The Great Race: My Review of The Running Man

Lately, the world has been a bit topsy-turvy.

Maybe I am looking at it through a looking glass

Or did Barry Allen make an ill-advised trip, and travel back in time, so now that we have a paradox on our hands, so to speak?

(Not to be confused with our beloved Earth 2, where science accelerates at a rapid rate, and villains are the mayors of cities and heroes are well…kinda douchebags, actually.)

Maybe I traveled into an alternate reality, where Superman is the adopted son of undocumented migrant workers, and has a really, really close relationship with Zod, and Batman is literally backwards, and kind of sucks…

Well, actually no.

Not that I am knocking on any of the above, and wouldn’t be open to a little possible experimentation…

Although I could argue that Barry Allen and his ill-advised time travel has had some kind of effect on my reality…

After all, the Cubs are World Series champions!

And we may not have Leonard Snart as mayor, but hey, we have a Cheeto for president! So maybe that time travel did do something!

Now, if only it had won me the lottery…

Or at least given me cool super powers!

Okay, back on topic…

I have actually traveled to alternate reality, even though that trip to Earth 2 is still on my bucket list.

In other words, I have read a book written by that Bachman fella…

Well, I am really not sure if those guys are one in the same, even if that whole story about death from cancer of the pseudonym is slightly suspicious…

Hey, you never know.  If young boys and and middle-aged priests can “die” in one world, and be re-born into another (cooler) world, maybe writers can be stricken with cancer of the pseudonym, and end up being re-born on the Sons of Anarchy level of the Tower, where the writer in question takes a grisly sort of janitorial type of job, collecting macabre souvenirs as a form of payment…

Okay, again back on topic.

So, I read a Stephen King book.

Yeah, water is wet, the sun rises in the east, and Cheetos make terrible leaders of the free world…

So what else is new?

Well, this book is actually new, at least somewhat.

As most of us probably know, early in his career, The King of Horror decided that he would like to write non-horror stories, every now and again.

While King has actually written some fantastic books that can be classified as not horror (The Talisman, 11/22/63, Different Seasons and The Eyes of the Dragon all readily come to mind), early on his career, he was bound by some silly rules about how many books he could publish in a year.

Somebody thought that there was such a thing as too many Stephen King books!  And they thought I was the crazy one!

So King did what any sensible King of Horror would do.  He created a pseudonym.

As far as I know, this pseudonym did not come to life and murder people, forcing a flock of birds to be called, so they could carry him off, kicking and screaming.

(However, if he is employed by the friendly folks known as SAMCRO, all bets are off, as you gotta do what you gotta do to survive over there in the charming town of Charming, California.)

King named this pseudonym Richard Bachman.  And for a while, that Bachman fella did pretty well for himself.

He wasn’t a horror writer, per se.  No, Bachman explored the darkness of human nature.  Man’s inhumanity to man, in other words.

He wrote of violence at school, corporate greed and of a dystopian government, that might actually not be fiction at this point.

And Bachman also wrote of our obsession with television, and our need to be constantly entertained, even at the expense of the feelings (and maybe even lives) of our fellow man.

In other words, I am currently reading The Running Man.

Dicky Bachman has come out to play.

So let’s indulge him, as we read and dissect The Running Man.

And, as always:

Continue reading

Ride or Die: My Review of Christine

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

And that is understandable, to a point.

After all, many milestones are reached during adolescence…

First bra…

First dates…

First kisses..

First loves…

First vehicles…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, as always:


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Thoughts

Well, that was quite a ride…

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

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

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

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

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

He writes about people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And one scary character as well.

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

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

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

Speaking of which, Roland LeBay…

Let’s talk about him for a bit.

.

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

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

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

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

And that theme would be obsession.

Think about that for a moment.

Roland Deschain is obsessed with his Tower.

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

Roland LeBay is obsessed with his vehicle.

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

So yeah, sounds pretty familiar, huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you see?

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

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

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

Wow, wow and wow again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My question is:  did Arnie really change?

My answer:  no, he didn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

Arnie spent his life being marginalized.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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And yeah, I may sound even more nerdy live than on here…who knew???

 

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/dark-tower-radio/e/48987589?autoplay=true

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The First Cookie: My Review of Carrie

There is just something about a new year.

I know that the calendar is simply a human construct, and really pretty meaningless, maybe even random, if you really think about it.

But I still love the concept of a new year.

It reminds me of when I buy new art supplies, for example.  I know that I have bought most of this stuff before, and I am just recharging my already ample supply (luckily, my husband is understanding, although he would not agree that it’s not hoarding if it’s art supplies.)

But still, every time I hoard buy new art supplies, I get that feeling of new possibilities.  No limits.  And I can start anew.

And that is how I feel about 2017.

Especially after the horror movie otherwise known as 2016, that will probably be struck from the history books.

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

Seriously, those school kids in the future will likely have some gap in their books (or whatever will pass for books in 2297) that covers 2015, 2017, 2018 and so forth.

But yet there will be a gap, in that 2016 will be skipped over.  And I am sure that the parents (or robot nannies) of the future will have fun trying to explain that one.

trump 5

In other words, 2016 was pretty scary.  I mean, who wrote 2016…Stephen King or somebody?

Oh, speaking of which…

Cleaner 3

In case you forgot which blog you were reading…

Yes, we are starting out 2017 with a review of a Stephen King book…who knew?!

And for this month’s review, we are going back in time…

All the way back to the beginning, in fact.

Now, I know that King started off his writing career at a fairly young age, and spent years trying to get his work published.

stephen-king-cover-ftr

In other words, I am sure there are lots of early works by The Master somewhere out there, for our reading pleasure.

But, for the purposes of this humble lil ole blog, we are going to focus on The Master’s first published book (and also the first of his books to be turned into a movie, which is still a classic.)

So, we are going to be reading and dissecting the novel Carrie.

The book with the infamous shower scene.

carrie-movie-7

The book that makes you want to get a T-shirt that says “I survived my high school prom and all I got was this bloody T-shirt!”

(See what I did there?)

Carrie was the first published book by Stephen King.

It set the precedent for horror and also for book-to-screen adaptations.

It’s iconic.

Even non-King fans (gasp) can probably recite lines from the movie, and probably even know that is based on a Stephen King book.

Carrie is a huge part of popular culture.  And there is a reason for that:  it discusses themes that everyone can relate to, including puberty, bullying, parental abuse and a few others.

So, strap in, Constant Constant Reader, and get ready for the wild ride otherwise known as Carrie!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an account of stones mysteriously falling from the sky, in the proximity of a house that a woman named Margaret White lives in, along with her toddler daughter Carrietta White.  No one is ever able to explain why the stones fell from the sky, although people do not seem to be surprised that such an odd phenomena would occur in the vicinity of that particular house.

The story then jumps forward several years.  Carrie White is now a teenager attending Ewen High School in Chamberlain, Maine.  Carrie does not fit in at her high school and is bullied mercilessly by her peers.

The bullying reaches a peak one morning, when Carrie begins her first menstrual period at the age of nearly 17.  Carrie does not understand what is happening to her and thinks that she is bleeding to death in the showers of the gym at her school.

Almost at once, the other girls begin to torment Carrie, throwing tampons and menstrual pads at her, demanding that she “plug it up.”  Susan Snell, who generally does not bully other students, participates in tormenting Carrie, although Sue realizes that Carrie may not actually understand what is happening to her and that Carrie may also be genuinely terrified.

We then learn the story of Carrie’s birth.  Her mother, Margaret White, was in denial that she was pregnant, as her religion proclaims that any sexual intercourse is a sin.  Margaret gives birth to Carrie at home, with no medical assistance.  Margaret was alone, because Carrie’s father had passed away several months earlier.

Ms. Dejardin, Carrie’s physical education teacher, puts a stop to the attack.  She does not punish Sue and the other girls right away, but dismisses them so that she can help Carrie.

Ms. Desjardin then escorts Carrie to the principal’s office.  She tries to explain menstruation to Carrie, but Carrie is too upset to listen.  The principal, Mr. Morton, then dismisses Carrie for the day, after Ms. Desjardin gives him an explanation of what happened.  Ms. Desjardin also states that she will punish those responsible for the incident, and Mr. Morton allows the punishment to be her own.

Carrie walks home from school, upset about the treatment she has endured from her classmates over the years.  Carrie is also aware that she is different because she has the ability to move objects with her mind.  This was demonstrated earlier when she forced a light bulb to explode and an ash tray to fall off Mr. Morton’s desk.  Carrie is able to knock a child off his bicycle when he torments her as she as walking home, and realizes that she may be able to control this gift, with practice.

We then read the account of the incident from Carrie’s childhood when the stones fell from the sky.  The incident is told from the perspective of Carrie’s former neighbor, who is being interviewed for a publication.

Carrie arrives home that morning, and finds the sanitary napkins her mother has hidden in the house.  She is no longer frightened, as she realized that menstruation is a normal part of growing up, although she is embarrassed, as she previously thought that sanitary napkins were used to remove lipstick.  Carrie also desires to break free of her mother’s constricting religious beliefs, and to fit in with her peers.

However, Carrie is also angry, and breaks a mirror in an expression of her anger.

The story then switches to the perspective of Sue Snell.  Sue is dating a boy named Tommy Ross, who is the most popular boy in school.  The two have recently become lovers, and Sue begins to contemplate a future with Tommy and realizes that she has fallen in love with him.  That night, when the two are on a date, Sue confesses what happened that morning in the shower to Tommy, as she is upset with herself.  Tommy listens to Sue and suggests that Sue apologize to Carrie for her part in the incident.  However, Sue is unable to come up with a solution to her problem, and still feels badly for what happened.

That evening, Carrie faces the wrath of her mother, Margaret.  Margaret believes that her daughter has sinned because she is now menstruating, and forces Carrie into a small closet to pray for forgiveness.  Margaret also strikes her daughter.  However, Carrie pushes back, threatening to make the stones come again if Margaret does not stop the abuse.

The next week, Ms. Desjardin confronts the students responsible for the attack on Carrie.  Sue Snell is among these students, and accepts responsibility for her part in the incident.  However, Chris Hargensen, one of the other responsible students and a school bully, refuses to accept the punishment, and tries to convince Sue and the others to walk out in protest of Ms. Desjardin and her punishment.  Sue refuses, and Chris’ refusal results in a suspension and refusal of her prom tickets.

Chris’ father also refuses to accept his daughter’s punishment and attempts to bully the school administrators into reversing the punishment so that Chris can attend prom.  The administration, however, stands up to him, and he backs down after he learns what his daughter did to Carrie.

Sue is also forced into a confrontation with Chris, as Chris is angry that Sue did not stand with her in protest of Ms. Desjardin’s punishment.  However, Sue tells Chris that she accepts responsibility for her actions.  Chris counters, telling Sue that she is a hypocrite and only accepting the punishment so that her prom ticket will not be refused.  Sue realizes her hypocrisy, and wonders how to counter it.

Sue continues to feel remorse for her responsibility on the attack on Carrie, and finally has an idea of how to atone.  Sue convinces Tommy Ross, her boyfriend, to ask Carrie to the prom.  Sue is convinced that if Carrie attends prom, she may finally be able to fit in with her peers.  Tommy is reluctant, but finally agrees to Sue’s request.  After he agrees, he tells Sue that he loves her.

Tommy approaches Carrie one day between classes, and invites her to the prom.  Carrie is skeptical, but is finally convinced and agrees to attend the prom with Tommy.  After speaking with Carrie, Tommy realizes that she is far from repulsive.

Carrie decides to use her talent for sewing to make her own prom dress.  Carrie also develops her other talent, known as telekinesis, and is able to move larger objects using her mind.  She informs Margaret that Tommy has invited her to prom and that she has accepted the invitation.  Margaret is furious and attempts to forbid Carrie from attending.  Carrie fights back, using her newfound powers, and wins the battle.  Carrie emphasizes her desire to fit in with her peers, much to the shock of Margaret.

Word spreads that Sue will not be attending prom and that Tommy will instead be taking Carrie to the prom.  It also becomes evident that Chris Hargensen is planning something, although no one is sure what she is planning.

Billy Nolan, Chris’ boyfriend, breaks into a farm one night.  Billy and his friends kill a couple of pigs, and drain the bodies of blood, taking buckets of blood with him when he leaves the farm.

Carrie sews her dress and begins to get ready to attend her senior prom.  Margaret again fights with her, attempting to persuade Carrie not to attend, but once again, Carrie uses her powers to stand up to her mother.  Carrie also tells her mother that she loves her after the confrontation.

Tommy arrives to pick up Carrie, who is extremely nervous, and has even considered not attending the prom.  However, Carrie is pleasantly surprised even from the beginning of the evening, as her classmates and her date treat her with respect.  The girls are impressed with her dress, and surprised by her talent for sewing.  Carrie is further surprised to learn that she and Tommy have been nominated for Prom King and Queen.

While Carrie is attending the prom, her mother Margaret comes to the decision to kill her daughter when she comes home later that night.  Margaret has noticed Carrie’s talent for moving objects with her mind from the time when Carrie was baby, and believes that Carrie’s gift is a sin.  Margaret contemplated sacrificing her daughter many years ago, but did not.  This time, however, she is determined to carry out her plan.

Chris and Billy also carry out their plans to play a prank on Carrie that evening.  They sneak into the high school, where Billy has hidden buckets of the pig’s blood in the rafter.  They plan to dump the blood on Carrie if she is crowned Prom Queen.

Carrie and Tommy are then nominated as Prom Queen and King.  They are crowned onstage.  However, when Carrie and Tommy enter the stage to accept their nominations, Chris pulls the strings, and Tommy and Carrie are doused with the pig’s blood.  One of the buckets hits Tommy on the head, and he is rendered unconscious.  The impact is so severe that Tommy dies in less than an hour.

