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Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #180

Featured review: Drunken Fireworks

Those of us who’ve read our work in public understand how difficult it is to keep an audience engaged for longer than about 15 or 20 minutes. Unless you’re a skilled performer (Tom Monteleone comes to mind among that group), the audience will get restless if you go on much longer than that.

Which is why the producers of audiobooks so often turn to actors as narrators. Or, as in the case of “Drunken Fireworks,” the new audiobook-only story from Stephen King, to someone like Tim Sample, who has produced the “Postcards from Maine” segment for CBS Sunday Morning. Other people in his category who come to mind are Garrison Keillor of The Prairie Home Companion or, a personal favorite, Stuart McLean from The Vinyl Cafe. These are raconteurs, people you don’t mind listening to for extended periods of time as they spin out their stories.

o_king109Sample, who King hand-selected to narrate this long story (running time, approximately 80 minutes on two CDs), is particularly appropriate here, since he has the requisite Maine accent for the first person narrative that comprises most of the story. It’s an accent many have attempted but few have mastered. (For a brief and classic example of Sample’s delivery, check out this standup routine in which he expounds on the difference between Maine natives, outsiders and transplants.)

In structure, “Drunken Fireworks” will probably remind readers of Dolores Claiborne. A lifelong bachelor named Alden McCausland is at the Castle County police station telling his version of events to Andy Clutterbuck (a name that will be familiar to many, as will places like Bridgton, TR-90 and Chester’s Mill) and Ardell Benoit. As with Dolores Claiborne, it takes Alden a while to get to the point. There’s a lot of background involved, and he’s going to make sure he has his say, even if some of the details he dredges up aren’t strictly relevant to the story. He’s leading up to the events of the previous evening, July 4, 2015, but everything started, he claims, in 2012.

Alden and his mother have, through luck and circumstance, become “idle rich,” which gives them plenty of leisure time, which they spend drinking (heavily) at their lakeside cabin. They spend most of the year there, retreating to their home in town only after Thanksgiving. Despite their relative affluence, their cabin, a glorified shack that they dub the “Mosquito Bowl,” is located on the shabbier west side of Lake Abenaki. The town side. The slums. The truly wealthy are on the east side, where the beaches have real sand instead of rocks.

Directly across from the Mosquito Bowl is the modestly named Twelve Pines Cabin, the stately vacation mansion of Paul Massimo and his enormous clan. Massimo is a man from Rhode Island who is CONNECTED (as Alden’s mother always says). He’s in the same class as Tony Soprano, to their way of thinking. Alden and his mother can’t imagine having a place that big and only using it three months out of the year.

The arms race that leads up to the events of the previous evening begins, innocently enough, with some firecrackers, twizzlers and cherry bombs. However, everything the McCauslands do, the Massimos can do better. It’s a classic case of one-upmanship, and neither side will be happy until they’ve won. The financial odds seem stacked against Alden, but he knows people who know people, and each year he invests larger sums of money and strays a little farther from what’s strictly legal into territory that could potentially put him on a terrorist watch list—to the benefit of the other people who assemble around the lake, the numbers swelling from year to year as they turn out to see what the Massimos and McCauslands come up with.

Being outdone by the Massimo’s fireworks is one thing, though. To add insult to injury, one of Massimo’s sons is the proud owner of a trumpet, and each triumph is accompanied by the kind of wah-wah-waaaah sound (some people dub it the “sad trombone”) associated with losing the big prize at the last minute. The rivalry might not have heated up the way it did if the McCauslands hadn’t felt so humiliated by the trombone taunt.

This is comedic storytelling at its best. “Drunken Fireworks” doesn’t really have a point (other than the benefits of being insured and the fact that explosives and alcohol are an unwise mix), but it builds toward an “explosive” climax as the fireworks become more exotic (with names like Pyro Monkey, Ghost of Fury and Rooster of Destiny) and the booze flows freely on both sides of the lake. Readers will wonder what happened to bring Alden, whose laconic delivery is dramatized to maximum effect by Sample, to the police station that morning. After the truth is revealed, King has yet another surprise up his sleeve. This isn’t a shaggy dog story like “L.T.’s Theory of Pets.” It’s one that could be enjoyed while sitting on the back porch, late in the evening as dusk descends, swatting black flies, drinking the beverage of choice, perhaps with the sounds of fireworks echoing in the distance (or the soundtrack to Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and the scent of gunpowder in the air.

