Castle Rock: Season 1, Episode 6 Recap and Review

Normally, Wednesday is not a noteworthy day.

It is true that she can be distinguished from her ugly, mean, cruel sister by the name of Monday.

She is not Tuesday, which is really Monday in disguise.

However, she does not even have the title of Friday Eve, like Tuesday.

And she sure is not that sexy, elusive motherfucker by the name of Friday.

But now, Wednesday has something to set her apart from her sisters now.

It makes her unique.  It makes her stand out.

And that something is the show Castle Rock.

The anticipation begins to build within me throughout the week.

Every morning, I wake up.

As the radio alarm blares out the annoying music our local station plays and my dogs start barking and demanding that I get up, I take a moment to reflect upon what day it is.

As the week goes on, my hope builds up.

And finally, it is Wednesday.

I may have to drag myself out of bed and do my half ass attempts at “adulting,” but at least I know that I can come home, plop down on the couch, and spend approximately the next 53 minutes or so in the world that is the love child of JJ Abrams and Stephen King.

And then the cycle begins all over again once I am done.

I love it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So join me in my recap and review of episode 6, titled Filter.

And, as always:

 

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Castle Rock: Season 1, Episode 5 Recap and Review

Hi everyone.

My name is Leah and I have a confession to make.

I’m…I’m…

Totally hooked on the Hulu show Castle Rock!

There, I feel better.  I hope you guys don’t judge me!

So yeah, I have a problem.  And I love it!

I spend my free time (well time when I am supposed to be working, since real life is a non-stop horror movie) waiting for the next episode to be released.

I browse Reddit to read the latest, craziest fan theories.

I come up with my own crazy fan theories.

(A connection to the Crimson King is not a crazy theory.  It.  Is.  Not,)

And oh yeah, writing about the show, for your reading pleasure!

So join my in my recap and review of this week’s episode, titled Harvest.

And, per usual:

 

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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…

Cleaner 3

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.

Long Walk 1

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…

Roland 2

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.

Stephen King 1

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.

FK 3

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.

arrow

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?

darhk 1

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.

black canary 1

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!

Sutter and Martin

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.

killing characters SK

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.

empty theater seat 1


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.

Ka symbol 2

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!

batman and robin


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.

Jack Torrance 1

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

dead zone 4

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

Red 1

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

carrie-1

-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.

bazaar of bad dreams 1

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

Stu 2

 

11/22/63: Episode 8 Recap and Review

Over the past several weeks, I have been traveling.

Well, not literally.  More like vicariously, through Stephen King and JJ Abrams.

In other words, I have been watching 11/22/63.  I have traveled back to the 1960’s with Jake Epping, and met a few famous historical folks along the way…

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And I have met some of the friendly folks in Jodie, Texas…

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And had the privilege of seeing a particular time period that I only know from old photographs, my parents’ memories and history books.  I have viewed this time period from the eyes of a character born in 1978, the same year I was born.

Last night, it came to a conclusion.  And that conclusion was satisfying, but I am feeling a little melancholy.  I had something to looks forward to on Monday:  one of my favorite Stephen King novels, brought to life on the screen by the talents of James Franco, Sarah Gadon and many others.  But now, that has concluded, and like Jake Epping, I am only left with the memories.  But it is better to have experienced the journey and to be left with memories, than to have not experienced anything at all.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of the series finale of 11/22/63, titled The Day in Question.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode begins with Jake and Sadie rushing to get to Oswald, before his attempt on Kennedy’s life becomes successful.  Jake realizes that the past is pushing back, when he and Sadie encounter a police barricade and a car that hits the bus they have boarded.  Time is now out of joint, and Jake and Sadie see visions of those who have died during Jake’s time in the past, including Mimi, Johnny Clayton and and Frank Dunning.  They rush up to the abandoned sixth story in the book depository where Oswald is waiting for the presidential motorcade.  Oswald fires his first shot, and misses.  Oswald fires a second shot and also misses.  The presidential motorcade is able to escape Oswald and his rifle.  The door shuts, trapping Jake and Sadie inside the room with Oswald.

Jake scuffles with Oswald, and shots are fired.  After a brief scuffle, Jake is able to shoot Oswald dead.  However, Sadie is also shot in the crossfire.

It becomes clear that Sadie’s wounds are mortal.  She asks Jake to stay with her, instead of getting help.  The police then burst in and arrest Jake.  Jake screams at the police to help Sadie, but it is too late as she has already succumbed to her wounds.

The authorities arrest Jake and interrogate him.  FBI agent Hosty tells Jake that the country loves Kennedy and is looking for someone to pin the assassination attempt on.  Jake counters, telling Hosty that if he is forced to testify, he will reveal that the FBI failed to stop Oswald and is also spying on the Kennedys.

Hosty is still determined to pin the crime on Jake, but a call from the president himself comes through.  Kennedy thanks Jake for saving his life.  Jake also speaks to the First Lady, who expresses her sympathies over the death of Sadie.

Jake wants no publicity, and Hosty drops him off at the bus station, so that he can head back to Lisbon, Maine and return to his own timeline.  While waiting for the bus, Jake has a vision of Sadie as he first met her:  she is reading a book.  However, Sadie disappears, confirming that this was only a vision.  Jake then returns to Lisbon, and travels through the rabbit hole back to his own time.

The world has changed drastically when Jake returns to his own time.  Al’s Diner is no longer, and Lisbon is a pile of rubble, the likely aftermath of a nuclear war.

Jake gets into an altercation with some bandits, and is rescued by his friend Harry Dunning.  Harry recognizes Jake as the man who saved his family from his father’s murderous rampage.  Jake quizzes Harry on the history of the world, and learns that Kennedy was president for two terms, and was then succeeded by George Wallace.  There was indeed a nuclear war, and Kennedy had founded a series of refugee camps.  Harry tells Jake that the camps for unpleasant, especially for him and his family, as his mother passed away from influenza.  Jake decides that he needs to reset the timeline, and travels back into the past.

When Jake travels back to 1960, everything is as it was before he prevented the assassination of Kennedy.  However, Jake notices that Sadie is a passenger in car that is driving by, and follows her to a nearby diner.

At the diner, Jake speaks to Sadie, telling her that they know each other.  However, he is interrupted by the appearance of the Yellow Card Man.  The Yellow Card Man tells Jake that trying to be with Sadie will only result in her death, and that he needs to return to his own time.  Jake reluctantly agrees, and tells Sadie that he was in fact mistaken.