The audience is first shocked, and then begins to laugh at Carrie, who is also in shock.  Carrie escapes from the gymnasium, but uses her powers to unleash the sprinkler system.  This causes an electrical fire, and students and teachers frantically attempt to escape from the school, which is now engulfed in flames.

Carrie wanders the town, in a state of madness.  She begins to cause more destruction, using her powers to wreak havoc in the town of Chamberlain, Maine.

Eventually, while the town of Chamberlain burns to the ground, Carrie returns to her home.  She is met by her mother, Margaret, who is armed with a butcher knife.  Margaret then stabs Carrie, believing that she is committing an act mercy in ending her daughter’s life.

However, Carrie is not killed by her mother, as she envisions her mother’s heart coming to a stop.  Margaret then dies after her heart comes to a complete stop.

Word of what has happened in Chamberlain reaches Billy and Chris, and they head back into town.  However, they also run into Carrie, who takes revenge on them by using her powers to overturn their vehicle.  Carrie is hit by the vehicle, and Billy and Chris are killed almost instantly.

Sue Snell is wandering the streets of Chamberlain.  She appears to have some sort of telepathic connection with Carrie and knows that Carrie has killed her mother.  She also realizes that Tommy and most of her friends have been killed.

Finally, Sue finds Carrie and realizes that Carrie dying.  She still shares a telepathic bond with Carrie, although the bond is weakening because Carrie is dying.  Carrie is convinced that Sue tricked her and is responsible for the events that occurred that night.  However, Carrie probes Sue’s mind, and realizes that Sue bore no ill will towards her and only wanted to help her.

Carrie traps Sue in her mind as she is dying, so Sue also experiences Carrie’s death.  Finally, Sue escapes Carrie’s clutches, and realizes that she has gotten her menstrual period, which had been a week late.

At least 409 people have died due to the destruction of the high school and the surrounding town.  An autopsy of Carrie White has revealed unusual formations in her brain, and the governor appoints a committee to study the tragedy.

Sue Snell survives the devastation and writes a book about the events.

The town of Chamberlain effectively becomes a ghost town, as people begin to leave.  More bodies are discovered, and the funeral business becomes the most active business in Chamberlain.

Some years into the future, a woman writes a letter to her sister.  The letter describes an incident with the woman’s infant daughter, who apparently has the ability to move objects with her mind.  However, the woman does not fear her daughter, but reveres her instead, believing that the little girl will accomplish great things in the future.


My Thoughts

Well, you know what they say…

Big things come in small packages.

Yes, this cliche may be overused, but I cannot think of a better description of the book Carrie.

It may not be a big book, but it packs a big wallop.

Carrie is King’s first published work.  King has compared it to a cookie baked by a 6 year old:  you can tell it’s a cookie, and it has some nice flavorings, but that cookie is misshapen, burnt on the bottom, etc.

Well, that cookie is some mighty fine eating, and an appetizer for great things to come!

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There are so many great things about this little book that it is hard to know where to start our discussion.

First of all, all Carrie has some great villains.  And no, the title character is not one of them, although we will discuss her in a bit as well.

No, the villains in this story are Carrie’s mother and her classmates, which mainly include Chris Hargensen.

As I have stated before, one of King’s major strengths as a writer is his ability to write about “real life.”

Making the statement that King writes horror is a severe underestimation of King’s work, almost like making the statement that Aaron Rodgers plays football.

Margaret White

In other words, there is so much more to King (as there is to Aaron Rodgers, as the Dallas Cowboys found out this weekend.)

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King writes horror stories, but when you strip away the horror, his stories are about people.

And one of the things that people do is not be nice to each other.

You know, like sheltering your kid her whole life, locking her up in a prayer closet when she does normal kid things and oh, not telling her about the “birds and the bees?”

Margaret White is one of King’s best human villains.

When one says the name Stephen King to most people, they may think of Pennywise the Clown, a girl who can start fires or maybe of the title character of the book we are discussing, who “lost” it and destroyed her high school.

pennywise

Most people are not going to think of religious fanaticism and how dangerous that fanaticism can be be to an impressionable teenager who only wants what most teenager want, i.e. to fit in with her peers somehow, and to not be the butt of EVER SINGLE horrible practical joke every bully somewhere has dreamed up.

What is great (or is it horrible?) about the character of Margaret White is that she is so plausible.

Margaret White exists in this world today.

Any time I read an article about some kid dying because the parents refused medical treatment for religious reasons, or some adult that escaped a household run by religious fanatics who insisted on homeschooling their children and not allowing their children to date before marriage, I think of Margaret White.

Granted, the outcome in Carrie may be a bit extreme, as most kids don’t kill their abusive parents and many are able to flee those conditions and eventually make better lives for themselves.

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But Margaret White still exists.  And she is dangerous, as most people do not recognize the actions of the Margaret Whites in our world for what they are:  child abuse.

Child abuse does not always mean that a parent hits his/her and leaves bruises (although Margaret was guilty of this, and this is still tragically all too common.)

Instead, child abuse can be more insidious, as when the parent controls all actions of the child, and does not allow opposing viewpoints in the child’s life.

Child abuse can also consist of a parent forcing their viewpoints on their child, and punishing the child for daring to have an opposing viewpoint (the prayer closet in action.)

The book Carrie also has another villain, besides Margaret White.

Or should I say, a set of villains?

I+Hate+Carrie+White[5]

In case I am not being clear, I am referring to Chris Hargensen, along with the other sickening half of the dynamic duo…

Yes, Chris is some sort of demented Batman, and that would make Billy some kind of creepy, greasy Robin, I suppose.

adam west

When I read about the bullying experienced by Carrie, and the actions (and lack of actions) by her classmates, I was reminded of one of my favorite books as a child.

This would be the book Blubber, by Judy Blume.

Judy Blume is similar to King, in that she writes “real life.”

In fact, most of my sex education was derived from her books (talking to you, Forever, and Are You There God?  Its Me, Margaret.)

Along with educating me about my anatomy, Ms. Blume also discussed bullying at length in almost all of her books.

However, Blubber was a book devoted to the subject of bullying.

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In this book, children gang up on a particular classmate, bullying her ostensibly due to her weight (the title is the cruel nickname they have come up with for this child, in fact), although the real reasons may be a little deeper.

However, Blubber is not told from the perspective of the bully.  Nor is it told from the perspective of the victim.

Rather, it is told from the perspective of a bystander, Jill.  Throughout the book, we watch Jill evolve, from a fellow bully to a victim to finally someone who becomes enlightened and a more compassionate person.

When I was reading Carrie, I was struck by the similarity between Chris Hargensen and the bullies in the book Blubber, along with the similarity between Sue Snell and the Jill character in Blubber.

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Like the bully in Blubber, Chris is charismatic.  At the beginning, Chris able to get others to do her bidding.

This includes her not very bright, but very cruel boyfriend, Billy Nolan.

In fact, unlike Chris, Billy does not care very much about Carrie White.  He just wants to dump a bucket of pig’s blood on someone, for the thrill of it.  Interestingly, Billy also seems to be the only one who understands that criminal charges would be brought against him and Chris if they were caught.

However, throughout the novel, Chris’ “friends” begin to turn away from her.

One of these friends is Sue.  Much like the Jill character in Blubber, Sue goes along with the crowd at first.

She wants to be accepted and does not want to “rock the boat.”

However, much like Jill in the book Blubber, Sue begins to evolve.

She does not want to miss her prom, but realizes the effect that the bullying has had on Carrie White.

As the events of the story unfold, Sue begins to evolve.

She realizes that there is more to life than high school, her friends and even Tommy, her boyfriend.

Sue is able to put herself into the shoes of Carrie, and realizes what a horrible time that Carrie has had throughout her life.

This prompts her to “loan” Tommy to Carrie for an evening, so that Carrie may have a few hours of happiness.

And when things go horribly wrong, Sue begins to feel a sense of responsibility.

Sue also reminds us that Carrie was a person, with real thoughts and feelings.

Carrie also seeks out Sue, as her life is ending, and realizes that Sue is not to blame for what happened.

In fact, it seems if Sue is able to offer Carrie one of the few bits of compassion that Carrie has ever received in her life, which eases Carrie’s suffering just a little as she dies.

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And last but not least, let’s talk about the title character herself, Carrie.

Now, I know that Carrie is not a terribly long book, and there is not a lot of room to get to know characters on an in-depth basis.

However, King does a good job with the character development in this book.  In fact, he does more than good, considering the length of the book.

In the past, people have indicated a dislike for Carrie as a person.  Or they simply pity her.  Even King has indicated that Carrie is not really a likable character.

However, I respectfully disagree with The Master on that (gasp.)

Maybe it’s because I was bullied as a child.  Or maybe it’s because I survived an abusive marriage.

But I find the character of Carrie White to be fascinating, and to me, she is one of King’s more interesting characters.

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Throughout much of the book, we see Carrie through the eyes of Carrie herself.  And the picture is not flattering, as it would appear that she is overweight and suffering from acne.

However, I was struck when I read the part where Tommy asks her to the prom, and notices that she was “far from repulsive” but this was “the first time he had really looked.”

So was Carrie just invisible when she was not being bullied?  I tend to believe this, because I spent most of my childhood being bullied and trying to remain invisible so I would not be bullied.  In fact, when my ex boyfriend told me that the guys at our college thought that I had the best legs on campus, I was struck speechless.  Really, I don’t think that I even knew that I had legs, much less legs that others may consider to be attractive.

But that’s how it is when you try to remain invisible:  you lose sight of yourself, and become invisible to even your own eyes, so you don’t see what others may marvel over.

Throughout the book, Carrie does begin to emerge from her shell.  And I began to like that girl on her own merits, much like Tommy Ross.

For starters, I thought Carrie to be a strong woman.

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She survived bullying and abuse (from both her peers and her mother) for years, and basically did not flinch.  In fact, she tried to take some of the bullying with good humor, even though she (understandably) lost her sense of humor pretty quickly.

To top it off, Carrie did not have a support system at home.  Most of us who are bullied have family and friends outside of school, so that we have something worth living for.  Carrie did not, although she had a mother who considered anything that may bring her daughter happiness to be a sin.

So anyone who can survive as long as Carrie did under those circumstances is somebody to be admired, not pitied.  And I like strong people, as well as admire them.  I like people who somehow find a way to push through it, even when the circumstances are not good.

“Hurt people hurt people.”

This is a quote from Laverne Cox, in regards to bullying and harassment.  And it applies so well to this book.

laverne-cox-1

Carrie was definitely one of the hurt people.

Her bullies could not even allow her a few moments of happiness, when she was invited to prom by the most popular boy in school and then crowned Prom Queen.  At that point, even some of her classmates, like Tommy, had begun to like Carrie on her own merits.

But then a horrible prank was played on her, and as they say, the rest was history.

And my question is:  why wouldn’t Carrie “snap” after enduring that kind of prank?

In fact, why wouldn’t anyone “snap” after enduring that kind of prank?

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Throughout the book, the scientific articles are focused on the telekinesis aspect.  Should something be done to prevent children from being born with this ability?  Can we isolate this gene that is responsible for “Typhoid Mary’s?”  Should we test children for “TK ability,” as we test them for tuberculosis?  And so forth.

But never once is the most important question asked:  What causes people to lash out, as Carrie did?

Personally, I was amazed that Carrie did not lash out sooner, due to the abuse that she endured.

Throughout the book, Carrie is not portrayed as someone prone to violence.

She may have fantasies in regards to revenge on her tormentors, but that would be perfectly normal, in my book.

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But constant bullying changes people.  I am living proof of that.  My childhood ought to be behind me, but it isn’t.

I spent my life being told I was not good enough.  So I married an abusive man, because I didn’t think I deserved any better.  In other words, I internalized that message.

I still have difficulty making friends.  Bullying causes major trust issues, so it is hard to open to people so that they can really get to know you.

So it is no wonder that Carrie used her powers to destroy her school and her town, along with killing her mother.

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She had nothing left to live for, as Tommy was killed by the falling buckets.  And no friends, as everyone laughed at her when she was hurt.  And her mother was the cause of this humiliation, as she failed to educate her daughter in regards to her own body.

So it seems to me that telekinesis is not the problem.

Rather, the problem is man’s inhumanity to man.

The telekinesis is a distraction.

We don’t need to worry about testing kids for TK or isolating any type of gene.

Rather, we need to test kids for bullying tendencies, along with testing parents for abuse tendencies.

Until we recognize bullying and abuse for what they are, hurt people will just continue to hurt people.

And the legacy of the Carrie Whites of the world will continue to live on, with horrific consequences.

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Well, that’s it for that tiny package known as Carrie…what a start to the new year!

Join me next month for the read and review of the greatest love story of all time between a boy and his car, aka the novel Christine!

Although we may make a slight detour into the world of Joe Hill again…I hear Christmasland is lovely at this time of year!

Tune in next month…

Same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin


Connections

Even though Carrie is the first published Stephen King novel, it connects to his other works, just like nearly every other King novel.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-The events in Carrie are referenced by a character in the novel The Dead Zone, and mention is made of a movie based on those events.

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-Carrie’s telekinetic abilities are similar to abilities possessed by several other King characters, including Ted Brautigan in Low Men in Yellow Coats (part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis), Kira DeVore (Bag of Bones), Jake Chambers (The Dark Tower series), Danny Torrance (Doctor Sleep and The Shining), Abra Stone (Doctor Sleep), Tyler Marshall (Black House) and several others.

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-In the King universe, Breakers are people who possess psychic abilities and are recruited by the Crimson King and his Low Men (Hearts in Atlantis, Black House and The Dark Tower series) to destroy The Dark Tower, the nexus of all existence.  If Carrie had lived, it seems she most certainly would have caught the eye of The Crimson King and his Low Men.

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-Religious mania is a running theme in King’s work.  Margaret White is similar to several other religious maniacs, including Sylvia Pittson (The Gunslinger, Wizard and Glass) and Mrs. Carmody (The Mist, part of the collection Skeleton Crew.)

