Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Guided Tour of the Kingdom: A Chronological Walk Through the Career of Stephen King, Part 7 (1982-1986)

Welcome, tourists!  I hope the heat on this bus is working well enough for you; I'll drive slow, so you can work on that coffee I know you've got warming your hands.
We'll get today's tour underway without any further preamble; this fucker is an epic, so we've got plenty to see.  As we begin, we are still in the the good old year of:

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
(story collection / novel)

  • published in hardback as a limited edition by Donald M. Grant in June 1982
  • mass-market edition published as a trade paperback on September 28, 1988

In structuring the posts that comprise this tour, I've tried to split them along fault-lines of sorts; by this, I mean that I've tried to find places where King's career shifted in some greater or lesser way, and use those moments of change as jumping-off points for a new "era."  I think I accomplished this relatively well; no achievement on my part, to be honest -- mostly, the fault lines suggested themselves.
One of these was the summer of 1982, when the first collected edition of The Gunslinger was released.  The individual stories contained herein went back as far as 1978, of course; but in terms of books themselves, this Donald M. Grant edition of The Gunslinger was where The Dark Tower was born.
Most King fans had no clue it had happened.  This would not change until the release of Pet Sematary the following year.  (Click that link and Bev Vincent will tell you about it.)

And I suspect that most modern King fans have no clue that King fans circa 1982 had no clue it happened.  They may not even suspect such a thing would be possible: for them -- us? -- it's unthinkable that a King novel could be published (even as a limited edition) and the fandom at large be unaware of it.  In our world, information spreads so quickly that it would take a determinedly disengaged Constant Reader to even manage to purposefully avoid such news.
Note that I say "in our world."  I mean the world of the Internet and, specifically, social media.  The world of 1982 knew nothing of such things.
That world has moved on.
In some ways, that's a good thing.  But I, nostalgic creature that I am, find myself pondering what it might have been like to pick up a brand-new hardback copy of Pet Sematary in 1983 and flip through the pages.  Within them is a page listing the published books of its author, Stephen King.  Do I, sitting there in my armchair, with Miami Vice on in the background and "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" playing on the radio of somebody washing their car next door, notice that page at all?  
If I don't, then this scenario (vaguely reminiscent of a Choose Your Own Adventure book) comes to an end. 
If I do notice, then what's my reaction?  I've got a shelf of one of my bookcases devoted to King; I've read all of his books, two or three times, maybe four in the case of whichever is my favorite.  I have one of two reactions: "Radical!  There's a Stephen King book I didn't know about!"; or "Gag me with a spoon!  I can't believe there's a Stephen King book I don't have!"  (Either way, fella, you don't know a damn thing about the four Richard Bachman novels, so just you wait until THAT shoe drops!)
Which is yours?  I suspect mine would be the latter, and I suspect I would be one of those fans who immediately began to panic a bit on account of not being able to get a copy. The thought of something like that happening today fills me with a sort of itchy tension.  Holy crow, you guys, what happens when King inevitably decides to publish a limited-edition exclusive that sells out before I can get a copy?!?  A new novel, I mean; it's bound to happen eventually.  What if a mass-market edition doesn't show up for SIX FRIGGING YEARS?!?  Oh, man, this is an awful thought; I don't like any of this.
Except in a way, I kind of do like it.
Look, don't misunderstand me.  It's great to be able to get my hands on more or less anything (price and availability permitting) in the world of 2017.  But I do kind of have a romantic yearning for the experience of just suddenly discovering that an entire King novel I did not already know about exists, and is currently out of my reach.  This sounds insane, I bet.  Again, don't misunderstand me: I don't want that to happen; I do kind of wish that it had happened to me previously, though, and that I could look back upon the memory of it.  That kind of surprise is mostly not possible in 2017; it was very possible in 1982, and, like many aspects of 1982, I rather miss it.  I don't want to have it back ... but I do miss it.
That sort of quasi-paradoxical yearning might make sense to you, or it might not.  If it does, then I bet you are a step or two closer than many to understanding why The Gunslinger -- which ends with Roland sitting on a beach, contemplating how me might one day be able to do a thing he wishes very much to do -- is my favorite King novel.

"Before the Play"
(excised prologue from The Shining)

  • published in Whispers No. 17/18 in August 1982
  • reprinted (in edited and condensed format) in the April 26, 1997 issue of TV Guide 
  • reprinted in the 2017 limited edition of The Shining published by Cemetery Dance
  • uncollected

As we discussed earlier in relation to The Shining, "Before the Play" was a lengthy prologue that Doubleday requested be cut so as to keep the price of the novel down.  Given that the novel became a hardback bestseller, I'm not sure I fault Doubleday's logic.
In any case, "Before the Play" was eventually resurrected for the August 1982 double issue (#17 AND #18!!) of Whispers.  It consists of five "scenes" (or chapters):
  • "Scene I: The Third Floor of a Resort Hotel Fallen Upon Hard Times" -- in which the Overlook Hotel is constructed.  Bad things begin to happen almost immediately.
  • "Scene II: A Bedroom in the Wee Hours of the Morning" -- in which a newlywed bride doesn't exactly enjoy her honeymoon at the Overlook.
  • "Scene III: On the Night of the Grand Masquerade" -- in which Horace Derwent spurns the relationship (if you can call it that) he's been indulging.  This leads to nothing good for the fellow who has been denied his affections.
  • "Scene IV: And Now This Word from New Hampshire" -- in which young Jack Torrance's relationship with his own father is revealed to be not precisely rosy.
  • "Scene V: The Overlook Hotel, Third Floor, 1958" -- in which a mobster is taken out in a rather bloody hit by a rival.

This is all solid stuff; I don't know that I feel it is quiiiiiite up to the level of the novel itself (another reason why I can't fault Doubleday for asking that King cut it), but it's nevertheless quite good.  I would add a few notes: that the first Scene is mildly reminiscent of some of the backstory of Rose Red (and The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer); that the third Scene gives a bit of helpful context not merely for the novel but also for Kubrick's film adaptation; and that the fifth Scene ends with a great, ominous sentence ("The Overlook was at home with the dead.") that would have made for a terrific lead-in to the novel proper.
Whispers No. 17/18 also contains a very good essay by King titled "On The Shining and Other Perpetrations," which begins like this:
Most writers will agree – with an almost unseemly haste – that the bane of their existence is that question, “Where do you get your ideas?”  But the fact is, they are a lot more ambivalent about The Question than most will allow.  When they roll their eyes to indicate that The Question should be put in a category with leprosy, prostate cancer, and the Twelve Plagues of Egypt, they are usually thinking of the inevitable blue-haired lady who totters to her feet during the question-and-answer portion of a lecture, primed to ask that particular Question.  You know she’s going to ask it; there is a certain maniacal gleam in her eyes that proclaims it.  She is by-God going to ask it, and nothing is going to stop her; furthermore, you are persuaded to believe, by the pouncing way in which The Question is asked, that she believes she is the first one to ever ask you that Question.
King goes on to say that while The Question is dreaded (because it is essentially unanswerable), "if you give a writer a specific, he's apt to talk to you all night."  With this in mind, he's happy to dive into considerable detail on the subject of how he got the idea for The Shining.  It involves Ray Bradbury, Prell shampoo, a dream dreamt while staying at the Stanley Hotel, and a very young Joseph Hillstrom King vomiting all over his father.

King also provides some background info on the writing of "Before the Play," which he wrote after the rest of the novel was complete, so as to balance out an epilogue ("After the Play") he added.  "I liked the prologue so well that I could feel it wanting to become a book in itself," King writes "enough energy was left from the novel that I had just written to make me feel as if I had just landed a powerful jet which still had enough fuel left to take off again and do a few loops, power-turns, and barrel-rolls."
He also speaks for a bit about "It Grows on You," a newly-revised version of which appeared in this issue of Whispers.  King mentions that the story was heavily influenced by Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, by Thornton Wilder's Our Town, and by the stories of Davis Grubb.  He refers to this version of the story as "its real debut" by virtue of it having been written, re-written, and (now) re-written yet again.  It would be re-written yet again for its eventual appearance in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, where it is reimagined as a quasi-sequel to Needful Things.
(comic book by Stephen King and Berni Wrightson)

published in paperback by Plume on August 20, 1982

The comic-book adaptation of Creepshow beat the movie into the marketplace by nearly three months, which seems odd, doesn't it?  Odd or not, that's what happened, and it was this comic book that I believe was my first tangible contact with the work of Stephen King.  I read a bit of it in a grocery store, and was so horrified by it that I literally ran away from it.
The comic was scripted by King himself and drawn by Berni Wrightson, who at the time was best known for his work on (and as co-creator of) Swamp Thing with writer Len Wein.
Different Seasons

published in hardback by Viking on August 27, 1982
By this point in his career -- which, in terms of novels, was less than a decade old -- King was assuredly a household name.  Or, at any rate, about as close to being one as a novelist can get.  He was America's boogeyman, a sort of Hitchock or Serling figure, a mirror image of George Lucas or Steven Spielberg.  (Speaking of Spielberg, King had had talks with the director about scripting his 1982 film Poltergeist; that did not come to pass, but it's another job for the Ur-Kindle to visit the level of the Tower where it did happen and report back on what that was like.)
It's worth remembering that King had not always intended to steer his career in that direction.  Early novels had possessed either a more self-consciously literary style or a quasi-science-fictional bent (or both).  He'd flirted with being a writer of crime fiction, too (Rage and Blaze can both be lumped into that category).  It must have come as a bit of a shock to him, then, when he became famous as -- and only as -- a writer of horror fiction.  
Perhaps anxious to clue readers in to the idea that he could, in fact, write things that didn't involve ghosts or vampires or the supernatural, he gathered together four novella-length (or short-novel-length) tales that mostly steered clear of that set of tropes, and put them all into one book.  Different Seasons, he called it; the implication is right there in the title.  You think all I can write about is ghosts?  Here's a story about a long-in-the-making prison break.  Here's a psychological drama about a former Nazi mentoring a young boy in the ways of killing; no vampires in sight, and you may wish there were when you read some of the shit in this sucker.  Here's a slice-of-life story about four boys going on a walking trip to see a corpse in the woods; it won't scare you, but it might make you melancholy as hell.  And in the final tale, there's a supernatural act, assuming you believe that the guy who is talking about it is telling the truth; it's a story, and hey, you never know.
All four of these novellas -- "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption," "Apt Pupil," "The Body," and "The Breathing Method" are explorations of storytelling in one way or another, and as such, they create a cumulative meaning that is even stronger than the sum of their individual components.  
Given how good those individual components are, that's saying something: this is one of King's very best books.

Stalking the Nightmare
(collection by Harlan Ellison)

  • a Phantasia Press hardback, published September 1982
  • King provided an introduction

I had a Harlan Ellison phase circa 1997.  It lasted a year or so, and would have lasted longer if not for the fact that time is a finite resource.  This is a common refrain in my life; yours, too.  You probably knew that already, but just in case, have no illusions: the sand in the top part of your hourglass is steadily passing into the bottom part, and there is no picking it up and turning it back over.  Sorry to be the bearer of that bad news, but it's the truth.

Anyways, I read a few of Ellison's stories in a science-fiction literature class I took, and later read a couple of his story collections, and a nonfiction collection (maybe two).  I knew him by reputation from his Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever," which we will talk about at length at Where No Blog Has Gone Before one of these days.

After that, I started doing some research on the subject in preparation for beginning a collection of his work.  But that collection never came to pass, because some other shiny would-be interest passed by and caught my attention.  I had similar phases with Heinlein and Bradbury thanks to that class, and another with Dick, and another still with Bester; they, too, failed to stick.  None of them have ever left the scope of my interests, though; with all of them, the gun is loaded, and needs only to be picked up, cocked, aimed, and fired.

Ellison is a contentious figure, to say the least, and if you want to know more about that, the Internet will oblige you.  I find him (based on my admittedly slender and out of date knowledge) to be prickly, perceptive, biased, charming, off-putting, frequently right, frequently wrong, and very good at putting together words, sentences, paragraphs, etc.

It's that last bit that matters most to me.  Ellison, especially in his nonfiction, has a kinetic and in-your-face style that might wear some readers out.  Other readers might find themselves unwittingly writing in his style after reading him.  King, in his foreword (which runs about ten pages), is obviously under the influence.  The Library Police would give him a ticket for WUIHE.

This is fine by me.  King is having a rip-roaring good time, and he imparts it to the readers.

Here is an extended look at the beginning of his foreword:

It drives my wife crazy, and I’m sorry it does, but I can’t really help it.

     All the little sayings and homilies.