After returning to his own time, Jake has become a bit traumatized.  He also learns that Harry Dunning did not in fact receive the promotion that he applied for.  Jake then breaks down in front of Harry.  Harry comforts Jake, telling him that he is in fact a good man and that his actions have made a difference.

Jake does some research on the internet and finds out what Sadie has been up to over the years.  He learns that she is going to receive an award from the governor of Texas, and travels to Texas so that he can attend the ceremony.  At the ceremony, Jake learns what an impact Sadie has had on the lives of her students.  Sadie also makes mention of Deke Simmons, and recites a poem that Deke was fond of.

After the ceremony, Jake approaches Sadie and asks her for a dance.  Sadie is charmed by Jake, and agrees.  Jake asks Sadie if she has had a good life.  Sadie responds by telling him that it hasn’t always been easy for her, but that she is in fact happy with her life.  The two dance in the same gymnasium, where, in another lifetime, they fell in love.


 

My Thoughts

Whew, what a ride!  The onscreen journey with Jake Epping was almost as enjoyable as the literary one.  And these are not words that I utter often, especially in regards to anything claiming to be based on something written by The Master.

Mostly, my feelings on screen adaptations are mixed, at best.  I am talking to you, It mini series!

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And then there is that abomination known as Under the Dome.  Still having to bleach my corneas after watching a couple of episodes of that.

And in the mix, there are couple of pretty good adaptations.  Dolores Claiborne is one.  The Stand mini series is another.  And The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption are nothing less than cinematic masterpieces.

So now we can add another adaptation to the mix:  11/22/63.  Of course, it is nowhere near the level of The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile, but I would at least put it in my top 10, if not my top 5.

Oh, and let’s have a word with you book douches…

That’s right, you guys.  I have searched online for reviews of 11/22/63, and most of them seem to consist of either critics who have missed the entire point of the series (sorry guys, this is not Back to the Future or a modern take on Quantum Leap) and the Constant Readers who simply don’t like this adaptation because it not IDENTICAL to the book.  I have heard everything from “Jake uses the name George in the book”, to “he visits Derry, not Holden, Kentucky,” to “Jake sings a Rolling Stones song, not a Beatles song.”  And apparently, these differences make this movie a bad movie.

quantum leap 3

Well, I have some news, so listen up folks:  an onscreen adaptation does not need to be a slavish, word for word adaptation of a book to be a good adaptation or even a good movie.  In fact, an onscreen adaptation should not be a literal adaptation.  Changes are a good thing when it comes to adaptations.  What works in a book does not necessarily work for the movies or television, as we are dealing with visual mediums.  Abstract concepts in a book (like the idea of the past pushing back) need to have a visual representation in a movie or TV show (the Yellow Card Man) so that the same ideas can be planted in the viewer’s (as opposed to the reader’s) mind.

book vs movie 1

In other words, I tend to think of it like this:  chocolate cake is something we are all familiar with.  However, if you search for a recipe for chocolate cake online, you will find thousands.  Some recipes use buttermilk,  Some use vegetable oil and no butter.  Some use cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate.  But all have the potential to make a good cake, if the chef executes the recipe properly.  And it is the same with any onscreen adaptation of a book:  there are many ways to translate an idea from a book to the screen.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that one idea is a bad idea.  In fact, there may be many good ideas.  But what is needed is proper execution.  And for the most part, the changes in 11/22/63 were properly executed, making the final product something that was a bit different from the book, but when you slice into it, you still can see that we have chocolate cake, although the recipes may have differed a bit.

Oh, and I need to give another shout out:

easter eggs 1

In other words, another reminder that we are watching something based on a work created by the master of modern horror.

I especially enjoyed seeing “Redrum” written on the wall of the book depository (although “Your a patsy?”  Really?  Apparently, graffiti artists in 1963 have about the same level of spell and grammar composition as the Internet trolls of the modern era.  Who knew?)

And the nod to The Stand (coincidentally, my favorite King book ever) was pretty awesome too.  Loved how we caught a glimpse of that graffiti in the alternate timeline, which, if you think about it, is pretty similar to the world of The Stand, actually…

Stu 3

And speaking of horror, I was again struck by the use of horror movie elements in something that is time travel/suspense/love story (and that makes perfect sense, screw you, critics, it makes perfect sense!).  And the use of horror movie elements, like the color red (Sadie’s dress and the door in the book depository), made perfect sense in this context, giving the viewer a sense of foreboding for Jake and anyone associated with Jake.

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Again, let’s talk about the visuals…

And again, I was floored by them, especially in this episode.  I loved the scenes in the book depository, along with the mad dash to get to the book depository.  The camera angles, the sound effects and the speed all served to give this part of the story some tension, which worked very well.

The scenes after Jake saves the president were also well done.  I could tell that some actual footage from the infamous day was used, and that was a nice touch.  I also thought that changing from color to black and white back to color (when Jake was booked and taken to the police station) was a nice touch, and gave the scene a bit of authenticity, and it almost came across as an actual event, as opposed to a scene in a fictional mini series.

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The visual depiction of the alternate timeline was also well done.  I enjoyed the surreal quality of it, as that reinforced the idea that this was an alternate timeline and not something that really should have existed in the first place.  The dog in the distance that looked towards Jake and then walked off was a nice touch too, giving a sense of disorder and lawlessness.  Dystopia at its finest.

Now, I don’t have too many complaints about this episode or about the series overall.  However, I wish the writers would have done a little better job with the alternate timeline.  Visually, the series got the point across.  However, I wish that we could have just a little more detail.  The book did a good job of providing us this information, and it was fascinating.  However, this part in the mini series felt a little bit rushed, and almost glossed over.  Not that this takes anything away from the mini series, but I am almost hoping we get to see some deleted scenes or something else that gives us a little bit more detail.

And the ending!

I know that I have said that I welcome changes to a story when it is adapted to the screen, and that is mostly true.

Mostly.

In other words, I would have channeled Annie Wilkes if the writers had DARED changed this ending, which I consider to be one of King’s best, or maybe even his best, period.

Annie Wilkes 1

And to my delight, the ending to the mini series is essentially the same as the ending to the book.

So of course, I stepped into a feeling puddle.  And I am still trying to shake those pesky feelings off.  Sticky little buggers, they are…

In fact, my mind went here:

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse
that sends me down to the river
though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river
my baby and I
Oh down to the river we ride

Bruce Springsteen, The River

And it was fitting:  Jake and Sadie once danced on the floor of the gymnasium, and fell in love.  But that was literally in another lifetime.  And all Jake is left with is the memories, and a dream that did not quite come true.  But still, it is better to have the memories and the dreams.  That way, the river is not completely dry after all.