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-In The Dark Tower, Susannah mentions getting her first menstrual period, and her experience is similar to that of Carrie’s, as she is also abused in the same manner.

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-Margaret White is employed by Blue Ribbon Laundry.  This establishment is featured in the short story The Mangler (part of the collection Night Shift) and in the novel Roadwork, which was originally published as a Richard Bachman novel.

Stephen King’s Holiday Newsletter

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

Oh, and happy holidays, everyone!


 

Dear Constant Reader family,

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

SK give me what I won

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

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

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

Yes, my “other” family…

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

Sutter and Martin

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

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

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

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And then there are Roland’s friends

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

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

Speaking of friends, those kids who live in Derry!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Really interesting…

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

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

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

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

And then there is the matter of Annie

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

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

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

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My life for you,

The Wordslinger

RoaldDahl

P.S.,

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

P.P.S.,

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

SK christmas 1

 

It’s All a Wheel: My Review of Doctor Sleep

Sometimes, you just need a break from the horror of it all…

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

 

Yes, it’s that season again…

No, not Halloween.  Something far more frightening…

In other words, the 2016 Presidential Election is upon us.

You know, that time of year when admitting you are from ‘Murica is…well…probably something you want to gloss over, and talk about something a little less awkward, such as…well, anything really.

Like books.

Like books that are horror stories.

Like books that are horror stories written by…

Simpsons SK

I’ll take Stephen King for $19, Alex!

Yep, you guessed it.  And if you didn’t, well remember which blog this is next time, maybe you will have better luck!

So, I needed an escape.  Something to help me cope with the daily horror that manifests itself as a talking Cheeto.

And what better way to do that than to read a Stephen King book?

That will calm me right down, I think.

After all, reading about people with PSI abilities and weird cults that kidnap kids with PSI abilities is good for the nerves, right?

In other words, I chose the book Doctor Sleep for this month’s read and review.

Hmmm, I wonder if I can write in Rose the Hat to make America…ummm…steamy again?

Um, yeah…

But Doctor Sleep is one of my favorite King books.  It is a follow up book to The Shining, which I consider to be the gold standard for King (hey, even The Master needs goals to live up to, right?)

Like most of King’s work, Doctor Sleep is much more than “just” (haha, right) a follow to an iconic horror story which turned the horror genre and even popular culture on its head (redrum, anyone?)

It is a book that has a lot to say about addiction, overcoming childhood trauma and how family can be a huge downfall, or our greatest hope.

And it also doesn’t hurt that the book has a pretty kick ass female character, if I do say so myself (no bias here at all, really.)

So, with all that being said, here is my recap and review of Doctor Sleep.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Doctor Sleep begins where the novel The Shining ended.  Danny Torrance has survived the horrific events that occurred at The Overlook Hotel, and has moved to the southern United States with his mother, Wendy.

However, Danny is still troubled by the spirits that haunted him during his stay at The Overlook Hotel.  One night, when he awakens to use the bathroom, he encounters the ghost of Mrs. Massey, the woman who died in room 217 of The Overlook Hotel.

After Danny encounters the spirit of Mrs. Massey, he regresses and refuses to get out of bed or eat.  His mother even sees evidence of the spirit in the bathroom, and becomes worried and frightened for Danny.

Wendy is unable to comfort Danny, so she contacts Dick Hallorann, the only other person who survived the events that occurred at The Overlook Hotel.  Dick agrees to talk to Danny, to see if he can help Danny.

Dick arrives at the Torrance home, and speaks to Danny.  He tells Danny the story of his sexually abusive grandfather.  After Dick’s grandfather passed away, Dick was still haunted by the old man’s ghost.  Dick’s grandmother, who also possessed the same PSI abilities that Dick possessed, taught him to keep the spirit of the old man at bay, so that he was no longer haunted by the ghost.

Dick then tells Danny that his memories of the hotel are actually causing the spirits to manifest themselves.  He gives Danny a keepsake box, and tells Danny to make a keepsake box in his mind, to trap the ghosts so they do not continue to bother him.  Danny follows Dick’s instructions, and finds that they are effective.

They story then switches to the perspective of a woman named Andi.  Andi was molested by her father as a little girl, until she attacked and killed him in self defense.  Andi convinces men to take her to the movies.  The men try to have sex with Andi, but Andi has the ability to hypnotize people and send them into a deep sleep.  Andy hypnotizes the men, and then robs them of their cash and any valuables.

One day, Andi catches the eye of a group of people who also possess unusual abilities.  This group of people seems almost immortal, even though they appear to be normal on the outside.  They are led by a woman named Rose, who is also known as Rose the Hat, due to her tendency to wear a top hat.

Rose the Hat and her friends confront, and coerce her into joining them, telling Andi that once she survives what they call “the turning,” that she may also become immortal, and join them in their travels across the country.

Andi reluctantly agrees to attempt the ritual.  Somehow, she survives, and becomes a part of the group.  The group calls itself The True Knot.

The book then introduces the reader again to Danny, now an adult in his early twenties.  Danny has become an alcoholic who also experiments with drugs.  Danny has a tendency to also get into fights while he is drinking, as he is unable to control his temper.

One morning, Danny finds himself in the apartment of a strange woman.  He slowly pieces together the events of the night before, and realizes that his drinking has possibly gotten him into trouble, once again.

Danny realizes that the woman has a child by the name of Tommy.  Tommy is about 18 months old and has been left in the apartment while the woman went out drinking with Danny.  The woman, whose name is Deenie, is also addicted to cocaine, and convinced Danny to buy some for her.  The little boy tries to grab the cocaine, calling it candy, but Danny puts him in bed with his mother, and leaves the apartment.

Danny leaves town, and heads for the northeastern United States.  He continues to drink, and periodically thinks of Tommy, feeling some guilt for leaving him in those surroundings.

Over the years, Danny drifts across the country.  He continues to drink, and works in nursing homes when he can find work.  However, due to his alcoholism, he does not stay in any one place for very long.

One day, Danny arrives in a town called Frazier, in New Hampshire.  For some reason the town catches his eyes.  Danny also sees his childhood friend Tony for the first time in many years, and Tony also compels him to stay in Frazier.

Danny meets a man name Billy Freeman, and the two hit it off immediately.  Danny is then able to secure short-term employment as a sort of maintenance man, and contemplates applying for work at the local hospice.

One night, Danny dreams of Deenie, the woman he met a years ago at a bar.  Deenie appears to be dead, and warns him to stay away from the woman in the hat.  When he awakens, Danny finds her son Tommy in his bed, dead but asking for candy.  When he awakens again, Danny realizes that Tommy has died, most likely due to abuse and possibly neglect.

The next morning, Danny craves a drink, but does not give in to the craving.  Danny goes about his day, forgetting the dreams that he had the night before.  However, Danny again experiences troubling dreams later that night.  Danny again struggles with the urge to drink, but Billy Freeman finds him, and tells him that he has other options.

Danny begins to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and finds a sponsor.  Danny quits drinking and finds steady employment, making a life for himself.

In the meantime, a child named Abra Stone is born to a couple by the name of David and Lucy Stone.  Almost right away, Abra’s parents and great-grandmother (Conchetta) notice that Abra is unusual.  For example, Abra’s parents, when Abra is still an infant, have a dream of Abra covered in blood and holding a sign with numbers in the dream.  The next morning, Abra is taken to the hospital because she will not stop crying.  There is no medical reason found for Abra’s behavior.  However, this incident takes place on the morning of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.  The numbers seen by Abra’s parents in their dreams were the flight numbers of the planes that were attacked.

One day, Danny speaks to one of the members of his Alcoholics Anonymous group.  The man is John Dalton, who is also a pediatrician.  John has lost a watch that was gift from his wife and is upset.  Danny is able to use his “shining” ability to tell John that he left the watch in restroom at work.  John is able to find the watch the next day, and is grateful for Danny’s help.

John Dalton also happens to be Abra Stone’s pediatrician.  At the request of Abra’s parents, John attends Abra’s third birthday party, so that he can observe her in her home for any unusual occurrences.

Shortly before Abra’s third birthday party, Danny receives a message written on the blackboard of the room he rents.  The message simply says “Hello.”  Danny has been receiving some telepathic communications, and conjectures that the message is from Abra.

At the birthday party, John Dalton gets his wish: he observes some unusual occurrences that can only be attributed to Abra.  Abra’s doctor, parents and great grandmother find various utensils hanging from the ceiling by their own accord.  When this is pointed out to Abra, the utensils drop to the ground, seemingly proving that she is responsible for the occurrence.

The Stone family speaks to Dr. Dalton, who tells them that Abra is likely blessed (or maybe cursed) with PSI abilities, but that they need to love her and continue to raise her as a normal child.

The years pass, and one night Danny receives at phone call.  He is informed that one of patients in the hospice that he works at is getting ready to pass away.  The woman making the phone call knows that the patient is getting ready to die because the cat that was adopted by the hospice, Azriel (or Azzie) has made an appearance in his room.  Azzie is able to detect when death is near, and therefore alerts the staff and Danny.  Danny is called in because he is able to use his abilities to make the transition from life to death a little less frightening for the patients.

After Danny helps the latest patient pass peacefully over to the other side, he senses a presence in the room that he believes to be Abra.  In her bed at her home, Abra also senses Danny’s presence.

In the meantime, The True Knot runs into trouble, as they are running low on the essence of psychic children, which is what keeps them immortal.  They find a young boy in a small town, and partake of his essence, which helps them, at least temporarily.

Abra, who is now 10 years old, dreams of The True Knot kidnapping and torturing the young boy.  She describes the dream to her mother, who is disturbed.  Abra also talks about her friend “Tony,” along with Tony’s dad (aka Danny), telling her mother that Danny works in a hospice and is assisted by cat named Azzie.

The True Knot then realize that Abra can sense them, and that Abra is a powerful psychic.  They realize that Abra will provide them with plenty of essence, which will keep them alive for years to come, but that they must wait for her abilities to mature in order to get the full benefit.

Again, Danny senses Abra’s presence in his apartment.  This time, he sends her a message.  Abra receives this and tells her mother that Tony’s dad spoke to her.  Lucy is a little troubled, but decides to let it go, as Abra seems happy.

Shortly after sending the message to Abra, Danny sees his friend Billy Freeman.  Immediately, Danny senses that something is horribly wrong with Billy and convinces him to see a doctor.  Danny’s intuitions were correct, as Billy is suffering from an aneurysm that would have killed him, if left untreated.  Billy is grateful from Danny’s help, but Danny reminds Billy that it was he who helped him many years ago, when he arrived in Frazier.

Later that evening, Danny is overcome by the urge to drink.  He calls his friend John Dalton, and the urge passes.  When Danny arrives at his home, he finds a message on his chalkboard from Abra, but does not hear from Abra for another two years.

Two years later, Abra’s great grandmother, Conchetta, suffers a broken hip.  Conchetta is also diagnosed with cancer, and is given only months to live.  This causes Abra and her family to shuffle back and forth between their residence in Frazier, and the hospital in Boston, where Conchetta is staying.

One day, Abra comes home and picks up the mail.  She finds a circular with pictures of missing children, and realizes that one of the pictures is of the boy she dreamed about two years earlier.  This frightens Abra, and she struggles on whether or not to take any action.

Abra’s abilities then allow her to project herself into the mind of Rose the Hat.  However, this connection is brief, as Rose resists her presence, forcing Abra back to her surroundings.

Rose discusses Abra with the fellow members of The True Knot, and tells them that they must capture Abra, as she could provide them with eternal life.  Rose schemes on how to capture Abra, and plans to use drugs to subdue her.  Rose also makes an appearance at Abra’s window, frightening Abra, and causing her to call out to Tony for help.

Danny receives Abra’s psychic beacon, and the signal is so powerful that it renders him momentarily unconscious.  When Danny arrives at his home, he finds Abra’s email address written on his chalkboard.  Danny sends Abra an email, and makes arrangements to meet with her, so that he can find out what is wrong.

Abra and Danny finally meet outside the town library, and Abra tells Danny what has been happening with Rose the Hat, and what The True Knot did to the young boy.  Danny tells Abra to be careful, as Rose the Hat will be looking for her, and that he will be back in touch.

That night, a patient at the hospice where Danny is employed passes away.  Before she dies, the woman tells him to wait, and Danny obliges her.

After a few minutes, the dead woman begins to talk.  Danny realizes that he is actually speaking to his childhood friend Dick Hallorann, who has been dead for several years.  Hallorann gives Danny information in regards to The True Knot, but it is cryptic.  Hallorann tells Danny to refer to his childhood, and that the members of The True Knot will need to eat their own poison.  The ghost also tells Danny to talk his friends who understand what he really is.  After dispersing the information, the ghost leaves the body of the old woman, and Danny must figure out how to keep Abra safe.

Danny speaks to his friends Billy and John, and tells them what is happening to Abra.  John agrees to travel with Danny to Iowa, so that they can find the baseball mitt of the missing boy and confirm Abra’s story.

Things go from bad to worse with The True Knot, as it is discovered that one of their members, known as Grampa Flick, appears to be dying.  Rose does not understand how this is happening, and demands that the group’s “physician,” attempt to examine him.

Rose also tries to enter the mind of Abra.  However, Abra is prepared, and is able to resist Rose, even causing her physical pain.  This angers Rose, who realizes that Abra will be difficult to subdue, and will need to be drugged.

Danny travels to Iowa with John.  During the trip, Danny also tells John of the winter he spent at the Overlook Hotel and the traumatic experiences he endured.  John is skeptical, but becomes less so when he and Danny are able to locate the body of this missing boy and his baseball glove, per Abra’s instructions.  They return to New Hampshire with the baseball glove, in the hopes that Abra will be able to use the baseball glove to obtain more information in regards to The True Knot.

