Join me and one of my fellow nerds, as we talk Christine (both book and movie), as well as some of the other happenings in the world of The Master!
Join me and one of my fellow nerds, as we talk Christine (both book and movie), as well as some of the other happenings in the world of The Master!
If you wish to hear your favorite nerd live and in the flesh, breaking down the novel Insomnia (written by The Master, natch) and geeking out over more than a few things, click the link below, as she was a guest on The Dark Tower Radio Podcast, and got to participate in a great meeting of the minds! Long days and pleasant nights, and enjoy!
Lately, confusion seems to be rampant in our world.
As in, we are confused as to what the difference is between between the beast that we call a fact, and the lesser known distant cousin of the fact, otherwise known as an “alternative fact.”
Since I myself am a survivor of the Bowling Green Massacre, let me educate you on the difference between facts and alternative facts.
The following information is brought to you by BARF (Bureau of Alternative Real Facts.)
Fact: Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a classic movie, and should be required viewing for all school age children.
Alternative fact: Jupiter Ascending is classified as a film. And one that people are allowed to watch, to boot.
And now, for the factiest fact that you ever facting heard, motherfacters!
Joe Hill is a bad ass. A motherfacting bad ass, in fact.
And if you don’t agree with me, well then fact off, you facter!
And I assure, I survived my trip to Christmasland, although, between you and me, the inhabitants of that place are kind of hostile. In fact, they will suck the life right out of you…
So, gear up your Rolls Royce Wraith, strap in and get ready for the recap and review of NOS4A2.
And, as always:
The story begins by introducing the reader to a nurse named Ellen Thornton. Ellen works in a prison infirmary, where most of the patients are comatose and unresponsive to any form of human contact.
One of these patients is a man named Charlie Manx. Manx is extremely elderly, and was also convicted of terrible crimes: he was convicted of kidnapping and murdering young children.
One night, as Ellen is making her rounds, something unexpected happens: Manx appears to awake from him comatose state, and speaks to Ellen. He specifically refers to Ellen’s son by his full name, and makes references to some place he calls “Christmasland” and someone named the “Gas Mask Man.”
Ellen calls for the doctors, as she is badly frightened. However, Manx exhibits no sign of consciousness once the doctors arrive, and Ellen is not believed, despite the fact that Manx grabbed her hard enough to leave bruises, and the fact that Manx referred to her son by his full name.
The story then switches to the perspective of a young girl named Victoria McQueen, also known as Vic. Vic’s father Chris also calls Vic The Brat.
At first, Vic seems to be an ordinary young girl. However, we find out that Vic is anything but ordinary. Vic possesses the ability to teleport herself between faraway places. Vic does this by riding her bike, and envisioning a bridge she calls The Shorter Way Bridge, which seems to magically appear when Vic wants to find a lost object. The bridge takes Vic to the place where the object was lost, and then takes her back to her original location. However, Vic’s talent also comes at a cost: she experiences headaches and becomes extremely ill when she uses this ability.
We are then introduced to a troubled man named Bing Partridge. One day, as Bing is leafing through some old magazines, he comes across an ad promising employment in a place called “Christmasland.” The ad is not specific in regards to the job details, but Bing is enchanted, as he loves celebrating Christmas, which brings back happy memories for him. Bing sends away his application for employment in Christmasland, desperately hoping that he gets a response soon. We also learn that Bing killed both of his parents as a child, and spent time in a mental institution before he was released. Bing is employed as a janitor, and has access to certain kinds of gases that can turn a person into a zombie, along with his own gas mask.
Almost immediately, Bing begins to have visions of past Christmases with his parents, and begins to dream of Christmasland. However, days go by, and he does not get a response to his application.
Bing also begins to see a mysterious vehicle circling his work place. The vehicle is an old Rolls Royce Wraith, and is black. However, the driver of the vehicle continues to remain a mystery.
One day, Bing finally meets the driver of vehicle, who introduces himself as Charles Talent Manx. Manx convinces Bing to go for a ride in the vehicle, so he can describe the opportunity that awaits Bing in Christmasland, if Bing chooses to accept. Once he is in the vehicle, Bing begins to feel sleepy. Manx tells him that is okay, as Bing will be entering another reality of sorts.
Manx tells Bing that he saves children from a life of pain and abuse by taking them to an alternate reality he calls “Christmasland.” In Christmasland, the children never have to grow up, and it is always Christmas, every day, all year. Manx says that the children are his, but that Bing can do what he wishes to any parents or any other parties that may need to be subdued, as most will not want Manx to take their children away. Bing eagerly accepts the employment opportunity, and he and Manx get to work.
Over the years, several children vanish under mysterious circumstances. In many of these disappearances, a mysterious Rolls Royce Wraith is spotted. However, none of the disappearances are ever connected.
Vic is now a teenager. She has used her bike many times to create the Shorter Way Bridge, so that she can locate lost objects. Vic is also a budding artist who has received recognition for her work.
One day, Vic uses her talent to locate a missing photograph. In doing so, she badly startles the school janitor, who relapses back into alcoholism. Vic feels extremely guilty and begins to question her use of this ability. The Shorter Way Bridge makes another appearance, and Vic rides her bike through it.
The Shorter Way Bridge deposits Vic in a library somewhere in Iowa. There, she meets a young woman named Maggie, who seems to have been expecting Vic to make an appearance. Maggie dresses in a colorful manner. Maggie is also afflicted with a bad stammer, which makes her speech difficult to understand.
Vic is bewildered, but Maggie attempts to reassure her. Maggie tells Vic that while her abilities may be a bit unusual, she is not alone in being gifted with these abilities. According to Maggie, many highly creative people (Vic is an accomplished artist and Maggie is gifted in the use of language and also an accomplished Scrabble player) possess the ability to alter reality. Maggie compares this to someone who uses a knife to make cuts in various objects, and refers to these altered realities as “inscapes.”
We also learn that Maggie has the ability to create her own “inscapes” and alter reality. Sometimes, Maggie’s Scrabble tiles will spell out sentences on her own. This is how Maggie knew to expect Vic: her Scrabble tiles told her of “The Brat” (but not Vic’s name, as no proper nouns are allowed in Scrabble.)
Maggie also states that her Scrabble tiles have indicated that Vic can find someone or something known as “The Wraith.” Vic demands to know who or who “The Wraith” is, but Maggie tries to change the subject, telling Vic that The Wraith is bad news and dangerous to Vic.
At Vic’s insistence, Maggie breaks down and gives her what information she has on The Wraith. According to Maggie, The Wraith is another person who possesses abilities similar to hers and Vic’s. However, The Wraith uses his abilities for evil, as he kidnaps children to steal their souls so that he may achieve immortality, trapping the children in an “inscape” of his own creation. Maggie then sends Vic back home, warning her once again to stay away from “The Wraith” as he is dangerous.
When Vic returns home, she becomes extremely ill as a result of her latest journey. Her parents become extremely worried, and confiscate her bicycle, as they believe she has an unhealthy fixation. Vic eventually recovers, and resumes her normal, every day life.
In the meantime, more children disappear. Once again, a Rolls Royce Wraith is spotted when some of these disappearances take place, but the cases are never connected.
Vic grows into a troubled teenager, When she is fourteen years old, her parents divorce, and her father abandons Vic and her mother. Vic acts out, turning to alcohol and drugs. Her grades in school are mediocre, although her art teacher notes that Vic has a talent for art, although Vic does apply herself.
One day, after an argument with both of her parents, Vic sneaks back into her house and falls asleep. When she awakens, she searches for some of her belongings that were confiscated by her mother, and finds her old bicycle.
Vic begins to ride her bicycle, and remember happier times during her childhood. However, it is not long before the bicycle leads her to trouble, which happens to be the lair of Charles Manx, or The Wraith.
Almost right away, Vic realizes that something is not right. She encounters what she thinks is a young child, but the creature only resembles a child in name only, as it has sharp teeth and appears to be breathing some sort of vapor or smoke when it speaks.
Vic also encounters Charles Manx, who attempts to entice her. When Vic refuses, her Shorter Way Bridge vanishes, leaving her stranded. Manx also sets fire to the house, intending to trap Vic in the house so that she will perish from the fire.
However, Vic escapes the house. She is assisted by man named Lou Carmody, who happens to be in the area, riding his motorcycle. Lou takes Vic to a nearby gas station, so that she can attempt to get help. Vic realizes that she is actually in Colorado, instead of her home of Massachusetts, and that she has been missing for two days. Vic indicates that she has been kidnapped, as she knows that no one will believe her story about the Shorter Way Bridge.
As Vic is telling her story, Charles Manx and his vehicle make an appearance at the gas station. The men at the gas station attempt to apprehend Manx, and a fight ensues. However, Manx is apprehended in the end, and arrested for his crimes. The official story is that Vic was kidnapped, and there is no mention of any of the stranger elements to her story.
Some years later, Vic moves back to Colorado, under the pretense of attending art school. She pursues a relationship with Lou Carmody, and the two have a child together named Bruce Wayne Carmody, who they call Wayne. Vic loves Lou and Wayne, but is afraid to admit, as she feels that she is not good enough for either of them. Vic also receives troubling phone calls from children who state that they are residents of Christmasland. These phone calls frighten her, but she does not tell anyone about them.
Bing Partridge is never apprehended by the authorities for his role in Manx’s crimes. and anxiously awaits the return of Manx, as he believes that he will receive his eternal reward in Christmasland.
Vic notices that when she engages in some kind of creative active, such as painting, that phone calls from Christmasland stop. She keeps herself busy by painting motorcycles and also by writing and illustrating children’s books. However, the mysterious calls start again, and Vic’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic. Lou moves out of their house, taking their son with him, but he is worried about Vic. Vic then burns down her house in an attempt to silence the calls from Christmasland.
In the meantime, Manx’s vehicle has been purchased at an auction by a man and his daughter. One day, the vehicle comes to life, killing its new owner, as Bing has found it, so that he may reunite with Manx.
Charles Manx is thought to be deceased, but his body goes missing from the mortuary.
Vic is institutionalized for her erratic behavior, and comes to believe that her experiences with the Shorter Way Bridge and mysterious telephone calls are simply vivid hallucinations caused by her abuse of alcohol and other drugs. When she is released from the mental hospital, she temporarily moves back to Massachusetts to spend some time with her mother Linda, who is dying of cancer. Vic also makes plans to spend the summer with her son Wayne, as she feels that she has failed him as a mother.
Tragically, Linda passes away just as Vic is able to secure a cottage for the summer. However, Vic still makes plans to spend time with her son Wayne, and Lou sends him to his mother for the summer.
In the meantime, we find out that Bing has managed to steal the body of Charles Manx, who is actually still alive, although barely. Bing sets up camp in the house across the street from Vic’s childhood home, killing the home’s owners, and placing Charles Manx in the bedroom. Bing waits for Vic, as he intends to murder Vic, and hand Wayne over to Manx.
Vic returns to her childhood home sometime in July, as Lou has arrived in town to spend Fourth of July with his son. Vic is greeted by a face from her past: Maggie, the woman from Iowa whom she met as a child.
While Vic recognizes Maggie, she is not happy to see her, as she still believes Maggie to be a delusion from her past. Maggie begs Vic to help her stop Charles Manx, who she insists is alive and on the hunt for Vic and Wayne. Maggie hands Vic a file containing some paperwork on Manx, but Vic chases Maggie away from her house, and threatens to call the police.
Later, Wayne finds the folder on Manx and peeks at it, as he is curious. Bing spots Wayne from the house he is commandeering, but is unable to do anything, as Lou arrives, and Bing does not want to be seen. Bing realizes that Vic is in the neighborhood, and makes preparations to capture Vic and Wayne.
That evening, Vic speaks to Lou, and finds out that Wayne has mentioned Manx to his father. Vic tells Lou about her childhood experiences with the Shorter Way Bridge, and the real story of how she encountered Charles Manx. Vic recognizes that she may be delusion, and indicates this to Lou. Vic also tells Lou that she thinks Maggie was a patient at the mental hospital, who is sharing in Vic’s delusions. Vic makes plans to move back to Colorado that fall, so that she can be closer to Wayne.
Wayne believes that Charles Manx is nearby, and becomes frightened, even though he thinks that he is imagining things.
Vic and Wayne work on a motorcycle that was left at the summer cottage, fixing it up and giving it a new paint job. Vic decides to take the bike for a spin, and tells Wayne that she will return shortly.
Vic rides the bike, and is able to conjure the Shorter Way Bridge, just as she had been able to do as a child. However, Vic continues to believe that she is delusional.
Wayne waits at the house for his mother. He hears a knock on the door, and encounters Bing and Manx, who tell him they need to use the phone, as they have run Wayne’s dog Hooper over with their car.
Bing and Manx then proceed to kidnap Wayne. Wayne shouts for his mother, who is just now returning from her trip and does not realize what has happened.
However, Vic soon does realize what has happened, and runs to the car in an attempt to rescue Wayne. She fights Manx, who attacks her with a hammer. Bing shoots at Vic, but misses Vic and hits Manx in the ear instead. The men then escape, with Wayne trapped in the car.
Lou is at the airport, awaiting his flight. Lou receives a panicked call from Wayne. Wayne tells his father that he has been kidnapped, and then hangs up the phone. Lou then collapses, due to a sudden heart attack.
Wayne tries to escape, but Bing douses him with gas so that he cannot think and becomes very sleepy. Manx tells him that he is going to Christmasland, and that he will never see his parents again.
Vic meets with the authorities at her mother’s house. The FBI has been brought in, as the authorities believe that Wayne’s kidnapper may cross state lines. Lou also meets with Vic and the authorities. Vic’s mental illness is brought up by a FBI agent, Tabitha Hutter, who does not agree with Vic in regards to Manx returning and seeking vengeance. Vic also describes her earlier experience with the Shorter Way Bridge. Lou tells Vic that he believes her, and Vic tells Lou that she will do whatever she can to rescue their son.
Manx drives his vehicle through his inscape, giving Wayne a glimpse into Christmasland. Wayne falls into a trance, and becomes excited about living in Christmasland. However, the ghost of Wayne’s grandmother soon appears in the vehicle. She appears to be speaking in reverse, and gives Wayne a cryptic message before she vanishes: he must speak in reverse.
Manx then stops at Bing’s house so that he can rest and recover from his wounds. Wayne then notices that the vehicle has peculiar properties: objects seem to vanish and then reappear. Wayne also finds some Christmas ornaments. He becomes fixated on one that resembles a moon, but has a face.
Wayne is then questioned by Manx, who promises him a phone call to his mother. Manx tricks Wayne into giving him some information about Maggie, along with Vic’s new motorcycle, and does not allow Wayne a call to his mother.
At her home, Vic is growing more and more worried about her son. Lou is attempting to fix her motorcycle for her, so that she can conjure the Shorter Way Bridge and rescue Wayne. Vic receives a phone call. The caller is Maggie. Maggie tells Vic that her son is still alive, and that she will help however she can.
After Vic hangs up the phone, she is confronted by Agent Hutter, who has heard the entire conversation. Hutter attempts to arrest Vic, but Vic escapes from the house, and uses her motorcycle to drive away. Eventually, she is able to conjure the Shorter Way Bridge, and is able to arrive at the house where Wayne was being kept.
In the meantime, Manx leaves with Wayne in his vehicle, promising that he will take Wayne to Christmasland. Manx does not allow Bing to come with them, as he says that Bing has failed in his duties. Wayne’s personality is beginning to change, as he is horrified to remember that he pulled the wings off of a butterfly. Wayne is also fixated on his Christmas ornament, constantly touching it.
Vic realizes that Wayne and Manx have left, and becomes upset. A man allows her to use his phone. Vic does not realize that this man is actually Bing, until he attacks her.
Wayne continues to travel with Manx. He sees visions of Christmasland and is anxious to arrive. However, he receives a visit from the ghost of his dead grandmother, who again tries to warn him that he must think in reverse. However, Wayne dismisses the old woman’s ghost, as his personality has begun to change. Wayne has also begun to loose some of his teeth, and appears to be growing small fangs in their place.
Vic fights Bing. She manages to escape, but sets the house on fire. Before she escapes, she receives a call from Manx. Vic pleads with Manx to release Wayne but Manx refuses. Manx allows Vic to speak to Wayne. Vic senses that Wayne’s personality is changing due to his exposure to Manx, and tells Wayne that he must fight Manx, and that she will do whatever it takes to rescue him.
After she speaks to Wayne, Vic then speaks to Lou and Agent Hutter over the telephone. She tells Lou that she has a plan to stop Manx and rescue Wayne, but that she will need a large amount of explosive material to accomplish this. After Vic hangs the phone, Lou suffers from a heart attack and is rushed to the hospital.
Vic uses the Shorter Wayne Bridge to locate Maggie. She arrives at Maggie’s library in Iowa, which was destroyed by a flood a few years back. However, Maggie is there, and Vic recounts the events of the past few days.
Maggie tells Vic that Manx does possess the same abilities that they possess, but that he uses his abilities for evil. She tells Vic that Manx’s car must be destroyed in order to destroy Manx. Maggie also tells Vic that the use of their abilities comes at a cost: Maggie’s stammer has worsened, Vic’s brain has been damaged and Manx has lost all of his empathy, and now revels in the suffering of his others. The children Manx has kidnapped have also been stripped of their humanity, as they exist for pleasure only, and do not comprehend the suffering of others.
While Vic falls asleep asleep due to exhaustion, Maggie consults her Scrabble tiles for information in regards to Manx. As she does this, a young boy enters the ruins of her library with firecrackers. At first, Maggie thinks that it is a local child playing a prank, but realizes that the boy is Wayne, who is acting under the influence of Manx. Wayne utters some incomprehensible words (his human side knows that what he is doing is wrong) and lures Maggie out to Manx and his car.
Manx immediately attacks Maggie with his vehicle. Maggie puts up a fight and refuses to give any information about Vic, who is still asleep inside. Maggie is killed by the impact, and Manx exits the scene.
Lou has been hospitalized due to his heart attack. However, he escapes in search of his son. Agent Hutter and her partner are aware of the escape, and plan to use Lou to track down Vic, who they still believe to be responsible for her son’s kidnapping.
Vic arrives at her father’s house. Lou and her father are waiting for her, with the explosives that she has requested. However, the FBI agents have tracked down Vic, who refuses to surrender. Agent Hutter realizes that there may be something to Vic’s story, but her colleagues do not, and open fire on Vic and her family. Vic’s father is shot, but Vic escapes with Lou on her motorcycle.
Once again, Vic conjures the Shorter Way Bridge. She leaves Lou in handcuffs, as she feels that this a job for her only. Vic then makes her way into Christmasland, via her motorcycle and the Shorter Way Bridge, to confront Manx and rescue her son.
Manx sends his children after Vic, and they attack. Vic fights back and is stabbed by one of the children. The explosives go off, causing mass destruction. Wayne realizes that his mother has come to rescue him, and escapes from Manx, hopping on the motorcycle with his mother.