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Well, that’s it for 11/22/63.  I have had the pleasure of taking a journey with Jake Epping.  And like Jake, I am left with a sense of longing.  But life is all about taking journeys.  After all, it is better to take and journey and have the memories.  Otherwise, without the dreams and the memories, life would be about as much fun as a dry riverbed.

mash 1

 

 

Every Gunslinger Needs a Companion: An Interview With Bev Vincent

In life, sometimes you take journeys.  Sometimes these are physical journeys (I have had a few myself).

Sometimes, there are other kinds of journeys as well…

super bowl 50 1

Well, I am sure most of us (me included) don’t take a journey like that often ever but that game last night sure was was ride, at any rate…whew!  And this little old blog sends you love, Ser Peyton!

Or, if you are more like me, you take literary journeys.  Oh, too nerdy for you!  Well, sorry, guess someone forgot what blog this was again!

And I have traveled alone, and I have traveled with others.  Now traveling alone is not a bad thing.  But sometimes, having a companion has its advantages.  A Sam Gamgee, maybe.  Or if you are Peyton Manning, a Von Miller (and it doesn’t hurt to perhaps throw in a Chris Harris, or maybe an Aquib Talib or two, for that matter).

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In other words, great journeys are not usually accomplished alone, whether they are to destroy a pesky ring, or to obtain a pesky second (Super Bowl) ring.  Even this guy can testify to that!

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Yes, you are definitely reading this blog and forgot to heed all the previous warnings!

Reading the Dark Tower series is a journey.  And I have taken that journey on my own.  And it was great, of course.

But I have taken it with friends, too.

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

Well, I wasn’t talking about these guys, per se.  If I was relying on them for friendship, well that is a recipe for guaranteed heartbreak, and I will leave it at that.

Nor am I talking about the followers on my blog and social media account, who were with me every step of the way in my latest re-read and review of the entire series.  I do appreciate both all of you very much though, and much love to everyone!

Rather, I am talking about works such as this one:

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And this one:

DT Concordance 1

Well, they may be books, but to any Constant Reader who is also obsessed with the Dark Tower series, they are almost as invaluable as a Sam Gamgee or Vonn Miller.  They aid in the journey, so that journey becomes that much richer.  These books have also made me become a much better reader, as I have picked out some details I missed on previous re-reads, which made me feel like the kid who found the Easter Egg that everyone else missed because everyone else did not know where to look.

easter eggs 1

Recently, I have the please of talking to one of the creators of my companions, aka Bev Vincent.  I was curious as to what goes on when creating works like these to aid in this journey that I have taken so many times.  And Mr. Vincent was gracious enough to talk to me, and given me a little more insight into his work, the Stephen King universe in general and the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.  So, read below for the complete interview.

cuthbert and alain

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

 

Please, tell us a little about yourself. This can be anything, including education, background, etc. Also, when did you first become a Stephen King fan and why?

I come from eastern Canada. I grew up in a small community in northern New Brunswick, where I lived until I was eighteen. I then went to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I studied chemistry. I got a B.Sc in 1983 and finished my PhD in X-ray crystallography in the fall of 1987. I did a postdoc at the ETH in Zurich and worked as a staff crystallographer until 1989, at which time I moved to Texas, where I’ve lived ever since.

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I started writing seriously at the end of the previous millennium and it has been part of my daily routine ever since, although I still have a day job.

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I discovered Stephen King when I was living in Halifax. I picked up a copy of ‘Salem’s Lot in a used bookstore and I’ve been hooked ever since. I sought out his other books (there weren’t many in 1979!) and have followed along with him for over 35 years. I read a lot, and far more than just King’s books, but he’s been one of the constants. I guess you could call me a Constant Reader.

'Salem's Lot 1


 

What is your favorite Stephen King book, and why is it your favorite?

I have a hard time picking absolute favorites — I have affinities for certain books at different times for different reasons. I have a particular fondness for ‘Salem’s Lot because it was the first, the one that got me hooked. The book has a lot going for it, for a “second” novel (of course, we know it was not his second written book), and it stands up quite well.

Salem's lot 2

Bag of Bones is one that would appear in my top five list. It was the first of his books that I read in first draft manuscript long before it was published. That was a fascinating experience, and I especially appreciated the way he subsequently rewrote the book, layering in things that weren’t present in the first draft.

bag of bones 1

I used to like to tell people about The Gunslinger for a long time, when people didn’t know much about it. It was my entry point into the Dark Tower series, but for a long time it was the only book in the series for me. I loved its mood. I had no idea where the series was headed — or even that it was headed somewhere, but I reread that one a number of times. I could list others that are high on my list. But I’d have an easier time picking my two least favorites. No trouble there at all!

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Oh, what is your least favorite SK book?

I have two: Needful Things and The Tommyknockers. I didn’t like any of the characters in the former and I liked Bobbi and Gard a lot in the latter and hated that King abandoned them for a huge chunk of the book when all I wanted to do was to get back and find out how they were doing.

Needful things 3


 

I am really excited about the upcoming Hulu adaptation for 11/22/63, and I have high hopes for the series. However, I know that movie adaptations of King’s books are mixed, at best. Some work, some don’t. Out of all the King movies, which one do you feel works the best, and why? Which one do you think does not work, and why?

I’ve already seen the entire miniseries of 11.22.63 and I think people are going to like it a lot. It is significantly different from the novel in many ways, yet it captures the sense of the book perfectly. The actress who plays Sadie is wonderful and it is her more than James Franco who gives this adaptation its heart. The production values are extremely high and the cast is terrific.

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I’ve never been someone who saw the adaptation as a necessary part of the life cycle of a book. Slavish adaptations aren’t always the best. The problem with Dreamcatcher, in my opinion, is that it tried to cram too much of a very big book into the movie, which made it almost incomprehensible to people to people unfamiliar with the novel.

Quality: Original. Film Title: Dreamcatcher (2003). Pictured: (L to R) DAMIAN LEWIS, THOMAS JANE, TIMOTHY OLYPHANT and JASON LEE in Castle Rock Entertainment's and Village Roadshow Pictures' science fiction/horror film Dreamcatcher distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Photo Credit: Doane Gregory. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures 2002. For further information: please contact The Warner Bros. Press Office on 020 7984 5000.

On the other hand, the adaptation of Dolores Claiborne took significant liberties with the book, deleting characters, changing the emphasis on others, but it absolutely captured the novel.

Dolores C

A lot of the adaptations are forgettable or laughable. I have no use for The Mangler or Children of the Corn (I through XII) or any number of other B grade films.