The True is able to narrow down Abra’s identity, and begins to close in on her.  Grampa Flick has died, and the cause of his death is discovered:  he has somehow contracted measles.  This is likely due to ingesting the essence of the young boy, who may have contracted the disease before his death.  Several other members of the group also become ill with measles.  This raises the stakes for the group, as they believe that ingesting Abra’s essence may provide some sort of immunity against the disease.

Danny and John return from Iowa.  Danny informs Abra that her parents need to be informed about what has been going on.  Danny and John arrive at Abra’s house and are greeted by her father, Dave.  Dave is not happy, but hears the story out.  Danny and John then give Abra the baseball glove, to find out if she can obtain any information from it.

After Abra touches the baseball glove, she obtains some information in regards to The True Knot.  The most important piece of information is the location of their base of operations.  Not surprisingly, The True Knot’s base of operations is located in Sidewinder, Colorado, on the grounds that once housed The Overlook Hotel.  Danny, John and Abra then come up with a plan to try to stop The True Knot before they are able to kidnap Abra.

The next day, Danny, John and Dave picnic at one of the town’s tourist attractions.  Abra astral projects herself info Danny, so that The True Knot will believe she is on a picnic with her father, instead of at school or at a friend’s house.  Abra’s father tells some family stories during this outing.  One of these stories is in regards to Lucy’s mother, or Abra’s grandmother.  Lucy was conceived out of wedlock, and her father’s identity was unknown.  Lucy’s mother died when Lucy was an infant, and Lucy was raised by her grandmother, Conchetta.

Later that evening, Abra stays at a friend’s house.  However, she decides that she is safe from The True Knot, as she believes they have fallen into the trap that Danny set for them.  Abra then decides to head home.

Several members of The True Knot arrive at the picnic grounds.  Danny, John and Dave are prepared, and shoot them.  However, one member, known as Crow Daddy, manages to escape the gunfight, and heads straight for Abra.

Crow Daddy finds Billy Freeman and overpowers Billy.  Crow Daddy then kidnaps Abra, using powerful drugs to sedate her.  When Abra awakens, Crow Daddy threatens Billy’s life, telling Abra that he will be killed unless she obeys him.

Danny, John and Dave quickly realize that Abra has been kidnapped, after Danny loses his telepathic connection to her.  However, Danny has a revelation, when he understands more of what the ghost of Dick Hallorann was trying to tell him.

Danny then astral projects himself into Abra’s body.  By doing this, he is able to fight Crow Daddy, and Crow Daddy is killed.  Danny then has Billy drive to a nearby hotel, so that he and Abra can get some rest before returning Abra to her parents.

The group then heads to the hospital, where Conchetta is living out her last days.  They tell Lucy what happened, and Lucy panics.  However, Dave is able to calm her down, reminding her that Danny is there to help.

Danny visits with Conchetta, who is dying.  He offers some words of comfort, and the two also exchange something else that is not specified.

After the visit with Conchetta, Danny speaks to Lucy and Dave.  He tells them that he has realized that he is actually Lucy’s half-brother and Abra’s uncle, due to an affair his father Jack had with one of his students.  After getting a good look at Danny, Lucy understands that he is telling the truth, even though she is still very worried about her daughter.

In the meantime, Rose the Hat and the rest of The True Knot make plans to locate Abra and kidnap her again.  The situation becomes more urgent, as more of the members either begin to sicken or die, or leave the group.

At the request of Danny, Abra places a call to Rose the Hat and taunts her.  Abra also requests to meet Rose in person, at her home base in Sidewinder, CO.  This riles up Rose even more, and she agrees to meet with Abra, telling her that she will seek revenge for the death of her friends.

The next day, Abra is reunited with her parents.  Abra and her family return to New Hampshire, while Danny heads to Colorado with Billy to confront Rose the Hat and the rest of The True Knot.  Danny feels ill during the trip, but he is determined to stop The True Knot.

Once again, Abra phones Rose the Hat, taunting her, and setting up a meeting time at the home base in Sidewinder.  She is able to astral project himself into Danny’s mind, tricking Rose into thinking that she is in Colorado, instead of in her home in New Hampshire.

Billy and Danny arrive at the site of where The Overlook Hotel used to stand.  The site is now a campground.  Abra is also with them, but in spirit, as she has used her talent for astral projection to trick The True Knot.

Danny is confronted by Rose the Hat and the remaining members of The True Knot almost immediately.  However, Danny is prepared and attacks them.  For the past few days, Danny has been carrying the essence of Abra’s great-grandmother.  He unleashes this essence upon The True Knot.  Since the old woman had been dying of cancer, the members of The True Knot are sickened almost immediately when they inhale her essence.

Rose then tricks Danny into thinking that Abra is Rose, and Danny begins to choke Abra.  He realizes his mistake, and vows not to repeat the mistakes of his father.  He and Abra then return to the corporeal world, promising to win the fight against Rose.

Ghosts are literally unleashed from Danny’s mind, as he unlocks his memories of his stay at The Overlook Hotel.  The remaining members of The True Knot are also attacked, leaving Danny the resources to focus on Rose the Hat.

Rose the Hat is then pushed from the balcony, and killed.  Danny sets fire to Rose’s top hat, destroying it.  As Danny and Billy leave the campground, Danny catches a glimpse of the ghost of his father, Jack.  Danny leaves the campground, bidding his father goodbye.

Two years later, Danny attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and celebrates the fact that he is 15 years sober.  Danny also confesses what happened at Deenie’s apartment all those years ago, and what happened with her son, Tommy.  His fellow addicts are not surprised, and are almost indifferent to his story.  However, Danny feels redeemed, and knows he is on the true path to recovery.

A few days later, Danny attends a birthday party for Abra.  At the request of Abra’s parents, Danny speaks to Abra alone.  It turns out that Abra has attended a party and had her first sip of alcohol.  Later, she got into an argument with her mother and broke several plates in a fit of rage.

Danny tells Abra of his own grandfather and father, and how alcohol ruined their lives.  Danny also talks of his own struggles with his alcohol and his temper.  Danny reminds Abra that she must control her own temper, so that she can stay out of trouble and not go down the path that he walked.  Danny then receives a phone call from his employer in regards to a dying patient, and cuts the evening short.

The dying patient is a man named Fred Carling.  Fred had previously been employed by the hospice where Danny is currently employed.  Fred was also a bully and disliked by many of the other employees, including Danny.  That night, Fred was the victim of a terrible car accident, and it has become clear that he will not live.

However, Danny puts his feelings aside, and visits Fred.  Danny realizes that life is truly a wheel, and brings the man comfort as he dies and passes to the other side.


My Thoughts

Doctor Sleep.  The book with so much beauty.

And I am not just saying that because Danny apparently resembles my man Jax Teller, either!

SONS OF ANARCHY: 203: L-R: Charie Hunnam and Maggie Siff on SONS OF ANARCHY airing Tuesday, Sept. 22'rd, 10 pm e/p on FX. CR: Prashant Gupta / FX

(Although, really, that doesn’t hurt.  Doesn’t hurt in the slightest.)

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Doctor Sleep is billed as a sequel to The Shining.  And in a way, it is (more on that later.)

But to think of it Doctor Sleep as only as a sequel to The Shining (which is one of my favorite King books ever and likely my favorite ghost story ever) is limiting.

For one, I don’t think of this book as a direct sequel to The Shining.  I find it better to think of it as a follow up.

Sure, we have some of the same themes, which include addiction, life after death and people who don’t quite fit the fold.

However, I find Doctor Sleep to actually be pretty different from The Shining.  And this is a good thing, as anyone who has ever heard my rant about sequels will tell you.

Let’s admit it: sequels sucks!  Carrie 2 anyone?  Or how about Pet Sematary 2?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

But, you have Phantasm 2, which expands on the original story.  And the Star Wars movies, which build on the first movie to make a complete story, and stand on their own as well.

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And now we have Doctor Sleep.  It also builds on the original story of Danny Torrance, and is a stand alone book.  This is a good thing, as we are staying out of the ridiculous sequel territory, which seems to plague the horror genre in particular.

However, I can’t help comparing and contrasting both books.  So, let’s get it out of our system…

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The Shining is one of the most frightening books ever written.  The ghost of Mrs. Massey.  The clocks with blood in them (still thinking about that weeks after the fact, thanks Stephen King!  And let me thank Obama for good measure!)

Now, Doctor Sleep does have its scary moments.  Dick Hallorann’s story about his grandfather and the old pedophile’s ghost (yeah, there I said it) is great nightmare material.  And of course, the resurgence of Mrs. Massey (and her “leavings”.  If that didn’t make you want to throw up in your mouth, then you are not human) and Horace Dewent added some creepiness as well.

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(Oh, and that top hat.  Is there anything creepier than a top hat drifting in the wind?  I mean besides a red baseball cap worn by a loudmouth, racist Cheeto?)

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But, due to the tone and the messages, I consider Doctor Sleep to be more dark fantasy than horror.  In fact, with the children in danger and the seemingly oblivious adults, Doctor Sleep is closer to The Talisman, or even The Eyes of the Dragon, than anything else.

Even the “villains” in Doctor Sleep (Rose the Hat, Barry the Chink, Diesel Doug, etc) remind me more of villains in a children’s fantasy novel than anything.  Not that there is anything wrong with this.  In fact, given what King was trying to accomplish (again, more on that later), I actually think that this works very well.

In fact, Abra herself reminds me of someone in a young adult novel.  Katnis Everdeen, perhaps?  Or maybe Pippi Longstocking?

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Abra is what I wished I was when I was her age:  courageous, confident, smart and just kicks ass overall.  In fact, she may be a little overconfident (and loves Game of Thrones, woot), but I don’t care.  I loved how she was willing to take on Rose the Hat, taking pleasure in the fact that she hurt Rose.  Talk about taking names and kicking ass!

However, this is a King book.  So there is much more to Abra than meets the eye.  The scene at the end, when Danny tells the stories of his father and grandfather, and Abra’s reaction, is proof of that.  Like Danny, Abra is flawed.  And will probably struggle with alcoholism.  But like Danny, she has hope.  And she will (hopefully) rise above her struggles and do good in the world.  And that is just one thing that makes her one of King’s best female characters to date.  Maybe, if we are lucky, we will one day get a story on grown-up Abra too.

Okay, time to talk about the elephant in the room…

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Well, actually not really.  Or at least a very cute elephant?

That’s right, I am talking about Danny Torrance, all growed up!

In case you can’t tell, Danny is one of my book boos.  I may be happily married, but I think there is a clause in my wedding vows that allows for book and TV boos.  So, relax, I am legal, folks!

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Like King, I would wonder about Danny off and on.  How did he fare after escaping The Overlook?  What kind of man did he grow up to be?  Did he have kids?  God forbid, did he follow in his father’s footsteps?

Not well, awesome, no, and yes and no would be the answers to the above.

And, in all seriousness, what did we expect?

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Cynical, I know.  I was actually reminded of the essay Lime Twigs and Treachery, written by Henry Miller.  I read this waaayyyy back in high school (over 20 years for you nosy folks) and it has always stuck with me.

I had actually forgotten about that essay.  Then I read Doctor Sleep.  And remembered it again.

The basic gist of that essay was that the sins of the father get passed down to the children.  And that we will never be able to escape those sins, which may include abuse.  And alcoholism.  And addiction.

And that is exactly what happened to Danny:  the sins of the father were passed down right to him.  On a silver platter, in fact.

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And what did we expect to happen?

Danny lived through the experience at The Overlook, yes.  But he lost his father, who he loved very much, despite of (or maybe because of) his faults.

He was forced to grow up, and quickly.  He learned some lessons that many people I know in their 30’s still have not learned.

His family unit dissolved.  His mother never fully recovered, either physically or emotionally, as she never remarried.

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So is it any surprise that Danny started drinking in high school?

Is it any surprise that he continued to drink, even when it was obvious that it was destroying his life?

Even as he clearly alienated people?  I don’t think Danny was single because he was ugly.  Rather, he was single because of his demanding mistress:  the booze.

I think that my favorite part of Doctor Sleep is not the part about the monsters, and revisiting Sidewinder (although those parts were certainly no slouch.)

My favorite part of Doctor Sleep was Danny’s journey.

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I loved the fact that the story picked up right after The Shining, showing us that things were not all right with Danny.

I loved the fact that Dick Hallorann was a constant presence in the story, even after he died.

But most of all, I loved the story of Danny’s struggles and his recovery.

One think that King is good at (and believe me, that is a long list) is writing real characters and real situations.  He is able to juxtapose the horror/fantasy element with the reality element (which has included job loss, addiction, bullying, hate crimes and many other familiar situations) and make his story that much more plausible.

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He did that in The Shining, and that is perhaps his most memorable moment.  Who can’t relate to Jack Torrance his struggles to provide for his family and achieve some sort of success somewhere, whether it be with writing, teaching or being the caretaker at a remote hotel?

And King also did it with Danny.  Addiction is a real issue.  Many people struggle with that.  So is childhood trauma and abuse.  Many have also struggled with that.

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King created another “Everyman” in Danny Torrance as well, in detailing his struggles with addiction, and his gradual recovery.  And that is just one of the reasons why calling Sai King “The Master” is not hyperbole.

The answer to the last question, if Danny grew up to be like his father, is yes and no.

Danny did grow up to become an alcoholic.

Danny also became someone with anger issues.

So that’s the yes part.

However, we cannot ignore the no part.  The no part is what makes Doctor Sleep so beautiful.

I love The Shining, but I consider it to be one of the bleakest books I have ever read.  Danny does escape the hotel, but at a huge cost, as his family unit is forever shattered.  Indeed, The Shining is a tragedy, along with a horror story.

Doctor Sleep is the opposite of The Shining.  It offers hope.  And I don’t know about you, but I think we could all use some hope right about now.

When I read Doctor Sleep, I look at it as a kind of redemption.  A cycle is broken.

