Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Guided Tour of the Kingdom: A Chronological Walk Through the Career of Stephen King, Part 8 (1986-1991)

I yawwwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnn didn't get enough sleep last night, did you?  Hoo-whee!  That leg of our tour yesterday was a doozy!  Glad to see you all on the bus again this morning, though.  You look like your mothers had a hard time getting you ready for school and you are pissed at her for succeeding, but otherwise, you look wonderful!  Just the kind of folks I like to spend a morning with.
Now, if you'll look to your left, our first stop for the day brings us back to the year

"Cracked Interviews Stephen Kink, The Horror King"
(comic short)

  • written by Joe Catalano, art by Stan Goldberg and Mike Esposito
  • published in the August 1986 issue of Cracked

We begin 1986 in ignominious fashion, with an almost-entirely-unfunny piece that ran in Cracked.

For those of you who don't know, Cracked was basically the RC Cola to Mad's Coca-Cola in that it was what you settled for if you couldn't get the genuine article.  Or at least, this was the case when I was a kid.  For whatever reason, though, I always tended to prefer Cracked to Mad.  (I also had a serious RC Cola phase, FYI.)  I only had a handful of issues of either one, but if I was reading one in a store, it was typically Cracked that I gravitated to first.

I dunno, man ... maybe it was better once upon a time than this issue's contents would seem to indicate.  All I know for sure is, I'm glad I didn't pay much more than cover price in the obtaining of this issue.  (The things I do for this blog do not always do me credit.)  I do kind of dig the John Severin cover, but as for the actual "interview" itself...?

Well, let's have a look.  Cracked doesn't exist anymore, so I don't think they can sue me, and anyways, fair use:

Well, okay, then.

In addition to not being particularly funny in general, this specifically isn't very funny as a King parody.  It is, perhaps, mildly instructive as an example of the sort of weird prejudices King had to overcome in gaining general respectability for himself and his work.

Let's move from something lame to something awesome:
"Banned Books and Other Concerns: The Virginia Beach Lecture"
(public speaking engagement)

  • lecture and Q&A session delivered at the Virginia Bech Public Library (Virginia Beach, Virginia) on September 22, 1986
  • transcribed by George Beahm and published in The Stephen King Companion, 1989
  • shortened version (minus the Q&A) collected in Secret Windows, 2000
A notable public speaking engagement is how we kick off part eight of this series.  We ended part seven with It, a novel which King publicly stated was his attempt to put forth a sort of fictional thesis on the genre of horror.  He'd indicated that he was more or less done with horror after that, and while that ended up to not be particularly true, it certainly had some truth to it, or at least that's how it seemed for a good hot minute there.
The lecture itself is fascinating, and it is well worth obtaining a copy of The Stephen King Companion so that one can read the full transcript.
One also apparently has the option of viewing the whole thing on YouTube!  I was unaware of this until doing a bit of research (trying to find a good image of the library), but the lecture was filmed and broadcast on a local public-access channel, and some good soul -- Carl Castillo, by name -- found a VHS copy and uploaded it this past April.  So if you've heard that this was a controversial lecture due to King's beer drinking -- allegedly to soothe a sore throat -- and want to see what that looked like, Carl Castillo has you covered, bless his heart.  As of the time of this writing, that video has only been viewed 26 times, which means King fans must have not found it.

Let's see what we can do about changing that, shall we?

"The End of the Whole Mess"
(short story)

  • published in the October 1986 issue of Omni
  • collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993

In this satisfactorily grim blend of sci-fi and horror, King brings the world to an end for neither the first nor the last time.

Nothing wrong with it, but it's one of his stories that doesn't really stick with me all that much.

"Why I Chose Batman"

  • published in Batman #400, October 1986
  • uncollected

I'm not sure why it was Stephen King that DC turned to when looking for someone to introduce their big anniversary issue of Batman, but it was.

Oh, wait.  What am I saying?  They chose him because his name being on the cover probably sold them an extra ten thousand issues!  Duh!

The upshot of this essay, which is awesome, is that King was always drawn -- as a kid, yes, but also still as an adult -- to Batman before any of the other superheroes.
He begins, "When I was a kid there were certain questions which came up and had to be answered...or at least aired, if finding a conclusive answer proved impossible."  After pour paragraphs' worth of examples, he finally gets to the one germane to this comic book:
"Who do you like better, Superman or Batman?"
You already know the answer, but it's worth pointing out that King is by no means devoid of love for Superman.  "You couldn't not dig him because he was a good guy (and, contrary to the beliefs of some curmudgeons both then and now, kids feel a natural attraction for the good guys...thank God)," he says.
He's got plenty more to say on the subject(s) than that, and if you can find a copy, this is well worth having for anyone who enjoys King's essays.

"The Dreaded X"

  • published in the December 1986 issue of Castle Rock
  • unpublished

This substantial essay is ostensibly about the fight Maximum Overdrive had to avoid being rated X, but it covers a lot of other related topics, too.  Ultimately, it's King in make-a-point mode, and the point he wants to make is that art which has restrictions placed upon it really isn't art at all.  So if a movie by Stephen King isn't allowed to do some of the things that a book by Stephen King would be allowed to do, to what extent is it actually by Stephen King?

Good question.  Steve has an answer for you, too, along with an ambitious plan to reshape the motion-picture ratings system.

They didn't take him up on the offer.

This issue of Castle Rock also contains a poem by Tabitha King, "Conditional."  I didn't think it was too great a poem, to be honest; but the last few lines are strong enough that they almost save the entire thing.


The Eyes of the Dragon

a Viking hardback, published February 2, 1987

A bit more than two years after the novel made its first appearance (via the Philtrum Press limited edition), The Eyes of the Dragon finally became widely available for Constant Readers.  This edition replaced the Kenny Linkous art with art by David Palladini (whose work was the subject of a sumptuous art portfolio from Suntup Editions in 2017).

"Stand But Me"
(comic-book parody)

  • published in Mad Magazine #269, March 1987
  • written and drawn by the usual gang of idiots

Mad #269 included a parody of Stand By Me titled "Stand But Me," which as a title is both lazy and ineffective.  Bad combination.

Let's check out the first couple of pages:

It goes on for three more pages in that vein, some of it pretty funny, some of it less so.  If you enjoy Mad, this might be your cup of tea.

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three

a limited-edition Donald M. Grant hardback, published May 1987

The second volume of the Dark Tower saga picks up almost exactly where the first volume left off, and this proves to not be an entirely good thing for our old friend Roland, the last gunslinger.
One might say that readers will be tempted to give Stephen King the finger for the way he begins this novel.  If one is lame as fuck, that is definitely a thing one might say.
Regardless, this is a masterpiece of a novel, an A+ effort, a four-star (or five-star, if you're on that system) classic, a 10/10.  Best novel of the series?  Well, not in the opinion of this tour guide, it isn't, but if somebody says that it is then you will hear no objections from me.
It's here that two of the series' major characters show up, and their stories are just as riveting as Roland's, if not more so.
Constant Readers would have been statistically unlikely to actually get to meet them in 1987, though; both The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three would remain off the (mass-)market for a while still to come, which infuriates me across time on behalf of everyone who was impacted by the scarcity of those fine novels. 
Creepshow 2
(feature film)

  • a New World Pictures film, released May 1, 1987
  • directed by Michael Gornick from a screenplay by George A. Romero
Time was when I thought of Creepshow 2 merely as a lamentably inferior second installment.  After seeing it on the big screen a couple of years ago -- and then following that viewing up last year with an exploration of the limited-edition Blu-ray issued by Arrow Video -- I have come around to being a fan of it.  I'd argue that it IS inferior to the first film, and by a wide margin.  That's okay; the sequel has a lot going for it in its own right, and I think it more that makes up for the things working against it.
The movie is based on a trio of stories by Stephen King:
  • Old Chief Wood'nhead
  • The Raft
  • The Hitch-Hiker

Now, if you're wondering why our tour bus hasn't pulled up to either "Old Chief Wood'nhead" or "The Hitch-Hiker" before now, there's a simple reason for it: King never (so far as anyone knows) write the stories out as narrative prose.  He HAD done that in the case of "The Raft," obviously; but with the other two, their only existence came in the form of the story treatments King sent Romero.
There is debate over how much of the end result was "written"by King, and how much by Romero.  Romero certainly wrote the stories into screenplay format, but did he make contributions to the story apart from merely adapting them from one medium to another?  It seems likely that he did; dialogue, if nothing else, but possibly aspects of the plotting as well.
I did some research on these issues and wrote about them at one point, and if you're interested in it, you can check that out here.
You will also discover there that Creepshow 2 was originally intended to have two additional stories: "The Cat From Hell" (based on the short story of the same name) and "Pinfall," a third King/Romero collaboration, this one involving zombie bowlers.  Good stuff, and it's a real shame it never got made.  Romero's screenplay for "The Cat From Hell" eventually did get filmed, and we'll talk about that when we get to 1990.
As for the Creepshow 2 that IS, as opposed to the one that never was, I think it's fun provided you give yourself over to its cheesiness.  Director Michael Gornick has been crapped upon by many a fan over the years -- including me -- for the sin of not being George Romero, and that's unfair and counterproductive.  He brings a lot to the table, including a strong sense of how to mix humor and horror; he might not BE Romero, but he clearly learned a thing or two from him.
The movie's budget is a problem, and it shows most notably in the running time and in the not-great animation.  That sort of thing might cause you to have serious issues with the film; it did for me, for a long time.  But what it shares with the first Creepshow is a very E.C. tone; this is a comeuppance-for-misdeeds nightmare comedy, and a pretty good one.  
(short story)

  • published in Masques II (a Maclay and Assoc. hardback, edited by J.N. Williamson), June 1987
  • collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993
"Popsy" is a short story that would have made a fine segment of Creepshow 3 if such a film had ever been made.  (One was -- and we will discuss that eventually -- but it has nothing to do with King or Romero.)  It is about a kidnapper who finds out that if you steal a kid and put him in the back of a van, you might want to hope he doesn't have a vampire for a grandfather.
But, of course, he does, and you get what you fucking well deserve, you sorry thing, you.

a Viking hardback, published June 8, 1987
The Truth Inside the Lie review of Misery: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5
Imagine if you were a King fan who had been able to get The Drawing of the Three when it came out, only for fucking Misery to come out only about a month later.  Holy shit, y'all!  What a bounty of riches those few weeks would have been!
Both are bountiful riches in book format, regardless of when you read them.  Misery, as you know, is about a writer who ends up trapped by a manic-depressive and rather insane nurse.  His only means of survival: write a book for her, and keep her going long enough to find a way out of the situation he's in.
By just about any standard, this is one of King's best novels.  He's said it might well have ended up being written by Richard Bachman if Bachman lived long enough to do so, and if he had, it would be his crowning achievement.

