Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Guided Tour of the Kingdom: A Chronological Walk Through the Career of Stephen King, Part 10 (1996-1998)

Welcome back for the tenth -- TENTH! -- leg of our tour of the Kingdom.  As we begin today's post, 1995 has given way to 1996.

And what wonderful piece of work is it that we shall begin with?
Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace
(feature film, aka The Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War)
  • a New Line film, released January 12, 1996
  • written and directed by Farhad Mann
As far as chintzy King-"based" cash-grabs go, Beyond Cyberspace must surely take a prize of some sort.  It's a fauxquel to an adapfaketion, which is surely a next-level brand of poop.
Naturally, it's an awful film.  I mean, good lord, they couldn't even get Jeff Fahey back; so they ended up with Matt Frewer!  Jeez.

And imagine this, if you will: in some parallel universe, Pierce Brosnan was contractually obligated to appear in this sequel, meaning he missed out on the opportunity to play James Bond in GoldenEye.  That is a shitty parallel universe.
The Hellfire Club
(novel by Peter Straub)
a Random House hardback, published January 1996
I assume this is NOT an X-Men tie-in novel, but since I haven't read it, I can't say for sure.
The Shawshank Redemption: The Shooting Script
(screenplay by Frank Darabont)
  • published in trade paperback by Newmarket in March 1996
  • includes an introduction by Stephen King, "Rita Hayworth and the Darabont Redemption"

King's introduction to this one is jovial and good-natured, and runs about four pages.  I wouldn't say it's an essential King introduction, exactly, but I'm glad I've got those four pages.
Here are a few standout moments:
  • "From time to time I have been accused by curmudgeonly critics of writing with the movies foremost in my mind, but why would I?  The money for the books is three times better...if, that is, money is even the yardstick we must use to measure with."
  • "I have loved the movies ever since my first one.  Picture a little boy in short pants, already wearing glasses, sitting in the fifth row and staring gape-jawed at the giant cartoon images of Bambi."
  • "The Woman in the Room remains, twelve years later, on my short list of favorite film adaptations." 
  • [Rita Hayworth and] "Shawshank Redemption actually owes a lot to Max Brand, who wrote the 'Dr. Kildare' novels and a number of wonderful Westerns back in the '40s."
  • "I did not feel there was a place for Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption in an industry consumed with Predators and Terminators and cops whose best lines were 'Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker.' "
  • [The Shawshank Redemption was] "not, as the critics so liberally pointed out, the best title ever conceived, but what the fuck were you going to call it?  Sybil Danning's Ass Catches Fire?"
  • "Frank's screenplay follows.  I urge you to read it and enjoy it, but also to marvel over it: you are, in the realest sense, reading a dream come true, a miraculous triumph of art over the buck."

King's introduction is dated March 1995, and was written prior to the Oscars of that year (albeit after the nominations, giving King an opportunity to correctly grouse about Darabont having not been nominated for Best Director).  So I guess the publication of this screenplay was delayed for a while.  I wonder if there were doubts about the movie's popularity even after all the Oscar nominations.
If so, they seem to have been quelled by a year's passage.
Oh, by the way, here you go:
Not on fire, but definitely smoldering.
Unrelated to that, a question: how many other King-adapted screenplays have been published in book format?  Not counting King's own Storm of the Century, I'm only aware of one: Darabont's The Green Mile.  But there might be others, I guess.  If you know of others, let me know in the comments, so I've got yet more books to add to my wishlist!
The Green Mile Part 1: The Two Dead Girls
(serial novel)
a Signet paperback, published March 28, 1996
Those of you who were around for it know.  Those of you who were not ... boy, I hope at some point in your Stephen King fandom you are able to experience something as cool as the six-month fantasia of awesomeness that was The Green Mile's original release.
I try to keep myself on the right side of the equation when it comes to making "I'm a better fan than you are because I __________ whereas you __________" type claims.  That is, I try to never say things like that.  I won't lie to you: I do think them sometimes.  And I'm guessing some of that probably bleeds through on occasion.  It's a dick way of thinking about things, though, and I know that, and for the most part I don't think it.  Just ... you know ... every once in a while.
I don't think it's a dick move, on the other hand, to make simple statements of fact, such as: holy shit, y'all, if you weren't around to read The Green Mile once per month for half a year, I'm a luckier fan than you are.  At least as it regards this one thing.  And THAT is a thing I firmly believe.  Sure, some people would see it differently, and lament the having-to-wait element.
Nah.  No way.  Those waits were treasure, man.  Absolute treasure.
The Green Mile Part 2: The Mouse on the Mile
(serial novel)
a Signet paperback, published April 25, 1996
The Green Mile Part 3: Coffey's Hands
(serial novel)
a Signet paperback, published May 30, 1996
The Green Mile Part 4: The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix
(serial novel)
a Signet paperback, published June 27, 1996
The Green Mile Part 5: Night Journey
(serial novel)
a Signet paperback, published July 25, 1996
The Green Mile Part 6: Coffey on the Mile
(serial novel)
a Signet paperback, published August 29, 1996

Can you imagine how many copies of this novel's various installments were read on the beaches of America -- if not the world -- during the summer of 1996?  At one point in time, all six of the component books of the novel were on the NY Times bestseller charts; that's positively Beatles-esque in prowess.
Happily, the wait was worth it.  King has admitted that even as the first installment was in stores, he had no real notion of how he was going to end the story, making The Green Mile essentially a real-time high-wire act of novel-writing.  Frankly, you'd have to be a madman to attempt such a thing; the potential for falling flat on one's face was sky-high.
Much was made at the time -- and rightly so -- of the manner in which this experiment proved King to be a writer who had no intention of resting on his laurels.  Here he was, two decades and some change into his career; he could very easily have been pumping out uninspiredly "Kingian" novels at the rate of one per year, and his sales would likely have been even stronger than they already were.  Instead, he'd taken a sort of hiatus from the sort of thing that was expected from him and produced a trilogy of feminist novels, and then after that turned his attentions to a failure-magnet experiment that instead repelled failure at a high velocity.
Even today, I kind of marvel at that.

Sometimes They Come Back... Again
(feature film)

  • a Trimark film, released on home video September 3, 1996
  • directed by Adam Grossman from a screenplay by Guy Riedel and Adam Grossman

"The long awaited sequel to 'Stephen King's Sometimes They Come Back'," says the VHS-box cover art.  Hoo boy, you gotta love the brazen lies of low-budget-horror-film marketing.