     Such as: There’s a heartbeat in every potato; you need that like a hen needs a flag; I’d trust him about as far as I could sling a piano; use it up, wear it out, do it in, or do without; you’ll never be hung for your beauty; fools’ names, and their faces, are often seen in public places.

     I could go on and on.  I got a million of ‘em.  I got them all from my mother, who got them all from her mother.  Little kernels of wisdom.  Cosmic fortune-cookies, if you like.

     They drive my wife absolutely BUGFUCK.

     “But honey,” I’ll say in my best placatory voice (I’m a very placatory fellow, when I’m not writing about vampires and psychotic killers), “there’s a lot of truth in those sayings.  There really is a heartbeat in every potato.  The proof of the pudding really is in the eating.  And handsome really is as—”  But I can see that it would be foolish to continue.  My wife, who can be extremely rude when it serves her purpose, is pretending to throw up.  My four-year-old son walks in from the shower, naked, dripping water all over the floor and the bed (my side of the bed, of course), and also begins to make throwing-up noises.

     She is obviously teaching him to hate me and revile me.  It’s probably all Oedipal and sexual and neo-Jungian and dirty as hell.

     But I have the last laugh.

     Two days later, while this self-same kid is debating which card to throw away in a hot game of Crazy Eights, my nine-year-old son tells him, “Let me look at your hand Owen.  I’ll tell you which card to throw away.”

     Owen looks at him coldly.  Calculatingly.  Pulls his cards slowly against his chest.  And with a humorless grin he says: “Joey, I’d trust you just about as far as I’d spring a piano.”

     My wife begins to scream and roll around on the floor, foaming, pulling her hair out in great clots, drumming her heels, crying out: “I WANT A DIVORCE!  THIS MAN HAS CORRUPTED MY CHILDREN AND I WANT A FUCKING DIVORCE!”

     My heart glows with the warmth of fulfillment (or maybe it’s just acid indigestion).  My mother’s homilies have slipped into the minds of yet another generation, just as chemical waste has a way of seeping into the water-table.  I think: Ah-hah-hah-hah!  Another triumph for us bog-cutters!  Long live the Irish!

One suspects that every word of that is true, and the heart goes out to poor, suffering Tabitha King, who is likely the only sane one in the group, Naomi being another possible candidate.

This anecdote also serves as a sort of ... well, I was going to say "Rosetta stone," but that might be overstating it by a lot ... a sort of key to understanding one aspect of King's writing that has been know to throw critics (and even fans) off at times: the homily-esque sayings and catchphrases that crop up in King's work.  These, apparently, have their origin in the fact that King's mother used language on/with him in that way.

(story fragment)

  • published in The Do-It-Yourself Bestseller, a Doubleday trade paperback
  • uncollected

The Do-It-Yourself Bestseller was a workbook in which a number of notable bestselling authors supplied the beginnings and endings of stories, which readers -- workers? -- of the workbook would then complete by providing a middle.  King contributed "Skybar," which is cool enough that one really hopes King secretly wrote his own middle and will eventually spring the completed tale upon us all as a mass birthday present or some such.

King's writing runs for a mere five paragraphs, but it's got the irresistible setting of an amusement park -- Skybar Amusement Park, to be specific -- and a great setup.  Twelve preteens go into the park; only two of them come out . . . and one of them is insane.  The ending involves the narrator visiting his insane friend and reflecting upon what happened to them in their youth.

I've been unable to find a definitive publication date, but this archival article from the Washington Post says the book is due during the summer, so that's where I'm listing it.

"Peter Straub: An Informal Appreciation"

  • published in the souvenir program for the 1982 World Fantasy Convention, October 29
  • uncollected

It's certainly not true to say that the careers of King and Straub are inextricably linked; it wouldn't be entirely fair to say they are extricably linked, or even particularly similar.  But the two of them do float in and out of one anothers' lives on occasion, especially in the early to mid 1980s.

Our latest example comes from King's essay, written in appreciation of his friend and colleague Straub, who was one of the guests of honor for the year.  It begins thus:

Peter Straub always looks out of place at fantasy conventions.
     Most convention-goers wander around in a wild variety of t-shirts (my most memorable con t-shirts include BEAT ME, DADDY, EIGHT TO THE BAR, RUGBY PLAYERS EAT THEIR DEAD, and WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE BEAM RONALD REAGAN UP?), strange headgear, weird footwear, eccentric jewelry, and actual costumes -- it is not unusual to see a giant tribble drifting softly down a post-midnight hallway at one of these shindigs, or a gentleman in a silver leisure suit who apparently has antennae growing not only from his temples but from his nipples and navel as well.  Above all else, of course, one sees jeans -- jeans by Levi, jeans by Jordache, jeans by Army-Navy Surplus.  Jeans are everywhere.
     A fantasy convention always looks like a gypsy caravan that just tumbled out of a Ray Bradbury story: here is a lady with a python wrapped around her shoulders, there is a gentleman balancing a holograph ballerina on the palm of his hand, and over in the corner a fellow is holding forth on The Society for Creative Anachronism.  And through the midst of all this confusion and hurly-burly strolls the subject of this homily.  "One Peter Straub," I can almost hear Rod Serling intoning, "caught somewhere between Brooks Brothers . . . and The Twilight Zone."  But it's nothing as ordinary as Brooks Brothers; he is more apt to be clad in a three-piece pinstriped suit from Paul Stewart.  His tie is apt to be subdued without being so hopelessly mellow you don't even see it (Peter believes ties are worn to be seen, and one has only to read Ghost Story to know how much he likes them -- one of the characters in that novel, Ricky Hawthorne, muses to himself that he would really not mind wearing a nice new tie to bed).  He does not wear aviator goggles, funky orange-shaded wraparounds, or soft lenses, for that matter.  He wears dark plastic-framed spectacles which sit firmly on his nose and declare to the world: No bullshit! 

The photo which accompanies this delightful essay both supports and contradicts King's assessment of Straub's sartorial inclinations:

Not a tie in sight, and I do believe those are jeans ... but you sense without being told that Straub here is in extreme-casual mode, possibly even totally wasted.

By the way, I would pay good money for King to somehow begin going to modern-day conventions surreptitiously and write a big tell-all book about what he experienced there.  It seems unlikely to happen, but I would read that book twice if he wrote it.

Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction of Stephen King
(critical anthology, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller)

an Underwood Press hardback, published November 1982

We won't cover every book written about King and his works, but we'll touch on a few of them.  The first substantial one to appear (that I know of) was Fear Itself, which (via the contributions by Straub and King) has an air of legitimacy other such projects might lack.

Here's a table of contents:

  • "Meeting Stevie" by Peter Straub
  • "On Becoming a Band Name" by Stephen King
  • "Cinderella's Revenge -- Twists on Fairy Tale and Mythic Themes in the Work of Stephen King" by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
  • "Horror Springs in the Fiction of Stephen King" by Don Herron
  • "Horror Hits a High" by Fritz Leiber
  • "The Movies and Mr. King" by Bill Warren
  • "Stephen King: Horror and Humanity for Our Time" by Deborah L. Notkin
  • "The Grey Arena" by Charles L. Grant
  • "King and the Literary Tradition of Horror and the Supernatural" by Ben Indick
  • "The Marsten House in 'Salem's Lot" by Alan Ryan
  • "The Night Journeys of Stephen King" by Douglas E. Winter
  • "Stephen King: A Bibliography" by Marty Ketchum, Daniel J H Levack and Jeff Levin
  • "Afterword" by George Romero

A June 1984 trade paperback from Plume added an updated bibliography, as well as a new essay by Burton Hatlen (one of King's English professors at UMO), "Beyond the Kittery Bridge: Stephen King's Maine."

Books like this aren't to everyone's tastes, of course.  Many people -- most people, perhaps -- who get excited about reading King are not interested in reading at length about him.  Nothing wrong with that, I guess; skipping books like Fear Itself would leave more time for reading other authors (Harlan Ellison, for example, ahem).

Other types of fans see a book like this and immediately grab for it.  I'm one of those, and I think there's a good chance you are one of those, too.

For us, Fear Itself is an above average example.  Some of it is so-so, but much of it (especially the contributions by Straub, Hatlen, and Winter) is superb
(feature film)

  • a Warner Bros. film, released November 10, 1982
  • directed by George A. Romero from a screenplay by Stephen King
King's first produced screenplay was Creepshow, a preposterously entertaining anthology film directed by George "Night of the Living Dead" Romero.  Two segments were based on extant King short stories ("Weeds" and "The Crate"); the others were original tales.
The segments are as follows:
  • a wraparound segment that stars Tom Atkins as an abusive and comic-book-hating father to a young boy (played by King's own song, Joe) who knows precisely how to get even with the old man
  • "Father's Day," starring Carrie Nye and Viveca Lindfors (as well as a young Ed Harris) -- in which an aging daughter visits her father's grave one Father's Day and ends up, uh, experiencing a rather special cake
  • "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill," starring Stephen King (and based on "Weeds") -- in which a hick fails to have the sense not to touch the goo leaking from a busted meteorite, and suffers the consequences
  • "Something to Tide You Over," starring Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson -- in which a man enacts a cruel and unusual punishment upon his wife and her lover, and then takes a shower, watches some television, and definitely doesn't have anything horrific happen to him
  • "The Crate," starring Fritz Weaver, Adrienne Barbeau, and Hal Holbrook -- in which a professor finds a Tasmanian devil in a rather old crate, and gets his best friend (and that friend's charming wife) involved in what happens next
  • "They're Creeping Up On You," starring E.G. Marshall -- in which anyone who is afraid of roaches is in deep, deep trouble

The movie was made as an homage to E.C. comics such as Tale from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear, which were extremely controversial during the fifties and had a huge impact on kids of the era who were into such things.  Romero and King play -- in the stories and with the visuals -- with the bad-people-getting-horrific-comeuppances tropes of those comics, and while I can imagine the movie failing to work for modern audiences, I think a lot of that would be due to their lacking the proper context for understanding why what they are seeing was made in the manner in which it was made.
In other words: this movie isn't for everyone, but it's definitely for me.  I watch it every year or two around Halloween, and plan to never stop doing so.
"The Raft"
(short story)

  • published as a chapbook insert in the November 1982 issue of Gallery
  • collected in Skeleton Crew, 1985

Appearing in the same month the film Creepshow was released was "The Raft," a story which would later be adapted as part of its sequel.
A quartet of college students go on a daytrip to a lake to drink and screw around and swim out to a stationary raft.  While in the midst of these activities, they encounter what appears to be an oil slick moving across the surface of the lake.
Spoiler alert: that ain't no oil slick.

King had written this story years before, under the title "The Float," and it had supposedly been published in a skin mag called Adam.  King never received a copy, though, and can't verify that an actual publication happened; all he knows for sure is that he got paid for it, and then lost his only copy of the story.  Years later, he rewrote it from memory -- so, presumably, with prose that is 100% different -- and published it as "The Raft."  And boy, am I glad he did!

"The Evil Dead: Why you haven't seen it yet . . . and why you ought to"

  • published in the November 1982 issue of The Twilight Zone Magazine
  • uncollected

Throughout his lengthy career, King has contributed a large number of one-off pieces to various magazines.  We will not be covering all of them here.  We will be covering very few of them here, in fact.  (A) I don't have them all, (B) I probably don't even know about them all, (C) fuck that, and (D) the ones I have are mostly a bit too ephemeral to bear mention in a context like this tour.

There are exceptions, though, and this late-'82 writeup about the unreleased-at-that-time horror film classic The Evil Dead is one such case.  I'm not going to bother transcribing any excerpts; the jist of the thing is that King saw the movie in Cannes that summer, thought it was great, and then was dismayed to find out that every American distributor passed on picking the film up.  He gets in a dig at the last of these chickens, Paramount, who thought the movie went too far despite the fact that they distributed the "brainless" Friday the 13th.  Does he also find a way to get in a dig at The Shining?  Of course he does.

The film's Wikipedia page fails to mention this specific article, but indicates that King's enthusiasm led to additional coverage in outlets as diverse as USA Today and Fangoria, and that as a result of the furor over Sam Raimi's low-budget shocker, New Line soon thereafter struck a distribution deal.

So should Stephen King get credit for turning The Evil Dead into a cult smash?  Not as much credit as the people who made it should receive; but his name probably does deserve to be a prominent footnote to the story, yeah.


The Plant

  • published by Philtrum Press circa November/December 1982
  • revised (?) version published as an e-book in 2000

King concocted a wacky idea at some point and then followed through on it (for a while) beginning in 1982: he'd write a novel, and then hire a printer to make copies of each installment.  These would appear one per year, and would be given to friends and associates as Christmas gifts.
Only three installments were ever issued (1982, 1983, and 1985; 1984's giftees received a limited edition of The Eyes of the Dragon!), and good luck getting your hands on one of these puppies; fewer than three hundred copies of each were printed.  (Assuming my research is correct.)
We'll discuss The Plant in more depth during Part 11 of our tour.