Disney SK

I did like The Mist, despite the controversial change to the story–and I was thrilled to get to visit the set during production.

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I also visited (the set of) Haven for a day with my daughter, which was great fun. There’s a case of an adaptation that took a core idea and then ran off in a vastly different direction from the source. The same people did the same thing with The Dead Zone TV series.

Haven TV series starring Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant, Eric Balfour, Richard Donat, John Dunsworth, Adam Copeland, Glenn Lefchak, Nicholas Campbell, Kate Kelton, Emma Lahana, Bree Williamson, Christopher Shore and Colin Ferguson - dvdbash.com

There are some great ones — Shawshank, Stand By Me — and some surprisingly effective ones, like 1408 — and a whole lot of turkeys.

ka caw


 

I have read your book, The Dark Tower Companion, and wow! Can you tell us how this book came to be, and exactly what went in to writing it and putting it together?

DT companion 1

I previously wrote The Road to the Dark Tower around the time King was finishing up the last three books in the series. People had frequently asked me when I was going to write a book about King and his work, but I had resisted the idea because it seemed like such a huge project.

the road to the DT 1

Then when I heard that King was going to write the final three Dark Tower books all at once, I had the idea that I could explore the series and, in doing so, say something about all of King’s work in general. King gave me the manuscripts for the final books a couple of years before they were published, which allowed me to have my book ready around the same time as Book 7 was published.

never just a book

The Road to the Dark Tower was written for people who had already read the entire series and wanted to revisit it with me. I would be the tour guide, and I would point out the things I had noticed while reading and rereading and studying the series.

Dark Tower 3

Then, a number of years later, the first serious indications that there would be a film adaptation emerged, with Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman. I thought it was time to update my book with all the things that had happened in the Dark Tower Universe since my first book was published. However, my publisher suggested that I do a new book, completely different from the first. So, The Dark Tower Companion was written for people who haven’t necessarily read the series. I thought there would be people who came to the Dark Tower via the movies or the Marvel graphic novels. People who might want to know more about something — a reference book. I had to read the series several times for each book, with different things in mind on each reading. My copies are marked up with so many different colored highlighters that they look like the Bends o’ the Rainbow!

Maerlyn's rainbow

I especially enjoyed getting to interview all these great people for the book, from King himself to Ron Howard (from the set of RUSH) and Akiva Goldsman, and then all of the creative people involved in the Marvel series. That was a series of terrific experiences. I also had a great time coming up with the two maps — the one that showed the known region of Mid-World, especially when certain details came together, and the one of the Dark Tower locations in Manhattan.

DT movie 3


 

It looks like we may finally get our Dark Tower movie(s). I know that if Roland doesn’t do the finger twirl in the movie, I will not watch it…at all! (Joking, joking.) All kidding aside, what do you need to see in the movie(s) from the books (since we all know that there will be changes, which are necessary) to make sure that the movie does not stray too far from the source material?

I’m open to a complete re-imagination of the series. If you’ve read my interviews with Howard and Goldsman, you’ll see that their ideas for the first movie are quite radical, and I was fine with that. I’m also fine with possibly having Idris Elba as Roland — in fact, I think that would be terrific.

Idris Elba 1

A movie isn’t made first and foremost for the readers of the source material, I believe. They are made for a movie-going audience, so a lot of accommodations have to be made, and can be made.

Some people have suggested that the movies should feature Roland’s NEXT version of his quest, the one where he starts of with the Horn of Eld. To my mind, that means that anything could happen. Anything. If Roland is a different person (arguably a slightly better one), then maybe he needs different companions to get the job done. I’m not saying I want to see that happen, but once that suggestion is made, it shows that people are open to change.

Roland and horn 1

I don’t know if the movie can work if it is too literal an adaptation. A lot of people were upset by how the series ended on the page — can you imagine going to see a handful of movies over a span of years only to end up back at the beginning again?

DT ending

I’m perfectly content for them to do whatever they see fit with the adaptation. There are some pretty smart people in the movie business. And if they end up making a hash of it, oh well.

Roland 1


So many thanks to Bev Vincent for this interview.  And remember, if you need a companion to help guide you on the Path of the Beam, whether it be be your first journey or your 19th journey, please check out The Road to the Dark Tower, The Dark Tower Companion and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance (written by the lovely Robin Furth).  These friends  works are available wherever books are sold.

And, as always, happy reading!

RoaldDahl

Picture This: My Review of Duma Key

Art is life.

Life is art.

Art imitates life.

Life imitates art.

Art…well…

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

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

Roland 14

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

critters 1 007

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

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

Yes, a Stephen King book!

Stephen King

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and don’t forget:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dali painting 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Thoughts

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

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

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

I know, bad me!

breaking bad

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

First of all, Wireman…

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

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

Nero 1

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

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

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

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

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

Duma key acrylic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Connections:

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

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

Insomnia 4

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

The-dark-tower-19

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

Mother Abigail

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

Maerlyn's rainbow

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

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

I seem to remember a saying…

One about all good things…

Q 2

Something happens to them, I hear…

Picard 3

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

Well, I digress, it seems…

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

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

And reunions…boy, do I love reunions!

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

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

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

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

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

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Synopsis

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

Dixie pig 4

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

mordred birth

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

Callahan 1

 

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

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

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

man in black

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

Sheemie 2

 

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

Mordred 1

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

Tet 1

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

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

Bryan Smith 1

 

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

Jake and Oy

 

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

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

tower 8

 

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

Le_Casse_Roi_Russe

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

CK 4

 

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

Rando Thoughtful 1

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

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

Dandelo 1

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

Dandelo 2

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

Patrick Danville 1

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

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

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

unfound door 1

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

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

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

Oy 1

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

Tower 6

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

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

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

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

Tower 11


 

The Dark Tower is a rainbow book.

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

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

Maerlyn's rainbow

And speaking of seriousness…

Oh, the feelsies…

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

But seriously…

All.  The.  Feels.

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

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

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

sparkly vampire 1

And the deaths…

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

Jake death

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

Eddie 1

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

Roland 14

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

Oy 1

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

ugly cry

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

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

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

Yes, a coward!

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

Jake and the oracle

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

Mordred 3

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

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

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

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

DT door 1

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

Susannah 2

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

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

Roland and Flagg

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

Well, at least in some circles…

But those are circles I do not visit.

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

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

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

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

It is perfect because it is right ending.

It is perfect because of its implications.

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

The implication that hell is repetition.

Tower 3

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

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

Roland 10

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

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

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

Maybe.