This is a fauxquel, of course.  And it's awful, of course.  But it does have a few very mild points in its favor: it stars Michael Gross (of Family Ties and Tremors fame), who is actually pretty good; it co-stars a pre-transition Alexis Arquette, who is awful, but in a sometimes-entertaining fashion; it also co-stars a pre-Oscars Hilary Swank, who is pretty good; and, surprisingly for these sorts of projects, it uses a few ideas from King's short story that the first film in the "series" ignored.  So while it is indeed a fauxquel, it's one with at least a few ideas that came directly from King.

Do I remember what any of those are?

I do not.

Desperation and The Regulators
(novels, the former by Stephen King and the latter by Richard Bachman)

Viking (Desperation) and Dutton (The Regulators) hardbacks, published September 24, 1996

After the record-breaking, complacency-defying triumph that was The Green Mile, Uncle Steve had earned a good long while to lay back and breathe the heavy sighs of the deeply satisfied.

Instead, the sonofagun waited a month and put out two hardbacks on the same day that ran well over a thousand pages when combined.  Oh, and as if that weren't enough, they were experimental novels that served as "Twinners" of each other (you Talisman fans get that reference).  Oh, and as if THAT weren't enough, the novels implicitly deepen the themes of the Dark Tower books -- of which these can be considered adjunct relatives -- in ways that would not be entirely apparent for years to come.

That's what Stephen King was up to in 1996, y'all.  I believe this was around the time the guys on ESPN were saying "en fuego," and King most definitely was en fuego.

Now, just me personally, understand; but for me, I don't think either of these novels is top-shelf King.  The one isn't necessarily even top-shelf Bachman.  This is not to say that either is bad (neither is, though Desperation is overlong), and I'm sure any number of Constant Readers could persuasively argue with me that either or both is very MUCH top-shelf King.

By the way, put the two covers together, and whaddaya got?

Gotta love that, don't you?

Some hardback combo sets were packaged with a reading light; once those were exhausted, later combo sets came with a chapbook that represented an excerpt from the then-forthcoming Dark Tower book Wizard and Glass.  A controversy of the early Internet apparently erupted over the latter, with some King fans being quite peeved that as a reward for being Constant enough Readers to buy the books as soon as they came out, they received reading lights instead of the Wizard and Glass excerpt.

I can see where they were coming from.  I wasn't online in those days, and consequently did not know about any of this.  If I had known, though, I'd've been pissed.  Doggone it, I don't even have that reading light anymore!

"The Importance of Being Bachman"
appeared as a new introduction to The Bachman Books, published in trade paperback by Plume (and in a hardback edition by Signet for the Book of the Month Club) in October 1996

King's new introduction begins thus:

This is my second introduction to the so-called "Bachman Books" - a phrase which has come to mean (in my mind, at least) the first four novels published with the Bachman name, the ones which appeared as unheralded paperback originals under the Signet imprint. That first introduction wasn't very good; to me it reads like a textbook case of author obfuscation. But that is not surprising. When it was written, Bachman's alter ego (me, in other words) wasn't in what I'd call a contemplative or analytical mood. Bachman was never created as a short-term alias; he was supposed to be there for the long haul, and when my name came out in connection with his, I was surprised, upset, and pissed off. That's not a state conductive to good essay-writing. This time I may do a little better.

From there, he discusses various Bachman-centric ideas as:

  • the genesis of The Dark Half as an exploration of the confused feelings resultant from the outing of the Bachman identity;
  • the "troublesome" Rage, which King says "has been a factor in a number of nasty (and sometimes mortal) incidents in the real world" that have caused him sleepless nights with the question of how much responsibility he bears for those incidents;
  • the first time Bachman "spoke with his own voice" (in Thinner);
  • the genesis of The Regulators in relation to Desperation (the former only occurred to King when he was about three-quarters of the way finished with the latter);
  • which of the Bachman books is his favorite (Roadwork);
  • and whether there are any additional Bachman manuscripts floating around out there.

Good stuff; it's about five pages, and is pretty close to being essential.

(short film)

  • a Sony film, released October 25, 1996
  • directed by Stan Winston from a screenplay by Winston and Mick Garris (based on a concept by Michael Jackson and Stephen King)

Michael Jackson -- it's possible some of you won't know this (which is why I'm telling the rest of you something you take for granted in the way you take the statement "water is wet" for granted) -- was, for most of the eighties, the biggest star on the face of the planet.  Among his biggest successes was "Thriller," not so much the song (although, yes, that also) but the music video, which was about as big a hit as a hit can be.  Over thirty years later, it remains well-known.
Jackson arguably never hit those heights again, although he certainly tried; long-form music videos for singles like "Bad" and "Smooth Criminal" were huge hits in their own right ... but didn't quiiiiiiite achieve the same level of notoriety.
Cut to the mid-nineties.  Jackson's career and reputation had suffered greatly thanks to allegations -- legally, never proven -- of child abuse.  The hits never quite dried up, but the smashes were a thing of the past.  In an attempt to get back on track, Jackson tried to replicate the success of "Thriller" by visiting the scary-video well for the first time since that song.
In so doing, Stephen King somehow became involved, and contributed story concepts that would eventually be worked into the video.  How extensive King's contributions are is unknown, at least to this blogger; evidence indicates they were not particularly extensive.
The video itself was tied to the mediocre song "Ghosts," which certainly did not help it in its aim to be a new generation's "Thriller."  The video itself is also somewhat underwhelming; Stan Winston's direction is cheesy and utterly uninspired (neither of which is true of John Landis's work on "Thriller").  The best reason to see the video is Jackson himself, who might have no longer had some of his former physical beauty, but retained a great deal of his charisma, and virtually all of his dancing ability. 
The short film actually played in select theatres, as a prelude to Thinner.
(feature film)
  • a Paramount film, released October 25, 1996
  • directed by Tom Holland from a screenplay by Michael McDowell and Tom Holland

A year and a half or so after his big ABC hit The Langoliers, Tom Holland (director of Fright Night and Child's Play) returned to the Kingdom with Thinner.  Sadly, the movie doesn't work.  That's a charitable assessment; a less charitable one might go like the one delivered by my friend Brian, which was along the lines of "This movie fuckin' blows."
Indeed it does.
One of the problems was that the concept -- an obese man who slowly wastes away to a skeletal near-nothing as the result of a curse put upon him for his misdeeds -- was simply too ambitious for the makeup effects of the time to succeed.  They tried their best, and in stray moments some of it works; but 1996 just couldn't get there.  (I'd be into seeing what motion-capture could do with the concept nowadays.)
Some of the casting -- okay, okay, most of the casting -- is also suspect.  That never helps.
The movie isn't a total washout, but it's definitely a disappointment.
The Girl Next Door
(novel by Jack Ketchum)
  • an introduction by King appeared in a hardback edition published by Overlook Press in December 1996
  • collected in Secret Windows, 2000
I've never read this novel, but if it's as good as King's introduction, it's well worth the time.  King drops in fun sentences like this one:
The only two sure things in life are death and taxes, the old saying goes, but I can add a third: Disney Pictures will never make a movie out of a Jack Ketchum novel.
Seems like a safe enough bet.