Vic escapes Christmasland with Wayne. Manx follows her, but his vehicle (and there Manx himself) is destroyed by a flock of bats that emerge from the Shorter Way Bridge.
Finally, Vic emerges with Wayne back into their world. Her job done, Vic perishes from her wounds and the effects of creating the bridge and traveling to Christmasland.
Several months later, Wayne is living with his father. Lou has lost weight after angioplasty procedure, and is in a relationship with Tabitha Hutter. However, Wayne knows that something wrong with him, as he is aroused by anything violent and even thinks that he can feel an extra set of teeth in his mouth.
One day, Lou and Tabitha take Wayne for a ride. They arrive at the house Manx had used to keep his children captive. Lou realizes that Wayne’s soul is trapped in one of Manx’s Christmas ornaments. Lou, Tabitha and Wayne begin smashing the ornaments. Several children that Manx had kidnapped emerge, restored to their human selves.
Eventually, the ornament containing Wayne’s soul is destroyed. Wayne sobs with relief, happy that his humanity has returned.
Okay, let’s talk to Captain Obvious for a moment. So, just bear with me.
Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son, in case your head has been buried under a rock for…oh…the past 10 years or so.
(And hey, no judgement, being buried under a rock can be pretty comfy sometimes!)
And while I like to evaluate Joe Hill on his own merits, let’s be realistic.
Let’s get it out of our system, and talk about how he is the son of Stephen King.
Well, writing-wise that is.
We can leave the family drama for those better equipped to handle it, and not put TMZ out of a job.
Other than the fact that NOS4A2 reads a bit like an older King novel, in that it has build and will scare you into a change of pants, it is the novel that most screams: I am the son of the master of modern horror, and if you dare to forget it, well, let’s not even go there!
NOS4A2, in other words, has tons of Stephen King Easter eggs. In fact, this book may have even more King Easter eggs than some King books.
First of all, the obvious connection.
I can tell you that I definitely sleep better knowing that Charles Manx and The True Knot have some silent truce between themselves, that they both can go on (literally) sucking the life out of children and if one gets found out, we know that the other did not rat on them. Definitely useful information to have.
And, oohhh, direct reference to Derry, along with Pennywise’s Traveling Circus! Again, whenever I have trouble sleeping at night, I can rest in comfort knowing that Manx and Mr. Bob Gray were likely on a first name basis at some point!
Vic yelling “Hi-yo Silver!” as she jumps on her bike was added bonus. Not that I am complaining, although a few tears did spring to my eyes as I recalled some fond childhood memories of murderous clowns…
Then there is the similarity between The Sleigh House (geez, these jokes kill me sometimes) and Black House, another house in a King novel of the same name.
The way the children start coming out of the house at the end of both books is so similar, not to mention the fact that Charles Manx is pretty similar to Charles Burnside, another villain who gets his rocks off on kidnapping and hurting kids.
Is Jake Chambers one of Maggie’s creatives? An interesting question, but one for another day.
Oh, and apparently Bill Hodges and company had to hunt down a certain missing vehicle that just happened to be a Rolls Roy Wraith…funny how that works out!
Well, now that it is out of our system (feel better?), let’s talk about Joe Hill and NOS4A2 on their own merits.
So sorry, Uncle Stevie, you have been relegated to another blog entry!
One thing about NOS4A2…it is one scary book!
Well duh, it is written by Prince of Modern Horror, who is the son of the King of Modern Horror. So we shouldn’t be surprised by scary, right?
Yes and no. Am I entirely surprised that it’s scary?
No, I am not.
What is shocking is the fact that NOS4A2 is essentially a vampire story, but modernized.
After all, who isn’t familiar with Dracula?
Well, now we can add Charles Manx to that list of fictional vampires.
Now, Manx is not like Barlow or Dracula, at least on the surface.
He’s old, but not centuries old.
His victims are usually kids.
He drives a bad ass vehicle.
Somehow, I don’t think a rosary or garlic would phase him very much.
(Did anyone else think of this guy when Manx was introduced, by the way? Or is it just me?)
But, back to Manx.
He may not drink blood, like Barlow and Dracula.
But he is still a vampire, nonetheless.
His preferred food is not blood, but the souls of children. Since he is all modern-like.
As a bonus, like Barlow and Dracula, he has a human familiar in Bing, who may be even more demented than either Straker or Renfield, if that’s possible. At the very least, he holds his own.
And Manx does not need to be able to fly or even move quickly, as he has a vehicle that allows him to travel to back and forth between realities.
Who said that newer necessarily means inferior?
Manx can hold his own!
Speaking of holding one’s own, let’s talk about Vic for a moment.
Now, there is is someone who can hold her own and then some.
One thing I have noticed about Joe Hill is that he writes female characters extremely well.
Harper (The Fireman) was a great example of this.
Even Georgia and Merrin (Heart Shaped Box and Horns, respectively) were well written characters, despite the fact that that Georgia is the girlfriend of the main character in Heart Shaped Box, and Merrin is the dead girlfriend of Ig in Horns. Even though we mainly see them from the eyes of a male, both are fascinating and sympathetic.
But, Mr. Hill decided that having a woman as the interesting girlfriend of a main character just wasn’t good enough. And then Vic was born.
To put it simply, Vic kicks ass. There is no way around that statement.
While Vic may not always be easy to like, it is understandable as to why she may be unlikable at times, due to her upbringing (watching your dad wash his hands because they were bloodied due to beating your mom may cause a girl to have some issues.)
Vic’s character has a great arc.
She starts off as a spunky girl, morphs into a rebellious teenager, turns into a still troubled adult and then transforms into a mother who will stop at nothing to save her child from a vicious predator. And I loved every minute of it.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when Vic handcuffs Lou, leaving him behind so she can venture forth into Christmasland to save Wayne.
Vic was no damsel in distress. She knew that she had to be one the one to save (and ultimately sacrifice herself) in order to save her son.
Now, NOS4A2 may be a scary book.
But, like the books of dear old dad, it is so much more than that.
I love what this book has to say on art, artists and the creative process in genera.
I may be a bit biased, as someone who spends so much time creating her own “inscapes” but bear with me.
In fact, I love the idea of an “inscape” itself.
Because that is exactly what happens when someone creates something: it is actually an escape from the “real” world into an entirely new one, whether that is a painting, a book, a song, etc.
And let’s not kid ourselves. Those made up worlds become “real,” especially if the creator uses enough love and care in the creation of these worlds.
And when something happens to the people who populate these worlds, is the effect not felt in ours? When Harry Potter realizes that Voldemort has been resurrected, for example, did the reader not fear for him, and join him in his grief for a lost friend and classmate?
So it stands to reason that there are “creatives” out there, whose gift is especially powerful (like Joe Hill, his father, JK Rowling, Tolkien and countless others) who can use their knives to cut reality (in Maggie’s words) and create new realities.
And the knife is just the tool, like Maggie so eloquently stated.
Sometimes, the knife is not harmful, and results in children’s books, paintings, etc.
But sometimes, some sick individual (like Charles Manx, who is actually all too plausible) will create a new reality.
But this new reality is terrible, and only brings hurt to others.
And this is not uncommon, as so many predators who are similar to Charles Manx exist in our world. They believe that what they are doing is actually a good thing.
It is then up to someone (a Vic McQueen, if you will) to try to put a stop to it.
Sometimes, that is successful.
Sometimes, it is not. And that knife continues to cut, leaving blood behind.
Well, I am still a bit confused on what is a fact, and what is an alternative fact.
But I do not need an agency such as BARF to tell me that Joe is a fantastic writer, and that he will (hopefully) continue to churn them out, for many years to come.
So that’s it for NOS4A2. Join me later this month as we delve back into the world of dear old Dad, as we read and dissect an oldie but goodie, aka Christine!
Come and check out your favorite nerd, live on the podcast known as Dark Tower Radio, where I palaver with a fellow nerd on King, horror, book, Dark Tower and all kinds of good stuff!
And yeah, I may sound even more nerdy live than on here…who knew???
Written last year, but re-blogging because I can!
Oh, and happy holidays, everyone!
Dear Constant Reader family,
I hope that you are doing well, and that your year has been happy and productive. I know mine certainly has!
And Molly is quite well, too. Although the evil grows stronger, day by day…
But enough about my blood family members. I love them to death (ha!) but let’s talk about my “other” family…
Yes, my “other” family…
I consider my characters to be my babies, so that makes them family, right?
And if killing off your main characters is a sign of love, well then, I love them to death as well!
So, where to start? Since so much is happening with these guys, it’s a little hard to keep track, but here goes nothing…
Let’s talk about my childe, Roland. With Roland, it begins and ends with him chasing an unknown male in dark clothing across an arid region. Gotta love Roland, although he can be a bit repetitive at times…
And then there are Roland’s friends…
In fact, I have trouble keeping track of them, it seems like he has a different group of friends each time…
Speaking of friends, those kids who live in Derry!
Poor Pennywise, always getting tripped up by those meddling kids!
But when I get tired of Derry, I take vacations to other scenic towns…
But I don’t get out nearly as often as I would like…I seem to be prone to car trouble!
Jack gets around, or so I hear. I don’t envy him though, especially when it comes to the houses he has to visit!
Although he does encounter some interesting folks along the way, I suppose.
Sometimes my children take it one step further and do some really crazy things…
Like traveling back in time, for instance. I hear November in 1963 is really nice, for instance, especially in the Dallas, TX area.
Every now and then I need to take a break. So I just stay in a remote hotel, because sometimes I need to get away from it all. Although I would advise against drinking anything suggested by the management at the hotel (and if Lloyd or Delbert offers to help you, my suggestion would be to run). I hear the red rum is a house specialty, though, so try it if you dare.
All in all, most of the family is doing quite well, health-wise at least. Well, except for Brady…I can never wake him up!
And then there is the matter of Annie…
She is a bit spoiled, always thinking she comes first. I don’t want to hobble her growth in any way, but I did have to take away the sharp objects from her, especially the axes. Cockadoodie children, I tell ya…what can you do but love them, right, Mr. Man?
I take care of my health too, so I can be in good shape to watch out for my family. I see my doctor on a regular basis (he is a little bald doctor, actually). I watch out for speeding vans now, when I am out walking. I avoid eating too much pie, especially if it’s a strawberry pie given to me by the white man from town. Most importantly, I get my flu shot every year! M- O- O- N, that spells good health, I’m told.
So, Constant Reader, I enjoyed this recap of my year, and I hope that yours has been a bloody good one as well. It is time for me to make my final Christmas preparations, I hear the bazaar will be closing soon, so I hope I don’t miss any good sales! I wish you a Happy Holidays, and may you get a bunch of
my books good books under the Christmas tree!
My life for you,
Little disclaimer: This letter was not actually written by The Master. It just comes from the imagination of one crazy nerd with too much time on her hands. But you knew that!
both all of my readers. Thanks for stopping by, and you guys are awesome, every single one of you. Peace out, and I hope your year has been a bloody good one!
Once upon a time, two stories got together.
They fell in love, and got married.
One day, there was so much love that a new story came into existence.
And that new story was kind of like its parents.
It dealt with many of the same themes and messages.
But make no mistake, that new story was also distinct from its mom and dad stories.
It had its own voice, along with a large cast of characters and a pretty awesome villain, to boot.
So, what was this story named?
Surely, it had to have an awesome name to live up to all this hype, right?
Well, since you asked, the name of this story is…
Yes, *that* Needful Things, written by none other than The Master himself!
You are visiting the right blog, in case you were wondering.
Where this month (much like the book in question), we end 2016 with a bang!
Or maybe a stink bomb…now that would be more appropriate, wouldn’t it?
So, strap in, and get ready for one Hell (this is a Stephen King book, after all) of a ride, as we review and dissect one of my all-time favorite Stephen King books!
And, as always:
Needful Things begins with an introduction of the town Castle Rock, by an unknown narrator. The narrator seems familiar with the town and its inhabitants, describing, in particular, the various feuds and rivalries between the inhabitants, and some things that the inhabitants would wish to keep secret. The narrator also advises the reader that new store, named Needful Things, has opened in Castle Rock, and that the new store will bring some kind of change to the town.
There is much talk and gossip about the new store in town. However, the store’s first customer is an eleven year old boy by the name of Brian Rusk.
Brian wanders into Needful Things one fall afternoon. There he meets the owner, a man by the name of Leland Gaunt.
Almost immediately, Brian takes a liking to Mr. Gaunt, and is in awe of the new store. When Mr. Gaunt asks Brian what he desires, Brian replies that he would like a 1956 Sandy Koufax baseball card to complete his collection.
Somehow, Gaunt is able to produce that exact baseball card, much to Brian’s amazement. The card is signed by Koufax, and even has the name “Brian” written on it.
Even though Brian has very little money, Gaunt sells him the card. Gaunt also makes Brian promise to do something for him. The deed is never specified, but Brian walks out of the store and is very happy.
When the store finally opens for business, it receives another visitor: Polly Chalmers.
Polly is a long time resident of Castle Rock, although she spent several years living elsewhere. Not much is known about Polly, other than the fact that she became pregnant, left town and possibly attended business school. Polly keeps to herself and does not reveal much about her past. Polly also suffers from a painful case of arthritis, and is desperate for a cure.
Polly also immediately takes a liking to Gaunt. She pays him a visit and brings him a cake, and they chat about the town. Polly reassures Gaunt about his new store, telling him that he will likely have many more customers.
That claim proves to be true, as Gaunt receives several more visits from the townspeople that day. Some even purchase items from him, negotiating the prices with Gaunt.
The book then introduces us to a man named Alan Pangborn. Alan is the sheriff of Castle Rock. Alan has recently lost his wife and younger son due to a car accident and is mourning their deaths. Alan is also in a relationship with Polly Chalmers.
Later that evening, a man named Hugh Priest is walking down the street, and notices a fox tail for sale in the window of the new store. Hugh also notices that Needful Things appears to be open for business, even though the hour is very late. Hugh is alcoholic whose life is beginning to fall apart due to his drinking. When he sees the fox tail, he is reminded of his high school days and happier times.
Hugh walks into the store and meets Gaunt. He purchases the fox tail from Gaunt, and makes a promise to play a prank on a woman named Nettie Cobb, who is Polly’s housekeeper.
The new store does more business the next day. Myra Evans, the best friend of Cora Rusk (Brian’s mother) purchases a picture of Elvis from Gaunt, and makes a promise to play a prank on another person in town.
Nettie Cobb, Polly Chalmers’ housekeeper, also becomes a customer of the new store. Nettie is a troubled woman, as she has spent time in a mental institution, after killing her abusive husband in self defense. She was released as part of a work rehabilitation program, and came to work for Polly Chalmers. Nettie purchases a piece of carnival glass, and agrees to play a prank on Danforth “Buster” Keeton, a town selectman.
Meanwhile, Alan has a busy day as sheriff. He has his deputy, Norris Ridgewick, write Keeton a ticket for parking in a handicapped spot. Keeton becomes irrationally angry at this, and attacks Ridgewick after he receives the ticket. Alan is able to break the fight up, but wonders why Keeton is so angry over a five dollar ticket, and speculates that Keeton may be deeply troubled.
Alan also meets with the Reverend William Rose, the pastor of the local Baptist church. Reverend Rose is upset because the Catholic church in town will be sponsoring a bingo night in the name of charity, and the Baptist church believes that gambling in any form is a sin. The reverend tries to convince Alan that this is illegal, but Alan has done his research, and tells the reverend that the Catholics will be able to sponsor their gambling night. This upsets Reverend Rose, but he finally leaves the police station.
That afternoon,, Alan meets Polly for coffee, and they talk about the new store. Polly is actually pleased that Nettie visited the new store, as Nettie is timid and tends to shy away from new experiences. Polly also mentions that Gaunt returned the cake container, along with a note inviting her to visit the store that Sunday, as he has an item for sale that may be of interest to Polly.
Brian realizes that it is time to play the prank that he promised Gaunt that he would play. Brian convinces himself to play the prank, as he fears his new baseball card may be taken away from him if he does not fulfill his promise to Gaunt. Brian has not told anyone of the purchase of the card, as he fears that the fact that he now owns an expensive card may rouse suspicion.
Brian heads to the house of a woman named Wilma, who is a neighbor of Nettie Cobb’s. The two women have been feuding for some time, and simply do not get along. Brian smears mud on Wilma’s wash that is drying on the clothesline. He feels some satisfaction after playing the prank, and heads back home to enjoy his new baseball card.
When Wilma returns that evening, she discovers her ruined sheets and becomes angry. Wilma also assumes that Nettie is responsible, and places a threatening phone call to Nettie. This upsets Nettie, who has no idea why Wilma is angry, but vows to not let Wilma bully her any more.
Deputy Norris Ridgewick passes by the store and his attention is captured by a fishing rod. Ridgewick agrees to buy the fishing rod from Gaunt, and agrees to play a prank on another citizen of the town.
Gaunt makes several more deals with various citizens of Castle Rock, where his customers buy items from them that they deeply desire, and agree to play (seemingly) harmless pranks on other citizens of the town.
Danforth “Buster” Keeton also pays a visit to Needful Things and Leland Gaunt. Keeton has become increasingly unstable and paranoid over the past several years, as he has become addicted to gambling and has been stealing from the town’s treasury to finance his gambling habit. Keeton is now under the threat of an audit, which means that his embezzling will be discovered.
Keeton purchases a horse racing game from Gaunt, which he believes will help him predict the winner of the actual horse races. Keeton also promises to play a prank for Gaunt, as payment for the horse racing game.
The next morning, Alan drops by Needful Things, hoping to meet with the owner. Gaunt is in the store, but Alan does not see him. Gaunt does not trust Alan, and does not want to meet him.
Polly sits on her porch, anticipating that she is going to experience a very bad bout of pain from her arthritis. Polly also recalls her past, which she has not been honest with Alan. When Polly was 17, she became pregnant out of wedlock with her son, Kelton. She refused to marry the father or accept any help from her parents, who were ashamed of her. Polly ran away to the West coast and ended up in California. One night, while she was working, she left Kelton with a babysitter. There was a fire at her apartment that killed both her son and his babysitter. Eventually, Polly returned to Castle Rock, as she realized it was her true home. However, she never told Alan the truth about her son, telling him instead that Kelton died of SIDS at three months old. Polly knows that she must reveal the truth to Alan, sooner or later, but is not sure how to do that.
That night, Polly’s prediction about her arthritis proves to be correct and she is in terrible pain, and has trouble sleeping. The next day, Nettie pays Polly a visit and becomes very worried about Polly’s health. Polly is grateful for the concern, but tells Nettie not to worry and that she will be okay.
After Nettie leaves her house, Hugh Priests breaks into her home, in order to play the prank that Gaunt has ordered him to play. Hugh kills Nettie’s dog Raider with a corkscrew, and leaves a threatening note on Raider’s collar.
Nettie leaves Polly’s house, and is ordered by Gaunt to play a prank on Buster Keeton. She complies, breaking into Keeton’s house and leaving several parking tickets with obscene messages, signing one of the tickets as Norris Ridgewick.
