to the hospital.

We also learn that Marjorie Glick, Ralphie and Danny Glick’s mother, has passed away.  Before she dies, Marjorie tells her husband that her deceased son is visiting her in her dreams.  Marjorie also appears to be feeling unwell, but her husband chalks that up to grief, and believes that her dreams are also the result of grief.

Floyd Tibbits has also passed away in his jail cell.  Floyd’s demeanor was noted to be very odd by the local authorities, as he was avoiding sunlight and sleeping throughout the day before he passed away.

Ben, Susan, Matt and Dr. Cody meet in the hospital.  Ben and Matt tell the story of what is going on in the town to the doctor, and also tell the doctor that they believe the town is being attacked by vampires.  Susan is still skeptical, but Dr. Cody has a more open mind.  Dr. Cody also tells the group that several bodies of the recently deceased have disappeared, including the body of Mike Ryerson.  Dr. Cody volunteers to exhume the body of Danny Glick and perform an autopsy, to see if there is anything out of the ordinary.  Matt has begun his research on vampire mythology, and tells Ben and Susan to keep crosses on them at all times.

In the meantime, Mark Petrie also has an encounter with a creature that appears to be Danny Glick.  Mark remembers that vampires must be invited, and refuses to succumb to the creature.  Mark is also able to fend off the creature with a plastic cross that is part of his monster toy set.

The next night, Ben (who has been discharged from the hospital) and Dr. Cody sit with the body of Marjorie Glick, to test Matt and Ben’s vampire theory.  The theory is confirmed when the body of Marjorie Glick comes to life and attacks Jimmy Cody.  Ben is able to fend off the creature with a cross, but the body disappears, and Ben and Dr. Cody must come up with a cover story for the local authorities.

Susan pays a visit to the Marsten house, and meets Mark there.  Both desire to confront Straker and Barlow in regards to the odd events that have occurred in the town.  But both Susan and Mark are captured by Straker, who intends to turn them into vampires.  However, Mark is able to escape and kills Straker, who is actually Barlow’s human familiar.  Susan is not so lucky and becomes one of the Undead.

Father Callahan visits Matt, and the two discuss a way to rid the town of the vampire infestation.  The infestation is becoming quite bad, as many people in the town begin to exhibit unusual symptoms and behavior.

Mark meets with Ben, Matt and Dr. Cody, and informs Ben that Susan is now a vampire.  The group makes a plan to try to attack Barlow, as Barlow is the master vampire.  Father Callahan, Ben and Dr. Cody head to the Marsten House to seek out Barlow and kill Susan.  They do not find Barlow there, but do find a taunting letter from him.  The group also finds Susan.  Ben reluctantly drives a stake through Susan’s heart, so that she may achieve her final peace.  Father Callahan also blesses the house to rid it of evil.

The next day, Father Callahan accompanies Mark Petrie to speak with Mark’s parents, to make them aware of what is going on in the town.  Mark’s parents are skeptical, but are attacked and killed by Barlow, who has crept into the house.  Mark flees, and Father Callahan attempts to face Barlow on his own.  However, the priest’s faith falters, and he is unsuccessful in his attempt to defeat Barlow.  Barlow forces Callahan to drink from his blood, rendering Callahan unclean.  Father Callahan attempts to go back to his church, but is unable to enter, as he has partaken the blood from Barlow, and also burns his hand on the door of the church.  Father Callahan is disgraced, and flees town on a Greyhound bus.

Mark makes his way back to Ben and tells Matt, Ben and Dr. Cody what happened to his parents.  The men make plans to attempt to destroy the vampires, but do not know where Barlow’s new lair is.

Dr. Cody and Mark meet at the boardinghouse Ben is staying in, so that they make as many wooden stakes as possible to attempt to destroy the vampires.  Jimmy realizes that Barlow’s new lair is actually the boardinghouse and warns Mark, but Jimmy is killed by a booby-trap placed in the cellar by Barlow, who is seemingly one step ahead of Ben and his remaining friends.

Mark flees back to Ben and tells him what happened to Dr. Cody.  Ben attempts to contact Matt, but is told by the hospital that Matt has died of a massive heart attack.  Ben tells Mark that they must try to destroy Kurt Barlow if the town has any chance of survival.

Mark and Ben then make their way back to the boardinghouse, and find the body of Kurt Barlow, along with several others from the town who have been transformed into vampires.  Ben is able to kill Kurt Barlow with a stake through the heart, but several of his vampire offspring remain in the town, and most of the other inhabitants of the town are either turned into vampires or are killed.  A few, such as Ben and Mark, are able to flee town.  Ben and Mark eventually end up in Mexico, where Mark confesses the story to a Catholic priest.  Mark and Ben then decide to return to town to finish the job.

Mark and Ben return to ‘Salem’s Lot almost a year after the horrible events.  They set fire to the town, but it is unknown if the fire is successful in destroying the vampires.  Mark and Ben leave town again, their business in ‘Salem’s Lot finished.

'Salem's Lot 4


 

My Thoughts

So.  Many.  Thoughts.  Such.  A.  Long. Blog.  Post.

‘Salem’s Lot is a book about vampires.  And it is a great book about vampires…

But there are couple of other things that we need to talk about, in order to have an intelligent discussion about this book.

Surprise, there is more to ‘Salem’s Lot than the vampires!  I know, more to a Stephen King book than meets the eye…who knew???

A part of that “more than meets the eye” is the Marsten House.  King has written about haunted houses, haunted hotels and even haunted towns (Derry is a prime example of that) in other books, but ‘Salem’s Lot was his second book published under his name.  So it’s possible that ‘Salem’s Lot and the Marsten House was simply a “warm-up” for him, for later books like The Shining or even Black House

black house 1

But man, does he do the haunted house aspect of ‘Salem’s Lot well.

Yes, ‘Salem’s Lot is also a haunted house book.  It may actually be a haunted house book almost as much as it is a vampire book.  The Marsten House is another character, just like Ben and his friends, and plays a huge role in the book.  Not only does it provide a creepy setting (the head vampire bunks there, natch), it allows the reader to get to know Ben.  That house was a huge part of Ben’s childhood, and seeing it through Ben’s (borderline obsessive) adult eyes is fascinating.  The house has probably colored much of Ben life, such as his choice of a career, and his decision to return to town after so many years.  The house may have even played a role in Ben’s decision to become a writer, because it made him aware of the mysteries of the universe and so forth.

'Salem's Lot 3

Plus, that house is just plain creepy!  It’s on unhallowed ground because its namesake committed suicide on it?  Shudder!  And it was the site for so many evil acts (Hubie sacrificing children and then killing himself and his wife).  I think King could fill a book with that house’s story…maybe someday he will do just that, if we are lucky!

Speaking of characters that are not people per se…

‘Salem’s Lot.  Yes, the town itself.  I am also going to count the town as a character…

No, I have not lost my mind (you can’t lose what you never had, so I am told).

All kidding aside, the town is a character as well.  We are given so much information about the town and the people that live there.  The gossipy old lady Mabel Worts.  The boy on the farm who wants to drop out of school.  The proprietor of the drugstore who looks up women’s skirts.  The town bully.  An alcoholic priest who listens to everyone’s sins, including the lady who beats her baby.  A wife who cheats on her husband with the telephone company guy.  I could go on and on…

I grew up in a small town.  I have since moved on to bigger and better, and sometimes I look back upon my childhood with a certain amount of nostalgia…

small towns 1

Until I read a Stephen King book (since so many of them are centered around small towns).  And the king of horror (see what I did there) gives me a reality check.  Yes, small towns can be charming.  But like almost anything else (well, except for Furbies…I don’t see any good in those fuckers), they have their dark side.  ‘Salem’s Lot is a reminder of that.  It is quaint.  We can’t argue that.  But it is ugly too.  Men beat their wives with no recourse.  Bullies rule the schoolyard with iron fists.  There are residents who are just tragic, such as the Weasel Craigs, good men who drink their pain away and become shadows of their former selves.  So I become objective about my childhood once again, and see all sides of the pancake.

Salem's lot 2

Stephen King writes the small town really well.  ‘Salem’s Lot was  the first one (Derry, Castle Rock and Harlow are just a few more later examples) and will probably not be the last.  Again, the man knows how to realistically depict a small town, weaving together a tapestry where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So.  Vampires…

sparkely vampire 3

Whew, finally getting to them…

I know no other way to put, so I will come out and say it…

These vampires are scary as fuck.  There is no other way around it.

I hold a special place in my heart for Dracula (don’t want to run into him in a dark alley).  And the vampires on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (good old William the Bloody, although I don’t care for his poetry too much).  And let’s not forget Louis and Lestat.

Spike

But these vampires…

Vampires are scary enough.  Maybe the scariest of the Big Bads.