(novel by Tabitha King)

a Dutton hardback, published February 1997


Alas, I have no knowledge of this novel to share with you.  Many apologizings emanateth thusly.

Pet Sematary
(radio drama)

  • broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in six episodes between February 20 and March 27, 1997
  • directed by Gordon House from a radio play by Gregory Evans

The BBC version of Pet Sematary remains the only audio version of that novel that is commercially available, having been issued by Simon & Schuster Audio (pictured above) in 1998.  And even that appears now to be out of print.

I listened to this as part of my Halloween-month festivities this year, with my headphones on as I was getting ready to go to sleep every night over the course of a week or so.  Radio dramas deserve one's full attention.  This is a good one; the voice cast is good, the adaptation is good, and it's got a few hair-raising sound effects.  Strong work all around.

The Green Mile
(the complete serial novel)

a Plume trade paperback, published April 1997

A bit less than a year after the serial-novel experiment of The Green Mile, a single-volume edition appeared, complete with a new -- and excellent -- four-page introduction from King.  Perplexingly, this new introduction did not appear in later editions of the novel, including the hardback edition.  Weird.
The trade paperback from 1997 came housed in a green slipcase, and if you look in the right places online where used books are sold, you might still be able to find an affordable copy of it in good condition.

Fangoria Masters of the Dark
(interviews collection, edited by Anthony Timpone)

a Harper Prism paperback, published April 1997

This book runs 224 pages in length, and is divided nearly in half between King-centric and Barker-centric content.

The cover is slightly misleading in that most of the material presented here consists not of full-fledged interviews, but of articles that appeared within the pages of Fangoria.  That doesn't make it less enjoyable, though; this stuff is a lot of fun to read, and it's nice to have it presented in book format.

Regarding the King content, here are the contents:

  • "The Stephen King Interview" by David Sherman
  • "Stephen King and George Romero: Collaboration in Terror" by Stanley Wiater
  • "Stephen King Gets Behind the Wheel" by Jessie Horsting
  • "Stephen King Takes A Vacation" by Edward Gross
  • "Paying Respects at Pet Sematary" by Rodney A. Labbe
  • "The Return of the King" by Marc Shapiro
  • "The Dark Half Takes Flight" by David Kuehls
  • "King Talks" by Philip Nutman
  • "Bleedful Kings" by Brad Ashton-Haiste
  • "Book to the Future" by W.C. Stroby
  • "The Long Road to The Stand" by Bill Warren
  • "Stephen King Takes The Stand" by Bill Warren
  • "Stephen King Shines On" by Linda Marotta

I'd cite what issues these pieces originally appeared in, but the book doesn't give that information.  Maybe I'll do some research and figure it out, and put in whatever I find.  Or maybe not!  We'll see.

I'm not going to list the Barker material, because it's out of our purview.  I will say a few quick words about Barker, though.  I read several of his books -- The Damnation Game, Imajica, Weaveworld, and The Great Secret Show --  in high school and enjoyed them all.  I never did get around to the Books of Blood, which seems like a shame.  One of these days, I hope to circle back to those, and then launch my way through his entire bibliography.  Seems like a thing worth the doing.

Six Stories

a limited-edition Philtrum trade paperback, published April 1997

In the spring of 1997, a limited-edition story collection was issued by King's own Philtrum Press.  It was called Six Stories, and if you've got a couple of thousand dollars, you might be able to get yourself one on the secondhand market.  Sheesh.

Four of the stories -- "Lunch at the Gotham Cafe," "Luckey Quarter," "Blind Willie," and "The Man in the Black Suit" -- were reprints of recent stories that had not yet been collected, but there were also two debuts:

"L.T.'s Theory of Pets"
  • released as an audiobook on June 6, 2001
  • collected in Everything's Eventual, 2002

This is the tale of a marriage that is defined by the pets which take sides (in their fashion) once the marriage goes bad.  A serial killer gets involved in there somewhere, but I'll be damned if I can remember how.

"Autopsy Room Four"
  • reprinted in Robert Bloch's Psychos, December 1997 (Cemetery Dance limited edition) and January 1998 (Pocket Books paperback)
  • collected in Everything's Eventual, 2002

This one is a knowing riff on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Breakdown," but with an additional twist on the end that will make you stand up straight.
The Shining
(television miniseries)
  • broadcast in three parts by ABC on April 27 and 28 and May 1, 1997
  • directed by Mick Garris from a teleplay by Stephen King
Uncle Steve was famously displeased by Stanley Kubrick's movie based on The Shining, and, bless his heart, he's bitched and moaned about it for decades.  He eventually decided that the way to get the stink off the situation was to make his own version, and so it was that, when ABC -- who was hot as fuck to keep making King-based miniseries, given the successes they'd had since It in 1990 -- asked "what's next?" King cashed in the more-or-less blank check he had with the network to produce a miniseries more faithful to the novel.
We live in a world of possibilities.  That being the case, I have to admit that it's possible I would love the ABC version of The Shining if the Stanley Kubrick version didn't exist.  I don't think I would; I think I'd think basically the same thing about it that I think now, which is that it's a bloated, meandering, tacky mess.  But is it possible I'd love it?  Sure.  It's even more possible that I'd like it, and I'd go so far as to say it's not merely possible but likely that I'd tolerate it.
Kubrick's movie DOES exist, though, and whatever it lacks in fealty to the novel it makes up for in all the other things I love about cinema.  So why would I want or need an inferior version that runs over twice as long but has scarcely a tenth of the verve?  Just because it's more faithful to the novel's story and tone?!?  Damn that.  If that's all I want, I'll just read the novel.
I certainly don't mind King having taken a shot at improving the perceived failures of the movie.  I just wish he'd summoned up a similar amount of pickiness before signing off on movie and television "adaptations" of his books and stories such as The Dark Tower, Under the Dome, Cell, Desperation, Bag of Bones, and "A Good Marriage," among many, many others.
Where was that insistence on faithfulness when it mattered?
Quicksilver Highway
(television movie)
  • broadcast by Fox on May 13, 1997
  • written and directed by Mick Garris
Mick Garris's Quicksilver Highway starred Christopher Lloyd as Aaron Quicksilver, a goth weirdo who traveled the country telling horror stories to hapless people he meets along the way.  It was intended to be an ongoing anthology series, and might have made a decent one; but since Fox didn't pick the series up, all we got were the two stories that form the basis of this pilot (or television movie, since that's how it was aired).
The two stories presented are Stephen King's "Chattery Teeth" and Clive Barker's "The Body Politic."  The former is a mediocre King story, and makes for a less-than-mediocre episode of television.  I've never read the Barker story, but the tv adaptation is okay, despite the fact that it stars Matt Frewer (a fundamentally good actor who often showcases his worst impulses when acting in a Garris film).

