Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Guided Tour of the Kingdom: A Chronological Walk Through the Career of Stephen King, Part 13 (2005-2009)

We resume our tour on a note of uncertainty: for the past few years, King has been issuing not-entirely-persuasive hints that retirement -- from publishing, if not from writing itself -- was nigh.
  
Would that pan out?




Josie and Jack
(novel by Kelly Braffet)

a Mariner Books trade paperback, published February 4, 2005




Spoiler alert: just as this tour has included books by Tabitha King, it is going to include books by the second generation of Kings.  Yep, that's right, the Kings Junior -- the boys, at least (Naomi did not become a professional writer) -- followed in their parents' footsteps and began putting out fiction of their own.  So look for books by both Joe and Owen coming up in this leg of our tour.
  
So, you ask, who is Kelly Braffet? 
  

Well, as of 2005, she's ... well, she's a writer whose first novel, Josie and Jack, just got released.  But in the future, she will be Mrs. Owen King.  (Or, perhaps, he will be Mr. Kelly Braffet.  More likely, both.)  So I figured hey, why not include her here?
  
I've not actually read Josie and Jack, but want to.  (A peek into the future: her 2013 novel Save Yourself is terrific, and it is its strength -- combined with her King-family status -- that earns her a place on this tour.  Hey, be glad I didn't include the books written by Peter Straub's daughter, Emma, as well!  Don't think I wasn't tempted; they are wonderful.)
 

Stephen King's The Dark Tower: A Concordance, Volume II
(by Robin Furth)

a Scribner trade paperback, published March 15, 2005




With the series concluded, the second volume of Robin Furth's concordance came out.
  
Do I have anything more to say about it than that?
  
I do not.


Assassination Vacation
(by Sarah Vowell)

a Simon & Schuster audiobook, published March 29, 2005




I know very little about this, except that it is a nonfiction book by Sarah Vowell in which she goes on a tour of assassination locales in America, and that the audiobook version features Stephen King playing the role of Abraham Lincoln.
 
UPDATE: Shortly before this post published, I tracked down the audiobook and gave it a listen, so I can actually tell you a bit about King's contributions.

Now, before you get too excited about that, let me tell you of the scope of those contributions: King reads a few quotations attributed to Lincoln, as interjections in the midst of Vowell's readings.  He's barely in it at all.  I didn't bother timing it -- what am I, a lunatic? -- but would guess that there is less than a minute of King-read material.  Shit, it may be less than thirty seconds; it's REALLY minimal.

The book itself is entertaining.  I've heard complaints from people about Vowell's voice.  She just sounds like a really smart nerd to me, and I could listen to smart, nerdy women all day long.  So this audiobook was no challenge from my perspective.  It's about visiting various sites associated with famous American political assassinations, and (as you'd imagine) delves heavily into the history of those events.  I found all of that pretty damn fascinating; I wouldn't give the audiobook much credence as a Stephen King item, but as a piece of pop history, it was cool.
 
   
"Horror, He Wrote"
(essay)
   
  • an introduction to the English-language edition of Michel Houellebecq's H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, a Believer trade paperback published May 2005
  • an abridged version appeared in the April 17 issue of the Los Angeles Times as a book review
  • uncollected




The essay begins thus:
  

Michel Houellebecq’s longish essay H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life is a remarkable blending of critical insight, fierce partisanship and sympathetic biography – a kind of scholarly love letter, maybe even the world’s first truly cerebral mash note.  The question is whether the subject rates such a rich and unexpected burst of creativity in what is ordinarily a dull-as-ditchwater, footnote-riddled field of work.  Does this long-dead, pulp magazine Johnson deserve such a Boswell?  Houellebecq argues that H.P. Lovecraft does, that he matters a great deal, even in the 21st century.

            As it happens, I think he could not be more right.
 

It goes on from there to cover not just Houellebecq's book, but to discuss a great story King never got around to writing, "Lovecraft's Pillow."
  
That alone is worth the price of admission.
 

"The Things They Left Behind"
(short story)

  • published in Transgressions (a Forge hardback, edited by Ed McBain), May 1, 2005
  • collected in Just After Sunset, 2008




This story is about a guy who keeps finding items once possessed by people who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.  It's not as tacky as you might theoretically fear based on that vague description, but -- for my money -- it's not exactly top-shelf King, either.
  
I'd describe it as being similar in tone to "Why We're In Vietnam" (from Hearts In Atlantis) and similar in quality to "Stationary Bike."
  
Your mileage may vary.
 

The Dead Zone season 4
(television series)

broadcast on USA, June 12-December 4, 2005




The episodes:

  • 4.01 "Broken Circle" (June 12, 2005)
  • 4.02 "The Collector" (June 19, 2005)
  • 4.03 "Double Vision" (June 26, 2005)
  • 4.04 "Still Life" (July 10, 2005)
  • 4.05 "Heroes & Demons" (July 17, 2005)
  • 4.06 "The Last Goodbye" (July 24, 2005)
  • 4.07 "Grains of Sand" (July 31, 2005)
  • 4.08 "Vanguard" (August 7, 2005)
  • 4.09 "Babble On" (August 14, 2005)
  • 4.10 "Coming Home" (August 21, 2005)
  • 4.11 "Saved" (August 28, 2005)
 
I don't have much to say about these episodes, all of which I have seen and few of which have stuck with me; none in a positive manner.  By this point, the show was a mediocrity, at least in this blogger's eyes.
  
There was a twelfth episode which I did not list above; that's because I'm going to cover it separately.


"The Furnace"
(story fragment)

  • published in the September 2005 issue of Know Your World Extra
  • uncollected




As with "Skybar" in the '80s and "The Cat from Hell" in the '70s, King in 2005 provided a brief stroy fragment for readers to complete.  It was called "The Furnace" and appeared in Know Your World Extra, which was ... well, I think it was a scholastic periodical of some sort, but I haven't been able to find all that much information about it.
  
Granted, I haven't dug very deep.  I will eventually, though; it's a lot priority, but it is a priority.


We're All In This Together
(collection by Owen King)

a Bloomsbury hardback, published June 15, 2005
  




Owen is the youngest of the King children, but he was the first to get a book onto store shelves, a fact that I imagine to be something which has been trotted in a lovingly taunting fashion at a few family dinners.  I certainly hope so, at least; I enjoy thinking of them King boys sniping at each other good-naturedly while being forced to do the dishes.
  
If my personally-curated bibliography is correct, Owen published his first story -- "I Swear I'll Jump" -- in 2000.  That one isn't included here, but here's what is:
  
  • "We're All In This Together"  (previously unpublished)
  • "Frozen Animals"  (2002, Harpur Palate)
  • "Wonders"  (2002, Book Magazine)
  • "Snake"  (previously unpublished)
  • "My Second Wife" (2001, The Bellingham Review)

King's fiction here is very different from what his dad does, at least on the surface; it's not supernatural in nature, for one thing.  If you got REAL creative, you could maybe classify a couple of the stories as horror, but you'd have to run away before anyone could catch you doing it and holler "j'accuse!" at you.
  
King's stories -- especially the titular novella -- do share one quality with his father's, though: they are rich in character and situation.  And the younger King's wit is quicker in prose than his father's has ever been.
  
In short: I'm a fan.  I was one by the time I was ten pages into this book, and I have been one ever since.
 

20th Century Ghosts
(collection by Joe Hill)

  • a limited-edition PS Publishing hardback, published October 2005
  • a mass-market hardback from Harper Collins was published October 2007


PS Publishing first edition


Owen might have beaten Joe onto bookshelves, but he didn't win the race by much.  And my research shows that Joe did indeed beat Owen into publication in terms of the overall game: his first published work was"The Lady Rests," a 1997 short story (which I do not have a copy of, so hook a brother up if you're able), and he followed it with other short stories over the next few years.
  
He's told the tale in various interviews and podcasts about his decision to publish as Joe Hill instead of as Joe King; he didn't want to appear to be trading on his last name, especially since his writing -- unlike Owen's -- was mostly within the same genres as his father's.  He reasoned that if he could get published on the strength of his stories rather than on the perceived value of his father's name, then it would be a good thing for him in the long run.
  
Spoiler alert: it worked.
  
Here are the contents of 20th Century Ghosts:
  
  • "Best New Horror"  (2005, Postscripts)
  • "20th Century Ghost"  (2002, The High Plains Literary Review)
  • "Pop Art"  (2001, With Signs & Wonders)
  • "You Will Hear the Locust Sing"  (2004, The Third Alternative)
  • "Abraham's Boys"  (2002, The Many Faces of Van Helsing)
  • "Better Than Home"  (1999, published as a chapbook)
  • "The Black Phone"  (2004, The Third Alternative)
  • "In the Rundown"  (2005, Crimewave)
  • "The Cape"  (previously unpublished)
  • "Last Breath"  (2005, Subterranean Magazine)
  • "Dead-Wood"  (2005, Subterranean Press online newsletter)
  • "The Widow's Breakfast"  (2002, The Clackamas Literary Review)
  • "Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead"  (2005, Postscripts)
  • "My Father's Mask"  (previously unpublished)
  • "Voluntary Committal"  (2005, published as a chapbook)
  • "Scheherezade's Typewriter"  (previously unpublished)

The limited edition also included "The Saved" and "The Black Phone: The Missing Chapter," as well as story notes by Hill.  I've read none of those!
  
But I've read everything else, and what I'll say about that is this: I'd put 20th Century Ghosts up against any of Stephen King's collections in terms of quality.  This is a GREAT book.  As with Owen, I was a Joe Hill fan pretty much right off the bat.  In terms of when I read the book, at least; I didn't know who Hill was until his lineage became public knowledge in 2007, and did not read 20th Century Ghosts until 2011.
  
That reading came while I was away from home on a six-week work trip.  I took a bunch of books with me, among them this one.  That's what I think of when I think of this book, to some degree: sitting in my hotel room, away from almost everyone I knew, but oddly content because there were few distractions once work for the day was over, and a good deal of reading time resulted from it.  I knocked this out, I completed a reread of The Dark Half, I powered through A Game of Thrones; I know there were a few others, too.
  
20th Century Ghosts was the highlight, though.  
  
Between that and We're All In This Together, it appeared as if Stephen and Tabitha King: The Next Generation was off to a pretty damn good start.  And a lucky thing, too, since their father had retired OH LOOK A NEW STEPHEN KING NOVEL:


The Colorado Kid
(novel)

a Hard Case Crime paperback, published October 4, 2005




Surprise!

What, did you think King was ACTUALLY not going to publish any new novels?  Me neither, except in my heart, where I knew as soon as he said it that there would NEVER ever ever be any more.  Sure, there I thought the retirement might be real; elsewhere, less so.
  
Either way, I was pleased as punch for The Colorado Kid to appear.  It's a very short novel -- not much more than a jumped-up novella, really -- and as far as crime novels go, there's not much crime in it.  Mostly there's a couple of old men sitting around talking.
  
This is fine by me as long as it's Stephen King putting the words in their mouths.


The Mangler Reborn
(feature film)

a Lions Gate film, released on home video November 29, 2005




So first the mangler was a possessed laundry press.  And then it was a computer virus inside a private-school security system.  NOW it's an industrial machine for making what amounts to people smoothies.
  
Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight..........
 

"A Very Dead Zone Christmas"
(television episode)

  • broadcast on USA, December 4, 2005
  • directed by James Head from a teleplay by Karl Schaefer




I begin celebrating Christmas every year beginning on Thanksgiving Day.  As I type this, I'm listening to Christmas with Dino ("A Marshmallow World," to be specific).  It's awesome.  I listen to as much Christmas music as I can until January 1 has come and gone.  Nothing else gets in, unless there's a new John Williams Star Wars score (which there is this year).
  
I mention all that so as to indicate that I was in no way opposed to the USA Network doing a Dead Zone Christmas episode.
  
But boy does this one suck.  It sucks the high hard one, y'all.  It sucks SO much that I'm halfway convinced I imagined how much it sucks, on the theory that it can't possibly suck as much as I remember.  What could?  The Mangler Reborn, sure, but beyond that, not much.
  
The plot involves Johnny trying to find a video game for his son, and it being sold out everywhere, so Johnny puts his psychic visions to use to find the last unsold copy.  Or some bullshit like that.  I only saw it once, so I might be getting it wrong.
  
Needless to say, by this point the series had almost entirely lost me.  It already had before this episode, to be honest; this one put me over the top.




Not everyone had been satisfied by The Colorado Kid.  In fact, very few people had been.  (I'm an exception; I don't think it's a masterpiece or anything, but it's just fine in my opinion.)
  
Luckily, early 2006 brought a new novel:
 

Cell
(novel)

a Scribner hardback, published January 24, 2006




For those of who who were wondering, Christmas with Dino has given way to Elvis Christmas here at the Truth Inside The Life offices.  ("Here Comes Santa Claus," specifically.)  I could probably listen to nothing but this album -- which actually a compilation consisting of (I believe) three different albums -- during Christmas season and be perfectly okay with it.  Too much other great stuff to listen to for that to be realistic, but if it HAD to happen, I'd shrug and get to groovin' on some King.
  
Hey, "King"!  That's right, we're here to talk about Stephen King, not Elvis.
  
Here's what I always think of when I think of Cell: going to Books-A-Million on release day and having to make somebody find me a copy in the boxes they had not yet unpacked.  This is either an indictment of that store's staff or a sign that King was no longer quite as big a deal in January 2006 as he had been for much of his publishing career.  Both, perhaps; definitely the former.
  