It is true that Danny followed in his father’s footsteps (see above.)

However, Danny succeeds where his father had failed.

For one thing, he does not succumb to his alcoholism.  He recognizes the problem and seeks treatment for it.  This allows him to be able to hold down a job and maintain a stable home for himself, which is another thing that his father could not do.

Like his father, Danny had his demons.  He literally has his demons, as they escape from The Overlook and follow him into his new life.  Danny is also able to overcome those, unlike his father.

And because Danny is able to conquer his alcoholism and his demons, he is able to step up for Abra and be the man that his father could not be.

It is true that Abra is kidnapped, but Danny and the other adults do most of the dirty work to defeat The True Knot.  This allows Abra to maintain a little more of her innocence, as she can trust that the adults in her life will do the right thing.

Stephen King

I also loved how Danny was able to use the ghosts of his past to defeat The True Knot.  Finally, the demons are unleashed.  The suffering is not in vain.

In fact, there is something empowering about being able to take something has caused you so much pain, and using it to do good.

We all have our demons.  Sometimes, we suppress them.  But the most courageous of us face those demons, rising above them, finally breaking the cycle.


Well, that’s it for Doctor Sleep!  Join me next month as we take a look at the state of current affairs in these parts, as we read and dissect Needful Things!

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

batman and robin


Doctor Sleep is another King book set squarely in the King universe.  Here are some of the connections to other King books that I found:

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-The most obvious connection is to The Shining.  The Shining details the time that Danny and his family spent at the haunted Overlook Hotel, and of Danny’s experiences at the hotel.

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-Danny makes the statement “that there are other worlds than these.”  This is similar to a statement uttered by Jake Chambers in The Gunslinger, the first book in The Dark Tower series.

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-The town of Castle Rock is mentioned.  Castle Rock is the setting for several King novels and short stories, including The Body, Needful Things, Cujo, The Dark Half and The Dead Zone.

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-Jerusalem’s Lot is also mentioned.  The town of Jerusalem’s Lot is the setting for the book ‘Salem’s Lot, along with the short stories Jerusalem’s Lot and One for the Road.

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-Abra’s favorite boy band is ‘Round Here.  This band figures into the Mercedes trilogy, which includes Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch.

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-Abra is one of a long line of King characters blessed (or perhaps cursed) with psionic abilities.  These characters include Carrie White, Jake Chambers, Ted Brautigan, Kira DeVore, Tyler Marshall, the Breakers (featured in The Dark Tower series) and several others.

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-Abra’s “ghostie people” bear some resemblance to the vagrant dead featured in The Wolves of the Calla, The Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower.

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-The name Charlie Manx is mentioned.  Charlie Manx is the villain in the book NOS4A2, written Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King.

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-Mention is made of Dick Hallorann in the novel It, as Dick saved the life of Wil Hanlon, who would later go to father a boy named Mike Hanlon, a member of the Losers Club.

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-The number 19 is mentioned.  This number is of particular importance in the last three books of The Dark Tower series.

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Don’t Forget Your Napkin: My Review of The Eyes of The Dragon

Once upon a time, there was man known as Uncle Stevie.

Uncle Stevie liked to tell scary stories.

Simpsons SK

There were bad guys in Uncle Stevie’s stories.  Lots of bad guys.

In fact, he once told a story about a clown that killed children.

He told a story about a town that was invaded by vampires.

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He even told a story about a haunted hotel that tried to do bad things to a little boy with special talents.

But Uncle Stevie was not a bad man.  No, not at all.

In fact, Uncle Stevie had children of his own.  But those children could not read his stories, because they were children, after all.  Uncle Stevie did not know what to do.  He couldn’t scare his own children, but he wanted to write something they would like and not be scared of.  Uncle Stevie thought for a long time.

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One day, Uncle Stevie got an idea.  He decided to write a fairy tale of sorts, and dedicate it his daughter, Naomi.  Excited, Uncle Stevie got to work right away and wrote his new story.  It took him a long time, but he finally finished writing the story.

Uncle Stevie decided to call this new story The Eyes of the Dragon.  And his children were happy, since he finally wrote a story that they could read, and they liked it.

The story was actually sort of a fairy tale, although it was kind of long for a fairy tale.

But it read like a good fairy tale:  there were kings and queens.  And princes.  And even an evil sorcerer.  And the story took place in a magical land, far, far away.

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Although it was fairy tale, you could still tell that this story was written by Uncle Stevie.  There were some parts that were kind of scary, but not as scary.  And people did some bad things in the story, but never got punished like they would in a regular fairy tale.

In other words, The Eyes of the Dragon was a fairy tale, but you could tell it was written by the guy who writes scary stories.

And like Uncle Stevie’s other books, The Eyes of the Dragon would suck you right in to the land of princes and evil sorcerers, if you weren’t careful.  So kids liked it, and so did the grown-ups.

This nerdy grown-up decided she wanted to feel like a kid again.  So she read The Eyes of the Dragon this month.  Once again, she was captivated.  And enchanted.

Just like reading any other book written by Uncle Stevie.

So, here is her recap and review of The Eyes of the Dragon.  As always, watch out for the fierce beasts known as Spoilers!

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book introduces us to man named Roland.  Roland is the king of a land called Delain.  Roland is not hated in Delain, although he is not loved either.  Most people think that Roland is a competent king, and have no strong feelings towards him, one way or the other.

Roland is not a very bright man, and relies on the advice given to man by a man known as Flagg.  Flagg is Roland’s trusted adviser, and is also a man familiar with magic and its various uses.  There are many who do not quite trust Flagg, but no one dares to cross his path, as most people actually fear him.

At nearly 50 years old, Roland is still single, and this must be remedied, so that he can bear a son who will take over his royal duties one day.  Flagg introduces Roland to many women, and eventually, a woman named Sasha marries Roland.  Sasha is only 17 when she marries Roland, and is inexperienced in the ways of men.

Roland is also inexperienced in the ways of women, and has trouble bedding Sasha.  However, she becomes pregnant with the couple’s first child, Peter.  Peter is handsome and well liked, and takes after his mother.  Peter’s favorite toy is a dollhouse that was a gift to his mother.  The dollhouse is intricate and even has working parts, such as a small stove that heats up.  Peter spends hours playing with this dollhouse, making up fantastical stories to go along with it.  Peter also shows leadership skills at an early age, as he is able to exert his influence over people.  One day, Peter is able to prevent the unnecessary death of a horse.  Naturally, Flagg notices this and becomes uneasy.

Queen Sasha is well loved by the people of Delain, and is able to influence Roland when he makes certain decisions.  She also insists upon making sure that Peter is taught manners and etiquette.  Specifically, she makes sure that Peter uses his napkin, no matter the circumstances.  This is a lifelong habit that becomes ingrained in Peter.

Eventually, Sasha becomes pregnant with the couple’s second child, Thomas.  Flagg distrusts Sasha, and plots to kill her.  He is successful in accomplishing this when Thomas is born, as he convinces Sasha’s midwife to sever a vital artery, so that Sasha dies from blood loss.

As Peter grows older, Flagg distrusts him more and more.  He realizes that if Peter were to become King, Flagg may be vanquished from Delain.  After much thought, Flagg decides to kill King Roland and pin the death on Peter, so that Thomas will become King.  Thomas lives in the shadow of his brother, as he is not handsome and smart like Peter, but is more like his father.  Since Thomas is feeling neglected, this makes it easy for Flagg to exert his influence over Thomas.

One autumn night, Flagg poisons a glass of wine and gives it to King Roland, who drinks the wine, not suspecting that anything is amiss.  While this is happening, Thomas is spying on his father by peeking through the head of Niner, a dragon slain by his father on a hunting expedition.  Thomas feels that something is amiss, but does not say anything.

Flagg plants evidence in Peter’s room that will be found after his father’s death.  Roland does not show any signs of illness for a few days, but dies a sudden, painful death.

Shortly after the death of Roland, preparations are made for the coronation of Peter as king of Delain.  However, the preparations are halted after Dennis, the royal butler, finds the evidence planted by Flagg in Peter’s room.  Peter is then tried and convicted for the murder of his father, and Thomas is crowned king of Delain.

Thomas is reluctant, but accepts his new title, but feels guilty for his complacence in his father’s death and the false accusations against his brother.  In the meantime, Peter is imprisoned in a tower known as Needle.  His cell is several stories off the ground.

Within a week of his imprisonment, Peter makes two demands:  that his mother’s old dollhouse be brought to him, and that he receive a napkin with every meal.  Peter sends a message to Anders Penya, the Judge General of Delain, with this demand.  With the help of Ben Stadd, Peter’s best friend, Anders is able to grant these requests.

Ben Staad stands by Peter in claims of innocence, and refuses to to believe that his friend could have committed such as act.  Even Anders Penya, who had questioned Peter in regards to the murders, begins to have his doubts in regards to Peter’s guilt.

The dollhouse is finally delivered to Peter, and he begins receiving his napkins at each meal.  Peter then removes a few threads from each napkin, and begins to weave a rope using the miniature loom in the dollhouse.  It is painstaking work, but Peter is patient, and spends the next five years making this rope so that he may escape his prison.  Peter also finds an old locket and letter one day, and realizes that Flagg has been spreading  his evil throughout the kingdom of Delain for several centuries.

In the meantime, Thomas attempts to rule over Delain as king.  However, he is a very unpopular king, as he has raised taxes on the kingdom, due to advice from Flagg, whom he has become dependent on.  Thomas is very unhappy and moody, due to the fact that he is not ready for the responsibilities as king, and the guilt over his father’s death.

One night, Thomas sleep-walks to his secret hiding spot, and re-enacts the night of his father’s death in his sleep.  This is witnessed by Dennis, Thomas’ royal butler.  Dennis is badly frightened by what he sees, and begins to question King Roland’s death.

A few days later, Dennis pays a visit to Anders Peyna, and tells his tale.  Peyna becomes distressed, realizing that he has falsely imprisoned Peter, the true king of Delain.

The next morning, Peyna sends Dennis back to Delain, advising him to be careful.  Peyna then heads north to the camp of the exiles, where many have fled to escape the situation in Delain.  Peyna plans to seek the help of Ben Staad, Peter’s old friend.  The Staad family are among those who have fled Delain.

Since Dennis is able to read and write, Peyna tells him to send a note to Peter in secret.  Dennis writes the note, and hides it among the napkins, in the hope that the note will reach Peter.

Peyna also speaks to Ben Staad, and sends Ben back to the kingdom of Delain to help Peter.  Ben is accompanied by a woman named Naomi Reechul, who drives a sled pulled by Husky dogs.  With Naomi’s help, Ben reaches the former home of Peyna.  In order to track down Dennis, Naomi has Frisky, one of her dogs, track Dennis’ scent, in the hopes that they may find him.

In the meantime, Peter has finished weaving his rope and plans his escape from Needle.  However, he has second thoughts when he receives Dennis’ letter, which states that Peyna does not believe Peter is guilty of murder and was in fact wrongfully imprisoned.

Peter re-thinks his plans to escape the next night, and uses his blood to write a note to Dennis.  He bundles it in a napkin, in the hopes that Dennis will find it.

Dennis lurks outside The Needle and catches a glance of Peter.  He also finds the note, and decides that he will do anything to help Peter.

Ben and Naomi are able to track down Dennis, with the help of Frisky.  The three then exchange stories, and make plans to rescue Peter.

That night, Flagg finally realizes that Peter means to escape, and begins to head up the stairs of Needle, to Peter’s cell.  Peter hears Flagg coming, and using his rope, begins to make his escape.

As he is making his escape, Peter’s rope breaks.  However, his fall is cushioned by a pile of napkins, which were loaded into a cart by Ben, Naomi and Dennis.  Peter falls, but survives, much to the anger of Flagg.

Flagg then chases Peter and his friends to the former chambers of King Roland.  Flagg says that he will kill Peter.  Peter then confronts Flagg with the knowledge of the murder of his father, along with Flagg’s past evil deeds.

Thomas then appears, with his father’s bow and arrow.  Flagg believes Thomas to be the ghost of Roland, which makes him forget about his plans to murder Peter.  This allows Thomas to shoot Flagg with his father’s bow and arrow.  The arrow then hits Flagg in the eye.  After he is hit by the arrow, Flagg vanishes, leaving only his clothes behind.

After the confrontation with Flagg, Peter is acquitted of his father’s murder.  Peter invites Thomas to stay in Delain, but Thomas declines.  Instead, Thomas says that he will spend his life tracking down Flagg, so that he may avenge his father and brother.  Dennis offers to accompany Thomas, and Thomas gratefully accepts the offer.

Thomas leaves Delain, and it is not known if he ever returns, although he did have many strange adventures.  Peter continues to rule in Delain as king, and Ben and Naomi eventually get married.


My Thoughts

Well, I did say that I wanted a break from the scary stuff.

In other words, I needed a break from watching Indianapolis Colts football!

NFL: Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

Haha, just joking!  Even though the Colts are frightening to watch at the moment, I will still be loyal to them!

But seriously, The Eyes of the Dragon though…

The Eyes of the Dragon is a fairy tale.  And it is a fairy tale written by the King of Horror.

And…wait for it…

It is actually a good fairy tale written by The Master!  Who knew?

Stephen King

Ok, it’s confession time…I hope all both  of the readers of this blog have some tolerance and don’t judge me…

For many years, I put off reading this book.  There was something that just did not sit right with me, in regards to this book.

In my little mind, Sai King was not supposed to write fantasy children’s stories (although this one does have some adult themes, more about that later.)  He was supposed to write about the scary hotels, rabid St. Bernards, possessed vehicles, cursed burial grounds and all those other things that have kept me up at night over the years.

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In other words, there was no room for princes, evil wizards and faraway kingdoms.  Absolutely not allowed!

Well, as one might say in another faraway land created by King, “I cry your pardon.”

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I finally read The Eyes of the Dragon a couple of years ago.  And I enjoyed it then.