Tales by Moonlight

  • a Robert T. Garcia hardback, edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, published 1983
  • King provided an introduction

King's introduction to this anthology is one of the grumpiest pieces I've read from him.  He sounds rather despondent about the state of things, and if one were reading it with no notion of when it had been written, I think one would likely assume that it was a grumpy-old-man rant, at least for the first few paragraphs.
This leads eventually to a bit of honesty that is unusual in introductions of this nature.  King informs us that
all of the contributors to Moonlight are relative unknowns outside their own fan-writer circles (Steve Rasnic Tem is one exception).  Sitting down with the manuscript was like sitting down to inventory the contents of a large suitcase purchased at a sealed-trunk auction.
     How are the stories?  Well, I thought several of them were most exquisitely awful -- I'll not embarrass either you, me, or the writers of these tales by singling them out.  If you have read widely in the field of fantasy and horror, you will spot the clunkers almost immediately.  If you have not, you may like them just fine (but your liking for these poorly conceived and poorly constructed things will not speak well for your sophistication -- there is the story of the anthropologist who gave a New Guinea native a battery-powered cassette recorder; the native listened to the music of the Boston Philharmonic briefly and with no interest and then used the recorder to mash yams).
     But the bad stories lend their own undeniable authenticity to to the volume -- like the abysmal performance of the rock-blues group Canned Heat at Woodstock, they form a rough-textured background which may be unlovely but which is nonetheless absolutely real and completely felt.  And the bad stories are more than outweighed by the good ones . . . and the best of them are better than anything I or any of my so-called "heavyweight contemporaries" have done in a long time.  Oh, maybe not in terms of style, and certainly not in terms of polish, but the energy displayed in this book approaches megaton levels.
King goes on to single out something like nine of the book's twenty stories for praise, which means that eleven of its contributors were left wondering whether the country's best-selling author in their chosen field thought their story was "exquisitely awful."  They may not have even wondered; they may have simply assumed, based on their stories not having been positively mentioned.  
Can you imagine?  It's one thing for reviewers or readers to have negative things to say; it's another thing altogether for the person introducing the book to give you a thumbs down.  Salmonson, as editor, should have rejected King's introduction; or, at the very least, suggested some changes.

King seems like a very nice dude, but he (like all of us) makes mistakes every so often, and in my opinion this one is among his worst in print.  I'll grant you that I've read none of these stories, but I'll make an assumption based on a story I have read, one not included here: "The Glass Floor," the first published story by King himself.  I'll make the assumption that none of the stories in Tales by Moonlight are as bad as "The Glass Floor."  It's a lousy tale.

Even so, young Steve King would not have deserved to be treated as some of the authors in Tales by Moonlight were treated.
Shame on you, sir!
"The Word Processor"
(short story)

  • published in the January 1983 issue of Playboy
  • collected (under the title "Word Processor of the Gods") in Skeleton Crew, 1985
In this excellent tale, a series of wishes are granted by way of a word processor that can rewrite reality.  King puts the emphasis here less on horror and misery than on mildly Spielbergian wonder.  This was likely a surprise to a lot of readers in 1983; it might even be a surprise to some readers today.

Floating Dragon
(novel by Peter Straub)

a Putnam hardback, released March 1983

This big, exhilarating, complex piece of work was Straub's swing-for-the-fences work in a manner similar to how King's It (which was already in progress in 1983) would later be.  The two books share some themes and ideas, and it's not even slightly out of the realm of possibility that the two authors -- who were friends and would soon be collaborators -- would have had conversations that led to their respective books being influenced by each other.  Floating Dragon also shares some mild similarities with The Mist; but, interestingly, they are closer in content to the piss-poor television adapfaketion of The Mist than they are to the novella itself.

If you're interested in reading a Straub novel, I don't know that I'd recommend starting with this one; but it's a very fine one to work your way up to.

"An Evening at the Billerica Library"
(public appearance)

  • a lecture and Q&A session held at the public library in Billerica, Massachusetts on April 22, 1983
  • a transcript of the event was published in Bare Bones: Conversations on Terror with Stephen King, 1988
  • a condensed version (missing the Q&A) was collected in Secret Windows, 2000

Lord only know how many public-speaking engagements King has appeared at over the years; it's got to number in the hundreds.  Some of the recent ones can be found on YouTube, but a few have also been transcribed and are out there in that format.

This is one of those, obviously.  It's well worth reading, and if you've got the interest, I highly recommend the Bare Bones version, which is considerably longer than the Secret Windows abridgement.


a Viking hardback, published April 29, 1983

I don't have a great deal to say about Christine.  This should not be taken as an implied statement that there is nothing to be said about Christine, or as one implying that I could not find plenty to say about Christine given a couple of weeks and a notepad.  There is, and I could.

I just don't feel the need to say anything about it at this time.  I mean, shit, you already know about this novel, right?  You don't need a lowly tour guide to tell you the basics about this one, so let's move on to an area where said guide might be of a bit more assistance.

The Playboy Interview
(interview by Eric Norden)

  • published in the June 1983 issue of Playboy
  • reprinted in Bare Bones: Conversations of Terror with Stephen King, 1988
  • reprinted in The Stephen King Companion, 1989

This is handily one of the most essential interviews King has yet to give during his career, and if you told me I had to pick one to nominate as THE best, this is the one I'd pick.  It runs roughly 16,000 words in length, so in terms of sheer size we're talking about something that's substantial enough to outclass many of his short stories.

To give you a taste of the tone of the piece, here is the setup/intro by interviewer Eric Norden:

It was a foggy, drizzling morning in late November when I showed up at King's sprawling 24-room Victorian mansion, replete with brooding twin turrets and black-wrought-iron fence.  The grillwork on the imposing front gate was fashioned into an intricate spider web surmounted by two perching metal bats as big and about as inviting as vultures.  It was a fittingly sinister lair for the writer one hostile critic had called the "Wizard of Ooze."  But the gate didn't creak, and when King shambled out into the rain to greet me, his appearance was disarming.

He is a strapping 6'4" and weighs in at 200 pounds, a genial bear of a man with an infectious grin and disconcertingly gentle blue eyes behind thick horn-rimmed glasses.  His jet-black hair commas over one eyebrow and curls at the nape of his neck, and his beard is thick but neatly trimmed.  (A dedicated baseball fan, he grows it every year at the end of the world series and shaves when the spring season begins.)  He was dressed casually in a faded-blue Levis work shirt, jeans, black-leather motorcycle jacket and scuffed-suede pukka boots—his everyday uniform in Bangor, which he describes affectionately as "a hard town, a hard-drinking workingman's town."

The interior of the house quickly dispels the Charles Addams façade; it is a series of large, airy rooms tastefully decorated in traditional New England style and presided over by a full-time housekeeper.  Two secretaries staff King's office, where he hammers out 1500 words between 8:30 and 11:30 every morning of the year except Christmas, the Fourth of July and his birthday.  The preserved head of a rattlesnake encased in a glass globe has a place of honor on his desk, and he's fond of telling interviewers that he writes as he does because he has the heart of a small boy: "In fact, I keep it at home in a jar on my desk, as Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho, was fond of saying."

King works on a Wang word processor, which is currently linked by telephone hookup to an IBM model belonging to writer Peter (Ghost Story) Straub, with whom he is collaborating on a forthcoming horror novel titled The Talisman, scheduled for publication in 1984.  (Other work in progress includes a novel about burial customs, Pet Sematary—no typos in the title, it's derived from a child's spelling—Night Moves, an anthology, and IT, a horror magnum opus about a monster in the sewers that may top 2000 pages on completion.)  King is compulsive about his output and suffers from headaches and insomnia if he falls behind schedule.  But he's not finicky about working conditions—his children wander freely in and out of his study when he's composing, and he often writes to the blare of hard rock.

King is a loving and protective parent and enjoys a close relationship with his three kids, 12-year-old Naomi, ten-year-old Joe and five-year-old Owen.  They often watch horror films together on King's 4'x 3' Panasonic Cinemavision video-beam console, which dominates a corner of the toy-strewn den.  (One memorable lunchtime midway through our interview, King sent out for Big Macs while he screened Blood Feast, a particularly gory Sixties cut-and-slasher, and kept telling me, "Go ahead and have another burger" while a starlet was being disemboweled and her blood-dripping liver was being devoured in living color.)

King's relationship with Tabitha is equally close.  They met when both were students at the University of Maine and were married in 1971.  An attractive brunette in her early 30s, Tabitha is a talented author in her own right, and her blackly humorous fantasy novel, Small World, was published in 1981.  Warm and supportive, Tabby is also a no-nonsense woman, a fact King welcomes and credits for helping him avoid the pitfalls of celebrity.  His children are no more overwhelmed by their father's fame than their mother is: "When I'm about to go out on a publicity tour for one of the books," King observes ruefully, "Owen just says, 'Oh, Daddy's going out to be Stephen King again.' "

King seems sincerely unimpressed about being a multimillionaire; all his money is handled by a New York accountant, who doles out $200 to him for walking-around money every week.  "The rest is all on paper," he explains, "and I don't even know how much I'm worth."  His lifestyle is simple and unpretentious—he loves his weekly bowling night out with the boys and an occasional bout of cross-country skiing—with the exception of a few extravagances, such as the family's two Mercedes.  One notable luxury is a modern 11-room summer house on a hilltop overlooking lonely Lake Kezar in the foothills of the White Mountains.  That was the scene where much of our interview was conducted to avoid the ubiquitous long-distance telephone calls from publishers, agents, editors and Hollywood producers that plague King in Bangor.

"As banks of autumnal mist rolled in across the lake on the first day of the two weeks I would spend interviewing King, I began by asking him how it felt to see a fantasy fulfilled.

And it only gets better from there.

I've got both of the books I mentioned the interview having been reprinted in, but I need to get a copy of the original Playboy appearance one of these days.

(feature film)

  • a Warner Bros. film, released August 10, 1983
  • directed by Lewis Teague from a screenplay by Don Carlos Dunaway and Lauren Currier

Cujo bounded into rabid view for moviegoers during the late summer of 1983 and did fairly good business.  In a just world, it would have earned Dee Wallace an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Donna Trenton; she is off-the-charts good here.  So is the animal training (some of which is puppetry), which is one of the two categories I would introduce at the Oscars if I ever get put in charge of making those decisions.  The other, for the record, is stuntwork.

(novel by Tabitha King)

a Macmillan hardback, published September 1983

If you are interested in a lengthier review of this novel, click the link above.  For our purposes here, I'll simply say the following:

  • I loved this novel.  I'd been somewhat ambivalent toward King's first (Small World), but with her second it seems as if she had found her voice, and her voice is entirely to my liking.
  • There is nothing whatsoever of the supernatural in this novel.  I've still only read two of King's novels, but my perception is that with only a couple of exceptions, she is a writer of non-fantastical fiction.  If that sort of thing puts you off, you should probably broaden your horizons a bit; and that's advice I'd also give to people who refuse to read sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.  Everyone should read everything, ya weirdos.
  • King draws her characters very well, and it's a compelling fact to consider that this is a quality she shares with her husband and with both of her sons.  There is no way on Earth the four of them didn't have major impacts upon one another in this regard, and likely continue to do so.
  • The writer whose work Caretakers reminds me of more than anyone else is Larry McMurtry.  At the heart of his work is a massively melancholy sense of lost love being the engine which moves the majority of us through life; and that idea is a major element of King's novel.  Stylistically, I don't think she has much in common with McMurtry; but in terms of tone and impact, absolutely she does.
  • This is the first novel in King's sequence of stories set in Nodd's Ridge, a fictional town in Maine.  The majority of her published fiction is part of that sequence.