Cell was ostensibly a return to business as usual for King, who had not published a full-on horror novel in several years.  Depending on what you count, you could go as far back as 2001's Dreamcatcher to find the previous one.  So it was kind of a big deal for King to be returning to his roots.  
  
Also a big deal, at least to me:
  
  
  
  
These have nothing to do with Cell or Stephen King, but there is a box of them sitting within my view, and they are beckoning to me.  
  
Be right back!
 

Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished
(nonfiction by Rocky Wood)

a limited-edition Cemetery Dance hardback, published March 2006




Vis book if awefome...!  Eh, ufcufe me...
  
*swallows*
  
Aheh, okay.  Sorry about that.
  
This book is awesome!  It is, essentially, a longer and more involved take on the material Stephen J. Spignesi presented in The Lost Work of Stephen King.  I quoted from it or otherwise referred to it a good bit early on in this series of posts, and my overall take on it is that it is indispensable if you have an interest in King's career in this way.
  
Not everyone will, of course.  An alternative way of looking at a book like this one is to view it as an extended series of teases; "here," it is taunting you, "is a bunch of descriptions of things you are NEVER going to get to read."
  
And generally speaking, that's true.  But if I can't read King's unpublished novel Sword in the Darkness, I'll settle for reading a nine-page summary of it.
  
Speaking of which, King fans might consider purchasing Uncollected, Unpublished if only because of this:

Chapter 71 from Sword in the Darkness

Rocky Wood somehow obtained permission from King to host the first-ever publication of an entire chapter from that unpublished novel.  It runs 19 pages in length, and to give you a little taste of what it's like, I'm going to transcribe Wood's intro:
  
As the Chapter opens on June 29 of 1969 disaster is about to visit the mid-western city of Harding.  A criminal gang, led by the psychopathic Webs McCullough, is about to set off a race riot by creating a disturbance at a speech by black activist Marcus Slade.  During the riot they plan to commit a series of robberies while the police are otherwise engaged.
     As these events are about to unfold two teachers from Harding High School, Edie Rowsmith and John Edgars meet at Rowsmith's apartment before heading to dinner.  Edgars had recently been dismissed from the school after being falsely accused of sexual harassment by a student and intended to leave town to remake his life.  He and Rowsmith, some twenty years older than Edgars, had formed a casual romantic attachment.
  
Most of the chapter involves Edie telling John about the murder of a man she almost married earlier in life.  Is it top-shelf King?  No.  But it's good, and is relatively self-contained.  It makes me hope (almost certainly in vain) that the entire novel will be released someday; and I think most King fans with an interest in his early Richard Bachman work would recognize the style he's employing here.
  
Uncollected, Unpublished also contains a reprint of the poem "Dino," which is above-average King verse.
  
Whatcha waiting for?  Track a copy down; if you're reading a dink-ass blog like this one, you won't regret it.


Desperation
(television movie)

  • broadcast on ABC on May 23, 2006
  • directed by Mick Garris from a teleplay by Stephen King




ABC dipped their bucket into the Stephen King well one last time with Desperation, a one-night movie that plays like a low-budget condensation of a three-night miniseries.  It's the worst of ABC's King adaptations by a mile, and while I'm not convinced it's the worst Mick Garris adaptation of King material, it might well be.
  
ABC scheduled it to air against the season finale of Fox's behemoth American Idol, a move that so galled King that he left a short message on his website imploring his fans to check the movie out:
  
Dear Web Site Visitors,

Those of you who are familiar with the wonderful world of television may have noticed that Desperation — probably the best TV movie to be made from my work — has been scheduled by ABC to run, not just against American Idol, but against the American Idol finals! When I see this kind of scheduling, my heart is warmed by how well I have been treated by all my friends at ABC. One can truly say that with friends like this, one doesn’t need enemas. Little joke there. But am I bitter? HELL, YES, I AM BITTER! Oh, well, good work always finds a place in time, and ours may be in the DVD racks eventually. For now, please remember that Desperation airs on ABC May 23rd. Those of you who watch will get a gold star. Those of you who don’t, and watch American Idol instead…well, just remember: I have strange powers. I have been watching you all for some time through your computers. (This is actually a power conferred upon me by the Bush Administration.) I watch you when you eat, I watch you when you sleep, and I watch you when you undress. In regard to this last comment, some of you need more stylish underwear, but never mind; the point is, I will know if you watch American Idol and if something bad happens to you, it will be your own fault.

Cordially,

Steve

Copied from Lilja's Library: http://liljas-library.com/
Dear Web Site Visitors,

Those of you who are familiar with the wonderful world of television may have noticed that Desperation — probably the best TV movie to be made from my work — has been scheduled by ABC to run, not just against American Idol, but against the American Idol finals! When I see this kind of scheduling, my heart is warmed by how well I have been treated by all my friends at ABC. One can truly say that with friends like this, one doesn’t need enemas. Little joke there. But am I bitter? HELL, YES, I AM BITTER! Oh, well, good work always finds a place in time, and ours may be in the DVD racks eventually. For now, please remember that Desperation airs on ABC May 23rd. Those of you who watch will get a gold star. Those of you who don’t, and watch American Idol instead…well, just remember: I have strange powers. I have been watching you all for some time through your computers. (This is actually a power conferred upon me by the Bush Administration.) I watch you when you eat, I watch you when you sleep, and I watch you when you undress. In regard to this last comment, some of you need more stylish underwear, but never mind; the point is, I will know if you watch American Idol and if something bad happens to you, it will be your own fault.

Cordially,

Steve
 

  
As expected, Desperation got pummeled in the ratings, pulling in a mere 7.5 million viewers compared to the 30.7 million who watched American Idol (and the 25.8 million -- !!! -- who tuned in after that for the season finale of House).
  
I can't remember for sure whether I was parked in front of my television or not.  I might have been at work; I often work at night.  I also might have watched House with some friends; and in fact, I think this is likely.
  
I definitely watched Desperation, though, and since I was not then and am not now a Nielsen family, the ratings were none the wiser no matter what I did.  So if I slighted you, Uncle Steve, I apologize!
 

Candles Burning
(novel by Tabitha King and Michael McDowell)
 
a Berkley hardback, published May 2006




For her final (as of now) novel, Tabitha King lent a helping hand in completing a manuscript Michael McDowell left behind him when he passed away.
  
I've never read it and don't know what it's about, but I look forward to getting to it one of these days.
 

The Dead Zone season 5
(television series)

broadcast on USA, June 18-August 27, 2006




The episodes:

  • 5.01 "Forbidden Fruit
  • 5.02 "Independence Day" (June 25, 2006)
  • 5.03 "Panic" (July 2, 2006)
  • 5.04 "Articles of Faith" (July 9, 2006)
  • 5.05 "The Inside Man" (July 16, 2006)
  • 5.06 "Lotto Fever" (July 23, 2006)
  • 5.07 "Symmetry" (July 30, 2006)
  • 5.08 "Vortex" (August 6, 2006)
  • 5.09 "Revelations" (August 13, 2006)
  • 5.10 "Into the Heart of Darkness" (August 20, 2006)
  • 5.11 "The Hunting Party" (August 27, 2006)
 
I was officially no longer watching by episode 3.  Just didn't care anymore.  And to this day, I haven't gone back and finished watching the episodes I missed.
  
Someday!


"Memory"
(short story)

  • published in the Summer 2006 issue of Tin House
  • reprinted in Blaze, 2007
  • reworked for incorporation into into Duma Key, 2008




In its Blaze appearance, "Memory" is referred to as a short story, and as "the seed from which has grown a much longer tale, Duma Key."
  
So does this mean "Memory" was written as a self-contained short story, and only later inspired Duma Key?  Or did King perhaps sit down intending for it to be a short story and have it grow into a novel?
  
This is an interesting topic, and one worth further consideration.  It's not gonna get it today, though.  It's been too long since I read "Memory" for me to -- heh -- remember much about it.  Flipping through it and checking it against the first chapter of Duma Key indicates significant differences between the two, but it's not clear to me whether "Memory" feels like a complete thing.
  
For now, though, I'm inclined to refer to it as a short story and not as an excerpt, because that's seemingly how King himself classifies it.
 

Nightmares & Dreamscapes
(television miniseries)

broadcast on TNT, July 12-August 2, 2006


 
 
The episodes:

  • episode 1, "Battleground" (July 12, 2006) (directed by Brian Henson from a teleplay by Richard Christian Matheson)
  • episode 2, "Crouch End" (July 12, 2006) (directed by Mark Haber from a teleplay by Kim LeMasters)
  • episode 3, "Umney's Last Case" (July 19, 2006) (directed by Rob Bowman from a teleplay by April Smith)
  • episode 4, "The End of the Whole Mess" (July 19, 2006) (directed by Mikael Salomon from a teleplay by Lawrence D. Cohen)
  • episode 5, "The Road Virus Heads North" (July 26, 2006) (directed by Segio Mimica-Gezzan from a teleplay by Peter Filardi)
  • episode 6, "The Fifth Quarter" (July 26, 2006) (directed by Rob Bowman from a teleplay by Alan Sharp)
  • episode 7, "Autopsy Room Four" (August 2, 2006) (directed by Mikael Salomon from a teleplay by April Smith)
  • episode 8, "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band" (August 2, 2006) (adapted and directed by Mike Robe)
 
There's only one episode of this -- "Battleground" -- that I find to be particularly good, and even that is something that seems to impress other King fans way more than it impresses me.
  
The idea of a King-based anthology series is one that appeals to me hugely, but it's got to be better than this for me to give it a thumbs-up.  Of the eight episodes, I'd say two are stone-cold awful (2 and 8), five are mediocre, and one (1) is okay.
  
Not a good batting average.  And for those of you keeping score at home, King on television had been on a downward slope since ... oh, let's say since Rose Red.  We'd had Firestarter Rekindled, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, Carrie, Salem's Lot redux, Kingdom Hospital, Desperation, and now this.  The Dead Zone had started off strong, but had slowly withered into something generic and unappealing.
  
What had happened?  Had Hollywood forgotten how to adapt King altogether?  Had it ever known to begin with?


Lisey's Story
(novel)

a Scribner hardback, published October 24, 2006




This is a novel that has ardent fans -- among them King himself, who has occasionally named it as his personal favorite among his books -- but cannot count me among them.
  
It's got great scenes, but is hugely weighed down by a stylistic quirk King employs throughout involving a sort of private language the novel's protagonist (Lisey Landon) shared with her late husband.  It consists of gibberish words ("smucking" in place of a certain profanity), acronyms (SOWISA, "Strap On Whenever It Seems Appropriate"), and the like.  You might love it; it set my teeth on edge, so much so that I had a hard time finishing the novel.
  
And yet, there is undeniably a lot of terrific content in that novel.  I vividly recall it capturing me frequently, and it is my hope that when I reread the book, it will work better for me.
 

Last Seen Leaving
(novel by Kelly Braffet)

a Houghton Mifflin hardback, published November 2, 2006




I think, but do not know for certain, that Kelly Braffet had not yet married Owen King by the time her second novel was published.  Not that it matters; I'm just saying.
  
I've not read this, but I look forward to it.
 
 
"Willa"
(short story)

  • published in the December 2006 issue of Playboy
  • collected in Just After Sunset, 2008




"Willa" is a terrific short story about a group of train-accident survivors, one of whom is looking for his missing wife.
  
In Just After Sunset's notes, King credits this story with ushering in a new vitality in his short-fiction writing.  Hey, cool!  the story is good enough that it is its own reward, but if it also served that purpose, even better.
 

The Secretary of Dreams, Volume One
(annoyance)

  • a limited-edition Cemetery Dance hardback, published December 2006
  • art by Glenn Chadbourne




The Secretary of Dreams is an odd work.

It consists of six stories, all with artwork by Glenn Chadbourne.  Three -- "Home Delivery," "Jerusalem's Lot," and "The Reach" -- are prose reprints with extensive illustrations.  Three others -- "The Road Virus Heads North," "Uncle Otto's Truck," and "Rainy Season" -- are graphical adaptations, a.k.a. comic books.
  
Only 5000 copies of the book were made, and it's long sold out, so if you want to get one you better be prepared to shell out quite a bit of money to some cocksucker who probably bought his copy specifically so he could charge you a fuckload for it years later.
  
If you can't tell, the subject irritates me.  It might irritate me less if I had a copy, but only by a bit.  It baffles me that a book like this would be limited to such a small print run.  Doesn't it seem like Cemetery Dance could still be selling copies to this day?  Why, then, make it so that only 5000 people -- the vast majority of whom likely have minimal interest in the book except as an investment opportunity or as another rarity for their collection -- can have copies?
  
King likely has his reasons for enabling such practices.  We know, for example, that he feels very generously disposed toward Cemetery Dance founder Richard Chizmar, and we also know that he is supportive of small presses who use the profits from books like this to publish works by lesser-known authors that might not otherwise see the light of day. 
  
All of that is wonderful, and ought to be endorsed.  What I'm saying is, ought there not be a way to accomplish all of that without disappointing fans like myself?  Why not have an open-ended print run for the Secretary of Dreams?  I doubt it would sell as well as, say, Lisey's Story; not all of those readers would care about something like this.  But restricting it to a mere 5000 is perverse.
  
Anyways, the topic gets me worked up.
  
Nice note to end 2006 on, eh?
 
  
 
  
  
Marvel Spotlight: The Dark Tower
(comic book)
  
  • published by Marvel Comics, January 2007
  • includes "An Open Letter From Stephen King"
  
  


As the cover indicates, this is basically a behind-the-scene preview of the then-upcoming Dark Tower series from Marvel.