But again, these vampires!

sparkly vampire 1

The notion of a child (Danny Glick) turning into one of the Undead is just horrible.  Profane even.  But awesome too.  If you are going to scare someone into a change pants, combine the sacred (a child) with the profane (a vampire).  And watch the pants come a’flying off!

salem's lot 3

And Kurt Barlow himself (Straker is not a picnic either).  He is scary because he is a vamp (duh) but also because he reminds us again and again, that he is not human (well, duh).  The booby trap that he sets for poor Dr. Cody is something that Ted Bundy would have been proud of, it is that ingeniously evil.  And he kills Mark’s parents by bashing their heads together right in front of Mark…I just have no words.  And none of these acts are supernatural.  They are just good old fashioned (in)human fuckery.  Simply brutal, because they have a touch of realism and could happen to any one of us.

Hell, the creature is so evil that his teeth are still alive even after he is killed.  His teeth bit Ben…ewww!  Can’t get much more evil than that, folks!

'Salem's Lot 2

 

 


 

Well, what a trip that’s been!  Do they make t-shirts for this?  Maybe one that says “I survived my trip to ‘Salem’s Lot, but all I got was this lousy bite mark on my neck!”  Too soon. you say?  Maybe, maybe not.  But, it is fall now.  And almost Halloween.  And ‘Salem’s Lot will also have a special place in my heart (near the jugular, actually), no matter what time of year it is.

'Salem's Lot 1


 

Connections

‘Salem’s Lot is a very early King work, but there are quite a few connections to his other books, and it is an important part of the King universe.  Here are the connections I found:

-Donald Callahan is the most obvious connection to King’s other works, mainly The Dark Tower series.  Callahan’s back story is told in book five of The Dark Tower series, The Wolves of the Calla.  Callahan becomes an integral member of Roland’s ka-tet, and plays a huge role in Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower in books six and seven of the series, The Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower, respectively.

Father Callahan

-In the novel Pet Sematary, Rachel Creed passes by a sign that gives directions to the town of ‘Salem’s Lot, and thinks to herself that it is not a very pleasant place to live.

pet semetary 1

-As stated before, ‘Salem’s Lot was King’s first foray into the concept of a haunted house.  However, it is not his last.  The Marsten House seems to be similar to a few other houses and buildings in King novels, which include the house on Neibolt Street (It), Black House (book of the same name), Rose Red (movie of the same name), the house on Dutch Hill (The Wastelands), and even the Overlook Hotel (The Shining).  It is possible that these structures are all Twinners to each other, as they share some similar traits.

gorg_and_mr_munshun

-The dog that is slaughtered in the beginning of the novel is similar to a dog encountered by Roland in the short story, The Little Sisters of Eluria, which is part of the collection Everything’s Eventual.  Both dogs have similar markings, which include a marking on the head that resembles a cross.

Sister Mary 1

-King has also written a prequel of sorts to ‘Salem’s Lot, a short story called Jerusalem’s Lot (Night Shift), along with a sequel of sorts, One for the Road (also part of the collection Night Shift).  Both of these stories provide some information in regards to the cursed town of ‘Salem’s Lot, but also raise many more questions that they answer.

the worm 1

 

 

The Beginning of the End: My Review of The Dark Tower

I seem to remember a saying…

One about all good things…

Q 2

Something happens to them, I hear…

Picard 3

On an unrelated note, do you ever feel like your life is on infinite repeat, and it seems like you are destined to keep repeating yourself, because you can never get it right?  And don’t you just hate that?

Well, I digress, it seems…

Time to get back on the subject:  our favorite ka-tet!

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

And reunions…boy, do I love reunions!

And did I tell you that bittersweet is one of my favorite flavors?  Obviously, or I wouldn’t read the Dark Tower series so many times, and hope against hope that things will be different this time (even though I know they won’t be).

And if insanity is the act of repeating the same act over and over again, and expecting different results…well then, I am a fucking loony, and proud of it, say thank ya!

So yes, I have now completed my fifth re-read of this series.  And still, the magic remains.  Still, I cry tears for all of those lost.  Still, I hope against hope, that things will be different, and I am still crushed when they are not.

But I think that this is why these books are magic:  they still invoke the same emotions in me, even after all of these years.  Obviously, only magical books can do that when you re-read them, right?

With that being said, here is my review of the last bit of magic, the final book in the series, simply titled The Dark Tower.

Dark Tower 2


 

Synopsis

The Dark Tower begins where Song of Susannah left off:  Susannah and Mia are in a restaurant known as The Dixie Pig and are preparing to give birth to Mia’s un-human baby.  Jake and Pere Callahan have arrived at the Dixie Pig and are desperately searching for Susannah in a futile attempt to rescue her.  Roland and Eddie are still stranded in 1977 Maine and attempting to return to Mid-World so that the quest may be continued.

Dixie pig 4

Mia begins to go into labor to deliver her baby, and Susannah plots to escape her prison so that she may be reunited with her friends.  Mia delivers her baby, who is named Mordred, relatively quickly.  Mia is overjoyed when the baby is born, but that is short-lived once the baby (who is clearly not human), changes into a spider and devours Mia.  Susannah is able to steal the gun of one of the Low Men who was present at the delivery of Mordred.  Susannah shoots and kills all of the Low Men present in the delivery room.  Susannah also shoots Mordred, but Mordred escapes, with only one spider leg shot off by Susannah.

mordred birth

Jake and Father Callahan make their way toward the delivery room, but are accosted by Low Men and vampires.  Jake receives a telepathic message from Roland and Eddie via Father Callahan ordering him to move on ahead.  Father Callahan stays behind and battles the vampires.  Realizing that he is outnumbered, Father Callahan commits suicide to avoid being transformed into a vampire, and therefore eternal damnation.

Callahan 1

 

Still stranded in 1977 Maine, Roland and Eddie agree that they must seek help, and that John Cullum would be the man for the job.  It turns out that Cullum has not left town, as Eddie is able to reach him by telephone.  Roland and Eddie meet with Cullum, and tell him their tale.  Cullum agrees to meet with Susannah’s godfather, Moses Carver, and Aaron Deepneau, so that they may form the Tet Corporation.   Roland gives Cullum Aunt Talitha’s cross, so that he may be able to identify himself to Carver and Deepenau.  The purpose of the Tet Corporation will be two-fold:  to protect Stephen King and to sabotage Sombra Corporation whenever possible. Roland and Eddie then make their way back to the woods in Lovell, and are teleported to Fedic where they attempt to reunite with Jake, Oy and Susannah.

Jake searches for Susannah, and discovers her in the Dixie Pig.  Jake encounters a mind trap which gives life to his fears.  However, Jake switches bodies with Oy, and is able to avoid this trap and defeat the Low Men.  Jake is then reunited with Susannah, and later Roland and Eddie.  The ka-tet determines that they must travel through one of the cross-dimensional doors located in Fedic, so that they may return to Mid-World and resume their quest.

Mordred, in the meantime, has been growing at a rapid rate, and spying on Roland and his friends while hiding in Fedic.  Mordred encounters Randall Flagg, who attempts to woo Mordred to his side.  Mordred sees through Flagg’s trickery, and immediately kills Flagg, later eating the body for nourishment.  Mordred is able to transform into a spider, but discovers he needs more nourishment that what he currently receives in order to accomplish this task.

man in black

Roland and his friends cross over to Thunderclap, and are then teleported to Devar-Toi, which is a compound occupied by Breakers, who are psychics recruited by the Crimson King.  The Crimson King and his Low Men use the Breakers to destroy the Beams that hold the Tower together.  The ka-tet meets a man named Ted Brautigan, along with Ted’s friend Dinky Earnshaw.  Ted and Dinky also have another friend named Stanley, who does not speak but is able to use his telepathic powers to communicate.  Stanley also possesses the ability to teleport, and was able to send Ted on a journey to another world.  We learn that Stanley is actually Roland’s old friend Sheemie Ruiz, who Roland met during his time in Meijis.

Sheemie 2

 

Roland and his friends then watch videotapes narrated by Ted Brautigan, and learn the story of how Ted became a Breaker, and of how Ted and his friends have turned against their duties and wish to destroy Devar-Toi and stop the destruction of the Beams.  Roland and his friends meet with Ted, Dinky and Sheemie yet again, and make plans for an attack on Devar-Toi.  Jake speaks with Roland, and experiences an uneasy feeling that Roland tells him is ka-shume, which usually signals a change in the dynamics of the ka-tet.  Roland also points out that Mordred has been following them, but asks Jake to keep this information from Eddie and Susannah.

Mordred 1

The next day, the gunslingers mount an attack on Devar-Toi.  They are aided by some hidden bombs that were placed in various parts of Devar-Toi during the previous night by a spy.  The gunslingers are successful in their attack and are able to free the Breakers and stop the destruction of the Beams.

