Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Guided Tour of the Kingdom: A Chronological Walk Through the Career of Stephen King, Part 15 (2014-2017)

We have reached the year




What shall we find upon arriving here?
 
 
"The Ring"
(essay)
 
  • published in the Spring 2014 issue of Tin House
  • uncollected


  
  
What we find is "The Ring," a very brief essay in which King tells us about a lost wedding ring.
  
Very brief; very, very good.  I would love it if he included it in one of his collections someday.
 



"Bad Little Kid"
(short story)

  • published as an e-book in France and Germany, March 14, 2014
  • English version debuted and was collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015





In the spring of 2014, King did something mildly unusual: he published a story that was not in English.  It was in French and in German, depending on where you bought it.
  
Granted, it has been written in English.  He had become neither a Francophone nor a deutscher Sprecher overnight, he had simply decided that it might be a cool thing for some of his European fans if he put something out that the rest of the world couldn't read for a while.
  
This was not greeted with universal praise among King fans.  What is?  As with all fandoms, we are a contentious lot, and some of us wouldn't be pleased with much of anything unless we felt it had been conceived with us -- literally US -- in mind.
  
Me?  I thought it was an awesome thing for King to do.  I was a little bummed I couldn't read the story right away, of course, but I knew it'd almost certainly appear in his next collection; all I had to do was hold out until then, and it'd all be good.  Plus, that would make that book all the sweeter.
  
Turns out, the wait was worth it.  This is a terrific story, and a very creepy one.  On the face of things, it's ridiculous: a guy is on death row because he murdered a kid.  But the kid had it coming; he was a bad little kid.  And boy is he: a beanie-wearing piece of supernatural shit, is what that little kid is.
  
Bonus for me: this story takes place in the fictional town of Talbot, Alabama.  I myself have lived in Alabama all my life, so it's cool that the Kingdom has extended into my home state.  My home state, which is on the verge of electing an apparent pedophile to the United States Senate.  Alabama is a bad little state, man.  I cannot deny it.
 

Rick and Morty season 1 episode 9: "Something Ricked This Way Comes"
(television episode)

  • directed by John Rice from a teleplay by Mike McMahan
  • broadcast on Cartoon Network, March 24, 2014


  
  
In which Rick has to deal with problems caused by Summer getting a job working for a "Mr. Needful" in a shop where curios are sold.
  
So...yeah.
  
Before you ask, no, I do not watch this series.  I have seen this episode, and a couple of others, because one of my friends watches it and showed them to me.  They were funny; I get the appeal.  I just haven't made time for the entire series, and probably won't unless it's in a social context.
  
Too many things, y'all!
  
Speaking of which, are there other notable cartoon shows that have done significant King homages?  I am far too lazy to research this, partially because I'm afraid it'll cause a bunch of work.
 
 
Mr. Mercedes
(novel)
 
a Scribner hardback, published June 3, 2014

The Truth Inside the Lie review of Mr. Mercedes (part 1, part 2)




With Mr. Mercedes, King began a three-year trilogy of novels featuring Bill Hodges, a retired police office who becomes a private detective of sorts.  If that sounds like an unusual route for King to go, well, your ears seem to be in good working order, madam.
  
Mr. Mercedes is a novel I enjoyed relatively well upon its initial release, thanks largely to the strength of some of its setpieces.  The opening, for example, is among the most memorably visceral things King has ever written.
  
Over time, though, the novel's demerits have gained in strength in my mind, and I can't honestly say I'm a fan of the book, or the sequels.
 

Under the Dome season 2 episode 1: "Heads Will Roll"
(television episode)

  • broadcast on CBS, June 30, 2014
  • directed by Jack Bender from a teleplay by Stephen King





Since King himself wrote the first episode of the season, we'll break that out into its own section.
  
Conventional wisdom says that King decided to write an episode in an effort to try to help redirect the series, which many people felt had lost its way pretty quickly during the first season.  I'm not convinced that was King's objective; maybe it was, but I've never found any direct evidence of it.
  
Anyways, if it WAS his objective, the episode that resulted was a complete failure in that regard.  He killed two series regulars and introduced some major new characters, but not in an especially meaningful or impactful manner.  If I'd not known King had written the episode, I'd never have guessed it from watching it.
  
Bottom line: this is the same series in this episode that it was for most of the first season.  I personally do not characterize that as a good thing, and I regret to inform that the presence of King's name on the screenplay does nothing to change that.
 
 
Under the Dome season 2
(television series)

broadcast on CBS, June 30-September 22, 2014




The episodes:

  • 2.01 "Heads Will Roll" (June 30, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.02 "Infestation" (July 7, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.03 "Force Majeure" (July 14, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.04 "Revelation" (July 21, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.05 "Reconciliation" (July 28, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.06 "In the Dark" (August 4, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.07 "Going Home" (August 11, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.08 "Awakening" (August 18, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.09 "The Red Door" (August 25, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.10 "The Fall" (September 1, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.11 "Black Ice" (September 8, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.12 "Turn" (September 15, 2014)  (review)
  • 2.13 "Go Now" (September 22, 2014)  (review)

Apologies to anyone who enjoyed this, but I thought the second season was a considerable step down from the first; and that's saying something given how mediocre I thought the first was.
  

"That Bus Is Another World"
(short story)

  • published in the July 2014 issue of Esquire
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015



    
  
A fabulous story that I'm not going to tell you anything about.  Short stories are sometimes like jokes; there's really no point in telling part of a joke.  You just say, hey, listen to this joke, and then you tell it.
  
So in this case, what that means is: just find the story and read it.
 
 
Haven season 5 part 1
(television series)

broadcast on Syfy, September 11-December 5, 2014


  
  
What was the first television series to do that thing where they say "season __ part 1" and "season __ part 2"?  Was it The Sopranos?  I think it probably was.  Battlestar Galactica eventually followed suit, and so did Mad Men, and The Walking Dead, and so forth.
  
My understanding is that it's a contract thing.  The networks renew these shows for "one" season, but then decide to split the season into "two parts" for various reasons.  Assholes, y'all ain't fooling nobody: we know this is to avoid paying people more money.
  
This creates annoyance for guys like me, because these thirteen episodes here are season five, and the next thirteen really ought to be called season six.  But no, all 26 are called season five.  And yet, they aired more or less a year apart, and in all other ways behaved like two distinct seasons.
  
Ah, well.  Haven isn't really a good enough series to worry about in this regard.  Seasons three and four had been fairly good, but the entirety of the "final season" took a bit of a backwards step.

The episodes:

  • 5.01 "See No Evil" (September 11, 2014)
  • 5.02 "Speak No Evil" (September 18, 2014)
  • 5.03 "Spotlight" (September 25, 2014)
  • 5.04 "Much Ado About Mara" (October 2, 2014)
  • 5.05 "The Old Switcheroo: Part 1" (October 10, 2014)
  • 5.06 "The Old Switcheroo: Part 2" (October 17, 2014)
  • 5.07 "Nowhere Man" (October 24, 2014)
  • 5.08 "Exposure" (October 31, 2014)
  • 5.09 "Morbidity" (November 7, 2014)
  • 5.10 "Morality" (November 14, 2014)
  • 5.11 "Reflections" (November 21, 2014)
  • 5.12 "Chemistry" (November 28, 2014)
  • 5.13 "Chosen" (December 5, 2014)

The cast was still good, but as the series began heading into its home stretch, it was clear that the best days had come and gone, and they had not been ALL that great.


Finding Your Roots season 2 episode 1: "In Search of Our Fathers"
(television episode)

broadcast on PBS, September 23, 2014




King was profiled along with Courtney B. Vance and Gloria Reuben on this episode of the PBS show that, at one point in time, was most famous for some sort of Ben Affleck-related scandal.  I forget what that was all about.  I forget because I do not give a shit.

King's episode was quite good.  You will find out way more than you EVER knew about the elusive Don King, father of young Stephen.  Plus a bunch of interesting stuff about King ancestors.

This reminds me: I need to get this on DVD!

[UPDATE: I did get the DVD, not too long after writing those words.  It's the full season 2 set, and while I've watched none of the rest of it, there are some interesting folks on the cover...




...none of whom are King himself!  You'd have thought they'd use him to move a few units.

In looking for that DVD, I also found that a book version had come out:




What this consists of, so far as I can tell, is transcripts of the episodes.  Gates must have written the scripts himself since he is the credited author; King's dialogue is presented as dialogue, which makes sense.  I haven't read the entire thing yet to see if there are any differences (I'd need to rewatch the episode first to be sure), but nothing jumped out at me from skimming it.

Nice to have that in prose format; it's easy to find used copies of this for $3 or so, and the King section runs for about 12 pages, so hardcore King fans might want to find one.

Sadly, there are no photos.]
  
  
A Good Marriage
(feature film)
  
  • a Screen Media film, released October 3, 2014
  • directed by Peter Askin from a screenplay by Stephen King
  
  
  
  
There had been a fan screening of the movie (to which one was able to win tickets) on April 24, but I figure it makes sense to list this wretched movie under the date upon which all of the country could pay to see its failures on VOD.

I was one of the ones who paid for it.  This is galling to me in some ways.  I work at a movie theatre, so I'm accustomed to NOT having to pay movies and seeing them in excellent circumstances.  So while I understand why nobody wanted to put this on more than a handful of cinema screens, I'm a little annoyed by the fact that I spent zero dollars to see Gone Girl but several dollars to see A Good Marriage, which was inferior by a factor of fill-in-this-blank-with-a-numeral-representing-"a-lot."

Thing is, a movie version of the novella "A Good Marriage" ought to have been a slam dunk.  Cast Bryan Cranston opposite Joan Allen and maybe you've got something.  But only if you get a competent director.  The guy who directed this did not fit the bill.

So as is, what you've got on your hands in this film is yet another case of (A) Hollywood having no clue how to handle King on film and (B) Stephen King having no clue how to handle Stephen King on film.

It's depressing and somebody needs to fix it.

But wait...!  There's more!  October 2017 has more King-scented suck on the way.

Mercy
(feature film)
  
  • a Universal film, released to home video on October 7, 2014
  • directed by Peter Cornwell from a screenplay by Matt Greenberg
  
  


A low-budget adaptation of the short story "Gramma," made by Blumhouse Productions, who had become a big deal in Hollywood -- and in horror -- by 2014 and have only grown in stature since.

Mercy is one of their less-successful ventures, and did not even manage to play in theatres.  Not only that, it's never even made it onto Blu-ray!  DVD?!?  Yuck.

The movie itself is pretty shabby.  It's by no means the worst thing I've ever seen, but I swear to Gan, it looks as if the production ran out of money and just stopped filming.  This really does feel right on the verge of not actually being a complete film.

It's better than A Good Marriage, though.

The October '14 King Trilogy Of Suck was rounded out by:
 
 
Big Driver
(television movie)

  • broadcast on Lifetime, October 18, 2014
  • directed by Mikael Salmon from a teleplay by Richard Christian Matheson



  
  
This one should have been great.  And to be fair, a lot of people liked it more than I did.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll warm up to it in time.  All I know is, with a great actor like Maria Bello in the lead and source material as strong as King's, this should have been a home run.  Instead, it's, like, a single.
  
I can't fully remember why I was/am so down on it, but I know I'll tell you about it in that review I linked to above.  I had very specific thoughts about it, for sure.
 

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- The Prisoner
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published November 2014-February 2015 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art by Piotr Kowalski
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- The Prisoner, February 25, 2015


The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #1

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #2

The Truth Inside the Lie review of issue #3


  
  
I had thought Marvel's Dark Tower was dead after they wrapped The Gunslinger, but in 2014 a third book in the series began, based, naturally, on The Drawing of the Three.
  
It has virtues, among them excellent art by Piotr Kowalski and GREAT covers by Julian Totino Tedesco.  And the story works really well in places.
  
However, writers Robin Furth and Peter David can't help but ruin the story in a few places, so all in all, these comics continue to be mostly duds from my perspective.  And one major change from The Gunslinger to The Drawing of the Three happened: the prose backup material mostly went away.  They were replaced by script pages and art-evolution presentations, all of which is fine, but seems to reflect a general lack of effort in the presentation compared to issues past.
 