The audiobook will be released on CD and for download on June 30th, but you’ll also be able to listen to the story on demand on select CBS radio stations on July 2nd. The story will appear in print in The Bazaar of  Bad Dreams in November.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #179

Featured review: Finders Keepers

Lisey Landon had a word for the people who clamored for the fragments, snippets and memorabilia of her dead husband’s literary estate: Incunks. Is there is a similar word for those who seek the remnants of a living (though perhaps inactive) author?

Finders_Keepers_2015Morris Bellamy is obsessed with John Rothstein, a writer cut from the same cloth as J.D. Salinger. Rothstein withdrew from the world in 1960, living in New Hampshire a mile from his nearest neighbor. Now almost eighty, he is most famous for a trilogy featuring protagonist Jimmy Gold.

Bellamy has read the first two books, The Runner and The Runner Sees Action, countless times, but the final book only once, so much does he loathe the fate that befell a character who is more alive to him than most real people. He thinks Rothstein sold out, made Gold go establishment in The Runner Slows Down (the series titles are reminiscent of John Updike), where Gold winds up married with kids and working in advertising.

In 1978, convinced that Rothstein must have continued writing in the two decades since his last story appeared in The New Yorker, Bellamy enlists the help of two clueless accomplices and invades Rothstein’s farmhouse. They uncover wads of cash and, more importantly to Bellamy, scores and scores of ledgers containing Rothstein’s handwriting.

By all rights, Bellamy should have been caught soon after the robbery, but, like Brady Hartsfield in Mr. Mercedes, luck is on Bellamy’s side. Sort of. He isn’t arrested because of this incident but rather because of something that happens subsequently. His Achilles’ heel is that he can’t handle being made to feel stupid. He’d already spent nine months in juvenile detention after a drunken rampage sparked by an argument with his mother over the Rothstein novels. He blames her for his incarceration—he’s never takes responsibility for his own actions. This time, his drunken misadventures end in a far worse outcome and he is sentenced to life in prison—before he has the chance to savor the spoils of his robbery.

Though nominally a sequel, Finders Keepers works perfectly well as a standalone novel. It intersects with Mr. Mercedes via the City Center Massacre, where Hartsfield killed several people and maimed others with a stolen Mercedes. In the second book of a proposed trilogy, that incident is represented by the Saubers, a family who fell on hard times during the economic downturn. Tom Saubers was waiting in line at the job fair that fateful day. He survived, but was seriously injured and ends up hooked on painkillers during his rehabilitation. There are frequent loud arguments with his wife, mostly over money.

Then thirteen year old Pete Saubers stumbles upon a buried treasure. Not only does the trunk he discovers in a vacant lot near his house (the same one Morris Bellamy grew up in) contain stacks of cash, it also holds intriguing, handwritten ledgers. At the time, Pete has no idea who John Rothstein is, but over the following years he becomes familiar with the man’s work.

In Pete’s mind, this is a case of “finders keepers,” but if he gives the money to his parents, they’ll want to report it to the cops. So, he mails them $500 each month anonymously. The Saubers convince themselves it’s further compensation for Tom’s injuries. It won’t make them wealthy, but it’s enough to silence the worst of the arguments. Pete’s discovery represents the turning point for his family.

But the money runs out four years later.

By then, Pete understands the true value of the ledgers, which contain poems, short stories and two unpublished Jimmy Gold novels that complete the cycle. Liquidating them is a problem, especially for a high school sophomore. If he turns them in, he won’t get anything more than a pat on the back, and he wants to raise enough money so his younger sister, Tina, can go to private school. She’s smart, but falling through the cracks at public school. He’s forced to seek the help of a shady individual, which sets into motion a catastrophic sequence of events that jeopardizes his entire family.

For the first 150 pages, the story bounces around between 1978 and 2009-2013, relating incidents in Bellamy’s and the Saubers’ lives. Then Det/Ret Bill Hodges gets involved and the pace of the novel accelerates to breakneck speed, with the second half covering only a few days.

The novel is dedicated to John D. MacDonald, who wrote the introduction to Night Shift and penned a series featuring Travis McGee[1]. McGee helped people who had things stolen from them in a way that precluded legal recourse. For his services, he kept fifty percent of whatever he recovered. Half of something was better than nothing, he reasoned.