Oh, by the way, Google really likes me on the subject of this novel:

I'm #2!!
"Uncle Otto's Truck"
(short story)

  • published in the October 1983 issue of Yankee
  • collected in Skeleton Crew, 1985

"Uncle Otto's Truck" is the tale of a rusted-out old hulk of a pickup that slowly moves about a field, seemingly of its own accord.  That truck, she ain't up to no good.
This is my memory of the story, at least.  My memory is not always reliable; I normally check these things before I write down a summary like the one above, but this time I opted to not to, 'cause I wanted to see how close I could get.
A consultation with Wikipedia assures me that I did alright!
(crossword puzzle)

  • published in the October 1983 issue of Games
  • reprinted in the May 1985 issue of Castle Rock: The Stephen King Newsletter
  • reprinted in the Fall 1997 Games Anniversary Issue
  • uncollected
image stolen from
Not much to say here -- but I thought you might be amused to know that King's reach is so pervasive that he even wrote a horror-themed crossword puzzle for a games magazine once upon a time.
I don't have a copy of this!  Someday, maybe.
The Dead Zone
(feature film)

  • a Paramount film, released October 21, 1983
  • directed by David Cronenberg from a screenplay by Jeffrey Boam
An above-average film that seems only to get more above average as times goes by.  Christopher Walken is terrific as John Smith; in Walken's hands, he's both sympathetic and genuinely weird.  The rest of the cast is pretty good, too, from Martin Sheen to Brooke Adams to Herbert Lom.
Cronenberg and Boam don't capture the entirety of the novel, of course, but they do about as well as could have been done.
Cycle of the Werewolf

  • a limited-edition hardback published by Land Of Enchantment, November 1983
  • mass-market trade paperback published by Signet, April 1985

Cycle of the Werewolf began its life as a very cool concept: a werewolf-themes calendar with art by Bernie Wrightson and accompanying text by Stephen King.  In a notable case of story bloat, King proved to be utterly unable to confine himself to the word limit that was imposed by the format, and my the time he got to "May," he found it necessary to inform the publisher that the concept was a bust ... but, if they were interested, a book was a go.
They were interested.
This excellent piece by Bev Vincent will give you the full history. 
Pet Sematary

a Doubleday hardback, published November 14, 1983
The only piece you need to read about this novel in terms of its history is, once again, Bev Vincent's for Stephen King Revisited.
The short version for those of you averse to clicking links:
  • Part of it was inspired by the road death of Naomi's cat, Smucky.  Poor Naomi had a bit of a fit over it, jumping up and down and yelling that God could get his own cat.
  • After finishing the novel, King put it away, determined to never publish it.  He felt it was too dark (in an unuseful way).
  • When some legal issues with his former publisher, Doubleday, came about, King used the novel as a means of getting himself free and clear of them.  Without this, Pet Sematary might never have been published at all; and as was, King refused to do any publicity for the book.

Despite King's ambivalence, Pet Sematary remains (for my money) one of his strongest books, and easily one of his scariest.  In fact, this is the one that I'd nominate as being THE scariest book in his bibliography. 
The Plant (Part Two)

  • published by Philtrum Press circa November/December 1983
  • revised (?) version published as an e-book in 2000
The second installment of The Plant went to the presses in time for Christmas, so I'm considering it to be a late-November/early-December thing for the purposes of our chronology.

Heck of a Christmas card to get!
(feature film)

  • a Columbia film, released December 7, 1983
  • directed by John Carpenter from a screenplay by Bill Phillips
For those of you keeping track at home, John Carpenter's Christine was the third major-studio film of 1983 to be based on a Stephen King novel.  Like Cujo and The Dead Zone, this one was a minor hit; all three made about $20 million, which was a decent if unspectacular result for the era.
Considering how many copies of King's books were flying off the shelves, though, it seems as if those films -- all three of which are what I'd call good, solid entertainment in their own right -- ought to have found larger audiences.  It'd be one thing if the movies had been crapola; these weren't, and while they made ripples in the pond once they were chucked into it, they certainly did not make the waves the studios were likely hoping for.
Still, all three did have an impact, and all three have ardent admirers to this day.  I'm one of them in each case, but I think that Christine might be my favorite of the three.  It's probably not the best of the three, in a quasi-objective sense; but I think it is my personal favorite.  This is no surprise; I'm a big John Carpenter fan, and he's in fine form here, both as a director and (especially) as a composer.
The film has great effects, gorgeous cinematography, good performances, and a sense of fun that is underpinned by some real sadness.
What's not to like?
And, for the record, the is one of the very few cases in which my brain immediately turns not to the King novel, but to the movie adaptation.  Not sayin' it's better than the book; just sayin' I think of the movie first.
(novel by Mary Shelley; Marvel Illustrated Edition with art by Berni Wrightson)

  • trade paperback published by Marvel in December 1983
  • King's "Introduction to the Marvel Edition of Frankenstein" is dated October 6, 1982

King's four-page introduction is split into two parts: one about the novel, and one about Wrightson.  The latter is the more engaging of the two, and while I'm not going to replicate any of it here, I didn't want to omit this title from our tour.
Mainly, I just wanted to shine a light on Berni Wrightson's art.  Lest it remain unclear to you what this Marvel edition is, let me state now that it is NOT a comic-book.  It's an oversized trade paperback of the Mary Shelley novel, supplemented by page-sized black-and-white illustrations from Wrightson.  They will be familiar in style and tone to anyone who has seen his art for the expanded edition of King's The Stand, only far more numerous.  I didn't take a full inventory, but there are twelve of them through the first fifty pages.
Here are a few of the best:

I'm no expert on Wrightson, but based on what I do know, Frankenstein is his masterwork.  If it's NOT his masterwork, then for the love of all that is holy, somebody please point me toward it.
If you're going to buy a copy of Frankenstein -- and no self-respecting horror fan should be without one -- then this is probably the one to get.

(short story)

  • published in Weirdbook 19, Spring 1984
  • collected in Skeleton Crew, 1985

In which a young boy goes to visit his sickly grandmother and finds out that she's not quite as feeble as everyone had been led to believe.  A super-duper creepy piece of work from a guy who specializes in such things.
Children of the Corn
(feature film)

  • a New World Pictures film, released March 3, 1984
  • directed by Fritz Kiersch from a screenplay by George Goldsmith
Up to this point, the worst thing you could say about the filmed adaptations of King's work is that some of them had not been as successful as it seemed like they ought to be.  At worst, they were all competently-made films that reached a sizeable enough audience to qualify them as hits.  At best, they had been prestige films that qualified as big hits.
That came to an end with 1984's cheapie schlockfest Children of the Corn, which some horror-hounds to this day love unreservedly, but which most of the rest of us find to be eye-rollingly bad.  And yet...
...I have to confess that I myself have a soft spot for this turkey.  Why?  Beats me.  I do, though.
And on top of that, the movie was profitable.  1982's Creepshow and the trio of King adaptations released in 1983 had all made about $20 million at the box office, and all had been inexpensive enough that they eked out a meager profit for their investors.  Children of the Corn earned only about $14 million; a big step down, until you consider that its budget ($800,000) was about a tenth the budget of those other movies.
Examining this from a business-minded perspective, I think you have to conclude that Children of the Corn was the most successful King film to date, and by a significant margin.  You would have to forgive Hollywood for learning all the wrong lessons about how to produce King adaptations going forward, because if we're being honest, they aren't the wrong lessons.  It's the movie BUSINESS.  Failing to realize that is a misstep on the part of audiences, because it deprives them of their ability to influence productions by voting with their dollars (their only real input into the process, then and now) in a conscious manner.
Anyways, it's a turning point of sorts for King films, this cheesy bit of 1984 nonsense.
"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut"
(short story)

  • published in the May 1984 issue of Redbook
  • collected in Skeleton Crew, 1985

1984 was a hell of a year for anyone who loves King's short stories; he produced five of them, and all five are pretty great.  The second, "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut," is a whimsical tale (with dark implications and undertones) about a woman who is obsessed with finding the shortest routes between destinations.  She spends a great deal of time in her car perfecting her methods, and a man who spends time with her comes to realize that those methods may not be entirely natural.
Not to be missed.
(feature film)

  • a Universal film, released May 11, 1984
  • directed by Mark L. Lester from a screenplay by Stanley Mann

Firestarter made a mere $17 million on a budget of $15 million.  It would be the last time one of the major studios tried to make a decently-budgeted King film for a while (the next being The Running Man, which was less a King film than a Schwarzenegger film).
It's been mostly lambasted ever since, but received a mild resurgence in 2016 via the unlikely source of a Netflix original series called Stranger Things, one of the main characters of which was a young girl with psychic powers.  Her story evoked this film in near-direct ways on multiple occasions, and in the wake of that show's unexpected mega-success, dozens of think-pieces untangled the numerous influences of eighties pop culture.  None of the ones I saw failed to mention Firestarter, not only for the clear homages to Charlie McGee's time at the Shop, but also for the Tangerine Dream-esque qualities of the title music and score.
I don't know that you can say that Firestarter has received a reappraisal as a result of all of this, exactly ... but I'm not convinced it hasn't, either.
I've got to admit, I'm kind of a fan, and have been ever since I saw it.  Is it a great movie?  Nosir.  Is it a good movie?  I'm not sure.  It's probably a B-, maybe a C+.  No worse, though.  It's got too much going for it, from that excellent Tangerine Dream music to the lovely cinematography to its all-too-rare fealty to King's source material to the performances, which (yes, including George C. Scott) are mostly just fine.  The effects are occasionally excellent, and never less than good.  
In other words, it works for me.
(short story; parody by Paul Proch and Charlie Kaufman)
published in the May 1984 issue of National Lampoon
This story was brought to my attention by an unnamed commenter, whom we thank.
Here's how the first couple of pages appear in the magazine:

I wonder if somewhere out there, a King fan exists who has been laboring for years under the delusion that this actually is a story by King.  This hypothetical King fan has probably always thought it was a really weird experiment that he decided never to repeat.  If multiple such fans actually exist, I wonder if there's one who's super pissed every time King releases another collection and finds it to be missing "Eggboiler."
In my heart, I doubt it.  But I kind of hope there IS just such a Constant Reader somewhere, one who simply never bothered to consult this magazine's contents page:

The story itself is a parody of Firestarter, one which was almost certainly timed to coincide with the release of the movie adaptation.  It's about a young girl with the power of "ovumkinesis" (the ability to boil eggs with her mind) who is hunted by government agents.  Russia gets involved at some point, as they are wont to do.  Carl Reiner shows up at the end.  You know; stuff like that.
I wouldn't say it's side-splittingly hilarious or anything, and I didn't feel like it worked especially well as a parody of King's writing, but it's amusing.  Overlong, which is possibly part of the joke; let's not rule it out, given that it was co-written by Charlie Kaufman, who would go on many years later to become a successful screenwriter of such films as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
A few bits that stood out:
  • "Arm around his daughter Dotty, Nick Sullivan tried to comfort her with a harmless lie calculated to make her more at ease with her death-dealing ability; while in the kitchen, her pockets full of eggs, Elvira set herself the task of fixing omelets for dinner.  She did not want to be in the same room with Dotty now.  At first she was calling her 'eggboiling mutant' behind her back.  Now she had reached a point where she called her that to her face, then ran.  It was a hell of a time for all of them."
  • "One by one, they all turned to the one-way glass that looked into the room in which they kept their own Russian potatoboiler, Subject MNX-43-A.  The little blond girl was watching a new situation comedy, Three Pairs of American Blue Jeans.  It did not disconcert her at all that the actors were chained to the floor.  It was always thus on Russian television."
  • "The town square gazebo, where little Jimmy Macklin, Andy and Edna's youngest, had been brutally clubbed to death in the fall of '63 by a man from Portland by the name of Ted Healy.  No, he was not a vampire.  He was not a ghoul, he was not an unnameable creature of the night.  He was simply a man.  A man with mental and sexual problems.  And oh yes, he was a werewolf.  But not on that particular night.  On that night he was just a man with a club ... who had been bitten by an alien."
  • "Jenkins's brain matter oozed out the back of his head like raspberry preserves oozing out the back of a Dunkin' Donut with raspberry preserves in it that had been hit with the butt of a bazooka."
While reading it, I was sort of toying with the idea of writing a full review -- like, ten thousand words or whatever -- in which I pretended I'd discovered a lost King story nobody knew about.  So basically, I'd be writing a parody of one of my own blog posts.  But then (A) I couldn't decide whether it would be funnier if I thought it was an unsung King classic or a complete pile of shit and (B) I decided life is much too short for such shenanigans.  The story doesn't quite merit that sort of attention, even from a schmuck like me.
But I'm happy to have read it!
"The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet"

  • published in the June 1984 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • collected in Skeleton Crew, 1985

I always kind of forget about this one, but it's a substantial piece of work and is probably underrated within King's body of fiction.

It's about a group of writer types sitting around one night.  The aging editor tells a story about a writer who he bought a story from for a magazine years ago.  While corresponding with the writer, the editor became aware that the writer was a severely paranoid and delusional man, who believed his writing skill was due to an elf-like creature called a "fornit" that lived inside his typewriter.
The editor eventually comes to believe in fornits, too, and things don't really go too well for either of them.