 
Revival
(novel)

a Scribner hardback, published November 11, 2014

The Truth Inside the Lie review of Revival (part 0, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)


    
  
I had a complicated reaction to Revival.  Well, "complicated" might be overselling it a bit; I had a mixed reaction to Revival, is probably what I ought to say.
  
You can read all about that if you care to consult those reviews above, beginning with what I have here labelled "part 0."  That's the brief review I wrote directly after reading it.  I decided to reread the novel in late 2016, and took a bunch of notes on it and proceeded to write some 24,000 words on the subject, spread across four separate posts.
  
I'll tell you now, I'm rarely happier than when I'm giving myself the time to really wallow in a King novel or story.  You ever seen an indoor cat go running outside and roll around in some dirt or grass or something?  Little fucker's happier than ought to be legal.  That's kinda how I am when I really dig into a King book.
  
Because here's the thing: I have yet to do it and not find it to be rewarding.  The books withstand scrutiny in that way.  They do when I'm the scrutinizer, at least; maybe less so if it were a keener critic, for all I know.  But I don't think I'm all that shabby at it; I typically find things that seem like they mean I've done a passable job.  My writing of the conclusions could be better -- more restrained, more governed, more organized -- but in terms of the raw data being pulled out, I think I do okay.  (None of that is intended to solicit supporting comments along the lines of "Don't be so hard on yourself!" or whatever; I'm not competing with anybody except myself, and am only in this for the fun.  So if you are considering leaving some sort of comment like that, many thanks, and please don't.  If, on the other hand, you want to tell me I suck ass at this, knock yourself out.  We'll banter about it!)
  
This is why it kills me that I am unable to spend more time doing it.  I retain hopes of somehow getting my train fully back on the tracks in that regard.  Plans are afoot, and this very Guided Tour has been a part of that prospective process.  See, it's not just a tour for the benefit of others; it's a tour -- a guidemap, if you will -- for Future Me, as well.
  

You Can't Kill Stephen King
(feature film)

  • a Loco Dawn film, released on home video on December 9, 2014
  • directed by Ronnie Khalil, Monroe Mann, and Jorge Valdés-Iga  from a screenplay by Monroe Mann, Ronnie Khalil, and Bob Madia





You Can't Kill Stephen King is a low-rent, unfunny, unscary, unsexy, unsueable-thanks-to-parody-laws (I assume) movie that actually exists, but shouldn't.

I wouldn't normally bring it up, but I figured, hey, it DOES exist, and people might theoretically wonder about it, so I'd be derelict in my duties not to tell you to skip it.  The Stephen King related content is minimal, almost all of it embarrassing and geared toward making you think King fans must be perverts.

The story, such as it is, involves a bunch of young people going to a lakehouse, where murders begin happening?  Is Stephen King killing them?

Spoiler alert: no.


Molly, the Thing of Evil
(Corgi)

introduced to the world on December 14, 2014




King joined Twitter around this time, and we're not going to be covering that.  I ... kind of hate Twitter.

However, one thing to come from King getting on social media is that he was able to begin posting photos of his new Corgi puppy, Molly.

She was not immediately introduced as "the Thing of Evil."

That didn't happen until the second photo, on March 6 of the next year.  (So my records indicate, at least.  I can't swear to it; I've been trying to keep track of them, but not THAT hard, you know what I mean?)  Let's have a look:




Yes, I know that that is from Facebook and not from Twitter.  I am not the world's biggest Facebook fan, either, but it's easier to use in this manner (keeping track of your favorite author's dog).

Anyways, we've already moved into 2015, so let's make it official:
  
 
 
 
 
"A Death"
(short story)

  • published in the March 9, 2015 issue of The New Yorker
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015


  
  
This story could technically be said to be a Western, but don't let that cause thoughts of gunslingers and men in black to dance in your head; this is instead the story of a murder, a trial, and a regret.
  
Deeply good.
 

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- House of Cards
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published May-September 2015 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art Piotr Kowalski and Nick Filardi
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- House of Cards, September 9, 2015






  
  
This arc essentially adapts the section of The Drawing of the Three in which Roland draws Eddie.  That's some of my favorite material in the Dark Tower novels, so it stands to reason that I'd dig these comics.
  
And I mostly do.  Artist Piotr Kowalski returned for a second arc, and the sheer visual continuity is helpful.  His art in this arc seems a bit more rushed at times, and a bit too cartoonish in places, but is still pretty good.
 

Finders Keepers
(novel)

a Scribner hardback, published June 2, 2015


  
  
The sequel to Mr. Mercedes is an improvement upon that novel in almost every way, and that will be very good news indeed to those who found themselves distanced by some of the quirks King brought to the table the first time around.  
  
Looking at you, Jerome.
  
Nevertheless, there is a sense here that King is coasting a bit.  I think he had a lot of passion for the idea of doing a series of crime novels, and that that passion was sufficient to carry him through the writing.  But I don't feel as if inspiration ever struck, so what we ended up with was workmanlike in its essence.
  
Still, this particular novel is good, and has moments that approach greatness.
 

Under the Dome season 3
(television series)

broadcast on CBS, June 25-September 10, 2015


  
  
Regretfully, I must inform you that I did not write reviews of the individual episodes during Under the Dome's third season.  I didn't write a review of the season overall once it concluded, either.  I looked at it all, and said, nope.
  
I'm not opposed to doing it eventually, though.  Lord knows there's comedy to be mined from them thar hills.

The episodes:

  • 3.01 "Move On" (June 25, 2015)
  • 3.02 "But I'm Not" (June 25, 2015)
  • 3.03 "Redux" (July 2, 2015)
  • 3.04 "The Kinship" (July 9, 2015)
  • 3.05 "Alaska" (July 16, 2015)
  • 3.06 "Caged" (July 23, 2015)
  • 3.07 "Ejecta" (July 30, 2015)
  • 3.08 "Breaking Point" (August 6, 2015)
  • 3.09 "Plan B" (August 13, 2015)
  • 3.10 "Legacy" (August 20, 2015)
  • 3.11 "Love Is a Battlefield" (August 27, 2015)
  • 3.12 "Incandescence" (September 3, 2015)
  • 3.13 "The enemy Within" (September 10, 2015)

This was a horrible series that ended two seasons too late; maybe even three seasons too late, because I'm not sure the pilot episode was good enough to have resulted in a series pickup.  In fact, I'm sure it wasn't.  
   
So why did I kind of miss the series once it was over?
  
That's the peculiar allure of television.  You sometimes develop a sort of Stockholm syndrome with shows, especially if you watch weekly and have any kind of habits built up around them.  I always watched the show with my mother, for example, so that caused a bit of enjoyment that wouldn't have been there if I had only been watching solo.
  
In the end, what I have to say about this series is that it sucks, but in a way that isn't entirely unenjoyable provided one goes into it knowing that it's daffy as fuck. It's almost like a television series made by people who were not especially talented but didn't know it, and were very devoted to trying to entertain people.  They spent three seasons furiously tap-dancing in a manner that impressed nobody, but their sheer effort and lack of self awareness are kind of impressive even in the tap=-dancing isn't.  
  
If you can get onboard with that, you might wring some ironic enjoyment out of the series.
  
All others, abandon hope.


"Drunken Fireworks"
(short story)

  • published as an audiobook, June 30, 2015
  • collected in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, 2015




Stephen King hasn't written many stories that could be classified as comedy.  "The Revenge of Lard-Ass Hogan" is arguably one; "The Rock and Roll Dead Zone" is another.  Probably you'd also include "The King Family and the Wicked Witch" and "Slade."
  
Unless I'm forgetting something, that was pretty much it until "Drunken Fireworks" showed up.
  
It's about a couple of families who live on a lake, and the competition they have to put on the most impressive fireworks displays over Fourth of July.  Things eventually get pretty weird, although not in the way you think of when you think of "weird" and "Stephen King."
  
It's a very fun story, and while it might be relatively atypical within King's canon, I suggest you don't let that fret you none.
  
The story made its initial appearance via audiobook, and I bought that but have never listened to it.  If King had read it, I'd have listened to it; but failing that, I didn't want some other reader giving me a King story for the first time.  So I waited for The Bazaar of Bad Dreams to check it out.
 

National Medal of Arts
(award)

presented to King by President Obama on September 10, 2015


  
  
I don't have anything specific to say here, so let's move on lest my mentioning the person who awarded this to King bring out right-wing trolls.  
  
All I'll say else is, that's a hell of a fine award to receive.
 
 
Intro to Alien Invasion
(graphic novel; written by Owen King and Mark Jude Poirier, art by Nancy Ahn)

a Scribner trade paperback, published September 15, 2015



  
  
You may already know this, but there is a difference between comic books and graphic novels.  It isn't an especially important distinction; like the distinctions between short story, novella, and novel, it is largely semantic in nature, and designed to allow people like me to classify things.
  
Since I am in fact a guy like me and get worked up about such things on occasion, allow me now to tell you what I think on the subject of graphi-comic classification.
  
A comic-book is a periodical-style graphic narrative, somewhere between twenty and ... let's say ... sixty pages in length.  More often than not, it is (in physical incarnations) stapled rather than glued or sewn, but that is not a rule.  (None of these are rules, obviously.)
  
A collection of comic-books in book format -- meaning glued or sewn in traditional paperback or hardback format -- is NOT automatically a graphic novel.  That is a collection of comic-books.  They might or might not tell a complete story, which might qualify them for graphic-novel status, but just as easily might not.  The specifics of what is being collected is what makes the distinction.  For example, if you are talking about issues #458-463 of The Amazing Spider-Man, that might well be a complete story arc.  Yet it is nevertheless a story arc within a larger series, and is therefore not complete in the technical sense.  It may present the illusion of completeness, but that is not the same thing.
  
A graphic novel is a work that is designed with a beginning, middle, and end.  My personal classification tends toward saying that a graphic novel is a lengthy tale published all at once.  However, there are cases when limited -- or even ongoing -- series of comic-books result in a work that is entirely complete in and of itself.  Think From Hell or Watchmen.  Technically collections, but in a manner that equate to graphic-novel status.  (A good prose equivalent: The Gunslinger, which collected individual stories, and is therefore a collection, but in a manner that resulted in a single cohesive narrative, making it also a novel.)
  
You likely care about none of that, but you're still trapped on this bus, so unfortunately you have to listen.
  
I mention all of it only so as to be able to point out that Intro to Alien Invasion is a graphic novel in what I think of as the classical sense: a novel-length work that was published in a single volume all at once.  (It's arguably more novella-length than novel-length, but bringing that up raises the specter of adding another category for "graphic-novellas," and I don't want to go there.)
  
Whatever you want to call it, it's fun.  The story is mostly in a comedic vein, but has occasional surprises that elevate it beyond mere silliness.  The real draw for me -- and no, I did not mean to make that pun -- is the art by Nancy Ahn, which is wonderful.
 

Haven season 5 part 2
(television series)

broadcast on Syfy, October 8-December 17, 2015


  
  
This is technically a spoiler (though a relatively well-publicized one), so if you don't want to know something, skip to the next item on the agenda.
 
As a buffer, I present a lit of the season's episodes:

  • 5.14 "New World Order" (October 8, 2015)
  • 5.15 "Power" (October 8, 2015)
  • 5.16 "The Trial of Nathan Wuornos" (October 15, 2015)
  • 5.17 "Enter Sandman" (October 22, 2015)
  • 5.18 "Wild Card" (October 29, 2015)
  • 5.19 "Perditus" (November 5, 2015)
  • 5.20 "Just Passing Through" (November 12, 2015)
  • 5.21 "Close to Home" (November 19, 2015)
  • 5.22 "A Matter of Time" (November 26, 2015)
  • 5.23 "Blind Spot" (Decmber 3, 2015)
  • 5.24 "The Widening Gyre" (December 10, 2015)
  • 5.25 "Now" (December 17, 2015)
  • 5.26 "Forever" (December 17, 2015)
 
Anyways, what I was going to say is that you've got tip your cap to a series that decides to end by bringing in William Shatner for a pivotal role in its final few episodes.
  
And thus, I tip my cap toward Haven.  I don't actually think the end result was all that great, but hey, it's Haven, what did you expect?  Shatner is actually quite good; he takes the role seriously and brings virtually none of the hammy mannerisms that he has spent most of the final stretch of his career perfecting.  (And to be clear, I love all of that stuff.  It would have been out of place here, and he proves himself -- again -- to be an actor and not merely a star by demonstrating that he understands that.)
  