The Outer Limits season 3 episode 15: "The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson"
(television episode)

  • broadcast on Showtime on June 6, 1997
  • directed by Steven Weber from a teleplay by Brad Wright

Given the frequency at which King turns out short fiction and the quality level at which he does so, it's always a bit surprising for any horror-(or dark fantasy-)based television anthology series NOT to include an episode based on one of his works.

His "Word Processor of the Gods" had appeared in the mid-eighties Twilight Zone relaunch, and for the third season of the revamped Outer Limits, "The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson" was chosen.  It's an odd choice given the fact that by this point, the story had been folded into The Tommyknockers (and served as a major element of the ABC miniseries based on that novel).  My guess: there's a story of some sort here.  Perhaps King had sold the rights to the story (in its Rolling Stone) guise separately at some point prior to the Tommyknockers revision; perhaps somebody on the Outer Limits staff was a big fan of the original version and wanted to see it accurately portrayed.

Whatever the case, this is definitely accurate to the original version of the story up to a point.  That point, specifically, is the mention of Jesus, who is replaced here by a generic photo-frame-model ("played" by director Steven Weber).

It's a solid episode, buoyed considerably by Catherine O'Hara, who plays Becka.

The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass

  • a limited-edition Donald M. Grant hardback, published August 1997
  • a mass-market trade paperback from Plume was published on November 4, 1997

I would love to have the Grant editions of the first four Dark Tower books, and might even devote some funds toward that quest one of these days.  No time soon, though, unless a LOT of things change here at the Truth Inside The Lie home office.

I'm not fond of that cover for Wizard and Glass, though.  No surprise there; I'm not found of Dave McKean's art for the novel, so it makes sense that the cover would also turn me off.

It's the only thing about the novel that does.  This is a big, fat piece of awesome that ranks pretty high on my list of favorite King novels.  (That's a tough list to curate beyond a certain point, boy.  There are probably close to twenty novels on that list that would earn an A+ from me, and choosing among them beyond the first few is brutal.)


"The General"

  • published in Screamplays (a Del Rey trade paperback edited byRichard Chizmar and Martin H. Greenberg), September 23, 1997
  • uncollected

Contrary to what the cover of Screamplays would have you believe, "The General" was NOT a teleplay; it was, in fact, an excerpt from the 1985 Cat's Eye screenplay.  To be specific, it was -- and you could probably have figured this out on your own -- an excerpt consisting of the segment "The General" (i.e., the one in which Drew Barrymore has a troll in her bedroom wall).
The screenplay is fun to read; I don't always feel like King's screenplays translate as well onto film as they optimally might (although I'd argue this one did just fine), but if they make for satisfying reads in their own right, that's no small consolation.
This brings up a technical matter of classification.  Should "The General" be counted as one of King's short stories?  I'm somewhat on the fence about that.  On the one hand, he included "Sorry, Right Number" (which WAS a teleplay) in his collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes, which means that you sometimes see it listed as a short story.  But would you extend the same courtesy of classification to that book's entries "Head Down" (a nonfictional essay), "Brooklyn August" (a poem), and/or "The Beggar and the Diamond" (a retelling of a parable)?  I, personally, would not, except perhaps in the case of the final of those three; I currently have it listed on my own list of King short fiction, but an argument could be made that it is really more of an authorial aside than a story.
In any case, what say you on the subject of "The General"?  If it should be listed, HOW should it be listed?  Currently, I've got a mixed message of sorts on that score: on the one hand, I have "The General" listed as a 1997 screenplay, even though it was (in a sense) "published" by way of the movie being released into theatres in 1985; whereas, opposite to that, I have "Sorry, Right Number" listed as a 1987 teleplay (that being its airdate) despite it not appearing in physical publication until 1993.
Seems like I ought to pick one approach and go with it, but I'm not sure which.  For that matter, I'm not sure I ought to list either one of them.
If you have thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them!
Reading Stephen King
(edited by Brenda Miller Power, Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, and Kelly Chandler)
  • a National Council of Teachers of English trade paperback, published October 1997
  • includes a speech by Stephen King, "I Want to Be Typhoid Stevie"
In October of 1996, the University of Maine hosted a conference on the subject of teaching Stephen King, and King himself delivered a lecture during the course of it.  (It aired on CSPAN2 and is currently on YouTube.)  Part of that lecture consisted of King delivering an actual speech, and that speech -- it's titled "I Want to Be Typhoid Stevie" -- appears in this book.  Unsurprisingly, it's really good.
It's unquestionably the highlight of Reading Stephen King the book, the rest of which mostly consists of dry academic essays.  If you can tolerate that sort of thing, it's worth reading.
Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering
(feature film)
  • a Dimension film, released on home video October 8, 1997
  • directed by Greg Spence from a screenplay by Stephen Berger and Greg Spence
Unquestionably one of the best Children of the Corn movies, which is arguably a meaningless distinction, because they are all pretty bad.  But this one at least stars a pre-fame Naomi Watts, and that ain't nothing.
(television movie)

  • broadcast by the SciFi Channel on October 29, 1997
  • directed by Chris Thomson from a screenplay by Brian Taggert

When you manage to out-suck Maximum Overdrive, you've accomplished something, and that's exactly what happened with this crappy piece of crap.
The idea was to do a more serious adaptation of King's original short story.  Heh, what am I saying?  The idea was to make a few bucks on an el-cheapo production.  Whether that worked I cannot say.  This movie isn't particularly faithful to "Trucks," as I recall, though, so there's really nothing good to be said here.
"Everything's Eventual"
  • published in the November 1997 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • collected in Everything's Eventual, 2002

It wouldn't be apparent for a long while, but "Everything's Eventual" ended up being a Dark Tower story, and was published at about the same time the mass-market edition of Wizard and Glass hit shelves.  That, as I recall, was pretty dang cool.
The story is about a young man who discovers he has a rather unique ability related to drawing geometrical patterns.  Somebody else discovers he has it, too; and while that seems like a great thing for a while, it maybe turns out to be not that great.
Riget II
(television miniseries)
broadcast in four parts on DR from November 1 through November 22, 1997