Apt Pupil
(unfinished feature film)

  • produced by Granat Releasing, filming abandoned prior to completion
  • directed by Alan Bridges from a screenplay by Ken Wheat and Jim Wheat
Schroeder would have been good in this role, I think.
One of the most tantalizing mysteries in the entire Kingdom is the 1987 movie version of Apt Pupil, which began completion with actors Ricky Schroeder (as Todd) and Nicol Williamson (as Dussander) in the lead roles.  As far as I know, you can't even find a still image of this movie online; there are rumors of a screening tape existing, but if such a tape does in fact exist, it has been guarded tightly and well.
A few tidbits about the production from Scott Von Doviak's books Stephen King Films FAQ, which contains the most extensive information on the subject of which I am aware:
  • Producer Richard Kobritz (a King veteran, having produced both Salem's Lot and Christine) purchased the film rights to Apt Pupil in the mid-eighties.
  • Both James Mason and John Gielgud were considered for the role of Dussander, but both passed away before deals could be struck.
  • Ricky Schroeder was Kobritz's only choice for the role of Todd.
  • Filming began in July and continued for ten weeks before production shut down due to Granat Releasing running out of money.  This happened right before Schroeder was to film the climactic killing spree.
  • Varying accounts say that forty minutes of footage was assembled and that two-thirds of the movie was completed.
  • King himself saw a rough assemblage of whatever they had at some point, and was apparently impressed by what he saw.  

It is unclear to me who, if anyone, even owns the rights to the finished footage.  King?  The film rights to Apt Pupil reverted to him in 1995, but that wouldn't entitle him to the footage from the unfinished film.  At least, I don't think it would.
Granat Releasing would be the likeliest entity, but Google has little to say about them; all the hits I saw were about this film.  I think maybe Kobritz himself would be the owner, but if financial limbo was involved, then legal limbo could not have been far behind.
In other words, I got no clue who to tell you all to send letters to in the hopes of getting a release of some kind -- ANY kind -- of the existing footage.  Clearly, some enterprising documentarian needs to get involved and work on retrospective interviews with Schroeder and whoever else is still around from the production, and then wrap that around the existing footage.  I'd back that on Kickstarter, REAL quick.

The Ideal, Genuine Man
(novel by Don Robertson)

  • a Philtrum Press hardback, published August 1987
  • King supplied an introduction, "The Ideal, Genuine Writer: A Forenote"

King's homegrown Philtrum Press issued a limited-edition hardback of this novel by one of his writing idols.  A mass-market hardback from Putnam was later issued, and that's what I have a copy of.  I haven't yet read it, which you probably could have guessed.

I have read King's fifteen-page introduction, which is excellent.  "Robertson, always very good and sometimes even brilliant, has transcended himself," he writes of the novel.  "Publishing this book is no thank-you note, but a simple necessity.  To not publish when I have the means to do so would be an irresponsible act."

Elsewhere you will get some thoughts from King on:

  • The Eyes of the Dragon
  • caviar
  • things that make accountants frown 
  • various works by Don Robertson
  • the sound a banjo makes
  • specifics on what elements of Robertson's work figure into The Talisman and Christine
  • the difference between titties and tiddies 

Good stuff; King is clearly happy to write at length about Robertson, and based on his enthusiasm I got myself figured for a sap for not reading any of the man's books.

The Monster Squad
(feature film)

  • a TriStar film, released August 14, 1987
  • directed by Fred Dekker from a screenplay by Shane Black and Fred Dekker

Let me not bury the lede: The Monster Squad has nothing to do with Stephen King.  I'm mentioning it here for one reason:

The main character, Sean, wears that shirt for much of the first act or so of the movie.  So if you see this shirt someplace -- and that's entirely possible -- know that this is where it came from.

While we're here, I may as well mention that while the movie still has a sort of goony charm to it, it doesn't hold up very well.  Sad, but true.

A few King movie alumni pop up in various capacities, including:

  • Robby Kiger (he's the one above NOT wearing the red shirt), who played Job in Children of the Corn
  • Stephen Macht, who played Warwick in Graveyard Shift, is Sean's father
  • Tom Noonan, who played Frankenstein's monster here, was in the television series Monsters, in a King-based episode called "The Moving Finger"
  • David Proval, who has a small role here as the airplane pilot, appeared as Snooze in The Shawshank Redemption (although he will forever be Richie Aprile from The Sopranos to this blogger)
  • director of photography Bradford May had directed "Gramma," a King-based episode of the Twilight Zone 
Gotta love IMDb, right?

"The Doctor's Case"
(short story)

  • published in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (a Carroll & Graf hardcover), September 1987
  • collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993
Not sure what's up with this "new and expanded" business.
It must have been a coup and a half to get King to contribute a story to an anthology in the eighties.  He doesn't seem like a good fit for a Sherlock Holmes anthology, but "The Doctor's Case" -- which, as you might have guessed, focuses on Watson -- is an above-average effort.  I say that having never read a Sherlock Holmes story in my life.  Unforgivable!  So don't forgive me, but either way, we're moving on.
A Return to Salem's Lot
(feature film)

  • a Warner Bros. film, released September 11, 1987
  • directed by Larry Cohen from a screenplay by Larry Cohen & James Dixon
This fauxquel to Salem's Lot is either a junk masterpiece or just junk, depending on your perspective.  I lean more toward the latter viewpoint, but Dog Star Omnibus -- which you should read, always -- has gone on record as being more on the side of the former.
Whichever way you lean, this "movie" is absolutely NOT "based on characters created by Stephen King."  That's ... that's just a god damned LIE, is what that is.  
And here's the thing about that: as with many fauxquels, I find it difficult to work myself into a tizzy over it.  Because it's such a bold-faced lie that it can only fool people who don't know any better, and those people deserve what they get.  This is a sort of cinephilic Darwinism at work; if you can't manage to figure out that this movie ain't got jack squat to do with Salem's Lot (either the novel by Stephen King or the miniseries adapted from it), then that's on you.  So for me, the enjoyment -- such as it is -- comes from soaking in the morally questionable air of that implicit challenge for the strong to separate themselves from the weak.  
There's a certain chutzpah at play here that summons images for me of cigar-chomping magnates/financiers -- possibly, although not always, with significant mafia interests -- shelling out cash because they want to get in on the "Steven Kings" craze they've been hearing about. 
I give you A Return to Salem's Lot, which was probably NOT financed by the mafia, but sure does seem as if it might have been.  And you know what?  If it was, good on 'em!  
Anyways, this movie is about a photographer who goes home to Salem's Lot and gets proposition by vampires to, like, write their Bible or something.  A Nazi hunter shows up, and boy, there's a subplot for you.
Up to this point, Children of the Corn and Maximum Overdrive were the junkiest movies made from King works.  With A Return to Salem's Lot -- which, in the legal sense, IS a King-derived film, and therefore must be counted -- we enter new territory altogether.  We enter the realm of the cash-grab, the type of film that has as its primary interest the turning of $5 into $10; nothing more, nothing less, unless $10 isn't doable, in which case $9, $8, $7, or $6 will also work.  We ain't shootin' for the moon here, fellas; just that fiver and see what you can do.
Having a household name like Stephen King to put on the poster probably helps turn that $5 into at least $6 every time.

Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In
(collection by Joe Bob Briggs)

  • a Delacorte Press trade paperback, published fall 1987
  • King supplied an introduction, "This Guy Is Really Scary!"

Before I forget to mention it, Delacorte Press circa 1987 was located in New York City, at Hammarskjold Plaza.  You Dark Tower fans know what I'm sayin'.
The first time I ever heard of Joe Bob Briggs was when he was hosting Monster Vision on TNT.  I was in college, and had made a few friends who lived in a honors dorm.  I spent a decent amount of time there, hanging out and watching television and movies and getting drunk, and most of my memories of Monster Vision involve blurry vision on my end of things.  I thought the guy was pretty great, though.
I've not read the entirety of this book, but I have skimmed it, and it is a fucking hoot.  King's introduction is fine, but he spends most of it trying to sound like Joe Bob, and Joe Bob is better at it than he is, which makes it a bit of a squandered opportunity.