"The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson"
(short story)

  • published in the July 19th-August 2nd, 1984 issue of Rolling Stone
  • collected in the limited edition of Skeleton Crew, 1985
  • reprinted in I Shudder at Your Touch, 1991
  • revised and incorporated into The Tommyknockers, 1987

Here's one I bet a lot of Constant Readers aren't aware of.  Many of them will have read The Tommyknockers, and may have enjoyed it and may NOT have enjoyed it, but regardless of which camp they are in may have enjoyed the chapter in which 'Becka Paulson has a conversation with the picture of Jesus that lives on top of her television.  It's a weird and memorable chapter.
The original version -- the one which appeared in Rolling Stone -- is just as weird and memorable, but it's also longer, and the additional length strengthens the story considerably by putting it in proper context.  In the novel, 'Becka's visions are caused by ... aliens?  I guess?  In the short story, they are caused by her accidentally shooting herself in the head; the bullet is lodged in her skull, and its slow, unstoppable downward trajectory causes hallucinations and impaired judgment.  In the revised version, it's due to her alien-inspired technological tinkering, which is fine in theory but in practice plays as something a bit out of step with other elements of the novel.
That's my take on it, at least, and in case you're wondering, that's also a recommendation that you seek out the original version.
(short story)

  • published in the Fall 1984 issue of Weird Tales
  • collected in Skeleton Crew, 1985

Dear sirs: For the record, I am NOT okay with your magazine putting leggy, big-titted women in the same visual context as dog-sized black widow spiders.  FUCK THAT.

For his fifth and final published piece of short fiction from 1984, King dipped his toe into the waters of proper science fiction for the first time in a while.  It's got astronauts and an exoplanet and (potentially) aliens, and it is bleak as fuck.
Good stuff.

"Do You Know Me?"
(American Express commercial)

from p. 7 of The Illustrated Stephen King Companion

In late September of 1984 (as per this article in People), King appeared in an American Express commercial, part of their long-running line of "Do you know me?" ads.  King has an affably mock-sinister presence here, and while I've seen some King fans roll their eyes at the idea of this level of sell-out, my personal opinion is that it's a funny ad.

Let's have a look:

Silly, but it still makes me chuckle.

Wild Animals
(omnibus by Peter Straub)

a Putnam hardback, published October 19, 1984

With The Talisman looming on the horizon, Putnam opted to put out an omnibus of some of Straub's early novels.  This was the first publication for Under Venus, which Straub in his introduction refers to as "my secret book."

A mass-market omnibus consisting of two readily available novels plus one previously unpublished one is kind of an odd idea, no?
The Mist
(radio drama)

  • produced by ZBS and aired on NPR stations in three segments on October 3, 10, and 17, 1984
  • a promotional 2-LP vinyl was produced in 1984
  • first known commercial release was on audio cassette by Simon & Schuster audio in May 1986
  • directed by Bill Raymond from an audioplay by M. Fulton with thanks to Dennis Etchison
cover of the vinyl promo release
I had to dig to find some information about this radio drama!  It was well worth the doing, too.
The adaptation of King's novella has been available on all manner of audiobooks for a long time, and is almost certainly familiar to a great many King fans.  I had always assumed it was created specifically for that format, but this turns out not to be true at all.
The drama was produced by the ZBS Foundation, which sounds like rather an idiosyncratic outfit.  By the mid-eighties they were producing radio dramas, which is how The Mist came into being. This site lists the drama as having aired in three parts on October 3, 10, and 17 as part of ZBS's ongoing series The Cabinet of Dr. Fritz.  The station of airing is given as WPKT-FM of Middlefield, Connecticut, but that series was produced for NPR.  So really, who knows where all this thing aired?  
There were evidently numerous airings of the full ninety-minute program on October 31, which seems appropriately timed.
You occasionally see Dennis Etchison listed as the writer of this adaptation, but the actual writer was Thomas Lopez, also known as Meatball Fulton.  The audioplay is credited to "M. Fulton," and Etchison receives a "special thanks to" credit.  His role?  Unknown, at least to me.  [Although this Blumhouse article says that he wrote a screenplay for Dino DeLaurentiis at some point during the early eighties, "envisioning the film as an homage to Roger Corman's low-budget science fiction films of the 1950s."  The article even mentions Roy Scheider, Blythe Danner, and Randy Quaid as potential castmembers for that would-be flick.  "Etchison also came up with an ending for King's open-ended story," the article continues, "a scene inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's unused final shot for THE BIRDS."  The article specifies that ZBS used Etchison's script, although my guess is that it was merely a jumping-off point for M. Fulton.]
We'll come back to this radio drama in a while, but let's table it for now and move on.
Stephen King: The Art of Darkness
(criticism by Douglas E. Winter)

  • a Dutton hardback, published November 1984
  • revised and expanded edition published in trade paperback and mass-market paperback in 1986
To this day, The Art of Darkness remains one of the very best of the books about Stephen King and his work.  It is obviously nowhere near up to date, but whatever it lacks in completeness it makes up for tenfold in insight.
Winter provides a goodish amount of biographical information, making this an essential piece in the formation of the myth/legend aspect of who King is.  This is not to imply that Winter is peddling fiction in the place of facts; it's merely a recognition of the fact that with a figure as popular and pervasive as King, a series of myths and/or legends springing up around his life is a foregone conclusion.  The process of how that happens -- and who is involved in its occurrence -- is highly relevant, and Winter's book is one of the first places where a good bit of that comes from.
He also offers lengthy critical analyses of the novels in existence at that time, and supplements much of this with extensive quotations from interviews he conducted with King.  These are terrific, and often revelatory.
In other words, this book gets a big ol' recommendation from yours truly.
The Talisman
(novel by Stephen King and Peter Straub)

a Viking hardback, published November 8, 1984
King and Straub's first collaboration is a thick chunk of horror-laced fantasy.  I've had a wide range of reactions to it over the years; I was enraptured by it when I first read it (in high school), but have cooled on it considerably in the years since.  Much of this has to do with the extent to which King's and Straub's voices fail to mesh.  They've said in interviews that readers might think they know who wrote what sections, but evidently they wrote pastiche's of each others' styles in some places.
It would be a mistake to assume that there is more of one author in this work than there is of another, and for that reason, we've included Straub's major works on our tour.  My personal suspicion is that this novel has more of him in it than King; perhaps not by a major amount, but I do feel as if it's weighted in his direction.
That's only my personal perception at play, though.  The fact is, it's 100% King AND it's 100% Straub.  Not sure the math on that is actually possible, but hey, we're all English majors around here.
(novel, published as Richard Bachman)

a NAL hardback, published November 19, 1984
The final Bachman book to be published before the world discovered that he was King and King was him, Thinner is also (seemingly) the first one that King wrote with his pseudonym in mind.  I'm not sure when he wrote it, exactly, but I've never encountered any indication that it was a trunk novel (i.e., a book that had been completed and then stored in a "trunk" after it failed to sell).
Either way, it's palpably a Stephen King novel, full of supernatural fantasy and otherworldly horror.  The first four Bachman books contained none of that sort of thing; two were straight-forward dramas, and the other two were loosely based in science-fictional conceits, but mostly only by virtue of being set in an indistinct dystopic future.  Thinner goes so far in the other direction that one character refers to the strange happenings as being like something out of a Stephen King novel.
Those happening involve a callous attorney being cursed by a gypsy to lose weight ... and lose ... and lose ... and lose until there's literally nothing left to lose.  It's a horrifying scenario, and Bachman/King puts it to good use.
Tales from the Darkside season 1, episode 8: "The Word Processor of the Gods"
(television episode)

  • syndicated nationally during the week of November 24, 1984
  • directed by Michael Gornick from a teleplay by Michael McDowell
Creepshow resulted in the film's production company -- Laurel Entertainment (which was co-founded by Romero and Richard P. Rubinstein) -- creating a sort of television equivalent, Tales From The Darkside, which Romero created and then had intermittent involvement with over the course of its four seasons.
The format: anthology, obviously.  The mid-eighties saw a major resurgence of interest in televised anthologies, with a revamped Twilight Zone and Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories being perhaps the two most famous examples.  There were others, as well, including the somewhat thrifty-looking Darkside.  None were particularly successful, although they've all got their fans.
As for "The Word Processor of the Gods," it's a fairly low-rent half-hour of television.  It skates by on charm, good acting (from Bruce Davison), and the quality of the source material.  I've listed it as the eighth episode out of deference to how it is listed elsewhere on the Internet, but it was actually the ninth to air, counting the pilot episode.  (Pilots are not technically produced as part of the first season in many instances, and so you sometimes see them listed as their own thing.)
The Eyes of the Dragon

a limited-edition Philtrum Press hardback, published around Christmas of 1984

For the holiday season in 1984, Philtrum took a break from churning out chapbooks of The Plant, and if you want to know more about how they came to focus their attention on an entire novel, then I would once again direct you to Bev Vincent's essays for Stephen King Revisited.  Here, you will discover the role Naomi King played in bringing The Eyes of the Dragon into the world.
A mass-market edition would be released in 1987, and according to Vincent, "numerous changes were made to the text."  I'm guessing I'll never get to see a copy of the original edition to find out what those changes are; I'd love to, but I can live with it if I don't, because this is not a personal favorite King novel for me.
It's not bad, though.  It reads like King is sitting in the room telling you a story, which is both fun and somewhat offputting (considering the genre, high fantasy, doesn't entirely permit for the sort of modernisms King peppers into the prose).

Castle Rock: The Stephen King Newsletter

published monthly from January 1985 through December 1989

King's secretary and sister-in-law, Stephanie Leonard, cooked up the idea for an official King-centric newsletter, which began its life in early 1985 and ran for four solid years.  At its height, it evidently had over five thousand subscribers.

During its time, it published news, reviews, interviews, essays, classified ads, photos, and who knows what all else.  Tabitha King provided at least one short story ("Road Kill," which can be found in the January 1986 issue) and at least one nonfiction piece.

Stephen King himself contributed pieces every so often, and speaking of that...

"Dolan's Cadillac"
(short story)

  • published serially in six installments, in the February through July 1985 issues of Castle Rock
  • collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993

King was evidently so onboard with the idea of Castle Rock that he agreed to give the newsletter an original story.  How cool is that?

Pretty damn cool, is how cool, especially considering that the resultant tale, "Dolan's Cadillac," is vintage King.  It's a tale of roadwork (not of the Bachmanesque variety) and revenge, and it must be cool to have the issues of Castle Rock in which it appeared.  One of these days, maybe I'll see about buying me a full set.

Ain't gonna be this year, though.


The Trap
(novel by Tabitha King)

a Macmillan hardback, published April 1985


For her third novel, Tabitha King returned to the setting of her second (Caretakers): Nodd's Ridge, a small town in Maine which is heavily trafficked by out-of-towners during the summers.  The Trap is not a sequel to Caretakers, although that novel's main characters are briefly mentioned here a few times.
This is the story of the Russells, a family of out-of-towners who have a vacation home in Nodd's Ridge.  Olivia, the mother, is an artist who works on her pottery while there; Pat, the father, is mostly not there at all, owing to his job as a screenwriter and bit-part actor.  He's been working hard on Firefight, a major (and majorly mediocre) motion picture about a Vietnam veteran exacting vengeance on some of his fellow soldiers for a crime they committed during the war.
Liv and Pat's marriage has become strained for various reasons, and they temporarily separate after an especially bad argument.  Liv and their son, Travis, go to Nodd's Ridge to spend time on their own; this is during the deepest part of the winter, and it turns out not to be an especially good idea for them to be isolated and alone.
The Trap is a strong piece of work; not without flaws, perhaps, but essentially very strong indeed.
Not, however, for the faint of heart.  This is not a horror novel, but it does have a few horrifyingly violent scenes in it; one of them would rival just about anything in any Stephen King novel.
Speaking of that other King, there are references here to both "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" and (two years before its release!) The Tommyknockers.
R.I.P., Richard Bachman
image stolen from
On April 9, 1985, an article by Stephen P. Brown appeared in the Washington Post, divulging to the world a secret known only to a select few: that Stephen King had published five previously-unknown novels under the pen name "Richard Bachman."
Brown had figured it out on his own while reading Bachman's books, and a bit of amateur sleuthing verified it.  He sent King a letter, and King phoned him to ask a simple question: what are we going to do about this?
The seeds for a later novel (The Dark Half) were sown, but what ended up happening was this: King granted Brown an interview and fessed up, and Brown published an article on the subject.
If you want to read it, the article can be found online.  It was also reprinted in the nonfiction-about-King collection Kingdom of Fear a few years hence.
We'll have more to say about Bachman, believe it or not; being dead only held him back a little bit.
Cat's Eye
(feature film)

  • an MGM/UA film, released April 12, 1985
  • directed by Lewis Teague from a screenplay by Stephen King
This anthology film features three tales by King:
  • "Quitters, Inc.," adapted from the short story of the same name
  • "The Ledge," adapted from the story of the same name
  • "The General," an original tale penned by King for this film

The three tales are loosely linked by the film's main character: General, a homeless cat who gets into a couple of random adventures (the first two segments of the anthology) before making his way to a new home, where he has to protect a little girl from a murderous troll that lives inside her wall.
If that sounds nuts, you've listened well.  But this movie is kind of a hoot if you're in the right mood for it.  The first two segments are based on terrific King short stories, and they are competently -- if a bit weirdly -- adapted to the screen.  The third segment is a charming, if mildly intense, eighties-style fantasy that will probably be (sorry about this) catnip to anyone who loves felines.
If nothing else, it's got outstanding visual effects.  I don't know that anyone born after 1990 would agree, but that's their problem, not mine.  It is the official stance of The Truth Inside The Lie that Cat's Eye is a lot of fun.
Skeleton Crew
(story collection)

a Putnam hardback, published June 21, 1985
King's second collection of short stories hit shelves in the summer of 1985.  Here's a look at the previously-published works that made an appearance:
  • The Mist
  • Here There Be Tygers
  • The Monkey
  • Cain Rose Up
  • Mrs. Todd's Shortcut
  • The Jaunt
  • The Wedding Gig
  • The Raft
  • Word Processor of the Gods
  • The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands
  • Beachworld
  • The Reaper's Image
  • Nona
  • Survivor Type
  • Uncle Otto's Truck
  • Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2)
  • Gramma
  • The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet
  • The Reach

And, if you picked up a copy of the limited edition from Scream/Press, "The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson."