There is a great essay by King titled "An Open Letter from Stephen King" in which he discusses a couple of ideas for original comics he's had for years.  One of them is an idea that would eventually -- not that King knew it at the time -- transmute into the novel 11/22/63.  King here offers what amounts to a fascinating peek at a very different version of that story.

A word now about comics and the way I will be listing them on this tour.  I may well have mentioned this before, probably in relation to magazines; but there is a bit of an issue (pardon the pun) when it comes to cover dates.  (Including the fact that those dates don't necessarily appear on the cover.)

The cover date for this issue of Marvel Spotlight is January 2007, but that does not mean that the comic went on sale in January of 2007.  More likely it was December 2006, or possibly even November.

We're all going to have to be okay with this.  I know we get a little obsessed when it comes to release dates -- or is that just me? -- but for the time being, I'm not quite devoted enough to try to ferret out the actual in-store dates for the many comics that will be popping up in these last few posts.  I may well try to undertake that research eventually, but for now, we are stuck with cover dates.
 
  
Heart-Shaped Box
(novel by Joe Hill)
  
a William Morrow hardback, published February 13, 2007

  
  


The first novel from the second generation of Kings was Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box, and it was around this time that the world at large found out Joe Hill was actually Joseph Hillstrom King, son of the guy who invented Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

This might have helped Heart-Shaped Box becomes a bestseller, but then again, the excellent reviews might have done that on their own.  In reality, I expect it's both.

For my part, I can say definitively that I only bought the book because it was written by Stephen King's son.  This probably chaps any number of asses, but here's my defense: there are a SHITLOAD of books in the world.  Even if one tried to read only the well-reviewed ones within the specific genres in which one was interested, it would be difficult to keep up (especially if one has similar interests in film, television, music, and sleeping).

So while Heart-Shaped Box is an eminently worthy piece of work regardless of any other concerns, I can virtually guarantee you I'd never have bought or read it if not for the King connection.

Nevertheless, I think it's beyond awesome that Hill opted to get his career going based not on that name, but on the strength of his work.  That's the sort of thing that buys a fella a LOT of street cred.  Hill has every bit he will ever need.

The novel itself is about a rock star who unwittingly buys a ghost on the internet.  Sounds goofy, doesn't it?  It's not.  It's scary as fuck.  Great novel, every bit as good as Hill's short stories hinted at.
 
  
"Graduation Afternoon" and "Thumbprint"
(short stories, the former by Stephen King and the latter by Joe Hill)
  
  • published in Postscripts #10, Spring 2007
  • "Graduation Afternoon" collected in Just After Sunset, 2008
  • "Thumbprint" published as an e-book, 2012; uncollected
  
  


Postscripts is -- was? (not sure, but it appears to have gone moribund in 2016) -- the in-house journal of PS Publishing.  ("Postscripts."  Get it?)  I've only got the one issue, which is a trade hardcover of over 350 pages in length.

In one of those quirks of ka that I assume most people will think I'm lying about, I received my copy of this in the mail literally as I finished typing the section above about Heart-Shaped Box.  What are the odds?

It was touch and go for a while there.  I'd wanted a copy for a while so that I had "Thumbprint" in its original edition.  The e-book is supposedly revised, and the comic-book adaptation includes significant story material not in that e-book version; so I wanted to have the original to consult.

Thing is, copies are pricey.  Not super pricey; typically, from what I've seen, in the $35 range.  I can afford that, but can I really justify it?  Of course!  Especially since it has the original appearance of King's story "Graduation Day."  But the list of things like this within my price range that I'd like to acquire is lengthy, and I'm working my way up it in more or less chronological fashion ... and am still not to the mid-eighties.

However, I can explain how this one got jumped up if you allow me to offer a peek behind the sausage-making of these posts.  My first task was to compile the lists from which I'd work, then to split it into segments.  Then, I went through the list and formatted the fonts and layout (such as it is) for each entry, and then began writing.  Eventually, I decided to go through and insert the images into the remaining five or six posts all at once, so as to not have to wrangle with that during the writing process.

When I did a search for a decent-size image of this issue of Postscripts, it led me to a used copy on Amazon that was being sold for less than $2.

So naturally, I added that to my cart and purchased it immediately.

So, just as naturally, the post office lost the package.  Not technically; technically, they delivered it, but not to me.  To whom?  Nobody knew.

I assumed it was lost, but lo and behold, nearly three weeks later, a neighbor -- presumably having been out of town for a while -- found it and took it to my apartment's office.  They sent me a text, and it was that text I received almost literally as I sat down to write this section.

Ka!  Like a wind.  A lame wind that can't even quite blow a feather over, but still, ka.

Perhaps a word about the stories is in order.

"Thumbprint" is about a veteran who went through some bad stuff while at war.  Some of it has followed her home, and things proceed from there.  This is not what one might think of as Hill's normal thing, except in that it's very well written and has strong characters.

"Graduation Day" is one of those King stories that made me feel a little ill by virtue of how horrifying it is.  What's it about, you ask?  It's about a graduation day.  It's too short a story to tell you more than that, although I'll hint that its relevance remains sadly undiminished; newly enhanced, if anything.
 
  
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born
(comic book miniseries)
  
  • published by Marvel Comics from April through October 2007
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born, November 2007
  
  






  
  
As with television series, it can be hard to decide where to list a monthly comic-book series on a list like this.  I considered listing it as a single entry on the date the collected edition was released, but opted instead to list it uniformly with how I am listing the tv shows: on the date of the first episode/issue.  It's trickier with comics, though, because of the cover-date problem (as mentioned above).
  
Look, shit like this will drive a guy like me nuts if I let it.  In this instance, I'm not going to let it.  So "April 2007" it is.

The first arc of Marevl's Dark Tower series adapts most of the young-Roland plotline from Wizard and Glass, as well as elements of The Gunslinger.  It's okay, especially if you like Jae Lee's artwork (which I mostly do, though some of his quirks grate on me), but that's all I'd say for it.  My problem with it is that it's too heavily condensed, and feels more like an illustrated version of one of those Reader's Digest condensed books.  It doesn't end up feeling like it's a weighty enough take on the material to truly work for people who haven't already read the novel(s), and for those who have, it's similarly weightless.

So who is this for, exactly?

Hard to say.  But if the best I'll say for it is that it's okay, that's also the worst I'll say about it.  If you like The Dark Tower, you'll almost certainly find some enjoyment here.

One of the most enjoyable aspects is the Futrth-penned backup material, which consists of prose explorations of the Mid-World lore such as:

  • "The Sacred Geography of Mid-World"
  • "Maerlyn's Rainbow"
  • "The Guns of Deschain"
  • "The Laughing Mirror" (including "The Seduction of Rhea" and "The Corruption of Jonas") 
  • "The History of Charyou Tree"
  • "A Gunslinger's Guns"

And so forth.  There is also behind-the-scenes stuff like a two-part transcript of a panel King sat on (with Joe Quesada, Jae Lee, Richard Isanove, Robin Furth, Peter David, Chris Eliopoulos, and Ralph Macchio) at New York Comic Con.  King doesn't do many con appearances, so this was an especially cool feature.

The problem is, if you want this stuff, you've got to track down the single issues; the backup material was not included as part of the collected graphic-novel versions of each arc.  It WAS included in an expensive omnibus edition collecting the five arcs that comprise The Dark Tower (which could have used a subtitle of some sort so as to avoid confusion), and what I'll say about that is this: if you are thinking about buying these comics, you should just get that.  The backup material may be of dubious canonicity -- King himself wrote none of it -- but much of it is nevertheless fascinating.
 
 
Creepshow 3
(piece of shit)

  • a Taurus Entertainment Company film, released on home video May 15, 2007
  • directed by Ana Clavell and James Dudelson from a screenplay the directors, Scott Frazelle, Pablo C. Pappano, and Alex Ugelow



  
  
The fauxest fauxquel in the King-adjacent filmography, Creepshow 3/III (you see it listed both ways) is bottom-of-the-barrel dreck.
  
If you want to know more than that, (A) God help you and (B) I've already written a full review that I would direct you toward.  The review is not gentle.
 

Blaze
(novel, published as Richard Bachman)

a Scribner hardback, published June 12, 2007


  
  
Blaze had long been known to hardcore King fans as an early novel which his publisher opted not to publish, and the expectation was that it was never going to see the light of day.
  
But lo and behold, 2007 found King relenting and putting it out as a Richard Bachman novel.  There was a catch: it was to benefit his gravely ill friend Frank Muller, an audiobook narrator who had been in a motorcycle accident years earlier.
  
King warns in the foreword that the novel is no great shakes, but figures it's for a good cause.  And indeed it was.
  
As for the novel itself, I remember thinking it was okay, but can't actually remember much of anything about it.  King revised it from the original manuscript, and my memory is of thinking it read more like modern King than mid-seventies King (or Bachman).  But that's just a memory, and one I don't entirely trust.  
  
The book also includes "Memory," the short story that had turned into the opening of the upcoming publication Duma Key.


"The Gingerbread Girl"
(novella)
 
  • published in the July 2007 issue of Esquire
  • audiobook released May 6, 2008
  • collected in Just After Sunset, 2008




This novella -- which I personally consider to be a short story, though I yield to the editors of Esquire in this instance -- is about a woman who gets kidnapped and uses her wits and physical ability to get herself out of the situation.
  
I wouldn't rank it as one of King's best, necessarily, but it's good, and its setting is reminiscent of the upcoming Duma Key.
 

The Dead Zone season 6
(television series)

broadcast on USA, June 17-September 16, 2007




The episodes:

  • 6.01 "Heritage" (June 17, 2007)
  • 6.02 "Ego" (June 24, 2007)
  • 6.03 "Re-Entry" (July 1, 2007)
  • 6.04 "Big Top" (July 8, 2007)
  • 6.05 "Interred" (July 15, 2007)
  • 6.06 "Switch" (July 22, 2007)
  • 6.07 "Numb" (July 29, 2007)
  • 6.08 "Outcome" (August 5, 2007)
  • 6.09 "Transgressions" (August 12, 2007)
  • 6.10 "Drift" (August 19, 2007)
  • 6.11 "Exile" (August 26, 2007)
  • 6.12 "Ambush" (September 9, 2007)
  • 6.13 "Denoument" (September 16, 2007)

My give-a-shit for these is minimal.  I will eventually watch them, but have seen none as of now.  I remember hearing some people say that the final season was an improvement over the one which came before it, but who knows?  Not me.


1408
(feature film)

  • a Dimension film, released June 22, 2007
  • directed by Mikael Håfström from a screenplay by Matt Greenberg and Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
  
  
    
  
I want to be clear about something: I don't think this is a bad movie.  I do, however, think it is a mediocre one through and through, and not one single second of it is scary.  That's fine, I guess; I've enjoyed many horror films that aren't scary.  But I think that this movie thinks it is terrifying, and, like, no.  No, not even slightly.
  
It does have good performances from John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, though, and as recommendations go that isn't a bad one.
  
A director's cut was released on the DVD, and I'm not invested enough to remember which version is which, or which version I find to be preferable.  Does this make me a poor tour guide?  Perhaps.
  
Either way, we're moving on!
 
  
The Best American Short Stories 2007
(anthology)
  
a Houghton Mifflin hardback (edited by Stephen King), published October 10, 2007
  
  
     
  
I'm a bad Stephen King fan on account of never having read this book.  It's on my list!
  
Here are the contents:
  
  • "Pa's Darling" by Louis Auchincloss
  • "Toga Party" by John Barth
  • "Solid Wood" by Ann Beattie
  • "Balto" by T.C. Boyle
  • "Riding the Doghouse" by Randy DeVita
  • "My Brother Eli" by Joseph Epstein
  • "Where Will You Go When Your Skin Cannot Contain You?" by William Gay
  • "Eleanor's Music" by Mary Gordon
  • "L. DeBard and Aliette: A Love Story" by Lauren Groff
  • "Wake" by Beverly Jensen
  • "Wait" by Roy Kesey
  • "Findings & Impressions" by Stellar Kim
  • "Allegiance" by Aryn Kyle
  • "The Boy in Zaquitos" by Bruce McAllister
  • "Dimension" by Alice Munro
  • "The Bris" by Eileen Pollack
  • "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves" by Karen Russell
  • "Horseman" by Richard Russo
  • "Sans Farine" by Jim Shepard
  • "Do Something" by Kate Walbert
 
King's introduction is a mere five pages -- give me fifteen or twenty, Uncle Steve, I'm greedy! -- but is very good, and argues that the American short story is alive and well, emphasis on it being well in addition to merely being alive.  "Talent can't help itself," he writes; "it roars along in fair weather or foul, not sparing the fireworks."
 
Not only have I read none of these stories, I've read nothing by any of the authors except T.C. Boyle, and have never heard of many of them.  This means that whenever I do finally get around to reading the book, it'll be a near-complete blank for me at the outset.
  
That ain't a bad thing by any means.
 
 
"Ayana"
(short story)

  • published in The Paris Review #182, Fall 2007
  • collected in Just After Sunset, 2008




All I remember about "Ayana" is that it may have something to do with a hospital, and perhaps involves a caretaker who is a supernatural being or something.
  
Allow me to consult the internet and find out if I even got close.
  
.....
  
Well, it's got to do with cancer and with a mysterious girl with healing abilities, so ... not really, no.
 

The Mist
(novel, standalone edition)

a Signet paperback, published October 2, 2007


    
  
Leading up to the opening of the movie adaptation, The Mist was released in a standalone edition for the first time.
  
It's not really long enough to sustain such treatment, but Signet padded it out and made it look like a novel by increasing the font and, one assumes, lots of water.
  