The Tommyknockers

a Putnam hardback, published November 10, 1987

The Truth Inside the Lie review of The Tommyknockers: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4


The Tommyknockers is one of the most reviled of all of King's novels.  I didn't like the book much myself when I first read it (circa 1990), and for a long time it was on the small list of King books that I gave a thumbs-down.
When I reread it earlier this decade, I found myself reversing my opinion in a major way.  Not only did I like the novel after revisiting it, but I kind of love it now.  
If you want to read more about my feelings on that matter, follow the links above.
It's a big novel about an alien invasion that turns numerous residents of a small Maine town into techno-crazies of a sort.  It's also about a missing child, and a failed romance, and alcoholism, and anti-government paranoia, and all sorts of other stuff.  Guys, this is a weird novel, and it's an unsuccessful one in many ways.  But if this is a failure, it's a fascinating one; one in which its author is throwing ideas out like he's flinging beads from a float on Bourbon Street.  Every strand is interesting; they might not all land gracefully, but they are flung with such passion that you'd have to be a real churl to not be into at least some of this novel.
Or, in the case of my teenage self, you'd have to just not get what King was going for.  I didn't.
I get it now.  And while I wouldn't say it's one of his best novels, I do think it's a good one, and one with numerous great passages.
The Running Man
(feature film)

  • a Tri-Star film, released November 13, 1987
  • directed by Paul Michael Glaser from a screenplay by Steven E. DeSouza
It occurs to me that if you were born after a certain year -- we'll say 1995, although that may be a bit too early -- you may have a hard time understanding why there was an Arnold Schwarzenegger.  By which I mean, "Why even was there a Arnold Schwarzenegger?" in the newspeak of today's youth, with their Instagrams and their cord-cutting and their Bernie Sanderses.
Shit, guys, I don't really know.  I know it makes sense; I know it made sense, at least.  It was ... fuck, man, it was the eighties.  Just goddamn trust me; the shit MADE FUCKING SENSE.
Even so, The Running Man itself barely made sense.  And yet, it DID make sense, and it DOES make sense, and I'm not sure it doesn't make more sense now than it ever made.  Let's be brutally honest here: if there was a television show -- "what's a television?" some Fun. fan asks snarkily while live-Tweeting that he burned me, sickly (which he kind of did) -- in which people ran around being chased and (eventually) brutally killed (probably), that shit'd get some ratings.  No way it wouldn't.
When and if it happens, am I obliged to count it as a King adaptation?
Anyways, The Running Man.  Arnold in a spandex onesie, a dope Harold Faltermeyer score, one of the all-time great pointless end-credits songs, "trenchant" "political" "subtext," an excellent Richard Dawson performance, an illogical screenplay even by the standards of illogical screenplays, and so forth.  I'll bottom-line it for you: I dig this movie.  Is it faithful to the Bachman novel it's based on?  No sir.  It's fine by me, too, because this is an Arnold movie.  Is it AS Arnold as Commando is?  No.  Conan the Barbarian?  Don't be silly.  
But it's pretty fuckin' Arnold, and that's A-OK with me.
Tales from the Darkside season 4, episode 9: "Sorry, Right Number"
(television episode)

  • syndicated nationally on November 22, 1987
  • directed by John Sutherland from a teleplay by Stephen King
  • teleplay collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993

King's first-ever original teleplay is a fun one involving a telephone call that few people would expect ever to receive.  It might as well come from the Twilight Zone, but, no, it came from the Darkside.
The production is -- like all of the series I've seen -- low-budget and somewhat ineffective, but not bad.  "John Sutherland" was a pseudonym for director John Harrison, who would go on to direct the Darkside feature film a few years down the line.  He also composed the awesome original score for 1982's Creepshow, which all on its lonesome puts Harrison in my King-movie Hall Of Fame.  (Which is not an actual thing, although it really ought to be.)

Crystal Ball and Sneak Peek
( G.I. Joe characters)

Your eyes do not deceive you.  We're suddenly discussing G.I. Joe toys in a Stephen King conversation.

Here's the deal.  Owen King was ten years old in 1987, and he was evidently a huge G.I. Joe fan.  He wanted there to be a magician of some sort on the team, and somehow this led to the creation of Crystal Ball, a mesmerist.  King Sr. allegedly wrote the character's biographical file card:

Sounds a bit like King to me, so I can believe it.

But then there was also Sneak Peek, whose look was modeled on Owen, and whose file card reveals an interesting fact about his real name:

Whether King also wrote this file card is unknown.

So there you have it!  One of the oddest items on this tour, but I thought I'd better point it out to you.  Thanks to Bloody Disgusting for bringing this all to light.  Stephen and Owen also spoke about it with Entertainment Weekly around the time Sleeping Beauties came out.

Phil and Sundance
(unfinished novel)

Phil and Sundance is a novel (or possibly a novella) that King was writing circa 1987.  He never finished it, but apparently -- and this is just fucking amazing -- decided to give one of the two known copies away to a kid he met on a Make A Wish visit.  Years later, in 2013, the kid, all grown up now, decided to try and sell the manuscript.  Apparently, he did: to Cemetery Dance, who returned the manuscript to King.

A few links on the subject:

Stephen King Collector
Lilja's Library
Cemetery Dance

An extensive plot summary can be found in the 2014 update to Rocky Wood's Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished.  The 2014 update was a slender (76 pages) paperback update published by Overlook Connection Press.  It was the last such work Wood produced before his untimely death in December of 2014 from motor neurone disease.  The King-fan community lost a key member that day.

As for Phil and Sundance, ah, shit, ain't none of us ever gonna get to read the eighty-plus pages of it that King finished.  It's seemingly  a for-the-kiddies type of tale not dissimilar in tone to The Eyes of the Dragon, but focused on leprechauns.  Some elements of it seem to have been borrowed from "The General" (the Cat's Eye segment), which may well mean that the work comes from earlier than 1987, and thus might have been repurposed FOR Cat's Eye, rather than from it.

Sheer speculation on my part, that.

Another tantalizing mystery that seems destined to remain such!

(stage musical)

  • book by Lawrence D. Cohen, music by Michael Gore, lyrics by Dean Pitchford
  • Royal Shakespeare Company production (directed by Terry Hands) began February 13, 1988
  • Broadway production (directed by Terry Hands) began April 28, 1988


To this day, it's both a joke and the punchline that Carrie was adapted into a Broadway musical.  To those who love it, though, it's the most natural thing in the world: the semi-campy tone of Brian DePalma's film (specifically, Piper Laurie's performance) made for a logical transition to the heightened reality of stage musicals.
Whether it's a good one or not is the issue.  I tend toward "not," but it isn't a firm judgment.  the fact is, I kind of enjoy the loopiness of it all.  Some of the songs are pretty good; a few are not.
The first performances were by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.  They ran for four weeks beginning on February 13, and resulted in the near-death (via near-miss decapitation!) of the actress playing Carrie's mom.  Nobody should die for Carrie, and, mercifully, nobody did, unless the investors were killed for losing the amount of money this eventually lost.
The show moved across the Atlantic to begin previews at the Virginia Theatre on Broadway on April 28, and the show's reception was mixed.  Some accounts mention that standing ovations were earned; others say that boos and hisses were earned; still others insist that it goth both reactions simultaneously at some performances.  The official opening was May 12, and the show closed after a mere five performances, going on from there to earn a spot in history as one of the most notorious Broadway flops of all time.  (Broadway flops are an interesting thing, though.)
Here's a terrific video compiling several television reviews:

That's a fun watch (I especially enjoyed the brief glimpse of Steve and Tabby arriving at the premiere), and the critics make some good points, but it also feels a bit as if they've gotten overly excited about getting the opportunity to use those sharpened knives they carry around with them at all times.
From a King-fan standpoint, the takeaway is that maybe some media are not quite suitable to play host to stories by America's Boogeyman.
That said, 1988 was not the end of the story for Carrie the musical.  We'll pick this up again in 2012.  The future!  Jetpacks and jobs on the moon for everyone, I'm sure!
Bare Bones: Conversations on Terror with Stephen King
(interviews collection, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller)

a McGraw-Hill hardback, published May 1988
This indispensable book collects twenty-five interviews with King conducted during the years 1979-1986.  They come from sources such as:
  • Playboy
  • Sounds
  • Yankee
  • Monsterland
  • Sourcebook
  • the Minneapolis Star
  • Rolling Stone College Papers
  • the Tampa Tribune
  • Waldenbooks Book Notes
  • Heavy Metal
  • Tomb of Dracula
  • USA Today
  • Cinefantastique
  • Penthouse
  • the Baltimore Sun
  • High Times
  • the Detroit Free Press

And more!

I have nothing specific to say about this book, except that it ought to be required reading for any King fan.  It's that good.

"The Reploids," "Sneakers," and "Dedication"
(short stories)

  • published in Night Visions 5 (a Dark Harvest hardback edited by Douglas E. Winter), May 1988
  • all but "The Reploids" (which remains uncollected) were collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993

A bit of business: Night Visions 5 later appeared under the titles Dark Visions (its British title) and The Skin Trade (for its America mass-market paperback edition from Berkley).  Shit like that is confusing.
Anyways, that's a solid trio of contributors, and Martin's novella, "The Skin Trade" (more confusion!), won a World Fantasy Award.
King's contributions are an interesting trio.  In "The Reploids," we meet Edward Paladin, a late-night talk-show host who simply shows up in the place of Johnny Carson one night.  The mystery is never solved, and apparently this is because the story is actually just an excerpt from yet another unfinished novel.  This information comes courtesy of Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished, in which Rocky Wood reveals that King confirmed that what we know as "The Reploids" is merely an excerpt from the forty-ish pages of the novel King finished before it went belly up.  Oh, to read the rest!
"Sneakers" is best summarized as the story of a pair of haunted sneakers that show up in a bathroom stall.  You gotta love that.
"Dedication" is about a hotel maid who seemingly puts a magical spell to work in order to help her son become successful.  I won't say why, but this is a story that seriously grossed me out the first time I read it (which was probably '91 or '92, so while I was still in high school).  When I reread it later in life, though, I thought it was pretty damn good.

(novel, mass-market paperback edition)

In June 1988, the mass-market edition of Misery from Signet hit shelves, and readers received a ... yeah, sure, I'll go ahead and call it a "treat" ... inside the front cover: a stepback picturing what a paperback of Misery's Return might look like:

I can only hope that you find that as funny as I find it.

  "The Night Flier"
(short story)

  • published in Prime Evil (a NAL hardback edited by Douglas E. Winter), June 23, 1988
  • collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993

"The Night Flier" is a terrific story in which a tabloid journalist pursues -- and eventually catches -- a serial killer who is said to be a vampire.  The vampire flies from airport to airport in his own private airplane, which is one of those things that sounds so stupid on paper that you just roll your eyes at it.
The story itself, however, is damn near a masterpiece.  One rolls one's eyes at Stephen King at one's own peril.

"Astronomy (Wild King Mix)"
(song by Blue Öyster Cult)

(King narrated a spoken-word introduction for the "Wild King Mix" on the single, which was released in June 1988)

This curiosity was brought to my attention by an anonymous commenter, to whom we owe our thanks.