Roland and horn 1


 

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

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

Calvin and Hobbes

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

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

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

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

Red 1

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

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

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

mash 1

 

 


 

Connections

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

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

Insomnia 4

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

Ted Brautigan 1

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

It 3

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

Pennywise 5

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

Everything's Eventual 1

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

Dinky

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

carrie-1

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

Eyes of the Dragon 1

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

gorg_and_mr_munshun

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

Charlie Manx 1

 

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

duma key 4

Just Another Day…

Today is June 19th.

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

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

And you guys know who you are…

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

Mar Barses?  Got your attention, huh?

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

Rose

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

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

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

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

19 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lion licking

Well, its a metaphor, at any rate…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Man Crush Monday 5/4/15

Oh yay, its Monday again!  Since I really missed not having Monday for a week…NOT!!!

Really. my home cat had the right idea this morning…

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Don’t I wish I could join him.  However, someone has to work and support his greenie habit.

And there are other reasons to get out of bed on Monday morning any way…

Like…you guessed it…Man Crush Monday!

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And you know you’ve missed that over the past week and you really want to read about literary characters whom this really nerdy blogger crushes on, right?  Right?  RIGHT???

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In fact, you would do anything to get your fill of Man Crush Monday, in the style of this blog.  Anything at all…

Like maybe sling a little mud on your neighbor’s sheets…

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Or if that’s not your style, maybe just have your pesky pseudonym that won’t stay dead, even though you had a funeral for him and everything, for gosh’s sakes, wreck havoc until I bow to your needs?

George Stark

 

Well, maybe you aren’t that desperate for my blog posts (but its cool if you are, nerds don’t judge) but folks in a certain town in Maine sure have gotten that desperate.

Yes, I am talking about none other than the fine town of Castle Rock, Maine.  Of course Castle Rock could be located than no place other than the nice, calm perfectly normal the sarcasm is strong in this one  Stephen King universe!

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Castle Rock certainly is the hot bed for odd happenings, to say the least…

I mean, sparrows carrying some guy who technically should not exist away (although don’t tell him that, he would be likely kill you in a really gruesome manner with no further questions asked).

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Or people losing their minds over items in a certain shop…you could say maybe that they got a little needful, perhaps?

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In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I am talking about Needful Things and The Dark Half, both written by the illustrious Stephen King.

Stephen King

Obviously, both of these take place in King’s (unfortunately) fictional town of Castle Rock.  In The Dark Half, a writer’s pseudonym some how comes to life (this was probably King working out his feelings over poor Dickie Bachman and his unfortunate, early death due to cancer of the pseudonym).

And then we have Needful Things.  Needful Things is one part Wall Street, one part Something Wicked This Way Comes and all horror as only King could bring us.  Like I said before, folks went a little crazy.  Scratch that…people basically lost their fucking minds!  Over things in a shop!  For some reason, people thought they were getting something valuable…gives new meaning to the phrase “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

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But every villain has a hero (or sometimes five).  Even if said villains are ones who shouldn’t technically exist, or ones who exist but no one can explain their existence…

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Heroes indeed…

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Well, its not quite  Batman that I’m talking about here, although I am sure he could have a good time in Castle Rock when Gotham doesn’t need him!

No, I am talking about Alan Pangborn, the lucky subject of this week’s Man Crush Monday!

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Every city needs a hero, and Batman Alan Pangborn was able to fill that void nicely for Gotham  Castle Rock.

“He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.” – Lt. James Gordon

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Well, I don’t think Sheriff Pangborn had quite the resources money  but like Batman, he did do his best to be the hero that Castle Rock deserved in its times of crisis.  Or was it the hero Castle Rock needed?  Er, who knows?

And like Batman, Alan Pangborn was fallible.  As in he almost fell for this guy’s tricks…

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But that’s the cool thing about Batman er Alan Pangborn…he is human!  And humans can be taken down with something far less exotic than Kryptonite!  In other words, we can identify with guys like Bruce Wayne and Alan Pangborn.  On some level, they are us.  And we are them.  And they give us hope, as these guys do strive to do what’s right, and protect their fellow man.

So here you go ladies, here is Alan Pangborn, the subject of this week’s Man Crush Monday!


 

Name:  Alan Pangborn

Profession:  Sheriff of Castle Rock.  Was promoted to position after the rather messy death of his predecessor.

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Relationship status:  Widowed tragically young, but is now in a relationship with owner of You Sew and Sew.  That relationship has had its rough patches, but both parties now recognize that third parties do more harm than good!

Friends:  Polly Chalmers (see relationship status)

Norris Ridgewick.  Police officers do form a brotherhood after all.

Netitia Cobb.  Like Batman, he is willing to fight for the under dog.

Enemies:  Again, like Batman, Alan Pangborn also has a few enemies:

George Stark.  See section on pseudonyms that won’t die.

Ace Merrill.  Unlike a certain accountant, Ace was rightfully sent to Shawshank State Prison by Alan Pangborn.

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Leland Gaunt.  Neighbor to his lover’s shop but definitely not a friendly neighbor.  However, their are rumors that people will kill for the items in that shop.  Bark is definitely worse than his bite, as he does tend to fall for parlor tricks.

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Hobbies: Magic and sleight of hand tricks.  Often entertains his coworkers.  Even better, it entertains sick, hospitalized children.  Also, see section on enemies.


 

So there you have it, ladies…this week’s subject for Man Crush Monday!  I hear he may be up for traveling, but don’t expect him to ever make a trip to Junction City, Iowa!  And I don’t think he has anything against animals, but there is no love lost between Alan Pangborn and sparrows!  Wherever he is, he will become the hero that city deserves…or is that the hero that city needs?

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And that’s it for this week’s edition of Man Crush Monday!  Join me next week, where we will fantasize some more about unavailable literary characters!

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Top 10 non-horror Stephen King books

So let me paraphrase a conversation I had on Facebook recently.  COFG is me (Crazy Obsessed Fan Girl).  FOAF is the friend of a friend with whom I had this rather interesting conversation.

FOAF:  I don’t like Stephen King, his books are too scary!

FOAF:  I love The Shawshank Redemption, that is one of my favorite movies!

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COFG:  Stephen King wrote the story The Shawshank Redemption is based on.  Contrary to popular belief, the man known for shit weasels and scary clowns is an excellent writer.

FOAF: (Silence on her end.  Obviously, her mind was blown.  Does not compute.  Programming must be re-adjusted).

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Well, like I said, it was paraphrased.  Although you would be surprised how many people need to re-adjust their programming when they learn that scary dude wrote a story that was turned into a movie that received Oscar nods.,.gasp!  Oh, the horror (pun intended).