I snark, but I think it's pretty cool and did eventually buy a copy.
 
 
The Mist
(feature film)

  • a Dimension film, released November 21, 2007
  • written and directed by Frank Darabont


  
  
Ever seen this movie?  If so, then you might also know that it was released into American theatres just before Thanksgiving in 2007.
  
I've worked at a movie theatre since 2005 (and off and on prior to then stretching back to 1996).  One thing I've learned in that time is that family movies do well during the six(ish, counting the Wednesday before) days that serve as the Thanksgiving holiday.  An animate movie with appeal for adults?  Boffo.  Action movies that don't alienate children?  A good bet.  Comedies that aren't too raunchy?  They will sell.  Something grandparents can enjoy?  That'll work.
  
Horror movies?  Not so much.  Especially not ones that actually manage to horrify, which not all horror films do.  Relatively few do, certainly not at the level Frank Darabont's The Mist does.
  
It's a great movie that had a HORRIBLE release date.  Consequently, it died a quick and painful death at the box office and has had to claw its way upward to cult status.
  
Some King fans hate it because of a few key changes to the plot.  I am not one of them; I think this is pretty much a masterpiece, as are both of Darabont's previous King adaptations.  It'd be nice if he made a fourth some day!
  
The DVD and Blu-ray contain a black and white cut of the film, which is lovely, although I personally prefer the color version.  The cinematography, though fine, doesn't really play as well in black and white as it might have if the movie had actually been filmed that way.
  
Either way, this is a fine, fine film that may well have caused a few vomitings of turkey and dressing.  One hopes so!
 

"Mute"
(short story)

  • published in the December 2007 issue of Playboy
  • collected in Just After Sunset, 2008


Kim Kardashian; why did it have to be Kim Kardashian?


I remember even less about this short story than I remember about Blaze, which is saying something.  And in looking at the story's Wikipedia page, not a bit of it seems familiar.  I definitely read it, but whoo-whee! did my brain apparently not hold on to it.
  
Which is fine; it means I'll get to check it out almost as if it were new someday.
  
 



Another new year begins!  The gap between past and present is narrowing, isn't it?
  
I apologize for the incredible blandness of those two sentences.
 

Duma Key
(novel)
 
a Scribner hardback, published January 22, 2008




I enjoyed Duma Key more than any novel King had published since The Dark Tower, and possibly more.  Take that one off the table and you've got to go back to On Writing in 2000, or, if we're talking fiction only, to Hearts In Atlantis in the fateful year of 19 and 99.
  
Evidently, not all King fans are as enamored of it as I am.  Not among their number: Dog Star Omnibus, which holds it up as King's best novel.  That's bold-as-fuck talk, right there, but Dog Star Omnibus is a bold-as-fuck blog, and McMolo's opinions are not to be taken lightly.  
  
My feeling is that it's grade-A stuff regardless of where you rank it.  I've only read it once, which holds me back from a full-throated proclamation of A+ status; I'll get around to it, though.  (I say that a lot, don't I?)
  
King has been wrestling with his mortality in prose ever since June 19, 1999, which is as you'd expect.  He was likely always going to end up pondering that as a primary focus of his work, but having a near-fatal incident in which a van turns the bottom half of your body around the wrong way will accelerate plans in that regard.  One way to think of Duma Key is as an extended meditation on the question of what one does when one finds oneself unexpectedly still alive, and yet diminished in some way.  
  
It wasn't the first time he asked that question in fictional form, and would not be the last.  Like his occasional wrestling with the subject of addiction (which also is still popping up), one senses this is imply going to be a topic that is hanging around for the duration.  And why not?  As with his explorations of addiction, it's a deeply complex topic, and he's getting plenty of mileage from it.
 

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft
(comic book miniseries)

  • published by IDW between February and July 2008
  • written by Joe Hill with art by Gabriel Rodriguez
  • collected in Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, October 8, 2008







 

Joe Hill's first published comic had been "Fanboyz," one of the stories in issue #8 of the Marvel anthology comic Spider-Man Unlimited in 2005.  As Hill himself will grimly tell you, it was not an auspicious beginning; the art is good, but the story doesn't work.
  
You'd never know it from reading Locke & Key, which is superb from the first page and never let up over the course of the next several years.
  
The setup is this: a high school guidance counselor is murdered by one of his students, who -- in Hitchcockian manner -- claims he was doing it on behalf of the counselor's son.  The shattered family moves back home to the ancestral home of the departed father: Keyhouse, a mansion in the New England town of Lovecraft.  Once there, the kids begin finding magical keys that grant them special powers.  They'll need them; their father's murderer feels like he's owed a debt.
  
If you don't like this comic book, you're probably a bad person.  I'm sorry to be blunt about it and to have to give you that bad news, but there you have it.
  
  
Stephen King and Family Speak at the Library
(public engagement)
  
  • took place April 4, 2008 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
  • broadcast on C-SPAN2
  
  
  
  
Here's a description:
  
The PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools program, in collaboration with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, hosted world-renowned author Stephen King, his wife, novelist Tabitha King, and son, writer Owen King, in a reading and discussion for students at the Library. The King family read and discussed their work with students from Cardozo High School, IDEA Public Charter School and McKinley Technology High School.

  
The program can still be seen online, here.  It's pretty great; Tabitha reads from Candles Burning, Owen reads from "The Meerkat," and Steve reads from Under the Dome.


Stephen King: The Non-Fiction
(by Rocky Wood and Justin Brooks)

a limited-edition Cemetery Dance hardback, published April 30, 2008




An extensive guide to all the known pieces of non-fiction that had been published at that time, this is an indispensable book if you have an interest in that sort of thing.
 

The Dark Tower: The Long Road Home
(comic book miniseries)

  • published by Marvel Comics, May-September 2008
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Long Road Home, October 2008






  
  
This is the point at which the Dark Tower comics began to get really interesting.  This arc takes place after Roland and his ka-tet have fled Mejis with Maerlyn's grapefruit, and as it turns out in Robin furth's version, the Crimson King did not by any means abandon his efforts to get hold of it just because it was no longer in Rhea's possession.
  
As I recall, this is pretty good stuff.

 
"A Very Tight Place"
(short story)

  • published in McSweeney's #27, May 2008
  • collected in Just After Sunset, 2008




Here's a thing that confuses me a little bit.  I began regularly buying the magazines and anthologies in which new King stories appeared starting with -- eh, lemme consult a list here... -- "The Tale of Gray Dick" in 2003.  And yet, despite that I missed a few here and there.  "Mute," "Ayana," "Graduation Afternoon," "Memory," "Willa," and, among them, "A Very Tight Place."  So most of the eventual contents of Just After Sunset.
  
Thinking back on that now, I wonder what was up with that?  Did I somehow not know about them?  That seems likely.  Times were a little tight financially, as I recall, but if I was cognizant of missing that many new King stories, surely the memory would be burned into my brain the way it is in a few cases where I know I just couldn't afford something like that.
  
So maybe I just stopped paying attention for a while there...?  As a defensive measure of sorts, perhaps?
  
Alls I know is, I need to scoop some of these things up one of these days.
  
"A Very Tight Place" is terrific, and involves a person imprisoning his neighbor inside a porta-potty for punitive purposes.  It gets just as gross as you fear it might get, but comes to a happyish ending.
 

Who Can Save Us Now?
(anthology)

a Free Press trade paperback (edited by Owen King and John McNally), published July 15, 2008


My copy isn't beaten half to death, the cover art is designed to make it look that way.


Assuming you count edited-by-with-an-appearance-by books, Owen King's second book is an anthology of stories about superheroes invented for this collection by their authors.  No Batman or Superman or Wonder Woman or Spider-Man or Wolverine or Hulk to be found here.
  
You won't mind.
  
Here are the contents:
  
  • "Girl Reporter" by Stephanie Harrell
  • "The Oversoul" by Graham Joyce
  • "Nate Pinckney-Alderson, Superhero" by Elizabeth Crane
  • "The Horses Are Loose" by Cary Holliday
  • "The Quick Stop 5 ®" by Sam Weller
  • "Remains of the Night" by John McNally
  • "The Pentecostal Home for Flying Children" by Will Clarke
  • "The Meerkat" by Owen King
  • "When the Heroes Came to Town" by Michael Czyzniejewski
  • "The Thirteen Egg" by Scott Snyder
  • "In Cretaceous Seas" by Jim Shepard
  • "Roe #5" by Richard Dooling
  • "The Snipper" by Noria Jablonski
  • "Man Oh Man -- It's Manna Man" by George Singleton
  • "My Interview with the Avenger" by Tom Bissell
  • "The Rememberer" by J. Robert Lennon
  • "The Sisters of St. Misery" by Lauren Grodstein
  • "Mr. Big Deal" by Sean Doolittle
  • "The Somewhat Super" by David Yoo
  • "Bad Karma Girl Wins at Bingo" by Kelly Braffet
  • "League of Justice (Philadelphia Division)" by Jennifer Winer
  • "The Lives of Ordinary Superheroes" by David Haynes

Because my memory is lousy, I don't remember a whole heck of a lot about these stories, and -- apart from King and Braffet's contributions -- can't even tell you which stories I thought were especially good.  None of the others stand out in my mind, but I think that may be because pretty much the whole book is great; I seem to remember enjoying this one more or less cover to cover.


N.
(motion-comic)

  • a Marvel Comics and CBS Mobile webseries; new episodes debuted each weekday from July 28 through August 29, 2008
  • adapted by Marc Guggenhiem with art by Alex Maleev
  • a DVD of the complete series was included with some editions of Just After Sunset




I somehow missed out on this at the time -- furthering the possibility that I was in some sort of weird not-paying-attention-to-King mode for a while in the late aughts -- and did not have any familiarity with this story until I read it in Just After Sunset.
  
Ever seen a motion comic?  They're weird and I mostly don't like them.  Your mileage may vary.
  
Regardless, there is one for "N." and it's pretty good.  If you get your hands on a copy of the DVD that came with Just After Sunset, be warned that the volume is mixed quite high; you may have to turn it down quite a bit.
  
Quick question: is the only instance of a King adaptation making its way into the world before the story itself?  I think it must be, unless there are prose versions of some of the original Creepshow stories (such as "Father's Day" or "Ol' Chief Wood'nhead" or "The General" from Cat's Eye) that we don't know about.  Which could well be, but for now, I think N. the motion comic earns that distinction.
  
In its way, N. the motion comic was a return to the sort of trail-blazing experimentation King had engaged in during the late nineties.  Part of the impetus for the project seems to have been for CBS Mobile (and/or Marvel, and and/or Simon & Schuster) to do serialized content for peoples' phones, presumably as a means of gauging what sort of interest there was for such things.  I've got no data on whether it was considered a success or not, but King himself was quoted as saying: "I'm always interested in new delivery systems for stories and always curious about how those systems work with the old storytelling verities. This one, it seems to me, works extraordinarily well."


"The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates"
(short story)

  • published in the October/November 2008 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • collected in Just After Sunset, 2008


Why is a Grand Wizard directing those rocketships?


Yet another story I missed in its original appearance, and yet another one I remember very little about.  
  
As I type this, the New York Times is in a bit of hot water with some folks over having run a profile piece on a Midwestern Neo-Nazi over the weekend.  It seems to have not been as critical as it ought to be, but is journalism required to be critical?  Shouldn't it simply present information in an objective manner and allow people to make their own minds up?  Granted, I'm not sure

In a Christmas music update, I'm listening to "Hey America" by James Brown, and he just sang "This is the United States, you know."  Spooky!  And IS it, J.B.?  Is it?
 

The Dark Tower: Treachery
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published by Marvel Comics, November 2008-April 2009
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: Treachery, April 2009









The third arc in Marvel's Dark Tower series takes place in Gilead and involves Roland's father being betrayed by his mother.  My memory is that this all fits pretty well with what we already knew from King, and expands on its nicely.
  


Just After Sunset
(collection)
 
a Scribner hardback, published November 11, 2008




For his second story collection of the new millennium, King put forth Just After Sunset, which he originally wanted to title Unnatural Acts of Human Intercourse.  The publisher nixed that one, and I have to admit that I think they were right to do so.  I like King's title, but I like Just After Sunset better, even though it does nothing to help me understand why the title on the cover is out of focus in such an aggressive manner.  That cover design sucks moccasin dick.
  
The book itself does not.  It's pretty great, and includes one debut appearance, which we've already seen in adapted form:

  • "N."
 
Dog Star Omnibus considers it to be one of King's finest short stories,  and the Stephen King Cast crowned it as THE finest.
  
I'm not sure where it would place in my rankings -- which are currently nonexistent, and will stay that way until I've had a chance to reread all the stories -- but I feel certain it would do quite well.  It's a fantastic tale, one which is as ominous as anything in King's entire bibliography.  It's about a guy who photographs a Stonehenge-like field of stones, and sees something in the photos that he doesn't see through his own two eyes.  From there, he feels it is his responsibility to keep ... something ... from slipping into our reality.
  
Top-notch stuff.
  