Only a handful of pieces made their debut here.  They are:
"Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1)"
In this excerpt from an unfinished novel (Milkman, evidently), a milkman goes about his, uh, morning deliveries, but with a twist: he's put very nasty things inside the bottles.  I can't say for sure, but I think some of this might be happening in his imagination.

He seems, based on this and "Big Wheels," as if he might be the major villain of the would-be novel.
"For Owen" and "Paranoid: A Chant"
These were the first of his poems that King decided to put in front of a wide reading audience.  I've never been super-duper fond of "Paranoid," which is a sweaty rant with only occasionally engaging imagery.  (A recent reread of "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" makes me think it might be from the perspective of that story's paranoid writer character, by the way.)
"For Owen," on the other hand, is one of my favorite poems.  This is not an especially meaningful distinction, as poetry is by no means an interest of mine.  However, I did experience a mild poetry phase during my college days, when I took several classes on both reading and writing poetry.  I was better at the former than I was at the latter, and got to a point where I felt as if I had a handle on how to approach reading much of it, as well as how to know whether it was worthy of my time or not.  Basically, it all came down to the language and the emotion.  And even then, in the midst of appreciating John Berryman and Gary Soto and the like, I felt "For Owen" was an above-average piece of work.
Reading it again, and knowing that the man who wrote it and the son he wrote it for have co-authored a novel, it seems even stronger.
Now, let's continue our tradition of checking out the list of known King stories that could have also been included but were not:
  • The Glass Floor
  • Slade
  • The Blue Air Compressor
  • The Old Dude's Ticker
  • Suffer the Little Children
  • The Fifth Quarter
  • It Grows On You
  • Weeds
  • The Cat From Hell
  • The King Family and the Wicked Witch
  • The Night of the Tiger
  • Man with a Belly
  • The Crate
  • Squad D
  • Crouch End 
  • Before the Play
  • The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson (its Skeleton Crew limited edition appearance notwithstanding)
  • Dolan's Cadillac
I've omitted stories that had been folded into other works, as well as ephemera like "Skybar" and the installments of The Plant.
Of these omitted stories, I think it was nigh on unforgivable not to include "Weeds," "The Cat From Hell," "The Night of the Tiger," "The Crate," "Crouch End," and "The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson."  Also "Dolan's Cadillac," although it may well not have even been finished by the time Skeleton Crew went to press.

"The Politics of Limited Editions"

  • published in two parts in the June and July issues of Castle Rock
  • uncollected

image borrowed from

In this lengthy essay -- split into two segments for publication -- King explains his rationale for allowing some of his work to be published in limited-edition form.

It must be said up front that the limited-edition market in 1985 was a VERY different thing than the limited-edition market of today.  So in many ways, King's essay is no longer applicable.  However, that doesn't mean it lacks in interest.  Here, you will find out some great info about why The Gunslinger, Cycle of the Werewolf, and The Eyes of the Dragon were initially published as limiteds.

What it boils down to is this: King feels that this is his best way of proving (if only to himself) that he's not 100% for sale.  It's a sensible argument, and there's a lot more to it than that.
The Bachman Books

a NAL hardback, published October 4, 1985
With the news about Bachman out of the bag, there was really only one option: to get the first four books back onto shelves in some way.  The idea somebody came up with was to put 'em all under one cover (the plain-jane-est one you ever saw) and then count the dollars as they came rolling in, which they assuredly did.
For most King fans, obviously, this was their first chance to read these four novels.  That's a fun thought, isn't it?  Another I like: the near-certainty that there were, against all odds, a few Constant Readers who actually had read one or more of the Bachman books.  Readers love to read, and I can't imagine a scenario in which there weren't a few King readers who picked this up and had a holy-shit-I-read-these-already! moment.
Even they would have gotten something out of this collection, though: "Why I Was Bachman," a fun essay that serves as King's introduction to (and explanation for) these four short novels.  Essential reading, friends; not to be missed.

Silver Bullet
(feature film)

  • a Paramount film, released October 11, 1985
  • directed by Daniel Attias from a screenplay by Stephen King
Marking King's second produced screenplay of 1985, Silver Bullet is not dissimilar to the first (Cat's Eye) in that it's a big old piece of sloppy, cheesy fun.  God almighty, it's got Gary Busey playing an alcoholic who helps his wheelchair-bound nephew fight a werewolf!  You've never seen that in any other movie, guaranteed.
The film's director Daniel Attias, now known as Dan Attias, came to the world of features from television, where he'd worked on Miami Vice.  This didn't do much for his feature-directing cred, so he returned to television, helming episodes of notable series such as 21 Jump Street, Beauty and the Beast, Jake and the Fatman, Northern Exposure, 90210 AND Melrose Place, Picket Fences, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Lois & Clark, etc.  There are some good titles in there.  
The best was yet to come: thee episodes of The Sopranos, six episodes of Six Feet Under, four episodes of The Wire, two episodes of Lost, one episode of Deadwood, sixteen episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and so forth (I'm leaving out a great many notable shows).
Attias is one of the most accomplished directors to ever adapt King's work, I'd say.  That alone gives Silver Bullet a wee bit of extra cachet.
Released around the same time as the movie was this book:
As the top of the book says, Silver Bullet the trade paperback includes both King's screenplay and the original novella (Cycle of the Werewolf) on which it was based, plus a pretty good foreword.  If you can find a copy, you should get one.
"The Monkey"
(radio drama)

directed by John Clark from an audioplay by Dennis Etchison and broadcast on October 31, 1985 as part of a UNICEF benefit
A few sources (such as Kevin Quigley's list of audio works) mention this, but I've been wholly unable to find anything out about it...
...until now!
This L.A. Times article gave me a bit of insight:
  • the broadcast was live, as part of an annual UNICEF fundraiser; the 1984 show reached nine of the top ten radio markets, so presumably the 1985 was comparably widespread
  • Etchison adapted not only King's "The Monkey," but also stories by Richard Matheson and William F. Nolan
  • John Clark was the director
  • the cast -- of which stories I do not know -- included Casey Kasem, June Lockheart, Vanessa Redgrave, and Tom Wopat

So now we know something about it, at least!

You are all hereby charged to scour the Internet in search of more information -- up to and including audio of the full broadcast -- and report back to me, so that future versions of this tour may be more complete.  Your hard work and inevitable success will be much appreciated!

Oh, and to be clear: I've never heard this.  Someday, maybe!

Faces of Fear
(interviews anthology by Douglas E. Winter)

a Berkley trade paperback, published November 1985

Our Art of Darkness friend Douglas E. Winter issued an anthology of new interviews with seventeen horror-literature luminaries.  Check out the list via the back cover:

Winter won a World Fantasy Award for his efforts, and if the other interviews can be judged by the quality of the Stephen King interview, this is indeed a heck of a read.

Here's how the King chapter (which runs 22 pages) begins:

Stephen King stands at the far side of the kitchen, grilling the largest hamburgers I have ever seen.  I'm sitting at the dinette table, staring out into a snowstorm that descended two nights before on Bangor, Maine, and that now, nearly thirty-six hours later, shows no signs of relenting.  Snow is drifting up onto the windows of King's house, and we've been drinking a lot of beer and watching videotapes and talking into a tape machine, and slowly, ever so slowly, going stir-crazy.
     "So you're putting together a book of interviews with horror writers," he says, shoveling the Godzillas of ground beef onto paper plates and walking over to join me.
     "I dunno, Doug.  I couldn't imagine a more ordinary group of guys.  You're going to have to go out of your way to make this one interesting."
     He sits down next to me and digs in.  I'm still debating how to wrestle my burger off of my plate when I hear his muffled voice call to me.
     I look up, and he shows me a mouthful of food.

Great stuff; another of the interviews I'd consider to be damn near essential within the body of King's work.
Heroes For Hope Starring The X-Men
(comic book by various authors and artists)

published by Marvel Comics in December 1985
Here's an oddity for you: the only known X-Men comic written by Stephen King.
Well, partially written by King ... "partially" in this case meaning all of three pages.  The comic was a benefit/awareness-raising effort aimed at the problem of hunger in Africa.  King and artist Berni Wrightson worked on pages 10-12, during which Kitty Pryde is visited (Dickens-style) by a Grim Reaper lookin' motherfucker who calls himself Hunger and who torments her with visions of starving to death.  It's cheesy, but kind of effective, if only for Wrightson (and inker Jeff Jones)'s Creepshow-style art.
Other notable names in the 48-page issue included Stan Lee, John Romita Jr., John Buscema, John Byrne, Bill Mantlo, Alan Moore (!), Harlan Ellison, Frank Miller, Chris Claremont, Brian Bolland, Denny O'Neill, George Martin (whose "R.R." was not present in the credits), Jim Shooter, Mike Grell, Archie Goodwin, Walt Simonson, Bill Sinkiewicz, etc.  It's probably about as impressive a cast of talent as has ever been assembled for a project of this nature, possibly including other such benefits as We Are the World.  
This will also be proof (eventually) in my argument that writing about the works of Alan Moore, Harlan Ellison, and George R.R. Martin is a perfectly valid exercise for The Truth Inside The Lie, because, after all, they have collaborated with Stephen King. 
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
By the way, this would be the final Stephen King comic book until 2007.

The Plant (Part Three)

published by Philtrum Press circa November/December 1985

The third and (seemingly) final segment of The Plant was sent to the Kings' Christmas-card list in late 1985.  This did not mean the story had ended; King simply quit writing it.  Or, at any rate, quit publishing it and giving it away to people in an edition that, years later, could fetch hefty sums on eBay.
Was that part of his decision?  Probably not, if I had to guess.  I'd guess he simply ran out of interest in the story, and when 1986 rolled around found he had nothing to say.
It wouldn't be a permanent condition, although the third installment seems to be where the Christmas-card aspect of the project came to a conclusion.

Now and On Earth
(novel by Jim Thompson)

  • a limited-edition Dennis McMillan Publications hardback, published 1986
  • King provided an introduction, "Big Jim Thompson: An Appreciation"

Not much to say here; King's introduction is short (four pages), and good, but not especially noteworthy.  It's dated September 1985, which is why I'm listing this close to the beginning of '86.

"Road Kill"
(short story by Tabitha King)

  • published in the January 1986 issue of Castle Rock
  • uncollected

image courtesy of Rich Krauss

The year's first issue of Castle Rock included a treat: a grimly upbeat -- you think that's not a thing, but it totally is -- story by Tabitha King about a couple of hicks who just don't know how to quit each other.  That plus alcohol plus driving plus "porkypine" equals this short story.

A nice piece of work it is, too.  Of the relatively small handful of things by T. King that I've read, this is the one that's the closest to her husband's style and content.  It's not exactly the easiest thing in the world to find, but if you can locate a copy and not get skinned, you might get a kick out of it.

Kingdom of Fear: The World of Stephen King
(critical anthology, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller)

an Underwood-Miller hardback, published February 1986

This is basically a sequel to Fear Itself, and if you liked that book, you'll like this one, too.

Editors Underwood and Miller individually contribute essays, and a number of horror luminaries throw their arms open wide for King.  His former associate Bill Thompson provides an excellent (if lamentably brief) account of their early work together.