The series itself ended on what I would argue was, apart from true star power in the form of Shatner, a very weak note.  Ultimately, it's ... just not that good a series.  It's better than Under the Dome, I guess, but not by a significant enough margin to matter.


Misery
(stage drama)
  
  • staged at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York October 22, 2015-February 14, 2016
  • scripted by William Goldman


  
  
The William Goldman stage adaptation of Misery finally made it to Broadway in the fall of 2015, starring Laurie Metcalf (who won rave reviews) and Bruce Willis (who did not, although he apparently acquitted himself relatively well on the whole).  
  
The play ran for just over a hundred performances, which makes it a mild success...?  I suppose...?  It's hard to tell what passes for duds on Broadway sometimes.
  
Metcalf earned a Tony nomination, the only one the production received.
  
I keep hoping somebody filmed a performance and will issue it as a Blu-ray, but my hopes are likely to come to naught in that regard.
 

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- The Lady of Shadows
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published November 2015 through March 2016 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth; art by Jonathan Marks
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- The Lady of Shadows, March 16, 2016







  
  
The first two arcs of Marvel's The Drawing of the Three had focused on Eddie Dean, so it made sense that the next two would proceed to Odetta Holmes and Detta Walker.
  
It also made sense that we moved on a new artist.  I personally would have liked for Piotr Kowalski to stay onboard, but Jonathan Marks made for an acceptable replacement.  And the covers by Nimit Malavia are pretty great.
  
Still, it's hard for me to get excited about these comics anymore.


The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
(collection)

a Scribner hardback, published November 3, 2015


  
  
King had published a fair amount of short fiction in the eight years since Just After Sunset, which resulted in his longest collection since 1993's Nightmares & Dreamscapes.
  
Here's what got collected:
  
  • "Mile 81"
  • "Premium Harmony "
  • "Batman and Robin Have an Altercation"
  • "The Dune"
  • "Bad Little Kid"
  • "A Death"
  • "The Bone Church"
  • "Morality"
  • "Afterlife"
  • "Ur"
  • "Herman Wouk Is Still Alive"
  • "Under the Weather"
  • "Blockade Billy"
  • "Tommy"
  • "The Little Green God of Agony"
  • "That Bus Is Another World"
  • "Drunken Fireworks"
  • "Summer Thunder"

Among those, it was mildly surprising for both "Under the Weather" and "Blockade Billy" to be included, but I'm glad they were.  Same goes for the two poems, "The Bone Church" and "Tommy."
  
The collection also saw the first appearances for two stories:
 
  • "Mister Yummy"

This story kinda/sorta takes on AIDS as a topic, and kinda/sorta involves King trying to stretch his perspective so as to involve a gay protagonist.  But neither aspect is particularly important, which makes me wonder why I'm mentioning them.  Good question!
  
I don't know the answer, but what I'll say instead is that I thought this was a very good story, haunting in a manner that both is and is not typical of King's fiction.
  
  • "Obits"

This story has a home-run of a concept: a tabloid editor discovers that he has the ability to write peoples' obituaries before the fact and have the details within them come to pass.  
  
Pretty great, no doubt about it.  I don't think the story itself manages to live up to the concept, but it's definitely good; that's the worst you can say, and for all I know, rereading it might cause me to enjoy it more.
  
As for the overall collection, I think it's a classic.  Maybe not quite as great as his first two (Night Shift and Skeleton Crew) but within hollering distance, for sure.
  
And now, for the final time, let's have a look at what got left behind as far as uncollected stories go.  This time, I'm adding a wrinkle: guesses as to whether they ever will be collected.
  
  • "The Glass Floor" -- unlikely
  • "Slade" -- unlikely
  • "The Blue Air Compressor" -- unlikely
  • "The Old Dude's Ticker" -- even odds
  • "Weeds" -- near-certainty
  • "The King Family and the Wicked Witch" -- unlikely
  • "The Night of the Tiger" -- even odds
  • "Man with a Belly" -- unlikely, but I wouldn't rule it out
  • "The Crate" -- near-certainty
  • "Squad D" -- likely
  • "Before the Play" -- more likely to begin appearing in editions of The Shining 
  • "The Reploids" -- even odds
  • "An Evening at God's" -- unlikely
  • "The General" -- even odds
  • "Chapter 71 from Sword in the Darkness" -- unlikely
  • "Memory" -- unlikely
  • "Throttle" (written with Joe Hill) -- more likely to appear in Hill's next collection
  • "In the Tall Grass" (written with Joe Hill) -- ditto
  • "A Face in the Crowd" (written with Stewart O'Nan) -- likely
  • "The Rock and Roll Dead Zone" -- unlikely

There have been three additional short tales appear since, all of which we will cover in the final couple of years of this tour.  All three seem likely for inclusion in the next collection -- which I'm going to speculate appears in 2029 -- which means we've got those plus nine(ish) extant stories that could get tossed in.  Plus there's always old poems like "The Dark Man," essays like "Just a Little Talent" and "Guns," and stuff we know nothing about currently.
  
Whatever the contents, whenever it appears, I'm all over it.
   
   


11.22.63
(television miniseries)

broadcast on Hulu, February 16-April 4, 2016


  
  
The miniseries changed the novel's title (11/22/63) to 11.22.63, which is fine, but is one of those things that causes a question-mark to pop into my brain.
  
Anyways, a lot of people loved this, but I was not among them.  Not by the end of the series, at least; I enjoyed it for a while, but ended up thinking it was a squandering of the awesome novel.
  
If you want to follow my reactions, I reviewed the episodes individually, and they will tell you everything you need to know.

  • episode 1, "The Rabbit Hole" (February 16, 2016)  (review)
  • episode 2, "The Kill Floor" (February 22, 2016)  (review)
  • episode 3, "Other Voices, Other Rooms" (February 29, 2016)  (review)
  • episode 4, "The Eyes of Texas" (March 7, 2016)  (review)
  • episode 5, "The Truth" (March 14, 2016)  (review)
  • episode 6, "Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald" (March 21, 2016)  (review)
  • episode 7, "Soldier Boy" (March 28, 2016)  (review)
  • episode 8, "The Day in Question" (April 4, 2016)  (review)
 
So much wasted potential.  There are good aspects -- Sarah Gadon as Sadie, for example -- and occasional flashes of greatness, but on the whole this one disappointed me mightily.

UPDATE 8/5/18:

It has just come to my attention via a fellow King fan -- hi, Claude! -- that the poem Sadie reads in the eight episode was actually written by King.  Showrunner Bridget Carpenter verified this on Twitter back in the day:




Hey, how cool is that?

The poem has never been published, and does not seem to have a title, but I've found a few transcriptions of it online.  I doubt the line breaks are King's, so none of these should be considered to be the real version of the poem; but they're better than nothing.







I'm both annoyed and thrilled that this escaped my attention for two and a half years.  On the one hand, it freaks me out to wonder what else I might have missed.  On the other hand, I love the fact that King does so much that even a guy like me can miss something every so often.


"Cookie Jar"
(short story)

  • published in the Spring 2016 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review
  • reprinted in the mass-market paperback of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
  • uncollected (?)




"Cookie Jar" kind of snuck up on the King community; nobody seemed to take notice of it until the summer, which just goes to show you that it's possible to sneak these things out there.  You like to think that in the internet era, a new King story would get noticed immediately; but no, not really, not if there isn't an announcement of some sort.
  
Imagine, then, how excruciating it must have been to try to stay on top of collecting these things in the pre-internet era!  Makes me nervous to think about it.
  
Anyways, "Cookie Jar" is about an old man telling a relative the story of his mother, who was crazy and who had a cookie jar that could never be emptied because it connected to a magical kingdom.  It's very good, and would have fit in nicely in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.
  
Somebody must have agreed with that assessment, because when the mass-market edition of the collection was published on October 18, 2016, "Cookie Jar" was included.
  
This was not unprecedented.  You may recall that "Under the Weather" debuted in the trade paperback edition of Full Dark, No Stars.  But this was different.  In the case of "Under the Weather," it was not included on that book's table of contents page, and was printed after the book's afterword.  It was plainly evident that this was being treated as a sort of bonus.
  
Not so with "Cookie Jar" in the paperback of Bad Dreams.  It IS listed in the table of contents, and has been placed within the body of the book, between "The Little Green God of Agony" and "That Bus Is Another World."  And the copyright page has been updated to include mention of Virginia Quarterly Review, as well.  If one were picking this collection up for the first time, one would have no clue that it had not been present in the hardback.
  
So does this count as having been collected or not?
  
I really don't know.  I lean toward saying that it does, although the fact that it is not present in the first edition makes it problematic for me.  So I also lean toward saying that it does not.
  
I'll make a final decision on this, I suppose, whenever the next collection comes along.  If King includes it there, it's a moot point; if he does not, I think this paperback inclusion probably has to count.
  
What say you?


The Shining
(opera)

  • staged by the Minnesota Opera, May 7-15, 2016
  • composed by Paul Moravec; libretto by Mark Campbell




The Minnesota Opera and Pulitzer-winning composer Paul Moravec created on opera based on The Shining that sold out its 2016 run and got pretty good reviews.

For a while, the entire thing was available to be listed to at this MPR page, and while the audio seems to be gone, if you go there you can still read a pretty detailed breakdown of the show.

I listened to -- and archived (naturally) -- the stream when it was up.  I have to confess to being fairly knowledgeless when it comes to opera.  Wait... why did I qualify that with a "fairly"?  I know jack shit (pun intended) about opera.  I'm the cliche who thinks of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd when the topic arises.

In other words, I'm not the target audience for this production.

Or am I?  The production was actually a part of a "new works initiative" the Minnesota Opera launched to try to get some eyes and ears on opera that the art form might never reach otherwise.

So in fact, I'm kind of the definition of the target audience for this production.  As such, what I'll say is this: I thought it was pretty good!  As I listened to it, I found myself gradually growing accustomed to what I was perceiving to be the quirks and conceits of the format.  Was I right to be thinking of them that way?  I have no idea.  BUT, I began to kind of be able to see what the appeal was for enthusiasts.

Did it turn me into an opera fan?  Certainly not.  But I plan to listen to it again, eventually, and do a lengthy analysis -- such as my unfamiliarity of the form will permit -- for this blog.  I think it's unlikely that doing that will turn me into a rabid opera enthusiast, either ... but I do suspect it will make me more open to the possibility of such an experience.

In other words, you didn't quite get me with that new works initiative, folks; but the door was opened and I'm leaving it cracked, and that's more than could be said beforehand.
 
 
The Fireman
(novel by Joe Hill)

a William Morrow hardback, published May 17, 2016



  
  
Joe Hill's fourth novel, The Fireman, continued the process (begun with NOS4A2) of the author leaning into and playing with his father's legacy.  The Fireman is, in some ways, a mirror-image exploration of some of the themes of The Stand.  Is it as good as The Stand?  Well, no, but few things are.  
  
What it IS is a great fackin' Joe Hill novel, which is a thing worth celebrating on its own.  The King homages -- which many readers will not even notice -- seem to be there so that people coming to his work via his father's know that Hill doesn't mind that that's how they got there.  "Don't you love all that shit?" he seems to be asking.  "I do too, pal."
  
The story involves a worldwide plague of spontaneous human combustion, which sounds kind of ridiculous but is explained -- theorized, really -- quite capably within the novel.  Hill's unique point of view is fully on display, and this results in a novel that is surprisingly light and optimistic given its topic.  But make no mistake: as his father before him, Hill can, will, and does go for the throat.  He tore mine out numerous times during this lengthy novel, which proves again that the King family legacy is going STRONG into a second generation.
 

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- Bitter Medicine
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published June-October, 2016 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth, art by Jonathan Marks
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- Bitter Medicine, October 12, 2016






  
  
Jonathan Marks returned for a second arc as artist, and like the first, the result was some art that is beautiful to look at -- and I suppose colorist Lee Loughridge probably ought to get some of the credit for that -- but does not always convey the intended action as well as it might.
  