The second Riget miniseries from Lars Von Trier aired on Danish television in late 1997, and it's just as weird as the first; maybe not quite as good, though.  Definitely not bad, but my memory is that it's a bit inferior.
My memory is also that most of the material in the second miniseries is absent from the later Riget remake, the King-written Kingdom Hospital.  I suspect some of it would have formed the basis for that show's second season, if such a thing had ever been made.  It wasn't, and just between you and me, I'm kind of glad.
Obviously, the two Riget miniseries themselves had no involvement from King, and were only retroactively associated with him in any way.  But I don't think an understanding of Kingdom Hospital can be had minus a familiarity with its source material, and since Kingdom Hospital is one of only two series directly shepherded to the screen by Stephen King, I -- as your tour guide -- say that these ten(ish) hours of Danish television are very much recommended as part of our studies.
The Night Flier
(feature film)
  • broadcast by HBO on November 15, 1997
  • directed by Mark Pavia from a screenplay by Mark Pavia and Jack O'Donnell

Not everyone seems to be as taken with it as I am, but guys, I'm here to tell you: I love this movie.  Yeah, sure, it's a bit on the goofy side, and might not necessarily even fit the bill of "good movie."  But it works for me, and while there are individual moments that descend beneath the threshold of "good," none of those moments change the fact that I enjoy the hell out of this movie every time I watch it.
The film is anchored by a terrific star turn by Miguel Ferrer, who plays a prick tabloid journalist.  He's chasing rumors of a vampire who flies a private plane from small airport to small airport, leaving bodies in his wake.
If you can resist a setup like that, you're made of sterner stuff than I am.
Regarding the release date, I've opted to use the date it was first aired on HBO.  A limited theatrical release occurred on February 6, 1998, but IMDb also lists the film as having debuted in Italy (presumably at some festival) on April 30, 1997.  So it might be that that's the date I should be using.  But to be honest, I hate taking festivals into account when I'm listing the release dates of movies; I have a bias for using the date a film becomes available to the general public, and most film festivals don't quite count as that.  Plus, for all I know, (a) the date is bogus or (b) the version that showed in Italy was a rough cut.
You almost certainly care about that less than I do, so let's move on.

The X-Files season 5 episode 10: "Chinga"
(television episode)

  • broadcast on Fox February 8, 1998
  • directed by Kim Manners from a teleplay by Stephen King and Chris Carter

scanned from the Stephen Jones book Creepshows
The X-Files -- and its sister series, Millennium -- was right up Stephen King's alley, and when he approached the production about writing an episode, everyone jumped at the idea.
King wrote a teleplay titled "Molly," which is very different from the episode that was eventually produced.  (A summary of this original draft can be found in Rocky Wood's book Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished.)  Carter read "Molly" and expressed to King the need for changes to be made.  This is not even vaguely unusual for television production, by the way; I've seen a few opinions from people over the years indicating that Carter was out of line for suggesting that King make changes, but that's ridiculous, and is simply not how television production works (a fact King would presumably have been aware of).
In any case, King's next step was to write "Chinga," which carried over a few elements of "Molly" but was otherwise a new story.  Carter would end up doing heavy revision on this, and it is unclear how much of King's work survived into the final episode; odds are good it wasn't all that much.  If so, he's hardly the first writer to have that happen to him in television production.
Amusingly, King would, many years later, name one of his dogs Molly; he has posted dozens of photos of her, referring to her as "Molly, the thing of evil."  I kind of doubt he had The X-Files in mind, but wouldn't rule it out.

Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror
(feature film)
  • a Dimension film, released on home video June 21, 1998
  • written and directed by Ethan Wiley

David Carradine, Fred Williamson, and Kane Hodder all make appearances in this one, and if you think that helps it any, I'd ask you to remember that Alexis Arquette and Eva Mendes also appear in it, and individually have more scenes than those guys put together.
Nope, this movie sucks.
"That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French"
(short story)

  • published in the June 22-29 issue of The New Yorker
  • collected in Everything's Eventual, 2002

I don't remember a whole lot about this story.  It's got something to do with deja vu and an airplane, and beyond that, all I remember is that I enjoyed it.
Bag of Bones
a Scribner hardback, published September 22, 1998
With Bag of Bones, King moved to his third -- and, so far, final -- major publisher, Scribner.  He'd been with Viking for nearly two decades, and the relationship finally fell apart over what most such relationships fall apart over: money.  Normally, I wouldn't bring a thing like that up; we're not so much into the gossip and controversies here (not that there have been many of those in King's career -- there really haven't).  However, Bag of Bones received a good bit of press as a result of the journalistic interest in King's new publishing deal; it was a big enough aspect of that book's selling that I remember it nearly two decades later.
I also remember that this was about when people began reexamining his work and his literary reputation.  I've got no sources to cite to prove this, granted.  But that's how I remember it: that Bag of Bones is where King began to actually be respected for his writing, and not merely for his sales.
One might fairly ask whether Bag of Bones is a good enough novel to have prompted that.  One might then fairly answer, sure it is.  Or one might just as fairly answer, no, not really.  I tend to side with the latter sentiment, and I want to be clear in terms of what I mean when I say that: I think this is a very good novel, maybe even a great one.  But it's no more so than many of the novels King had published in the years leading up to it; it's better than some, inferior to others, on par with the rest.  So is there anything there to make the literati begin a reevaluation?  Nah, I don't think so; it was just a standard King novel, that's all.
So, if not the novel itself, then what?  I'd speculate that perhaps it was just time for it to happen.  You can't spend two decades writing fundamentally good novels that also sell millions of copies and have nobody notice.  I'd also speculate that The Shawshank Redemption helped; so, I'd imagine, did Misery.  Prestige films come from prestige source material, and while there were still demonstrably shite King-based movies getting made regularly -- I believe this tour has illustrated that -- that was no longer the only truth about King movies.  All of a sudden, if a movie like The Mangler came out, there was likely to also have been a Dolores Claiborne relatively recently to balance it out; and the end result of that was that people in a position to influence media opinions began to realize the simple truth, which was that a bad movie based on Stephen King's work might be a bad movie because it was badly made.  In other words, maybe that wasn't King's fault.
I think that by the release of Bag of Bones, some people in the media and in the academia had finally figured that out.
Us Constant Readers were way ahead of them.

An audio version read by King himself was released as well.  It's terrific, provided you like the way King reads.  I don't.
I fucking love the way he reads.