The rest of the book's contents are:
  
  • Willa
  • The Gingerbread Girl
  • Harvey's Dream
  • Rest Stop
  • Stationary Bike
  • The Things They Left Behind
  • Graduation Afternoon
  • The Cat From Hell
  • The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates
  • Mute
  • Ayana
  • A Very Tight Place
  
Now, as always, let's have a look at the stories which did not make the cut for inclusion this time:
  
  • The Glass Floor
  • Slade
  • The Blue Air Compressor
  • The Old Dude's Ticker
  • Weeds
  • The King Family and the Wicked Witch
  • The Night of the Tiger
  • Man With a Belly
  • The Crate
  • Squad D
  • Before the Play
  • The Reploids
  • An Evening at God's
  • The General
  • Chapter 71 from Sword in the Darkness 
  • Memory

That last item on the list is iffy at best; including it opens up the possibility of also being obliged to include things like "The Tale of Gray Dick," "Lisey and the Madman," "The Bear," and "Calla Bryn Sturgis."  I'd include none of those, and only included "Memory" because I wanted to see what it felt like.
  
As for "Chapter 71," I'm less conflicted about that, but still conflicted.
  
Anyways, we crossed one item off our list from last time: "The Cat from Hell," which finally got picked for adoption and got to go home with a happy family.  What else ought to have made the cut?  You can probably name 'em for me by now!


The Stand: Captain Trips
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published by Marvel Comics from December 2008 through March 2009
  • collected in The Stand: Captain Trips, March 2009









Marvel must have been pleased with the sales for The Dark Tower, because they soon got underway with a second King-centric series, this one a straight adaptation of The Stand.
  
I have little to add here except to direct you to my -- fairly comprehensive (if I do say so myself) -- review of the entire arc.  I will say, though, that unlike The Gunslinger Born, this series takes its time and seem like a fuller representation of the novel than its Marvel stablemate.\
  
I bought and read the comics monthly as they were coming out, and occasionally felt they were a bit on the pointless side, because they weren't adding anything to the story I already knew.  This is true, and is therefore a valid criticism, but a thing I discovered upon rereading the entire thing a few years later was that if you take it less as an adaptation than as an alternative way to "read" the novel, it's quite a bit better.  And occasionally inspired (although it also has occasional problems).





Stephen King Goes to the Movies
(collection)

a Pocket Books paperback, published January 20, 2009




I don't know what the deal is with this book, but the tin-foil-hat wearing side of me thinks it must be either the result of a lost bet or a contractual-fulfillment obligation of some sort.

The contents:

  • 1408
  • The Mangler
  • Low Men In Yellow Coats
  • Rota Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
  • Children of the Corn
  
Each story is preceded by a brief new introduction by King, which, combined, amount to nine pages' worth of new material.  (And several of those are half-pages, so in reality it's more like six.)  They are all fine; none of them are anything too special, but if you're hardcore among the hardcore, you would probably enjoy having them.


Locke & Key: Head Games
(comic-book miniseries by Joe Hill)

  • written by Joe Hill with art by Gabriel Rodriguez
  • published by IDW January-June, 2009
  • collected in Locke & Key: Head Games, September 2009







  
  
Aren't those covers great?  By the second arc in the series, artist Gabriel Rodriguez was really finding his groove, and those covers show it.  This is not to suggest that there was anything wrong with the art in Welcome to Lovecraft, but merely to suggest that Rodriguez' talents increased over time.  
  
One mistake I'd recommend not making: considering Locke & Key to be merely Joe Hill's book.  Nope, this is a Hill/Rodriguez collaboration all the way, and both will tell you that without the other, the series'd be nothing.  They're both right.
 

"Throttle"
(short story, written by Stephen King and Joe Hill)

  • published in He Is Legend, a limited-edition Gauntlet Press hardback (edited by Christopher Golden), February 1, 2009
  • an audiobook version was published (with Richard Matheson's "Duel" under the title Road Rage) February 24, 2009
  • a mass-market Tor hardback was published September 14, 2010
  • uncollected




It is probably less than surprising that King eventually collaborated with his sons.  I'm surprised (and disappointed) he and Tabitha have never teamed up on a novel.
  
The first of his father/son team-up efforts was "Throttle," a short story written for the Richard Matheson tribute anthology He Is Legend.  The story is an homage to Matheson's "Duel," the movie version of which -- directed by Steven Spielberg from a teleplay by Matheson himself -- was a favorite of Steve and Joe when the latter was a child.
  
Their version is about a gang of bikers who get into some trucker-centric trouble on the road.  There's a father/son angle within the story, as well as without it, and the collaboration is, for my money, entirely successful.
  
The story remains uncollected, and I've got a theory about that: I betcha Steve declined to include the story in his next collection so that when Joe puts another together it (and a later collaboration we'll get to in half a decade or so) can be collected there.
 
 
"Ur"
(short story)

  • published as an e-book on February 12, 2009
  • an audiobook version was published on February 16, 2010
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015




King was by no means the father of the e-book, but he was an influential element in its popularization, so it makes sense that he eventually wrote a Kindle-exclusive story about a VERY exclusive Kindle.
  
"Ur" is probably one of my favorite King stories; it's certainly the one I refer to most frequently.  The story is about a college English lit teacher who buys a Kindle to spite his ex-girlfriend -- it makes sense in the story (sort of) -- and accidentally receives a pink Kindle from another dimension.  It can access media from other "levels" (of the Tower) and Wesley spends some time reading novels that Ernest Hemingway did not write on THIS level.  Among other things he reads...
  
Great stuff, and the idea of having my very own Ur-Kindle has haunted me ever since.  Maybe someday!  Can't wait to see how George Lazenby's Diamonds Are Forever turned out.
 

The Stand: American Nightmares
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published by Marvel Comics, May through October 2009
  • collected in The Stand: American Nightmares, January 2010
  • scripted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, art by Mike Perkins







  
  
Those covers showcase both the good and the bad regarding the art of Mike Perkins.  Overall, I think it is effective -- and occasionally awesome -- and is an advantage to the project.  but boy, the cover to issue #1 of this arc...
  
What is WITH their hands?!?
  
Perkins remained onboard for the entire series, though, as did scripter Aguirre-Sacasa; that would be an accomplishment even if the project sucked, which this assuredly does not.  They both get a big thumbs-up from me.

 
Family Guy season 7, episode 15: "3 Kings"
(television episode)

  • broadcast on Fox on May 10, 2009
  • directed by Dominic Bianchi from a teleplay by Alec Sulkin




I've never seen this, and might never get around to it.  I just don't really like Family Guy all that much.  I wish I did; Seth MacFarlane seems like an affable enough guy, and I like him as a personality.  But the series leaves me grumpy.
  
I thought that if I included the two Simpsons episodes, though, I probably ought to include this too, especially since the King homage is literally right there in the episode's title.  But this brings up an issue for me: how many cartoon series have done King-homage episodes like this?  (I know of at least one more, Rick and Morty.)  Am I obliged to count them all?  If I am, I'm going to break that obligation, because by give-a-shit-ometer doesn't get past about a 3 on this subject.
 

The Dark Tower: Sorcerer
(comic book)

  • published by Marvel Comics, June 2009
  • written by Robin Furth, art by Richard Isanove
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Fall of Gilead, February 2010


  
  
This one-shot is all about the Man In Black, and serves as a prelude to:
 

The Dark Tower: The Fall of Gilead
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published by Marvel Comics, July 2009-January 2010
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Fall of Gilead, February 2010
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth, art by Richard Isanove









The cover says Fall of Gilead; the inside cover says The Fall of Gilead.  What is a blogger to believe?  It sound better with a "the" to my ears, so we're believing that.

This is where the comics began to lose me after a couple of very solid arcs that supplemented Stephen King's canon -- which is the ONLY canon -- without trampling on it.  That necessarily came to an end with this arc, which is about the titular fall of Gilead at the forces of John Farson.  In my opinion, this is too big a chunk of Mid-World lore to be told by somebody other than Stephen King.  His books are so dependent upon the notion of Gilead having fallen that ... well, I just don't want anyone else to touch that, you know?

And for my money, this feels like jumped-up fanfiction.  This was not (in my opinion) true of The Long Road Home and Treachery.  Those comics were thrilling because they felt like Furth and David had simply unearthed never-before-told stories of Roland's past.  If King had announced that the comics had been adapted from notes he had not gotten around to shaping into story form, I'd have been unsurprised.  (Well, except for the fact that King says he almost never writes from notes or outlines.  But you know what I mean.)

This is different.  This feels like an intrusion; this feels something well short of genuine.  And elements of it will be directly contradicted by The Wind Through the Keyhole, so it is fairly clear that King was paying no attention to the comics.  (This fact was eventually confirmed in an interview conducted by Bev Vincent; we'll get there.)

One other problematic element is that artist Jae Lee abandoned the project after the end of Treachery, moving on to other pastures.  His replacement was Richard Isanove, who had been with the comics from the beginning and whose style is enough of a fit that many readers -- especially those who are new to reading comics -- may not even notice.  The rest of us might be a bit thrown off in places, though.

 
"Morality"
(short story)

  • published in the July 2009 issue of Esquire
  • reprinted in the mass-market edition of Blockade Billy, 2010
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015



I don't know what that "Vampire Horde" snipe is all about.  I'm a bit amazed I saw it.


"Morality" is a sort of twist on Indecent Proposal, in which an older man pays a woman to do something unpleasant, but not what you think. 
  
The consequences may be even worse, though.
  
I loved this story the first time I read it, but when I returned to it years later I found it to be a bit forced.
  

Dolan's Cadillac
(feature film)

  • a Noble Entertainment film, released on home video in Sweden July 1, 2009
  • American release was April 6, 2010
  • directed by Jeff Beesley from a screenplay by Richard Dooling




Once planned as a starring vehicle for Sylvester Stallone and Kevin Bacon, this instead ended up being a bit of a dog's breakfast.  Did YOU need the movie to have an illegal-immigration subplot?  Yeah, me neither.
 
 
"Mostly Old Men"
(poem)

  • published in Tin House #40, Summer 2009
  • uncollected




I read this, but could not without looking it up tell you a single substantive thing if my life depended on it.  "Uh ... it's mostly about old men?" I'd ask optimistically, and BANG'd go the gun.
 
 
Children of the Corn
(television movie)

  • broadcast on Syfy, September 26, 2009
  • adapted and directed by Donald P. Borchers





I firmly believe a great version of Children of the Corn could be made.  This is not it.  This is a movie so fiercely awful that it makes me hate watching Kandyse McClure, who is among the most beautiful women I have ever seen.
  
That's an accomplishment if you can put me off of her.
 

The Talisman: The Road of Trials
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published by Del Rey October 2009 through March 2010
  • collected in The Talisman: The Road of Trials, May 4, 2010
  • script by Robin Furth, art by Tony Shasteen







  
  
Yes, you are seeing that correctly: that's an issue #0 at top.  This is a thing comics were doing for a while, and may still be doing for all I know, though I have not seen one in a while.
  
The industry must have been bullish on Stephen King as a sales-driving force circa 2009.  Marvel had two series going strong, and now Del Rey, a minor publisher (as far as comics went, at least), got into the game with an adaptation of the King/Straub novel that, theoretically, ought to have been able to run thirty issues or so.  Instead, it ran a mere five; six if you (sigh) count #0.
  
The problem is, Robin Furth knows Stephen King's work back to front, but she's not particularly imaginative when it comes to comics.  The adaptation is workmanlike; efficient and competent, but nothing more.  She is able to get nothing special from artist Tony Shasteen, whose work is similarly competent.
  
Issues of the comic were not easy to find; it took me a few years to track down copies of each.  And I was looking.  I'm guessing this means print runs were small, and therefore sales can't have been large.
  
In other words, it appears as if Del Rey shot themselves in the groin at some point early on in the process and never recovered.
  
No great loss.


The Stephen King Illustrated Companion
(by Bev Vincent)

a Metro Books hardback, published October 5, 2009


  
  
Here's another must-have book about King.  
  
In this book -- which is unfortunately difficult to find (or was the last time I looked, at least) -- Vincent marches through King's career, covering the highlights.  There are oodles of great photos along the way, plus vincent's insightful commentary.
  
But the real highlight are insert pages featuring replicas of...
  
Well, let me explain what I mean.  Most chapters include a glued-in pocket made out of ... uh, I think it's called onion-skin paper or transparency paper, or may not be called anything like that.  Anyways, whatever type of paper the pocket is made of, its contents are what matters.  Within are duplicates of various pieces of ephemera from King's career, dating all the way back to childhood.
  
This stuff is gold.  Sheer gold, I say!
  
Here's the kind of stuff you'll find:
  
  • the issue of the Comics Review fanzine that contained chapters five and six of "I Was A Teenage Grave Robber" (not the entire issue, just the pages containing King's story, which number six in all)
  • King's submission letter to Forrest J. Ackerman's magazine Spacemen (which pops on online every so often and always wows people)
  • the January 29, 1966 issue of The Drum, which included a drawing by King AND his story "The 43rd Dream" (replicated in full here)
  • twelve pages of The Shine (King's original title for The Shining), with handwritten revisions and annotations by the author
  • six similarly-corrected manuscript pages from The Stand 
  • four hand-written pages from Cujo 
  • the first issue of the Castle Rock newsletter
  • a sketch (artist unknown) found between two pages of the first-draft manuscript of The Drawing of the Three
  • a handwritten ledger containing pages from an unfinished story called "Muffe," Needful Things, and Insomnia (eight pages combined)

Sadly, the 2009 edition is out of print.  A 2013 revised edition is worth reading, but, sadly, omits all of the insert replicas.  I wonder why?  Perhaps it all had to be licensed and doing so a second time was cost-prohibitive.  Whatever the cause, it's a shame, and BOY am I glad I got a copy of the original before it went out of print.
  
Christmas-music update: just finished listening to "The Christmas Guest" by Johnny Cash (the Man In Black!), which damn near makes me cry every time I hear it.
 

Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published by IDW, November 2009-April 2010
  • collected in Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows, July 28, 2010
  • written by Joe Hill with art by Gabriel Rodriguez







  
  
I do not currently have anything specific to say about this.  Look, y'all are lucky I haven't run this tour bus right off the right straight into a orphanage by now; me not really having anything immediate to say about Locke & Key ain't no sin.
  
I will continue to say it's awesome, though.  Why?  Because it's awesome.
 

"The Bone Church"
(poem)

  • published in the November 2009 issue of Playboy
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015


  
  
I've got a sentimental attachment to "For Owen" that might earn it my vote, but otherwise I think "The Bone Church" is probably King's best poem.  It's got the best narrative, and has some effective stylistic flourishes that elevate it above most of his other verse.
  
I can't cite a source for this, but I have a memory of reading a quote from King in which he said he'd written hundreds of poems over the years, virtually none of which have ever been seen.  The desirous audience for such a thing is probably slim, but you can absolutely count me above them.  When the inevitable Cemetery Dance collection of fifty of them comes out, I'll pay the $150 they will probably charge me for it.
  
Sigh.

 
"Premium Harmony"
(short story)

  • published in November 9, 2009 issue of The New Yorker
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015




Like many of King's New Yorker stories, this is a slice-of-life tale without any clowns or gunslingers anywhere in sight.  Instead, you have a convenience store and a dog.
  
But in its own way, it's just as horrific as, say, "Rainy Season."
 

Knowing Darkness: Artists Inspired By Stephen King
(coffee-table book by George Beahm)

a limited-edition Centipede Press hardback, published November 2009




This enormous book is handily one of the best I own, from a sheer presentation standpoint.  You may recall that I had some issues with Centipede Press's "illustrated" edition of 'Salem's Lot, but those are mostly gone this time.
  
I say "mostly" because of two reasons:
  
(1)  There are a LOT of typos in the text.  I mean, a LOT.  An unacceptable amount for a book that, in its cheapest edition, cost $250.
  
(2)  The book came housed inside a slipcase, and mine burst open as soon as I took the book out of the box.  Why?  The weight of the book.  I was handling the fucking thing carefully, or so I thought; but the box burst right through the bottom of the slipcase, and $250 worth of library-grade art book went diving onto the floor.  I'd have sent the thing back and demanded a replacement copy if I'd not been terrified that something would happen to it en route, resulting in me not having a copy at all.  I settled for leaving a withering (albeit five-star) review on Amazon:
  
  
  
   
That review is the top-rated one on Amazon, popping up before those by Kevin Quigley AND Stephen Spignesi, which delights me.  It's the only time I'm likely ever to top those two!
  
Anyways, regarding the actual content of Knowing Darkness, it is devoted to art from various editions of King's books.  The presentation here is beyond awesome.  Granted, you damn near need a gloved librarian to hover over flipping the pages at your request; but if you arrange that, even better.
  
If you can find a copy, it's worth more or less whatever you have to spend to get it.  I consider myself very lucky that I have one.  I was unable to afford it at the time, so I (hat metaphorically in hand) asked my mother to get it for me for Christmas.  She did, and I thank her for it mightily.  Mom's a pretty good lady.
  
Years later, I stumbled across a copy on sale on Amazon for a mere $100; its only problem was that it had been returned and was considered not pristine.  Or something like that.  So I bought it, and now have two great copies of the book and one great copy of the slipcase (which has art for The Stand on one side and Desperation on the other).
  
They actually had two copies on sale for that price, and I got real close to buying both.  But I figured some other lucky soul deserved to land it; hopefully somebody who actually DID deserve it got it, not some prick who planned to sell it at a higher price later.
 
 
Under the Dome
(novel)

a Scribner hardback, published November 10, 2009




Under the Dome was King's longest novel since the unexpurgated edition of The Stand, and it got a huge amount of media attention.  So it seemed, at least; maybe I was just more tuned in than I had been previously.
  
I remain a fan of the novel, which has one of King's great concepts (no, I don't give a shit that The Simpsons did it first), one of his great villains, and one of his most controversial resolutions.  I'm a fan; I've got close friends who are decidedly not.  Hi, Trey!
  
Ah, well, you can't win 'em all over.
  
Under the Dome was the result of a persistent effort King had made to write about a group of people trapped within a force field of some sort.  He'd tried it in the seventies and had given up, then had tried again in the early eighties.  This version was called The Cannibals; he wrote it on the set of Creepshow, and got some 400 pages in before it fell apart.
  
As part of the promotional leadup to Under the Dome's publication, King released two lengthy segments from The Cannibals for free on his website.  The first segment ran 61 pages; the second 63.  Both were scans of the original typewritten manuscript, which has handwritten corrections all over it.  It's very good, and makes one wish to be able to read the rest; and also to borrow somebody's Ur-Kindle so you can read the version King completed!


Discordia
(online video game)

  • developed by Brian Stark
  • hosted at StephenKing.com/Discordia beginning December 7, 2009




One area of pop culture where Stephen King has had very little penetration is video gaming.  (Friend of the blog Xann Black would want me to point out that Alan Wake had numerous King homages; I'm not including it on this tour, but it would be a shame not to at least mention it, especially in this context.)

Discordia aimed to change that to some degree, and promised to be a game that catered to Dark Tower fans.

One chapter -- known as "Chapter One (for Callahan!)" -- was live at one point in time, and might well be still.  Chapter Two has yet to appear, and it seems as if the project has more or less gone fallow.

I know nothing about Discordia, having never played it; but it seemed wrong not to mention it.

Anyways, while we're here, can I mention how I live in mortal terror of Stephen King getting involved -- either directly (somehow) or via allowing adaptations -- in the gaming industry?  Because then I'd have to become a gamer again, and who's got the time for it?  Not this guy.
  


The Stand: Soul Survivors
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published by Marvel Comics, December 2009-May 2010
  • collected in The Stand: Soul Survivors, July 21, 2010
  • scripted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, art by Mike Perkins

  







On a scale of 1 to 10, how obvious is it that I'm running out of steam as a tour guide?  About a 6?  Yeah, sounds right.
  
The fact is, there's just not as much to be said about some of this; not compared to some of the items we've examined in the past, at least.
  
Plus, with some of these more recent works, I've already written full(ish) reviews, so -- as in the case of Soul Survivors -- I can just kind of point to that link, which is kind of like a pamphlet I've handed you for you to read later if you see fit.  Is that the tour guide equivalent of just sort of silently driving a bus around while people nervously mutter amongst themselves?
  
Hopefully not!
  
We'll see what tomorrow brings; we'll be in the year 2010, which if science fiction cinema has not lied to me is The Year We Make Contact.

46 comments:

  1. I've spent the last month (and change) moving, finishing up things at one job, and starting a new job. So I haven't had time to comment. But I've been enjoying the tour, sitting in the back of the bus, quiet but paying careful attention.

    With a little bit of free time tonight, I'll drop some quick thoughts on a few things. Although, like our intrepid guide, I find I don't have a lot to say about this era-- even though there are things that appeared in these years that are fantastic.

    1) Man "The Colorado Kid" is a weird publication. By that I don't mean that it's a weird story (although it sort of is), but that it's a strange thing to have been put into print the way it was by Hard Case Crime. Because it's definitely not "hard case," and the "crime" is both central to, yet somehow not the point of the story at all. It's barely long enough to justify its own volume. The seductress on the cover has nothing whatsoever to do with anything inside. And it definitely belongs to King's "From a Buick 8" era mindset that the journey of the story is much more important than the resolution (a philosophy Uncle Steve describes so much more colorfully late in "The Dark Tower"). Bottom line: this is a story that seems like it would only appeal to hard core King fans, and not at all to fans of hard-boiled crime stories.

    Bryant, any idea if King wrote this after Hard Case approached him for a story, or if it just happened to be what he had available when they asked?

    2) I need to read "Cell" again. I remember enjoying it quite a bit when it came out-- partly because it was straight-up horror, but even more because it was relatively lean and mean. Don't get me wrong, I love when King meanders, caught up in characters rather than plot. But I also love the pedal-to-the-metal King of the early 80s and Bachman books. And while "Cell" is definitely not a classic, I remember thinking when I read it that it seemed like King was really trying to recapture some of that. But a lot of people really do not like this book, which makes me wonder whether it's as bad as everyone says (and I was just tripping when I read it), or if it's not as bad as everyone says (and my initial impression was right)...

    3) On the whole, I personally enjoyed the "Nightmares & Dreamscapes" anthology miniseries quite a bit. Again, not a classic, but a solid effort in my book. Good enough that I always wished there had been another season. In fact, I would absolutely love someone to take the concept of an anthology of shorts based on King stories and try it again. Seems like a perfect fit for Amazon! Even better: go the "Masters of Horror" route with this: an anthology of episodes based on Stephen King stories, with each one made by an acknowledged master of the genre, rather than the work for hire types who directed the "Nightmares & Dreamscapes" episodes...

    4) Seriously, how in the hell did anyone ever think releasing "The Mist" at Thanksgiving was a good idea?

    I'm hitting the character limit, so I'll continue in a new post...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1) Thanks to a recent interview with Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai (https://suntup.press/interviews/charles-ardai-hard-case-crime/), I can more or less answer that question. Ardai approached King hoping for a blurb to use on one of their books, but King instead offered to write them a whole book. So presumably that means he wrote the book after that, and didn't just have it lying around. (The latter option isn't out of the realm os possibility, of course.)

      2) I suspect your initial impression was right. I had the same impression and, like you, have not reread it. I don't think it's top-shelf King, but it doesn't have to be to be a lot of fun, which is the way I remember this book.

      3) I seem to be more negative on that series than most people are. Even so, I'd also have liked for there to be a second season. I recall it getting good ratings, so I'm not sure why they didn't make more.

      4) Right?!? That's where you put that movie if you want to kill it. But that's also how cult classics -- which I'd argue this is -- are born.

      Delete
  2. Continued...

    5) I don't know if "Duma Key" is King's best-- I'm not saying I don't think it is, I'm saying that I literally don't know/feel capable of making that call right now. But I definitely think it deserves to be in the conversation. And I absolutely think that in the long term, when his career is evaluated in full, "Duma Key" will be one of the books that stands the test of time.

    (Is it fair to say that "Duma Key" is the literary ghost story that "Bag of Bones" was advertised as being? This is another thing I do not know; but I believe there's a fun discussion to be had there...)

    6) For reals folks: if you haven't read "Locke & Key," get right on that. It's so, so good. And yes, it belongs as much to Gabriel Rodriguez as it does to Joe Hill. It's a wonderful collaboration by two artists at the top of their game.

    7) "Ur" is a lot of fun; and it reads as if King himself was having a ball writing the thing, which is always a special treat for me when that bleeds through.

    Slight SPOILERS here:
    However, I've always been a little perplexed by the part that the low men play in that story. Their actions and purpose in that story seem at odds with servants of the Crimson King...

    8) Man, "Dolan's Cadillac" was a wasted opportunity! You put that story-- Stephen King's take on "The Cask of Amontillado"-- in the right hands, and I think you could have a great crime movie. In fact, why don't we get 1922's Zak Hilditch on that?

    9) I didn't mind the ending of "Under the Dome" at all. I can see why it bothered so many people, but I honestly can't imagine that there was ever going to be an explanation for the dome that worked perfectly.

    Well, I guess I had more to say than I thought. I'll guess I'll leave it at that for now. Hopefully I'll have more time to chime in on future posts too, but in case I get swamped again, let me take the time now to wish you, Bryant, and all the readers here, Happy Holidays. May your candy all be caned, and your peanuts brittle!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 5) I definitely think a fruitful compare-and-contrast conversation could be had about those two novels.

      6) Agreed totally. The contributions of Rodriguez should never be minimized. I'm probably guilty of doing so accidentally on occasion.

      7) They do. The way I read it -- and this is me pulling this straight outta my ass -- is that it takes place in a relative future after the Crimson King has been vanquished. The low men have been repurposed as agents of the White -- or possible even as employees of the Tet Corporation -- and are focusing on repair rather than demolition.

      Whether that idea holds water or not, I don't know. It's just how I see it in my headcanon.

      8) Mmmm! Yes, absolutely. Nobody has seen the movie, so nobody would even know it was a remake.

      9) That was my thing: I could never think of any other explanation for the dome except maybe a science experiment gone wrong. (A Sombra experiment, perhaps.) But that would have been at least as cheesy as the explanation King gives, if not more so, so I don't think it would have satisfied the haters, either. The other option: just don't explain it at all. That MIGHT have worked, but it's no guarantee.

      Anyways, I love what's there.

      Happy Holidays to you, as well. I hope my grandmother makes me some peanut brittle; she usually does, and I will demolish it.

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    2. 7) Alright. I can get behind that theory regarding the low men in "Ur." I can see them as the type of... beings... that simply need a purpose and orders to follow, regardless of what those are. You give them materials and something to build, they build; on the other hand, if you're the Crimson King, you point them toward destruction, and they destroy. I can buy into that.

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    3. I'd love to ask King what his thinking was with that one. I don't mind it at all, it just seems unusual compared to the normal role of low men.

      Of course, it's entirely possible that the low men ARE still serving the Crimson King. It's not out of the realm of possibility to imagine that Wesley's use of the Ur-Kindle was threatening to disrupt some of his nefarious plans.

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  3. Just so you know, this series has been a treat. I've failed to tell you that until now, partly because many of the works mentioned I have very little to contribute, but also out of laziness. Getting one on Thanksgiving was especially cool. I did take notes on the last two, which I read this afternoon.