Brian Rusk also realizes that he must finish paying for his baseball ticket. Again, he heads to Wilma Jerzyck’s house, and throws several rocks with the windows, with threatening notes.
Nettie returns to her home. She finds Raider’s corpse and is heartbroken and angry that someone has killed him. She also notices the note, and believes that Wilma has killed her dog in retaliation for something. Nettie finds a large, sharp kitchen knife, and heads to Wilma’s home.
In the meantime, Wilma returns to her home and finds the broken windows and the note. She is furious, and assumes that Nettie is responsible. Wilma also finds a large, sharp night, and leaves her house, looking for Nettie.
Wilma and Nettie meet on the sidewalk, and immediately exchange words. This escalates to blows and the two women begin to stab each other. Both women are able to inflict fatal blows on each other, and both die in the ensuing fight.
Polly begins to feel a little better and decides to take Gaunt up on his offer, meeting him at his shop. Gaunt seems to understand how much pain that Polly is in, and offers her an Egyptian charm he calls an “azkah.” Polly is skeptical, but Gaunt convinces her to try the charm, telling her that she has nothing to lose by trying. Polly begins to feel better even before she leaves the store, but realizes that Gaunt had put her in a trance.
Keeton returns home from a rare, pleasant outing with his wife, Myrtle, and finds the fake tickets. He is humiliated and attempts to remove all of the tickets, but his paranoia and instability become apparent. Myrtle is worried about her husband, but is unable to reach him.
Alan and Norris complete the investigation on Nettie’s death. Something does not sit right with Alan, but he does not know what. He sends Norris home for the night, telling him to enjoy his fishing trip that Norris has planned for the next day.
Norris returns to the police station and changes back into his civilian clothes. He finds a package on his desk, but does not know who the package is from. When he opens it, his hand is snapped by a rat trap, and Norris nearly loses his fingers. Norris is outraged and humiliated, and is also convinced that Keeton is responsible for the trick.
A prank is played on the Reverend William Rose, in the form of a nasty note left in the parsonage. The note is signed by the concerned Catholic men of Castle Rock, but is left there by a young man named Ricky, who has played the prank in exchange for an item from Needful Things.
Gaunt watches over the town in the apartment above his shop, which is void of any furnishings. He is planning something unpleasant for the town of Castle Rock, and various citizens stir in their sleep, plagued by disturbing dreams.
Pranks continue to be played on the unsuspecting citizens of Castle Rock, including the Baptist church, which receives a threatening note believed to be from the Catholic church.
More trouble rolls into Castle Rock: Ace Merrill, a former resident of Castle Rock, decides to return to town. Ace was arrested by Alan several years ago in a drug bust. Ace has been released from prison and is still a cocaine addict. Ace also owes money to some unsavory people due to his drug habit, and has been given a deadline of November 1st to pay back the money, or he will be killed.
Ace happens to notice a “for hire” sign on the window of Needful Things. He also notices what he thinks to be a book about hidden treasure in New England that is written by his late uncle, Reginald Merrill. Ace has been convinced that his uncle had held out an inheritance that should have been due to Ace, and his greed is sparked.
Ace enters the store and speaks to Gaunt. Gaunt convinces Ace to work for him so that Ace can pay back the money he owes to his creditors. Gaunt also sells Ace the book on buried treasure, telling him that maybe the book will lead him to his fortune.
Alan soon finds out that Ace is back in town and confronts him. Ace tells Alan that he has no intention of staying in town and that he will leave soon.
Brian Rusk begins to feel extremely guilty over his role in the deaths of Wilma and Nettie. However, he receives a call from Gaunt advising him that he was not seen by anyone, and that he will be able to lie if necessary. Brian does not feel any better, and begins to have thoughts of suicide.
Sally Ratliffe, the speech teacher at the local junior high school, becomes the latest victim of a prank. Sally is engaged to Lester Pratt, the physical education teacher. Both are devout Baptists and seem devoted to each other. However, Sally finds what appears to be a love note from Lester’s ex-girlfriend in his vehicle. Sally is extremely upset when she finds this, but calms down a bit when she returns home and begins to meditate.
Ace completes his first job for Gaunt. He travels to Massachusetts and picks up a vehicle, per the instructions of Gaunt, along with a large amount of guns and ammunition. Ace notices that the there is something strange about the car, as it appears to drive itself, but he return the car and the rest of his cargo to Gaunt, and then proceeds to hunt for treasure.
Polly buries Nettie, and has Alan drop her off at Gaunt’s shop, so that she can pay for the azka charm. Alan is skeptical about the charm, even though Polly is feeling better than she has in years. The two argue, but Alan convinces Polly to pay for the charm with a check, so that she can cancel the payment if necessary.
When Polly enters the shop, Gaunt senses that she is troubled, and tells her that he will accept a check. He also tells Polly that she must play a prank on someone, and that someone is Ace Merrill. Polly agrees to the prank, and leaves the store with her azka charm.
Alan deduces that Brian Rusk may have either been involved somehow in the deaths of Nettie and Wilma. Alan believes that Brian either played the prank, or perhaps witnessed it. He tries to speak to Brian, but Brian seems distressed and will not open up to Alan. Alan is then interrupted and called back to the station.
In the meantime, pranks continue to be played on various citizens of Castle Rock, with varying consequences. In one instance, it is revealed that the principal at the middle school is involved in pedophilia. In another instance, Lester Pratt, the fiancee of Sally, finds the wallet of Sally’s ex boyfriend in his vehicle, along with a picture of Sally and her ex, leaving Lester to believe that Sally is cheating on him.
Polly returns home and finds a letter waiting for her. The letter appears to reveal that Alan has made some inquiries about her past and the death of her son, Kelton. Polly is furious and calls Alan when he is at work and ends their relationship.
Alan is bewildered by the phone call from Polly, but has to put his feelings aside, as fingerprints were discovered at Nettie’s house. The fingerprints do not belong to Nettie, but actually belong to Hugh Priest. Alan suspects that Hugh killed Nettie’s dog, and sets out to arrest him.
Chaos erupts in the town, as people begin to seek revenge against those who they believe to be responsible for the tricks that were played on them. One of Alan’s deputies, John LaPointe, is attacked by Lester Pratt at the police station, as Lester believes John was dating Sally behind his back. Sheila, the dispatcher, attacks Lester and kills him, defending John. The phones at the police station begin ringing off the hook, and Alan is bewildered.
Brian Rusk is unable to shake his distress. Brian ends his life in his father’s garage, shooting himself with his father’s rifle. Before his death, Brian makes his horrified younger brother Sean promise to never set foot in the store Needful Things.
Polly then makes good on her promise to play a prank on Ace Merrill. She buries some torn pictures and stamps in a coffee can on some abandoned property, along with a letter addressed to Ace. Polly questions her actions and her argument with Alan, but still plays the prank anyway.
Shortly after Polly buries the coffee can, Ace uses his book and maps and tracks down the location where the can is buried. Ace eagerly digs and finds the coffee can, thinking that he has found buried treasure from his uncle. However, his hopes are dashed when he finds the letter. The letter appears to be written by Alan Pangborn and taunts Ace, telling him that his uncle left his treasure to Alan and not Ace. Ace becomes furious, and vows to find Alan.
Chaos continues to erupt in the town. Danforth Keeton finally becomes completely unhinged and kills his wife, Myrtle, beating her to death with a hammer. Hugh Priest is also killed by the bartender who believes Hugh played a prank on him. Alan Pangborn is bewildered, and attempts to question Sean Rusk, Brian’s younger brother, as he is unable to obtain any information from Cora Rusk, Brian’s mother, who appears to be in a daze.
While the chaos erupts in Castle Rock, Gaunt continues to make sales. This time, he is selling guns, and the guns appear to have poison bullets. It is also revealed that Gaunt is extremely old, and has been in this business for many centuries, causing chaos wherever he appears.
Alan is finally able to question Sean Rusk, and is disturbed by what he finds out. Sean tells him that Brian made him promise not to ever enter the store known as Needful Things before his death. Sean tells Alan about the baseball card that Gaunt sold to Brian, along with the sunglasses sold to his mother, Cora, and that Cora believes that those sunglasses allow her to visit with Elvis Presley. Alan realizes that Brian was responsible for the pranks played on Wilma, and that Gaunt is the one actually responsible for the chaos in town. Alan issues out a warrant for Gaunt’s arrest, and realizes that he must find Gaunt.
Gaunt recruits both Keeton and Ace to help him in his final act of mischief in Castle Rock: he plans on using dynamite to destroy the town.
A stink bomb is set off in the Baptist Church. The Baptists blame the Catholics, and the two groups meet with vengeance in mind. The Catholics and the Baptists begin to fight, and people are badly hurt and even killed in the brawl, as both groups are intent on destroying the other.
Alan is on the hunt for Gaunt. He vows vengeance on Gaunt, for his actions in Castle Rock.
Norris Ridgewick plans on committing suicide. He believes that he is at least partially responsible for the chaos in town, as he purchased an item from Gaunt and played a prank. However, something makes Norris realize that committing suicide is not the answer. Norris then sees the fishing rod he purchased for what it is: a piece of old bamboo. Norris escapes from his noose and destroys the fishing rod, and vows that he will seek revenge on Gaunt.
Polly also has a revelation: the letter she found earlier that day was addressed to Patricia Chalmers. However, Polly had always been known as Polly during her time in San Francisco. Therefore, Polly realizes that the letter was a fake, and that Alan has not made any inquiries into her past.
Polly rips the azka charm away from her chest. When she does, a spider escapes from the charm. Polly realizes that this is the manifestation of her arthritis pain, which never really went away, but was transferred elsewhere. Polly chases the creature into her bathroom, and begins to attack it.
Alan finally arrives at Needful Things and notices that the store that the store appears to be abandoned. However, Alan finds a note from Gaunt, along with a video tape claiming to capture the last moments of his deceased wife and son. Alan pops the video into the VCR, and prepares to watch.
Polly continues to battle the spider, attacking it with her mouth and then a toilet plunger. Finally, she defeats the creature, and realizes that she must find Alan.
Keeton and Ace begin the destruction of the town, using the dynamite. They are seen by Norris, who orders them to halt.
Unable to stop himself, Alan watches the video tape. The tape appears to show his wife car being hit by none other than Ace Merrill, whom Alan had previously arrested for selling drugs. Alan becomes angry, and wants to seek revenge on Ace, who he now believes to be responsible for his wife and son’s death.
Norris attempts to arrest Ace and Keeton. However, he is shot, and Ace escapes, looking for Alan.
While Norris is attempting to restore order, several buildings in Castle Rock begin to explode.
Polly finds Alan, and begs him to stop his search for Ace. She is able to get through to Alan, who realizes that something is wrong with the video tape that he watched.
Ace interrupts the conversation, by pointing a gun at Polly. Alan then has his own revelation: in the video tape, his wife’s seat belt is shown to be buckled. However, Alan recalls that this was not the case and realizes that he has been tricked.
Alan also sees Gaunt leaving the store, with a valise that appears to contain the souls of his unhappy customers. Alan has brought a container that has paper snakes with him. This was something that his son, who enjoyed practical jokes, had purchased before his death.
Alan unleashed the joke on Gaunt. The snake springs from the can, and is actually a real snake, not a paper one. Gaunt is fooled, and grabs for the snake. The snake bites Gaunt, and he screams in pain. Alan takes advantage of this, and grabs Gaunt’s valise.
Polly breaks free of Ace’s grip and attacks him. Norris sees his opportunity and shoots Ace, killing him instantly.
Alan continues to use his magic tricks to fool Gaunt, and demands that he leave town. Alan brings out some trick flowers, which turn into a blazing bouquet of light. Again, Alan casts out Gaunt. The valise bursts open, and the trapped souls escape, free to make their journey to their final destiny.
After the valise is opened, Gaunt escapes the town, in his Talisman Tucker. However, the Talisman transforms into a horse with burning red eyes, and Gaunt transforms into a dwarf. Gaunt and his supernatural vehicle then vanish, and Castle Rock returns to normal.
Polly, Alan and Norris leave town, to seek medical attention for Norris. They are heartbroken over the destruction of the town, but relieved that Alan has defeated Gaunt. Alan tries to let go of his grief for his wife and son, so that he continue to live his life.
An unnamed narrator advises the reader that a new store has opened in the town of Junction City, Iowa. The store is named Unanswered Prayers and is presumably owned by Leland Gaunt.
Well, this was unexpected.
When I planned to read and review Needful Things, I purposely picked the month of December to do this.
I mean, Black Friday Christmas shopping, people losing their minds over big screen TV’s and Barbie dolls…
It fit, in other words.
Well, then this happened.
Just when you thought only Stephen King could scare you, huh?
Whoa, I take that back. Sorry Molly, didn’t mean to ruffle your evil fur!
At first was I was like:
Then I was all:
But now I go back and forth…
Either at this end:
Or at this end:
And what, you are probably asking, does the dried up, racist Cheeto that is the bane of existence to *kitty cats* everywhere have to do with this month’s read and review?
Well, I see a lot of parallels. So, let’s get to talking about the book and discuss those.
Again and again, as I have been re-reading the King classics, I have been reminded of something: The Master has the ability to create characters who are so realistic that they practically jump off the page and make you want to ask them out for coffee.
There is Polly Chalmers. She fled the small town life and wanted to forge her own path. People can’t even decide if she is from Castle Rock (even though she was born there and spent most of her childhood there) or if she is from “Outside,” as they put it, because she spent so many years away. Being from a small town in Indiana, this struck a chord with me. I may consider myself to be “from” Bloomington, Indiana, but I am sure there are some that would debate me on that, because I left to forge my own path. Small towns, aren’t they so (not) funny?
There is Alan Pangborn. Let me confess, if I ran into Alan Pangborn, I would have much more than “coffee” on my mind…*let awkward throat clearing commence.* Alan is the consummate good guy, even though he does have his vulnerabilities. And he loves magic tricks (magicians are always hot, duh.) Those magic tricks do everything from put frightened kids at ease to save the day! How much hotter can you get?
Let’s also not forget the character of Brian Rusk.
Now, as I’ve stated many times before, King likes to write about topics that many would consider to be taboo.
*That* scene in the sewers in It, anyone?
Things that so-called nice people don’t talk about, at least in public.
However, I think the most “taboo” that King has ever gone is his portrayal of the character Brian Rusk.
In the beginning, Brian is innocent.
He’s a good kid. He loves his family. He collects baseball cards. He has a crush on his speech teacher.
However, he loses his innocence, by becoming Gaunt’s first customer.
Gaunt takes that innocent love of baseball cards, and uses it to further his plans for the destruction of Castle Rock.
He forces Brian to play pranks on other citizens of the town, in the name of “paying” for that beloved baseball card.
So Brian is rather rudely pushed into adulthood, when he is forced to take responsibility for what he feels to his role in the deaths of Wilma and Nettie.
However, not all of the child has left Brian.
And because of that, he is unable to cope with his supposed role in a horrific tragedy, and sees no way to live with it.
So, he does the unthinkable, and ends his life at eleven years old.
I have read this book several times, but I am never prepared the part where Brian commits suicide.
I tend to see Needful Things as one of King’s more humorous works (Brian’s mother’s obsession with Elvis and her interaction with Gaunt may have something to do with that, along with the fact that I find the phrase “I’ll be butched” hilarious), although the humor in it is dark.
But at the same time, I find this book to be tragic too, because of the fact that someone who is still a child is forced into adulthood long before before he should be, and this child does not see any way to cope with this tragedy other than taking his own life.
In fact, this may be one of the most tragic incidents in any book I have ever read, let alone a King book.
And we have our bad guy, Leland Gaunt.
We also have another character: the town of Castle Rock itself.
And the inter-play between these two characters is just fascinating.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think that Gaunt is a cool bad guy.
In fact, this guy came to mind:
Somehow, the idea of The Tall Man driving a Talisman Tucker (why does even typing that out make me shiver, and shiver in a Lovecraftian way?) is not that far off, actually.
But he does have his place in the King universe, so I pay him respect.
However, what was striking to me when I re-read Needful Things, was the fact that most of the horror was of the non-supernatural variety.
Sure, Gaunt planted the seeds, but the ground was already fertile anyway. Most of the people playing the pranks just needed a little “watering” to grow the seeds of hate and resentment, and off they were, once they got a little drink of that water.
It is a known fact that King excels at writing characters that are realistic and believable. In fact, this is my favorite thing about King’s work: he writes believable people and believable situations.
After all, who hasn’t dealt with addiction, unemployment, the loss of a loved one, terminal illness, parenthood and the many other scenarios that crop up in all of King’s works, even the ones billed as “horror”?
Small towns are almost human in some ways, and can be complex characters. This is definitely the case with Needful Things and its small town character of Castle Rock.
In the beginning of the book, we have that coy narrator (and oh, I so want to know who that is) introducing to the town of Castle Rock and its inhabitants. It is actually akin to gossiping with someone, maybe a family member or friend, or perhaps a coworker, who just seems to have all the dirt on everyone.
This introduction is brilliant, because it sets up the story so beautifully.
In any organization, whether it be a work place, a family or perhaps a small town, you have all these little interconnections.
There are the people, of course, who are friends and know each other well, perhaps even intimately.
There are the people who are passing acquaintances. They don’t dislike each other, but they don’t really like each other, either.
Then there are the people who can’t be in the same room with each other.
The people who are the end of the candle to their counterparts’ matches.
In other words, get them together, and you will have a fire, perhaps even an explosion.
In one part of the book, Gaunt even compares his scheme to electrical wiring. If you do it just right, you can connect a couple of wires and have an explosion. I found this to be apt, for the events that transpired in this book.
As stated before, Gaunt is one bad dude. No question about that.
However, most of the horror from Needful Things is of the human variety.
People playing pranks on one another to make others think that their sworn enemies were responsible is actually something that happens pretty frequently in “real life.”
Right away, anyone who was the victim of a prank was quick to blame his/her sworn enemy.
Alan Pangborn, the most level headed of them all, even fell victim to this.
And the results of this prank were just horrible.
Well, not entirely horrible. I did get a good chuckle when the Baptists and Catholics were victimized by the stink bomb and created their own Barf-o-Rama.
But I was still horrified when people began to hurt and even kill each other, and it was basically for nothing.
Nettie and Wilma killing each other was bad.
Well, Wilma dying wasn’t that sad (crazy bitch) but Nettie’s death was one of the saddest in the book. She had tried so hard to get her life together, but she was knifed to death over some muddy sheets. Muddy sheets that she was not responsible for.
A few citizens, like Polly, Norris and Alan, saw the error of their ways.
However, most did not, and the results were horrific.
And the town of Castle Rock literally went up in flames.
What is happening in our country right now is not unlike what happened in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine.
We have a stranger that has suddenly appeared in town.
It is true that Donald Trump is (probably) not a supernatural creature, but I will take Gaunt or even The Tall Man over Trump any day.
Trump has done exactly what Gaunt has done.
He has swooped into our country.
He is selling people dreams. At least, he would like us to believe that he is selling us dreams.