Tet 1

However, the attack comes at huge cost for Roland and his friends.  Once the attack is over and Roland his ka-tet are performing some last minute inspections for any remaining threats, Eddie is shot by one of the remaining taheen, Pimli Prentiss.  Unable to avoid the attack, the bullet proves to be fatal to Eddie, who eventually expires later that day.  Susannah, Roland, Jake and Oy are left grieving for their friend.  Before he dies, Eddie warns Jake about something or something named “Dandelo.”  Eddie also names Roland his true father before he dies.

With the assistance of Sheemie, Roland, Jake and Oy travel to 1999 Maine to attempt to save the writer, Stephen King.  When they arrive, the day is June 19th and Jake knows that time is running short.  With the assistance of a woman they meet in a general store named Irene Tassenbaum, Roland and Jake are able to track down Stephen King, who is taking his daily afternoon walk.  A young man named Bryan Smith is also driving a van on the same road as King, and King will be fatally struck down by Smith’s van unless the gunslingers intervene.

Bryan Smith 1

 

Roland, Jake and Irene intervene just in time to save Stephen King.  However, this again comes at a cost for Roland, as Jake is hit by the van instead of King, and later succumbs to his injuries.  Before he dies, Jake instructs Irene to take Roland to New York City, so that he may meet with the members of the Tet Corporation and return to Mid-World.  Jake also gives instructions to Oy, although neither Irene nor Roland hears these instructions.  Roland then buries Jake in the surrounding woods, saying a prayer for him.  Irene  tells Roland she will come back and plant something where Jake is buried.  Roland tells her that a rose would be appropriate.

Jake and Oy

 

Roland and Irene then make their way to the Tet Corporation’s headquarters, located at 2 Hammarskjold Plaza.  The rose is also located at this address.  Roland meets Nancy Deepneau, who tells him that John Cullum and Aaron Deepneau have passed away, but Moses Carver is still alive.  Roland also speaks to Marian Carver, daughter of Moses Carver, and learns a bit about the dealings of the Tet Corporation.  Roland is given a copy of Stephen King’s book Insomnia, which Marian tells him may be important to his quest.  Marian also tells Roland that he must watch out for someone named Patrick Danville, who is also a character in the book Insomnia.  Before Roland departs, the members of the Tet Corporation also give him two more gifts: a gold watch which will keep time until Roland reaches the Tower, and Aunt Talitha’s cross.  Roland is touched and grateful for these gifts.

Roland bids good-bye to Irene, who thanks him for the adventure, as her life has been irrevocably changed by her time with the gunslinger.   Roland gives her the copy of Insomnia, stating that it feels “tricky” to him. Roland and Oy then travel through the door in the Dixie Pig and reunite with Susannah in Fedic.  Susannah tells him that Ted, Dinky and a few other Breakers have traveled to Calla Bryn Sturgis to pay penance for what was done to the villagers’ children, but that Sheemie has died from an untreated infection in his foot.  Roland, Susannah and Oy make plans to continue on their quest for the Dark Tower.

tower 8

 

Roland ,Susannah and Oy make their way out of the Dixie Pig and back to Mid-World.  On their way out, they find paintings that credit the mysterious Patrick Danville as the artist.  Roland and Susannah also encounter a monster that is probably born of the To-Dash darkness and barely escape from the clutches of the creature.

Le_Casse_Roi_Russe

Once Roland, Susannah and Oy make their way to Fedic so that they may continue on their quest for the Dark Tower, the journey becomes even more arduous.  The only one equipped to handle the cold temperatures is Oy, and Roland and Susannah spend many uncomfortable days and nights wishing for warmer clothing and worrying how long their food supplies will last.  Susannah also notices an unusual pimple that has formed next to her mouth.  Roland also tells Susannah that they must check on the castle of the Crimson King, which Roland believes to be abandoned, but still may contain traps to stop Roland from continuing his quest.

CK 4

 

When Roland, Susannah and Oy finally reach Le Casse Roi Russe, or the Crimson King’s castle, they encounter three men who resemble Stephen King.  The creatures call themselves Feemalo, Fimalo and Fumalo (fee fi fo fum), and offer Roland and Susannah warm clothing and food.  The creature tries to convince Roland that he is an uffi, or shapeshifter.  However, Roland sees that this is a trick and refuses the offer.  The creatures try to attack Roland, Susannah and Oy as they leave, but Roland and Susannah shoot Feemalo and Fumolo.  Roland allows Fimalo to live, and finds out that he is actually a man named Rando Thoughtful.  Thoughtful has used a trick, or glammer, to try to convince Roland that he was a shape-shifter, but is really a dying old man.  Roland, Susannah and Oy leave the castle and continue on their quest.  Rando Thoughtful stays behind, but is later attacked and eaten by Mordred, who is still following Roland and Susannah, plotting his revenge.

Rando Thoughtful 1

Roland and Susannah’s luck begins to change once they leave the castle of the Crimson King and continue on their quest.  They are able to hunt deer, which provides them food and warm clothing.  They are also able to finally build a fire so that they can stay warm.  However, Susannah continues to worry about the pimple by her mouth, which has not gone away.

Roland, Susannah and Oy happen upon a house that appears to be inhabited when they draw closer to Empathica.  Their assumption proves correct, as the house is inhabited by an old man named Joe Collins and his geriatric horse, Lippy.  Collins offers them his hospitality, giving them a hot meal and shelter from the snow.  Collins also begins to tell them how he came to Mid-World, and about his former life as a comedian, even telling some of his old jokes.

Dandelo 1

While Susannah and Roland are being entertained by Collins and his stand-up comedy routine, Susannah herself begins to think that something is wrong.  Susannah then accidentally ruptures the pimple on her face and it begins to bleed.  Susannah retreats to the bathroom to clean up the wound, and finds a note from Stephen King, who is repaying Roland and Jake from saving his life.  Susannah deduces that Joe Collins and Dandelo are one in the same, and she and Roland dispose of Collins, stripping away his glammer.  Before he dies, Dandelo is revealed to be a creature with insectoid characteristics.

Dandelo 2

Roland and Susannah quickly discover that Dandelo had kept a prisoner in his hut, and that prisoner turns out to be none other than Patrick Danville, a young man is approximately 16 or 17 years old.  Susannah rescues Patrick from his prison in Dandelo’s basement, and learn of his captivity.  Susannah deduces that Dandelo was a creature who fed off from human emotions, and that Patrick was his main source of fuel, although Dandelo fed from others unfortunate enough to come across his dwelling.  Susannah also discovers that Dandelo must have tired of Patrick’s speech at some point, for he had removed the boy’s tongue.  Roland, Susannah, Patrick and Oy take shelter in Dandelo’s barn for a few days, so that Patrick can regain his strength. Roland comes across Lippy and puts the creature out of her misery. They also come across a robot that calls itself Stuttering Bill (due to a defect in its programming) that was Dandelo’s reluctant servant.  Roland suggests that the robot fix the stutter, and the robot happily obliges.  Bill then relates more of the story to Roland and Susannah, and assists them with obtaining provisions to last them the remainder of their journey.

Patrick Danville 1

Once Roland and his friends leave Dandelo’s cottage, Mordred makes an appearance.  Mordred eats the remains of the dead Lippy for nourishment, which will later prove to be a mistake.  Mordred is still bent on taking vengeance on all of Roland’s friends, but especially Roland himself.

In the final weeks of Roland’s quest for the Tower, Susannah begins to realize that her time in his world is drawing to an end.  Susannah becomes prone to bouts of uncontrollable weeping, and tries to hide this from Roland and the others.  She also begins to dream of Jake and Eddie and feels that they are trying to send her a message, but does not know what they are trying to tell her.  Suannah also sees a mysterious door in her dreams.  The pimple by her mouth continues to cause her pain.

Susannah comes to realizes that Patrick’s artistic talents have the ability to alter reality.  This is confirmed when Patrick draws a picture of her, and uses the eraser to remove the pimple by her mouth.  Once the pimple is removed by the eraser, it vanishes from Susannah’s face.  Susannah tells Patrick he must draw the Unfound Door that she sees in her dreams, and Patrick obliges.

unfound door 1

Susannah asks Oy and Jake if they wish to travel through the door with her, but both decline.  Roland tries to persuade Susannah to stay in Mid-World, but she declines.  Susannah bids Roland, Patrick and Oy goodbye, and travels through the door to the alternate reality she sees in her dreams.

In the meantime, Mordred is still following Roland, waiting to attack.  Mordred has also contracted food poisoning from consuming the remains of Lippy, and his strength has been diminished considerably.  However, Mordred is still determined to seek revenge on Roland.

Mordred closes in on Roland, Patrick and Oy one night as Roland takes rest and leaves Patrick on night watch.  Mordred attempts to attack Roland, but is stopped by Oy.  Oy puts up a brave fight, but loses his life at the hands of Mordred.  Roland dispatches Mordred with bullets from his gun.  Saddened, Roland thanks Oy for his sacrifice.  Oy speaks for the first time in weeks, saying Roland’s name, and then passes on.