You'll also find a reprint of King's 1973 essay "The Horror Market Writer and the Ten Bears," which here is masquerading as a foreword.  There's no mention of the fact that the "foreword" hails from thirteen years previous, which strikes me as a bit disingenuous.  If you've got a perfectly good doughnut, don't lie to me and tell me it's a cake; all that does is make you seem like a liar without a cake as opposed to a cool dude with a gift doughnut.

Stephen King's Nightshift Collection
(short films, VHS release)

I wasn't sure where or how to list these two short films individually, so I figured I'd just list their tandem VHS release, which seemingly came out in 1986.  The above-pictured magazine ad comes from the March 1986 issue of Cinefantastique.

You may or may not be aware that there is a King-backed program for young and developing filmmakers wherein he will license the right to adapt specific stories into short films.  The fee he charges is $1, and so the films are collectively known as "Dollar Babies."  (Here's a review of a book about a handful of them.)  The catch is that they can never be used for commercial purposes in any way; they can be shown at festivals, and that's about it.

Despite this, there were at least a trio of Dollar Babies that somehow managed to achieve commercial release on VHS in the eighties.  Two of them are 1982's "The Boogeyman" and 1983's "The Woman in the Room," which were paired together for the charmingly misspelled Stephen King's Nightshift [sic] Collection tape pictured above.  The VHS was seemingly released by multiple companies, and it is unclear how any of them had the rights to put it into the marketplace.  It was still widely available when I bought a copy in the early nineties, though, so it must have been officially licensed in some way.

Regardless, let's talk about the movies themselves.

"The Boogeyman" is a low-budget affair, and looks and feels like it.  But it's not bad.  I've seen very few Dollar Babies, and my sense is that as far as amateur filmmaking goes, this is quite accomplished.  It was directed by Jeff Schiro, who went on to have a long-term career in television as an editor.

"The Woman in the Room" was written and directed by Frank Darabont.  Yes, THAT Frank Darabont.  His film is also an amateur effort, but it shows a huge amount of talent, and could handily pass for a professionally-made film.  It wouldn't necessarily be a standout in that sense, but it would rank as competent filmmaking by just about any standard.

A couple of years after this, another "Nightshift" collection came out:

I say "a couple of years" because the date of release for this one seems to have been 1988.  To be honest, I'm not sure if that's true; I haven't done my research very deeply, sad to say.  So if '88 is incorrect, I apologize.

"Disciples of the Crow" is a loose adaptation of "Children of the Corn" made by director John Woodward in 1983.  It's really rather good; it's got some of the same cinema verite appeal that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has, and while it's not as accomplished as that film, I'd argue that it's much more accomplished than the actual feature film version of Children of the Corn.

As a matter of fact, this is the way to reboot Children of the Corn and make it commercially viable again.  Hollywood, I'm giving you this one for free: you simply buy the rights to "Disciples of the Crow," remake it at feature length and in similar style/tone, and sit back and count your profits.  I expect an executive producer credit for that suggestion; points would be okay, too.  I'll happily forgo the front end for a cut of the back.

Anyways, the second short on this tape, "The Night Waiter," was not in any way adapted from or affiliated with the work of Stephen King, which makes its inclusion here baffling.  But there was a British VHS that included "The Boogeyman," "The Woman in the Room," and a different non-King short film called "Stranglehold," so maybe this is just something some of these releases did to make the tapes seem longer.

As far as I am aware, no one release included the Schiro film, the Darabont film, and the Woodward film.  I'd welcome a Blu-ray that cleaned all three up and got them out there, but that will likely never happen.  (Although shortly after I wrote this, a new Blu-ray of Children of the Corn came out on a Blu-ray from Arrow Video that contains "Disciples of the Crow."  It looks and sounds [relatively] great in that format, so here's hoping that some future release of, say, The Shawshank Redemption might include "The Woman in the Room.")

Under Venus
(novel by Peter Straub)

a Berkley paperback, published February 1985

This novel, written in the mid-seventies, went unpublished until 1984, when it appeared in a Straub omnibus titled Wild Animals.

This 1985 mass-market paperback marks its first solo publication.

It's a non-genre drama about ... uh ... I don't remember.  It's probably for Straub completists only, and many of them probably won't get much out of it.  I thought it was decent (though apparently not enough for me to remember much about it without cheating and looking it up).

The Twilight Zone season 1, episode 18: "Gramma"
(television episode)

  • broadcast on CBS February 14, 1986
  • directed by Bradford May from a teleplay by Harlan Ellison

"Gramma" was one segment of the eighteenth episode of the revived Twilight Zone during its first season.  the other two segments were called "Personal Demons" and "Cold Reading," and since I haven't seen them, I don't know much about them.

I have seen "Gramma," and it's not bad.  The effects let it down a bit, or maybe even a lot; but as far as mid-eighties television goes, it's decent.  The adaptation was written by Harlan Ellison, which is kind of cool; gives me another reason to dive into his work one day and call it research for this blog.

The story is not one that would have come to mind for me when considering a revival of The Twilight Zone.  "Gramma" just doesn't seem like a great fit.  For Night Gallery, maybe; or even for Tales From the Darkside.  I say that as no great expert on The Twilight Zone, of course, a thing I fully intend to change.  (I'm currently watching the first season of the original series on Blu-ray, although progress has been slowed to a crawl on that front lately.)

The Mist In 3D Sound
(audio drama)

a Simon & Schuster audio release

I kind of enjoy a pointless exclamation mark, but I don't think it's actually intended to be a part of the title.

No exclamation mark!

If you look real hard, you will see a 1984 copyright to "ZBS Foundation," but there's no mention of the director or the writer of the audioplay adaptation, or anyone in the cast.  There's no acknowledgment of this having originally been produced for an NPR-based radio series.

Doesn't that seem like a bit of a shame?  Simon & Schuster wanted people in 1986 -- and forward -- to think they cooked all this stuff up on their own, and for the most part, it probably worked.

I hope the folks at ZBS got a good paycheck (and maybe even some ongoing royalties) out of this ... but I'd be rather surprised to learn that that was the case.

Either way, I'm happy this audio cassette made its way into the world.  It makes me antsy to think that a fine radio adaptation of The Mist might have existed and then NOT gotten a wide distribution.  It did, though, and I kind of smile thinking about the old days, when the audiobook section of Waldenbooks or B. Dalton or wherever was like a weird intruder amidst the real books.  I understood paperbacks, and I understood hardbacks, and I under stood magazines and comics books, but the fuck was an audiobook?!?
They mostly (this is how I remember it, at least) looked like this: slender, uniformly-sized packages that held only one or two tapes.  But depending on what was on those tapes, they might be pretty cool, and when I started seeing ones that were for Star Trek books, I became interested.  They were always a little more expensive than I wanted to spring for, though.

I think The Mist In 3D Sound was the first one I bought.  I must have listened to it dozens of times; in a very real way, this is THE version of The Mist for me.  I don't know what my next audiobook was -- I think it was probably one of the Star Trek ones I'd long been coveting -- but I do know that when I got it, I was disappointed to discover it was just some guy reading the book to me.  The fuck?!?  I can read for myself, pal!  I don't need YOU to do it for me!  I came here expecting sound effects and actors and music and whatnot, and all you give me is a dude reading to me?!?  No thanks.

I'd eventually change my mind on that to some degree; but only for occasional readers.  I still mostly find audiobooks to be an unnecessary disappointment, and I'm pretty sure that feeling can be traced directly back to how much I love the ZBS FOUNDATION's version of The Mist.  I thank Simon & Schuster for bringing it to me; but I thank ZBS for giving them something to bring.

Maximum Overdrive
(feature film)

  • a DEG film, released July 25, 1986
  • written and directed by Stephen King

King's reputation had grown so grand by 1986 that somebody -- specifically, producer Dino DeLaurentiis -- with a lot of money thought it would be a good idea to spend nine million dollars letting the author direct a movie.  King shrugged and said, well, why the fuck not?, perhaps reasoning that even if the project went tits up, it wouldn't hurt his reputation as a novelist one whit.  He was entirely correct about that, and we know that for a fact because the project DID go tits up, resulting in one of the most notoriously awful movies of the eighties.
Sidebar: when whoever coined the phrase "tits up" did so, I wonder if they had alternative phrases that got mentally rejected.  Because why "tits up"?  It summons the mental image of a corpse -- not necessarily a female one, although it is likely -- lying inert on its back, so that, I get.  But why UP?  Why not "tits down"?  Lying tits DOWN on the ground seems more evocative of having perished than lying tits up; tits UP, you could be drunk, or sleeping, or in a coma.  
Anyways, that's the sort of thing Maximum Overdrive makes me think about.  Personally, I love the movie.  It's not a good movie; it's not even a competent or acceptable movie.  I do love it, though; if I were listing favorite trashterpieces, it'd rank very high up on my list.  It's just fun, and it seems designed to have been nothing more or less than a good time.
I'll tell you who it wasn't a good time for, though: director of photography Armando Nannuzzi, who lost en eye as a result of an accident on set.  Nobody should have lost an eye making this movie; it's probably not worth losing an eye to make freaking Taxi Driver or Close Encoutners of the Third Kind or Inception or whatever great movie you want to name.  For Maximum Overdrive?!?  Absolutely not.  Nannuzzi sued a whole bunch of people, and settled out of court for what you image was probably a large sum of money.
King, by the way, was nominated as Worst Director at the Golden Raspberry Awards ... and won!  An ignominious distinction, but he shares with a rather impressive list of directors: other winners from the history of the Razzies include Michael Cimino, Terence Young, Sylvester Stallone, Prince, Norman Mailer (!), Blake Edwards, William Shatner, Steven Seagal, Paul Verhoeven, Kevin Costner, Gus Van Sant, M. Night Shyamalan, and, of course, Michael Bay.

Stand By Me
(feature film)

  • a Columbia film, released August 8, 1986
  • directed by Rob Reiner from a screenplay by Raynold Gideon & Bruce A. Evans

This film has its genesis in Bruce A. Evans reading and loving the novella upon which it is based, "The Body."  Give Evans credit for not falling into the trap of thinking, "Hey, but Stephen King only writes horror stories!"  You know there's more to King's work than that, and I know it, and clearly Evans knew it, too.  But Hollywood circa 1986?  Generally speaking, they did not know it, and if you told them, they'd probably manage to not really hear you; they'd assume you'd stumbled over your words, or were drunk or stupid.
But, amazingly, enough people decided to believe it to manage to get Stand By Me made, and I want you to stop for a moment and imagine what the rest of this tour might be like if that had not come to pass.  This movie's success -- it was a bona fide box office hit in theatres, and generated a handsome profit for the studio, especially once the lucrative home video and cable revenues began rolling in -- directly paved the way for the later cinematic triumph of The Shawshank Redemption, for one thing.  For another, director Rob Reiner would later direct another King adaptation in Misery, which was even more successful and won one of its leads an Oscar.
Those two things put together helped to stimulate a serious reappraisal of King's work overall, and he's consequently sometimes, now, thought of as more than a horror writer.  Without Stand By Me, it's not certain that that ever happens.
Regardless, Stand By Me DID happen, and we are all the richer for it.
"For the Birds"
(a "science fiction joke")

  • published in Bred any good rooks lately? (original puns, etc., gathered by James Charlton), a Doubleday trade paperback, on August 26, 1986
  • uncollected
Not much to say about "For the Birds."  It's a one-page joke that King gave to James Charlton for use in this book.  Saying more about it than that would be pointless.
I'll say a few more words about what other people say about it, though.  Specifically: that it's a short story.  I suppose it can technically be classified in that way, but I personally do not consider this to be a work of fiction.  It's not a short story, or even a short-short; it's just a joke.  I personally list it as nonfiction, but it doesn't fit well in that category, either.
Shit like this gives a tour guide fits, I tell you.
The Far Side Gallery 2
(cartoons by Gary Larson)