He has made promises, and those promises sound good. After all, who doesn’t want the manufacturing jobs to return to this country? Those jobs gave everyone, no matter his/her background, a shot at the good life, the so-called American Dream.
For reasons beyond most people’s control, significantly fewer people are now able to obtain this dream.
But we have Gaunt, er Trump, swooping into town. And he has sold something.
But like the sales made by Gaunt, that something will have a price tag attached to it.
Already, we are witnessing the true price of allowing a man like Trump into our country.
Like Castle Rock, America has gone crazy.
Since Trump was elected, the “pranks” have begun.
We may not be flinging mud at each other’s sheets, but like the citizens of Castle Rock, we are attacking each other, nonetheless.
There has been racist graffiti scrawled on walls.
People of the non-Caucasian persuasion have been attacked for being…well…of the non-Caucasian persuasion.
People have decided to let their hate loose, and it has not been pretty.
Castle Rock literally burned to the ground after the boogeyman paid it a visit.
Will the same thing happen to America?
The boogeyman is here, and he is already working his magic, and he has not even moved into his suite at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, although I don’t think that he even needs to, in order to accomplish his goals.
But, I try to hold on to something positive.
After all, Castle Rock may have gone up in flames.
But it was able to emerge from the ashes, and eventually it rebuilt itself.
Fire can be used to destroy, but it can also be used to create.
Perhaps, like Castle Rock, this country may burn to the ground (hopefully only in the metaphorical sense.)
But maybe it can also emerge from the ashes and be reborn.
Being reborn is not necessarily a bad thing.
In fact, death and rebirth lead to new beginnings. And new beginnings are often desperately needed.
Well, that’s it for Needful Things!
And I have to pat myself on the back, actually.
I was able to stick to a New Year’s resolution!
I read at least one King book a month and reviewed it, just like I said I would.
So, it goes without saying that I plan to continue this trend into 2017 and beyond.
I don’t know what my plan is, but I am sure I will figure something out.
There is that Richard Bachman fella…I heard that he is kinda like The Master, actually.
There is also The Master 2.0, aka Joe Hill, who has some books that are worth exploring as well.
So, what will next year hold?
Well, guess that is up to me!
So, we will talk next year!
Until then, happy holidays to all!
Like all of King’s works, Needful Things is set squarely in the King universe. Here are some of the connections that I found:
-Ace Merrill is a character in the short story The Body, and references the events in that story.
-Norris Ridgewick also makes an appearance in the novel Lisey’s Story.
-Alan Pangborn is a character in the novel The Dark Half, and references the events in that story.
-In the novel Bag of Bones, Mike Noonan encounters Norris Ridgewick and inquires after Polly Chalmers and Alan Pangborn.
-Reference is made to Shawshank State Prison, which is the setting for the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.
-Junction City, Iowa is the setting for the novella The Library Policeman, which is part of the collection Four Past Midnight.
-Gaunt’s Talisman Tucker appears to be similar to the vehicles driven by the Low Men in the Dark Tower series and the story Low Men in Yellow Coats, which is part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis. Gaunt’s vehicle also appears to be similar to the title “vehicle” featured in the novel From a Buick 8.
Once upon a time, there was man known as Uncle Stevie.
Uncle Stevie liked to tell scary stories.
There were bad guys in Uncle Stevie’s stories. Lots of bad guys.
He told a story about a town that was invaded by vampires.
But Uncle Stevie was not a bad man. No, not at all.
In fact, Uncle Stevie had children of his own. But those children could not read his stories, because they were children, after all. Uncle Stevie did not know what to do. He couldn’t scare his own children, but he wanted to write something they would like and not be scared of. Uncle Stevie thought for a long time.
One day, Uncle Stevie got an idea. He decided to write a fairy tale of sorts, and dedicate it his daughter, Naomi. Excited, Uncle Stevie got to work right away and wrote his new story. It took him a long time, but he finally finished writing the story.
Uncle Stevie decided to call this new story The Eyes of the Dragon. And his children were happy, since he finally wrote a story that they could read, and they liked it.
The story was actually sort of a fairy tale, although it was kind of long for a fairy tale.
But it read like a good fairy tale: there were kings and queens. And princes. And even an evil sorcerer. And the story took place in a magical land, far, far away.
Although it was fairy tale, you could still tell that this story was written by Uncle Stevie. There were some parts that were kind of scary, but not as scary. And people did some bad things in the story, but never got punished like they would in a regular fairy tale.
In other words, The Eyes of the Dragon was a fairy tale, but you could tell it was written by the guy who writes scary stories.
And like Uncle Stevie’s other books, The Eyes of the Dragon would suck you right in to the land of princes and evil sorcerers, if you weren’t careful. So kids liked it, and so did the grown-ups.
This nerdy grown-up decided she wanted to feel like a kid again. So she read The Eyes of the Dragon this month. Once again, she was captivated. And enchanted.
Just like reading any other book written by Uncle Stevie.
So, here is her recap and review of The Eyes of the Dragon. As always, watch out for the fierce beasts known as Spoilers!
The book introduces us to man named Roland. Roland is the king of a land called Delain. Roland is not hated in Delain, although he is not loved either. Most people think that Roland is a competent king, and have no strong feelings towards him, one way or the other.
Roland is not a very bright man, and relies on the advice given to man by a man known as Flagg. Flagg is Roland’s trusted adviser, and is also a man familiar with magic and its various uses. There are many who do not quite trust Flagg, but no one dares to cross his path, as most people actually fear him.
At nearly 50 years old, Roland is still single, and this must be remedied, so that he can bear a son who will take over his royal duties one day. Flagg introduces Roland to many women, and eventually, a woman named Sasha marries Roland. Sasha is only 17 when she marries Roland, and is inexperienced in the ways of men.
Roland is also inexperienced in the ways of women, and has trouble bedding Sasha. However, she becomes pregnant with the couple’s first child, Peter. Peter is handsome and well liked, and takes after his mother. Peter’s favorite toy is a dollhouse that was a gift to his mother. The dollhouse is intricate and even has working parts, such as a small stove that heats up. Peter spends hours playing with this dollhouse, making up fantastical stories to go along with it. Peter also shows leadership skills at an early age, as he is able to exert his influence over people. One day, Peter is able to prevent the unnecessary death of a horse. Naturally, Flagg notices this and becomes uneasy.
Queen Sasha is well loved by the people of Delain, and is able to influence Roland when he makes certain decisions. She also insists upon making sure that Peter is taught manners and etiquette. Specifically, she makes sure that Peter uses his napkin, no matter the circumstances. This is a lifelong habit that becomes ingrained in Peter.
Eventually, Sasha becomes pregnant with the couple’s second child, Thomas. Flagg distrusts Sasha, and plots to kill her. He is successful in accomplishing this when Thomas is born, as he convinces Sasha’s midwife to sever a vital artery, so that Sasha dies from blood loss.
As Peter grows older, Flagg distrusts him more and more. He realizes that if Peter were to become King, Flagg may be vanquished from Delain. After much thought, Flagg decides to kill King Roland and pin the death on Peter, so that Thomas will become King. Thomas lives in the shadow of his brother, as he is not handsome and smart like Peter, but is more like his father. Since Thomas is feeling neglected, this makes it easy for Flagg to exert his influence over Thomas.
One autumn night, Flagg poisons a glass of wine and gives it to King Roland, who drinks the wine, not suspecting that anything is amiss. While this is happening, Thomas is spying on his father by peeking through the head of Niner, a dragon slain by his father on a hunting expedition. Thomas feels that something is amiss, but does not say anything.
Flagg plants evidence in Peter’s room that will be found after his father’s death. Roland does not show any signs of illness for a few days, but dies a sudden, painful death.
Shortly after the death of Roland, preparations are made for the coronation of Peter as king of Delain. However, the preparations are halted after Dennis, the royal butler, finds the evidence planted by Flagg in Peter’s room. Peter is then tried and convicted for the murder of his father, and Thomas is crowned king of Delain.
Thomas is reluctant, but accepts his new title, but feels guilty for his complacence in his father’s death and the false accusations against his brother. In the meantime, Peter is imprisoned in a tower known as Needle. His cell is several stories off the ground.
Within a week of his imprisonment, Peter makes two demands: that his mother’s old dollhouse be brought to him, and that he receive a napkin with every meal. Peter sends a message to Anders Penya, the Judge General of Delain, with this demand. With the help of Ben Stadd, Peter’s best friend, Anders is able to grant these requests.
Ben Staad stands by Peter in claims of innocence, and refuses to to believe that his friend could have committed such as act. Even Anders Penya, who had questioned Peter in regards to the murders, begins to have his doubts in regards to Peter’s guilt.
The dollhouse is finally delivered to Peter, and he begins receiving his napkins at each meal. Peter then removes a few threads from each napkin, and begins to weave a rope using the miniature loom in the dollhouse. It is painstaking work, but Peter is patient, and spends the next five years making this rope so that he may escape his prison. Peter also finds an old locket and letter one day, and realizes that Flagg has been spreading his evil throughout the kingdom of Delain for several centuries.
In the meantime, Thomas attempts to rule over Delain as king. However, he is a very unpopular king, as he has raised taxes on the kingdom, due to advice from Flagg, whom he has become dependent on. Thomas is very unhappy and moody, due to the fact that he is not ready for the responsibilities as king, and the guilt over his father’s death.
One night, Thomas sleep-walks to his secret hiding spot, and re-enacts the night of his father’s death in his sleep. This is witnessed by Dennis, Thomas’ royal butler. Dennis is badly frightened by what he sees, and begins to question King Roland’s death.
A few days later, Dennis pays a visit to Anders Peyna, and tells his tale. Peyna becomes distressed, realizing that he has falsely imprisoned Peter, the true king of Delain.
The next morning, Peyna sends Dennis back to Delain, advising him to be careful. Peyna then heads north to the camp of the exiles, where many have fled to escape the situation in Delain. Peyna plans to seek the help of Ben Staad, Peter’s old friend. The Staad family are among those who have fled Delain.
Since Dennis is able to read and write, Peyna tells him to send a note to Peter in secret. Dennis writes the note, and hides it among the napkins, in the hope that the note will reach Peter.
Peyna also speaks to Ben Staad, and sends Ben back to the kingdom of Delain to help Peter. Ben is accompanied by a woman named Naomi Reechul, who drives a sled pulled by Husky dogs. With Naomi’s help, Ben reaches the former home of Peyna. In order to track down Dennis, Naomi has Frisky, one of her dogs, track Dennis’ scent, in the hopes that they may find him.
In the meantime, Peter has finished weaving his rope and plans his escape from Needle. However, he has second thoughts when he receives Dennis’ letter, which states that Peyna does not believe Peter is guilty of murder and was in fact wrongfully imprisoned.
Peter re-thinks his plans to escape the next night, and uses his blood to write a note to Dennis. He bundles it in a napkin, in the hopes that Dennis will find it.
Dennis lurks outside The Needle and catches a glance of Peter. He also finds the note, and decides that he will do anything to help Peter.
Ben and Naomi are able to track down Dennis, with the help of Frisky. The three then exchange stories, and make plans to rescue Peter.
That night, Flagg finally realizes that Peter means to escape, and begins to head up the stairs of Needle, to Peter’s cell. Peter hears Flagg coming, and using his rope, begins to make his escape.
As he is making his escape, Peter’s rope breaks. However, his fall is cushioned by a pile of napkins, which were loaded into a cart by Ben, Naomi and Dennis. Peter falls, but survives, much to the anger of Flagg.
Flagg then chases Peter and his friends to the former chambers of King Roland. Flagg says that he will kill Peter. Peter then confronts Flagg with the knowledge of the murder of his father, along with Flagg’s past evil deeds.
Thomas then appears, with his father’s bow and arrow. Flagg believes Thomas to be the ghost of Roland, which makes him forget about his plans to murder Peter. This allows Thomas to shoot Flagg with his father’s bow and arrow. The arrow then hits Flagg in the eye. After he is hit by the arrow, Flagg vanishes, leaving only his clothes behind.
After the confrontation with Flagg, Peter is acquitted of his father’s murder. Peter invites Thomas to stay in Delain, but Thomas declines. Instead, Thomas says that he will spend his life tracking down Flagg, so that he may avenge his father and brother. Dennis offers to accompany Thomas, and Thomas gratefully accepts the offer.
Thomas leaves Delain, and it is not known if he ever returns, although he did have many strange adventures. Peter continues to rule in Delain as king, and Ben and Naomi eventually get married.
Well, I did say that I wanted a break from the scary stuff.
In other words, I needed a break from watching Indianapolis Colts football!
Haha, just joking! Even though the Colts are frightening to watch at the moment, I will still be loyal to them!
But seriously, The Eyes of the Dragon though…
The Eyes of the Dragon is a fairy tale. And it is a fairy tale written by the King of Horror.
And…wait for it…
It is actually a good fairy tale written by The Master! Who knew?
Ok, it’s confession time…I hope all
both of the readers of this blog have some tolerance and don’t judge me…
For many years, I put off reading this book. There was something that just did not sit right with me, in regards to this book.
In my little mind, Sai King was not supposed to write fantasy children’s stories (although this one does have some adult themes, more about that later.) He was supposed to write about the scary hotels, rabid St. Bernards, possessed vehicles, cursed burial grounds and all those other things that have kept me up at night over the years.
In other words, there was no room for princes, evil wizards and faraway kingdoms. Absolutely not allowed!
Well, as one might say in another faraway land created by King, “I cry your pardon.”
I finally read The Eyes of the Dragon a couple of years ago. And I enjoyed it then.
And when I re-read it this year, I was again reminded of what I had missed out on, due to my obstinate nature.
While The Eyes of the Dragon is not in my top 10 (too many others overshadow it), I still consider it to be one of King’s underrated gems.
The Eyes of the Dragon could be considered to be a children’s tale. And in many ways, it is. My parents read me fairy tales when I was child, and I was constantly reminded of those when I was reading this book.
There is land that is far, far away, aka the kingdom of Delain. King never specifies just where Delain is, but it is not on any map that exists in this world.
There are kings, queens and princesses. King Roland, Queen Sasha and Prince Peter are almost “textbook” fairy tale characters if you will. They are well loved by the people they rule over, and strive to the right thing.
And there is an evil wizard. Flagg fits the bill of evil wizard perfectly: he is a scheming, evil and ultimately prideful creature who does his best to wreak havoc wherever he goes (again, more about Flagg later.)
However, like almost all of King’s books, there is more than meets the eye (pun not intended) in The Eyes of the Dragon.
First of all, there is King Roland. Now, I am not calling King Roland necessarily a bad guy, because he does try to do what is right.
However, King Roland is DEFINITELY not a bright man. And time and time again, his actions remind of that fact. Usually, it is the bad guys in fairy tales that are bumbling buffoons, not the good kings who want to do what is right. But Roland is an exception in this book, and this actually makes the book more interesting, and adds a little depth to the story.
Then there is the character of Thomas, aka Thomas the Tax Bringer, whom I actually find to be one of King’s most fascinating characters.
On the one hand, Thomas appears to be a bad dude. When the narrator described how Thomas killed a dog because….well, just because, I immediately felt the need to go home and hug my dogs (luckily, they are the tolerant sort and don’t mind random hugs, unlike my cats, who revel in blood sport.)
But, on the other hand, I would agree with the narrator: Thomas is not a bad boy. Repeat: Thomas is not a bad boy.
Now, Thomas may have done some pretty bad things. Killing that dog, for instance. And watching Flagg murder his father and not saying a word about that to anyone.
However, some of Thomas’ actions are understandable.
Thomas was basically screwed from the moment he came into existence. When he was born, his mother died. Even though that was not his fault, Thomas (and possibly others) blamed his birth on the death of his mother. So he had to carry that guilt.
Then there is the fact that Thomas is the brother of Peter. Growing up, it was my brother who had friends and was the musician. I was just the awkward nerd that no one else noticed. So of course, this created resentment with me, just as Thomas resented his brother, even though he did love Peter, as I love my brother. Being in someone’s shadow and never being noticed for your accomplishments (and Thomas was actually a good archer) is difficult, and can be pretty depressing. Thomas only wanted the approval of his father, and not getting it made him understandably upset.
So, while some of Thomas’ actions were deplorable, at least they were understandable, given the context. I don’t think that Thomas was an inherently evil character. In fact, there is only one inherently evil character in this book. We will talk about him in a bit.
One thing I love about The Eyes of the Dragon is that it is a fairy tale. It tells of fantastical lands, kings and queens, magic, evil wizards and all that good stuff.
I also love that The Eyes of the Dragon is a Stephen King book.
So, Captain Obvious strikes again, right?
Well, let me explain a bit.
What I mean is that I love fantasy and fairy tales. When I was a child, my parents had to constantly read to me from various books of fairy tales and fantasy stories, as they were my favorite. We read Peter Pan. We read the non- Disney version of Pinocchio (seriously, my parents wonder where my horror obsession comes from. Read that one sometime. It is far more disturbing than most “horror” stories.)
So, I feel at home when I read those types of stories. They are my bread butter, you might say. George RR Martin, JRR Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey and Madeleine L’Engle are just a few of my favorite authors. The land of fantasy is my home.
But, despite the fact that The Eyes of the Dragon appears to be a fairy tale, it was written by the King of Horror. And throughout the book, we are constantly reminded of that fact.
For one, The Eyes of the Dragon has some gruesome deaths. Gruesome deaths are Sai King’s bread and butter, after all. The death of Queen Sasha definitely counts as gruesome, as a mid-wife used a knife to cut a vital organ so that Sasha would bleed to death. Not only is this gruesome, this is also one of the most tragic deaths I have ever come across in any book.
Speaking of gruesome, there is the death of King Roland. Roland is poisoned, but not with just any poison. No, only “Dragonsand” would do for Roland. This was a poison that burned someone from the inside out…shudder.
Most fairy tales end on “happily ever after.” The evil is defeated, and justice is somehow served. However, this is not the case in regards to The Eyes of the Dragon.
For one, Flagg is not defeated. Sure, he exits the kingdom of Delain, but he still alive! And read to make mischief wherever he can. Seriously, I wonder if he found the world of The Stand because he got evicted from Delain? Seems legit, right?
There is also Thomas. I did say that Thomas was not a bad guy. But he was also complicit in the murder of his father and imprisonment of his brother. However, Thomas never faces any consequences for his actions, and basically leaves the kingdom in shame, although he leaves under the guise of doing something noble, aka tracking down Flagg so that Flagg can answer for his actions (wish I could find out how that worked out, actually.)
In other words, Thomas did not get a happy ending. The only one who really got a happy ending was Peter, and maybe his friend Ben. And Peter probably spent years trying to clean up the mess made by Flagg and his brother, so I am really not sure how happy his ending really was.
Ok, I saved the best for last.
Or is it the worst for last? Maybe best of the worst for last?
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am talking about that bad guy that we all love to hate…
Can I get a round of loud booing for…
None other than Randall Flagg himself!
Now, Randall Flagg is ubiquitous in the Stephen King universe.