Oy 1

Roland mourns Oy, but continues to make his way to the Tower with Patrick.  Once Roland and Patrick draw closer to the Can’-Ka No Rey (the field of roses that surrounds the Tower), they encounter the Crimson King, who has gone mad.  The Crimson King torments Roland and Patrick, throwing sneetches (weapons similar to hand grenades) at them.  Roland tells Patrick that he must draw the Crimson King, and then erase him out of existence.  Again, Patrick obliges, using crushed rose petals and Roland’s blood to achieve the red eyes that define the Crimson King.  Patrick then uses his eraser, erasing the Crimson King out of existence, although the eyes remain.  Roland then sends Patrick back to the robot Stuttering Bill, telling him to find a door that will take him back to a version of America, where he will be a famous artist.

Tower 6

Roland then makes his way to the Tower, calling out the names of all his friends and loved ones who have been sacrificed in the name of his quest.

We also learn that Susannah has traveled to an alternate reality through the door that Patrick drew for her, and has met a man named Eddie Toren, and his brother Jake Toren.  In other words, she has met the Twinners of Eddie and Jake, and found a world close enough to her own world, so that any differences will seem minor.  Eddie tells her that the name “Toren” means tower in German.  It is implied that the three of them, along with a version of Oy, live out the rest of their days in happiness.

Roland approaches the Tower and lays down his gun and Aunt Talitha’s cross.  The door opens, and Roland enters, climbing the stairs to the top of the Tower.  Each time Roland comes to a room, he relives certain events in his life, such as his test to become a gunslinger.

At last, Roland reaches the top of the Tower, and opens a door with his name on it.  Dismayed, he finds himself in the desert at the start of the story, chasing a man in black.  Roland realizes that he has repeated his quest so many times, only to never find redemption.  However, the memories begin to fade and Roland awakes, thinking that he has dreamed of the Tower yet again.  Roland resumes his quest, seeking the man in black, who may be able to lead him to the Tower.  But this time, he has the Horn of Eld in hand.  So there is hope, even for the likes of him.

Tower 11


 

The Dark Tower is a rainbow book.

Yes, a rainbow book.  By this I mean it can make me laugh and cry, and sometimes even shout, in both frustration and triumph.  They say if you laugh and cry in the same day, you are having a rainbow day.  So therefore, The Dark Tower book is a rainbow book.

And I know it may be hard to believe, but The Dark Tower contains plenty of humor (hence the laughter part).  One of my favorite parts is when Jake and Oy switch bodies, and Jake is reminded of a movie with dinosaurs that he saw as a child and was frightened of.  Tyranno-sorbets wrecks?  The Joker Cesar Romero coming to the rescue?  Just some very funny imagery, and the humor was much needed, given the seriousness of the book.

Maerlyn's rainbow

And speaking of seriousness…

Oh, the feelsies…

There are more feels in The Dark Tower than there were when I was in the back seat of my ex’s car…oh wait, never mind…unwanted imagery, stage right!

But seriously…

All.  The.  Feels.

The reunion of the tet, especially when Eddie and Susannah reunite.

Roland being reunited with Sheemie, and telling Sheemie that he was not to blame for Susan Delgado’s death, and also telling Sheemie what a hero he was.

The death of Pere Callahan, who committed suicide to avoid eternal damnation, and essentially sacrificing himself for Jake.

sparkly vampire 1

And the deaths…

I know you need rain in order to have a rainbow, but when it rains in The Dark Tower, it pours…

Jake death

Eddie Dean.  When he died on my first journey, I cried.  No, actually, I CRIED.  When you CRY, as opposed to crying, its not pretty.  No, you are a mess of snot and tears, both of which run into your mouth.  And its not quiet either…let the honking commence!  And hopefully, you like the colors red and purple, since your face will turn those colors…

Eddie 1

And it doesn’t get any better after that.  No, not at all.  Especially when Roland becomes determined to sacrifice himself in Jake’s place to save the wordslinger, but greedy old ka has other plans…

Roland 14

And Oy.  A true gunslinger, all he was missing was the guns (and opposable thumbs, for that matter).  Roland burying Oy, and thinking to himself that the grave was too small to contain the heart that Oy’s body held…

Oy 1

So yes, keep the tissues on hand.  Plenty of rainbows in this book, but the storms needed to produce them are massive…

ugly cry

Another favorite part of my book was…you guessed it..another reunion!  I speak of the reunion at the end of the book, when Susannah meets Eddie and Jake’s Twinners, and falls in love with Eddie all over again…

Yes, this is one of my favorite parts.  However, more than a few CR’s (Constant Readers, for the uninitiated), would beg to defer on this one…

I have heard people call Susannah a coward for exiting the quest and “abandoning” Roland…

Yes, a coward!

You know, the woman who was raped by a demon in the name of bringing Jake over to Mid-World, in a violent birth for the ages.

Jake and the oracle

The woman who had to bear the inhuman fruits of that rape, and who was forced to share her head with a demon who would stop at nothing to hear someone something  call her “mommy.”

Mordred 3

The woman who lost her husband.  And who then lost her spiritual son (Jake) not long afterwards…

But still, she stuck with Roland, although nearly everything she held dear had been sacrificed in the name of his Tower…

But Susannah, evidently, did not belong in Mid-World…ka had other plans for her.  And ka let her know this, in the way of any ugly pimple that no amount of Clearasil could ever take care of.

In other words, I believe that the ugly pimple was Susannah’s signal to leave Mid-World.  And when she couldn’t grasp that, she was sent dreams.  And then Patrick Danville, who finally drew her out of Mid-World, in much the same way she had been drawn in:  a magical door.

DT door 1

And Susannah did what any sane person would do:  she got out of dodge.  After all, when ka speaks to you that loudly, you listen.  Otherwise, the consequences are not pretty.

Susannah 2

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

The above line is (rightfully) considered one of the greatest opening lines in literature.  Ever.

Roland and Flagg

And its one of the most frustrating ending lines.  Ever.

Well, at least in some circles…

But those are circles I do not visit.

The ending to The Dark Tower is perfect.  There are no other words for it.

Well, heartbreaking possibly.  Baffling.  Shocking.  Sad.  And then you want to throw your book across the room.

That last part is a sentence, not a word.  But you get my drift.

This does not change anything, however.  The ending to The Dark Tower is still perfect.  It is perfect because it is the only ending.

It is perfect because it is right ending.

It is perfect because of its implications.

The implication that the journey never ends, that the journey will continue no matter what.

The implication that hell is repetition.

Tower 3

The implication that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Roland is a great example of this, although ka has other ideas and forces him to change.  Or else.

And there is the implication that there is always the possibility of redemption.  Roland has done some pretty awful (although pretty understandable things).  But if anyone should be damned for eternity, it would be Roland.  But maybe not.

Roland 10

This time, its different.  He remembered to pick up the horn, after all.  He never had before.  And nothing is so small that it can’t make a big difference.  So Roland is doomed to repeat his quest yet again…

But perhaps, he can get it right this time.  This time it will be different.  He has been given what he did not have before:  The Horn ofEld.

And little things can change everything.  So maybe this little thing is the catalyst, and Roland will finally find some peace.  He can finally rest, and will no longer be doomed.

Maybe.

Roland and horn 1


 

This New Year’s Day, I had made a New Year’s resolution, for the first time in about…oh…12 trillion years (kidding, kidding).

Normally, I don’t make those.  I am kind of like this guy, and I think I am pretty awesome…

Calvin and Hobbes

But making this New Year’s resolution is one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

Because of this resolution, I have (yet again) taken the amazing journey otherwise known as the Dark Tower series.

I have become reacquainted with old friends, and have even made some new ones along the way.  I have found buried treasure that had been long forgotten, until now.  Often, I felt like I was coming home after a long journey, and was welcomed back with loving arms.  There is no better feeling than coming home after a long journey, and discovering everything is where you left it, but still feels new anyway.

And yes, there was heartbreak.  Part of me hoped things would be different this time, but deep down, I knew they wouldn’t be.  But I still hoped anyway…to paraphrase a certain King character:  hope is a good thing, and no good thing ever dies.

Red 1

Again, like Roland, I have learned lessons.  I have learned how power love and friendship are, and how hard it is to exist without them.  I have learned not to shed my humanity, no matter how lofty my goals may be.

And I have learned that there is always the possibility of redemption, no matter what.  Like Roland, I am not above it.  And like Roland, all of us can pick up our horn, and that no act is too simple to not have enormous ramifications somewhere down the road.  Sometimes, a small change is all it takes.