I have no idea the circumstances behind this King/BOC collaboration, so I'll simply present the facts as I know them (gleaned entirely from Wikipedia):

  • For their 1988 album Imaginos, the band produced a new version of the song "Astronomy," which had originally appeared on their 1974 album Secret Treaties.
  • A spoken-word introduction was appended to radio versions of the single and also to a video version (which is evidently hard to find nowadays).
  • King somehow became involved, and recorded the narration.

And that's what I know about that!

King's narration goes like this:

" 'Imaginos' (performed by Blue Öyster Cult) - A bedtime story for the children of the damned.  From a dream world, paralleling our earth in time and space, the invisible ones have sent an agent who will dream the dream of history.  With limitless power he becomes the greatest actor of the 19th century.  Taking on many ingenious disguises, he places himself at pivotal junctures in history, continually altering its course and testing our ability to respond to the challenge of evil.  His name is 'Imaginos'."

I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that King had no hand in writing this material.

I'll say this about "Astronomy": it kicks ass.


I've often thought that I would probably be a big fan of Blue Öyster Cult if I sat down with their discography and gave it some time.  "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" is legitimately one of my favorite songs ever recorded, so if only for that, they are in the Truth Inside The Lie Hall Of Fame, to the extent that matters to 'em.

Here's the 1988 version (with King's intro), which, for my money, is considerably less good:


Not bad, but it lacks the conviction of the original.  I do like the glossier eighties sheen on it, but I also dig the grungy seventies sound of the original.

Here's the thing, though: Blue Öyster Cult didn't do the definitive version of this song.  Metallica did, in 1998 on their covers album, Garage Inc. 

The sheer amount of ass that kicks cannot be weighed.
(novel by Peter Straub)

a Dutton hardback, published September 6, 1988
The Truth Inside the Lie review of Koko
Koko was Straub's first novel since The Talisman won the World Fantasy Award.  I read it at some point in high school, but all I remembered about it until rereading it in early 2018 was that it has something to do with Vietnam and that I didn't much like it.
I didn't trust that opinion, though; Straub's work is of a different sort than what I was used to in high school, so as far as I'm concerned, I had effectively not read this novel until I sat down with it in 2018.

My instincts on that score were right: for one thing, I remembered nothing of the novel even while rereading it (not one word of it rang any bells of familiarity); for another, it's a stylistically/structurally complex novel of the sort that 1991 Bryant simply wasn't capable of grasping.
Check out the review I link to above if you want to know a bit more about my opinions on the novel.  Here's the short version: it's great, it's frustrating, it's ambitious, it's (probably) not supernatural in any way, and while you might well find yourself not liking it at all, I loved it upon a revisit.
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
(novel, mass-market edition)

a Plume trade paperback, published September 28, 1988

Our tour is mostly not that concerned with keeping track of when, exactly, the varying editions of most of these books appeared.  Hardback, trade paperback, mass-market paperback, limited-edition hardback, etc.; it's all the same thing to us.
Except when it isn't (such as the two different versions of The Eyes of the Dragon), or when there's something majorly notable about some specific post-premiere release.
The latter applies to The Gunslinger, which, you will recall, ran in F&SF from 1978-1982, and then appeared in a keenly-sought-after limited edition hardback from Donald M. Grant in 1982.
Since only a tiny portion of King's fans were able to read the novel until its 1988 trade-paperback debut, many of them would have experienced it in sequence between The Tommyknockers and The Dark Half.
Not THAT big a deal, but it seemed worth pointing out.
Also worth pointing out: I don't know if you noticed this or not, but 1988 has been devoid of any new books from King.  We're coming up on a very mild exception to that, but for all practical purposes, 1988 stands in the record books as the first year since 1976 that King failed to have a book published.  It's a thing that has not happened since, which is a fairly astonishing run.  (Or maybe it isn't; maybe there are plenty of authors who publish that frequently, and I just don't know about it.)
The dry spell would not have been perceived as such by most King fans, however, thanks entirely to the long-awaited mass-market Gunslinger.  So that's kind of cool; even in the midst of what passed for a dry spell for him, King was able to get something out there.
An audio cassette release of an unabridged reading of the novel -- by King himself! -- appeared at what I assume was around the same time.  No way to know for sure; one resource online indicated that it might have actually preceded the trade paperback, but I didn't feel it was a trustworthy enough source to rely on.  [UPDATE:  I learned from the Kevin Quigley e-book Blood in Your Ears that this may well HAVE happened.  Tyson Blue reviewed the audio version in the August '88 issue of Castle Rock, and he specifically mentions that the trade paperback had not yet been released.  So maybe!  I also learned from Quigley that a limited edition of 800 signed-by-King audiobooks were available for $100 each.  This would also happen with The Drawing of the Three.]
Here's a few photos of that, because why not?

Dig them Chuck Taylors!

I love King's reading of this novel.  Some people can't stand it, evidently, but I love it.  And I'm very difficult to please when it comes to audiobooks.  I think this was the first unabridged one I ever listened to, and it's possible this was also the first time I heard King's voice.  Had I maybe seen him on some television interview at some point?  It's possible, I guess; but it seems just as possible that when I got these tapes in '91 or '92 or whenever it was, that I was hearing my favorite author for the first time.
I was totally enchanted by it, and remain so to this day.  If King began a career as a narrator of other people's books, I'd buy every single one he recorded.
Anyways, as far as the mass-market Dark Tower series went, The Drawing of the Three (including another unabridged King audiobook) followed about six months later, on March 24, 1989.  So the King dry-spell that stretched from The Tommyknockers in November of '87 to The Dark Half in November of '89 was, for the vast majority of Constant Readers, interrupted by two debuts of previously-(mostly)-out-of-reach novels.  That's the way to experience a Stephen King dry-spell, I guess.
Nightmares in the Sky
(coffee-table photography book with photos by f-stop Fitzgerald and text by King)

a Viking hardback, published October 7, 1988


So, yeah, okay, technically there WAS a book by King in 1988.  Nightmares in the Sky is indeed a book, and the text was indeed written by Stephen King, so you got me there.
The essay is great, and the photos are cool, so it's a book that is well worth having.  The concept was that Fitzgerald went around taking photos of the gargoyles atop the buildings of New York City.  Apparently there are quite a lot of them.
(novel by Tabitha King) 

a NAL hardback, published November 18, 1988
I have not read King's fourth novel, so I can't tell you much about it.
But look how cute Tabby is in the back-cover author photo!
Does it seem like she's smiling because she just delivered a withering insult of some sort to Steve?  Yeah, it does to me, too.

"Rainy Season"
(short story)

  • published in the Spring 1989 issue of Midnight Graffiti
  • collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993

Is that supposed to be Stephen King on the cover of the Midnight Graffiti issue?!?  If so, I'm not sure the artist quite got the job done.

"Rainy Season" itself is the one in which there's a rain of man-eating toads, or something like that.  It's been a while since I read it, but I recall liking it pretty well.

Pet Sematary
(feature film)

  • a Paramount film, released April 21, 1989
  • directed by Mary Lambert from a screenplay by Stephen King

Once upon a time, King said that Pet Sematary was too dark and disturbing a novel even to be released.  A few years later, he'd sanctioned a major feature film version complete with a screenplay he personally wrote.  Times do change, don't they?  I'd speculate that King was talked out of his sour stance toward the story by the public's response to it, which was very positive.

George Romero was initially planned to be the director, but studio hemming and hawing -- four years' worth of it -- meant that when the green light was finally given, Romero was knee-deep in another film (Monkey Shines) and a replacement director had to be found.  And so one was, in the form of noted music-video director Mary Lambert.

The result was a relatively well-reviewed film that was also a box-office success (albeit a somewhat low-key one).  Many King fans still hold it up as one of the more notable King-to-film movies to this day.  I'm not necessarily one of them, but it's got its virtues, including good atmosphere -- a byproduct of filming in Maine -- and some quality scares.

"Home Delivery"
(short story)

  • published in Book of the Dead (a Bantam paperback, edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector) in June 1989; a limited-edition hardback was also published in July by M.V. Ziesing
  • collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993

Book of the Dead was an anthology inspired by the zombie films of director George A. Romero (who provides a lively, though brief, foreword).  Editors Skipp and Spector assembled a solid company of authors, apart from just the three heavy-hitters whose names appeared on the cover.

The table of contents is as follows:

  • "Blossom" by Chan McConnell
  • "Mess Hall" by Richard Laymon
  • "It Helps If You Sing" by Ramsey Campbell
  • "Home Delivery" by Stephen King
  • "Wet Work" by Phillip Nutman
  • "A Sad Last Love at the Diner of the Damned" by Edward Bryant
  • "Bodies and Heads" by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • "Choices" by Glen Vasey
  • "The Good Parts" by Les Daniels
  • "Less than Zombie" by Douglas E. Winter
  • "Like Pavlov's Dogs" by Steven R. Boyett
  • "Saxophone" by Nicholas Royle
  • "On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert With Dead Folks" by Joe R. Lansdale
  • "Dead Giveaway" by Brian Hodge
  • "Jerry's Kids Meet Wormboy" by David J. Schow
  • "Eat Me" by Robert R. McCammon

As for "Home Delivery," it's about being pregnant during the time when the dead are walking the Earth.  The title will probably give you an indication of where it's going.