As with Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers is set in the “real world,” where Stephen King is a person who writes books, movies are adapted from them and popular tropes have entered the cultural awareness. And yet, it can’t be a coincidence that Brady Hartsfield resides in Room 217 of the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic. Can it?

Can it?

Hodges, slimmer and healthier than when he first retired, is in a similar business, a company called Finders Keepers he formed after he wriggled out of the trouble he found himself in because of his rogue investigation into the Mercedes Killer case four years earlier. When first seen in 2014, he’s repossessing a stolen Lear Jet from a con man. His fee isn’t half of the jet’s value, but it’s a tidy sum nonetheless. Plus, he brings the culprit to justice and puts a feather in his former partner’s hat, another move toward reconciling their rocky relationship.

Holly Gibney, the awkward and damaged woman who emerged to the forefront in Mr. Mercedes, is now Hodges’ assistant. She runs the office, keeps the files and performs computer research to help Hodges track his targets. She’s not completely healed—she still has numerous quirks—but her self-confidence has been boosted by recent experiences.

Hodges’ other “irregular,” Jerome Robinson, is at Harvard. His younger sister Barbara happens to be good friends with Pete Saubers’ sister, which is how Hodges gets involved. The disreputable bookstore owner Pete consults about the manuscripts puts the teenager in a difficult spot. The stress takes a toll on him and Tina notices the change in her brother’s behavior. However, Pete rebuff’s Hodges’ offer of assistance.

Morris Bellamy is paroled from prison after nearly four decades. Finally given a chance to recover the ledgers, he is incensed to discover that someone has beaten him to the punch. He has a suspect, though: the one person who knew about them when he was arrested. This puts him on a collision course with Pete Saubers and, ultimately, with Bill Hodges. Hodges’ investigation isn’t really the typical stuff of a detective novel—with the assistance of Jerome and Holly, they try to help Pete out of his predicament without understanding until late in the game exactly who is after him or why.

In the novel, King discusses the world of rare books and literature. He talks about natural selection in terms of which authors’ works survive over the decades and which don’t. The power of a story to captivate plays an important part in the novel’s resolution, as does the question of which is more important: the writing or the writer. Bellamy and Annie Wilkes share a common belief that their favorite authors owe them something when a series of books takes a direction they don’t like.

At times, Finders Keepers enters Kate Atkinson territory. Coincidence (or co-inky-dink, as one character puts it) plays a part in the proceedings. Pete finds Bellamy’s stash shortly after the Emergency Fund for victims of the City Center Massacre runs out. He approaches the bookseller with the ledgers barely a week before Bellamy goes looking for them. And Bellamy gets closer to the ledgers than he could possibly imagine due to a coincidence of geography.

And what of Brady Hartsfield? At the conclusion of Mr. Mercedes, King hinted that we hadn’t seen the last of him. That despite the grievous injury he received at the hands of Holly and Hodges’ happy slapper, there was still some life left in the young psychopath. Hartsfield is Hodges’ obsession. The retired detective wonders if he’s faking his condition, so he visits him frequently to try to catch him out. In the final pages of Finders Keepers, King lays the groundwork for the third book in the series, tentatively titled The Suicide Prince. It seems that Hodges is in for a rematch with his old nemesis.

[1] Another MacDonald novel, The Executioners, the inspiration for the movies Cape Fear, makes a cameo appearance in Finders Keepers in much the same way that a couple of King novels cameoed in Travis McGee novels

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #178

Next up from Stephen King is Finders Keepers, which will be out on June 2. There’s an excerpt in the May 15 issue of Entertainment Weekly (also online). Scribner and King’s office are running a contest for a signed copy of the book, as well as audio and hardcover editions. The early reviews (you can read Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal and Booklist reviews here) have been very good. Stay tuned for my review very soon.

At a recent event, King said he was hard at work on the third volume in the series, which has the working title The Suicide Prince. The previous book, Mr. Mercedes, won the Edgar Award for best novel. King was present to accept it, as he was also at the banquet to present the Ellery Queen Award to Charles Ardai, editor and founder, Hard Case Crime.

On November 3, we’ll get King’s next collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. King will introduce each of the eighteen stories and two poems, providing “autobiographical comments on when, why and how he came to write it”, as well as “the origins and motivation of each story.” The contents are: “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,” “Mister Yummy,” “Tommy,” “The Little Green God of Agony,” “That Bus is Another World,” “Obits,” “Drunken Fireworks,” and “Summer Thunder.” The cover is being gradually revealed at King’s official website.