"The Little Sisters of Eluria"

  • published in Legends (a Voyager hardback edited by Robert Silverberg), October 1998
  • collected in Everything's Eventual, 2002

Legends is a 700-page collection of novellas spun off from the authors' fantasy series.  It's interesting to note that George R.R. Martin's contribution from the universe of A Song of Ice and Fire didn't even make the front cover; but, then, there was only one book (A Game of Thrones) in that series at the time, and this was a long time before HBO got their hands on it.
Still, it's a hell of a lineup:

  • "The Little Sisters of Eluria"  (Stephen King, The Dark Tower)
  • "Debt of Bones" (Terry Goodkind, The Sword of Truth)
  • "Grinning Man" (Orson Scott Card, The Tales of Alvin Maker)
  • "The Seventh Shrine" (Robert Silverberg, Majipoor)
  • "Dragonfly" (Ursula K. LeGuin, Earthsea)
  • "The Wood Boy" (Raymond E. Feist, The Riftwar Cycle)
  • "The Sea and Little Fishes" (Terry Pratchett, Discworld)
  • "The Hede Knight" (George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire)
  • "The Burning Man" (Tad Williams, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn)
  • "Runner of Pern" (Anne McCaffrey, Dragonriders of Pern)
  • "New Spring" (Robert Jordan, The Wheel of Time)
I've read none of these except King's, and to be honest, I'm scared to, because I figure the odds are good that it'll just make me want to pick up at least three or four of these series.  Who's got the time?
Regarding "The Little Sisters of Eluria," it's a prequel set prior to The Gunslinger, and while there is nothing in it that is mandatory reading for a knowledge of the full series, I'd say it's well worth reading.
Apt Pupil
(feature film)
  • a TriStar film, released October 23, 1998
  • directed by Bryan Singer from a screenplay by Brandon Boyce
In theory, this should have been a classic.  It was directed by Bryan Singer only a few years after he broke through with the instant-classic film The Usual Suspects, and starred Ian McKellan in the same year that he finally broke through as an Oscar-caliber film actor with Gods and Monsters.  
The movie that resulted is by no means bad, but it has always felt oddly flat to me.  It's also oddly toothless, and nowhere is this more evident than in the ending, which is modified from the King novella so as to permit Todd to get away with what he's done.  That probably ought to feel even more transgressive than the novella's resolution; but, somehow, it doesn't.  It falls ... flat.
Some of this is probably due to the casting of Brad Renfro, who -- and apologies for speaking ill of the dead -- is simply not a good enough actor to pull off what he's asked to do here in a compelling manner.  He is bland and uninspired, and I think it causes everything around him to feel forced and ineffectual.
  • published in the December 28, 1998 / January 4, 1999 issue of The New Yorker
  • uncollected
This is a brief essay -- a mere five paragraphs -- in which King talks a bit about tourists visiting his home state of Maine.
I wouldn't normally include so brief a piece as this; if I included EVERY nonfiction piece of comparable length, we'd never get off of this dadgum tour bus.  This particular one appeared in The New Yorker, though, which gives it a bit of cachet that it might not otherwise have.  So I thought it made sense to mention it.
King is in a contemplative mood here.  "Romantics compare the cycle of the seasons to the cycle of human life," he says, "a comparison I have never really trusted.  And yet now, at the age of fifty-one, I find something in it, after all.  Sooner or later, life takes in its breath, pauses, and then tilts toward winter.  I sense that tilt approaching."
Something to bear in mind, eh?

For us, 1999 is approaching.


  1. Man, this tour has been a blast.

    Didn't realize it until digging in, but this block of time is probably the one I'm personally most nostalgic for. I'd pretty much given up being a hardcore King fan right after receiving GERALD'S GAME for my 14th birthday, but all throughout the 90's I would check back in when there was a major event. The most memorable are all here: the GREEN MILE serial (stopped by the bookshop after high school on each release day), the long-awaited drop of the new DARK TOWER (found W&G lacking at the time but now I love it), the X-Files episode (didn't watch any TV my freshman year in high school, but made it a point to catch this one since it was so highly publicized, what a disappointment!) and finally seeing King read an excerpt from BAG OF BONES at an appearance at Rockefeller Center. Good times, man.

    Of course it turns out I missed a ton of King-related stuff over these 3 years - if only I knew he was being published in New Yorker! Love how comprehensive and informative these have been, excellent work sir.

    1. Thanks!

      That's awesome that you got to attend a King reading. I'd love to be able to make it one of those some day.

  2. 1) I had just turned nine when DESPERATION and THE REGULATORS came out. At the time, I knew nothing about Stephen King other than the following three things:

    He wrote big books.

    He wrote *scary* books.

    I probably wouldn't be allowed to read them. My tastes didn't lean that way at the time, though, so there was really no danger of my asking for any of his stuff.

    I knew even less about Richard Bachman. Even so, I remember going to the grocery store, seeing those hardcovers on display, and thinking that the cover art looked similar in style. I thought that it was funny, but I never thought to put the two covers together to make the connection. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I found out years later that not only were King and Bachman the same man but the two books were linked both thematically and cover-ly. I recently purchased those two novels at separate book sales, and fortune smiled on me, allowing each of them to be an original hardcover (with, most importantly, intact dust jackets), so now I can take the two volumes down, put them next to each other, and explain the backstory to anyone who cares to hear. Fun times.

    2) "This one is a knowing riff on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode 'Breakdown,' but with an additional twist on the end that will make you stand up straight."


    I've only read "Autopsy Room Four" once--when I tackled EVERYTHING'S EVENTUAL some thirteen or fourteen years ago--but I distinctly remember two of its details: the meaning behind your sly little reference and the fact that the narrator describes the source of his woes as a "Peruvian boomslang, a nasty viper."

    First, boomslangs are deadly, but they're African; there's no such thing as a "Peruvian boomslang." Second, boomslangs are colubrids, not vipers. Pedantic? Churlish? Yeah, probably, and it's a silly hill to die on. But I'm a reptile enthusiast, and things like that make my teeth itch just a bit.

    For the record, while I haven't read it since, I did find it to be squirm-in-your-seat tense, aided in large part by the present-tense narration, which was something that I rarely encountered at the time. The grumbling of my herpetological nerdery shouldn't be taken as denying the story's effectiveness.

    3) There were parts in the middle that felt a bit padded, but I loved WIZARD AND GLASS when I read it a couple of months ago; there was nothing egregious enough to keep me from giving it a solid 5/5. I'm a lover of westerns, and in addition to "pure" ones, I've always enjoyed "weird west" tales like HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER that add a touch of the fantastic to the genre. For instance, I'd absolutely love "The Little Sisters of Eluria" even if it were a one-off that was entirely unconnected to a larger saga.