Stephen King

Which leads me to this blog post.

Yes, Stephen King writes scary stories.  Who hasn’t had a nightmare (or five) about an evil clown who emerges from the sewers and kills kids?  Who doesn’t scream when watching a movie like Pet Sematary, which is also probably the scariest book in existence on this planet?

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And all of the above is correct.  Stephen King can scare you to where you just might need a change of pants.  And oh boy, is he good at it!

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But…wait for it…Stephen King is also a great writer.  And I am completely leaving anything about horror off that last sentence.

Yes, Stephen King can write scary stories.  But he writes good stories.  Great stories, actually.  Really, really great stories, as a matter of fact.

And no, they are not scary stories.  Even in his “scary” stories, King is able to include universal themes.  For example, the theme of family is huge in The Shining.  And bullying is also a huge theme in stories such as Dreamcatcher and It.

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And in his “non-scary” stories, King often writes about frightening situations.  For example, domestic abuse is prevalent in stories such as Rose Madder and Dolores Claiborne.  Domestic violence is a situation that many people can identify with, and characters such as Norman Daniels are terrifying because they are so plausible.

To sum it up, King is a great writer.  However, he is somewhat stigmatized, because of the “horror” label.  And no one is more aware of it than the master himself, as he has been typecast for nearly 40 years.  However, this has not stopped him from churning out some amazing novels that cannot be categorized as horror.  And anyone who takes the time to read these works is in for a treat.  As these works are simply great writing, with the ability to grip the reader, and keep him/her trapped in the pages of the book until the last word.  And that is exactly what a good writer should do:  make the reader not want to put down that book.

So, without further ado, here are my top “non-horror” Stephen King books, for the the non-horror fans in our lives.

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10)  Lisey’s Story

Marriage is something that everyone is familiar with (especially me, since I’m on my second trip to the rodeo).  And almost everyone agrees that when you marry someone, you don’t really know them, even if the marriage lasts a good number of years.  Even when you live with someone day in and day out, there is still a secret side (or maybe more than one secret side) of that person.  And sometimes the secrets are harmless (like my book boyfriends I spend hours obsessing over).  Or sometimes the secrets are not so harmless.

Yes, those not so harmless secrets.  You know, when your spouse has the ability to travel to another dimension, and then heal himself but has to be careful not to attract the attention of a creature he calls “the Long Boy” since that creature is hungry for yummy things called human beings.

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That kind of secret does suck, and it is actually what the title character from Lisey’s Story encounters.  Upon the death of her husband Scott Landon, who was an accomplished writer during his lifetime, Lisey Landon begins to learn (or rather, have her memory jogged) as to what kind of man her husband really was.  And she also has an adventure in the alternate dimension mentioned above (complete with an encounter or two with a scary monster), so that she can set her life and memory of her husband right.  Yes, there is a monster or two (although the human monster is one of the scariest), but this book deals more with marriage and what we may keep from our spouses (harmless or not).  The book also deals with the still somewhat taboo subject of mental illness, which is a prevalent theme in this society, and manages to treat this sensitive subject with compassion.  Lisey’s Story may have a couple of monsters, but the themes are themes that resonate with everyone, and the book makes an enjoyable read for almost anyone.

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9)  Dolores Claiborne

So let’s talk about human monsters again.

“Lupus est homo homini.”  Man is a wolf to man.  In other words, let’s talk about man’s inhumanity to man.  Or technically, with this entry, man (and society’s) horrible treatment of women.

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Dolores Claiborne is disturbing.  Yet there are no monsters, at least of the supernatural variety.  The monsters in this one are all human.

The title character marries a man, thinking she will get to live happily ever after.  However, her life becomes anything but happy.  Dolores’ husband Joe begins to abuse her not long after he and Dolores marry.  Dolores takes matters into her own hands, as local law enforcement is proven to be useless (and is shown to be just that throughout the rest of the book).  Dolores does not endure any more abuse by Joe, but what follows is much, much worse.  Joe begins to turns his attentions on their daughter Selena, and begins sexually abusing Selena.  Again, local law enforcement (and society, for that matter), show their true colors, as no one is one the side of Dolores and her children.  Feeling desperate, Dolores seeks out advice from her employer, and decides that “an accident can be a woman’s best friend.”  She pushes Joe down a well, and convinces local authorities that is is an accident.  She is believed, but the incident comes back to haunt her upon the death of her employer, Vera.  The book is a recounting of what led Dolores to her actions, and of the terrible gender inequality that existed (and still exists in our society today) in 1960’s Maine island communities.

When I started reading Dolores Claiborne, I wondered why she did it.  About a third of the way through the book, I wondered why she didn’t do away with Joe much sooner than she did.  And I rooted for her.  I rooted for her to be able to take some control of her life, as no one, including her husband or even our society, was willing to let her have any control of anything in life, including the well-being of her children.  And Dolores was able to take a stand, and came out the winner.  And I like it when the good guys  girls win.

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8)  Rose Madder

Human monsters.  Yes, more human monsters.  In case you didn’t notice, this is a huge theme in this blog post and in King’s works.  In the book Rose Madder, once again, the biggest monster is completely human, and is someone you are supposed to trust.

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Norman Daniels is a cop.  And he is a very good good cop.  However, Norman is also a corrupt cop who has literally gotten away with murder.  Oh, and he beats his wife.  Real peach of a guy, huh?

Fortunately, Norma’s wife Rosie does not think her husband is a peach.  She endures terrible abuse from him for nearly 14 years.  King’s description of the abuse is quite graphic (Norman even sodomizes his wife with a tennis racket).  Rosie finally finds the courage to leave her husband, catch a Greyhound bus and start over in another city nearly 800 miles away from her home.  Rosie is helped along the way by the kindness of strangers and receives much needed support from a local women’s shelter.  She even meets and falls in love with a new man, and finds an interesting painting to hang in her new apartment.  However, Rosie’s past catches up with her, as Norman leaves behind a trail of bodies in his attempt to track down his estranged wife.  The new painting literally provides a means of escape for Rosie, as it leads her into another world (along with Norman) and Norman is finally given his just desserts.

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It is true that there is a supernatural element to Rose Madder.  However, most of the book takes place in a setting that almost everyone is familiar with (suburban America) and the characters (abusive men and abused women) are also sadly familiar.  Norman Daniels is a corrupt cop and an abusive husband.  He is one of the most believable characters ever written by King.  Watch your local or even national news, and a Norman Daniels is bound to surface.