He shows up, in one way or another, in so many different books. And he seems to be the equivalent of the cockroach in the King universe: he just won’t go away!
Or perhaps the equivalent of Von Miller: a one man (or maybe one demon) wrecking crew who is impossible to game plan for. Instead of see “Miller, V,” we have see Flagg, R.
Flagg is perhaps most associated with the novel The Stand. A world has been ravaged by the super flu and trying to rebuild itself. Of course, with no help from Flagg, R.
The Stephen King cockroach also makes several appearances in the Dark Tower series (both the books and the comics.) In fact, he is part of the best opening line in history: The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
(Again, see Flagg, R.)
And he is also a character in The Eyes of the Dragon.
Out of all the different flavors of Flagg (kind of gross if you think of it that way, actually), I think that his character in The Eyes of the Dragon is my favorite flavor. Not that I don’t think he’s great in all the other books, but there is just something about him in The Eyes of the Dragon that makes my heart go pitter-patter…
For one thing, he is pretty creative in this particular book. I mean, a poison called Dragonsand? Talk about a different, painful kind of death on the person you inflict it on!
He also has the old school, evil wizard feel to him in The Eyes of the Dragon.
He is crafty, cunning and enjoys evil for the sake of…well…evil. There is no other way to put it. We, as readers, tend to like to assign motivations to characters, to give them a reason for their actions.
Well, there is no reason for Flagg’s actions in The Eyes of Dragon. He is a bad guy who enjoys being a bad guy. He does evil things because he likes it. He only feels remorse when his plans fail and he is unable to unleash chaos like he wants to. He garners no sympathy from the reader. In fact, the reader roots for him to die, and is disappointed when he doesn’t (one of the perks of being an evil wizard includes the ability to perpetually exist and stir up trouble everywhere, even breaking the inter-dimensional barrier.)
So it’s refreshing, actually.
Almost as refreshing as glass of wine that includes that extra touch of Dragonsand…
So, that’s it for The Eyes of the Dragon!
Join me next month as we return to the “real world…”
In other words, I will be reviewing and dissecting an oldie but goodie, otherwise known as The Shining.
Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!
Although it takes place in the “faraway” land of Delain, there are indications that The Eyes of the Dragon is indeed a part of the Stephen King universe. Here are some of the connections that I found:
-The most obvious connection to King’s other books is the character of Randall Flagg. Flagg appears in several other King works, including The Gunslinger, Wizard and Glass, The Dark Tower, The Stand, The Wastelands, The Wind Through the Keyhole and even in the title story of the collection Hearts in Atlantis. Flagg apparently possesses the ability to travel to other worlds, and can perhaps even travel through time.
–In The Drawing of the Three, Roland speaks of an encounter with Thomas and Dennis, while they are on a quest to find Flagg. It is not known if Thomas and Dennis are ever able to confront Flagg and force him to answer for his crimes against Delain. In fact, it is doubtful if their quest was ever successful, and it is more likely that this quest eventually results in the deaths of both Thomas and Dennis.
-King Roland shares a first name with with Roland Deschain, the main character in King’s Dark Tower series. However, this is all the two share, as Roland Deschain is clever and skilled, unlike his Delain counterpart.
-Peter’s time in The Needle can be said to be similar to Andy Dufresne’s imprisonment in Shawshank State Prison in the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (part of the collection Different Seasons), as Andy was also imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit. Like Peter, Andy Dufresne also spent years devising and ingenious escape plan, under the noses of his captors.
-Randall Flagg owns a two-headed parrot. Parkus, the man responsible for law and order in the Territories in the novels Black House and The Talisman, also owns a similar creature. It is unknown if these creatures are one in the same, or merely just similar.
-Mention is made of Rhea of the Coos. Rhea is a major character in the novel Wizard and Glass, as well as The Dark Tower comics.
My name is Leah and I have a confession to make.
No, not the nerd thing…you knew that!
Here goes nothing…
Gulp, I confess that…
I can’t stay away from Derry, Maine!
Yes, I know that particular town has its issues, and that I probably cannot fix those issues, even though it is my nature to try and fix things.
Yes, the presence of a certain homicidal clown is constantly felt, despite the fact that there were brave folks who tried to put that clown to bed (or is it Hell?)
I know that Derry attracts its share of…well…the unusual (and that’s putting it mildly.)
But still, I can’t stay away. I guess I just fall for bad…um…towns (not sure if fictional towns have a gender, so roll with me.)
Yes, I am talking about a fictional town in a Stephen King book…
I know, a Stephen King! Just humor me and pretend you are at least a little surprised, eh?
And obviously, The Master has a fetish for evil towns…
I mean, he keeps coming back to Derry, right? So that means its only sorta bad, right?
Well, as my aunt used to say: Leopards don’t change their spots!
The homicidal clown may have been sent to whatever Hell (or other ungodly realm) from whence It came, but that doesn’t mean that Derry is on the straight and narrow now.
Nope, not at all!
Luckily, Uncle Stevie realized that there were many more stories to tell about Derry, so he decided to tell them (duh.)
And the novel Dreamcatcher is one of those stories.
Dreamcatcher is an interesting mashup, so to speak.
On the one hand, it is a story about childhood and the friends we make as children (similar to It.)
On the other hand, it is also a science fiction novel, with elements of horror. Shit weasels, anyone?
So, with that being said, let’s take a trip back to Derry…
Hopefully, you see the line…
And, as always:
The book begins with an introduction of four men: Henry, Pete, Jonesy and Beaver. The four men have been friends since childhood, and are still friends in the present day. However, it is clear that the men are not ordinary, as all four seem to possess telepathic powers, which they usually use to accomplish every day tasks, such as finding lost car keys. A fifth friend by the name of Douglas is mentioned, but it seems that the men have fallen out of touch with Douglas. Once a year, all four friends gather at a cabin in the woods they call Hole in the Wall, where they go hunting and reminisce about their childhood.
One spring, Jonesy is hit by a car while crossing the street. The accident is almost fatal, but Jonesy is able to to make enough of a recovery by winter, and is still able to take his annual vacation with his friends.
The trip to Hole in the Wall starts off ordinarily enough, but things quickly become strange. One morning, Pete and Henry head to the grocery store to pick up supplies, while Beaver also heads out on an errand. Jonesy is left alone at the cabin, where he almost shoots what he first thinks to be a deer. However, Jonesy quickly discovers that his target is not a deer, but a man named Rick McCarthy. It turns out that Rick became lost in the woods, and has found his way to Hole in the Wall. Jonesy takes the stranger in, offering him food and shelter.
Jonesy then finds out that Rick is no ordinary lost traveler. Rick appears to have traveled 50 miles in the course of what he believes to be one day, and Jonesy later finds out that Rick thinks that the date is the date three days prior. Rick is also missing several teeth, and does not appear to notice that he is missing these teeth. Additionally, Rick appears to be extremely flatulent, and his burps and farts have an unusual smell.
Beaver returns, and Jonesy offers Rick the spare bedroom so he can get some rest. After Rick retires, Jonesy and Beaver discuss what to do about their guest, and agree that they need to get help for him, and quickly.
In the meantime, Henry and Pete are driving back to the cabin from the grocery store. We learn that Henry has been suffering depression, and is considering suicide. The men also discuss some rumors heard at the grocery store, which include stories about missing hunters and bright lights in the sky. However, the talk is interrupted when Henry swerves to avoid hitting a woman standing in the middle of the road, which causes the vehicle to crash, due to the serious weather conditions.
Pete and Henry survive the accident, although Pete is seriously injured and his leg is likely broken. Pete and Henry try to speak to the woman they narrowly missed hitting, but the woman appears to be almost comatose, although she does inquire about someone named Rick. And like Rick, she also suffers from extreme flatulence accompanied by an unusual odor.
As Henry attempts to help the woman, he and Pete see strange lights in the sky. The woman becomes hysterical, crying “they’re back.” Finally, Henry is able to call her down, and the three head off to find some sort of shelter from the impending blizzard. However, the woman collapses, and Henry is forced to carry her to shelter. While they are walking to shelter, Pete and Henry begin to discuss a fifth childhood friend, whom they refer to as “Duddits.” Duddits was afflicted with Down’s Syndrome, and the men have been thinking a lot about Duddits recently, for some reason.
Back at the cabin, Jonesy and Beaver play cards and wait for Henry and Pete to return. Their game is interrupted when Beaver steps outside, and notices what appears to be a large group of forest animals in mass exodus from the forest, along with strange lights. Things become stranger when they return to the cabin, and notice that Rick is no longer in bed. They also notice blood on the way to the bathroom, and discover that Rick is in the bathroom and in distress.
Outside, there are helicopters in the sky. Beaver tries to signal for help, but is told that the area is under quarantine, and that the situation will be resolved in 24-48 hours.
Henry attempts to walk back to Hole in the Wall to seek help. He leaves Pete with the woman they found on the side of the road. They believe the woman’s name to be Becky, although they are not entirely sure of that fact. Even though Pete is responsible for watching Becky, he decides to head back to the vehicle to retrieve the beer he purchased earlier. Both men begin to recall they day they met their friend Douglas Cavill, or Duddits, many years ago.
One day, when all four boys were in junior high, they walk home together from school. There is nothing unusual about the day, and the boys talk about the usual things that junior high boys talk about. However, their talk is interrupted when they hear the heartbreaking sounds of someone crying.
The boys find the source of the crying: a young man who is obviously mentally handicapped and being bullied by some of the students who attend the local high school. One of the bullies is Richie Grenedeau, who had played quarterback for the high school football team, but was allegedly removed from the position due to injury. The boys become angered by the bullying, and resolve to stand up for the young man.
Pete, Jonesy, Henry and Beaver take a stand against Richie Grenedeau and his friends, and the bullies back off. The four boys learn the name of the young man they rescued from the bullying: Douglas Cavill, who is nicknamed Duddits. Duddits is afflicted with Down’s Syndrome and attends a nearby special school. The boys return Duddits to his home and parents, and a friendship is begun. Nearly every day, for the remainder of their school years, the boys accompany Duddits on his walk to and from school, to protect him from the bullies. They also spend time with Duddits, and include him in their activities whenever possible. However, Pete, Jonesy, Henry and Beaver grow up, and become distanced from Duddits, who remains a perpetual child.
The story flashes back to the present. Jonesy and Beaver break down the door to the bathroom, and discover that McCarthy has fallen into the bathtub. McCarthy is now dead, with a large hole in his backside. There also appears to be something living in the toilet that has exited McCarthy. Beaver immediately sits down on the toilet to trap the creature, and Jonesy goes to look for tape in an attempt to contain the creature.
Beaver drops his toothpicks that he has the habit of chewing, especially when stressed. He reaches down to grab them, and this proves to be a fatal mistake. The creature escapes from the toilet, and immediately attacks Beaver.
Jonesy returns to the house and finds Beaver battling a creature resembling a parasite. Beaver loses the battle when the creature attacks and kills him. Jonesy tries to flee, but sees a creature that resembles an alien from a science fiction TV show standing in bathroom, along with the creature that killed Beaver. Jonesy is then possessed by the alien-like creature, and is unable to escape.
In the meantime, Beaver’s surviving friends receive a telepathic signal that Beaver is now dead. These friends include Duddits, who is still living with his mother in Derry, Maine, the boys’ childhood home. Duddits is also terminally ill with leukemia, and is distressed to find out that his friend is now dead.
The story switches to the point of view of two military men, Owen Underhill and Abraham Kurtz. Underhill and Kurtz’s unit has been dispatched to Maine to deal with the alien invasion. We learn that “the grays” are telepathic, and transmit a sort of fungus, that when inhaled by humans, also makes humans telepathic, at least temporarily. Underhill, Kurtz and the rest of the unit do battle with the aliens, even though the aliens claim to surrender.
Henry finally makes it back to Hole in the Wall. There, he discovers the body of his friend Beaver, along with the parasite-like creature that killed Beaver. Henry is forced to battle the creature, which is still alive, and sets fire to the cabin to destroy the creature, along with the eggs it has laid. While he is there, Henry somehow deduces that Pete is now dead (due to a battle with a similar creature) and that something has also happened to Jonesy.
After destroying the cabin, Henry heads back to the site of the vehicle accident. There, he discovers the body of the woman who he almost hit earlier. The woman also appears to have been attacked by the creature. Henry notices that she is covered by a reddish gold fungus, but that the fungus appears to be dying.
Henry decides to attempt to walk back to civilization. As he is walking, he again begins to think of his friend Duddits. However, as he attempts to reach civilization, Henry is accosted by the soldiers that have been dispatched to handle the crisis in Maine.
We learn that the body of Jonesy has been possessed by one of the aliens, whom Jonesy thinks of as Mr. Gray. Jonesy experiences a series of long flashbacks, which include the accident he suffered earlier that year, along with the time he spent in the hospital. Jonesy is able to recover some memories: he remembers that he thought that he saw Duddits that day, and that is why he was not paying attention when he crossed the street, along with the fact that he nearly died in the ambulance. Somehow, Jonesy’s accident relates to why the alien creature is able to take over his body. Mr. Gray is able to kidnap Pete, and force Pete to help him in his mission.
Henry arrives at the base that the military has set up. Kurtz is in charge of the operation, but appears to be mentally unstable. Kurtz tells Underhill of the cover story he will spin in regards to the alien invasion, but really intends to kill all the civilians being held captive at the compound, along with Underhill.
Jonesy, whose body has been stolen by Mr. Gray, steals a vehicle from an unsuspecting driver. Mr. Gray forces the driver to stab himself in the eye, even though he has already hijacked the man’s vehicle. Jonesy attempts to hide all of his memories of Derry and Duddits from Mr. Gray, as he suspects that the alien has a dangerous plan involving Derry.
Jonesy also recalls another incident from his childhood. Shortly after meeting Duddits, Jonesy and the rest of his friends make their first trip to Hole in the Wall, where they accompany Beaver’s father on a hunting expedition. One night, all four boys have the same disturbing dream: they dream that Richie Grenedeau has died in a car accident, and that they were responsible for the death. When the boys awaken, they try to convince themselves it was just a dream, but they are not successful. The boys place a telephone call to Duddits, who is also distressed because he experienced the same dream, which has actually come true. Even then, Jonesy and his friends realize that Duddits has somehow gifted them with the powers of telepathy.
Henry is able to pull Underhill aside, and tells Underhill that Kurtz has something sinister in mind, and begs Underhill to help him and the other civilians. Henry explains to Underhill that the aliens have passed on an organism known as “byrus”, and that there are different strains of the byrus. The worst strain is the one that afflicted McCarthy and his friend Becky, which is the case of symbiosis gone wrong. However, most strains of byrus are harmless, although they do result in the carrier experiencing low-grade telepathy. Henry tells Underhill that he is different, due to his childhood experiences, but that Jonesy is the most different of all four of them, and that is what poses a potential threat. Finally, Underhill agrees to help Henry, so that that Jonesy may be rescued from whatever has taken over his body.
Jonesy continues to struggle for control over his body from Mr. Gray. Finally, he comes to a sort of compromise with Mr. Gray and agrees to help him. Jonesy realizes that Mr. Gray has stolen another truck which contains a passenger: a dog infected with the byrus.
Back in Derry, Duddits has also sensed the death of his friend Pete, which upsets him. However, the next morning, Duddits’ mother Roberta finds him dressed, and demanding his old lunchbox, as if he is awaiting the arrival of his friends, as he had in the days of his childhood.
Henry and Underhill use their telepathic powers to awaken the other civilians, who are asleep in a barn that is part of a makeshift military base. They warn the other civilians of what Kurtz intends to do, and the civilians rebel against Kurtz and his soldiers. Some are killed, but some are able to escape. Henry and Underhill also escape, and head to Derry to meet up with Duddits, who can help them rescue Jonesy.
Underhill and Henry continue on their journey to Derry, stealing a vehicle from some young men. Henry recalls another incidence from his childhood, when he and his friends were able to find a missing girl, with the help of Duddits. Henry realizes that Duddits’ is a dreamcatcher of sorts, due to his telepathic abilities.
Henry then receives a telepathic communication from Jonesy. Jonesy is frightened, and warns Henry that Mr. Gray has something dangerous planned. Henry further realizes that Jonesy’s brain is different due to his accident and near death experience, which has allowed Mr. Gray to take over his body. Mr. Gray continues to behave erratically, murdering a state trooper.
Kurtz has discovered that Underhill is AWOL, and begins to look for him. Kurtz contacts Underhill on the radio to attempt to persuade him to abandon his mission with Henry, but Underhill refuses.
With the help of Duddits, Jonesy is able to trick Mr. Gray into consuming raw bacon, which makes him ill, buying more time for Henry, Underhill and Duddits. Mr. Gray continues his journey to Boston, where he plans on unleashing the byrus into the water supply, by using the infected dog as a vessel.
Eventually, Mr. Gray abandons the vehicle he is driving, and attempts to use the dog to contaminate the water supply in Boston. However, with the help of Duddits and Henry, Mr. Gray is defeated, and Jonesy is in possession of his body again. Duddits pays dearly for his efforts, dying shortly afterwards. Before he dies, Duddits tells Henry that he loves him.
In the meantime, Underhill shoots the weasel-like creature that emerges from the dog, killing it. Underhill is then shot by Kurtz, who has caught up to Henry and his friends. Henry then defeats the Kurtz and the remaining soldiers, rescuing Jonesy from certain death.
Several months later, Henry is visiting Jonesy at Jonesy’s summer cottage. Both men have recovered from their ordeal, physically at least. Duddits’ mother grieves the loss of her son but has moved on with her life. The men muse about their experience, even though they feel lucky to have survived it, along with wondering when the planet will again be visited by extraterrestrial beings.
Ok, let me get one thing out of my system…
Actually, I probably don’t want to get this one one thing out of my system, since that means certain death, along with the WORST FLATULENCE EVER!
In case you haven’t figured it out, I am referring to the shit weasels.
(In case you can’t tell, I had to work the “shit weasels” into the title of this review. It just wouldn’t be right other wise. You’re welcome!)
Shit weasels. How much more eloquent can you get? Where on Earth (or is it in Hell?) does The Master come with up with this stuff?
King has said that he is not too proud to go for the gross out. And we are reminded this in Dreamcatcher. Again and again, we are reminded.
While I am not that much of a fan of the gross-out in the horror story, it does have its place. Mostly, the gross out is funny. And Dreamcatcher is also a book with a lot of funny.
And the shit weasels are just one of the funny things in Dreamcatcher. I know that King was on LOTS of drugs when he wrote this one (more on that later), so often I wonder if one of the side effects of those drugs were “Caution: taking this and writing a novel about aliens will likely make the user write about farts, burps and other bodily functions not discussed in polite society?”
Speaking of funny, let’s talk about the Beave for a moment…
Beaver isn’t described as being particularly attractive, at least in the physical sense. But when I evaluate my book boyfriends, I try not to be so superficial, you know? Otherwise, I might miss out on a really great romance!
Yes, Beaver is the man in this book. He is killed off pretty quickly, but still manages to make quite the impression.