    4) "U-Turn, U-Die!"

    "Evil Has A Flight Plan."

    Ah, they just don't make taglines like they used to.

    5) "For us, 1999 is approaching."

    I'm obviously jumping ahead a bit, but since I know what this is leading to, I have to mention that as someone who has only relatively recently begun to explore King's work in earnest, it's eerie just how often car accidents are depicted or mentioned in his writing, even in pieces going back decades (and that's just in those that I've read; there are probably even more in the titles that I've temporarily skipped).

    Others have pointed this out, so I know that I'm not making any sort of earth-shattering discovery, but it's hard not to take a moment and reflect when reading along in a book written in the '80s or early '90s and a character gets hit by a car.

    In a way, the hindsight is even creepier than his writing.

    1. 1) It's worth me writing this blog just to get to hear stories like that once in a while. Awesome!

      2) Yeah, my innuendo wasn't too hard to grasp there, was it?

      3) I agree; I think "Eluria" works regardless of whether you've read any of the novels. I'd love to know how many hardcore King fans finally decided to read the novels after checking that novella out. I bet it's not an insignificant number.

      4) If I were the head of a Hollywood studio, I would institute a policy mandating that all my new movies had to have multiple posters: one representing the style of each decade which preceded it. This would go back to the '20s or '30s. And part of that would involve era-appropriate taglines, naturally. This is a thing which WOULD happen under my beneficent reign as a Hollywood mogul.

      (5) AbsoLUTEly it is. Imagine how much it must seem that way if you're King himself! It's not hard to imagine why he went the direction he went with the final three Dark Tower books, all of that considered. (Spoiler alert: that might be a talking point in a future post in this series.)

    2. 1) Looking back, it's kind of cool to realize that I was just observant enough to notice that *something* was up with those covers, but I was just out of the loop enough to be unable to put all of the pieces together. I just passed it off as a coincidence and forgot about those books until my interest in King bloomed years later.

      I just wish I could remember my visceral reactions to those covers. Was I intrigued? Creeped out? Curious? Beats me.

      3) "Eluria" certainly worked well for me. It was my first exposure to the Tower mythos; I had never heard of the series prior to reading the little intro in the collection. I loved the story's setting and style (again, lover of westerns here), a sentiment that didn't change when I re-read the story a few weeks ago. I wouldn't object to more one-off tales like that.

      It didn't make me rush out and read the series right away when I first read "Eluria," but it certainly made me jot down a mental note to check it out one day. As it happens, "one day" ended up being only a decade and change later.

      It's a bit of a tangent, but I've thought for a long time now that the western is a sort of uniquely American mythology; I adore a well-made western that strives for historical accuracy, but I also think that the genre/time period is just as valid a source of inspiration for fantasy stories as European history is. That's *probably* what most attracted me to the Tower series.

      I've mentioned in past comments that I'm coming to the series only after it was completed, so I didn't have to live through those years of drought, but I'm taking my time reading through the core novels and the other connected works. With the occasional exception here and there, I've never been much of a binge-watcher or -reader, and I think that I enjoy series when I can savor them a bit.

      I'm not all that far from WOLVES OF THE CALLA now, and I know that the last three books are (to put it mildly) divisive within the fandom. I don't know exactly when I'll get to them (other authors, other titles--readers know how it is), but I look forward to seeing what I think of them.

      4) I would approve of that policy. Old-timey trailers would also make a comeback, I hope.

      5) For the sake of any readers who haven't read it, I hesitate to really go into details, but I read INSOMNIA this summer, and I found the ending to be chilling--but it would have only been chilling for the last eighteen years; it's supposed to be a touching, bittersweet moment.

      Once or twice in a lifetime of work is one thing, but man, it happens a *lot*.

    3. 1) It's VERY cool. I bet the artist for those would be thrilled to hear that happened; it's kind of a best-case-scenario thing from their point of view, I bet.

      3) I totally agree about the Western being a uniquely American mythology. It's one of the few we can claim, and that's okay, because it's plenty!

      I hope you'll share what you think of those final three novels when you get to them. They are indeed divisive; I'm on the side that (mostly) loves them.

      5) There's a book waiting to be written that fully examines this topic. I will absolutely read it when it finally appears, assuming it does.

  3. (1) I get a kick out of thinking of that Bummer Pierce Brosnan Universe. The only potential silver lining is that there'd probably have been a few Remington Steele TV movie reunions and maybe one or more of them were fun. It's not exactly inspiring anyone to create an alternate-dimension-viewfinder, though, is it?

    (2) Lately I feel I've been repeating myself more than usual, so I don't want to go on too much about working at Waldenbooks when The Green Mile holiday box sets arrived and I unpacked them off the truck. I might have even set up the display - it would've been in my normal range of duties, but I unfortunately don't have clear memories of it beyond noting it and thinking "hey, cool." Certainly no Robert-Rochardson-lit, John-Williams-scored memories like my mind is trying to create for itself. To be honest, there was a hardcover PLAYMATES retrospective that came out that Christmas (1996) that arrived in the same shipment and I was probably gobsmacked by that one. (Donna Michelle was on the cover. See? I remember more details. Ridiculous.)

    (3) "A failure magnet experiment that instead repelled failure at a high velocity." I love it!

    (4) Team REGULATORS forever! There's a film that needs an over-the-top adaptation and stat!

    (5) "Trucks" - like ROADWORK and THE LONG WALK - really needs a 70s American New Wave adaptation. When time travel filmmaking becomes a thing, watch out. Those 3 will sweep the Oscars and change the 70s and subsequent timeline forever.

    (6) "You can't spend two decades writing fundamentally good novels that also sell millions of copies and have nobody notice." You'd think so! Sometimes I wonder. But yeah, you at least grease the wheels this way.

    (7) A nice note to end on. Ah, to see 1999 approaching again.

    1. (1) Nope, certainly not. I'd be more inclined to peek in on the universe in which he played 007 three more times after "Die Another Day." I'm a fan of the guy in the role, and suspect the movies might have improved after that.

      (2) Donna Michelle was a bit of alright, no doubt about it. Is it still safe to say that?!? I better get 'em out while I still can, I guess.

      (3) I couldn't remember what I'd written that about, so I had to look it up! And promptly found a typo, which I have now corrected. So thanks for the compliment AND for the unwitting editorial service!

      (4) Netflix should do it, along with a remake of "Desperation." Film both with the same casts, and release 'em at the same time.

      (5) Coppola, Lumet, and Friedkin, in that order.