The Stephen King Companion
(by George Beahm)

an Andrews and McMeel trade paperback, published September 1989

Ah, The Stephen King Companion!  I've got a gigantic soft spot for this book, which was one of the first books about King I ever read.  The first was Douglas E. Winter's Stephen King: The Art of Darkness, which was and is great; it helped set my mind on a path toward critical writing and thinking.  
Beahm's book is less a critical analysis and more a hodgepodge collection of information about King's life and work.  There's some great stuff here, though, including the phenomenal Playboy interview, a transcript of the Virginia Beach lecture, and various short pieces from one place or another.  The list is long, and worthy of fuller consideration; we'll get to it one of these days.
For now, let it simply be said that while the book might be all that impressive to modern readers (who are used to being able to find just about anything out by simply hopping online), it was an absolute godsend for a lot of people around the time of its release.  And by 1989, books like this were almost a necessity simply to be able to keep track of it all.
"My Pretty Pony"
(short story)

  • published as a limited edition coffee-table book by the Whitney Museum of American Art on September 26, 1989; also available in a trade edition from Alfred A. Knopf
  • collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993
One of the odder limited editions in the King canon is the Whitney My Pretty Pony, which had stainless-steel covers with digital-clock insets.  This was to reinforce the story theme of time as a finite resource, and I guess that's pretty cool.  The book included art by Barbara Kruger.
The story itself comes from an unfinished novel about a hitman; this story was an extended flashback scene in which the eventual hitman has a conversation with his grandfather.  
The Dark Half

a Viking hardback, published October 23, 1989

The Truth Inside the Lie review of The Dark Half: part 1, part 2, part 3
I had the publication of this listed as November 1, but I stumbled across a Kirkus review listing it as October 23.  We'll go with that!
The Dark Half was an outgrowth of the events surrounding the "Richard Bachman" outing.  A similar outing happens in this novel to novelist Thad Beaumont, who seemingly doesn't handle it as well as King himself did.  Oh, and then the revenant of Beaumont's "dead" pseudonym shows up and starts killing people.
It's a wacky idea, and most writers would struggle to keep it from becoming unbearably silly.  That King not only managed to (mostly) keep it from being silly but also managed to turn it into an actively good novel is a huge testament to his talent.
Feast of Fear: Conversations with Stephen King
(edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller)

an Underwood Books hardback, published November 1989
Another treasure-trove of King interviews from the eighties, curated by Underwood and Miller.  My memory of it is that it isn't AS great as Bare Bones, but nevertheless pretty great.
Sources represented include: the Bangor Daily News, Twilight Zone, Starship, Shayol, Fangoria, Cinefantastique, Famous Monsters, American Film, Starburst, Film Comment, the Chicago Sun-Times, Parents Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Interview, among others.
Mass-market editions appeared in 1992 and 1993, and those should be easily obtainable.
Master of the Macabre: A Conversation with Stephen King
(television program)
This program was seemingly created for and broadcast on Dutch television -- don't hold me to that nationality, I'm not positive of it -- in 1989.  The entire thing resides on YouTube in four parts (here, here, here, and here).  There's about an hour's worth of clips of King at home, at his radio station, driving around singing, and so forth.  
Watch it.  Do it now, before somebody removes it from YouTube.  You won't regret it.

(novel by Peter Straub)

a Dutton hardback, published January 3, 1990
Never read it, don't know a thing about it, except that it is the second part of a trilogy including Koko.
"Head Down"

  • published in the April 16, 1990 issue of The New Yorker
  • collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993
"Head Down" is a lengthy essay recounting a season in the lives of a Little League baseball team (specifically, one on which King's son Owen played).  It's a very good piece of nonfiction, and a very confusing choice for inclusion in Nightmares & Dreamscapes.  That inclusion must indicate that the essay was one King was proud of, and if so, I can't say I blame him.

"An Evening At God's"
("one-minute" play)

Since no photos of this play seem to exist, we'll use a 1990 photo (from Cinefantastique) of King on the set of Graveyard Shift.
Let's turn to Stephen J. Spignesi's The Lost Work of Stephen King for a bit of info about this King curiosity:
In early 1990, Stephen King was asked to contribute a one-minute play to a benefit evening.  He jumped at the idea, likening it to the "literary equivalent of a doodle."
     King came up with An Evening at God's.  The manuscript of the play was auctioned off at the Hasty Pudding Theater in Massachusetts on the evening of April 23, 1990.
Spignesi goes on to quote an interview King gave around the same time in which he describes the play for the interviewer:
God's sitting at home and drinking a few beers and St. Peter comes in with papers to pass, and God's watching a sitcom on TV.  And the earth is sort of hanging in the way of the TV, and he keeps trying to look around the world to see the television.
     So I sat down and wrote it.  And it may have been a critical comment: The typewriter broke while I was working on this, and I had to redo it.
Spignesi, having read the play, gives his assessment of it thus:
It is a funny, yet powerful piece and is further evidence of King's incredible storytelling abilities.  Throughout the play, we're fascinated by this glimpse into the workings of the divine and are shocked by the nonchalance with which God cavalierly destroys the earth.  The most powerful moment is probably God's final question to St. Peter, "My son got back, didn't he?"
Those, my friends, are the words of a sycophant.  I love Spignesi's book, but I have also read "An Evening at God's" (a fellow collector sent me a transcription of it years ago), and would characterize it as neither funny nor powerful.  It reads like a two-page joke King dashed off in a few spare moments.  Far from evincing "incredible storytelling," this is autopilot work at best; and really, there's no reason it should have been anything BUT that, given the use to which it was put.  It raised money for what I assume was a good cause, and that's sufficient.  No need to talk about it causing the reader to be "fascinated by this glimpse into the workings of the divine."  That's just silly.
In his Uncollected, Unpublished, Rocky Wood gets even sillier and attempts to give the play some canonical gravitas by mentioning "a line from God reminiscent of that uttered by Jake Chambers as Roland let him fall to his second death" in The Gunslinger.
Shit don't always smell like roses, guys; sometimes it does indeed smell like shit.
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie
(feature film)

  • a Paramount film, released May 4, 1990
  • directed by John Harrison from a screenplay by Michael McDowell and George A. Romero
Although the television series was only moderately successful, somebody thought it would be a good idea to make a feature version of Tales from the Darkside.  Hey, why not?  Fine by me.
The result is decent enough.  Director John Harrison had written the score for Creepshow, which is one of several ties this film has to that one.
Romero's segment of the screenplay ("The Cat From Hell," based on the King short story) had originally been intended to be a part of Creepshow 2, and it may be for this reason that Tom Savini once said Tales from the Darkside: The Movie was the "real" Creepshow 3.  It isn't that, exactly; but since the movie is spun off from a television series whose existence is owed to Creepshow, it's easy to see how you get from there to here.
Only the "Cat from Hell" segment is based on King's work; the other segments at "Lot No. 249" (based on a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and "Lover's Vow" (an original tale by Michael McDowell).  All three are fine, but the latter is probably the standout.
The Stand
(novel, complete and uncut edition)

a Doubleday hardback, published May 1990

One of the few instances I'm aware of in which a "director's cut" of a novel was issued, King and Doubleday decided in 1990 to right a perceived wrong: the abridgement of his novel The Stand, which Doubleday had forced him to shorten by some 400 pages prior to its publication in 1978.  The original edition got "only" to #13 on the New York Times list of hardback bestsellers; this new and uncut edition sailed all the way to #1.
Not exactly a surprise, that, but nevertheless notable.  There can't be many authors who would be able to get a #1 bestseller out of a revisit like this one.
Was it worth revisiting?  I think it was.  There's a lot of brilliant material (and, to be fair, some filler) in those 400ish "new" pages.  Some of them were indeed new, since King took the opportunity to update the novel's timeline by a decade, adding some modern-for-1990 touches like a mention of Roger Rabbit.  The updates are inconsistent, though, and vast swathes of the novel seem to be stuck permanently in 1980 rather than 1990; not exactly a problem, except when 1990 rears its head.  I can live with that, though, if only for the excellent Bernie Wrightson black-and-white art new to this edition.
A bit of bookkeeping: no idea when the actual release date on this one was.  I initially had it listed as April 25, but then found a Kirkus review that said it was May 5.  THAT, however, was a Saturday, so it seems unlikely.  The New York Times review was on May 13, and since books typically come out on Tuesday (which the 15th would have been), I am personally adopting May 15 as the publication date.  Until I see better proof of something else, it works for me.
Oh, and for the record, it was this book that brought about my King fandom.  My father read a review of it, told me about it, and I ended up buying (and devouring) a used paperback of the original edition.  No looking back from there, either; from that day to this has been more or less a straight line.
Four Past Midnight

a Viking hardback, published September 1990

This collection of four novellas (at least two of which are of short-novel length) is a bit of a mixed bag.  The book consists of:
  • "The Langoliers" (a lot of fun, but illogical)
  • "Secret Window, Secret Garden"  (the book's standout)
  • "The Library Policeman"  (good setup, tedious resolution)
  • "The Sun Dog"  (good setup, tedious resolution)

The first half of the book is considerably stronger than the second, in my opinion.  But what all four novellas share is a killer concept: a passenger plane that flies through a rip in time; an author who is menaced by someone from whom he allegedly stole a story; a monster who comes after people with overdue library books; and a camera that shows a dog who is very angry and getting closer with each successive photo.  None of them results in what I would call top-shelf King, but they each have their virtues.
Dark Dreamers: Conversations With the Masters of Horror
(interviews by Stanley Wiater)

 an Avon trade paperback, published October 1990

As you can see from glancing at the back cover, this book is a murderer's-row of horror-fiction interviewees.  King and Straub are interviewed jointly, and they give the goods exactly as you'd expect.
As far as the rest of the book goes, you could do a LOT worse than to check it out as a means of placing King in his proper context.  There are some essential voices represented here alongside his (including, obviously, Straub's).
Graveyard Shift
(feature film)

  • a Paramount film, released October 26, 1990
  • directed by Ralph S. Singleton from a screenplay by John Esposito
This is a turkey through and through, but I kind of love it, and I'm not the only King fan I know who does.  (Hi, Bryan!)  I get this with horror movies sometimes: they are often such slapdash affairs that you kind of just want to hug them and make them feel better about themselves.
The movie, of course, is based on King's giant-rat story of the early seventies.  It's his earliest written work thus far to receive a professional film adaptation, although if you watch certain scenes, you might wonder exactly how professional a production it was.

Quantum Leap season 3 episode 5: "The Boogieman"
(television episode)

  • broadcast by NBC on October 26, 1990
  • directed by Joe Napolitano from a teleplay by Chris Ruppenthal

Say, kids, you know how these days, it's seemingly illegal for any movie or television show connected to the works of Stephen King to not have a dozen or so "Easter eggs" "referencing" King's characters?  You know, so as to prove that the people who made it are "real fans"?