First off, Beaver is funny. Any book boyfriend of mine must have a sense of humor. That is a prerequisite for all of my literary relationships, no exceptions.
And Beaver does have quite the sense of humor. And he’s not afraid to sprinkle
a copious a fair amount of profanity to get his point across. “Kiss my bender.” “Fuck me Freddy.” “Fuck-a-row.” “Fuck-a-ree.” All Beaver-isms. And I unabashedly use them as part of my vocabulary. After all, there is nothing like a good swear fest, Beaver style, after a frustrating day at work. Or sitting in traffic. Or standing in line at a crowded restaurant. Or sitting. Or standing…well, you get the point!
But perhaps, most importantly, Beaver has a good heart. There was truly a beautiful soul behind the glasses and the potty mouth that would make a drunk sailor blush. He stood up for someone who was helpless and being bullied. And he comforted that someone by singing him a lullaby…swoon!
I think that’s when Beaver had my heart: after he rescued Duddits (with the help of his friends) and sung to him. And “fit neek” (fixed Duddie’s sneaker, in case your Duddits-to-English dictionary is not working.)
My only complaint about Beaver is that he left so fast…damn you, errant toothpicks and shit weasels that can’t stay in the toilet like a good shit weasel!
I also loved the not so subtle jab at Dubbya, aka Okefenokee. The description of Okefenokee and his actions after the alien invasion of Maine was eerily similar to what happened right after 9/11. I know that this book was written before the 9/11 tragedy, but The Master’s description of The Leader (well, the leader at time, anyway) was so close to what happened after 9/11, it made me wonder if all those painkillers had perhaps given him some kind of clairvoyance…hey, anything is possible, right?
As stated before, Dreamcatcher was the first book that King wrote after his vehicle accident.
And it shows…
Not that this a bad thing. Dreamcatcher is still an enjoyable book. But, it gets a bit un-wieldly in spots. It’s almost as if the painkillers took over in those spots. And the painkillers do not have an eighth of the talent possessed by The Master!
I did think that this book dragged at parts, especially in the “present day” setting. And the ending was a bit anti-climactic. Really, the best the alien could come up with was to use a dog to contaminate the water supply? And that alien seems like he kind of sucked at being an alien, since Jonesy and Henry were able to defeat it so quickly, practically with their eyes closed…
However, this book was saved by the good parts. One of these parts was the flashbacks to the boys’ childhood.
I loved the description of the friendship between the four (later to be five boys). The way King described, I felt like I was right there, in the thick of it. Even the mundane details, like how the boys get out of school one fateful afternoon, and are eager to catch a glimpse of *a kitty cat*, aka female nether regions. That made me laugh, and it brought me back to my own childhood, when things seemed to be so much simpler.
Speaking of nostalgia, part of Dreamcatcher is set in Derry.
Yes, that would be the same Derry that boasts a homicidal clown as a tourist attraction. The same Derry where a bad ass man named Ralph Roberts saved the universe single handed-ly, but did not even receive a lousy t-shirt. That Derry!
I loved how King was able to work in elements of his books set in Derry (It, mainly) but was still able to tell an entirely new story.
Dreamcatcher and It are similar tales, at least on the surface: both deal with friendship, small towns and bullying. However, that is about all the two books have in common. In one, the friendship is formed because an outside force uses the children (and later the adults) to defeat an evil monster. In the other, the friends are drawn together first, because they have common interests and so forth, and then later used to defeat evil (Richie Grenedeau as children, alien invaders as adults.) In Dreamcatcher, the friendship really is lifelong, unlike in It, where the friendship is so brief and only serves the purpose of defeating Pennywise the Clown.
In Dreamcatcher, the threat of Pennywise the Clown never really seems to be far away. Henry and his friends may not have had the misfortune of being children during one of the “cycles”, but Pennywise and the town of Derry were a constant presence in this book. I loved the references to the missing children in Derry, and how it was a bigger problem in Derry than most other places. I also loved Jonesy’s recollection of the big storm in 1985. As any King fan knows, that was the year that the Losers Club laid waste to Pennywise (maybe.) It was such a funny feeling to get the perspective of someone who was not involved in that battle, but was still a part of Derry.
Oh, and “Pennywise Lives.” Did anyone else shudder when Jonesy found that graffiti, or was that just me? Someone in Derry has a sick sense of humor! Or there is the alternative: Pennywise really does live! Both of these are pretty scary, actually.
And before I wrap this review up, let’s give someone his due…
Yes, that someone would be Duddits. And I cannot give enough accolades to poor Duddits.
There was so much to love about Duddits in this book.
First of all, there was Duddits himself. I have a friend who refer’s to those with Down’s Syndrome as beautiful souls, and she could not be more right in that statement. Like Henry, Jonesy, Pete and Beaver, I felt that all was right in the world when Duddits showed up on the page. How could anyone not be happy when he/she was in the presence of Duddits? Just reading about Duddits made my day much better.
It is no secret that King writes about man’s inhumanity to man. Books such as It, Under the Dome, Hearts in Atlantis and even the Dark Tower series are filled with examples of this.
So, the uninitiated may be surprised to learn that King is equally adept at writing about the opposite: his characters can also treat each other wonderfully, and go above and beyond in the name love and friendship.
Duddits and his friendship with Henry, Beaver, Jonesy and Pete is a prime example of King’s ability to write about the good that some are capable of.
Very early on in the book, we get a glimpse of a good deed: four adolescent boys do an extremely brave thing and stand up to the neighborhood bully on behalf of someone who appears to be much weaker. This is not something we would think of most adolescents as capable of, not even Henry and his friends. After all, before the encounter with Richie Grenedeau, Henry and his friends are focused on viewing certain parts of the female anatomy, not confronting a bully who turns out to be a coward. But just like that, the tone of the story changes, and I knew that these guys were something special.
And I was right: all five were something special. The boys continue their friendship with Duddits. In junior high and high school, all that matters to most is fitting in and peer acceptance. However, the friendship with Duddits transcends those barriers, and enriches the life of Duddits, who experiences something he was previously lacking in his life: acceptance. Henry, Beaver, Pete and Jonesy all have their lives enriched by the friendship with Duddits as well, referring to Duddits as their “finest hour.” Their friendship with Duddits is the glue that holds them together even into adulthood, when most childhood friendships slowly fade away.
Even in adulthood, Duddits is still…well, Duddits. The others grew up and moved on, but Duddits remained a child. However, Henry is able to pick up right where he left off, so to speak, and the old bond is renewed. In fact, Duddits is overjoyed to reunite with Henry and have one last adventure with him, while Henry is overcome with guilt for not staying in touch. But that doesn’t matter to Duddits, as Duddits does not think in those terms and seems to be incapable of anger or resentment.
Duddits is truly the hero of the book. He makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to help his friends one last time. He saves the lives of his friends Jonesy and Henry, along with (potentially) the lives of thousands of others. And there is no resentment or anger. Only love. After all, that is what drives a hero: love.
So that’s it for Dreamcatcher. Join me next month as we take a trip next door…well, maybe not literally next door, but to a world nearby on The Tower when I review and dissect The Eyes of the Dragon!
Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!
Like all of King’s books, Dreamcatcher is set squarely in the King universe. Here are some of the connections I noticed:
-Jonesy finds graffiti on a statue stating “Pennywise lives.” Pennywise the Clown was the monster faced by the Losers Club in the novel It, and was supposedly defeated in 1985.
-The storm of 1985 is mentioned. This storm took place when the Losers Club faced the monster It in final battle.
-Duddits possesses PSI abilities. Several novels and short stories deal with this topic and contain characters who possess these abilities, including Carrie, Low Men in Yellow Coats (of the collection Hearts in Atlantis), Everything’s Eventual (part of a collection of the same name), Firestarter and the Dark Tower series.
Throughout our lives, we meet people.
This seems to be especially true in childhood. After all, we go to school. And we play sports, go to camp, etc. And live in a neighborhood, surrounded by other people, many of whom are families with children.
It’s easy to meet other people when you are a child. In fact, you meet people, and they come in and out of your life. Sometimes, it’s the ones who are in your life for the shortest amount of time who have the most impact. I met so many people at all those nerdy summer camp programs that I attended who were the greatest, but I only had the privilege to know them for all of two weeks, at the most. Those two weeks seemed like a lifetime to me, but a lifetime that flew by too quickly.
Sometimes, I think about those people I met in childhood, especially the ones who I only knew for such a short period of time. And I wonder what happened to them, and what kind of adults they turned out to be. Hopefully, the awesome children turned out to be even more awesome adults. I would like to believe that, any way.
I first met Jack Sawyer when I read The Talisman. And I loved him. He was the coolest, even at the tender age of 12. And was more bad ass than people three times his age. I would want Jack in my corner any day of the week.
However, like the cool people I met at summer camp, Jack exited my life too quickly. And I wondered what had become of him. What kind of person had he grown up to be? Hopefully, he was even more awesome.
Now, Black House may be a follow up to The Talisman, but make no mistake about it, it is so much more than a “sequel” (really, the word sequel has four letters in it, I am sure) to The Talisman.
Black House adds to the story of Jack Sawyer and to the mythos of that awesome place known as “The Territories,” although it brings up A LOT more questions than it answers (more on that later.)
Not surprisingly, Black House is also connected to The Dark Tower series, as do most of King’s books. But, like Insomnia, Black House could almost be considered to be another Dark Tower book, without the words “Dark Tower” anywhere in the title or description of the book.
Plus, Black House is just plain scary! Some of the things that happen in Black House are just entirely too plausible, and no one does “real life” horror better than Sai King, in my opinion.
So sit down, put your seat belts on, and join me, as I light out for The Territories once again, as I recap and review Black House.
And, as always:
The book begins with an introduction to a town by the name of French Landing, Wisconsin. We realize very quickly that something out of the ordinary has been occurring in French Landing, as three children have been murdered by a serial killer calling himself The Fisherman. The residents of French Landing are frightened, and the police department is coming under scrutiny, as the murders are unsolved.
We are then introduced to several characters. The first is an old man named Charles “Burny” Burnside. Burnside is a resident of a facility named Maxton Eldercare, as he supposedly suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s Disease, although Burnside sometimes seems to experience extended bouts of lucidity. Burnside is a ward of the state, as he claims to have no surviving family and no memory of his past. Maxton Eldercare is run by a man named Chipper Maxton. Chipper is a corrupt man, stealing from the residents of the facility, including Burnside.
Dale Gilbertson is another character we are introduced to. Dale is the Chief of Police in French Landing, and is being heavily scrutinized due to the unsolved murders committed by The Fisherman. Dale understands that he is out of his depth, and has requested help from a friend of his, Jack Sawyer. Jack first met Dale four years prior, when he collaborated with Jack to solve a series of unsolved murders in California, which turned out to have a connection to French Landing. Jack has refused to help, much to Dale’s frustration, as Jack is now retired from police work.
We are also introduced to Fred Marshall, father to Tyler Marshall and husband to Judy Marshall. Tyler is a seemingly ordinary child, enjoying his summer vacation. Judy, however, is not ordinary, as she slowly seems to be losing her grip on reality. Fred is concerned, but pushes aside his worry for his wife, as he does not think that her problems are that serious.
Finally, we are introduced to Jack Sawyer. When Jack collaborated with his friend Dale, he fell in love with French Landing, and later purchased a home that had once been owned by Dale’s family. Eventually, Jack moved into the home, but spends most of his time in isolation, despite Dale’s attempts to get to know his friend better.
The book also introduces us to a man named Henry Leyden. Henry works as a DJ with multiple on-air personas. Henry is the uncle to Dale Gilbert and a friend of Jack Sawyer. Henry is also blind, but his other senses are acute, to compensate for the blindness.
Lately, strange things have been happening to Jack. A robin’s egg mysteriously appears in his refrigerator, and he also sees robin feathers around his house. Jack begins to question his grip on reality, especially when he tries to call his mother, who has been dead for several years.
One morning, Jack picks Henry up from work. While driving and listening to one of Henry’s CD’s, they see a group of boys. One of the boys makes an obscene gesture to Henry and Jack, expressing his feelings on the music. Another young boy seems to approve of the music. Henry also tries to persuade Jack to assist Dale with the investigation of the child murders, but again, Jack declines, reminding Henry that he is retired. Henry also says that he has experienced some odd occurrences lately: he thinks that he has heard his deceased wife walking around the house. Jack drops Henry off at his home, and dismisses the occurrences as a manifestation of Henry’s grief.
Later that day, Tyler Marshall is riding his bike with his friends. He falls behind his friends, who abandon him. Just outside the Maxton Eldercare Facility, Tyler encounters a talking crow that calls itself “Gorg.” Tyler is entranced by the bird, and moves closer to it. This allows Charles Burnside, who has momentarily regained his senses, to abduct Tyler. Tyler’s friends notice that he is lost and that his bicycle has been abandoned, but decide not to say anything, as they fear they will be implicated in his abduction.
In the meantime, Judy Marshall, Tyler’s mother, continues to lose her grip on reality. Judy then receives a mysterious package at her door. When she opens the package, she finds a note stating that her son’s kidney has been eaten, along with human organs of some kind. Judy becomes hysterical, and a neighbor calls her husband Fred at work.
Fred returns home, and finds that Judy has seemingly gone mad, destroying Tyler’s bedroom on her rampage. Fred is finally able to calm Judy down, and begins to worry that Tyler is indeed missing, as Judy has said. The local police also find Tyler’s bicycle, and Dale Gilbert worries that The Fisherman has claimed another victim.
Fred awakens from an afternoon nap to find his wife choking on scraps of paper. Fred is able to rescue Judy from choking, but Tyler still has not returned home. This prompts Fred to call the police, and find out that Tyler’s bike was found abandoned in front of the nursing home.
That afternoon, Henry Leyden does a DJ gig at Maxton Eldercare Facility. He takes notice of Charles Burnside, who behaves unpleasantly, and seems to babble some nonsensical words.
That evening, Henry persuades Jack to speak to Fred in regards to the Fisherman’s possible involvement in the disappearance of Tyler. Jack and reluctantly agrees to assist in the investigation, and to also speak to Judy, who has been institutionalized. Jack also questions Tyler’s friends, and finds out that they abandoned Tyler and noticed that he had left his bicycle by the nursing home, but did not actually witness the abduction. One of Tyler’s friends also tells Jack that he saw black crow feathers by the nursing home.
Jack also has a strange dream that night. In the dream, he encounters Speedy Parker, someone he knew as a child. Speedy commands Jack to assist in the investigation, as an entity called The Crimson King has kidnapped Tyler, because Tyler is a Breaker, with the ability to help The Crimson King commit a terrible deed.
The following morning, Jack awakens and finds a mysterious package on his front porch. The package contains a sneaker, which also contains the severed foot of a child. Jack realizes that this is probably from one of the victims of The Fisherman. This causes Jack to remember an incidence from his childhood that he had tried to forget.
Jack then “flips” to another world, one he knows as The Territories, from his childhood. This world is a fantastical version of ours, and Jack’s memories continue to awaken. While in this alternate world, Jack discover’s Tyler’s baseball cap, and realizes that Tyler is probably still alive, and that The Fisherman wanted Jack to find the cap.
When he returns to his own world, Jack finds a note on the mysterious package, advising him to try a place called Ed’s Eats and Dogs. Jack calls Henry and tells him about the package and the note, and Henry agrees to take Jack to Ed’s Eats and Dogs, which was a food stand that is now closed.
The French Landing Police Department also receives a call from someone identifying himself as The Fisherman that morning. The caller instructs the police to also go to Ed’s Eats and Dogs, and Dale Gilbertson and his officers proceed to do just that.
Jack receives a call on his cell phone from Dale, and learns that Dale is also headed to the abandoned food stand. They meet at the food stand, and Jack shows Dale the package sent to him by The Fisherman, and Dale tells Jack about the phone call from The Fisherman.
In the meantime, the officer who received the call from The Fisherman tells his wife, who tells her friends about the call. Soon, several people in town find out about the call. One of these people is Beezer St. Pierre. Beezer is part of a motorcycle club in town known as The Thunder Five, and is also the father to Amy St. Pierre, one of the victims of The Fisherman. Soon, Beezer and his friends Mouse, Doc, Sonny and Kaiser Bill also head to the abandoned eatery.
Wendell Green, a reporter for the local newspaper, also heads to the eatery, in the hopes that he will find his next story.
At the investigation scene, chaos erupt, mostly due to Wendell Green’s attempt to distract Jack and the police. Beezer and his friends assist Jack and the police in dispersing the crowd, but the state police also arrive at the scene, and tell Dale that he can no longer work the Fisherman case.
That afternoon, Jack and Fred visit Judy in the mental hospital. Jack is struck by how beautiful Judy is. Judy also knows of the alternate reality Jack calls The Territories, and says that she is able to communicate with a woman who lives in that reality. Judy also tells Jack that The Fisherman has stashed Tyler in that reality, and that Tyler is in grave danger, but still alive, and that Jack is the only one who can rescue him. On the way home, Jack shows Fred the baseball cap that he found in The Territories, and confirms that it belongs to Tyler. Jack also promises to do whatever he can to rescue Tyler.
That night, an ominous fog covers the town of French Landing. Charles Burnside escapes the Maxton Eldercare Facility, and sneaks into the boarding house next door. He breaks into the room of a man named George Potter, and plants several pictures of the Fisherman’s victims in the closet. The pictures are discovered by another resident of the boarding house, and a call is placed to the local police.
Jack, Dale, Wendell and Beezer all find out about the pictures in George Potter’s room, and all head to the police station. Dale places Potter under arrest, and books him in a holding cell.
In the meantime, the mysterious crow visits Tansy Freeneau, the mother to Irma Freeneau, one of the victims of The Fisherman. The crow somehow can speak, and tells Tansy about George Potter’s arrest. Tansy rounds up a group of locals from a bar, and all head to the police station.
When Jack arrives at the police station, he receives a call from Speedy, someone he knew as a child. Speedy tells Jack that an angry mob is headed to the police station, and that Jack needs to meet him in the men’s bathroom.
Shortly after the angry mob arrives, Jack steps out into the parking lot. He is holding a bouquet of flowers and allows Tansy to smell the flowers. The smell of the flowers calms Tansy, along with most of the crowd. Jack calls for someone to take Tansy home, and the crowd dissipates.
Jack questions George Potter, and determines that George is not guilty. George states that he was a contractor many years ago, and engaged in some shady dealings. One of the people George engaged in deals with was someone named Carl, who now happens to be living in French Landing. George thinks that the man now goes by the name Charles Burnside, and that the man had a house built in French Landing many years ago. George does not know where the house is located, but tells Jack of many strange things that happened while the house was being built, such as the workers being injured and even losing their shadows. Jack determines that this man is most certainly The Fisherman, but is unable to obtain any more information from either George or Dale Gilbertson.