      (6) I'd imagine there are any number of long-terms authors who would see that comment and throw their hands into the air while making disgusted non-verbal sounds seeking an immediate correction.

      (7) I'd kill an entire convent of nuns to make that happen. Probably not literally, but I'm not ruling it out.

  4. (1) It's hard to tell what kids today may think about the publishing phenomena of "The Green Mile". For lack of any better terms, King's serial novel was part of a time when literature counted for more than it does today.

    I could compare it to the Harry Potter Phenomena, yet I came away from it all very disappointed, as Rowling seemed to have bit off more than she could chew. Stuff like "The Hunger Games" betray a lack of imagination that, perhaps for that very reason, is marketable to the public at large.

    (2) I like Mckean's work for "Wizard and Glass" because its the closest we'll ever glimpse at a more off-the-wall version of the series. Like what could have been if, on wanting to revisit Mid-world, King went to both Mckean, Gaiman, and Alan Moore and said, "Hey guys, I have this idea for a multi-part book, but I could use some help in realizing a few things, care to lend a hand?"

    One can only imagine what would have resulted from an occurrence like THAT!.

    (3) I can't say I mind Regulators/Desperation. I think they both hold up equally well.

    In terms of how high I rank them, my view of King's work has arranged itself into roughly four levels. Top level might be taken up by "It" and "The Shining". "Salem's Lot", "Bag of Bones", "Hearts in Atlantis" and "The Green Mile", "The Body", and "11/22/63" "might" occupy the second level, after that the third level is all on an even keel, where no book is better than the other, yet all are class acts that are well worth a read. I'd place "R/D" on this third slot. On the fourth level would go all things "Tower" and "Stand" related, along with some of the Bachman Books, except for "Blaze".

    (4) I can actually imagine an opening title sequence for "Regulators" based on the title drawing of the Main Street on where the action takes place.

    It would start with a blank sheet of brownish paper. The sound of a pencil scribblings would be heard. Then either a line of pencil marking would appear on the screen, over which the title presentation would appear.

    After that, we would follow the results of the invisible pencil as it begins to sketch in Poplar Street. This version would expand on the drawing in the book, making the flat images morph into 3D replicas of the set. All of this would be accompanied by a Danny Elfmann-esque score. I can even imagine the beat of the notes, it would feature a kind of rapid, insistent repeat of light violin notes. At least I violins are what my imagination hears.

    The title sequence would end in a complete 3D mock-up of the street, through which the camera would fly, coming to rest on the opening shot, which slowly fades in, and superimposes itself on the drawing.


    1. (5) One last thing. A sample of an alternate universe where MJ still reigns as the "King of Pop". Hopefully, this universe is one where the cultural tone of the 80s never really went away, all thanks to the King, of course.


    2. (1) I never read any of the Hunger Games books; they hold no interest for me. I barely tolerated the movies. As for Potter, I read and enjoyed all of them, but will probably never read them again. Too many other things to get to.

      (4) Tim Burton's The Regulators? I'd watch that.

      (5) That's actually pretty good! If I heard it cold I'd think it was a credible cover version. The original is aces, of course.

      For my money, MJ still reigns as King of Pop. I think once you get that crown, you keep it permanently; the next such personage will have to have an entirely different title (if such a personage ever comes around again, which might well never happen).

  5. I had never read Richard Bachman when Desperation and The Regulators came out. I wanted to read them both, since I figured they had to be related, but I was told to read The Regulators first, since it was awful, and Desperation second, because it was much better. I'd have to agree, but I still wish I'd read Desperation first, because much of The Regulators I just didn't get, and I think I'd probably have gotten more out of it if I knew the characters and wondered what had happened to change them and their situation so much.

    I'd like to think that on a different level of the Tower, Richard Bachman is real and he is in fact the one who wrote The Regulators, as both he and King were inspired to write about these people and their encounters with Tak on another level of the Tower. This raises the question of how The Regulators ended up in our world. In fact, it makes one wonder if all the Bachman books are in fact bleed-overs from another world that King wrote while being used by Gan?

    1. Not a bad theory, that!

      I am REALLY looking forward to re-reading both of those books, because it's been a long time and I don't remember either of them very well at all. So it'll be close to the same type of experience as reading them for the first time.

      I'm tempted to read "The Regulators" first this time, but I don't think I will actually do it. The way my brain is wired simply doesn't permit for arranging them in that way.

      Not that it matters much; I don't think it does. That's just a "me" thing.

      I appreciate your perspective on the issue! I've heard a range of opinions from people on the matter, and the subject fascinates me.

  6. Mr. Burnette:
    1996 must have been a good year for you.

    1. It was almost too good to be true! At least as far as being a Stephen King fan went.

  7. Desperation and the Regulators are so underrated and awesome! A few things I wonder about:

    ---All of the God/religion stuff in Desperation (as well as the whole John Coffey/Jesus Christ subtext in The Green Mile) no doubt had to have some constant readers at the time wondering if King suddenly was "born again" and if this would be a reoccuring thing in his future books. (Of course, he does a total swerve in The Regulators, getting in some religion/Catholic bashing via the unsympathetic/unfortunate Hobart family that Tak forces out of town.)
    ---Speaking of Tak, I still eagerly await another appearance of him/it in a future story or novel. Great villain with a cool backstory that seems to be overshadowed by most of the others in the King-verse.
    ---I've said before how The Regulators would make a great movie but you know what would be even better? An animated movie. Not CGI but hand-drawn, Ralph Bakshi style. It would capture Seth/Tak's warped cartoon-verse and creatures perfectly.
    ---Its both very cool and very jarring to have Collie Entragian go from sadistic villain to doomed hero in the books' alternate universes.
    ---Two of my all-time favorite King lines from Regulators: "What in the name of Jesus H. Sodapop Christ happened?" and "It occured to Steve that if he ever heard a goat playing The Yellow Rose of Texas on a Hohner, he would probably fucking kill himself." One of the worst repeating King lines from both books: "Don't call me cookie and I won't call you cake!"

    1. "Don't call me cookie and I won't call you cake!" -- Oh, man, I'd forgotten all about that. That is pretty awful, for sure.

      "no doubt had to have some constant readers at the time wondering if King suddenly was "born again" and if this would be a reoccuring thing in his future books" -- I can vouch that I myself wondered if something of that nature had happened. It wouldn't have been a deal-breaker for me, but I'm glad it was a non-issue.

      I like the idea of an animated "Regulators" movie!

      My memory of both of these books is entirely too dim. This, of course, makes the idea of a reread seem all the more appealing. That needs to happen soon!