Well, if you're like me, you think that sort of thing is horseshit, King-fandom for and by chumps.  You're also a judgmental prick.  Welcome to the club!

There was a time when things like that were much rarer, and therefore carried more weight.  One such instance: Quantum Leap's Halloween episode for 1990, in which Sam -- who has leaped into the body of a horror author (the fictional Joshua Rey) in Coventry, Maine on October 31, 1964 -- experiences some unusual and inexplicable events.  Al can't help; Ziggy can't even help.

I won't reveal how it all turns out, but it's a lot of fun, especially if you've got the ability to watch early-nineties television in its proper context.

I had begun watching Quantum Leap during its second season, and was fully invested by the time this episode aired.  And having become a huge King fan during the summer, I was super thrilled for my new favorite author to be referenced so heavily in an episode of a show I already loved.
Houses Without Doors
(collection by Peter Straub)

a Dutton hardback, published November 9
Straub's first collection contains four short stories, two novellas, and "connective sketches."  I've read none of it, but will eventually.
(television miniseries)

  • broadcast by ABC; part one on November 18, part two on November 20
  • directed by Tommy Lee Wallace from a teleplay from Lawrence D. Cohen and Tommy Lee Wallace
The movie that wrecked the shit of an entire generation was not a movie at all, but a two-part television miniseries.
No real point in dwelling on it here; you know all about this thing already.  You may NOT know that it was originally going to be eight to ten hours and was going to be directed by George A. Romero, who dropped out when ABC cut the runtime in half.
Boy, I'd love to visit the level of the Tower where THAT happened.
It worked out okay on this level of the Tower, though.  I'm not the world's hugest fan of this miniseries, but I do like it reasonably well, and even if I didn't I'd have to admit that it ensnared untold millions of people and became one of King's best-known adaptations.  Some 35 million people tuned in for the second part, and there is no telling how many more after that saw the movie on VHS, rebroadcast, DVD, etc.  Tim Curry's Pennywise is absolutely one of the all-time horror-movie icons.
(feature film)

  • a Columbia film, released November 30, 1990
  • directed by Rob Reiner from a screenplay by William Goldman
There was the two-part ABC extravaganza It, and then there was Thanksgiving, and then, about a week later, there was Misery.  If Tim curry's Pennywise is one of the top King-villain icons, then Kathy Bates's Annie Wilkies is surely another, which means that two genuine titans of King-movie malevolence made their debuts within ten days of each other.  Imagine!
Director Rob Reiner made his second -- and, thus far, final -- Stephen King film in Misery, and directed Bates all the way to an Oscar.  Don't skim over the importance of this to King's career; not only was the movie a critical success, not only was it a commercial success (it was the #19 top-grossing film released in 1990), it brought home a major Academy Award.  There is simply no question that this cause a few people to begin reconsidering King's status.  I don't know that that paid any immediate dividends, but over the course of time, I think it probably made a significant -- if unquantifiable -- difference in how he was/is perceived.
The movie itself is a corker, with a couple of great performances, loads of atmosphere, and iconic dialogue.
"The Bear" and "The Moving Finger"
(short stories)

  • published in the December 1990 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • "The Bear" excerpted from The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands
  • "The Moving Finger" collected in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1993
I need to get a copy of this issue, because (a) that cover is insane and (b) I don't actually have a copy of "The Bear."  I assume it is essentially just the Shardik scene from The Waste Lands (which had not yet been published, making this a hugely tantalizing preview for Towerphiles who subscribed to F&SF); but I don't actually know that for a fact.
As for "The Moving Finger," it's a weirdo tale about a looooooooong finger that emerges from inside a bathroom sink and starts poking its way around, much to the distress of the home's occupant.

Monsters season 3 episode 34: "The Moving Finger"
(television episode)

  • broadcast in syndication on April 26, 1991
  • directed by Kenny Myers from a teleplay by Haskell Barkin

Monsters was sort of a sister series to Tales from the Darkside.  They were both produced by Richard Rubinstein, and when Tales from the Darkside ended after four seasons, Monsters began immediately in its wake.  The two combined ran for seven continuous seasons.
"The Moving Finger" served as a series finale for Monsters.  It stars Tom Noonan as the accursed tenant plagued by a rogue bathroom digit.  The episode is okay, but -- like Darkside before it -- Monsters was such a cheap show that I can imagine some viewers being unable to make it through an episode.
Some of that cheapness may be evident based purely on the fact that this episode was on the air less than half a year after King's story saw its initial publication.  That's a very short turnaround time, and either means that King gave Laurel Entertainment the story well before its publication or that the adaptation was purchased, scripted, and produced in so expedient a manner than it was rushed even for syndicated television.
Sometimes They Come Back
(television movie)

  • broadcast by CBS on May 7, 1991
  • directed by Tom McLoughlin from a teleplay by Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal
Dino DeLaurentiis must have been cleaning out a drawer one day when he discovered he still owned the rights to this short story, which he'd purchased years previously.  This somehow led to him producing the film for CBS and then selling it theatrically in international markets.  So whether this counts as a television movie or a feature film is kind of a judgment call; I'm American, and therefore American-centric, and so I think of it as a tv movie.
I was sitting right in front of the television the night it aired, too.  I thought it sucked.  Subsequent viewings have not made me think younger me was wrong about that.
This would not be the final King/CBS venture of 1991.

"The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson"
(short story)
reprinted in I Shudder At Your Touch (a Roc hardback, edited by Michelle Slung) on June 4, 1991
Not much to say here, to be honest.  I'm not at all interested in charting reprint appearances of King stories in various anthologies.  I mean, I am interested, just not enough to actually do the legwork.  If you've got a list of 'em, send it to me.
But I like the original Rolling Stone version of "The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson," and so I approve of it having been anthologized by Michelle Slung some four years after the revised version was incorporated into The Tommyknockers.  For those of you who are interested in reading it the way King originally conceived of it, this is probably the best way to get it.
The Shape Under the Sheet: The Complete Stephen King Encyclopedia
(book by Stephen J. Spignesi)

a Popular Culture Ink hardback, published June 1991
This massive (my paperback copy is nearly 800 pages) resource tool is woefully out of date, given the 26 years that have elapsed between then and now, but it remains an impressive achievement.
It IS an encyclopedia, but it's also more than that: it includes a number of interviews with King-adjacent folks like Chris Chesley, Dave King (Steve's brother!), and the like, plus so many brief (but interesting) articles about bits of King ephemera that listing them would take a good long while.
I'm not going to take that while just now, so you'll just have to trust me that this book is full of interesting information.  (You can also trust me that it similarly contains quite a bit of embarrassing fluff that could and should have been cut, such as fan poetry about King.)
A properly updated version is unlikely ever to appear in print; it would, by now, be so lengthy that it would need to be divvied up among probably three or four volumes.  Who's got the time to write such a tome?  Nobody except King himself, and we need him to continue adding TO such a book, not writing one.
Golden Years
(television series)

broadcast on CBS from July 16 through August 22, 1991

The Truth Inside the Lie review of Golden Years: part 1, part 2
In an article he wrote for Entertainment Weekly around the time Golden Years premiered, King lists The Fugitive as being an inspiration; as a kid, he was fascinated by its seeming attempt to tell a single, sustained story.  Later, miniseries successes such as Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots (both based on existing novels, as were other such successes as Shogun and The winds of War) made him wonder what would happen "if someone were to create a novel that existed as a limited-run TV program first."
He'd had the idea for Golden Years already and had been thinking of it as a novel, but decided instead to try to develop it as a television series that would run fourteen or fifteen hours.  He write four hours' worth of script, but couldn't get anybody interested ... except producer Richard Rubinstein, who eventually got CBS to give it a green light.  The network had a significant demand, however: the series must be designed so as to enable it to continue beyond a single season if it proved to be successful.  King compromised by creating a new character, Terrilyn Spann (played eventually by Felicity Huffman), a government agent who could carry the series into a new story if needed once the story of Harlan Williams, the de-aging janitor, was told.
Well, that never happened.  The show ran for eight low-rated episodes, ended on a cliffhanger that would never be resolved, and should probably best be considered a noble failure.  It's not exactly the best television you've ever seen, although its ambitions were quite forward-thinking for the early nineties (especially considering it existed in a pre-X-Files world).
A heavily-condensed "feature film" version running about four hours was later released on home video, and this version has an ending.  Sensing their own blood in the water, somebody involved with the production made the decision to film a rushed and unsatisfactory ending in which Harlan and his wife essentially vanish into the ether as the result of his powers.  Rushed, yes; unsatisfactory, yes.  But for all that, it IS an ending, and the odds are good that it being tacked on made Golden Years commercially viable in the home-video market; it's been available in that format ever since, so whoever made that decision likely earned their paycheck.

Here's a rundown of the episodes:

  • episode 1 (July 16, 1991); directed by Kenneth Fink from a teleplay by Stephen King
  • episode 2 (July 18, 1991); directed by Allen Coulter from a teleplay by Stephen King
  • episode 3 (July 25, 1991); directed by Michael Gornick from a teleplay by Stephen King
  • episode 4 (August 1, 1991); directed by Allen Coulter from a teleplay by Stephen King
  • episode 5 (August 8, 1991); directed by Stephen Tolkin from a teleplay by Stephen King
  • episode 6 (August 15, 1991); directed by Allen Coulter from a teleplay by Josef Anderson (based on a story by Stephen King)
  • episode 7 (August 22, 1991); directed by Michael Gornick from a teleplay by Josef Anderson (based on a story by Stephen King)

IMDb lists episode titles for each, but I've never been able to verify that those are the title King gave them.  For many, many years I only ever saw them listed as "Episode 1," etc., so until I see some screenplays that include titles, I'm not using them.
The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands

a limited-edition Donald M. Grant hardback, published August 1991; a mass-market Plume trade paperback was published December 2, 1991

After a four-year wait for those lucky enough to get the limited editions (and a mere two-year wait for those who'd read the series in mass-market format), the third Dark Tower book showed up in 1991.  It's a dilly.  My personal favorite novel in the series is The Gunslinger, but the next three come very close, and that puts them -- The Waste Lands included -- among my favorite novels by ANY author.
This one is a rollicking action/adventure, but is not at all short on wonderful character moments.  Indeed, one of the best characters of the series makes his first appearance here.
The trade paperback was out for Christmas that year, and I have extremely fond memories of digesting it over a couple of days while at my grandparents' house for winter break.  Good times.
An unabridged audiobook narrated by King was also released, although I'm not sure it was in 1991.  Either way, it was and is the bomb.
Not Since Carrie: 40 Years of Broadway Musical Flops
(by Ken Mandelbaum)

a St. Martin's Press hardback, published October 1991

Not much to say about this book here: it's a book about Broadway flops, and its author chose Carrie as being so representative of Broadway flops that he made it part of his book's title.
That says it all.
This is a fascinating and entertaining book from cover to cover (not merely as regards Carrie), and by the end of it I felt like I understood on a much greater level why Carrie had flopped, why flopping didn't necessarily mean it was bad, and why it gained such a cult following over the years.  If you care about the musical in any way, this is essential reading.