The next morning, Jack checks on Tansy Freeneau, who appears to succumbing to madness, even though the flowers from The Territories that Jack had given her the night before seem to have a calming effect on her. Jack finds out from Tansy that she received a visit from Gorg, and Tansy tells Jack that Gorg is actually a raven from another world. Jack then goes to a local bar called The Sand Bar, where he had promised to meet Beezer and the rest of The Thunder Five. While Jack is waiting for Beezer and his friends, he notices that the movie playing on the television is one that had starred his deceased mother.
When the bikers arrive at the bar, Jack asks them if they know anything about a mysterious house in French Landing. One of the bikers, Mouse, recognizes the house, and tells Jack that it even has a name: Black House. Mouse also tells Jack and his friends that he and a girlfriend, Nancy, were actually in the vicinity of the house a few years prior, having accidentally discovered it on a bike ride. Right away, Mouse realized that something was not right, and managed to escape with Nancy. Mouse survived the experience, but Nancy was not so lucky. Soon after, Nancy becomes extremely ill and tragically dies from her illness. Jack warns Beezer to not get too close to the house, but to check it out, and that they will meet up again later.
Beezer and the rest of the bikers set off that afternoon to find Black House. Finally, they are able to find it, and right away, things begin to go wrong. They notice a change in the air, which seems to become poisonous. They also encounter a creature that appears to be a dog, but attacks the bikers. All of the men suffer from headaches and vomiting, and experience unpleasant memories from their past. They are finally able to escape the dog and Black House, but Mouse is bitten by the dog, and Doc (Beezer’s right hand man) notices that the wound is severe and unlike an ordinary dog bite.
In the meantime, Jack heads to the mental hospital to visit Judy Marshall. Jack realizes that Judy’s counterpart in The Territories, her Twinner, has been trying to communicate with her, and her Twinner’s attempts have become more urgent, due to the situation with The Fisherman. Jack also suspects that The Fisherman has a Territories Twinner, and that creature is probably holding Tyler Marshall hostage. Jack also finds out that The Fisherman has sent a tape of himself tormenting Judy to Judy at the hospital, which has caused Judy to regress to her previous state.
When he arrives at the hospital, Jack encounters Wendell Green, who has tracked him down. Wendell tries to sabotage Jack’s attempts to visit Judy, but Judy’s doctor agrees to allow Jack to see Judy, for a short time.
Jack speaks to Judy, and she tells him that he must travel to The Territories to save Tyler. Jack does just that, arriving at The Territories once again. When he arrives in the other world, Jack finds himself in the company of Judy’s Territories Twinner: a woman named Sophie. Almost instantly, Jack falls in love with Sophie.
Wendell Green has also traveled to The Territories with Jack, as he was spying on Jack and Judy at the mental hospital. Wendell is shell-shocked, and unable to comprehend just what has happened to him.
Shortly after his arrive to The Territories, Jack encounters an old friend: Parkus, the man who is responsible for law and order in The Territories. Parkus is the Twinner to Jack’s friend Speedy. Parkus tells Jack that Tyler is still alive and Jack may be able to still rescue him, but that there are much bigger issues at hand. Parkus then tells Jack and Sophie that the entity known as the Crimson King has gathered a group of children with psionic abilities that he calls Breakers. The Breakers have been assembled to help destroy The Dark Tower, which is the nexus of all existence. Parkus tells Jack that The Fisherman does not have a Territories Twinner. Rather, The Fisherman is possessed by a being from another world, which allows him to commit his horrific acts. The being is a creature known as Mr. Munshun, or sometimes Mr. Monday. Mr. Munshun allows Charles Burnside to murder all of the children he wants, but if the children possess psionic abilities, they are to be turned over to Mr. Munshun and The Crimson King at once. Tyler is special, as he has the ability to become the most power of all Breakers.
Parkus tells Jack that he must find out the exact identity of The Fisherman, so that he can get to Mr. Munshun and rescue Tyler Marshall, as well as foil the plans of the Crimson King. However, Jack still does not know just who The Fisherman is in his world. Parkus also tells Jack that he will need to use Black House to enter the world of Mr. Munshun, as Mr. Munshun does not reside in The Territories.
Jack then travels back to his own world, taking Wendell Green with him. Jack heads out of the hospital and receives a panicked call from Beezer. Beezer tells Jack that Mouse is dying, and that Jack needs to come quickly.
When Jack arrives at Beezer’s house, he sees something horrific happening to Mouse. Mouse is literally being eaten alive by the poison he received when the dog creature bit him at Black House. Mouse is mostly delirious, but he tells Jack to meet Beezer and the others at noon the next day, so that they can head to Black House to rescue Tyler and defeat Mr. Munshun. Mouse also gives Jack a spell of sorts: the word “d’yamba.” Mouse tells Jack that he will need this word in the near future. Shortly after imparting this information, Mouse passes away.
In the meantime, Henry Leyden is at his home, listening to the tape of The Fisherman’s voice. Henry also believes that he can smell the perfume of his late wife, and thinks he is losing his mind. However, Henry recognizes the voice of Charles Burnside from the tape, as he also heard Burnside’s voice from his gig at the nursing home. Henry also realizes that Burnside is in his house and using the scent of his wife’s perfume to trick Henry.
Henry attempts to defend himself against Burnside, but is stabbed by Burnside with a pair of garden shears. Henry realizes that he will bleed to death, so he makes a recording for Jack, revealing the identity of The Fisherman, and the fact that The Fisherman lives in the nursing home. Shortly after finishing the recording, Henry signs off, saying goodbye to Jack, and dies.
Jack heads home after paying respect to Mouse. Amazingly, Jack is surrounded by a swarm of bees. The bees appear to offer comfort and do not sting Jack. Jack then decides that he will open to Henry, and tell Henry the story of his past journey to The Territories when he was a child.
Jack arrives at Henry’s house and realizes almost right away that something is amiss. He discovers Henry’s body and hears Henry’s last recording that identifies The Fisherman. Shocked and saddened, Jack calls the local police, and then travels to The Territories once again, seeking comfort.
Charles Burnside returns to the nursing home. He has been injured in the confrontation with Henry, but still alive. Burnside is confronted by one of the nurses on duty in regards to his whereabouts. He uses the garden shears to kill her, and makes an attempt to escape back to Black House. However, he is also confronted by Chipper Maxton, who has learned of his true identity. Burnside also kills Maxton with the gardening shears, and returns to Black House, with the assistance of the entity known as Mr. Munshun.
After Burnside arrives at Black House, he arouses Tyler Marshall from a dream, and takes Tyler into another world. He places a sort of “hat” on Tyler that dulls Tyler’s thinking, and tells Tyler that he is taking him to the Crimson King, who has a job waiting for Tyler.
The next day, Jack meets Dale, Doc and Beezer at The Sand Bar. He is able to summon the cloud of bees again, much to the astonishment of his friends. Jack utters the word “d’yamba” over a bottle of honey, and has his friends dab a bit of the honey underneath their noses, in the hopes that the belief in the honey will protect them from the ill effects of Black House.
In the meantime, Burnside and Tyler arrive at their final destination, where they see many children with special talents being forced to perform the work of the Crimson King. Burnside attempts to shackle Tyler, but Tyler strikes back and disembowels Burnside, which kills the old man.
Before Jack and his friends leave for Black House, they encounter Fred Marshall outside of the bar. Fred has received a package addressed to Tyler, from George Rathbun (one of the radio personalities of the deceased Henry Leyden) containing a bat signed by a Milwaukee Brewers player. All of the men then sense that Tyler has killed Burnside, which offers them hope that their mission may succeed.
When Jack and his friend arrive at Black House, they encounter the swarm of bees that surrounded Jack earlier. Jack sees the crow, Gorg, and shoots him. Once inside the house, they encounter some frightening illusions, as the house tries to keep them from tracking down Tyler Marshall.
While Jack and his friends are searching for Tyler, Tyler manages to free himself from the shackles by obtaining the key. However, once he frees himself, he is then captured by the being Mr. Mushun.
However, as Munshun attempts to take Tyler to the Crimson King, he encounters Jack and his friends, who are ready to fight. Jack attacks Munshun with the bat sent to Tyler’s father, and is finally able to kill the evil creature.
Jack tells Tyler that he must rescue the other children before he can return to his family. Tyler argues that he cannot, and Jack argues otherwise. The cap that Burnside had placed on Tyler’s head then falls off, and the full extent of Tyler’s powers are unleashed. Tyler then uses those powers to destroy the machines that have imprisoned the other children, and the other children are freed as well.
Jack, Tyler, Dale, Beezer and Doc then return to their world, along with the rest of the children freed by Tyler. Black House has now lost its magic and is an ordinary house. The dog that had attacked Mouse is also destroyed.
Some weeks later, Jack, Doc, Beezer and Dale prepare to attend a ceremony so they can be recognized for their bravery by the town of French Landing. They have concocted a cover story that leaves out the visit to the other world, and implicates Henry Leyden as the one who identified The Fisherman and led Jack and his friends to him. The government is also dealing with the other children who were rescued, and the origins of most of these children remain a mystery. Black House has also been destroyed, thanks to the efforts of Beezer and Jack.
Jack and his friends enter the stage and face the crowd, which begins to wildly applaud. In that crowd is Jack’s old friend, Speedy Parker. However, a woman named Wanda Kinderling is also part of the crowd. Wanda is the wife of the man who Jack helped Dale imprison for murder several years ago. Wanda is angry, as she believes her husband was wrongfully imprisoned. Tragically, Wanda acts on that anger, shooting Jack. Speedy is unable to stop her, and Wanda shoots Jack in the chest and throat. After she shoots Jack, Wanda is almost immediately attacked by Doc.
Speedy then grabs Jack and carries him in his arms to The Territories. He tells Sophie that Jack will survive his injuries, thanks to his encounter with The Talisman as a child, but that Jack must remain in The Territories, as a return to his own world will likely kill him. Jack continues to remain in a coma for several days.
Several days later, Jack awakens, with Sophie by his side, who welcomes him to his new life in The Territories.
And there are so many of them, in regards to Black House. But I will try to condense myself (hey, don’t laugh too hard, now.)
First of all, the men. There are some fine men in this book…and I am not even talking about the main character, Jack Sawyer (although be prepared for more in depth discussion of him in a bit. Don’t worry, I have not forgotten. Far from it, in fact.)
There is a little something for everyone, in terms of men in this book.
First of all, Henry Leyden. He is blind, but anyone who has sex with Henry is not having pity sex with him…no sir (or m’am, if you please.)
He’s a DJ, and he knows his music. Check.
Despite the fact that he is blind, Henry has an incredible sense of style. Just thinking about the suits that he was described as wearing…whoa! What is it about well-dressed guys that makes you want to tear those same clothes off?
And Henry has the x-factor too. Just something about his friendship with Jack sent shivers down my spine. Henry never pressured Jack to take down those walls, but chiseled away patiently. And that made my heart melt.
My heart also broke wide open, when Henry died. I have read this book a few times, but each time I find myself, hoping against hope, that things will be different this time. Of course, they never are. And my heart breaks wide open yet again.
Beezer St. Pierre.
Yes, I know that guy is not Beezer. But I don’t think I am that far off, am I?
Anyone who lives in a place known as “Nailhouse Row” (can you get any cooler than that?) is already hot by association.
And let’s just admint: Beezer is a bad ass. A fucking bad ass, as a matter of fact. In fact, he wouldn’t be that out of place in a certain club known as SAMCRO. Not out of place at all, as a matter of fact.
Beezer is also smart. Smart is always hot. The fact that he was reading William Blake…swoon! And that his house was overflowing with books? Woo, I am feeling a little flushed right now…
I could also feel empathy for Beezer, given what happened to his daughter. I never pitied him, like I pitied Tansy Freeneau. But I could emphasize with him, as his daughter was brutalized by The Fisherman. And I could understand why Beezer and his friends felt the need to police the police, so to speak. Poor man was going through an unimaginable pain, it’s a wonder that he didn’t break down doors at the police station.
And we have Jack Sawyer.
both of my faithful readers know, I have book boyfriends. Like Aragorn. And Jon Snow. I am such as sucker for fictional men that I can never, ever have an actual relationship with (don’t worry, my marriage is open in regards to this…heehee!)
One of my favorite book boyfriends is Jack Sawyer. It feels weird saying that, since he was 12 when I first met, and I was in my twenties, but it’s ok, I am reading Black House and Jacky is all growed up!
I think the reason why I love Jack so much is because I identify with him. King writes about people who don’t quite fit in and who often live on the fringes of society, and are maybe even marginalized by everyone else. I am pretty isolated (even though I do have a few good friends and an understanding husband), I live on the fringe (although that is my choice and I spent my life being marginalized. I was the odd kid, and childhood and adolescence were a social disaster for me. And until recently, adulthood was a social disaster for me.
At the beginning of the book, Jack is a lonely man. Jack probably does not realize this, but the reader certainly does. Jack is unmarried (criminal!) and has retired from the police force at the impossibly young age of 31. Jack has no surviving family members. and no close friends. When people do try to reach out to Jack (like Dale), the walls go up, and Jack pushes people away.
However, Jack slowly emerges from his shell as the book progresses. And it is quite a beautiful thing to watch. Jack had been living in a sort of fog and has not been truly engaged with anyone or anything. It takes a series of gruesome child murders, along a ghost from Jack’s childhood in order for that fog to lift. But it’s worth the wait, because Jack Sawyer reminds me of a rose: it may be a little shy to open up and finally bloom, but when the flower does bloom, it is beautiful beyond words.
I consider Black House to be one of King’s most frightening books ever written. Normally, when people think of scary Stephen King books, works such as The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot, It and Pet Sematary come to mind. When you mention a scary Stephen King book, the one co-written by Peter Straub that is the follow up to the epic fantasy otherwise known as The Talisman that could almost be considered another Dark Tower book does not come to mind. However, it should, since Black House is an extremely creepy read, and should be recognized as such.
First of all, the book deals with child murders. King is known for writing about “real-life horrors,” and unfortunately, children being killed fall into that category. In fact, the events in Black House are tragically plausible: children go missing and are murdered on an almost daily basis in this country. I have stated in the past that Charles Burnside is one of King’s worst human (or is it best) monsters, and I stand by that statement. Burnside was based on Albert Fish, who (at least to me) was one of the worst real-life monsters that has ever existed throughout history. Anyone who can do what Fish (and Burnside) did to children…well, Hell would be too good for that person, actually. I would hope that there was some place even worse than Hell for someone like that, where he would be made to suffer just as his victims did.
Often, King books, there is what I call “buried treasure,” or something that really does not have much to do with the story being told, but is something that just takes the story from good to fucking epic (the history of Derry in It being a great example, among countless others.) In Black House, it is the bit about borders, and how borders seem invite bad things in. I loved the story told by Sonny about Harko, Illinois, and the border town of Harko, where one of his friends murdered the other with no provocation and ended up in the mental asylum…it had a kind of EC Horror Comics feel to it…I loved it!
Black House also has a scary non-human bad guy: Mr. Munshun.
Or is it Humpty Dumpty on a bad day? Dammit, I knew Humpty wasn’t who he seemed to be! And I always had an uneasy feeling about him, anyway…I can see why they knocked him off that wall!
The descriptions of Munshun are just so unsettling (I think King also compared him to Humpty Dumpty.) The teeth, the orange hair, how Tyler Marshall could fee his presence when he was shackled. My heart raced as Tyler struggled to beat the clock, and I jumped up and down when Munshun was finally disposed of. Pennywise, Randall Flagg, Kurt Barlow are all frightening, but Munshun has also earned his spot on the list of Stephen King monsters…he needs to be in the discussion a lot more!
There is also Black House itself. A house that literally eats people? And has a hell hound for a watch dog? To boot, the bite of that “dog” is much, much worse than its bite. The description of what happened to Mouse (seriously, vomit that comes alive…I can’t even) is just seriously…well…disgusting…even for the likes of writers like King and Straub. Did they have a sleepover where they spent the night trying to see who could gross the other out, and then decide to include those details in Black House? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
As I have stated before, Black House is also a bit frustrating. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but still.
I found the ending to be very open-ended. Jack is shot, and transported back to The Territories. Speedy then hints about the business with The Tower (goosebumps) not being finished yet. Ooooh, a sequel!
A sequel that we have been waiting about 15 years for. King and Straub have both stated that there should be a third book, but we have yet to see it. I have faith that we will one day, but even I am not THAT patient. C’mon, don’t tease me like this, Uncle Stevie!
I just have to know what happens to my friend Jack Sawyer. Did he somehow help Roland and his friends in their quest (again)? Or is it some other adventure, where Jack meets even more interesting folks in The Territories? What of Jack and Sophie? I know that Sophie stated she was barren, but I would so love a Jack Junior!
Such questions…such torture…
But hopefully, we end the torture soon, and The Master graces us with the answers to those questions!
Well, that’s it for Black House. Join me next month for an out of this world experience, as we review and dissect Dreamcatcher!
Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!
Like all King books, Black House is a part of the Stephen King Universe, and is particularly connected to the world of the Dark Tower series. Here are some of the connections I found:
-The most obvious connection is to The Talisman, as Black House is a follow up novel to The Talisman. Several characters from The Talisman are referenced, including Lily Sawyer, Morgan Sloat, Wolf and Sunlight Gardner.
–Black House could also be considered another Dark Tower novel, as part of the book takes places in the same world inhabited by Roland Deschain and his friends. Roland Deschain is specifically mentioned, along with the fact that Roland is training Eddie, Susannah and Jake to be gunslingers. The Crimson King, who is also a character in the series, is referenced as well.
–Ted Brautigan is mentioned in Black House. Ted Brautigan is a character in the novella Low Men in Yellow Coats, which is part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis, and is also a character who appears in the final Dark Tower novel.
-Black House and the town of French Landing are mentioned by Randall Flagg in the final Dark Tower novel.
-The house named Rose Red is mentioned. Rose Red is the haunted house featured in the movie of the same name.
-Parkus owns a two-headed parrot. This is similar to a parrot owned by Randall Flagg in the book The Eyes of the Dragon.
-The phrase “Light out for the Territories” is used. This phrase is also used in several other King novels, including The Talisman, The Wastelands and Lisey’s Story.
–Black House features people with psionic abilities, or Breakers. People with these gifts are featured in several King stories, including Everything’s Eventual, The Wolves of the Calla, The Shining, Dr. Sleep, The Song of Susannah and Carrie.
-The being known as the Crimson King is referenced several times in Black House. The Crimson King is also the antagonist in the novel Insomnia.
By nature, most human beings possess dual natures.
It makes sense if you think about it, actually.
We have our public selves. That’s the self that we present to the world. That self is polite. That self observes “social mores.” That self knows not to cut in line, for example. Or it knows that we use eating utensils to eat, and not our fingers. Our Sunday best self, in other words.
And then there is the private self. That self has no problem eating with its fingers. Or maybe cursing at someone to get out of its way already. Some may call this the “id”, per Sigmund Freud. Or, if we want to be kinder, the casual Friday self.
Often, being creative requires one to get in touch with that darker side. Some of the best art is born from darkness, actually. Art can be a good outlet for that darkness, allowing the artist to express those dark desires. At the very least, people may admire the end result. Or perhaps the artist can even make a viable living by expressing that dark side.