And when I re-read it this year, I was again reminded of what I had missed out on, due to my obstinate nature.

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While The Eyes of the Dragon is not in my top 10 (too many others overshadow it), I still consider it to be one of King’s underrated gems.

And it even has tie-ins to some of my favorites, like The Dark Tower series.  And The Stand, which is one of my books of all time, period.

The Eyes of the Dragon could be considered to be a children’s tale.  And in many ways, it is. My parents read me fairy tales when I was child, and I was constantly reminded of those when I was reading this book.

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There is land that is far, far away, aka the kingdom of Delain.  King never specifies just where Delain is, but it is not on any map that exists in this world.

There are kings, queens and princesses.  King Roland, Queen Sasha and Prince Peter are almost “textbook” fairy tale characters if you will.  They are well loved by the people they rule over, and strive to the right thing.

And there is an evil wizard.  Flagg fits the bill of evil wizard perfectly:  he is a scheming, evil and ultimately prideful creature who does his best to wreak havoc wherever he goes (again, more about Flagg later.)

However, like almost all of King’s books, there is more than meets the eye (pun not intended) in The Eyes of the Dragon.

First of all, there is King Roland.  Now, I am not calling King Roland necessarily a bad guy, because he does try to do what is right.

However, King Roland is DEFINITELY not a bright man.  And time and time again, his actions remind of that fact.  Usually, it is the bad guys in fairy tales that are bumbling buffoons, not the good kings who want to do what is right.  But Roland is an exception in this book, and this actually makes the book more interesting, and adds a little depth to the story.

Then there is the character of Thomas, aka Thomas the Tax Bringer, whom I actually find to be one of King’s most fascinating characters.

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On the one hand, Thomas appears to be a bad dude.  When the narrator described how Thomas killed a dog because….well, just because, I immediately felt the need to go home and hug my dogs (luckily, they are the tolerant sort and don’t mind random hugs, unlike my cats, who revel in blood sport.)

But, on the other hand, I would agree with the narrator:  Thomas is not a bad boy.  Repeat:  Thomas is not a bad boy.

Now, Thomas may have done some pretty bad things.  Killing that dog, for instance.  And watching Flagg murder his father and not saying a word about that to anyone.

However, some of Thomas’ actions are understandable.

Thomas was basically screwed from the moment he came into existence.  When he was born, his mother died.  Even though that was not his fault, Thomas (and possibly others) blamed his birth on the death of his mother.  So he had to carry that guilt.

Then there is the fact that Thomas is the brother of Peter.  Growing up, it was my brother who had friends and was the musician.  I was just the awkward nerd that no one else noticed.  So of course, this created resentment with me, just as Thomas resented his brother, even though he did love Peter, as I love my brother.  Being in someone’s shadow and never being noticed for your accomplishments (and Thomas was actually a good archer) is difficult, and can be pretty depressing.  Thomas only wanted the approval of his father, and not getting it made him understandably upset.

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So, while some of Thomas’ actions were deplorable, at least they were understandable, given the context.  I don’t think that Thomas was an inherently evil character.  In fact, there is only one inherently evil character in this book.  We will talk about him in a bit.

One thing I love about The Eyes of the Dragon is that it is a fairy tale.  It tells of fantastical lands, kings and queens, magic, evil wizards and all that good stuff.

I also love that The Eyes of the Dragon is a Stephen King book.

So, Captain Obvious strikes again, right?

Well, let me explain a bit.

What I mean is that I love fantasy and fairy tales.  When I was a child, my parents had to constantly read to me from various books of fairy tales and fantasy stories, as they were my favorite.  We read Peter Pan.  We read the non- Disney version of Pinocchio (seriously, my parents wonder where my horror obsession comes from.  Read that one sometime.  It is far more disturbing than most “horror” stories.)

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So, I feel at home when I read those types of stories.  They are my bread butter, you might say.  George RR Martin, JRR Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey and Madeleine L’Engle are just a few of my favorite authors.  The land of fantasy is my home.

But, despite the fact that The Eyes of the Dragon appears to be a fairy tale, it was written by the King of Horror.  And throughout the book, we are constantly reminded of that fact.

For one, The Eyes of the Dragon has some gruesome deaths.  Gruesome deaths are Sai King’s bread and butter, after all.  The death of Queen Sasha definitely counts as gruesome, as a mid-wife used a knife to cut a vital organ so that Sasha would bleed to death.  Not only is this gruesome, this is also one of the most tragic deaths I have ever come across in any book.

Speaking of gruesome, there is the death of King Roland.  Roland is poisoned, but not with just any poison.  No, only “Dragonsand” would do for Roland.  This was a poison that burned someone from the inside out…shudder.

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Most fairy tales end on “happily ever after.”  The evil is defeated, and justice is somehow served.  However, this is not the case in regards to The Eyes of the Dragon.

For one, Flagg is not defeated.  Sure, he exits the kingdom of Delain, but he still alive!  And read to make mischief wherever he can.  Seriously, I wonder if he found the world of The Stand because he got evicted from Delain?  Seems legit, right?

There is also Thomas.  I did say that Thomas was not a bad guy.  But he was also complicit in the murder of his father and imprisonment of his brother.  However, Thomas never faces any consequences for his actions, and basically leaves the kingdom in shame, although he leaves under the guise of doing something noble, aka tracking down Flagg so that Flagg can answer for his actions (wish I could find out how that worked out, actually.)

In other words, Thomas did not get a happy ending.  The only one who really got a happy ending was Peter, and maybe his friend Ben.  And Peter probably spent years trying to clean up the mess made by Flagg and his brother, so I am really not sure how happy his ending really was.

Ok, I saved the best for last.

Or is it the worst for last?  Maybe best of the worst for last?

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am talking about that bad guy that we all love to hate…

Can I get a round of loud booing for…

None other than Randall Flagg himself!

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Now, Randall Flagg is ubiquitous in the Stephen King universe.

He shows up, in one way or another, in so many different books.  And he seems to be the equivalent of the cockroach in the King universe:  he just won’t go away!

Or perhaps the equivalent of Von Miller:  a one man (or maybe one demon) wrecking crew who is impossible to game plan for.  Instead of see “Miller, V,” we have see Flagg, R.

Flagg is perhaps most associated with the novel The Stand.  A world has been ravaged by the super flu and trying to rebuild itself.  Of course, with no help from Flagg, R.

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The Stephen King cockroach also makes several appearances in the Dark Tower series (both the books and the comics.)  In fact, he is part of the best opening line in history:  The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

(Again, see Flagg, R.)

And he is also a character in The Eyes of the Dragon.

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Out of all the different flavors of Flagg (kind of gross if you think of it that way, actually), I think that his character in The Eyes of the Dragon is my favorite flavor.  Not that I don’t think he’s great in all the other books, but there is just something about him in The Eyes of the Dragon that makes my heart go pitter-patter…

For one thing, he is pretty creative in this particular book.  I mean, a poison called Dragonsand?  Talk about a different, painful kind of death on the person you inflict it on!

He also has the old school, evil wizard feel to him in The Eyes of the Dragon.

He is crafty, cunning and enjoys evil for the sake of…well…evil.  There is no other way to put it.   We, as readers, tend to like to assign motivations to characters, to give them a reason for their actions.

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Well, there is no reason for Flagg’s actions in The Eyes of Dragon.  He is a bad guy who enjoys being a bad guy.  He does evil things because he likes it.  He only feels remorse when his plans fail and he is unable to unleash chaos  like he wants to.  He garners no sympathy from the reader.  In fact, the reader roots for him to die, and is disappointed when he doesn’t (one of the perks of being an evil wizard includes the ability to perpetually exist and stir up trouble everywhere, even breaking the inter-dimensional barrier.)

So it’s refreshing, actually.

Almost as refreshing as glass of wine that includes that extra touch of Dragonsand…


So, that’s it for The Eyes of the Dragon!

Join me next month as we return to the “real world…”

In other words, I will be reviewing and dissecting an oldie but goodie, otherwise known as The Shining.

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

batman and robin


Connections

Although it takes place in the “faraway” land of Delain, there are indications that The Eyes of the Dragon is indeed a part of the Stephen King universe.  Here are some of the connections that I found:

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-The most obvious connection to King’s other books is the character of Randall Flagg.  Flagg appears in several other King works, including The Gunslinger, Wizard and Glass, The Dark Tower, The Stand, The Wastelands, The Wind Through the Keyhole and even in the title story of the collection Hearts in Atlantis.  Flagg apparently possesses the ability to travel to other worlds, and can perhaps even travel through time.

Mother Abigail

In The Drawing of the Three, Roland speaks of an encounter with Thomas and Dennis, while they are on a quest to find Flagg.  It is not known if Thomas and Dennis are ever able to confront Flagg and force him to answer for his crimes against Delain.  In fact, it is doubtful if their quest was ever successful, and it is more likely that this quest eventually results in the deaths of both Thomas and Dennis.

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-King Roland shares a first name with with Roland Deschain, the main character in King’s Dark Tower series.  However, this is all the two share, as Roland Deschain is clever and skilled, unlike his Delain counterpart.

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-Peter’s time in The Needle can be said to be similar to Andy Dufresne’s imprisonment in Shawshank State Prison in the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (part of the collection Different Seasons), as Andy was also imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit.  Like Peter, Andy Dufresne also spent years devising and ingenious escape plan, under the noses of his captors.

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-Randall Flagg owns a two-headed parrot.  Parkus, the man responsible for law and order in the Territories in the novels Black House and The Talisman, also owns a similar creature.  It is unknown if these creatures are one in the same, or merely just similar.

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-Mention is made of Rhea of the Coos.  Rhea is a major character in the novel Wizard and Glass, as well as The Dark Tower comics.

rhea of the coos

Catching Up With Travelin’ Jack: My Review of Black House

Throughout our lives, we meet people.

This seems to be especially true in childhood.  After all, we go to school.  And we play sports, go to camp, etc.  And live in a neighborhood, surrounded by other people, many of whom are families with children.

It’s easy to meet other people when you are a child.  In fact, you meet people, and they come in and out of your life.  Sometimes, it’s the ones who are in your life for the shortest amount of time who have the most impact.  I met so many people at all those nerdy summer camp programs that I attended who were the greatest, but I only had the privilege to know them for all of two weeks, at the most.  Those two weeks seemed like a lifetime to me, but a lifetime that flew by too quickly.

Sometimes, I think about those people I met in childhood, especially the ones who I only knew for such a short period of time.  And I wonder what happened to them, and what kind of adults they turned out to be.  Hopefully, the awesome children turned out to be even more awesome adults.  I would like to believe that, any way.

One of my favorite characters from any Stephen King novel (yeah, you knew where this was going, don’t act surprised) is Jack Sawyer.

wolf and jack

I first met Jack Sawyer when I read The Talisman.  And I loved him.  He was the coolest, even at the tender age of 12.  And was more bad ass than people three times his age.  I would want Jack in my corner any day of the week.

However, like the cool people I met at summer camp, Jack exited my life too quickly.  And I wondered what had become of him.  What kind of person had he grown up to be?  Hopefully, he was even more awesome.

Well, The Master and his cohort, Peter Straub, grew curious about Jack as well.  And they decided to answer this question with a follow up to The Talisman:  Black House.

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Now, Black House may be a follow up to The Talisman, but make no mistake about it, it is so much more than a “sequel” (really, the word sequel has four letters in it, I am sure) to The Talisman.

Black House adds to the story of Jack Sawyer and to the mythos of that awesome place known as “The Territories,” although it brings up A LOT more questions than it answers (more on that later.)

Not surprisingly, Black House is also connected to The Dark Tower series, as do most of King’s books.  But, like Insomnia, Black House could almost be considered to be another Dark Tower book, without the words “Dark Tower” anywhere in the title or description of the book.

Plus, Black House is just plain scary!  Some of the things that happen in Black House are just entirely too plausible, and no one does “real life” horror better than Sai King, in my opinion.

So sit down, put your seat belts on, and join me, as I light out for The Territories once again, as I recap and review Black House.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an introduction to a town by the name of French Landing, Wisconsin.  We realize very quickly that something out of the ordinary has been occurring in French Landing, as three children have been murdered by a serial killer calling himself The Fisherman.  The residents of French Landing are frightened, and the police department is coming under scrutiny, as the murders are unsolved.

We are then introduced to several characters.  The first is an old man named Charles “Burny” Burnside.  Burnside is a resident of a facility named Maxton Eldercare, as he supposedly suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s Disease, although Burnside sometimes seems to experience extended bouts of lucidity.  Burnside is a ward of the state, as he claims to have no surviving family and no memory of his past.  Maxton Eldercare is run by a man named Chipper Maxton.  Chipper is a corrupt man, stealing from the residents of the facility, including Burnside.

Dale Gilbertson is another character we are introduced to.  Dale is the Chief of Police in French Landing, and is being heavily scrutinized due to the unsolved murders committed by The Fisherman.  Dale understands that he is out of his depth, and has requested help from a friend of his, Jack Sawyer.  Jack first met Dale four years prior, when he collaborated with Jack to solve a series of unsolved murders in California, which turned out to have a connection to French Landing.  Jack has refused to help, much to Dale’s frustration, as Jack is now retired from police work.

We are also introduced to Fred Marshall, father to Tyler Marshall and husband to Judy Marshall.  Tyler is a seemingly ordinary child, enjoying his summer vacation.  Judy, however, is not ordinary, as she slowly seems to be losing her grip on reality.  Fred is concerned, but pushes aside his worry for his wife, as he does not think that her problems are that serious.

Finally, we are introduced to Jack Sawyer.  When Jack collaborated with his friend Dale, he fell in love with French Landing, and later purchased a home that had once been owned by Dale’s family.  Eventually, Jack moved into the home, but spends most of his time in isolation, despite Dale’s attempts to get to know his friend better.