Needful Things

a Viking hardback, published October 1991

The Truth Inside the Lie review of Needful Things: part 1, part 2

Needful Things is a rollicking mess of a novel.  It's illogical, endlessly entertaining, and seemingly a satirical takedown of ... what?  Consumerism?  I don't know that I buy that.  I think it's a takedown of need itself, and therefore of weakness.  You could argue that King is putting the message prior to the story here, which is rare -- if not literally unheard of -- within his canon.  If so, it probably makes the novel a bit of a failure.
But if failure can be this fun, it's superior to many an author's successes.

As with The Waste Lands, a King-narrated unabridged audiobook was released on cassettes.  Since it was such a lengthy novel, the audiobook was released in three volumes.  Not sure when; I don't think it was simultaneous with the hardcover, but I don't know for sure either way. 
Billed as "The Last Castle Rock Story," the novel seems to promise that King is moving in a different direction of some sort with his career after this.  With that in mind, we are (a few straggling late-'91 items excepted) going to call an end to this epic leg of our tour.
"Perfect Games, Shared Memories"

  • published in the souvenir scorebook for the 1991 World Series, circa October 19
  • uncollected

King begins this wonderful essay thus:

This is a story about two boys, both nine years old, and two baseball games – World Series games.  There’s no deep meaning or moral to this story, but to me it illustrates one of baseball’s most pleasing aspects: the almost ceremonial way in which the joy of the game is handed down from generation to generation.  It is that ceremonial handing-down, more than anything intrinsic in the game, that makes baseball one of the landmarks of American culture.
The first of the two boys in question is "Stevie," who was nine in 1956 and who rooted for the Dodgers to win the series because that's who his mother was rooting for.  The second is Owen, who was nine in 1986 and rooted for the Red Sox because that's who his father was rooting for.
The essay is a love letter to the game, and to Owen, and while it's relatively short in length, it is broad in impact.
The Stephen King Story
(biography by George Beahm)

an Andrews and McMeel hardback, published November 1991

Beahm's "literary profile" of King is pretty much what the title implies: the story of King's career to the date of its writing.  Much of it is common knowledge if you're a hardcore King fan, but it was -- at least for this fan -- a revelation when it was released toward the end of 1991.  
How much of this is truth and how much is mythology remains uncertain.  I'm guessing it's an even split.  But whether it's fact, legend, myth, or some mix of the three, it's an entertaining read.
Alright, gang, tour's over for the day.  Getcha some rest, and we'll meet in 1992!


  1. Finding this post to read saved me from watching The Langoliers.

    Okay, now to dive in...

    1. Hah! Well, I think this post may have just justified its own existence. Happy to have helped!

  2. (1) 286 now. Thank you, Carl Castillo! Now I know what I'll be watching in full after this post.

    (2) I've read that Batman essay but can't recall word one from it. That Sienkiewicz cover is striking, though.

    (3) Tempted to give Stephen King the finger - or maybe give one to Roland, because he needs it. Amirite?! Who's with me?!

    (4) That Creepshow 2 animation is indeed pretty terrible, but I agree, the movie's heart and EC sensibilities are in the right place.

    (5) I have no idea how something like that never-seen "Apt Pupil" can exist and not-exist at the same time. Hopefully someone will do as you suggest, here, and we'll see some kind of Jodorwosky's Dune of it all.

    (6) That "Monster Squad" screencap is glorious. Is Stephen Macht anything like his Graveyard Shift persona in this?

    (7) We're going to get to the bottom of the "Salem's Lot" fauxquel one of these days. That plot description ("A photographer goes home to Salem's Lot and gets proposition by vampires to, like, write their Bible or something. A Nazi hunter shows up, and boy!") is great.

    (8) Yeah, you're probably right about Arnold. I can see some cine-historian of the future hitting the 70s and 80s in general and having many related questions. And I'll be ill-prepared to answer them. That's a good question about whether the inevitable live-action-fatal-race show would count as a King adaptation!

    (8.5) I still say the greatest level of the Ur-tower to find would be the one where Stallone starred in a Bachman-faithful adaptation. Spun Stallone's career in a whole new direction! In that timeline, it was Governor Stallone, and Arnold is the one who made 6 Commando sequels.

    (9) RIP Rocky Wood. That is such a crazy story from start to finish about this manuscript. (Made me think of FINDERS KEEPERS. Why am I capitalizing some titles, putting others in quotes, and ignoring all rules of proper grammar for others? No idea.)

    (10) Amen to the nth power on those Stephen King Companion thoughts.

    (11) "Lover's Vow" from that TFTD movie always seemed to be on cable in 1991. I must have caught it 20 or 30 times and never the rest of the movie until years and years later.

    (12) Hi backatcha re: "Graveyard Shift." I'm overdue for another watching. To return to Ur-Kindle musings, in some dimension that end-credits song was a huge culture-warping hit. "Break time's ovuhhhh."

    (13) Good lord I totally forgot about this episode. And I actively visit this kind of stuff, and I'm a huge King fan. WTF? I need to rewatch this.

    (14) And another Ur-Kindle holiday-of-the-mind for the 10 hour Romero IT miniseries.

    (15) I've never read that World Series essay, but that sounds cool.

    To the future!

    1. (3) Cue Clarence Boddicker: "Well, give the man a hand!"

      From the essay: "If one is lame as fuck, that is definitely a thing one might say."

      One might also say that Roland was "lame as fuck" after losing that toe. Hiyooo!

      (8.5) Six COMMANDO sequels would be awesome, don't get me wrong, but I'd love to visit the universe where the story of DIE HARD originally being COMMANDO 2 was not only *not* just an urban legend but actually came to pass.

    2. @ McMolo:

      (1) I still haven't actually watched it myself, sad to say! I did download it for later perusal, though.

      (2) I run hot and cold on his work, but I do like that one, for sure.

      (3) Dum-a-chum!

      (5) I'm guessing it probably isn't all that great, but still ... what a siren song a project like that sings!

      (6) Nope, he's a good-guy dad/cop. He's pretty good in that capacity, too.

      (7) I was pretty pleased with that myself. Although now that it's being quoted to me, I see a glaring typo that needs correction. I'll do so Delbert Grady style if I can remember it!

      (8) You'll be ill-prepared, I'LL be ill prepared; but really, who won't be? It's kind of inexplicable. Gloriously so.

      (8.5) Sly could have quite possibly made an interesting version of "Roadwork," too, now that you mention the possibility of him starring in this particular Bachman book. Ooh! Yeah, I dig BOTH of those ideas!

      (9) lol

      (9) To the all-caps thing, not the Rocky Wood thing. No lulz whatsoever on that subject.

      (11) An experience that will increasingly be obsolete to modern viewers. But anyone our age knows it well. Perhaps not with "Lover's Vow," per se; but with something, for sure. I always seemed to watch "Raising Arizona" in half-hour chunks, for example.

      (12) "The GRAVEyahd shift..."

      (13) We talking the "Quantum Leap" there? I haven't watched that one in a good long while myself. Maybe that should be a project for next Halloween, complete with a lengthy post/review.

      (14) Man, if only.

      (15) Check your inbox.

    3. @ Will:

      (3) You've earned my maximum approval for that one!

      (8.5) Oh, man, is that an actual rumor? I don't think I'd ever heard that. Fascinating! Even more so considering that "Die Hard" is king of credited with ending the era of the Ahunld-ian action hero. (I've never been convinced by that argument, personally, though; especially since at least two of Arnold's biggest hits still lay in the future post-'88.)

    4. @Will:

      (3) I wish I'd thought of that one. Usually ROBOCOP quotes are always going through my head. Like BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, part of my brain is always narrating my day almost exclusively, Children of Tama-style, via either script.

      (8.5) I'd never heard that either! How cool.

    5. @McMolo:

      "(3) I wish I'd thought of that one. Usually ROBOCOP quotes are always going through my head."

      I'm sure it's only a glitch.

      @McMolo and Bryant:

      The DIE HARD/COMMANDO 2 connection is one of those stories that's so ingrained in pop culture that I only recently learned that it's just an urban legend:

    6. Sometimes urban legends are preferable to the truth, and this is one of those times.

  3. The tour continues to impress. As always with this series, there's a lot here, so I might comment again if I think of anything else that I want to add, but this is what springs immediately to mind after finishing this at half past midnight:

    (1) With regard to "The Reploids": "The mystery is never solved, and apparently this is because the story is actually just an excerpt from yet another unfinished novel."

    Oh, that makes so much sense! I happened to snag a copy of THE SKIN TRADE at a library sale about six months ago, and while I loved the idea behind "The Reploids," I was taken aback by how it just... ended. It felt unfinished, and it's nice to know that my intuition was correct. I'd love to see what would have resulted had he taken the idea all the way.

    Incidentally, that collection was worth it for Martin's novella alone. I really ought to read some more of his pre-ICE & FIRE stuff one day. As frustrating as it is to have to wait so long between novels, the guy can spin a good yarn.