The fact that Rose Madder partially takes place in the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger is just an added bonus to a fantastic story.

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7)  Hearts in Atlantis

The horrors of war are also something we are all familiar with, including Stephen King.  King brilliantly addresses this topic in his collections of novellas titled Hearts in Atlantis.  Although King made many allusions in prior works to his feelings on the Viet Nam War, he addresses the subject head on in the collection Hearts in Atlantis.  The result is an insightful analysis on the experience of coming in age during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.

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Hearts in Atlantis consists of two novellas and three short stories.  The first of these is titled Low Men in Yellow Coats, and is the only story that really contains any hint of the supernatural.  While the Viet Nam War is not directly referenced in this work, the protagonist Bobby Garfield learns a lesson about taking a stand against evil when his friend and elderly neighbor is pursued by sinister creatures that are clearly not of this world.  Bobby’s actions and stances on this will color his life for years to come, and serve as foreshadowing as to how some of his peers will take a stance against the conflict in Viet Nam.  The title story tells of a college student who nearly flunks out of college due to excessive amounts of time spent playing a card game.  However, the stakes of failure are very high, as anyone who fails out of college at the beginning of the Viet Nam War risks being sent overseas to fight a war in a country that most can barely pronounce or spell.  While struggling with his studies, Pete also struggles (in much the same manner as Bobby Garfield) with his stance on what is happening overseas.  Like Bobby, Pete also makes a stance that will forever change his life.  Blind Willie and Why We’re in Vietnam take place some years after the Viet Nam War is over, and are told from the prospective of those who served during that time.  The collection ends with the short story Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling, where we meet an adult Bobby Garfield who finally receives some closure in regards to the events during his childhood that have troubled him for so many years.

While many younger readers may find some of the stories in Hearts in Atlantis a bit dated, the themes (war, bullying, tolerance and taking a stance) are themes that anyone of any age should identify with, making the stories ones that will always be relevant and therefore timeless.

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6)  Different Seasons

As I stated before, Stephen King has struggled with typecasting.  However, the publication of the book Different Seasons put at least some of those criticisms to rest.  Different Seasons consists of three novellas, and the last work could be probably be considered a short story.  All four stories contain themes that we all familiar with:  injustice, bullying, parents’ relationships with their children, people who are not who they seem to be, etc.  In other words, they are stories of the human condition.

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The first story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, tells the story of a man who is wrongfully imprisoned for killing him wife, and his struggles inside a system that seeks to keep him oppressed.  The story is told from the perspective of another prisoner, and reminds the reader time and time again that we must never give up hope. The second story, Apt Pupil, tells of a former Nazi war criminal who moves to suburban America and lives under an assumed name.  The man develops an unhealthy relationship with the boy next door, and his past comes back to haunt him and change his young neighbor in a way that is not for the better.  The third story, The Body, is the tale of four childhood friends and the last adventure that they have together before adulthood conspires to lead them on different paths.  The final story, The Breathing Method, tells of a young mother who gives birth out of wedlock in turn of the century America, and just how far she will go to deliver her baby safely, even when society and another unfortunate turn of events try to tell her otherwise.

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Humanity can be scary sometimes.  Oftentimes, humans, whether they are a former Nazi war criminal, a corrupt prison warden or even the innocent boy next door, are the scariest creatures on this planet.  But sometimes humans can be wonderful as well, and make marks on our lives that we will never forget.  Different Seasons does a wonderful job illustrating both sides of humanity and is just a fascinating study into what makes our species tick.

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5)  Eyes of the Dragon

When you think of kid friendly writers, Stephen King does not usually come to mind.  And rightfully so, as much of King’s work would be deemed “inappropriate” at best, and maybe “will traumatize one for life” at worst (as we can all see how reading King at age 12 made me the well-adjusted adult I am today…ha).  However, the book Eyes of the Dragon could be probably be an exception to that statement (if we leave out the parts about flaccid penises…yikes, awkward much?)

It said that King wanted to write a book that his daughter Naomi would want be allowed  to read.  So he wrote Eyes of the Dragon.  In many ways, Eyes of the Dragon is similar to the fairy tales that we all grew reading (or maybe our parents read them to us).  There are princes in a faraway kingdom.  The princes become orphaned and one becomes wrongfully imprisoned, but pulls off a daring escape plan using his mother’s childhood dollhouse, of all things.  And there is even an evil wizard thrown in the mix.  However, Eyes of the Dragon also has a decidedly darker tone than some of the fairy tales that I grew up with.  The protagonist does escape, but his captor never faces punishment.  And it could also be argued that the younger brother of the protagonist, who was also responsible for the imprisonment of his older brother, has not really become any wiser for all the troubles he has been through.

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Even though it is dark (this is a Stephen King book after all), Eyes of the Dragon is an unusual but fun departure from King’s normal work into a peculiar type of dark fantasy.  And like the fairy tales I remember from my youth, it does teach a few lessons that anyone of any age could stand to hear.

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4)  The Dead Zone

Its an age old question:  do we have the ability to see the future, and possible try to change it?  More importantly, should we have that ability?  This is a question that is explored in depth in the book The Dead Zone.

The Dead Zone is actually a scary book.  But again, there are no monsters, except for a couple of the human ones.  The Dead Zone is also a tragic book.  The protagonist, Johnny Smith (how can a name be more Every Man than Johnny Smith?) falls into a coma after a horrible car accident.  Johnny stays in the coma for nearly five years.  In the meantime, his world moves on without him.  This includes the woman he loves, who marries another.  Johnny wakes up from his coma, and discovers that he has the somewhat limited ability to see future events.  Sometimes this is a good thing, as it saves people’s lives and helps catch serial killers.  However, more often than not, Johnny’s unwanted gift brings unintended consequences and isolates him from his fellow man.  When Johnny discovers that a popular politician will one day become president and start World War III, he embarks on a quixotic quest to try and stop the man.  Again, Johnny finds himself isolated from his few remaining friends and family members.  Johnny is ultimately successful in his quest to stop the politician, but the success comes at a huge personal cost for Johnny and his loved ones.

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In The Dead Zone, King once again embarks upon a study in the human condition.  The ultimate result is tragedy, but the book is one of his most thought provoking reads of all time.

3)  Insomnia

It may be odd to think of horror and fantasy (in the style of Lord of the Rings) as being two sides of the same coin, but oftentimes these two categories blur, and it can get hard to distinguish one from the other.  The book Insomnia definitely falls into the category of dark fantasy and has therefore earned its place on this list.