So, I bid Roland and his friends farewell.  But its not really a farewell, because I know that somewhere, the ka-tet and their quest still lives, both of which are good things, and good things never die.

mash 1

 

 


 

Connections

And just for the fun of it, here we go again with the connections:

-One of the most obvious connections in The Dark Tower is the one to Insomnia.  Not only is the book Insomnia mentioned and a copy given to Roland, Patrick Danville is also a character in the same book.  In the book Insomnia, Ralph Roberts must save the life of Patrick Danville, who will be important to someone, and that someone is probably Roland Deschain.  Patrick Danville is also from Derry, Maine, another center for unusual activity in the King universe.

Insomnia 4

Ted Brautigan is also another major connection in The Dark Tower.  Ted Brautigan is a character in the short story “Low Men in Yellow Coats,” which is part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis.  In the story “Low Men in Yellow Coats”, Ted mentions gunslingers to Bobby when he has slipped into a trance-like state.

Ted Brautigan 1

-Dandelo appears to be a Twinner of sorts to Pennywise the Clown from the book It.  Both are shapeshifters, and both feed off of human emotions (fear in particular).  Again, Patrick Danville is from Derry, where the events in It take place.  It is possible that Dandelo was one of the offspring of Pennywise’s eggs and that the Losers Club did not destroy all of Pennywise’s offspring.

It 3

-In the book Dreamcatcher, graffiti saying “Pennywise lives” is discovered.  Dandelo may have been responsible for this graffiti, if he was indeed one of Pennywise’s offspring.

Pennywise 5

-Roland mentions the “doctor bugs” when Jake is fighting the vampires.  The “doctor bugs” are also mentioned in the short story “The Little Sisters of Eluria“, which is part of the collection Everything’s Eventual.

Everything's Eventual 1

Dinky Earnshaw is the main character in the title story in the collection Everything’s Eventual.  Dinky also knows someone by the name of Skipper Brautigan, who was a friend of Henry Dean.  This implies that Eddie and Dinky grew up in the same neighborhood, and may have actually met at some point before their encounter in Mid-World.

Dinky

-Susannah recalls getting her first menstrual period in gym class and having tampons thrown at her by the other girls.  This is exactly what happens to Carrie White in the book Carrie.

carrie-1

-Randall Flagg resurfaces again in The Dark Tower.  Flagg is a character in several other King works, including The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon and Hearts in Atlantis.

Eyes of the Dragon 1

-Randall Flagg recalls a town by the name of French Landing, located in Wisconsin.  Flagg also recalls the hats that are worn by the Breakers and Low Men are similar to the hats worn by Tyler Marshall.  French Landing is the town and Tyler Marshall is a character in the book Black House.

gorg_and_mr_munshun

-Sheemie’s ability to teleport, and his physical symptoms that he experiences afterwards, are similar to the character Vic’s ailments in the book NOS4A2, by Joe Hill.  Vic also possesses an ability to teleport, although her ability is not nearly as strong as Sheemie’s.

Charlie Manx 1

 

-Patrick Danville’s artistic ability is similar to Edgar Freemantle’s artistic ability in the book Duma Key.

duma key 4

The Terrible, Awful, No Good, Very Bad Day: My Review of Song of Susannah

Bad days…

Yep, we have all had them.  I have had my share, despite my loving husband and the rest of my four-legged family  (although reading and writing about Stephen King always makes me feel better!)

Like I said, we all have them…even Batman!

joker and harley

And if Batman can have a bad day every now and then, our favorite ka-tet can also have a bad day too…like I said, no one is immune to bad days…no one!

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

And boy, did our ka-tet have a doozy of a day!  Roland and company were literally all over the place, and had to deal with quite a few pests, which included not only your run of the mill goons sent by the gangster who should already be dead because he was killed in the second book of the series, but also a crazy elemental who has a maternal instinct so strong that she is capable of murder or worse…

Nope, just does not sound like a good day for our heroes.  Not in the slightest.  But luckily, they are gunslingers!  And like Batman, gunslingers always know what to do, right?

Well, maybe.  Unlike Batman, our heroes don’t have cool toys to help them through a bad day.  But like Batman, they are smart and resourceful, so they may just pull through even the worst of days…

Well, let’s find out!  Here is my review of The Song of Susannah!

Mia 1


 

Synopsis

The Song of Susannah picks of where The Wolves of the Calla left off:  Susannah has gone missing, and the rest of the tet remains in Calla Bryn Sturgis.  Eddie is frantic, and wants to try to rescue his wife before it is too late.  Father Callahan is in shock, as he has found out that he is actually a character in a book called ‘Salem’s Lot, and may actually be the creation of a writer named Stephen King.

salem's lot

Roland and his friends request the assistance of the Manni, Calla Bryn Sturgis’ equivalent of mystics or holy men, in order to travel out of Mid-World to save Susannah, and to also help Calvin Tower, who is being harassed by gangsters to sell the vacant lot in New York City which contains a rose that is “the real world” equivalent of The Dark Tower.  Eddie and Roland are transported to 1977 Maine.  Father Callahan and Jake are also transported to New York, but arrive in the year 1999.  Oy was originally supposed to remain behind in Calla Bryn Sturgis, but someone (or something) else has other ideas, and Oy is transported with Jake and Father Callahan.

Rose

The story then switches over to the perspective of Susannah, who is now at least partially controlled by the being known as Mia.  Susannah and Mia has traveled to New York City, and it is the year of 1999.  Both women are bewildered, but Susannah uses a small scrimshaw turtle in her possession that hypnotizes people to get money from a man, who also gets her a hotel room.  Susannah finds out that Mia may have given away the location of Eddie and Roland to agents of the Crimson King, and becomes angry with Mia.  Susannah also discovers that she still has some control of her mind and body, and receives a message from Eddie to stall Mia from giving birth.  Susannah is able to do this using some visualization techniques, but knows this is only a temporary solution.

Susannah 1

Susannah also demands answers from Mia in regards to the baby that they are carrying.  Mia and Susannah travel to a construct created by Mia’s mind, and Mia explains that she made a deal with a man known as Walter.  Mia surrendered her own demonic immortality in exchange for the ability to bear a child.  However, Mia was unable to naturally conceive a child, as demons are sterile.  When Susannah was raped in the speaking ring while Jake crossed over from his world in Mid-World, she was actually impregnated, as this particular demon had also had intercourse with Roland in its female form (demon elementals are actually hermaphrodites) and had preserved Roland’s semen.  Walter then employed advanced technology to take the fetus from Susannah’s womb and had also mixed the semen of the Crimson King with Roland’s, and was then able to transfer the baby to Mia’s body, in much the same way someone would fax a document to another person.  This explained why Susannah experienced some symptoms of pregnancy while still menstruating.  Susannah is angered, but promises Mia she will still help her have the baby, which will not be human and may try to kill its mother(s).

In the meantime, Roland and Eddie are transported to 1977 Maine and almost immediately are forced into a gun battle at a general store with Enrico Balazar’s gangsters, who are also working for the Crimson King.  Two of the customers are shot, but Roland and Eddie are able to escape with the help of a crafty man named John Cullum.  Roland and Eddie are able to locate Calvin Tower, and realize that Tower has not kept his whereabouts secret.

Balazar 1

Eddie becomes angered by the actions of Calvin Tower, and confronts the man in his home as Roland and Aaron Deepenau watch.  Roland and Eddie then convince Tower that he must sell them the lot that houses for the road for $1, so that the rose may be protected from the Sombra Corporation and North Central Positronics, both of which are companies created specifically for the purpose of aiding the Crimson King in his quest to destroy the Tower.  Roland and Eddie inform Calvin that he is selling his lot to the Tet Corporation, which consists of Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy.  Tower is resistant at first, but is eventually persuaded by Roland and Eddie to sell the lot.  It is revealed that one of Roland’s ancestors had a connection to Tower’s ancestors, and that Calvin’s family has been sworn to protect the Rose and the Tower.  Eddie also gives Tower some advice on future investments.  Eddie then inquires about a writer named Stephen King, and John Cullum confirms that he resides in the area.  Eddie convinces Roland that they must visit the writer, and Roland reluctantly agrees.

stephen-king-cover-ftr

Roland and Eddie then find the house of Stephen King with very little trouble.  Both men feel drawn to the place, and realize that they have encountered something special.  King faints upon meeting Roland, but does not recognize Eddie (as King has created Eddie yet).  Eddie and Roland learn that King is a conduit and his purpose is to tell their story.  Eddie and Roland also realize that King is in danger, and has been in the sights of the Crimson King for many years.  Eddie worries that King’s vices (mainly his drinking) may result in his demise.  King undergoes hypnosis under Roland, and Roland reminds him of his purpose in life:  to tell the story of the Tower. Roland and Eddie then leave King’s residence, hoping that King will live to tell their tale. King then awakens, and has forgotten about the visit.  King also becomes inspired to start the second book in the series:  The Drawing of the Three.