Some of that might be due to the direction of script-writer Peter David.  The role of a scripter in determining what an artist can and can't do varies by project, but it should never be forgotten.  And I'm bad about forgetting it!
  
There were once again some lovely covers by Nimit Malavia, so thumbs-up for that.
 

End of Watch
(novel)

a Scribner hardback, published June 7, 2016


    
  
King brought his Bill Hodges trilogy to an end in this novel, which was originally titled The Suicide Prince.  Boy do I wish he had kept that title; not only is it better, there's also already a movie called End of Watch.
  
In the end, though, it doesn't much matter.  For my money, this is one of the worst novels King has ever published.  If you told me you thought it was THE worst, I'd probably agree with you; I can't quite bear to rank it there myself -- I had Rage in that position the last time I ranked them all -- but I wouldn't disagree with you.  And right this moment, if I had to pick one of the two to read, I'd opt for Rage with nary a thought of choosing differently.
  
Now, to be fair to the novel, there are some terrific individual scenes.  But the supernatural element King introduced right at the end of Finders Keepers and develops here doesn't fit Mr. Mercedes well at all, which means that the trilogy feels extremely unbalanced.  It works within the broader scope of King's fiction, of course, but one of the things to like about these novels was the fact that King was doing something different.
  
That he, in the end, settled for doing something the same is a betrayal of the initial concept, and it makes one wonder why he didn't spend those three years just writing sequels to Firestarter or whatever instead.  If you're going to prove to be incapable of truly stretching, I'd just soon you not have bothered, you know?
  
So yeah, this one left a bad taste in my mouth.  It's one of very few King books that ever has.
 
 
Cell
(feature film)

  • a Saban film, released June 10, 2016
  • directed by Tod Williams from a screenplay by Stephen King



    
  
Here's a thing nobody wants to say, so I'll say it for them:
  
Stephen King needs to never write another screenplay based on his own work.  He's capably done so in the past, but he's dropped the ball at least as often as not, and since the two most recent films to be produced from his screenplays as A Good Marriage and Cell, that's good enough.  We're good here, Steve.  I'm counting both of that as one-and-a-half strikes each, so you're out.
  
As with A Good Marriage, this really should have been a no-brainer.  Cell has weaker source material than that, but it's good enough that a better movie than this ought to have been the end result.
  
In both cases, the project was doomed by the hiring of a barely-competent director.  Here, we've got Tod "Kip" Williams, who directed the solid The Door in the Floor (based on the John Irving novel) and the good Paranormal Activity 2 but who seems to have suffered a stroke or gotten Alzheimer's or something since those films.  There is stuff in this flick that would seem piss-poor in a Syfy original.  Which, to be honest, this may as well have been.
  
Stop getting Stephen King wrong!!!!!
  
  
Just Desserts: The Making of "Creepshow"
(documentary)
  
  • a Red Shirt Pictures film, released on a UK DVD edition of Creepshow in 2007
  • released on Blu-ray in America on July 12, 1016
  
  
   
  
It's not always easy for me to figure out what to include on this tour, or where to include it if I do.
  
Case in point: Just Desserts.  This was a behind-the-scenes retrospective documentary on Creepshow produced for a 2007 DVD release.  Okay, cool; but you will notice that I (with a few possible exceptions) have not really been covering home-video releases of the movies as their own thing.  This is true even when major new supplementary features have been produced for such releases.
  
The reason for that is simple: it's too much to keep up with.  Plus, when and if I get around to reviewing the movies themselves individually, that'll be the natural place to consider affiliated home-video supplements.
  
Just Desserts is getting treated differently primarily because it ended up receiving its own separate release.  The reason that happened has to do with the fact that the documentary was never licensed for inclusion on American home-video releases; it only appeared on UK releases.  (And maybe Australian ones; don't hold me to that, though.)  Unless they wanted to buy region-appropriate DVD or Blu-ray players and then get the UK discs, American fans had no means -- no legal means -- of seeing the documentary for years afterward.  
  
Director Michael Felsher was eventually able to get it its own release, though, complete with supplemental features of its own.
  
So this prompts a question: does Just Desserts count as a movie in its own right, or should it still be considered "merely" a DVD bonus feature?  I genuinely don't know.  However, since this Blu-ray came out the same summer as Unearthed and Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary -- an original production which was completely its own thing, and which I therefore count as a movie -- I thought it made sense to include it on the tour, if only to ask some of the questions I've just asked.
  
It's a great watch for Creepshow fans, no matter what, although the fact that King himself did not agree to be interviewed hurts it a bit.
 
 
Stranger Things
(television series)

streamed by Netflix beginning July 15, 2016



    
  
Before you object, let me assure you: I know Stephen King had no involvement with Stranger Things, and that in a legal sense Stranger Things is in no way based upon any work of King's.
  
Why, then, did the summer of 2016 find Stephen King's name popping up in conjunction with Stranger Things just about every time one got online?
  
If you want my thoughts on how to answer that question, follow the link above.  I will give it to you at a length sufficient to make you wish I hadn't.

 
Unearthed and Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary
(documentary)

  • a Terror Films release, July 18, 2016
  • written and directed by John Campopiano and Justin White


    
  
This fan-made documentary about the 1989 film Pet Sematary is a bit on the unpolished side, and does not dig as deep as one might hope for (especially if one has been watching top-shelf DVD documentaries for the past couple of decades), but hey, let's cut these guys some slack: this is a project they put together as FANS, not as professional filmmakers.  It beats the shit out of anything I've ever done, I'll tell you that.
  
And in the end, it IS a lot of fun.  They got some big interviews, and also interviewed a great many Maine locals who provide insights and perspective you rarely get in more polished productions.
 
 
Six Scary Stories
(anthology)

  • a Cemetery Dance hardback, published October 31, 2016
  • includes an introduction by Stephen King



     
  
One of the lamest excuses ever for a "Stephen King book," Six Scary Stories is a slender tome that grew out of a contest The Guardian ran around the time of the publication of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.  It was a short-story competition, with the idea being that King would select the winner.  He enabled a panel of judges to read the 800 or so entrants' stories, from which they selected six and passed them along to him.  He picked a winner, but then suggested that all six be published as an anthology.
  
This is that anthology.
  
All six stories are pretty good, but King has nothing at all to say about them individually in his introduction, which seems like a dereliction of his duties, quite frankly.
 
 
Hearts In Suspension
(by King and college classmates/friends)

a University of Maine Press hardback, published November 7, 2016



    
  
An unusual idea for a book: essays on the late-sixties experience at the University of Maine, told by Stephen King and some of his classmates from the time.
  
The major inclusion by King is a novella-length essay:
  
  • "Five to One, One in Five"
  
This is one of the best essays King has ever published, and if you enjoy his nonfiction, you owe it to yourself to track down a copy.  It serves -- as, indeed, do many of the essays written by people other than King -- as highly valuable context for King's novella "Hearts In Atlantis" (from the novel/collection of the same name), which is reprinted here.  I was a little grumpy about that reprint, as such things often tend to seem like they are only there to pad a book out to sufficient length to charge a few dollars more.
  
That's a cynical viewpoint, and in this case an entirely incorrect one.  Taken as a whole, this is a book stepped in memory of those years, written by people who were there and remember it.  King's novella is terrific, and serves here to sort of tie everyone's individual recollections into a single narrative; and the individual essays provide an indispensable amount of context for the novella, which seems even better to me now than it already had.
  
So in case you were wondering, that's a big thumbs-up to Hearts In Suspension.
 
 
"The Music Room"
(short story)

  • published in In Sunlight Or In Shadow (a Pegasus Books hardback, edited by Lawrence Block), November 16, 2016
  • uncollected



    
  
"The Music Room" is one of the shortest stories King has ever written, and also one of the wryest, and also one of the darkest.
  
Nope, not telling you anything more about it than that.
  
The review linked to above won't, either.  It will give you a full review of the book itself, though, and the book is well worth getting.
 
 
Charlie the Choo-Choo
(children's picture book by "Beryl Evans")

a Simon & Schuster hardback, published November 22, 2016


  
  
This was billed as King's first picture-book for kids, which is arguably not true, given that the pop-up version of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon exists.
  
No matter.  Here's what it actually was: a promotional piece for the then-upcoming Dark Tower movie.  Sony wanted there to be a Dark Tower presence of some sort at the 2016 San Francisco Comic Con, and they (or somebody) hit upon a genius idea: they hired an actor to play Beryl Evans, had a limited quantity of copies of that character's book (Charlie the Choo-Choo, from The Waste Lands) printed, and had "Evans" sit at a table autographing them:
  
  
image stolen from http://www.liljas-library.com/img/other/image_1607222300.jpg
  
  
The story spread across the internet, and arguably got more attention for the Dark Tower movie than most of the rest of the eventual marketing campaign.
  
The response was sufficient that Simon & Schuster quickly decided to put a mass-market edition on sale.  Or who knows, perhaps that was their plan all along.
  
In any case, that's how an excerpt from The Waste Lands ended up being King's first picture-book for children.  I'd say it's likely to be the last, but I don't know, you can't count this guy out from much of anything, can you?  If you found out he was "publishing" a "book" via daily podcasts in which he just said his thoughts out loud rather than writing them down, would you be all that surprised?  Me neither.
  
So rule nothing out when it comes to the King.
 

Tales from the Darkside: Scripts by Joe Hill
(screenplays by Joe Hill)

an IDW hardback, published November 22, 2016



  
  
A few years ago, Joe Hill was hired by the CW to develop a reboot of the eighties television series Tales from the Darkside.  They got far enough along that a pilot episode was filmed, but the pilot was not taken to series.

Hill's screenplays were published by IDW, however, and were also adapted into a four-issue miniseries by Michael Benedetto and artist Gabriel Rodriguez.  (I'm not covering those here, since they were not actually written by Hill; I've opted not to include comics adapted from his work on this tour.  I might change my mind about that later, in which case -- poof! -- these words will be gone.  But probably not.  In any case, the review linked to above will tell you all about the comics, so if you're interested, check that out.)
  
Hill's screenplays are pretty good, and he says he was inspired to some extent in writing them by "The Word Processor of the Gods," an episode of the original series based on one of his father's stories.
 

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- The Sailor
(comic-book miniseries)

  • published December 2016 through April 2017 by Marvel Comics
  • written by Peter David and Robin Furth, art by Juanan Ramirez
  • collected in The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- The Sailor, April 26, 2017








Marvel's The Drawing of the Three comes to a conclusion with a fifth and final arc that is devoted to the drawing of Jake Chambers back into Mid-World.  This, King purists will note, is actually from The Waste Lands, but it makes perfect sense for this adaptation to have moved that up in the story so that the entirety of the "drawings" take place within the book that has that in its title.
  
I read every issue of The Sailor, but as I sat down to write this I realized that I remembered nothing about it except what the covers reminded me of.
  
Skimming through them briefly, I find that the art of Juanan Ramirez is pretty good; closer in tone to the nicely cartoonish work of Piotr Kowalski on the book's first couple of arcs.  I like Ramirez's take on Susannah quite a bit, actually.
  
As of now, this is where the Marvel comics have ended.  Robin Furth has said she wants to complete the entire series, but I haven't heard anything about the comics moving on to The Waste Lands.  I'm conflicted as to whether I want to see that happen.  I guess I mostly do, but at the same time, these things get to be pretty expensive after a while, and I'm ambivalent toward their quality.  So do I really want to see it happen?
  
The jury is out.
 

Locke & Key: Small World
(comic book by Joe Hill)

  • published December 2016 by IDW
  • written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez





Hill and Rodriguez occasionally mention that they want to -- or have plans to (the specifics vary from one mention to the next) -- write an entire new series in the Locke & Key universe, one which would be fully as long as the series that began with Welcome to Lovecraft and ended with Alpha.  At times, this has been referred to as the story of what the Locke family (and their keys, one assumes) was up to during World War II; and at other times, this has been referred to as World War Key, more or less.  These might be the same idea, but that is not clear.
  
What IS clear is that Locke & Key is by no means done.
  
And if you want proof of that, all you need do is read "Small World," which is awesome.  It involves the same generations of Lockes who were present in the story "Open the Moon."  Fuck, guys, just give me a new series involving these characters; given the quality of the two stories they've been in so far, I'd have to be crazy not to jump all over that.
  