    (2) I may have made a mistake by jumping right to NEEDFUL THINGS without first reading THE DARK HALF, but I look forward to getting to the latter one day--if nothing else, I really like Alan Pangborn. As it happens, I finished BAG OF BONES this evening, and I appreciated the little throwaway line that informs us that he and Polly are doing well.

    (3) I've never seen the television adaptation, but "The Moving Finger" is one of those stories that as I read it, I couldn't stop thinking about just how weird the idea is. A synopsis of that story couldn't be written that didn't make it sound like the dumbest thing ever put to paper, but I remember finding it to be really fun. When I reached the end (and the punchline involving the toilet lid), I had to admit, "Yeah, Steve, ya got me. Nicely done."

    1. (1) I always felt the same way, so when I found that out about the story, it clicked into place for me big-time.

      I never did read the Martin novella, but whenever I sit down with that trio of King stories again, I am going to read the rest of the book, too.

      (2) Nah, I'd say "Needful Things" more or less reads fine without the benefit of having read "The Dark Half." Having read them sequentially does enhance "Needful Things," but I don't think it's dependent upon that being how you do it.

      And yes, I love that bit in "Bag of Bones." Pangborn is going to be a character in the "Castle Rock" television series, and I wonder if they have any plans for Polly to also show up, or at least be referenced. If not, big fail.

      (3) Right?!? King has a gift when it comes to that sort of thing. (To say the least.)

    2. My theory on "The Moving Finger" is King read it after his first prostate exam. I've never seen that suggested nor do I know the man's physician-exam timeline or anything, but just a hunch.

      I always thought it (and "Dedication") were the weak links in the otherwise strong NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES chain.

    3. That's not a bad theory about "The Moving Finger."

      By the way, for me, it's "Chattery Teeth" that is the weak link of that collection. It's been a long while since I read that book, though; looking forward to revisiting it at some point.

    4. Oh yeah, "Chattery Teeth," too, although that roadside curious-goods shop was well sketched out, I felt.

      I just looked up Rae Dawn Chong. She was all over the place in the 80s - I wonder what happened? Not that it's an uncommon story. But still, seems like she should be the Mom or Aunt on some Disney Channel show in 2017 or something. (Not to be sexist - i.e. she should be whatever the hell she wants; go roles-for-older-women. I just mean, it seems like those roles are scooped up by used-to-be-big-in-the-80s-or-90s actors and actresses.)

    5. She's worked pretty consistently, according to her IMDb page, so she may be one of those actors who achieved a certain level of financial freedom and then just decided they'd never again take a role they didn't want to take, for whatever reason.

      I can't remember who, but I remember encountering a quote from somebody who said once he reached that point, for him it was all about where filming was going to take place. Was it someplace he wanted to go? Would he enjoy being there? Would it be comfortable? Were the people he was going to work with going to stress him out? If those answers didn't line up just right, he'd pass.

      That seems like a terrific way to approach film acting.

      No idea if Chong is in that boat, but if she is, I say good for her!

      You're right, though; she did seem to be everywhere for half a decade or so, and then, poof, she was (kind of) gone.

  4. I skimmed through a few paragraphs (hell, it's late), but boy, did you bring back some memories:

    (1) That really is amazing about the Make-A-Wish kid. Everything I read leads me to believe that Uncle Steve really is a total mensch. He doesn't seem to seek any attention for the good he does in the world, either.

    (2) Crystal Ball was the first G.I. Joe I ever owned! I had no idea there was any connection to King whatsoever.

    (3) My brain just exploded thinking of Ricky Schroeder in Apt Pupil. I'm not a huge fan of the novella, just because of how unrelentingly nasty it is, but it's still a brilliant work. Kind of like Requiem For a Dream, if you will. That might have changed Schroeder's career completely. If there ever was a goody two-shoes, it's him.

    (4) Love me some Joe Bob. MonsterVision is one of my fondest semi-forgotten memories of growing up in the nineties, along with Up All Night, with Rhonda Shear. Joe Bob Briggs is the master of unrepentant wallowing in almost-forgotten cinematic schlock, and when he so chooses, crushing insults to the Establishment. He has at least one book that might be of interest to you due to the subject matter of your blog, called Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies That Changed History. Plus, his movie reviews are still hysterical, if you ever find yourself bored or having a hard time getting to sleep. I'm pretty sure you can still find them online pretty easily.

    (5) Younger you was not wrong about Sometimes They Come Back. I rented that in high school, and I wouldn't mind checking it out again. It might have some camp value.

    (6) I'm pretty sure I've gotten through at least half of the King library now, and I still think Needful Things, which was one of my first, if not a masterpiece, is very, very underrated, clever as hell, and I don't consider it a failure at all. You're right in saying his target is more than just consumerism. Selfishness in all its forms, maybe?

    1. (1) He walks the walk, for sure.

      (2) How cool!

      (4) I need to read some of his books, for sure.

      (6) Maybe. I'm sure that's part of it, at least.

  5. 1. I'd known about that alternate "Apt Pupil" film from Stephen Jones' overview of King adaptations called "Creepshows".

    However this is the first time I've ever read about it, and it sounds fascinating. I almost wonder how possible to chart the changing fortunes of classic Hollywood just by spotlighting Mason and Gielgud's careers. Specifically, I wonder what it says that Royal Dano, a veteran of the Golden Age took his final bow on "The Dark Half" film. I dunno, it just seems like there's some sort of importance in all that.

    2. I've never read "Koko", I started to listen to an audio-book of "Mystery", then got bored, and never went back. I've read three tales from "Houses without Doors". The final book seems most worth attention, from an admittedly limited perspective.

    3. I'll be honest. I went into the film adaptation of "Misery" with high hopes, and walked away let down. I don't blame either Bates or James Cahn for this. My problem is I'd finished the novel prior to watching the film. The book is not just one of his best, but is also the text (aside from "On Writing" and "Danse Macabre") that acts as a kind of Manuel for the standard of how King's work should be measured and judged.

    From this perspective, I'd have to say the actors, and the film overall, was short-changed in the writing department. That said, Bates does give her best, I just wish she was given more of the novel to work with.

    On the plus side, the "Misery" film in my head features Bryan Cranston, instead of Cahn, as Sheldon. I just like the idea of Cranston starting out as meek and timid Hal, and then going more toward the sly, and threatening Heisenberg near the end.

    4. Interesting about the G.I. Joe figures. Is King (if that really is the writer's name) insinuating that both figures have the Shining?


    1. 1. "Creepshows" is a great book. That might have been where I learned about this not-quite-a-movie from, as well, although I feel like it was earlier. From an issue of Cinefantastique, perhaps...? Not sure. Regardless, yeah, great book.

      As to your point about Mason, Gielgud, and Dano, I would guess that most stars go out on a fairly low-key note, regardless of the size of their stardom. That'd be a good topic for a book!

      3. I'd very very enthusiastic about a remake starring Bryan Cranston.

      4. I think he might be. That had not occurred to me. Lord, I hope that doesn't mean I am obliged to consider the G.I. Joe movies to be Stephen King adaptations in any way!

  6. I added a section up top for a short comic that ran in a 1986 issues of "Cracked," and also updated the section on "Why I Chose Batman" to reflect the fact that I've now read the essay.

  7. You do realize that is the evolution of Cracked the magazine, right?

    1. Indeed I do. A brief consultation makes it entirely unclear what kind of site it is. The front page is the internet equivalent of that sound you make to verbally indicate a shrug.

  8. Is it true that Needful Things was the first thing King wrote after going sober?

    1. I believe I recall that being the case, yes, although I can't swear to it.

  9. Added a brief section for the essay "The Dreaded X."

  10. Added some info to the section on the mass-market edition of "The Gunslinger," and also updated the section on Peter Straub's "Koko."

  11. Ooh, what about King's brief narration for the video to Blue Oyster Cult's 1988 recording of "Astronomy"?

    1. I did not know such a thing existed! I will add it in. Thanks for the heads-up!

  12. The Tommyknockers is indeed a glorious mess of a book but the entire part in the beginning where Gard goes on a drunken rampage at the party is one of the funniest and favorite parts in any King book. The insults to the bitchy poetry lady and "Arglebargle" are a riot and once he starts the umbrella attack, I laugh out loud every time. The anti-nuclear ranting is a little excessive and questionable but it does kind of resonate with me a little, as I'm am office building janitor at a nuclear power plant and its a nice alternative to all the constant "Nuclear power is GREAT and SAFE!" literature and speeches that I sometimes can't avoid being around.

    1. It kind of feels as if King might have attended an English-department party or two like that in his time.

      You've got an interesting perspective on the nuclear-plant aspect of that novel, for sure! I remember from my last reread thinking that Gard's activism in that arena seemed paranoid and borderline delusional. That he'd maybe begun as an honest opponent with valid concerns, but quickly allowed his opposition to become wild and ungovernable as his alcoholism took its toll. He can't control anything, so he assumes nobody else can, either -- so to him, nuclear power seems incredibly dangerous in a clear-and-present-danger sort of way. But that's really more of a him problem than anything else.

      And I *think* King intends for us to see it that way. If not, if he expects us to be 100% on Gard's side, then ... well, I can't quite get there.

  13. As silly as this may sound, one thing that keeps me from enjoying The Dark Half much less than I should is the main character's name of "Thad". Ok, its not as loathesome as "Barbie" (heh heh!) but I mean...why not Tom or Tim or Ted? Yeah, its a legit short version of "Thaddeus" (heh heh again) but "Thad" just sounds like a sound effect.

    On a similar-sounding note, "Tad" from Cujo is also a minor annoyance. But just a...tad, I guess. :)

    1. "Thad" is an awkward-sounding name, isn't it? It's the kind of name you get if you have pretentious parents, and implies a certain amount of pretension on the part of the character himself. Which, to be fair, is a big aspect of who he is: he WANTS to be a "Thaddeus," as opposed to a "George."

      I refuse to laugh at you "Cujo" joke. No! NO! I will not...


      Damn it!