The book also introduces us to a man named Henry Leyden.  Henry works as a DJ with multiple on-air personas.  Henry is the uncle to Dale Gilbert and a friend of Jack Sawyer.  Henry is also blind, but his other senses are acute, to compensate for the blindness.

Lately, strange things have been happening to Jack.  A robin’s egg mysteriously appears in his refrigerator, and he also sees robin feathers around his house.  Jack begins to question his grip on reality, especially when he tries to call his mother, who has been dead for several years.

One morning, Jack picks Henry up from work.  While driving and listening to one of Henry’s CD’s, they see a group of boys.  One of the boys makes an obscene gesture to Henry and Jack, expressing his feelings on the music.  Another young boy seems to approve of the music.  Henry also tries to persuade Jack to assist Dale with the investigation of the child murders, but again, Jack declines, reminding Henry that he is retired.  Henry also says that he has experienced some odd occurrences lately:  he thinks that he has heard his deceased wife walking around the house.  Jack drops Henry off at his home, and dismisses the occurrences as a manifestation of Henry’s grief.

Later that day, Tyler Marshall is riding his bike with his friends.  He falls behind his friends, who abandon him.  Just outside the Maxton Eldercare Facility, Tyler encounters a talking crow that calls itself “Gorg.”  Tyler is entranced by the bird, and moves closer to it.  This allows Charles Burnside, who has momentarily regained his senses, to abduct Tyler.  Tyler’s friends notice that he is lost and that his bicycle has been abandoned, but decide not to say anything, as they fear they will be implicated in his abduction.

In the meantime, Judy Marshall, Tyler’s mother, continues to lose her grip on reality.  Judy then receives a mysterious package at her door.  When she opens the package, she finds a note stating that her son’s kidney has been eaten, along with human organs of some kind.  Judy becomes hysterical, and a neighbor calls her husband Fred at work.

Fred returns home, and finds that Judy has seemingly gone mad, destroying Tyler’s bedroom on her rampage.  Fred is finally able to calm Judy down, and begins to worry that Tyler is indeed missing, as Judy has said.  The local police also find Tyler’s bicycle, and Dale Gilbert worries that The Fisherman has claimed another victim.

Fred awakens from an afternoon nap to find his wife choking on scraps of paper.  Fred is able to rescue Judy from choking, but Tyler still has not returned home.  This prompts Fred to call the police, and find out that Tyler’s bike was found abandoned in front of the nursing home.

That afternoon, Henry Leyden does a DJ gig at Maxton Eldercare Facility.  He takes notice of Charles Burnside, who behaves unpleasantly, and seems to babble some nonsensical words.

That evening, Henry persuades Jack to speak to Fred in regards to the Fisherman’s possible involvement in the disappearance of Tyler.  Jack and reluctantly agrees to assist in the investigation, and to also speak to Judy, who has been institutionalized.  Jack also questions Tyler’s friends, and finds out that they abandoned Tyler and noticed that he had left his bicycle by the nursing home, but did not actually witness the abduction.  One of Tyler’s friends also tells Jack that he saw black crow feathers by the nursing home.

Jack also has a strange dream that night.  In the dream, he encounters Speedy Parker, someone he knew as a child.  Speedy commands Jack to assist in the investigation, as an entity called The Crimson King has kidnapped Tyler, because Tyler is a Breaker, with the ability to help The Crimson King commit a terrible deed.

The following morning, Jack awakens and finds a mysterious package on his front porch.  The package contains a sneaker, which also contains the severed foot of a child.  Jack realizes that this is probably from one of the victims of The Fisherman.  This causes Jack to remember an incidence from his childhood that he had tried to forget.

Jack then “flips” to another world, one he knows as The Territories, from his childhood.  This world is a fantastical version of ours, and Jack’s memories continue to awaken.  While in this alternate world, Jack discover’s Tyler’s baseball cap, and realizes that Tyler is probably still alive, and that The Fisherman wanted Jack to find the cap.

When he returns to his own world, Jack finds a note on the mysterious package, advising him to try a place called Ed’s Eats and Dogs.  Jack calls Henry and tells him about the package and the note, and Henry agrees to take Jack to Ed’s Eats and Dogs, which was a food stand that is now closed.

The French Landing Police Department also receives a call from someone identifying himself as The Fisherman that morning.  The caller instructs the police to also go to Ed’s Eats and Dogs, and Dale Gilbertson and his officers proceed to do just that.

Jack receives a call on his cell phone from Dale, and learns that Dale is also headed to the abandoned food stand.  They meet at the food stand, and Jack shows Dale the package sent to him by The Fisherman, and Dale tells Jack about the phone call from The Fisherman.

In the meantime, the officer who received the call from The Fisherman tells his wife, who tells her friends about the call.  Soon, several people in town find out about the call.  One of these people is Beezer St. Pierre.  Beezer is part of a motorcycle club in town known as The Thunder Five, and is also the father to Amy St. Pierre, one of the victims of The Fisherman.  Soon, Beezer and his friends Mouse, Doc, Sonny and Kaiser Bill also head to the abandoned eatery.

Wendell Green, a reporter for the local newspaper, also heads to the eatery, in the hopes that he will find his next story.

At the investigation scene, chaos erupt, mostly due to Wendell Green’s attempt to distract Jack and the police.  Beezer and his friends assist Jack and the police in dispersing the crowd, but the state police also arrive at the scene, and tell Dale that he can no longer work the Fisherman case.

That afternoon, Jack and Fred visit Judy in the mental hospital.  Jack is struck by how beautiful Judy is.  Judy also knows of the alternate reality Jack calls The Territories, and says that she is able to communicate with a woman who lives in that reality.  Judy also tells Jack that The Fisherman has stashed Tyler in that reality, and that Tyler is in grave danger, but still alive, and that Jack is the only one who can rescue him.  On the way home, Jack shows Fred the baseball cap that he found in The Territories, and confirms that it belongs to Tyler.  Jack also promises to do whatever he can to rescue Tyler.

That night, an ominous fog covers the town of French Landing.  Charles Burnside escapes the Maxton Eldercare Facility, and sneaks into the boarding house next door.  He breaks into the room of a man named George Potter, and plants several pictures of the Fisherman’s victims in the closet.  The pictures are discovered by another resident of the boarding house, and a call is placed to the local police.

Jack, Dale, Wendell and Beezer all find out about the pictures in George Potter’s room, and all head to the police station.  Dale places Potter under arrest, and books him in a holding cell.

In the meantime, the mysterious crow visits Tansy Freeneau, the mother to Irma Freeneau, one of the victims of The Fisherman.  The crow somehow can speak, and tells Tansy about George Potter’s arrest.  Tansy rounds up a group of locals from a bar, and all head to the police station.

When Jack arrives at the police station, he receives a call from Speedy, someone he knew as a child.  Speedy tells Jack that an angry mob is headed to the police station, and that Jack needs to meet him in the men’s bathroom.

Shortly after the angry mob arrives, Jack steps out into the parking lot.  He is holding a bouquet of flowers and allows Tansy to smell the flowers.  The smell of the flowers calms Tansy, along with most of the crowd.  Jack calls for someone to take Tansy home, and the crowd dissipates.

Jack questions George Potter, and determines that George is not guilty.  George states that he was a contractor many years ago, and engaged in some shady dealings.  One of the people George engaged in deals with was someone named Carl, who now happens to be living in French Landing.  George thinks that the man now goes by the name Charles Burnside, and that the man had a house built in French Landing many years ago.  George does not know where the house is located, but tells Jack of many strange things that happened while the house was being built, such as the workers being injured and even losing their shadows.  Jack determines that this man is most certainly The Fisherman, but is unable to obtain any more information from either George or Dale Gilbertson.

The next morning, Jack checks on Tansy Freeneau, who appears to succumbing to madness, even though the flowers from The Territories that Jack had given her the night before seem to have a calming effect on her. Jack finds out from Tansy that she received a visit from Gorg, and Tansy tells Jack that Gorg is actually a raven from another world. Jack then goes to a local bar called The Sand Bar, where he had promised to meet Beezer and the rest of The Thunder Five.  While Jack is waiting for Beezer and his friends, he notices that the movie playing on the television is one that had starred his deceased mother.

When the bikers arrive at the bar, Jack asks them if they know anything about a mysterious house in French Landing.  One of the bikers, Mouse, recognizes the house, and tells Jack that it even has a name:  Black House.  Mouse also tells Jack and his friends that he and a girlfriend, Nancy, were actually in the vicinity of the house a few years prior, having accidentally discovered it on a bike ride.  Right away, Mouse realized that something was not right, and managed to escape with Nancy.  Mouse survived the experience, but Nancy was not so lucky.  Soon after, Nancy becomes extremely ill and tragically dies from her illness.  Jack warns Beezer to not get too close to the house, but to check it out, and that they will meet up again later.

Beezer and the rest of the bikers set off that afternoon to find Black House.  Finally, they are able to find it, and right away, things begin to go wrong.  They notice a change in the air, which seems to become poisonous.  They also encounter a creature that appears to be a dog, but attacks the bikers.  All of the men suffer from headaches and vomiting, and experience unpleasant memories from their past.   They are finally able to escape the dog and Black House, but Mouse is bitten by the dog, and Doc (Beezer’s right hand man) notices that the wound is severe and unlike an ordinary dog bite.

In the meantime, Jack heads to the mental hospital to visit Judy Marshall.  Jack realizes that Judy’s counterpart in The Territories, her Twinner, has been trying to communicate with her, and her Twinner’s attempts have become more urgent, due to the situation with The Fisherman.  Jack also suspects that The Fisherman has a Territories Twinner, and that creature is probably holding Tyler Marshall hostage.  Jack also finds out that The Fisherman has sent a tape of himself tormenting Judy to Judy at the hospital, which has caused Judy to regress to her previous state.

When he arrives at the hospital, Jack encounters Wendell Green, who has tracked him down.  Wendell tries to sabotage Jack’s attempts to visit Judy, but Judy’s doctor agrees to allow Jack to see Judy, for a short time.

Jack speaks to Judy, and she tells him that he must travel to The Territories to save Tyler.  Jack does just that, arriving at The Territories once again.  When he arrives in the other world, Jack finds himself in the company of Judy’s Territories Twinner:  a woman named Sophie.  Almost instantly, Jack falls in love with Sophie.

Wendell Green has also traveled to The Territories with Jack, as he was spying on Jack and Judy at the mental hospital.  Wendell is shell-shocked, and unable to comprehend just what has happened to him.

Shortly after his arrive to The Territories, Jack encounters an old friend:  Parkus, the man who is responsible for law and order in The Territories.  Parkus is the Twinner to Jack’s friend Speedy.  Parkus tells Jack that Tyler is still alive and Jack may be able to still rescue him, but that there are much bigger issues at hand.  Parkus then tells Jack and Sophie that the entity known as the Crimson King has gathered a group of children with psionic abilities that he calls Breakers.  The Breakers have been assembled to help destroy The Dark Tower, which is the nexus of all existence. Parkus tells Jack that The Fisherman does not have a Territories Twinner.  Rather, The Fisherman is possessed by a being from another world, which allows him to commit his horrific acts.  The being is a creature known as Mr. Munshun, or sometimes Mr. Monday.  Mr. Munshun allows Charles Burnside to murder all of the children he wants, but if the children possess psionic abilities, they are to be turned over to Mr. Munshun and The Crimson King at once.  Tyler is special, as he has the ability to become the most power of all Breakers.

Parkus tells Jack that he must find out the exact identity of The Fisherman, so that he can get to Mr. Munshun and rescue Tyler Marshall, as well as foil the plans of the Crimson King.  However, Jack still does not know just who The Fisherman is in his world.  Parkus also tells Jack that he will need to use Black House to enter the world of Mr. Munshun, as Mr. Munshun does not reside in The Territories.

Jack then travels back to his own world, taking Wendell Green with him.  Jack heads out of the hospital and receives a panicked call from Beezer.  Beezer tells Jack that Mouse is dying, and that Jack needs to come quickly.

When Jack arrives at Beezer’s house, he sees something horrific happening to Mouse.  Mouse is literally being eaten alive by the poison he received when the dog creature bit him at Black House.  Mouse is mostly delirious, but he tells Jack to meet Beezer and the others at noon the next day, so that they can head to Black House to rescue Tyler and defeat Mr. Munshun.  Mouse also gives Jack a spell of sorts:  the word “d’yamba.”  Mouse tells Jack that he will need this word in the near future.  Shortly after imparting this information, Mouse passes away.

In the meantime, Henry Leyden is at his home, listening to the tape of The Fisherman’s voice.  Henry also believes that he can smell the perfume of his late wife, and thinks he is losing his mind.  However, Henry recognizes the voice of Charles Burnside from the tape, as he also heard Burnside’s voice from his gig at the nursing home.  Henry also realizes that Burnside is in his house and using the scent of his wife’s perfume to trick Henry.

Henry attempts to defend himself against Burnside, but is stabbed by Burnside with a pair of garden shears.  Henry realizes that he will bleed to death, so he makes a recording for Jack, revealing the identity of The Fisherman, and the fact that The Fisherman lives in the nursing home.  Shortly after finishing the recording, Henry signs off, saying goodbye to Jack, and dies.

Jack heads home after paying respect to Mouse.  Amazingly, Jack is surrounded by a swarm of bees.  The bees appear to offer comfort and do not sting Jack.  Jack then decides that he will open to Henry, and tell Henry the story of his past journey to The Territories when he was a child.

Jack arrives at Henry’s house and realizes almost right away that something is amiss.  He discovers Henry’s body and hears Henry’s last recording that identifies The Fisherman.  Shocked and saddened, Jack calls the local police, and then travels to The Territories once again, seeking comfort.