3 doors

Meanwhile, back in 1999 New York City, Susannah continues to attempt to delay Mia’s labor but this becomes increasingly difficult.  Susannah and Mia travel to a restaurant called The Dixie Pig, which is really a gathering spot for the Low Men, and also provides a portal back to Mid-World.  Susannah leaves behind a small, magical scrimshaw turtle figurine, in the hopes that the object will assist her friends in finding her later on.  Susannah and Mia are then transported to Fedic, a town located in Thunderclap, and Mia’s labor begins.

Dixie pig 1

Jake, Father Callahan and Oy have also been transported to 1999 New York City.  Jake discovers the scrimshaw turtle, which gives him that Susannah may still be alive. Jake and Father Callahan also track down Black 13, but nearly succumb to its sinister intentions.  However, Father Callahan is able to put the evil object “back to sleep.” Susannah has also left a telepathic message with a preacher, and Jake, Oy and Father Callahan are able to track Susannah and Mia to the Dixie Pig.  Jake and Father Callahan enter the restaurant with their weapons drawn and ready to kill.  Neither has any hope of surviving the encounter.

Jake and Oy 3

The book ends with the diary entries of Stephen King.  The diary spans from 1977 to 1999, and details King’s struggles with addiction, his writing and his many near-death experiences.  However, the diary is concluded with an article from a newspaper that states King was killed on June 19th, 1999, after he was struck by a mini van while taking an afternoon walk.

Black_13


 

 

My Thoughts

Whew, Song of Susannah

Not that “whew” is a bad thing, but it is the first thing that comes to mind when this book is mentioned.

Song of Susannah does have a different tone than any of the other books.  One of its biggest criticisms is that it feels “rushed”, as if the master himself needed to get this one out of the way to go on to bigger and better things…

And I get this criticism, I really do.  Song of Susannah is short, but it is almost like an over-packed suitcase that someone put too much in because he/she didn’t want to pay the airlines those pesky extra fees (really, I would know nothing about this).

But after I finished my read this go-around, I got to thinking (*insert danger right here, I know*).  And one of my thoughts was:  Is the rushed feeling something that King did on purpose?  Did he want us to feel rushed, when we read it, perhaps to set the mood for the last book in the series?  Did he want to create a sense of urgency, because things became urgent for our favorite ka-tet?  In other words, did he want to convey that “shit just got real?”

And the more time I spend thinking about it in this way, the more I think that I may be right.  The first three books could be almost meandering at times.  Sure, there was urgency in them (Eddie heroine addiction, saving Roland from Detta and Jake’s “birth” in Mid-World all come to mind), but the first three more have the feel of making love, where your lover takes his/her time, getting to know every inch of your body and is eager to find out what makes you tick, and just covers you with deep, slow kisses…

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And if the first three are the literary equivalent of making love, Song of Susannah is the literary equivalent of a quickie.  Song of Susannah is urgent, and does not take the time to get to know you.  It will still kiss you, but the kisses are greedy and even a little rough at times.  Song of Susannah shoves you against the wall, grasping you with its rough hands, and will do its business with you, not caring that your clothes are not fully removed, or even that you are in the kitchen instead of the bedroom.  And this is perfectly fine, as you are eager to move forward, and the sense of urgency has been growing…

And there is nothing wrong with a quickie, literary or otherwise.  In fact, a quickie can have its charms, and Song of Susannah has many of those.

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One of the charms of Song of Susannah is the title character herself, Susannah Dean.  Previously, Susannah’s character had not been emphasized as much, with Roland, Eddie and Jake receiving most of the attention.  However, this changes in Song of Susannah, and Susannah’s thoughts and feelings are now front and center.  In particular, we get to see Susannah’s interaction with Mia, who has possessed her body and will stop at nothing to deliver her offspring, although there is the risk that the offspring may kill both of its “mothers”, along with its father.  The origin story that Mia provides to Susannah is fascinating, along with the explanation of how her offspring ties to Roland.  Susannah is still loyal to her ka-tet and desperately wishes to be reunited with them, especially her husband, Eddie, but also feels a pull of sympathy towards Mia, who she knows has bought the lies, hook, line and sinker,told by the Crimson King and his henchmen.  Through the eyes of Susannah, Mia becomes a somewhat sympathetic character, even though she is still not on the side of the “white” (Roland and company) and is one of “the bad guys.”

Castle Discordia

Even though the emphasis on Song of Susannah is on Susannah herself, a few other characters shine through.  One of these characters is Eddie Dean.  Previously, Eddie was a heroine addict.  Eddie became “clean” after his forced entrance into Mid-World, despite the fact that he fought Roland tooth and nail, and even tried to kill Roland, in an attempt to get back into “the real world.”  But Eddie then falls in love with Susannah, and stays with Roland in Mid-World to help Roland further his quest.  In Song of Susannah, Eddie’s love, Susannah, is taken away from him.  And then Eddie is taken away from Mid-World, and thrust back into the “real world,” giving him a chance to pick up his old habits again.  However, even though Eddie has had his rock taken away from (Susannah), he does not succumb to the temptation, and even behaves admirably, fighting in another gun battle with Roland and then helping to persuade Calvin to sell the vacant lot so that the rose (and therefore the Tower itself) can be protected.  Eddie easily could have lapsed back into his old ways, but behaves admirably instead.  In other words, he (again) proves himself to be a true gunslinger.

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Of course, no discussion on Song of Susannah would be complete without addressing the elephant in the room…

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Yes, its time to get meta.  Meta-fiction, that is.

Stephen King included himself as a character in the Dark Tower series.  This decision is controversial, to say the least.  Often, the reaction to this decision is something like this:

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The reaction is also varied:  some love it, some hate it.  And there is also the persistent rumor that one day King will rewrite the series, and not include himself as a character in it.

Stephen King

However, King meeting his own characters in Song of Susannah was one of my favorite parts of the book.

There, I said it.  And let me repeat myself:  KING MEETING HIS OWN CHARACTERS IN SONG OF SUSANNAH WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARTS OF THE BOOK.

See, I even used all caps, in case you didn’t hear me!

Oftentimes, as a artist, your creations can feel as if they are part of you.  And they can become real.  I dabble in painting, drawing and so forth, and when I am really working on a painting or drawing, I feel as if I am part of that piece of art.  In other words, part of me lives in my artwork, and continues to live in that artwork, even when it is “finished.”  A little piece of me goes into everything that I create.  In fact, you might even say that my artwork is “alive”, in some sense.

So imagine how Ser King must have felt.  King has been working on this series from the very beginning, and it has never been very far from him.  And like his characters in the book, he must have felt a sense of urgency to finish writing the series, due to some interesting letters from fans, and his own internal pressure.

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And as the pressure mounted, the world of Roland and his friends likely became more vivid to King.  Maybe he began to dream about them.  Or perhaps he heard their voices, calling out to him to finally finish the tale.  Or maybe they paid him a visit…

Yes, maybe the characters paid him a visit.  Like I said, I feel that my artwork lives, in some way.  And I am sure that King feels the same way:  his artwork also lives.  And sometimes, art imitates life.  Or does life imitate art?  Either way, by including himself as a character, I believe that King was trying to drive home a point:  artists really do live in their own little world.  And that world can sometimes feel more “real” that the so-called “real world.”  And an artist’s creations are never far from him/her, and can cry out to the artist, begging to be “finished.”

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So that’s it for Song of Susannah.  Join me and our heroes on the last leg of this fantastic journey, as we review and dissect the final book:  The Dark Tower.  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 Song of Susannah.

-Eddie tells Roland that he sees a “death bag”, or black aura, surrounding Stephen King.  This brings to mind the black auras seen by Ralph Roberts in Insomnia, when he encountered people (or animals) who were near death.

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-Roland thinks of Susannah’s proclivity to be able to “house” another personality, given the fact that Detta was another personality of Susannah’s for so long, and now Mia has also taken up residence in Susannah’s mind.  Another character in the King universe with this proclivity was Thad Beamount in The Dark Half.  Tad’s mind housed George Stark, who was eventually given life and was also able to cause trouble, in much the same manner as Mia.

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-When Roland speaks Calvin Tower in regards to his and Tower’s ancestors, the subject of dragons rears its head.  Roland states that one of his ancestors wanted to kill a certain dragon, but that dragon had already been killed.  This may be in reference to Niner, the dragon who was slain by King Roland in the book The Eyes of the Dragon.   Randall Flagg also made an appearance in this book, so this is another confirmation that Roland’s world and the world in The Eyes of the Dragon are likely the same world.

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-The Rose is said to have healing powers, and seems to be able to cure almost any ailment.  The Rose seems to be similar to the Talisman in the book of the same name.  In the book The Talisman, once Jack Sawyer found The Talisman, he was able to cure his mother and her Territories Twinner of the cancer that was killing both women.  It is possible that the Talisman may be another world’s manifestation of the Rose.  In other words, the two may be Twinners.