  • an Andrews, McMeel & Parker trade paperback, published September 1986
  • King contributed an introduction, "On the Far Side"
Do people still know what The Far Side is?  Boy, I hope so.
If you yourself don't know about The Far Side, you could do far worse for an introduction that to pick up The Far Side Gallery 2, during the introduction to which, Stephen King has this (amongst other things) to say:
You can't "tell" a cartoon; if you could, cartoonists would be out of business.  A cartoon isn't simply a joke; it's a talented eye combining circumstance and joke in a clearly recognizeable way which cannot be duplicated.  You could copy Gary Larson's pictures, just as you could copy Charles Schulz's round-headed worrywart, Charlie Brown; it's Larson's mind which makes him one of a kind.
King then goes on to tell you his favorite Gary Larson cartoon, and it turns out you CAN tell a cartoon.  But many of Larson's cartoon defy summary, and all of them benefit from being seen rather than heard.
That said, I will now tell you two of my own favorites.
(1)  On a perpendicular-line pair of roads in the Old West, two stagecoaches appear to be rushing away from each other.  On each sits a driver and a passenger who are bug-eyed and are pressing their hands to their faces in apparent terror.  The caption reads NEAR MISSES OF THE OLD WEST.
(2)  A dim-witted doofus walks down a street, and is seemingly passing directly underneath a piano dangling from a rope a few floors above him.  This is all being viewed on a computer monitor by God, whose index finger is reaching for a button labeled SMITE.
You can tell the cartoon, sure.  King himself seems to realize this.  What you can't do -- or shouldn't do -- is explain the joke.  Look, man, if I have to explain to you why I think NEAR MISSES OF THE OLD WEST is funny, then we're on different wavelengths.  So if you laugh, maybe we'll talk about why we laughed; but if you just look confused, then I'm shrugging and going on with my day.
In case you've never seen any of Larson's work, here's a sample page from this volume.
An elephant really can't hide forever, you know; that much is certain.

a Viking hardback, published September 15, 1986

Well, we're here.
Final step of the tour for today, and it's a whopper.
I'm writing these words on September 9, 2017, during the early morning.  A new film based on It was released in American theatres yesterday (or two days ago, technically, since shows began on Thursday night at 7pm).  It's been getting great reviews, and made a bit more than $13 million during its Thursday-night shows.  Not only is this a September box office record, it's also a record opening for a horror film.  It -- and, by association, Stephen King -- is basically the only movie anybody is talking about right now.  
We're not here to talk about that movie, though.  That'll come up later in our tour.  It did seem worth marking the moment in time, though, because it's pretty cool for King's name to be bouncing around the culture in the way that we've seen happen for other novelists over the past couple of decades.  Gratifying, if you're a King fan, as everyone on our tour bus must certainly be.
Sadly, I don't have much to say about the novel at this time.  Let me be clear: I would and could write a novel-length series of essays about that book, and the time is likely to come when I may attempt to do just that.  2018 will mark 28 years since I first read it; we'll see what happens, but is it possible that much of the year will be devoted to chapter-by-chapter analyses in this space?
Never say never.
And with that guarantease, the tour bus has pulled up to the La Quinta yet again.  Y'all mahfahs get out, you look plumb knackered.


  1. (1) That's a great idea of a King-convention-undercover book. Following in Shatner's footsteps! Except probably very much not.

    (2) God, I frickin' love Creepshow. For three decades and change, it has just given me a buzz everytime I've even considered it in my head.

    (3) That's cool about the King / "Evil Dead" connection. I had no idea of that.

    (4) I look forward to that stuff on "The Plant." I still have a post in draft mode about that one. It's interesting to see what parts of it mutated into sections in other books ("Mister Mercedes" and "Dreamcatcher" come to mind.)

    (5) That "Tales by Moonlight" intro has all the hallmark features of cocaine, sounds like to me. A rare abuse of authorly power, probably written when mad at himself, I bet. My five cent diagnosis based on mostly conjecture. (My specialty!)

    (6) Oh man. Audrey and Judy Landers. It's simply amazing how many shows they show up in during that late 70s to early 80s era.

    (7) For some reason, this was the trigger for me to finally purchase Floating Dragon. Didn't even library it - straight to purchase! I took the opportunity to pick up Raymond Benson's new one and a couple of other things I've been circling for awhile. I've been hesitant to buy new (used but new to me) books because my commute no longer exists, and I just figure they'll sit around, unread. But I'll enjoy looking at them on the shelves at least! I'll keep you posted.

    (8) I really need to do the same for all Tabitha King. One of these days!

    (9) I would really love to do that King-clued crossword puzzle.

    (10) So crazy to think we only got Pet Sematary basically on technicality! Though imagine if that had been sitting in the trunk all these years and then came out posthumously or something. Actually, makes you wonder what ELSE is in there... let's hope there's at least something of Pet Sematary-level quality.

    (11) I love those Far Side thoughts. I'll post something from TFS every so often to my facebook and people still seem to dig/ know it. What a masterpiece. I believe I've told you about how I decorated the VFW when I worked there with all these Far Side cartoons, and it drove the old timers (for some reason) crazy. They'd rip them down etc. Eventually I just gave up.

    Another stellar tour from Truth Inside the Lie Journey-ways! Look fwd to the next part.

    1. (1) If not King himself, then maybe Joe Hill. I think this needs to happen.

      (2) Amen. Like Jordy Verrill himself, it's evergreen.

      (5) Works for me. It really stands out among all the other King-written introductions I'm familiar with; and not in the good way.

      (7) By all means! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

      (8) I am determined to read another novel by T. King before the year is out. And another by Straub, as well. And another by Robert McCammon. And "Gerald's Game." And "Memnoch the Devil" by Ann Rice. Whether any of this happens is iffy.

      (9) Me too! I need to find a copy of one of those mags.

      (10) I shit you not, things like that keep me up at night.

      (11) The Far Side is one of those things that if you don't get it, must drive you absolutely insane. It would me. But I do get it (or at least feel as if I do), and I adore it. One of these days, I really need to get that complete book. That AND "Calvin and Hobbes." Those exist near the pinnacle of art, in my opinion.

      Many thanks for fighting your way through this ridiculously lengthy post! I should have broken it up, but couldn't figure out where, so I just let it be.

  2. Kudos on the blog! I've been reading for about a month now, primarily because I decided that I was going to celebrate Ocstrauber this year and read Julia, If You Could See Me Now, Ghost Story, Shadowland, and Floating Dragon. This was as a break from the other project I recently started: a chronological read/watch through (as best I can) of King's work. So, as you can guess, the blog is of great interest to me. In any event, just wanted to say hi, and keep up the good work!

    1. Hi back! Thanks for the kind words. I hope you enjoyed your Ocstrauber. ("Ocstrauber"! Awesome.)

  3. I first discovered The Mist via that 3D sound version, albeit much later than 1986 and on CD. And I've read the Dennis Etchison script. He didn't so much add an ending as add a final image.

    1. I bet that a LOT of people discovered "The Mist" that way. Not a bad way, either.

      I'd love to read Etchison's script one of these days.

  4. Just read the very top of the post about the gunslinger and I had to stop and comment immediately. Two things

    1. I WAS that SK fan that was collection all of his books and when I noticed in Pet Sematary that there was this book called The Dark Tower written by Stephen King I was surprised but also pleased because I thought I would just go down to the bookstore the next day and pick it up. Man, was I wrong. That began probably at least a year of trying to hunt down this book and getting more and more bewildered at my inability to find it.

    2. One day a couple years later, I found my white whale. A hardcover copy of The Gunslinger was for sale at a specialty book store an hour from where I lived. It was in a place of prominence (it might have even been under glass, that is how I remember it but it somehow seems unlikely) and it was selling for $300. I was 14 at the time so $300 was a HUGE amount of money. I tried to talk my parents into buying it and I would pay them back, etc. etc. Long story short I couldn't convince them and when I went back a couple of months later it was gone. I don't have many regrets from my 47 years on this planet, but not buying that book when I had the chance is one of them.

    1. 1. Oh, man! This is great, to hear a firsthand account of what that was like. I'm sorry you (and the thousands of folks just like you in the same boat) had to deal with that. It must have made it that much sweeter to finally get a copy, though. And since the novel opens with a guy who has been chasing something for a long time, it's kind of appropriate.

      2. Ugh. That makes me want to puke a little on your behalf!

    2. Laying my hands on the softcover version was pretty cathartic. But I was still disappointed in not landing the hardcover version when I had the chance. I wouldn't be surprised if it was this event in my life that resulted in me developing a mild form of OCD regarding have a complete collection of SK books.

    3. Well, if that didn't do it I don't know what would!

  5. Great post, a few more comments (because it's fun to comment!):

    1. what is up with the kid's face on the cover of Creepshow? It looks more like he is killing somebody than reading a scary book

    2. I actually like most of King's little catchphrases... they act as sort of touchpoints during the course of reading one of his books. It makes me feel like I am sharing a in-joke with the author. Kinda like he is saying to me "we're having a good time, aren't we?"

    3. A couple of memories from my first watching Creepshow when it came out. Firstly, I thought The Crate was the scariest story. It reminded me of Horror Express (which also terrified me when I first saw it). Secondly, I was shocked to realize the E.G. Marshall starred in one of the episodes, mostly because I did not know he was a TV/movie actor because I only knew of him from listening to Mystery Theatre on the radio when I was supposed to be sleeping. EGM had an amazing voice that really made Mystery Theatre awesome (

    4. The Raft. Agree, that story is da bomb. The segment in Creepshow 2 gave me nightmares

    5. Tales by Moonlight. I'm with you there. Not super classy on SK's part

    6. Speaking of public events, have you seen the recent video with SK and George R R Martin speaking at some event? SK seems a little dour there too.

    7. Games magazine! Haven't thought of that in years. My grandmother loved those magazines and she even let me help her out with some of the puzzles.

    8. Pet Sematary as the scariest book eh? Hmmm, I can see that. Personally I think Salem's Lot scared me more and possibly It. But Pet Sematary is up there.

    9. The Mist radio drama?! I must hear it!

    10. Loved Thinner, haven't read it in a long time. One of the best Stephen King endings though.

    11. The Monkey radio drama?! I must hear it!

    12. My best guess for "tit's up" is that it refers to somebody lying 6 feet under in a coffin?

    1. 1. WHAT IF HE'S DOING BOTH :)

      2. I can roll with that.

      3. Oh, man. I bet that is a treasure trove! I may have to download some of those shows.

      6. A little bit. Martin too, for that matter. It was still fun, though. Not as fun as the one King did with Grisham, but fun.

      11. If you find it, please please please let me know!

      12. Yeah, that seems logical.

  6. "A consultation with Wikipedia assures me that I did alright!"

    Partial credit. The truck doesn't move about the field. It just seems to be getting closer to the house Uncle Otto has set up to keep an eye on it.

    Now I'm going to rely on memory and state that I think from outside the house the truck appears stationary and in the same spot it's always stood. Inside the house is where it seems to be getting closer and when the narrator enters at the end, he looks out the front window and all he can see is the truck's grill.

    1. That sounds about right to me. I'm currently listening to Frank Muller's "Skeleton Crew" audiobook, so I'll find out for sure at some point soon.

  7. Pet Sematary absolutely is one of his strongest and scariest novels, not to mention emotionally devastating. Personally, I think his exploration of how humans deal with grief is very useful, even if reading it takes a lot, I mean a LOT, out of me.

    Christine the movie was released the same year Christine the book was. How on earth did that work?

    1. Movie rights must have sold well before publication, and development happened much more quickly than is usual. I don't know how else it could even be possible.

      Agreed regarding "Pet Sematary." I had many thoughts of that nature while reading Joe Hill's "Loaded" recently.

  8. I will never understand why when King himself took the director's chair, the project was an adaptation of Trucks.

    The story itself is okay. It's not at all a horror story, but a kind of science-fantasy "thriller" that's a bit tense but there's no way to put it on screen and not have it just be silly, which this is. Horribly so.

    And the worst part is it was marketed not just as a horror movie, but a horror movie based on a story by the Master of Fear himself, and in the trailers King himself is there promising to "scare the hell out of you" and that he wants to see someone "do Stephen King right". Yeah, no, my man. Better if you'd tried to adapt 'Salem's Lot or Pet Sematary. If you promise horror, deliver horror. Maximum Overdrive is practically a comedy.

    1. Everything about that project is dementedly weird. I suspect that from King's point of view, it was kind of like, "You're going to give me millions of dollars to basically sit in the floor with my toys and make mouth noises?!? Well, oKAYyyyyy....." And then he did, and was ripped out of his mind on coke while doing it and then AC/DC got involved, because why not?

      The argument could be made that he probably never really took the project seriously except as a means of having fun. In that sense, he might have picked exactly the right story.

  9. Revised the section on Tabitha King's "The Trap" to reflect my having finally read it.

  10. Added brief sections for "The Politics of Limited Editions" (an essay) and "Road Kill" (a short story by Tabitha King).

  11. Added a section for "Eggboiler," a parody short story (written by Paul Proch and Charlie Kaufman) that appeared in the May 1984 issue of National Lampoon.

  12. Bryant, you rule! I'm the fellow who re-discovered "Eggboiler" in my stack of old Lampoon issues and posted about it in the comments. I'm stoked to see it here on the Guided Tour!! Thanks!! :-)

    1. Thank YOU! I wouldn't even know about it otherwise.