But I'm going to jump over whatever it is you end up doing, so don't feel like I'm trying to pen you in.

 
"Pinfall"
(comic book)

  • adapted and drawn by Jason Mayoh
  • published as part of a limited-edition Blu-Ray of Creepshow 2 from Arrow Video, December 13, 2016






You might recall when we discussed Creepshow 2 -- which seems like a lifetime ago -- that I mentioned "Pinfall," a story King wrote (and which George Romero scripted from King's outline) for the film, was cut from the movie before filming began.
  
The story was mentioned in various places over the years, but mainly as a lost coulda/would-been tale.  There's no evidence King ever wrote it in prose; and, indeed, the degree to which the final scripted version represents his ideas or Romero's is unclear.
  
In the review above, I dig into that "controversy" a bit, and the tentative conclusion I've come to is that we should just consider it a collaboration between King and Romero and call it a day.
  
In any case, since there's not really a way to experience "Pinfall," it's a kind of a moot point.
  
BUT WAIT...!!!
  
In late 2016, a limited-edition Arrow Video Blu-ray of Creepshow 2 included an absolute treasure: a lengthy comic book adaptation, drawn and (from the screenplay) written by Jason Mayoh.
  
It's pretty damn wonderful, and I find it awesome that "Pinfall" has finally been realized in some way.
  
The story?  Oh, it's about bowling and zombies.  If a REAL Creepshow 3 ever gets made and it doesn't include this story, I'm rioting.
 

 
 
"Stephen King on Donald Trump" or "How Did We Get Here?"
(essay)

  • published in The Guardian Weekend and at TheGuardian.com, April 1, 2017
  • uncollected


  
  
2017 has generally been considered to be a banner year in the world of Stephen King; one of the very best, in all likelihood.
  
But from where I'm sitting, it got off to a rough start.  
  
Look...
  
We are NOT going to discuss President Taint-Lip at this blog.  It's not going to happen, so don't leave any comments about him, don't try (unless you already have my email address and wish to do so one-on-one, and preferably not even then) to engage me on the topic, don't go there.  I'm not interested.  You might have figured out by now that I'm not a fan.  I'm certainly not, but unlike so many other liberals, my not-being-a-fandom doesn't consist of spending all day every day tearing my hair out over him and his sickening cabal of toadies.  Fuck that; he can't have that from me, ever.
  
I mention all of that only so that I can establish some context for this:
  
I found this essay by King to be revolting.  It's anti-Trump, of course, and imagines -- imagines, mind you -- what an interview with a panel of "typical" Trump voters might be like.  It is, in a literal sense, pure fiction; I considered listing this as a short story.  It isn't, but the line between the two is more slender than you might think, and King admits such right up front.
  
So why produce such a piece at all?  Ostensibly, it's to get inside the minds of the type of people who voted this thing into office.  Newsflash, Uncle Steve: that's a bigger topic than you are capable of handling, certainly at this length.  I don't blame you for trying; it's a noble idea, but the way you went about it resulted in an ignoble failure.  What you wrote says far more about you than it says about Trump voters.  It's THIS sort of thing that these right-wing fools are ostensibly revolting against, so in your own way, you've given them ammunition.
  
I've disliked things King has written before; on only on a few occasions have I been disappointed by him personally.  This was one.

There were have it, an ignominious start to what would prove to be a rather good year.  I considered just not mentioning the essay, or pretending it been an ill-advised April Fool's joke, but I found I could not do either and feel as if I'd been an honest tour guide.  You gotta take the bad with the good on a tour like this one, and let's all marvel for a moment at how remarkably little bad there has actually been.
  
Sorry, you were under the impression your tour guide was a sycophant?  Never in life, friend.
  
Although you might be forgiven for thinking so given what the tenor of my discussion of most of the rest of the year is going to be like!  Let's get to it.


Gwendy's Button Box
(novella by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar)

a Cemetery Dance hardback, published May 16, 2017






For his latest charitable donation to Cemetery Dance, King gave its founder, author Richard Chizmar, a story he'd begun writing but had been unable to complete.  He told Chizmar he could do whatever he wanted to do with it, and so Chizmar decided to complete it.  He and King then passed it back and forth during the rewrite process, and Gwendy's Button Box is the result.
  
It's not exactly a new classic or anything, but it's fine, and is such a brief read that I can't imagine many King fans -- or Chizmar fans, for that matter -- failing to enjoy it.
  
The story is about a girl named Gwendy, who lives in Castle Rock during the '70s, meeting a dark and mysterious stranger.  He gives her a box that has a series of buttons on it, and tells her only to use it in certain ways.  Whether he actually wants her to obey those commands or not is unclear.
  
The Castle Rock setting is kind of cool, and Gwendy is a good character.  So while this is not a massive thumbs-up from me, it definitely IS a thumbs-up.
 

"After the Play" and The Shine manuscript
(excised material from The Shining)

published in the limited-edition Cemetery Dance hardback, June 2017




Rather than try to find anything new to say on this subject, I'm going to just copy and paste some thoughts from a post I wrote earlier this year.  (I'd just link to it, but you've got to crawl through a river of shit that would give even Andy Dufresne pause in order to get to the relevant section; I'll spare you.)
  
Here 'tis:
  
This Cemetery Dance edition of The Shining appealed to me in a major way; for several reasons, but with one standing above the others: it marks the first-ever appearance of an epilogue that was cut from the novel prior to publication.  I'd heard of this epilogue for years under the title "After the Play."  I can't remember where I first heard of it, but the official information on the piece was that it had been lost years ago; not even King had a copy anymore.  It seemed forever destined to be a tantalizing footnote to one of the great novels of King's career.
But Cemetery Dance was contacted by a mega-collector who somehow got his hands on a pre-publication manuscript of the novel (under the title The Shine), and lo and behold, the epilogue -- here called "Chapter Fifty-Eight: Newslog" -- was present and accounted for.

Not only does that appear in this new limited edition -- which is part of the "Doubleday Years" series Cemetery Dance has been working on for the past few years -- but they also included, for the first time anywhere, 27 pages of excised material from that manuscript.  Much of this consists of a sentence or two, but there are also two or three entire scenes running a page or so in length.  One runs nearly three pages.

So while I could live without some limiteds, this particular one simply could not be allowed to get by me.

Oh, and by the way, it also includes "Before the Play," the excised prologue that has only appeared in print a couple of times (one of those in heavily edited/abridged form) and is difficult to find.  Best of all, it even appears at the beginning of the book, making it easy to read it in the originally-intended format if one sees fit to do so.  (Oddly, the material from the Shine manuscript is presented before "After the Play" / "Newslog," making the flow a bit more cumbersome than it might have been otherwise.  But for all I know, there's a good reason for that; I haven't read any of that stuff yet, so it's a possibility.)

I do indeed have heavily conflicted feelings about limited editions, but every once in a while, one comes along that deserves a standing ovation; and in my opinion, this is one of them.

But for the record, I feel bad for any and every fan of King and/or The Shining who would love to read that excised material but cannot do so because the 3000 or so copies of this sold out almost immediately.  It genuinely bums me out to think about that, because I've been on the losing end of such things before.

Here's hoping a mass-market edition will later be published that contains both "Before the Play" and "After the Play," and hopefully the other excised material as well.  There's precedent for it: the ultra-rare "Illustrated Edition" of 'salem's Lot from Centipede Press got a mass-market hardback edition.

Guys, my fingers are crossed hoping for a similar thing to happen here, so those of you who weren't able to hop aboard this train can do so at a later date.  It only seems fair to me, and if I can do anything about it -- unlikely -- then I will do so.

  
I stand by all of that in my official capacity as tour guide.


The Mist
(television series)

broadcast on Spike, June 22-August 24, 2017



     
  
I was optimistic for this series, which could have taken King's novella and decided to simply continue the action from where it left off.
  
But I should have known that wouldn't be what we got.  Doing that would likely have been expensive, and there was no reason to believe a Spike original was going to be expensive.
  
What we got instead was an adapfaketion, one which is so far removed from King's novella -- and from the Frank Darabont movie -- that the producers probably could have gotten away with renaming it and calling it something else.  
  
Ah, but then they couldn't have trumpeted the name "Stephen King" so as to sell it, could they?
  
Anyways, it's a terrible series, but one that did have glimmers of potential.  The cast was mostly good (and occasionally great), and there were moments when the writing worked.  Not many, but they were there.
  
Overall, though, it's a failure, and one that is arguably not even as good as Under the Dome.
   
The episodes:

  • 1.01 "Pilot" (June 22, 2017)
  • 1.02 "Withdrawal" (June 29, 2017)
  • 1.03 "Show and Tell" (July 6, 2017)
  • 1.04 "Pequod" (July 13, 2017)
  • 1.05 "The Waiting Room" (July 20, 2017)
  • 1.06 "The Devil You Know" (July 27, 2017)
  • 1.07 "Over the River and Through the Woods" (August 3, 2017)
  • 1.08 "The Law of Nature" (August 10, 2017)
  • 1.09 "The Waking Dream" (August 17, 2017)
  • 1.10 "The Tenth Meal" (August 24, 2017)
 
A dog's breakfast, all in all, but if they ever put it on Blu-ray, I'll buy it.


"Thin Scenery"
(play)

  • published in the Summer 2017 issue of Ploughshares
  • uncollected

 

  
  
For the second time in recent memory -- the first being "Cookie Jar" -- King managed to sneak a story into the world without the King community at large seeming to notice he'd done it.
  
The story this time was "Thin Scenery," a short-story-length play that he published in a Stewart O'Nan-edited issue of Ploughshares.  I'm reluctant to say what the play is about; I'll simply say that it's about a man who is visiting his psychiatrist so as to report some interesting and troubling developments.
  
Good stuff.


The Dark Tower
(feature film)

  • a Sony film, released August 4, 2017
  • directed by Nikolaj Arcel from a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner and Anders Thomas Jensen & Nikolaj Arcel


  
  
I am keenly aware that I owe The Truth Inside The Lie an extended review of this movie.
  
I couldn't do it while it was in theatres because I work at a theatre, and while I feel I can get away with the occasional positive review, I consider it to be a conflict of interests for me to put out a negative one.  What can I say, I'm a fucking professional.
  
There is so much wrong with this movie that, when bloggin' time comes for it, I'm barely going to know where to begin, or how to contain my ire so as not to jibber myself into a frenzy.  It's a failure in almost every way a big-studio movie can be.  Nothing works; not the casting, not the direction, not the writing, not the visuals, not the marketing, not the would-be franchise construction.  And the worst part is that none of it -- well, little of it, let's say -- is actually THAT awful as an individual component.  Instead, what we've got on our hands here is a thunderingly mediocre piece of work.
  
What a shame!  I blame Stephen King himself, in some ways.  He probably could have stopped all of this from happening, by simply stepping up early on in the process and saying, "Guys, I don't hate this, but it's not my books.  Let's make my books."  He probably couldn't have forced that into happening, but I doubt that the people developing it would have been so callous as to just ignore him.
  
Bless his heart, though, he has bad taste when it comes to movies based on his own works.  Plus, I think he mostly just doesn't care about them.  That's a bad combination.

And yet...
  
The argument could be made that his laissez-faire attitude toward the adaptations has resulted in a large number of good movies and television shows.  A lot of bad ones, too; but more good ones than most authors can claim.
  
And I do think the movies have been a big part of keeping his a household name over the decades, so the argument can be made also that his approach has been of huge benefit to his overall career.
  
I think we'd be well-counseled to remember that.
  
Still, The Dark Tower is a turkey of a movie, and it ought to have been a hawk.  I ain't never forgetting that, or forgiving it.
 