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-Again, Breakers are mentioned in Song of Susannah.  Breakers also play a role in a few other books and short stories, including Hearts in AtlantisEverything’s Eventual and Black House. Characters with PSI abilities are rampant in the King universe, and include Carrie White, Abra Stone, Dinky Earnshaw, Ted Brautigan and Danny Torrence, among others.

Dinky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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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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Time to Save Someone’s Life: My Review of Wolves of the Calla

 

Well, going back to work after a vacation can really suck.  I have been back from my vacation for a few weeks, and am finally get back into the swing of things.

So, yes, it can be rough.  Really rough sometimes.

Maybe sometimes, you feel like you are getting thrown to the wolves…

Just like our favorite ka-tet!

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Yes, they had a nice vacation, even if the weather was a little rough.  And they were treated to a couple of stories by their friendly neighborhood gunslinger.

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But now, its back to work for them.  Although really, I don’t think gunslingers ever have much time off (kind of like people who work in the tax resolution industry).  And its a tough job they have ahead of them, as they will be responsible for saving the lives of several someones.  And will literally be thrown to the wolves…

South Park wolf

The Wolves of the Calla, that is.  And these aren’t your ordinary every day wolves…no sir!  So let’s find out what makes these wolves so special.  That’s right, read my review of The Wolves of the Calla right here!


 

Synopsis

Wolves of the Calla begins in a small village (presumably located in Roland’s world) that we learn is named Calla Bryn Sturgis.  The villagers gather in the town hall, to discuss an important matter.  We learn that the villagers are again facing the prospects of some their children being kidnapped by creatures they call “wolves.”  The children are kidnapped every generation, and a robot named Andy always brings warning.  Any child who is a twin and between the ages of three and thirteen is in danger.  Only one twin in any set of twins will be kidnapped, and will be returned what the villagers call “roont“.  This means that the children return with almost no mental facilities, and will also be cursed to grow into extremely large adults who are unable to care for themselves, and will die an early, extremely painful death.

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Tian Jaffords, who is the father of two sets of twins, was warned by Andy of this round of kidnappings.  Tian’s sister Tia was kidnapped the last time the wolves paid the village a visit, and is now little better than an idiot.  Tian wishes to fight the wolves, but not all of the villagers agree with him, and there is much arguing during the meeting.  However, the meeting is interrupted by an elderly gentleman, who informs the villagers that gunslingers are nearby, and that they gunslingers may be able to help the village with its problem.

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We then learn that Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy are continuing on the Path of the Beam.  However, Eddie realizes that the action is about to pick up.  The group also begins to inexplicably see the number 19 nearly everywhere, and wonders about the significance, if any.

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That night, Eddie, Jake and Oy go to-dash, or travel to another world after eating what Roland calls “muffin-balls.”  Eddie and Jake travel to the bookstore in New York City that Jake had visited in The Wastelands and observe Jake’s past self.  They also learn that the owner of the bookstore, Calvin Tower, is being threatened by the same mobsters who were responsible for the death of Henry Dean some years later.  Calvin Tower is the owner of a lot that houses the “real world’s” version of The Dark Tower:  a lone rose that grows where no rose should.  Eddie and Jake realize that keeping the rose safe is key to also keeping The Dark Tower safe, and pledge to do anything they can to protect the rose.

Calvin Tower 2

That same night, Roland and Susannah also go on a journey.  However, neither travels to another world.  Roland follows Susannah in secret, as his suspicions have been growing.  Susannah appears to be pregnant, although she is not showing the typical signs of a pregnancy.  Roland determines that another being who is called Mia has stolen Susannah’s body, and that it is Mia who is pregnant.  Roland is troubled, and knows that he needs to discuss this Eddie, as Susannah’s life could be in danger.

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The following day, Roland and his friends encounter Father Callahan and some of the villagers from Calla Bryn Sturgis, along with the robot, Andy.  The villagers tell Roland of their problem, and ask for the gunslingers’ help.  Roland agrees to help them, as he, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy are bound by the gunslingers’ creed.

That night, Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy all go to-dash, visiting New York City.  However, Mia has taken over Susannah’s body, giving Susannah temporary use of her legs.  The ka-tet visits the rose that is the manifestation of The Dark Tower.  Susannah chooses not to go near the rose, as Mia feels that her pregnancy will be endangered by the presence of the rose.  Roland agrees with Jake and Eddie that the rose must be protected at all costs, but is unsure of how that will be accomplished.  The tet then returns to Mid-World, and Mia exits Susannah’s body for the time being.

Rose

 

 

Roland and his friends then take up residence in Calla Bryn Sturgis, with less than a month to find a solution to the villagers’ problem with the “wolves” that have been plaguing the village for so long.  Jake makes friends with a boy slightly older than him named Benny Slightman.  Benny’s father, Ben Slightman, is a ranch hand for Wayne Olverholser, one of the wealthiest men in the Calla.   It is noted that Ben Slightman is the only person in the village who wears eyeglasses.

Roland, Jake, Susannah, Eddie and Oy then begin to speak to the villagers to gain intelligence on the “wolves”, and also to earn the trust of the villagers, so that Roland may convince the village that they have a chance to defeat the “wolves.”  There is a party held for the tet one night, and Roland impresses the people of the Calla (thus gaining their confidence) by dancing a dance called the “commala.”  This dance is hard on Roland, as he is suffering from a form of arthritis he refers to as the “dry twist”, but helps him to come across as more “human.”

Roland dance

The tet also speaks to Father Callahan, and learns of his time in a town called ‘Salem’s Lot.  They learn that Father Callahan is from the “real world”, and was born into Mid-World in much the same manner as Jake Chambers:  he died in the “real world” but actually somehow traveled into Roland’s world upon his death.  In fact, Father Callahan was transported to the same way station as Jake upon his death, and also encounters the Man in Black.  Father Callahan is also given an extremely dangerous responsibility:  he is forced into guardianship of Black 13, one of the most dangerous pieces of Maerlyn’s Rainbow.  Black Thirteen enables the user to travel between worlds, but also has the ability to drive the user insane, as it can deep into secrets in one’s mind that are best left alone.  Father Callahan requests the tet’s help in disposing of this object.

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Susannah’s bizarre nocturnal journeys continue.  Roland speaks to Eddie, and lets him know of the pregnancy and that  Susannah’s body is being co-opted by Mia, who is actually pregnant with a creature that is not human.  Jake also discovers Susannah’s journeys and speaks to Roland about it.  Roland and Eddie begin to fear for Susannah’s safety.  Eventually, Susannah also confesses that she too is aware of the pregnancy.  Roland chooses to simply keep an eye on Susannah, as the problems in Calla Bryn Sturgis and the problems in New York regarding the rose are simply too consuming at the moment.

In the meantime, Roland and his friends continue to also worry about protecting the rose in New York, as Roland makes plans for dealing with the “wolves.”  Eddie speaks to an old man who provides some valuable information on the wolves, as the man claims to have had a friend who killed a “wolf” many years ago.  However, we are not told of what this detail is.  Eddie also plans to use Black 13 to make a trip to 1977 New York, as he is aware time is moving forward there, and he does not have much time to help Calvin Tower.

Eddie then makes the trip to 1977 New York, via Black Thirteen.  He is able to scare away the mobsters who have been threatening Calvin Tower, but warns Tower that he must leave town quickly.  While in the bookstore owned by Tower, Eddie sees a book written by someone named Ben Slightman, and realizes that Ben Slightman of Calla Bryn Sturgis is actually a traitor.  Eddie also has Calvin Tower leave the zip code of where he will flee too on a fence near the vacant lot that houses the rose.

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Jake makes another nocturnal journey, as he also begins to have suspicions about Ben Slightman.  Jake sees Andy and Ben conspiring, and also realizes that Ben Slightman is a traitor, and that Slightman is the one who is revealing details on the village to the organization that sends the “wolves” to kidnap the children.  It is also revealed that there are cameras all over the village that are used to spy on the villagers.  The wolves kidnap the children who are twins because the children’s brains contain an enzyme that enhances powers of telepathy.

Jake and Oy

 

Roland then begins to formulate a plan to fight the Wolves, as the time draws near.  Father Callahan is also sent back to 1977, to assist Calvin Tower in saving some valuable books.  The night before the Wolves are scheduled to attack, Roland has the village gather the affected children into one place, so that he and the tet can attempt to keep them safe from the Wolves.  Roland also assigns roles to various villagers.  Some will help fight the Wolves, and others will help mind the children.  Roland confronts Slightman the Elder, and tells him that he knows that he is the traitor.  Slightman promises Roland that he will help fight the Wolves, but Roland is skeptical.  Eddie also confronts Andy and destroys him, as Andy is responsible for the kidnapping and torture of several generations of children.