    1) This is from a previous installment, but I think you're right that Secret Window (the movie) is pretty darn good, and anyone who doesn't like From a Buick 8 is wrong. I'm sure King is aware of the detractors, and I bet he's okay with it. The problem people have with it is the whole point of the book, as I see it: that life often doesn't give us a tidy ending, and we need to be okay with it and give proper attention to the important things instead of dwelling on what goes unresolved.

    2) Is the word "shitweasel" used in Dreamcatcher? I've read that word in several different places. I know both the movie and the book have a terrible reputation, but I remember in 2003 the trailer looked kick-ass, and I also recall liking the poster. Am I wrong?

    3) Have never seen an episode of The Dead Zone, and probably never will, but I did knock that one off my reading list last month, and I can totally see why it's rated so highly.

    4) It's high time for a high-quality King short story anthology series from one of the high-end streaming services. And a miniseries of Duma Key. I'm not sure you could fit that book into two hours, or even the three hours The Green Mile got. I believe you nominated Bryan Cranston as the lead. Works for me.

    5) I think I already told you this, but The Pop of King was what initially convinced me to start reading Stephen King, but it bears repeating. And I subscribed to EW specifically for that reason too, although that was in November 2010, two months before he left. Cockadoodie and fiddley-foof.

    6) Gotta disagree with you on 1408. I've only seen it once, and that had to have been when it was a relatively new release on DVD, but that movie totally got to me. Terrifying (but I don't believe it haunted my dreams).

    7) I noticed Dolan's Cadillac was airing on HBO or Showtime a few months ago when Dish Network gave me a free preview. I almost DVR'd it, but then I realized there was probably a good reason I had no idea it existed. Christian Slater, for a good 10-15 years, right up until a couple years ago with Mr. Robot, was kind of in Lou Diamond Phillips territory: still around, you could find him if you looked, but fallen about six stories from where he was in the nineties. Also, I love Dolan's Cadillac, and agree there's a good adaptation to be made.

    8) You should re-read Mute. I'd consider it one of his best short stories. Definitely bleak, though.

    9) "Fled Mejis with Maerlyn's grapefruit" is a good example of why I haven't been able to get going on The Dark Tower yet. I know it's widely beloved, and generally that many fans can't all be wrong, but between some of the artwork, the thought of several thousand pages, and the likelihood of stuff like that raises my nerd alert to Threat Level Midnight.

    10) I hope you get your very own smart, nerdy woman someday, should you desire such a thing. Thanks for your dedication. I have some questions about your love of Christmas music and the 6-week work trip when you've spent years working in movie theatres, but I probably ought to get back to the fam.

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    1. 2) I for one don't think "Dreamcatcher" is a terrible book. But it definitely sits near the bottom of any list of Stephen King novels. It's got some great ideas, and good scenes, but it's too long, and the whole thing just doesn't hold together well. Plus, most of what King succeeds at in "Dreamcatcher," he did better somewhere else. That being said, I can't help but go easier on it than I otherwise might since Stephen King has said that writing it helped him get through some of the darkest days of recovering from being hit by the van.

      As for the movie... it is not good. Which is a shame, because it wastes a cast of actors who I love: Timothy Olyphant, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, and Damian Lewis. (Yes, Morgan Freeman is also in this. But he is so bad that I pretend it is not him at all.) Those four actors have great chemistry, and the first part of the film with them simply interacting as friends and building their characters is actually quite good. I'd easily watch a full movie about those four friends reconnecting at a cabin (I'm imagining some type of indie, Sundance character study thing). But then the actual plot kicks in, and things go downhill faster than a shitweasel voided from your bowels after you've been eating hot peppers raw...

      Anyway, bottom line on "Dreamcatcher" (in my opinion): when you get to the point that you've read pretty much everything else by King and find yourself jonesing* for a hit, go ahead and pick that one up. Once you've read the book, and watched every other movie and TV show in your queue, and your legs are broken so you can't get off the couch to do anything else, go ahead and watch the film.

      Oh, and yes, I agree that the "Dreamcatcher" poster was actually very cool.

      *Do the kids still say "jonesing"? Or did I just betray my age?

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    2. @ Aaron:

      1) I agree with you that that probably is the point of the book. It's good philosophy, and I think it can make for good storytelling, too. I remember liking the book, so it worked for me the one time I read it.

      2) The word "shitweasel" definitely comes from this book/movie. I'd argue that the movie did not live up to its trailer. That's a shame, because it did indeed look good.

      5) That's lousy timing. I still get bummed out thinking that my collection is incomplete; I'll start working on filling in those gaps one of these days.

      6) A lot of people love that movie. I'm the odd man out on this one, for sure. But I stand by it: I just don't like it at all. I'm glad other people do, though! And who knows, maybe it'll hit me the right way one of these days.

      7) Until "Mr. Robot," I could not stand Christian Slater. I don't think I've watched anything he was in since that series began; I'd be curious to go back and see if I have suddenly developed a tolerance for him even in his old roles. (A similar thing happened with Robert Downey Jr., who I loathed prior to "Iron Man.") This also reminds me that I need to get caught up with the new season of "Mr. Robot," of which I have seen zero episodes.

      9) To be clear, Maerlyn's grapefruit is not literally a grapefruit, but a very powerful orb colored like a grapefruit. The books actually have very little of that sort of thing.

      10) I definitely desire such a thing, but I'm also much too lazy and selfish for it to be realistic. So it goes, I guess.

      The work trip shall be addressed in a separate comment a bit further down.

      As for the Christmas-music thing, I'm happy to answer any questions on that score.

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    3. @ Joseph:

      I agree with you pretty much 100% on both the book and the movie.

      As for whether "jonesing" is still in the vernacular, I don't really know. Probably not, but I'm still using "bogarting," and have no plans to stop. Same goes for "jonesing." If it makes me sound old, well, shit, I kind of AM old. It beats being dead, and anyways, those kids -- with their memes and their Instagrams and their energy drinks and their Netflix binges -- can gag on a spoon for all I care.

      That'll show 'em!

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    4. @ Aaron:

      I forgot 8) -- I look forward to rereading "Mute" eventually. I am sure I will enjoy it.

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    5. I had a subscription to Playboy for when "Mute" came out (actually, for "Willa" too, though I'd unsubscribed by the time of "The Bone Church"). At that time I wasn't back into King and read it and enjoyed it but didn't think much of it beyond "hey that was pretty good." Later, tho, when I had officially re-entered King fandom and was reading everything, I reread it and agree, it's a very nice work.

      And FWIW, "Dreamcatcher"'s not a bad book. It's an interesting smash-up of IT and TOMMYKNOCKERS, with some shitweasels thrown in. The movie should be studied under a microscope to determine just what the hell was going on there!! How did THAT happen?

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    6. When you're talking about a career as vast as King's, a novel like "Dreamcatcher" is automatically interesting if only as a comparison/contrast piece with other works in the same vein ("It," "The Tommyknockers," "Under the Dome"). That sort of thing won't be true for everyone, of course; but for guys like me, absolutely.

      And anyways, there IS a goodish amount of great writing in "Dreamcatcher." I think it's kind of a bad book in comparison to most of King's, but a bad book in general? No way! I'm with you there, for sure.

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  4. (1) I really like that WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. That was my hospital reading the weekend Evelyn was born. I probably never will mention the book without bringing that up. I wouldn't go as far as to say one is an extension of the other in my memory, but they're inseperable to me.

    (2) Similarly, I was visiting Rhode Island and driving down to see the mysterious Mr. Klum and look at the South County shoreline for awhile and my audiobook of choice for this was 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS. It was a dreary New England day, too, late summer but kind of cold, gray, and drizzly. Perfect for those stories. Kind of a funny association, now, with the ghost thing, but also somewhat appropriate, as I love this book.

    (2.5) Sounds like a fun work-trip reading list you had there! Did they send you anywhere fun?

    (3) I get a measure of crap for re-setting my calendar biorhythms each and every year with as much Christmas music as possible, so I hear you, here!

    (4) I used to find Jae Lee hit or miss, then it turned the corner into distaste and now I can get carried away if I let myself. But not my cup of tea.

    (5) I remember that "Creepshow 3" review! You definitely spared no expense, there. I re-applaud the effort and end result.

    (6) I bet there's a way to make motion comics work, but yeah, I haven't quite seen it. The best of them is probably the Watchmen Motion Picture Comic, but even that requires some work and patience on the viewer's part. (Or lots of weed.)

    (7) I really want to re-rank the short stories. It's a project. I moved 'em all to the shelf above the computer and I just looked up at them and said "soon..." as dramatically as possible.

    (8) I like the running Christmas updates. Myself, I've got the Ashes on during all of these remarks, and I'm surprised none of it has slipped through. (Oh all right, drinks are on the field, with Australia 4-253, Steve Smith with 120+ runs, not out. I've been downright cricket obsessed lately. In a world of too-often-tiresome-bullshit, its self-contained arcana and million-miles-away-from-the-NFL-and-Taylor-Swift-and-so-many-other-things-ness is a nice brainwaves massage.

    (9) Oh man, compiling my Ur-Kindle Wishlist is one of my favorite pointless mental exercises. As you well know! It's led me to some unanticipated places.

    (10) I really don't like the look of those last The Stand covers.

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    1. (1) I'd bring that up every time if I were you, too! Very cute. Don't you love how books -- or sometimes movies or tv shows or whatever (and definitely music) -- graft themselves onto life events like that? Some people see things like that as being shallow; I think they probably lack imagination, though, and ain't nothing more shallow than a lack of imagination.

      (2) Both of the King boys' first books got grafted onto the McMolo memory bank! A fine accomplishment.

      (2.5) Alexandria, Virginia. We were opening a new theatre and somebody needed to be there to train the management staff on how to operate digital projection. It was a ridiculously easy job, but crucially important. I had no time to go to Washington or Baltimore or really even anywhere closer to where I was, which was fine with me, because I have never been a go-out-on-his-own kind of guy. Think James Bond, but the exact opposite; plop me down in a resort in Monaco, and I'll be hoping I have a bunch of books with me.

      (4) I love his art for the limited edition of "The Wind Through the Keyhole," if nothing else.

      (5) I had a blast writing that one. Is it worth the movie existing? Eh...no. But I'll take what upsides I can get.

      (6) I've only seen a few, including the "Watchmen" one, which is okay. So is "N."

      (7) I've never ranked them at all. If I had a better memory and could be relied on to actually remember all of them reasonably well, I would have; but I need to give 'em all a reread first, and THAT will take some time.

      (8) Your love of cricket is adorable. I have zero interest in it, but I'm always interested in things that interest people who interest me, if that makes sense. And I can absolutely understand the appeal of being into something that does not carry the tainted-meat stink of modern culture.

      (9) Such as the Rankin-Bass series of Bond films produced for ITV on Earth 656? The animation is not great, but the Sondheim songs are wonderful.

      (10) #2 is one of the worst comic-book covers I own. I can kind of deal with Joe in the novel, but in the miniseries and the comics, he's a drag. Why you'd give him one of the covers, I do not know.

      I kind of like #3 and #4, though. And the idea behind #1 is sound (pun intended).

      #5 is ... weird. Why choose that for a cover?

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    2. (2.5) Alexandria is pretty. The first time I went down to DC my then-girlfriend and I went across the Potomac and did some shopping and hung out at the gazebo at the end of the strip, there, looking across the way at whatever DC monument is in the eyeline, there. I liked it so much that the next 3 times I was in DC I went back to the very same gazebo. I have a picture of me somewhere in full 90s-tie-dye-McMolo glory.

      Come to think of it, the last time I was there (2003) we (then-girlfriend and her uncle, who lived in rural Maryland which is a thousand miles away, scenery-and-safety-and-traffic-wise, from the Baltimore/DC area) went to the multiplex in Alexandria a bunch of times (Pieces of April, Monsoon Wedding, The Station Agent) - am I combining trips in memory? Probably - we couldn't have seen these 3 movies in the same week, I don't think. We were there in 2002, as well. Anyway, the timing is probably not right; you were likely there years after this, eh?)

      (Said then-girlfriend and I got into a HUGE argument on the drive back to Rhode Island re: "Pieces of April" which I thought not only sucked but sucked in that brutal, specific way that helps turn society's brain into tapioca and mustard gas. You haven't made the DC-to-RI run until you've made it in total, aggravated silence! Fuck you, "Pieces of April.")

      2.5 cont) I like the idea of a double-oh-agent who just likes to read and never gets into the kind of trouble Bond gets into with his inability to sit still. Maybe it'd end up being like the TNG ep where Picard goes to Riza. Actually, I always thought that kind of Bond film (Bond on vacation/ gets into a romantic treasure hunt with beautiful women/ evades time travel historians) would be pretty great.

      (4) Some of those covers are okay, and I've liked a few things here and there (including the Wind and the Keyhole.) But the guy has one posture/ pose and just cannot draw faces. The funny thing is, I only know him from 21st century stuff, but then I looked up his 90s stuff and realized dear God, I hate that even more. Not only is he my main offender in the whole one-pose/one-face/wrong-move-Kowalsky-nowadays comic art file in my head; he was all up in that 90s 'roided dev-disabled mayhem. That's like discovering the Black Eyed Peas had an early 90s Rusted Root band or something, like wow, you managed to offend me royally in two of the worst genres known to ears. Jae Lee should join the Black Eyed Peas; maybe then I'd lighten up on both.

      (7) Like many of my old King's Highways, I screwed up those rankings. I do want to read them all with an eye of doing it properly.

      (8) For what's worth, after I went to bed (as I just discovered) the two batters who were batting when I wrote that partnered up for an amazing 300+ runs. Australia still not out at 4 for 549. Ridiculous.