Mr. Mercedes
(television series)

broadcast on Audience, August 9-October 11, 2017





The episodes:

  • 1.01 "Pilot" (August 9, 2017)
  • 1.02 "On Your Mark" (August 16, 2017)
  • 1.03 "Cloudy, With a Chance of Mayhem" (August 23, 2017)
  • 1.04 "Gods Who Fall" (August 30, 3017)
  • 1.05 "The Suicide Hour" (September 6, 2017)
  • 1.06 "People in the Rain" (September 13, 2017)
  • 1.07 "Willow Lake" (September 20, 2017)
  • 1.08 "From the Ashes" (September 27, 2017)
  • 1.09 "Ice Scream, You Scream, We All Scream" (October 4, 2017)
  • 1.10 "Jibber-Jibber Chicken Dinner" (October 11, 2017)
 
The release of this series was frustrating to me and to who knows how many other King fans.  It aired exclusively on Audience, an AT&T-owned network that is available exclusively (I think this is the case, at least) on DirecTV services.  I don't have that, nor was I willing to pay $40 per month for DirecTV Now.  I'd have been happy to pay for this series on an episode-by-episode basis; I wasn't given the option.  I did eventually get to see it all, though, via using a coupon for a free month of DirecTV Now.

Luckily, the first season did eventually (on August 14, 2018, shortly before the second season premiere) come out on DVD, giving others the option of buying it.  A Blu-ray edition would have been nice; but hey, I'll take what I can get.

My take after finally seeing it all: it's quite good.  Mr. Mercedes is by no means one of my favorite King novels, and the series is therefore unable to avoid all of its problems.  It even makes some of them worse; there's just no way to make the romance between Bill and Janey work.  Or if there is, neither King nor this series's showrunners managed to find it.  They did, luckily, do away with Jerome's satirical racial patois, and the show's version of Holly is perhaps preferable to the novel's.

The show's version of Bill Hodges is unquestionably superior to the novel's.  In the hands of Brendan Gleeson, Hodges actually becomes a believably heroic and haunted and driven character.  Perhaps one of the better cinematic/televisual King protagonists.

As Brady, Harry Treadaway definitely joins the ranks of ... well, let me pump the brakes a bit.  I was about to say "the best cinematic/televisual King villains," but even if I restrict myself to television, that list includes Reggie Nalder's Barlow, Tim Curry's Pennywise, and Jamey Sheridan's Flagg, and Colm Feore's Linoge.  Maybe Brady is in that class...?  Time will tell; but if not, he's close, and either way, that's strong stuff.

Just as strong, and maybe even better: Kelly Lynch as Brady's mother.  She's more sympathetic here than in the novel, I'd argue.  Lynch is so good at times that I feel a little conflicted as to whether I think it is morally acceptable to portray this character in that way; and then I feel a little conflicted about feeling conflicted.  In the end, I'm on the fence in that regard; but as regards Lynch's performance, it is sheer dynamite.

Having only seen the episodes once, I don't have the entire thing committed to memory well enough to go beyond this.  It's very good stuff, though, and will be well worth revisiting in full one of these days.


Locke & Key: Heaven and Earth
(comic-book collection)

an IDW hardback, published August 15, 2017




This collection brings together "Open the Moon" and "Grindhouse," which is cool if you missed the one-shots.

It also includes "In the Can," a mini-comic that appeared in a 2009 IDW anniversary special.  It's nonessential, but I'm pleased to have it!  I didn't prior to this.



It
(feature film)

  • a Warner Bros. film, released September 8, 2017
  • directed by Andres Muschietti from a screenplay by Chase Palmer & Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman



  
  
I hate to toot my own horn, and have cause to actually do so infrequently enough that I almost don't even know how; but I'll say this much: I knew there was potential for an It movie to be a gigantic hit.  I'd spoken to so many people about the miniseries over the years that there was simply no doubt about it in my mind.
  
The key word, of course, being "potential."  Lots of things have potential; the sheer amount of unfulfilled potential in the world at any given moment must be substantial enough to power a few dozen Big Bangs.
  
With It, the key was always going to be making a good movie.  Or putting out a movie at precisely the right time.
  
Probably both, because that's how most colossal hits happen.  So it was with It, which was indeed a colossal hit, and was indeed a good movie (maybe even a great one), and did indeed come out at precisely the right time.
  
August of 2017 had been absolutely miserable for the movie business.  Nobody went to see a movie the entire month.  Not literally, but it sort of felt that way.  If The Dark Tower had been good, as opposed to being a bathtub fart, it could have cleaned up based purely on lack of competition.  It wasn't, so it didn't.  But the lack of movies doing business always creates a vacuum, and it almost always means that when a hit finally does come along, it is an even bigger hit than expected.
  
And so it was that It was able to capture the zeitgeist in a way that no Stephen King movie had ever gotten close to doing before.  Hadn't gotten close to getting close to being with shouting distance of being close, more like.  This movie did Spider-Man levels of business; this movie behaved as if the Minions were playing Pennywise.  This movie made $123 million in its opening weekend and $327 million (so far) in North American theatres alone; worldwide, it's at $688 million, which is pretty damn good considering it doesn't have Thor in it, and would be acceptable even if it did.
  
You can't calculate what something like that means in terms of the broad sweep of Stephen King's career.  I mean, you can, but you don't have the data to accurately sum it up.
  
For one thing, it's spurred the novel back onto the bestseller charts.  Here's where it sits in the New York Times reckoning on December 1, as I write this:
  
  
  
  
Doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, either.
  
From my limited observations, the book is mostly being read right now by people in their twenties.  So what does that mean in terms of the big picture?  Simply as regards the novel, it seems to perhaps mean that an entire generation may have just been convinced to at least consider reading the novel; many of them are following through, and you've got to figure that that will translate to sales of other books.  
  
Apart from that, the sheer size of the movie's success has also meant that a new generation will know who Stephen King is for the foreseeable future.  Not just them, either, because the movie will get passed down the two generations which follow on sheer steampower; that's how hits like this work.
  
That's the result if -- IF -- nothing else similar to that were to happen.  But you can almost bet that somebody is going to follow this up.  (Well, a sequel is happening, so there's that if nothing else.)  the next decade is liable to see a flurry of King adaptations not unlike what happened in the early eighties, and look how much mileage our tour bus got out of that.
  
I don't think there was much chance of King slipping into obscurity with or without this movie having happened; there's just too much quality there.
  
But with it having happened?
  
King's spot in the cultural consciousness just got renewed for generations to come.
  
So yeah, 2017 was kind a big year for the Kingdom.
 

Sleeping Beauties
(novel by Stephen King and Owen King)

a Scribner hardback, published September 26, 2017



    
  
So much hoopla was generated by the smash success of It that the release of this novel almost became obscured.  And indeed, I think some of the King-versation (you're welcome) did get subsumed in talks of dancing clowns and cursing preteens.  
  
This did not stop the novel from making it to #1 on the charts, of course.  It quickly dropped out of the top spot, but has been in the top 15 ever since (or at least had as of December 1); not, seemingly, an overwhelming success for the Kings, but certainly not NOT a success.
  
Reactions to the novel have been mixed, but I thought it was excellent.  It's about a plague that sweeps the world -- hey, like Joe Hill's the Fireman! -- and causes women to become cocooned when they fall asleep.  Don't try to wake 'em up; you'll regret that.  Briefly.  
  
The novel focuses on a small(ish) Appalachian town where a mysterious woman appears who does not seem to be affected, and presumably holds the answer to all of this mystery.  Turns out not everyone has the same idea of how to handle that, though; and that's where the novel's drama comes into play.
  
The Kings' writing styles mix perfectly -- they spoke during the promotional tour about how they actually rewrote each other numerous times, in effect creating a third voice, a combined voice -- and you can kind of sense that each is challenging the other with the ways in which they are individually strong.  Stephen has a plotting sense (and a willingness to treat supernatural ideas seriously) that his son has heretofore lacked; Owen has a quick wit that has largely eluded his father.  Put 'em together, and you've ... well, you've kinda got Joe Hill, in a way.  I thought of him numerous times while reading this novel, and that's a good thing.
  
Anyways, it pretty much all worked for me.  I'll be interested to see what impact the collaboration has on the authors individually.

 
Gerald's Game
(feature film)

  • streamed on Netflix beginning September 29, 2017
  • written and directed by Mike Flanagan





    
  
Director Mike Flanagan had been building a name for himself in horror over the past few years, beginning with Absentia and moving to Oculus.  He made a well-received sequel (Ouija: Origin of Evil) to a poorly received film; he made a movie that never really got released due to financial issues (Before I Wake); and he made a well-received original for Netflix (Hush).
  
He then made another Netflix original, this time cashing in his burgeoning street cred to make the movie he'd been wanting to make for years: an adaptation of Gerald's Game.
  
And proceeded to more or less knock the ball out of the park.  Some reviewers have noted that the film's coda doesn't work.  I disagree; I think it works just fine.  But I liked it in the novel, too, so I guess I'm predisposed.
  
I've seen very few reactions that don't praise everything up to the coda, though.  
  
We are in an interesting phase of the culture with streaming content.  Services like Netflix generally do not share viewership figures of any kind; you occasionally see reports where some service or other has estimated what is going on with Netflix -- first-weekend viewings of a new series, for example -- but it is not at all clear whether such reports are even remotely valid.  So whereas if a movie like Gerald's Game had played in theatres, we'd have some sense of whether it had been a hit or not, and how far in one direction or the other it had gone, with this particular movie we simply have no clue.
  
It seemed as if people were talking about it for a while there (especially that one scene -- you know the one), but we ... well, we just don't know?
  
All we're left with is a vague impression.  My feeling is that it probably did pretty damn well; I suspect it might even have been successful enough that it vaulted into the upper echelons of King movies.  Only time is going to tell on that front, but that's the sense I have.  And that's the case even in the year when It came out.
  
And speaking of Netflix...
 
 
1922
(feature film)

  • streamed on Netflix beginning October 22, 2017
  • written and directed by Zak Hilditch



  
  
If I get the sense that Gerald's Game found an immediate and enthusiastic audience, I similarly get the feeling that 1922 may have underperformed a bit.  There didn't seem to be as much press for it; Netflix doesn't always seem to DO press for their originals, though.  They adopt a bit of a sink-or-swim approach.
  
I thought the movie was great, though.  If anything, I liked it even more than I liked Gerald's Game.  Here, that is largely due to Thomas Jane and to the gorgeous cinematography.  I would have loved to see either of these Netflix/King movies on a big screen, but I have a feeling 1922 looks Oscar-worthy good on a big screen.

One thing that bothers me about Netflix is that you can't count on Blu-ray releases.  It's going to vex me mightily if I can't put these two movies on my shelf.  See, I'm still a physical-media guy, and I want that sort of collection.  Plus, there's no guarantee that Netflix won;t wake up tomorrow and simply decide it's never going to show these movies again.  Nothing in the world, apart from their own commercial leanings, to prevent that from happening.
  
You comfortable with that?  Not me.
  
That said, if I find out Netflix is commissioning more King movies, I'm going to be a happy camper.
  

Strange Weather
(collection by Joe Hill)

a William Morrow hardback, published October 24, 2017
  
The Truth Inside The Lie review of Strange Weather


    
  
A la Different Seasons, Joe Hill's Strange Weather is a collection of four novellas (or "short novels," as Hill thinks of them).  They are as follows:

  • "Snapshot," an eighties-set story about an awkward boy who tries to defend a seemingly Alzheimer's-stricken neighbor from a weird guy named the Phoenician.  The weirdo has a camera that takes a very special -- and dangerous -- kind of photo.  Not one of my favorite things Hill has ever written, but that's a high bar to clear; this is a good piece of work, and you can absolutely see the King family talent on display.
  • "Loaded," a terrific hot-button tale of a mall cop with a gun who unexpectedly becomes a hero, and then even more unexpectedly becomes a villain.  Odds are good this will upset you; and if it doesn't, I worry about you.  I worry a lot.  This is one of the best things Hill has ever written.
  • "Aloft" is also one of the best things Hill has ever written.  It's about a guy who goes skydiving to get over a lost love.  He gets stuck on a sentient cloud, which is both more and less weird than it sounds.
  • "Rain," the final novella in the book, is a bit of a mixed bag for me.  It starts incredibly strongly, and has a terrific main character; but I found aspects of the resolution to be very silly indeed.  Based on things I've heard others say, I wouldn't be surprised if a reread changed my mind upward.

So there you have it.  The book overall is a bit uneven, and by that I mean that there are two knock-down/drag-out masterpieces in it, as well as two mildly flawed but fundamentally strong novellas.

In case I'm being too unclear, that's a high recommendation.
 
 
Stranger Things 2
(television series)

streamed on Netflix beginning October 27, 2017


  
  
The second season is relatively free of King-related homages/evocations/references, but a few pop up, and it's juuuuuuust enough that I felt like I needed to at least mention it here.
  