Usually, that dark side is kept under wraps. Artist does his/her thing, perhaps gets praised for it in some way, lets off steam, and it’s done, right?
Well, most of the time…
However, (wait for it) if you are a character in a…you guessed it…Stephen King book, its not that simple. No, nothing in a Stephen King book is ever that simple, is it?
(In case you forgot which blog you were reading.)
One of my favorite novels by The Master is The Dark Half. On the surface, it is a horror novel. After all, someone’s pseudonym comes to life and does horrible things. And don’t get me started on sparrows…
But, as with most of King’s work, The Dark Half is much more that what it seems to be on the surface. This is a novel that has much to say about the creative process, and the effect that process can have on the writer and the writer’s loved ones.
Plus, it takes place in one of my favorite King towns, aka Castle Rock. And it has Alan Pangborn as a character…Pangborn has long been one of my favorite King book boos!
In other words, what’s not to love about The Dark Half? It has a fascinating villain, along with some creepy imagery. It’s perfect, in other words.
So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of The Dark Half.
And, as always:
The book begins in 1960, and we are introduced to a young boy named Thad Beaumont. Thad is an aspiring writer, and already receiving recognition for his writing. Thad has also begun to suffer from serious migraines, but his doctor is unable to find a cause. Along with the migraines, Tad hears the sound of birds.
One day, Thad collapses at the bus stop. He is rushed to the hospital, and his doctors believe that he may have a brain tumor. However, the doctors do not find a brain tumor when they operate on Thad. Instead, they find eyes, teeth and other body parts in Thad’s brain. The doctors believe that they have found an unformed twin that was digested by Thad in the womb. The doctors elect not to tell Thad’s parents the full truth in regards to their discovery, and Thad’s parents are led to believe that the doctors have found a brain tumor. The surgery is successful, and Thad is soon released and goes back to living a normal life.
We are again introduced to Thad, twenty five years later. Thad is married to a woman named Liz, and is the father of fraternal twins named Wendy and William. Thad is also a writer, but has only found success using the pseudonym of “George Stark.” Under George Stark, Thad has written crime novels that have achieved commercial success. The novels written under Thad’s own name have not been nearly as successful, commercially or critically.
Eventually, a man named Frederick Clawson discovers that Thad Beaumont and George Stark are the same man. Clawson attempts to blackmail Thad, but Thad discloses the fact that he is also George Stark in a People Magazine interview, and even holds a mock “funeral” for George Stark. Thad then decides that he will attempt to write a “serious” novel under his own name, and is even glad that George Stark is “dead”, as Stark appears to be a violent, insane man.
Shorty after the “death” of George Stark, strange things begin to happen. Homer Ganache, Tad Beamont’s caretaker, is beaten to death with his prosthetic arm. Frederick Clawson is also murdered. Thad’s fingerprints are somehow found at the scene of both crimes.
In the meantime, Thad writes a mysterious sentence in the novel he is working on. The sentence is “The sparrows are flying.” This sentence is also written in blood on the walls of Frederick Clawson’s apartment. Tad also begins to hear the sound of birds again.
The fingerprints are traced back to Thad, and Thad is questioned by Sheriff Alan Pangborn, who is certain that Thad is guilty of both murders. However, Pangborn becomes less convinced once he speaks to Thad, and everyone is mystified by the murders.
Thad visits his doctor and undergoes a CAT scan, as he has been hearing the bird sounds again. At his office at the university, he appears to go into a trance, where he writes some seemingly random words on a piece of paper. This incident frightens Thad, and he burns the piece of paper.
In New York City, a woman named Miriam is attacked by a blonde man who calls himself George Stark. The man forces Miriam to place a call to Thad, and Miriam tells Thad that she is being attacked. Miriam turns out to be the ex-wife of Thad’s agent, Rick.
Thad is frantic, and finally reaches Sheriff Pangborn. He has Pangborn check on Miriam in New York, and tells Pangborn that Miriam’s attacker is calling himself George Stark. Thad also gives Pangborn the names of everyone associated with the People magazine article on himself and George Stark. Thad gives Pangborn a description of Stark, and tells him that he will fill him on the rest of the details in person.
In the meantime, in New York, the man calling himself George Stark murders three more people associated with the People magazine article in gruesome fashion, along with two police officers. One of the murdered people is Rick, the ex-husband to Miriam. While the murders occur, Thad dreams of them in his home in Maine.
The next morning, Thad tells Sheriff Pangborn everything, including the headaches he experienced as a child, and of how George Stark came to be. Thad is convinced that George Stark has come to life, and is seeking revenge for his “death.” Pangborn is skeptical, but says that he will speak to Thad’s doctors, including the doctor who operated on Thad as a child, to see if he can get any more leads.
The authorities wire-tap Thad’s phone, in an attempt to track down Stark. Shortly after the phone is tapped, Stark calls back, and says that he has killed more people. Later, it is discovered that Thad’s voice print and Stark’s voice print are nearly identical.
Pangborn also places a call to the doctor who operated on Thad as a child, and leaves a message for the man to call him back.
Thad also speculates that he knows exactly what George Stark wants: for Thad to write another novel under Stark’s name. Thad contemplates doing just that, if it will put an end to Stark’s violent rampage.
One day, Thad makes a trip to the local grocery store and receives a phone call from George Stark while he is shopping. This call confirms Thad’s suspicions: Stark does indeed want Thad to write another novel under the Stark name. Stark threatens to hurt Thad’s family if Thad does not comply.
Over the next few days, Thad and his family are on edge, as they wait for Stark to make another appearance. One afternoon, Thad and Liz’s infant daughter, Wendy, takes a tumble from the stairs and receives a bruise. Later that evening, Wendy’s twin brother, William, also receives a bruise in the same place on his body, even though he was not physically injured. This gives Thad some insight into George Stark and his relationship with Stark, even though he is still not sure what to do about Stark.
Thad attempts to communicate with Stark in his study one afternoon. When he does so, he finds out that Stark needs him to write another book because Stark is dying and will only live if Thad writes another book. Thad also sees a large group of sparrows outside of his house, and is forced to stab himself in the hand with a pencil, courtesy of George Stark.
In the meantime, in New York City, George Stark experiences what Thad is experiencing, and also stabs himself in the hand with a pencil. We also learn that Stark’s body is deteriorating, presumably because Thad has not written any George Stark novels. Stark leaves New York City, and makes his way to Maine and Thad.
One day, Thad goes to his office at the university where he is employed during the school year, under the guise of doing some work. However, Thad is really attempting to get in touch with Stark again. Stark contacts him on the phone of one of Thad’s colleagues, and again demands that Thad begin work on a new novel. Thad also finds out that Stark is calling from Thad’s house, and also sees a large group of sparrows again.
Thad’s colleague Rawlie explains the significance of sparrows in folklore: sparrows are psychopomps, or harbringers between the living and the dead. The job of the sparrows is to guide lost souls back into the land of the living.
After speaking to Stark, Thad agrees to meet him at his and Liz’s summer home in Castle Rock. Stark tells Thad that his wife and children are unharmed, but he has killed the two police officers who were supposed to protect Liz and the twins.
On the way to his summer home, Thad calls his colleague, Rawlie, and requests his help. He meets Rawlie, and takes Rawlie’s car, so that he can drive it to his summer home. While he is talking to Rawlie, Thad sees another large group of sparrows.
Sheriff Pangborn is finally able to speak to the doctor who operated on young Thad. The doctor tells Pangborn that he did not actually remove a tumor from Thad’s brain. Rather, he removed body parts of an unformed twin which had been consumed by Thad while he was still in the womb. The doctor also tells Pangborn that a large group of sparrows was seen outside of the hospital during the operation.
Pangborn also receives a report of a stolen vehicle. The stolen vehicle is an Oldsmobile Toranado, which happens to be the vehicle that Thad described George Stark as driving. After receiving the report of the officers killed at Thad’s home, Pangborn deduces that Thad may be headed to his summer home, and follows him there.
Stark arrives at the summer home with Liz and the children. He ties Liz up after discovering a pair of sewing scissors that she had hidden on her skirt. Pangborn also arrives at the summer home, but Stark also captures him and ties him up.
Soon, Thad also arrives at the summer home, and sees that Stark is holding Pangborn and his family hostage. Thad also notices the large group of sparrows, which Stark does not appear to see.
Stark demands that he and Thad begin writing a new novel, and Thad complies. Stark holds Thad’s children as hostages, using them as a collateral of sorts. Liz and Pangborn are forced into another part of the house.
For a time, Stark and Thad work on the new novel. Previously, Stark had literally been deteriorating, but his wounds begin to heal. Suddenly, the sparrow descend upon the house.
The sparrows invade the house and head for Stark. Stark attacks Thad and tries to run from the sparrows but is unsuccessful. The large group of sparrows descend upon Stark, and literally carry him away from Thad and his family.
Some time later, Thad meets with Sheriff Pangborn at his summer house, which has nearly been destroyed by the incident with Stark and the sparrows. Pangborn is still having trouble believing what happened, but knows that he has witnessed something unbelievable. With Pangborn’s blessing, Thad sets fire to the house.
For a time, Thad watches the flames, and then leaves with his family. Pangborn wonders what will become of Thad’s marriage, as Liz has witnessed what Thad is capable of creating.
The Dark Half.
In other words, never a more appropriate title. Especially the second word in the title.
Stephen King has been known, obviously, for his dark subject matter (no pun intended.)
Novels like Pet Sematary, Thinner, The Long Walk, The Dead Zone, Roadwork and quite are few others are books are known to be especially bleak. The Dark Half is another one that it bleak. And I think that The Dark Half may be one of his bleakest, possibly almost as bleak as Pet Sematary.
One of the things I noticed about The Dark Half is the character development. King is known for creating likable characters. I mean, who doesn’t love a Stu Redman, Eddie Dean, Beverly Marsh or even ole long tall and ugly himself?
However, I cannot say the same thing about the characters in The Dark Half. In fact, I would have to say that my favorite character in The Dark Half is the minor character, aka Sheriff Alan Pangborn.
This isn’t to say that I actively disliked Thad Beaumont, who is the protagonist and so-called “good guy.” I just found little to like about him, and thought that he was more of a prop for the bad guy, George Stark.
I would characterize The Dark Half as a book that is more plot driven than character driven. There is nothing wrong with this, either. I actually find the premise of this book fascinating, and yet another underrated Stephen King book.
One of the things I find fascinating about The Dark Half is actually George Stark himself. And there are a few reasons why I find him so interesting.
For one, he is just evil. Pure evil.
With some of King’s bad guys (Jack Torrance comes to mind), sympathy can be summoned. Sure, the person is bad, but they are human underneath it all, and may actually have reasons for being bad, even if we don’t necessarily understand or agree with those reasons.
Not so with George Stark. There is nothing good about George Stark. Nothing good at all. The man (and I use that word loosely, more on that later) is just evil incarnate.
He’s ruthless. He’s vindictive. And creative. He may not be able to write a story by himself, but he sure comes up with inventive, horrible ways to kill people.
In fact, I did think a bit of this guy when I read about Stark:
It’s true that this guy may be a little more humane than Stark, but still, the comparison stands.
And there is just some about a guy who is evil simply for the sake of being evil…in other words, I love it!
Mickey’s a mouse, Donald’s a duck, Pluto’s a dog…
So what the hell is Goofy?
Or, in this case, what the hell is George Stark?
The Master does tease a bit about Stark, but trying to determine his true origin is almost as difficult as trying to determine Goofy’s true species.
We know that Thad had an un-formed twin that he absorbed as an infant. And that parts of that un-formed twin were found in Thad’s brain, of all places.
Somehow, this un-formed twin became an issue right when Thad hit puberty, and developed his writing talent. The doctors removed it. And there was nothing unusual then, other than a large flock of sparrows that invaded the hospital where Thad was staying.
Then, years later, Thad’s wife miscarries. She was pregnant with…twins. Not coincidentally, George Stark comes into being. And Thad starts becoming somewhat successful as writer, using the George Stark pseudonym.
Then, Stark “dies” again, although he refuses to stay dead, and makes life miserable for a lot of people, including the man who is either his creator, or maybe just his brother, aka Thad. And then the sparrows come back, although Stark cannot see them. However, Thad is aware of their presence.
My theory is that Thad has the ability to create twins. After all, he fathered twins twice. He himself was a twin.
So did he create Stark? I think that he did, actually. I think Thad was perhaps blessed (or maybe cursed) with that ability to create and harbor other personalities, much like Susannah Dean of the Dark Tower series. And Thad’s ability to create and harbor these other personalities seems to be directly linked to his creative ability. In fact, maybe Thad’s ability to create other personalities is an extreme manifestation of his writing talent, similar to how Edgar Freemantle (Duma Key) is able to alter reality with his paintings.
Another reason why I love The Dark Half is because this is a book that has a lot to say about the subject of creativity.
Additionally, many of King’s characters happen to be writers, or artists of some kind at, at the very least. Mike Noonan, Bill Denbrough, Ben Mears and Jake Epping are all King characters that dabble in writing of some form. Even poor Jack Torrance (The Shining) was an aspiring writer. Writing is something that King is familiar with (for obvious reasons), so it often gets incorporated into his stories.
However, King is not merely content to incorporate writers as characters into his stories. Since he is The Master, he needs to take an extra step or four.
In other words, King often writes about writing, not just the writer. In fact, the art of writing is a major plot point to several of his stories, including Bag of Bones, Misery and even The Dark Tower.
The effect of fiction on both the writer and the reader is another major theme in many of King’s works. Again, Misery, The Dark Tower, Finders Keepers and Bag of Bones, along with several other stories, also address this theme.
And it could be argued that The Dark Half addresses all of these themes in one fell swoop.
We have the main character, Thad Beaumont, who is a writer. Thad struggles to obtain the kind of success he wants, since the “literary” books that he writes do not sell well, and he is forced to rely on the “pulp” books about Alexis Machine to pay the bills. This is a struggle, and causes Thad to question where he fits in as a writer.
Obviously, The Dark Half deals with the effect of fiction on the reader. When he wrote as George Stark, Thad found a rabid fan base. When Thad writes as himself and not George Stark, his fans (although they could really be considered Stark’s fans) are disappointed, and refer to his work as “terrible.” Often, fans of a particular offer become entitled, and grow angry when the author does not “deliver.”
The effect of fiction on the writer is also addressed in The Dark Half. Thad claims to want to write a “serious” novel, but it seems his heart is never in it. He blames the distraction of George Stark on not being able to write his “serious” novel, However, Thad gets enjoyment when he starts writing the novel that Stark demands of him. Again, this causes Thad to question just where he fits in as a writer, and just what success means. Does success include writing something that he himself is satisfied with? Does it include pleasing his fans? Does include “critical” success?
As most Constant Readers know, Stephen King, for a time, wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. In King’s mind, writing under the Bachman name would allow him to step outside his “genre,” or write works that were not “just horror.” King had become typecast as a horror writer, and feared that he would be unable to explore any other type of writing, as people had come to expect him to write horror stories, and nothing else.
Of course, anyone who pays attention to King should know that he is a great writer, period. He does write scary stories, but there is so much more to King than “horror.” The Dark Tower series is an epic fantasy series, much like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. 11/22/63 is a story about time travel and King’s feelings in regards to the Vietnam War. The collections Hearts in Atlantis and Different Seasons both contain stories that cannot be classified as horror stories. In fact, it can be argued that King’s strength is writing about ordinary people faced with extraordinary situations. This is evident even in his books that are horror stories, in characters such as Danny Torrance, the members of The Losers Club, Jack Sawyer (The Talisman and Black House) and so forth. King’s writing is so effective because people can relate to it, and the situations become that much more believable,
But early on in King’s career, he likely felt compelled to write horror fiction, at least under his own name. People had come to expect that, after all, and wouldn’t read something outside the horror genre, something that dealt with “real life situations.” Even today, there are people who are still prejudiced in regards to King: they either still think he “only writes scary stories” or have no interest in the non-horror works written by King. I have known more than a few people who have complained about that Dr. Sleep is not a direct sequel to The Shining, despite the fact that The Shining was written when King was much younger and in the beginning stages of his problems with drugs and alcohol. Their reactions are similar to a fan’s reaction to Thad’s work not written under the George Stark name: they are unable to read it, because it is not the formula they had grown used to.
In order to write other types of fiction, King developed the pseudonym of Richard Bachman early on in his career. Under the Bachman pseudonym, he was finally free to write other types of fiction, i.e. not horror fiction. And with the exception of Thinner, most of the Bachman books do not contain supernatural themes. Roadwork, The Long Walk, Rage and The Running Man are all disturbing on some level, but they are disturbing because they deal with “real life horrors,” such as the exploitation of our youth, corporate greed and our need to be entertained via television. In other words, Bachman’s work may be a little more mainstream, even though the Bachman books could still be considered to be in the horror category, although not the supernatural or fantastical horror category.
For several years, Bachman, like George Stark did for Thad, provided King an outlet to explore other types of writing. However, all good things must come to end. Like Thad, King was forced to kill off his “twin” when it was discovered that Richard Bachman and Stephen King were in fact the same person. And, like Thad, King went about the “murder” in humorous fashion, even saying that Bachman passed away from “cancer of the pseudonym.”
(Side note: Bachman never died. He just works on the Sons of Anarchy level of the Tower, helping Jax and his friends dispose of dead bodies, demanding to listen to music when he works.)
But, like George Stark, Richard Bachman will not stay dead. Eventually, Bachman emerged in other King works, like the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, Misery and Cujo, which are all books that contain themes of real life horror, as opposed to supernatural horror. Dicky Bachman even managed to publish posthumous works, such as The Regulators and Blaze.
In other words, an artist’s “dark side” can never truly be killed. Richard Bachman is still alive and well, manifesting himself through the works of Stephen King. And George Stark may have been carried off to parts unknown by an unimaginably large group of sparrows, but do we really believe that was the end of him?
Darkness lives in all of us. And like it or not, it is a vital part of the creative process. And any attempts to bury that darkness will backfire on us. Eventually, the darkness will be unleashed. And the world is not usually able to accept or handle that darkness.
Well, that’s it for The Dark Half! Join me next month, when I review and dissect Black House.
Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!
Like of all of King’s work, The Dark Half is set squarely in the King universe and is connected to several other King books. Here are some of the connections I found:
-Part of The Dark Half is set in the town of Castle Rock. Castle Rock is the setting for several King books and short stories, including The Dead Zone, The Body (Different Seasons), Needful Things and Cujo.
-Thad Beaumont is mentioned by Mike Noonan in the book Bag of Bones. It is revealed that Thad commits suicide several years after the events in The Dark Half.
-Alan Pangborn is a major character in the book Needful Things. Pangborn also alludes to Thad’s suicide and the fact that his wife divorces him shortly after the events in The Dark Half.
-The town of Ludlow is mentioned. Ludlow is the setting for the novel Pet Sematary.
-The town of Harlow is also mentioned. Part of the novel Revival takes place in Harlow.