      (9) Yes!!

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    3. (2.5) I saw very little of the city, but it did seem to be lovely. Nice countryside around it, too.

      And my trip was in 2011, yes, so well after your visit.

      I never saw "Pieces of April." Sounds like I'm lucky in that regard. I had a similarly tense drive from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa once upon a time, so I get how that goes. Christ, for that matter, I had one of those from Orlando to Tuscaloosa once! Brutal. (Granted, in both cases, these were just friends, not significant others. Still, no good.)

      And hey, a Bond movie like that could absolutely work! Maybe not the time-travel part ... though I won't rule it out.

      (4) I know the very posture/pose you mean, and I loathe it.

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  5. I'm only getting around to commenting on Friday, but this series has given me a reason to look forward to Thursdays. I have to say that I'll be a bit sad when you reach the present day and are, at least for the time being, all caught up.

    (1) Hill could start writing as "Joe King" if he ever switches from horror to humor.

    (2) I remember when THE COLORADO KID was released--a mass-market paperback shelved unceremoniously with the other paperbacks in the grocery store book section. My first thought? "There's no way it's *that* Stephen King! This book is so... short!"

    Sort of like when I first caught Mark Hamill's name in the credits of a BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES episode: "Naw, not the STAR WARS guy. Can't be."

    At any rate, I've been intrigued by everything I've heard about these Hard Case Crime titles; I'll have to check them out one day.

    (3) I saw the DESPERATION adaptation when it aired. I remember little about it save for the glorious scenery-chewing of Ron Perlman, an actor for whom I have a great deal of affection. I can't even remember if I particularly liked it, but even if I never see it again, though, the presence of Perlman means that it'll always have a place in my heart, minuscule though that place may be.

    (4) "I was officially no longer watching [THE DEAD ZONE] by episode 3 [of season five]. Just didn't care anymore."

    But the show was "more exciting than ever"! It says so right there! A blurb would never lie to us, right?

    (5) I haven't seen the DEAD ZONE series, but your attitude toward it is similar to mine toward SONS OF ANARCHY. That show was on shaky ground with me for a while before losing me entirely with the sixth season finale. I felt insulted as a viewer, and I never have gone back to finish the show. I looked up some spoilers to see what I missed, and I decided that it wasn't much. I'd always been kind of a completionist, but it taught me that it's okay to get out while the gettin's good.

    (6) DUMA KEY is on my shelf, patiently waiting for me to get to it. Other books--and not just King books--are ahead of it in line, though, so it'll have to continue waiting its turn. I've heard a lot of good things about it, though, so I'm looking forward to it.

    (7) "Why is a Grand Wizard directing those rocketships?"

    I've heard of "white flight" before, but this is ridiculous!

    (8) Without taking the time to check, I think that JUST AFTER SUNSET is the one King short-story collection I haven't read yet. (I haven't read FULL DARK, NO STARS or FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT either, but those are novella collections.)

    Nevertheless, I sometimes bring up the cover image to see if it's gotten less disorienting. No dice as of yet.

    (9) I read "Ur" before I read any of the proper TOWER novels, but I loved, loved, loved it anyway. How many of us have wondered things like:

    What it would have been liked had Buddy Holly's plane never crashed?

    What if Lovecraft had written westerns instead of cosmic horror?

    What if Robert E. Howard hadn't killed himself?

    All those infinite possibilities! The premise *spoke* to me. It's been almost a year since I read it, and I *still* think about it often. As to the interpretation of the story's Low Men, I just so happen to be working on HEARTS IN ATLANTIS right now, and I finished "Low Men in Yellow Coats" last night. The difference in characterization is stark, and your explanation in a comment above mine is as good as any I can think of. It's officially my headcanon now. Cheers!

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    1. (1) Heh. Yeah. I wonder if that's not a big part of the reason why he uses a semi-pseudonym. He may actually have said something to that effect in some podcast or other, I have a dim memory of such.

      (2) I'm sure there's some great stuff in there. McMolo himself has been reading some of their stuff recently, and was kind enough to send me a copy of one of Max Allan Collins' "Quarry" novels. I hope to read it soon!

      (3) I love that kind of stuff. As I recall, he is indeed great in it, which is no surprise; how could he not be? But yeah, for sure, the presence of a performer like that whose work you adore can (and often does) cause a sentimental connection to form that might not otherwise be there. I've got a lot of those, too!

      (4) I wish I could get paid to contribute blurbs like that. I'd do it. I'd sell out quicker than anyone you ever saw before. "What's that? You want me to plug 'Young Sheldon' for you? Comin' right up as soon as you PAY ME MY MONEY DOWN!"

      (5) I've heard that about "Sons of Anarchy" from other people, too. There aren't that many shows that stay great from beginning to end, are there? I'd still kind of like to check "Sons" out one of these days, though.

      (9) Absolutely agreed; I think that premise speaks to just about anyone who has a touch of fandom. If that touch is more than just a touch, then it's kind of the idea version of a magnet, pulling at you.

      All three of your scenarios are good ones. I'll loan you my Ur-Kindle if I ever get one, and let you find out the answers!

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    2. The last Sons of Anarchy-season was great in my opinion.

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    3. @ Will - I read that Joe King comment 10 minutes ago, and I'm still giggling. Never let it be said that I don't appreciate a good dad joke!

      @ Bryant - You've got to watch Sons of Anarchy at least until Season 3, so you can catch Uncle Steve's guest appearance as "Bachman"!

      For the record, the first few seasons of SoA rank among my favorite television of all time (through season 4 for sure, probably including season 5). The last 2 seasons are definitely imperfect, but I didn't loathe them the way others did. That show is a case of the creator swinging for the fences and falling short, but I'd much rather have that than an artist playing it safe.

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    4. There's something to be said for that, no question.

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    5. @Joseph E.: That's the kind of joke that's way too obvious *not* to have been made before, but since I hadn't personally seen anyone else make it, I'll be more than happy to take the credit for it. :)

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  6. A little of topic here, but I want to be where the other SK-nerds are. I have thinking a lot about your Dark Tower-Reading list, Bryant, now when I shall enter the path to the Dark Tower for the first time. I want to get the whole picture, the whole story, but at the same I dont have the time to spend on not-so-good books. So the essential-list sems to short for me, but your expanded list seems to long. So I have decided to follow the following list. It would be great to hear your and everybody elses opinion about this list. Am I missing something important, and so on. I leave "IT" "On writing" and The Mist out, becuse I read them anyway.

    So here is the list:

    1 DT 1
    2 DT 2
    3 The Stand
    4. The Eyes Of The Dragon (I am not sure about this one. Its not my favorite-genre, and it seems quite lowed ranked by everyone who has red it, is it important?).
    5 DT 3
    6 Insomnia
    7 DT 4
    8 Salems Lot
    9 Heart of the Atlantis
    10 Everythings Eventual
    11 The Talisman
    12 Black House
    13 DT 4,5
    14 DT 5
    15 DT 6
    16 DT 7

    Thats it! What do you think?

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    1. "Hearts in Atlantis" I mean of course. I am from Sweden you know, so the books have other titels here.

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    2. I bet! Your English is infinitely better than my Swedish would ever be; I am (unfortunately) one of those awful Americans who never even considered learning another language. So I suspect that by now, I'd be totally unable to do so.

      Anyways, your list seems reasonable enough to me. I think you could leave "The Eyes of the Dragon" off; it's not what I'd consider essential. Same goes for "The Stand," to be honest.

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    3. Yeah, I know that The Stand is not on your essential-list, but i am really intrested to see if I like the second part better if I read it in the Dark Tower-context. I really like side stories, so my first plan was to go with your expanded list. But im not looking forward to read The Regulators for example. Its quite long, and I have never heard anything good about that book.

      The Mist was actually quite sucssesful in Sweden, but SK have quite a big fanbase here, so as long as the reviews are good, then the SK-movies use to go quite well.

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    4. "But im not looking forward to read The Regulators for example. Its quite long, and I have never heard anything good about that book."

      Well, you have now! I love THE REGULATORS. It's not too long, and it gets an undeservedly bad rap.

      Just one guy's opinion, of course, but I say, give it a shot.

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    5. Yes, I see now that you got it on your top 20 on your SK-List. Intresting! I also see that we share opinon on Tha Stand, as two different books, under the same cover. The thing is I always lose intrest when the second half begins. Maybe becuse I like the first part so much, its like a really good horror-version of Camus, that was even scrarier after AIDS. All that is gone with the religious mumbojumbo, good against evil and so on. Maybe I got more angry when i red in the eighties, when some religious idiots was talking about AIDS as a punishment from god. Do you think the book holds togheter better if you read it in the light of the Dark Tower? I have just red the short version from the seventies, maybe the long "modern" version holds together better?

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    6. It's an interesting question you ask - when I read The Stand (both the short version and then the 1990 expanded version) I had no inkling of any Dark Tower stuff; I didn't glance at any of the Dark Tower mythos until 2012 or so. I think it's mostly not there - I mean, obviously Flagg is there and King probably had some expanded-multiverse thing in mind even in the 70s and 80s, but to try and answer your question, I don't know if projecting Dark Tower stuff on The Stand improves one's experience of it.

      Except, one possibility: within the whole overt-evil vs. murky-good stuff of the book, that kind of reminded me of the Turtle or something. When King explores religious themes, he usually has an overt-bad, a mostly-indifferent-good, and some beyond-time-and-space/good-and-evil indifferent "God of the Lost" sort. So, if one views the literal-God-and-devil of the THE STAND through these lenses, i.e. less a God-vs-the-Devil/religious-parable and more sci-fi/Dark-Tower-mythos, maybe that helps smooth some of it out?

      Maybe.

      I don't know, haha - I think the coffee I'm drinking might be answering this question rather than my brain... it's an interesting subject, though.

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    7. Yeah, I think this is so strange, becuse in every other work at the time (Dead Zone, Carrie, etc) SK is really critical to christianity, and here he seens so religious. I did not get it, I used to wonder if was taking to much coke at the time, or maybe LSD. But then I was realizing that he already had written the most part of the original Gunslinger-book at the time he was writing The Stand, and then I was thinking that he was trying to start create the Dark Tower Myth in this book but nobody understood it at that time, of course, so he must use a religious language the everybody knows. That make sense to me.

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    8. Sorry for my bad spelling, its hard to write correct in another language, when you need to write fast. I guess they have good spelling-programs for this things, those days, but I am old fashion.

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    9. I seem to remember King saying that while he is a man who chooses to have faith, he is deeply distrustful of organized religion. I think his body of work reflects the idea(s) that faith can be -- and for some people is -- a powerful force for good, but for others can be -- and is -- a destructive weapon.

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    10. Well my problem with The Stand is simply that its hard for me to belive in the story. I remember when I was reading The Stand and It, for the first time when I was 13 years old. I really liked It, it was working for me, I belived in the story, but The Stand did not worked for me, I did not belived in the second part. I got almost upset about it, with was quite intresting. Now I am reading It again, and after 600 pages, the first part of the book, I feel the same as when I was 13. This story is really working, I belive in it. I hope that feeling will stay to the end, but I am not sure about it. The thing is that The Gunslinger also worked for me. I belived in the story, even though I did not understand anything yet. Where are they? On earth, in a dream, in another world?. But I buy it. Its a good story, I want to read more. And then I was thinking maybe the Dark Tower thing can make the second part of the Stand work for me? Maybe I can start to belive in the story. That would be lovely, becuse I really like the book at the same time. It is, after all, Classic-King.

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    11. Here's hoping! If not, when you get there I'd love to hear about what doesn't work for you.

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  7. Did I buy Christmas Tree Cakes while at the grocery store today? I did.

    Do I blame/credit Bryant for planting the thought to do so in my head? I do.

    Do I regret my purchase in any way? I do not.

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    1. I'm jealous (mine have been consumed and I've not been to the store this week); you're welcome; and I'm glad!

      Those things must have meth in them. I think that might be what those green sprinkles are.

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  8. Talking of other SK books in other languages...a while ago I put together a quiz of 13 (obviously) covers of foreign language editions of SK books...you had to guess the book from the cover...no-one ever got them all...was trying to post it here but don't think you can post pictures in the comments field...is there another way for me to send you it? would love to see how you got on!?

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    1. I don't think there's a way to do it via the blog, but it sounds cool -- you could look me up on Facebook and send it that way.

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  9. Just a quick side note. I don't think it's mentioned elsewhere, but it might be worth noting that "The Things They Left Behind" is pretty clearly referencing Tim O'Brien's great work about Vietnam, "The Things They Carried" (highly recommended).

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    1. Thanks! I don't think I'd ever heard of that before. Are there significant similarities apart from the title?

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  10. Mr. Burnette:
    Here's a Christmas album you've got to check out, if you haven't already: Horny Holidays by Mojo Nixon. Classic Christmas at its best!

    Apologies for a Christmas comment in April, but I'm woefully behind on my online reading.

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    1. No apologies necessary! I'm always happy to entertain a recommendation on a good Christmas album.

      I've never heard this one, but I went to Amazon and bought a used copy immediately upon hearing of it. I'm no expert on Mojo Nixon; in fact, I only know his album (with Jello Biafra) "Prairie Home Invasion." But I love that, so I'll happily make a Mojo Nixon Xmas CD part of my seasonal rotation.

      Thanks for the tip!

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  11. Mr. Burnette:
    You're welcome, as you can tell from the album title, it's not your mainstream Christmas fare, but it's a favourite of mine. Mojo is unique.

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    1. I look forward to it! I won't hear it until late November, but that's okay.

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