Am I going to tell you what those are?
  
Nope.
  
But if you want to click this link, you can read about the big one.
  
Good enough for me (just like the Goonies, as per Cyndi Lauper).  And hey, what did I think of Stranger Things 2?  I thought it was great!  AS great as the first season...?  Hard to say; in some ways, I think it was better, though a few of the plotlines failed to come together as well as they might have.  But overall, it was more of the same, "the same" in this case indicating a thing I really, really liked.
  
  
Stephen King Soundtrack Collection
(CD box set)
  
a Varese Sarabande collection, released November 10, 2017
  
  
  
I haven't been covering soundtrack releases -- with a couple of exceptions (Carrie the musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County) on this tour because I consider them mostly to be a subset of the movies themselves.
  
However, I didn't want Stranger Things 2 to be the final stop on our tour, and this box set just came out, so hey, why not mention it?
  
It's an eight-disc box set -- which you can order here, if'n you've a mind to and have ninety bucks lying around -- which collects the following scores:
  
  • Dreamcatcher by James Newton Howard -- a two-disc Deluxe Edition, which runs 96 minutes altogether, compared to the 39 minutes the original soundtrack release ran
  • Firestarter by Tangerine Dream -- this has no additional material compared to the original album, but the CD has been out of print for something like twenty years, so this is a good addition
  • The Shining by Nicholas Pike -- three discs (!) representing the score to the 1997 miniseries; this had never been commercially released at all
  • The Stand by W.G. "Snuffy" Walden -- two discs, the first being the original soundtrack and the second being 42 minutes' worth of never-before-released material

I've been a film-music fan most of my life (as this ranking of King-movie scores -- which now needs to be updated! -- indicates), so this stuff is like catnip to me.  You know, if I were a cat.  I'm not, so I guess I should say "this stuff is like chili-cheese dogs to me."  Mmmmmm.
  
I hope to write a fuller review of the collection before this post actually goes online; if I do, I'll put in a link.  But here's a short version:
  
The Dreamcatcher score by Howard is revealed in its longer form to be much better than I ever thought it was (a not-uncommon effect of hearing a film's full score, as opposed to mere selections from it); the excellent Firestarter score sounds, in an aural sense, better than it ever sounded on the various bootlegs I found online and with which I'd had to content myself for years; three discs is way too much for The Shining, although the completist in me is thrilled to have it all; and the previously-unreleased material from The Stand is kind of unmemorable and could probably have stayed unreleased (although, again, the fan in me is thrilled to have it).
  
I hope the collection sells well so that another can be released.  Here's my wishlist for a hypothetical Vol. 2:
  
  • John Carpenter's Christine 
  • Jonathan Elias's Children of the Corn 
  • Jay Chattaway's Silver Bullet 
  • Harold Faltermeyer's The Running Man 
  • Christopher Franke's The Tommyknockers (which has never been released)
  • Patrick Doyle's Needful Things 
  • Danny Elfman's Dolores Claiborne 
  • Gary Chang's Storm of the Century (also never released)
  • Gary Chang's Rose Red (ditto)
  • Laura Karpman's Carrie (ditto)
  • Philip Glass's Secret Window (ditto, believe it or not)
  • Gary Chang's Kingdom Hospital (unreleased)
  • Jeff Beal's Nightmares & Dreamscapes (unreleased)
  • Nicholas Pike's Bag of Bones (unreleased)
  • W.G. "Snuffy" Walden's Under the Dome (unreleased)

And whatever else you want to put in there.  Granted, you'd probably need to get to a Vol. 4 in order to make all that happen, but if you want to put one of those out per year for the next few years, you can count on my continued trade, Varese!
  
*****
  
On that note, our tour bus seems to have arrived at the motel for what -- for now -- seems to be the final time.  I'm sure it'll head back out one of these days; no way I'm not going to keep these things updated.
  
For now, though, y'all look plumb tuckered out, and I know I am.  I appreciate you riding along with me on this lengthy tour.  If you would, kindly collect your personal belongings and your trash -- including the corpses of your loved ones who have died, possibly by their own hand, during this series of excursions -- and proceed to the exits in an orderly fashion.
  
It's been a pleasure showing you around!

27 comments:

  1. And now I gotta go back and read it from the beginning!

    So...I'm back to blogging now, if you're still interested in my project.

    ReplyDelete
  2. (1) FWIW Alabama travels well. Like Texas (and Australia) I rarely meet anyone from your state that isn't a pretty cool son of a gun. Granted, if you gave me the home tour, and we went through Roy Moore's neighborhood, I bet I'd come to the same conclusion I come to about anywhere: there's good and bad. But yeah FWIW! You guys have a pretty agreeable exchange rate at least over state lines. Granted no one's getting rich by following the Bryan McMillan Guide to American Personalities.

    (2) I still say "Bad Little Kid" is undone just a tad by the very last paragraph or two of the story. I can't help but bring it up every time! I love that story otherwise.

    (3) I REALLY need to see that "Finding Your Roots" episode.

    (4) "A Death" is probably for my money one of King's top 3s. I suspect whenever I get around to ranking the short stories properly it might even take the top spot. Is it King at his best? Maybe not - for me, that's Duma Key, hitting on every cylinder in his toolkit - but it's the best of whatever-that-specific-item-in-his-toolkit-is.

    (5) There's that one scene at the end of "Under the Dome" season 1 where they're all looking at the egg and I remember getting to it and thinking, "Right, that's it." Holy moley. I should've had that reaction to the "Fight Club" episode with that one chick who was "Cristineth" in THE OTHER GUYS. ("You come to my! house! You get my wife's! name! right!") That was a lower point, but I at least wanted to make it through one season. Unrewarded. And I really love that book! Bad, bad TV.

    (6) 11.22.63 was slightly better and started off so promisingly. Alas, they screwed the pooch. Why, damn it?!

    (7) That cover to "The Path to Pet Sematary" is awesome.

    (8) I really can't wait to have HEARTS IN SUSPENSION on the shelf. I've been circling that one for too long. S

    (9) Re: Trump and King (and I hope this doesn't count towards your demerit system for discussion, which I wholly support, understand, and approve of) the older I get the more I realize holy shit Bono was right about everything.

    (10) I really love "Thin Scenery." Stewart O'Nan brings out a good side of Sai King. (The same way The Orange One brings out the George Stark side.)

    (11) It is fascinating to think about folks in their 20s or teens, at the tail end of 2017, discovering IT for the first time. How will this play out? I agree - it bodes well for King, Inc. with a (positive) downstream effect for the whole Kingverse. Dawn and I, by the way, are getting closer and closer to watching this - excited to finally see it.

    (12) Disappointed to reach the end here, but I look forward to the 2018-2020 version to come down the track!

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    1. (1) I'm sure we're no worse or better than anyone from other states, on average. But my frames of reference are so narrow that I really have no idea. We might be the worst of the worst, for all I know.

      (4) That one is especially fine, no doubt about it.

      (5) Ugh, the five hands. Garbage!

      (6) Why indeed. But a lot of people apparently love it; I don't get why, but they do.

      (9) Pro-Bono sentiment will never fail to get a thumbs-up from me.

      (11) I look forward to hearing your opinion(s) of it!

      (12) Me too! I guess we've all got to live through it first, though. I'm not sure what the first entry for 2018 will be; maybe "The Outsider" on May 22, although I'd love it if a short story or two popped up before then.

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  3. I'm sad to see the tour end, but it was a fun ride. I look forward to whatever comes next.

    (1) RICK AND MORTY is one of those shows that I've avoided mostly because I've seen how... passionate the fans can be. I know that it isn't fair to the show, but an off-putting fan base (even one with which I never interact) can sometimes turn me off of a property before I even experience it for myself.

    (2) I hadn't heard of YOU CAN'T KILL STEPHEN KING, but it reminded me of this: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/23/james-patterson-calls-off-his-fictional-of-stephen-king. If I were King, I'm not sure which attempt to cash in on my name I'd find more insulting. I'd probably lean toward Patterson, what with the whole he-doesn't-actually-write-his-own-books thing.

    (3) Perhaps it's because I'm a fan of westerns to begin with, but "A Death" is great. It's another one of those tales that shows he doesn't need to rely on bug-eyed monsters. It's the "proper" thing in some circles to dismiss such popular authors as King, but in his case, I don't think it's fair at all. Is he Shakespeare? No, but there's room enough in my heart for both of them.

    (4) I read THE FIREMAN before I read THE STAND, so I was only able to appreciate the references to the latter work in hindsight. It's thus far my only Joe Hill work, which I do intend to rectify.

    (5) God, I love STRANGER THINGS. I didn't see the first season for a few months after its release (the Hype Monster made me take a couple of steps back), but once I bit the bullet and watched it, I was hooked. The ALIENS callbacks in the second season had me grinning like a damn fool, and that final shot (combined with the song choice) gave me chills. I want Season Three *now*.

    (6) For me, THE DARK TOWER was a disappointment (rather than a disaster) mostly for the tiny little glimmers of potential sprinkled here and there. They were fleeting and quark-sized, but they were there, and that almost makes it worse than if it had been a BATMAN & ROBIN-level tire fire. I could go on and on about it (and that's only having read through WIZARD & GLASS so far!), but suffice to say that the best part of that movie was the fact that "Bohemian Rhapsody" came on the car radio as I pulled into the theater parking lot, and the fact that I got there early let me listen to the whole thing.

    Leaving the theater, I wasn't angry. I was sad. It's basically "Coulda, woulda, shoulda" The Movie.

    (7) On the other hand, I loved IT, and I can't wait for Chapter Two. I left a lengthy comment on your review, so I won't rehash any of it here.

    (8) It's in my Netflix queue, but I haven't yet seen GERALD'S GAME, since I want to read the source material first (ditto 1922). Considering all the praise that those two have gotten, I'm curious as to what other adaptations they'll end up making as time goes on. I'm sure I speak for all of your readers when I say that I can't wait for CHILDREN OF THE CORN 15,986.

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    1. (1) Absolutely. I don't know if it's for that reason or not, but I'm incredibly resistant to "Rick and Morty." What I've seen made me laugh, too, so I'm sure I'd enjoy it. Still, not exactly something I'm clamoring to get to, and I'll be damned if I know exactly why.

      (2) I forgot all about that! Hmm, I wonder if I should create an entry for that book (which I'm glad got shelved).

      (3) Agreed, plus, anyways, there's no need for him to be Shakespeare, or Milton, or Dickens, or anyone other than who he already is. He's by far the best Stephen King, and that's plenty good enough for me.

      (5) I believe it's gonna be 2019 before that happens, alas.

      (6) Yes! There were indeed little moments here and there where I could see what a really great version of those stories COULD have been like. Tantalizing, frustrating moments. I agree; sadness is the correct response.

      (9) In Space!

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    2. 1) That Bus is Another World is soooo good. For me it evokes Nightmare at 20,000 feet, either the Shatner or Lithgow version. It would have been interesting if the protagonist had lost it in public, but I guess that would have led us down a somewhat predictable road.

      2) That episode of Finding Your Roots sounds great. I've been curious about King's father, and had no idea there was any solid information. I don't suppose it's streaming anywhere that you know of?

      3) I'm a little unclear how you feel your train is off-track. You've just completed a 15-part series of who knows how many words, and you've been posting far more than you were earlier this year. If that means more posts, good for us, I suppose, but I haven't felt that you've been slacking.

      4) Just thought you ought to know that your scathing mini-review of Under the Dome's third season is some of your best writing. An entire cast and crew of incompetents strikes me as indescribably funny. I'm picturing a bunch of Corky St. Clairs ineptly giving their best and still falling hilariously short. I hope you get that reference. If not, we need to correct that.

      5) We've already covered this, but putting End of Watch at the very bottom of the heap seems pretty harsh to me. If he'd introduced some of the supernatural element in Mr. Mercedes, do you think you'd still feel the same way? It would be interesting to know if King planned to go that route when he first conceived of the trilogy. I just think Brady Hartsfield is too good a villain, and the relationship with his mummy too well-written to rate so low. It probably didn't completely live up to that opening scene at the job fair, but I have no trouble recommending it.