The Wolves then attack the next morning, as scheduled.  Roland then has Jake lead the children to the rice fields, but actually has others leave behind belongings of the children, such as articles of clothing, to trick the Wolves into thinking the children are hidden in the caves.  Roland also reveals to the villagers that the Wolves are actually robots, and that they can be killed by shooting the “thinking cap” on their heads.  This enables the tet to defeat the Wolves.  However, this comes at the cost of the lives of a couple of villagers.  One is Margaret Eisenhart, the wife of Slightman the Elder’s employer.  The other is Benny Slightman, who had become a close friend of Jake Chambers.’  Benny’s death leaves his father childless, and Jake angry and shaken.

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Susannah has gone into labor during the fight with the wolves because Mia is now ready to give birth to her “chap.”  Susannah is able to hold off the birthing process, however, and fights alongside her friends.  However, once the fight is over, Mia takes over Susannah’s body and steals Black 13 to travel to another world to complete the birthing process.  The book ends with Susannah vanishing, and her friends frantically searching for her.

 

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My Thoughts

So many thoughts, so little time…but I will try to summarize them here without rambling too much (ha).

First of all, Wolves of the Calla is all western.  Obviously, the theme for the entire Dark Tower series centers around westerns, but the western motif is most prevalent in Wolves of the Calla, in my opinion.

In fact, I couldn’t help thinking of this classic from my childhood.

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And I think this is not a bad comparison, given how even Eddie states that he feels like he has walked on to the set of a western movie.  Eddie also states that he feels like the whole business with the village that is troubled by the Wolves is staged, and the entire book does have that feeling.  It feels that King is setting the reader up for something major to happen, making him/her eager to rush to the next book in the series.

I also love that Wolves of the Calla further develops the character of Roland.  The Drawing of the Three, The Wastelands and Wizard and Glass also do this, but Wolves of the Calla just adds to this character development.  For example, Roland shows vulnerability when we are told he has a form of arthritis referred to as “dry twist” (my fingers hurt just typing that phrase, actually).  Again, it is reinforced that Roland has chinks in his armor, and sometimes even friendly, neighborhood gunslingers need help.

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Speaking of help, Roland gets plenty of it from Rosalita.  This starts with Rosalita and her cat oil, which gives Roland some relief from his “dry twist.”  Roland then takes Rosalita as a lover.  While we know that these two cannot possibly continue to be a couple, and that Roland’s heart is with Susan Delgado (where it will always remain),  However, their brief courtship (if we can even call it that, since most of their time is spent in Rosalita’s bed) is still very sweet, and even sad, as we know that it will be ending all too soon, leaving Roland once again alone and even vulnerable.

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And then there is Andy.  The robot we all love to hate…

Bender

Well, that’s the wrong robot, actually.  But somehow, I can still almost hear Andy saying “bite my shiny metal ass!” to Eddie, and getting that ass kicked even harder by Eddie…teehee.

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Not only was Andy a great villain in this book, he suffered one of the greatest deaths I have had the pleasure of reading about in any book, let alone a Stephen King book.  And he was disposed of by my main man, Eddie Dean.  I am pretty sure Eddie’s bad ass quotient increased exponentially after he disposed of Andy.

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Wolves of the Calla is also the first book in the series to mention the number 19.  In fact, the entire book is littered with references to that particular number (which will become significant pretty shortly).  I blame this book for my obsession with that number, and I am sure it is also responsible for a lot of other obsessions.  Unless I am alone in my excessive geekiness (now that’s a thought scarier than anything King ever wrote!)

Father Donald Callahan.  Yes, the damned priest from Salem’s Lot.  So, if you spent years wondering about whatever happened to that poor priest who fled ‘Salem’s Lot after being forced to drink the blood of a vampire (not bitten, there is a big difference, which is discussed at length in Wolves of the Calla), let’s see a show of hands!

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Ok, good, I am not alone (in this thought, at least).  Who didn’t wonder about poor Donald Callahan, whose faith wavered just a teeny bit, resulting in the vampire Barlow being able to capitalize on the situation, and therefore (seemingly) be able to damn the poor priest for eternity?  At the end of ‘Salem’s Lot, Father Callahan is shown committing an ultimate act of cowardice:  fleeing the damned town just when it needs him the most, and leaving the dirty work to poor Ben Mears and Mark Petrie, who weren’t even able to completely finish the job.

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I always felt that Donald Callahan was too good for that ending.  He may have been a coward, but I liked the guy.  I identified with him.  Who hasn’t struggled with his/her faith (religion or just faith in humanity in general) after seeing the horrors humans are capable of inflicting on one another?  Callahan saw plenty of horror even before his confrontation with the vampires (his first, at any rate).  And it could not have been easy for him to continue to believe in a God who would (supposedly) allow such cruelty.  Callahan was human, and his faith wavered.  And he turned to alcohol, which is actually understandable.  However, I never thought of him as a bad man, just as a good man who felt alone and lost his way.  In other words, I thought Callahan deserved much more than that ending given to him in ‘Salem’s Lot.

'Salem's Lot 1

Apparently, Stephen King felt the same way.  So how do you tie up a loose end like an alcoholic priest who fled when his town needed him the most?  That’s easy, just make him a part of Roland’s tet!  And bonus points for giving him a fascinating back story!

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And King did exactly this.  And it worked.  It worked very well, in fact.  Somehow, the blending of what many consider to be the first modern vampire story and an epic fantasy series with a western motif just makes sense.  Only the genius that is Stephen King could blend two seemingly unrelated stories and have it work so well.  This merger is one of my favorite parts of the book, and it actually helped put my poor brain to rest (sort of, I’m pretty sure after the question of Donald Callahan was put to rest, my brain came up with  new questions to keep me up at night.  Something compelling, like “do penguins have knees” or some other piece of absurdity).

The fact that Donald Callahan was born into Mid-World on December 19th, which is the birthday of my awesome grandfather, is just an added bonus to a series of books that is already awesome

 

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So that’s it for Wolves of the Calla.  It seems that the tet will be in for a really long day soon.  A really long day…

In other words, tune in for my review of Song of Susannah next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

adam west

 

 

 


 

 

Connections 

Yep, time for the connections to other King books!  Here are the ones I found:

-Eddie thinks of a tabloid magazine called The Inside View.  This particular magazine is mentioned in several other King works, including The Dead Zone.

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-Roland and his ka-tet encounter the spirits of dead people who are apparently unable to move on.  Roland refers to them as “the vagrant dead” or “vags.”  These entities seem to be similar to the spirits encountered by Danny Torrence during his time in the Overlook Hotel as a child in the novel The Shining.  Danny, along with Abra Stone, also encounters these entities in adulthood in the novel Dr. Sleep.  Again, this connection reinforces the inter-connected-ness between all of King’s works, no matter how far removed they seem from The Dark Tower series.

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-Tian Jaffords speaks of an “opoponax feather” during a meeting of the villagers of the Calla Bryn Sturgis.  This feather gives the one who holds the right to speak and be heard.  “Opoponax” is a word thought of by Jack Sawyer in the novel Black House, and is used to bring his attention to an important matter.  This is very similar to how the feather is used by the villagers in Wolves of the Calla:  the feather is used to bring attention to important matters.

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Wolves of the Calla features “low men“, or creatures than may appear a combination of human and animal, but are actually supernatural agents of the Crimson King.   Low men are also featured in the short story “Low Men in Yellow Coats“, a story in the collection Hearts in Atlantis.  Hearts in Atlantis also features Ted Brautigan, who is likely a Breaker.  Brautigan is also pursued by the Low Men, in much the same way as Father Callahan was pursued by the Low Men before his death and subsequent “birth” into Mid-World.

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Wolves of the Calla speaks of characters going to-dash, or traveling to another reality.  This concept is also used in several other King books, including Bag of Bones, when Mike Noon and Kira travel back in time to Fryeburg Fair.

-Father Callahan also speaks of going to-dash, and watches the funeral of Ben Mears, where Mark Petrie gives a eulogy for Ben.  Ben and Mark are two of the major characters in the book ‘Salem’s Lot.

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-Father Callahan also speaks of a “doorway” that leads to 1963.  Eddie speculates that one could try to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but Callahan advises Eddie against changing history.  This is a possible precursor to the events in the book 11/22/63, in which the main character Jake Epping does indeed attempt to change history.

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-However, the most major connection to King’s other work in Wolves of the Calla is Donald Callahan himself.  Donald Callahan was a major character in the book ‘Salem’s Lot.  This book featured a town that was overtaken by vampires, and Father Callahan was one of those who attempted to stand against the vampires.  However, his faith waivers, and he is forced to drink the blood of a vampire.  After Callahan drinks the blood of a vampire, he flees town in disgrace.  He is also granted some powers that are perhaps similar to those of someone like Ted Brautigan, who is one of the Breakers.  Wolves of the Calla gives us even more information on Father Callahan’s story and further solidifies the King universe.

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