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Insomnia follows the adventures of Ralph Roberts, a widower in his late 60’s.  Ralph has become inflicted with insomnia and is unable to sleep at night.  He then begins seeing some strange sights in his hometown of Derry, Maine. Ralph also discovers that his neighbor Lois has also become inflicted with insomnia and is seeing the same strange sights that he is.  The two discover that they are actually pawns in a game of sorts, and that the stakes are very, very high, and losing the game could spell disaster for not just them, but all of existence.  The story switches from fantasy (alternate dimensions) to reality throughout the book, and also gives the viewpoint of the world from senior citizens, who are often invisible at best, or treated as sub-humans at worst.  Ralph and Lois manage to save the day, but like many “saves” in a Stephen King book, it comes at a huge personal cost to Ralph and Lois some years later.  We also see Ralph and Lois fall in love during their ordeal, which is one of the most endearing love stories in any book, let alone a Stephen King book.

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Insomnia does a wonderful job playing up the darker aspects of the fantasy genre (The characters Atropos and The Crimson King are a great example of this) and also manages to treat the subject of aging in our youth obsessed society with sensitivity and even a little bit of humor.

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2)  The Talisman

Stephen King is often criticized for not being “literary” enough.  This may be because he sells so many books.  Or it may be the subject matter that he addresses in his books.  However, these critics fail to realize that Charles Dickens was a best-selling author in his lifetime.  Or that both Dickens and Mark Twain also took on social issues in their works, and that both authors’ works had some degree of darkness.  And both Twain and Dickens are taught in high schools and colleges across the world today.  Someday, Stephen King will be held in the same regard, and his work will be seen as “literature” and become part of standard college reading lists.  When that is the case, college professors would do well to include the next entry on this list:  The Talisman.

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Much like Insomnia, The Talisman can be categorized as dark fantasy.  It is the story of Jack Sawyer, who embarks on a trip across the United States in order to obtain a magical object referred to as The Talisman, in order to save his mother from dying of cancer.  Jack learns (or rather, has his memory jogged) that he has the ability to travel to an alternate reality that he calls The Territories.  Magic is commonplace in The Territories, but The Territories also come with their own dangers, as monsters and evil rulers are encountered at almost every turn.  Jack also has to deal with evil men who conspire against him in the “real” world, but has friends who guide him on his journey.  These friends include a werewolf and a wise old man named Speedy Parker, who is much more than what he seems.  In the true spirit of any fantasy/adventure story, Jack is ultimately successful in his quest, and is able to defeat his enemies and save his mother’s life.

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Much like the works of Twain, Dickens and even Robert Lewis Stevenson, The Talisman is a story of fantastical high adventure.  And much like the works of Charles Dickens and others, it explores controversial subjects, which include sexual and physical abuse of children, crime and punishment in our society and just how far someone will go to save the life of a loved one.  In other words, The Talisman may look like a children’s story, but like Speedy Parker, it is much more that what it seems.

And now, for our number entry on this list…

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I bring you…

1) 11/22/63

As stated before, Stephen King came of age during one of the most tumultuous eras in our country’s history.  Not only did King attend college during the height of the Viet Nam War, he was also just entering adulthood upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Like most of his generation, this impacted King, and likely even affected his writing.  King alluded to this event many times (Wolves of the Calla and The Drawing of the Three contain a few references to Kennedy) but never addressed the subject head-on.  That is, until he wrote the number one entry on this list: 11/22/63.

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11/22/63 tells the story of Jake Epping, who lives in present day Maine.  Jake has an academic idea of John F. Kennedy, but has never really given the subject much thought.  However, Jake begins to give the subject much more thought when his friend Al reveals to him that there is a portal in the local diner owned by Al that allows one to travel back in time into 1958.  One can travel back and forth between time periods, and return to the present with only two minutes passing.  It is also revealed that traveling back to the present may “un-do” changes in the past.  Al persuades Jake to travel back in time and prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy and possible change history for the better.  Jake becomes convinced of this and travels back in time to do just that.  Jake takes up residence in 1958, and makes new friends.  He also falls in love with a woman named Sadie, and actually begins to re-think his quest.  He realizes that the past is stubborn and does not want to be changed, but still continues on his quest.  Jake is ultimately successful in preventing the assassination, but at the cost of Sadie’s life.  Jake travels back to 2011 but barely recognizes his present, as the prevention of the assassination has indeed led to drastic changes in history that are not for the better.  Jake travels back to the portal and re-enters the present, therefore restoring the timeline.  This also restores the life of Sadie.  Jake realizes his presence in the past can only lead to disaster, and chooses not to travel back in time and pursue Sadie.  The book ends with Jake encountering an elderly lady who can only be Sadie, and sharing one last dance with her.

card-1963

11/22/63 is an epic story.  The story is equal parts historical fiction and a suspense thriller.  It also contains one of the best cases of a “doomed love” affair, as the romance between Jake and Sadie so sadly demonstrates.  The book is rich in detail with what life was really like in late 1950’s America, as many perceive that to be a simpler time period.  However, there is an incident where Jake encounters a sign for the “colored” restroom, and follows the sign.  The sign leads a tangle of grass and brier patches, providing Jake (and the reader) with a reality check as to what life was really like during that time period.  King provides a fascinating character study of Lee Harvey Oswald, who, to most people, is just a historical figure.  However, King manages to make him a little more human and even somewhat sympathetic, even though his actions are still ultimately evil.  In short, 11/22/63 is complex and rich book, that deals with major events in history (JFK, Viet Nam War, etc), while providing a human perspective on what many (especially younger readers like myself) view in an academic manner.  11/22/63 truly makes history come alive and actually become relevant.

lee harvey oswald

King has stated that 11/22/63 was the book that he always wanted to write about Viet Nam, JFK, etc.  However, this is Stephen King.  He always has a trick up his sleeve.  And the trick in 11/22/63 is a great one:  Jake encounters none other than Richie Tozier and Beverly Marsh, shortly after the Losers Club’s first confrontation with Pennywise the Clown.  And King is correct:  11/22/63 is the book about JFK, Viet Nam, etc that needed to be written.  But the fact that he was able to incorporate the evil clown from a novel that has inspired so many nightmares in what many would consider to be a historical (not horror) novel  is just further testament to the true genius that is Stephen King.

pennywise


So there it is.  The top 10 non-horror novels written by Stephen King.  So for the non-horror fan in your life, maybe one (or five) of these would make a great stocking stuffer!  Or if you have not read these, self present giving is always allowed!  And the only scary thing about these is that maybe you will just get hooked and be unable to stop reading!  But sometimes being scared is a good thing…happy reading, all!

RoaldDahl