      6) You had me at bowling and zombies. There's no way I'm going to be able to resist looking for this one.

      7) I'm pretty intrigued now about this "How Did We Get Here?" If a guy like you, who seems to share similar opinions about the Donald, considers that essay indefensible, it must be pretty harsh. I have moments where I feel nothing but contempt for his supporters, but I think it's important to really understand that this didn't happen in a vacuum. I really appreciated Jon Stewart's acknowledgment of that fact. I'll resist saying more, but damn. That has to be one dismissive, revolting essay to elicit that reaction from you.

      8) How much of 2017 being a banner year would you attribute to It: Chapter One's unforeseen impact on pop culture? Is it largely in anticipation of what's likely coming? It seems that there were a fair number of stinkers this year, too. If you're just excited about the floodgates being open for high-quality King adaptations, then I'm 100 percent with you. And I had forgotten about Gerald's Game, which I thought was excellent. I hope it's been seen as much as has been suggested, at least by the powers that be in Hollywood, because DAMN. I truly don't think they could have adapted that material a stitch better than they did.

      9) I have a theory that Stranger Things (the first season) happened in the same kind of perfect storm that you described for It: Chapter One. I remember the summer of 2016 being an almost unprecedented pile of crap, movie-wise. And as I looked back to see if I remembered correctly, outside of a few good-but-not-great ones like Finding Dory, summer 2016 did indeed suck something fierce. You had plenty of the normal summer fare making gobs of money, but the quality may have been the worst of any summer I can recall. I think Stranger Things came along at the perfect time. Not suggesting it wouldn't have been a hit otherwise, but the crap put out that year makes the crap that paved the way for It late this summer look like Oscar bait. Thoughts?

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    3. 1) Good comparison! I've never seen the Shatner version -- which shames me deeply -- nor have I read the Matheson story. But for Christmas, I was given a Matheson collection that has that story in it (and also has an introduction by Stephen King).

      2) YouTube seems to have some versions of questionable legality. Beyond that, I do not know. Well worth seeking out, though, for sure.

      3) I can answer that! I've got in my mind a sort of chronology for writing about King's work, novels and stories and movies alike. And I'm just not making any progress on that front. In theory, it's not apparent to any of my blog's followers at all, but every time I remember it I feel like the Fail Whale has just splashed down.

      5) These are fair points. I agree that the series has virtues -- the twisted relationship of the Hartsfields being high among them -- but I think it also has major deficiencies. And for me, "End of Watch" was a real slog to get through. I was glad when it was done, and I don't know that I've ever felt that about another King book on first read. But who knows? Maybe I will like it more the second time, whenever that might be. I'd love for that to be the case.

      6) It isn't going to be easy to find, I suspect. And that is a real shame, because it's a lot of fun!

      7) It's not that King's essay is all that harsh, it's more that I think his entire concept is a failure. The stated thesis of it is "to discover how and why all this happened." And that's an honorable enough goal, but his method of doing so is to invent six Trump supporters and put thoughts in their mouths. But he then claims to have given these six imaginary characters "truth serum" so that they can tell the truth about what really caused them to vote for this man.

      If King had actually convened a panel of six people and interviewed them, that could have been interesting. If he had written a short story or novella about MAGAites, then that could have been interesting. But THIS approach refuses to engage with the actual people who voted this way, and in so doing proves why so many of them think liberals are holier-than-thou cretins.

      Put another way, when King sat down to try to explain how that election happened, he opted to listen not to actual voters but to the voices inside his imagination.

      Bad call, Ripley.

      8) I'm with you. And yes, I think "It" was by far the largest single component in the year's status as a King-ly one. With the possible exception of some of his television work, he'd never had an adaptation do that kind of business. He's one of the biggest names in fiction of the modern era, but he'd never had a huge hit like so many other authors have. So something about "It" felt like true mass-level appreciation had finally, at long last, come around. Then, hot on its heels, "Gerald's Game" and "1922" (the former of which made a much deeper impact, but both of which got strong reviews and kept the conversation going for a while).

      9) I think your theory is 100% on the money. I remember people at the time of the first season saying that it was the best summer movie of that summer. And yeah, absolutely, people were at that very moment looking around and saying, where are all the great summer movies like we used to get? Well, along came "Stranger Things," which both celebrated those same movies and managed to more or less be one in its own right.

      And let's none of us fool ourselves: its success helped prime the pump for what happened this year with "It."

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  4. Bryant, this whole tour is wonderful. It's a great accomplishment. It's exhaustive (and exhausting I suppose). It's an incredible resource.

    This tour is possibly the best piece of King content since books like Beahm's Companion, Spignesi's Encyclopedia, and Wood's Literary Companion were published. And your resource is far more easily updated, so there's added value.

    Unfortunately, I've been unable to will myself back to my writing desk for The Stephen King Universe, which is on indefinite hiatus. I have plans to resurrect a King project eventually, perhaps by the end of 2018 - we'll see.

    For now, Happy New Year, and very well done.

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    1. Thanks! I'd personally say that this series is WAY too rough around the edges to be put alongside the titles you mention, but I'm flattered by the comparison.

      It WAS exhausting, certainly. But a lot of fun, so well worth it.

      I anticipate there being a bit of a hiatus around here, too. Enjoy your own!

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  5. Family Guy did a whole episode on Steve.
    https://www.hulu.com/watch/72450
    Its ok.

    End of Watch being one of his worsts? Come on meow.
    There was zero aliens poisoning the water supply or giant slave master ants in it.
    Just a comatose telekenetic crazy computer hacker...

    I just wish he would go back to writing things where alcoholism wasn't a plot point in every story.

    Did the Gwendy guy need to be drunk or the Death guy or the Ur girl have to be killed by a drunk driver or the Afterlife story really need the drunk rape scene. To call Steve a lazy writer would be insane so he must be doing it for some reason. I just like when he was more creative about his reasons or magic in the world or coincidence, not just ah he was drunk.

    I just finished Breathing Method again which is one of my favorite all time stories and I'm afraid he's gonna go back George Lucas style and change the snow storm to just the cabbie or ambulance driver to just a drunk driver.

    Oh well. Steve still rules, as my t-shirt says.
    -mikeC

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    1. I can't say I'm terribly motivated to watch that "Family Guy" episode. I probably will someday, but I won't swear to it.

      Did you just say "meow"? ;) (Disclaimer: I've never actually seen "Super Troopers." I know, I know.)

      I've caught some flak from a few people for ranking "End of Watch" so low, but for me, that's where it slots in. I just didn't care about it at all while reading it. A few good scenes, granted; by no means is it a complete failure, even in my eyes.

      Regarding the alcoholism thing, I think it might be the case that King -- who, as you probably know, is a recovering addict and alcoholic -- probably feels like he has no choice but to write about the subject, since it's something that is always with him. Sometimes he writes about more gracefully than at other times, I guess.

      Thumbs up on the love for "The Breathing Method"! It's one of my favorites, too.

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  6. 1. "You can't kill Stephen King" sounds like a fake trailer that got stretched way too far. Thankfully, I've seen better:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We5a2mA7IAU

    2. I tried to like Stranger Things (I've only seen the first season), yet it came off as a cut and paste work that never went anywhere I hadn't seen before. I don't know if that means I have too little imagination, but there's my reaction.

    3. I've found "After the Play" interesting in the it's similar to techniques used in both "Carrie" and, to a very lesser extent, in "The Monkey".

    Still, it's an interesting look into what the original plan might have been.

    4. Yeah, the "Tower" film....

    Okay, I think the solution has been staring Hollywood in the face, however I'm going to need to use "Locke and Key" demonstrate what I mean.

    First off, there's this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnI5aHZfACY

    Then there is this animated spot. It's annoying in that it's interactive, with a direction key for changing camera angles in the left hand corner, however, it's worth it (plus, you can pause it to get a hang of the controls):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELF-dK8z5Dc

    The point of all this is, why not go the same route Hill did with "L&K", and make a animated voice-over adaptation of the "Tower" series. The best part is you don't need kids to fill in the role of Jake, or Eastwood for Roland.

    Just a thought.
    ChrisC



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    1. 1. It's not even as good an idea as "Gobstopper" (if real) would be.

      2. I've heard others say the same, so it's not just you.

      4. To be clear, there is no animated "Locke & Key." That's a commercial for the Audible version (which is a long radio-drama style adaptation). Too bad! It'd be a good fit for animation.

      I wouldn't be surprised if they do an animated "Dark Tower" at some point. I'm not personally all that interested in it, though; unless it's big-budget animation, which it wouldn't be, I don't care for most of the current animation styles. "The Dark Tower" a la "Star Wars: Rebels." Ick.

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  7. Hello! I discovered your blog a few days ago and really love it, especially the Guided Tour. Great info and smart commentary and comments!

    I don't know how to just get a general comment to you, but I want to tell you that I could contribute some info, images, and corrections for some of the posts in your Tour, if you are interested.

    I have a very near-complete collection of primary and most secondary publications of Stephen King short stories, so I've been checking what I own against the info here. I'd like to perhaps contribute to active conversations here in the future too.

    There's so much more here to dig into!

    Rich K.

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    1. Welcome! We've got a pretty good little community here; tiny, but high-quality.

      I'd be interested in whatever you want to send along, for sure. One way to do that would be to leave comments in the relevant sections, but depending on what it is you're talking about sending, it might be preferable to look me up on Facebook. You can send images or whatever via that method, whereas commenting here you (unfortunately) can't.

      If you're not on Facebook, let me know and I will give you my email address.

      All corrections are 100& welcome, by the way! I want this information to be as accurate as possible, so I'd be glad to fix anything I've gotten wrong.

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    2. I've skimmed through all of the years of the Guided Tour, but haven't yet read all of the info there of course. I spent a lot of hours reading the articles there over the weekend.

      I can right now only remember two specific minor things that I thought I could add some new info about, and I remember seeing a missing magazine cover image that I could supply. There may be a couple other things, but I won't remember until I look through here some more.

      I signed up on Facebook a few years ago, but I really never use it, and would need my daughter to help me do anything there. If you tell me your email address (or I could give mine) then I could write in more detail.

      I've really never posted to any blogs ever before, so I don't know if there's rules to be followed or etiquette expected, so I'm just wary about what to write here.

      Rich K.

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  8. Hats off to you sir, hats off! This series of blog posts has been an amazing journey. I've taken down a few notes on some things I have to check out.

    Thanks for all your hard work on this Bryant, your passion for King always serves to re-ignite mine and makes me proud to be a fellow King fan.

    Also, shout-out to all the amazing commenters. It is *so* nice to be able to spend some time on a site and have to read rage-filled opinions. Even everybody's comments on the presidency have been civil so thanks for that guys.

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    1. sorry, I meant *not* have to read rage-filled opinions :)

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    2. Thanks, fellers! It was a lot of fun to write, so hopefully that has come through.

      Regarding the lack of rage-filled comments, I'd say this: I have little tolerance for them here (despite my tendency -- mostly in the past, though it still rears its head on occasion -- to leave comments of that nature elsewhere), and would be prone to delete any of them that stray too far in that direction.

      Thing is, it's VERY rare for me to have to use that option. I just don't get traffic like that, which is a good thing. It's a big part of the reason why I have no desire for this blog to be anything more than what it is. If it was, I think it would be quite a bit less than what it is, if that makes any sense.

      Anyways, the tone and tenor in that regard is set by you commenters moreso than it is by me, so I thank you all!

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  9. The Lock & Key "Small World" cover reminds me very much of Tabitha's cover for her Small World novel. Purposeful do you think?

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    1. Oh, 100%. I think Hill even mentioned that someplace. Hold on, lemme see if I can find it...

      Yep!

      http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/herocomplex/la-et-hc-locke-and-key-joe-hill-20160615-snap-htmlstory.html

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  10. Updated the section on "Finding Your Roots" to reflect the fact that there is a companion book, including a chapter about King.

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  11. Updated the "11.22.63" miniseries section to include some info about a poem King apparently wrote for the final episode.

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  12. Revised the section on the first season of "Mr. Mercedes" to reflect having seen it. (I'm way overdue on that! I watched it all months ago, and then simply forgot to update this section. So unfortunately, my memory of it all isn't as sharp as would have been beneficial.)

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