Charles Burnside returns to the nursing home.  He has been injured in the confrontation with Henry, but still alive.  Burnside is confronted by one of the nurses on duty in regards to his whereabouts.  He uses the garden shears to kill her, and makes an attempt to escape back to Black House.  However, he is also confronted by Chipper Maxton, who has learned of his true identity.  Burnside also kills Maxton with the gardening shears, and returns to Black House, with the assistance of the entity known as Mr. Munshun.

After Burnside arrives at Black House, he arouses Tyler Marshall from a dream, and takes Tyler into another world.  He places a sort of “hat” on Tyler that dulls Tyler’s thinking, and tells Tyler that he is taking him to the Crimson King, who has a job waiting for Tyler.

The next day, Jack meets Dale, Doc and Beezer at The Sand Bar.  He is able to summon the cloud of bees again, much to the astonishment of his friends.  Jack utters the word “d’yamba” over a bottle of honey, and has his friends dab a bit of the honey underneath their noses, in the hopes that the belief in the honey will protect them from the ill effects of Black House.

In the meantime, Burnside and Tyler arrive at their final destination, where they see many children with special talents being forced to perform the work of the Crimson King.  Burnside attempts to shackle Tyler, but Tyler strikes back and disembowels Burnside, which kills the old man.

Before Jack and his friends leave for Black House, they encounter Fred Marshall outside of the bar.  Fred has received a package addressed to Tyler, from George Rathbun (one of the radio personalities of the deceased Henry Leyden) containing a bat signed by a Milwaukee Brewers player.  All of the men then sense that Tyler has killed Burnside, which offers them hope that their mission may succeed.

When Jack and his friend arrive at Black House, they encounter the swarm of bees that surrounded Jack earlier.  Jack sees the crow, Gorg, and shoots him. Once inside the house, they encounter some frightening illusions, as the house tries to keep them from tracking down Tyler Marshall.

While Jack and his friends are searching for Tyler, Tyler manages to free himself from the shackles by obtaining the key.  However, once he frees himself, he is then captured by the being Mr. Mushun.

However, as Munshun attempts to take Tyler to the Crimson King, he encounters Jack and his friends, who are ready to fight.  Jack attacks Munshun with the bat sent to Tyler’s father, and is finally able to kill the evil creature.

Jack tells Tyler that he must rescue the other children before he can return to his family.  Tyler argues that he cannot, and Jack argues otherwise.  The cap that Burnside had placed on Tyler’s head then falls off, and the full extent of Tyler’s powers are unleashed.  Tyler then uses those powers to destroy the machines that have imprisoned the other children, and the other children are freed as well.

Jack, Tyler, Dale, Beezer and Doc then return to their world, along with the rest of the children freed by Tyler.  Black House has now lost its magic and is an ordinary house.  The dog that had attacked Mouse is also destroyed.

Some weeks later, Jack, Doc, Beezer and Dale prepare to attend a ceremony so they can be recognized for their bravery by the town of French Landing.  They have concocted a cover story that leaves out the visit to the other world, and implicates Henry Leyden as the one who identified The Fisherman and led Jack and his friends to him.  The government is also dealing with the other children who were rescued, and the origins of most of these children remain a mystery.  Black House has also been destroyed, thanks to the efforts of Beezer and Jack.

Jack and his friends enter the stage and face the crowd, which begins to wildly applaud.  In that crowd is Jack’s old friend, Speedy Parker.  However, a woman named Wanda Kinderling is also part of the crowd.  Wanda is the wife of the man who Jack helped Dale imprison for murder several years ago.  Wanda is angry, as she believes her husband was wrongfully imprisoned.  Tragically, Wanda acts on that anger, shooting Jack.  Speedy is unable to stop her, and Wanda shoots Jack in the chest and throat.  After she shoots Jack, Wanda is almost immediately attacked by Doc.

Speedy then grabs Jack and carries him in his arms to The Territories.  He tells Sophie that Jack will survive his injuries, thanks to his encounter with The Talisman as a child, but that Jack must remain in The Territories, as a return to his own world will likely kill him.  Jack continues to remain in a coma for several days.

Several days later, Jack awakens, with Sophie by his side, who welcomes him to his new life in The Territories.


My Thoughts

And there are so many of them, in regards to Black House.  But I will try to condense myself (hey, don’t laugh too hard, now.)

First of all, the men.  There are some fine men in this book…and I am not even talking about the main character, Jack Sawyer (although be prepared for more in depth discussion of him in a bit.  Don’t worry, I have not forgotten.  Far from it, in fact.)

There is a little something for everyone, in terms of men in this book.

First of all, Henry Leyden.  He is blind, but anyone who has sex with Henry is not having pity sex with him…no sir (or m’am, if you please.)

He’s a DJ, and he knows his music.  Check.

Despite the fact that he is blind, Henry has an incredible sense of style.  Just thinking about the suits that he was described as wearing…whoa!  What is it about well-dressed guys that makes you want to tear those same clothes off?

And Henry has the x-factor too.  Just something about his friendship with Jack sent shivers down my spine.  Henry never pressured Jack to take down those walls, but chiseled away patiently.  And that made my heart melt.

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My heart also broke wide open, when Henry died.  I have read this book a few times, but each time I find myself, hoping against hope, that things will be different this time.  Of course, they never are.  And my heart breaks wide open yet again.

Beezer St. Pierre.

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Yes, I know that guy is not Beezer.  But I don’t think I am that far off, am I?

Anyone who lives in a place known as “Nailhouse Row” (can you get any cooler than that?) is already hot by association.

And let’s just admint:  Beezer is a bad ass.  A fucking bad ass, as a matter of fact.  In fact, he wouldn’t be that out of place in a certain club known as SAMCRO.  Not out of place at all, as a matter of fact.

Beezer is also smart.  Smart is always hot.  The fact that he was reading William Blake…swoon!  And that his house was overflowing with books?  Woo, I am feeling a little flushed right now…

I could also feel empathy for Beezer, given what happened to his daughter.  I never pitied him, like I pitied Tansy Freeneau.  But I could emphasize with him, as his daughter was brutalized by The Fisherman.  And I could understand why Beezer and his friends felt the need to police the police, so to speak.  Poor man was going through an unimaginable pain, it’s a wonder that he didn’t break down doors at the police station.

And we have Jack Sawyer.

As all both  of my faithful readers know, I have book boyfriends.  Like Aragorn.  And Jon Snow.  I am such as sucker for fictional men that I can never, ever have an actual relationship with (don’t worry, my marriage is open in regards to this…heehee!)

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One of my favorite book boyfriends is Jack Sawyer.  It feels weird saying that, since he was 12 when I first met, and I was in my twenties, but it’s ok, I am reading Black House and Jacky is all growed up!

I think the reason why I love Jack so much is because I identify with him.  King writes about people who don’t quite fit in and who often live on the fringes of society, and are maybe even marginalized by everyone else.  I am pretty isolated (even though I do have a few good friends and an understanding husband), I live on the fringe (although that is my choice and I spent my life being marginalized.  I was the odd kid, and childhood and adolescence were a social disaster for me.  And until recently, adulthood was a social disaster for me.

At the beginning of the book, Jack is a lonely man.  Jack probably does not realize this, but the reader certainly does.  Jack is unmarried (criminal!) and has retired from the police force at the impossibly young age of 31.  Jack has no surviving family members. and no close friends.  When people do try to reach out to Jack (like Dale), the walls go up, and Jack pushes people away.

However, Jack slowly emerges from his shell as the book progresses.  And it is quite a beautiful thing to watch.  Jack had been living in a sort of fog and has not been truly engaged with anyone or anything.  It takes a series of gruesome child murders, along a ghost from Jack’s childhood in order for that fog to lift. But it’s worth the wait, because Jack Sawyer reminds me of a rose:  it may be a little shy to open up and finally bloom, but when the flower does bloom, it is beautiful beyond words.

Rose

I consider Black House to be one of King’s most frightening books ever written.  Normally, when people think of scary Stephen  King books, works such as The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot, It and Pet Sematary come to mind.  When you mention a scary Stephen King book, the one co-written by Peter Straub that is the follow up to the epic fantasy otherwise known as The  Talisman that could almost be considered another Dark Tower book does not come to mind.  However, it should, since Black House is an extremely creepy read, and should be recognized as such.

First of all, the book deals with child murders.  King is known for writing about “real-life horrors,” and unfortunately, children being killed fall into that category.  In fact, the events in Black House are tragically plausible: children go missing and are murdered on an almost daily basis in this country.  I have stated in the past that Charles Burnside is one of King’s worst human (or is it best) monsters, and I stand by that statement.  Burnside was based on Albert Fish, who (at least to me) was one of the worst real-life monsters that has ever existed throughout history.  Anyone who can do what Fish (and Burnside) did to children…well, Hell would be too good for that person, actually.  I would hope that there was some place even worse than Hell for someone like that, where he would be made to suffer just as his victims did.

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Often, King books, there is what I call “buried treasure,” or something that really does not have much to do with the story being told, but is something that just takes the story from good to fucking epic (the history of Derry in It being a great example, among countless others.)  In Black House, it is the bit about borders, and how borders seem invite bad things in.  I loved the story told by Sonny about Harko, Illinois, and the border town of Harko, where one of his friends murdered the other with no provocation and ended up in the mental asylum…it had a kind of EC Horror Comics feel to it…I loved it!

Black House also has a scary non-human bad guy:  Mr. Munshun.

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Or is it Humpty Dumpty on a bad day?  Dammit, I knew Humpty wasn’t who he seemed to be!  And I always had an uneasy feeling about him, anyway…I can see why they knocked him off that wall!

The descriptions of Munshun are just so unsettling (I think King also compared him to Humpty Dumpty.)  The teeth, the orange hair, how Tyler Marshall could fee his presence when he was shackled.  My heart raced as Tyler struggled to beat the clock, and I jumped up and down when Munshun was finally disposed of.  Pennywise, Randall Flagg, Kurt Barlow are all frightening, but Munshun has also earned his spot on the list of Stephen King monsters…he needs to be in the discussion a lot more!

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There is also Black House itself.  A house that literally eats people?  And has a hell hound for a watch dog?  To boot, the bite of that “dog” is much, much worse than its bite.  The description of what happened to Mouse (seriously, vomit that comes alive…I can’t even) is just seriously…well…disgusting…even for the likes of writers like King and Straub.  Did they have a sleepover where they spent the night trying to see who could gross the other out, and then decide to include those details in Black House?  Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Stephen King

As I have stated before, Black House is also a bit frustrating.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but still.

I found the ending to be very open-ended.  Jack is shot, and transported back to The Territories.  Speedy then hints about the business with The Tower (goosebumps) not being finished yet.  Ooooh, a sequel!

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A sequel that we have been waiting about 15 years for.  King and Straub have both stated that there should be a third book, but we have yet to see it.  I have faith that we will one day, but even I am not THAT patient.  C’mon, don’t tease me like this, Uncle Stevie!

I just have to know what happens to my friend Jack Sawyer.  Did he somehow help Roland and his friends in their quest (again)?  Or is it some other adventure, where Jack meets even more interesting folks in The Territories?  What of Jack and Sophie?  I know that Sophie stated she was barren, but I would so love a Jack Junior!

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Such questions…such torture…

But hopefully, we end the torture soon, and The Master graces us with the answers to those questions!


Well, that’s it for Black House.  Join me next month for an out of this world experience, as we review and dissect Dreamcatcher!

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

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Connections

Like all King books, Black House is a part of the Stephen King Universe, and is particularly connected to the world of the Dark Tower series.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-The most obvious connection is to The Talisman, as Black House is a follow up novel to The Talisman.  Several characters from The Talisman are referenced, including Lily Sawyer, Morgan Sloat, Wolf and Sunlight Gardner.

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Black House could also be considered another Dark Tower novel, as part of the book takes places in the same world inhabited by Roland Deschain and his friends.  Roland Deschain is specifically mentioned, along with the fact that Roland is training Eddie, Susannah and Jake to be gunslingers.  The Crimson King, who is also a character in the series, is  referenced as well.

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

Ted Brautigan is mentioned in Black House.  Ted Brautigan is a character in the novella Low Men in Yellow Coats, which is part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis, and is also a character who appears in the final Dark Tower novel.

Ted Brautigan 1

-Black House and the town of French Landing are mentioned by Randall Flagg in the final Dark Tower novel.

-The house named Rose Red is mentioned.  Rose Red is the haunted house featured in the movie of the same name.

-Parkus owns a two-headed parrot.  This is similar to a parrot owned by Randall Flagg in the book The Eyes of the Dragon.

Eyes of the Dragon 1

-Blaine the Monorail, along with Patricia the Monorail, are referenced in Black House.  Blaine the Monorail is a character in The Wastelands and Wizard and Glass.

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-The phrase “Light out for the Territories” is used.  This phrase is also used in several other King novels, including The Talisman, The Wastelands and Lisey’s Story.

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-Mention is made of Legion.  Legion is also referenced in It, The Gunslinger and The Stand.

Black House features people with psionic abilities, or Breakers.  People with these gifts are featured in several King stories, including Everything’s Eventual, The Wolves of the Calla, The Shining, Dr. Sleep, The Song of Susannah and Carrie.

Dinky

-The being known as the Crimson King is referenced several times in Black House.  The Crimson King is also the antagonist in the novel Insomnia.

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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?

Roland 1

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

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

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

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

George Stark

For one, he is just evil.  Pure evil.

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

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

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

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

parker 1

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

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

So…

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

So what the hell is Goofy?

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

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

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

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

Dark half 1

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

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

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

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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.

Sara Laughs 1

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

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

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

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

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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.”

dark half 3

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

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

Bachman 1

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

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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.

Long Walk 1

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

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

Cleaner 3

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

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

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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!

batman and robin


Connections

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

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

Castle Rock 1

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

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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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The Final Concert: My Review of End of Watch

So, the month of June is upon us.

And we all know what that means…

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

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

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

Stephen King

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

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

dark half 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

For one thing, there was the supernatural element.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s talk about that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Connections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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