Several of these stories are quite rare or haven’t been generally available. “Bad Little Kid,” for example, was only released in French and German previously. A few were only available electronically, and “Under the Weather” only appeared in the paperback edition of Full Dark, No Stars. A few of the stories are brand new. Among this number is “Drunken Fireworks,” which will be published as an audiobook read by Maine humorist Tim Sample on June 30. The story will also stream in its entirety on select CBS radio stations nationwide on July 2nd, in keeping with its Fourth of July theme.

Other publication news

Hard Case Crime has announced they will publish an illustrated edition of Joyland this September, featuring cover artwork by Glen Orbik, a map of Joyland illustrated by Susan Hunt Yule and more than twenty interior illustrations by Robert McGinnis, Mark Summers and Pat Kinsella. Note that this is not a limited edition. Hard Case Crime will publish as many copies as are needed to satisfy demand for the book. In related, sadder news, Orbik died recently at the age of 52 from cancer.

The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film is now available for pre-order from Centipede Press. This 752-page book, edited by Danel Olson, features a new introduction by Academy-Award winning director Lee Unkrich, and nearly two dozen new interviews with cast and crew members, reprint interviews, and a handful of excellent essays (plus one from yours truly). The book also features an amazing assortment of behind the scenes photographs, most never before published, crisp frame enlargements from the film, and a special gallery of poster artwork inspired by the movie. The book will be shipping later this month.

Movie news:

  • This is unexpected and welcome news: Sony Pictures has teamed with MRC to co-finance the Dark Tower adaptation. Sony will distribute what is planned to be the first in a series of movies. A complementary TV series is also being developed by MRC. The new script is primarily drawn from The Gunslinger and the relationship between Roland and Jake, using a brand new script co-written by Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner. No director has been attached yet, but it’s the most promising news in forever.
  • Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) is in negotiations to play Pennywise in the upcoming two-part movie adaptation of It directed by Cary Fukunaga.
  • The principle cast for 11/22/63 (Hulu, early 2016) has been announced: James Franco (Jake Epping), Chris Cooper (Al Templeton), Sarah Gadon (Sadie Dunhill), Cherry Jones (Marguerite Oswald), Daniel Webber (Lee Harvey Oswald),  George MacKay (Bill Turcotte), Lucy Fry (Marina Oswald), and Leon Rippy (Harry Dunning). Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald will direct and executive produce the first two hours of the nine-hour event series.
  • Brad Pitt’s  Plan B has optioned feature rights to The Jaunt. The company has attached Andy Muschietti and Barbara Muschietti, the duo behind the 2013 horror film Mama.
  • Vincenzo Natali (Cube) is adapting “In the Tall Grass,” the novella cowritten by King and Joe Hill. Principal photography is scheduled for September in the Toronto area.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #177

The Kings and the Straubs: All in the Family

A report from the event at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, April 21, 2015

Last Tuesday, I attended an event held in Founders Hall at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights that featured Stephen & Owen King and Peter & Emma Straub. The event was co-sponsored by BookCourt, a bookstore where Peter Straub’s daughter Emma worked for several years.

It was billed as a “round table,” despite the absence of any table, round or otherwise. The four authors faced the audience of approximately 300 on tall, low-backed bar chairs that didn’t look terribly comfortable. King joked that the setup was a little like a Jerry Springer episode: Writers whose children grow up to be writers.

The first two rows were reserved for SFC students. Two additional rows were occupied by people in publishing and the media. Admission was free, so the event “sold out” quickly. An overflow room was set up nearby where other attendees could watch the discussion on a simulcast. A hodge-podge of signed novels was on sale in a nearby room—it was a terrific opportunity for fans to get inexpensive signed King books. They were generally later printing paperbacks, but even so.


Isaac Fitzgerald of BuzzFeed Books moderated the evening. He started off by asking how the authors were influenced by the other members of their family. King talked about how all of the writers in his family shared their material back and forth, and that Owen provided valuable feedback on Mr. Mercedes and the forthcoming Finders Keepers. He said that his other son, Joe Hill, had emailed him the previous day saying that his editor decided that instead of starting his next book, The Fireman, in media res he might consider telling the story linearly. Hill asked his father if he could send him the first 150 pages for his input.

Peter Straub talked about collaborating with his daughter on a short story that grew into a novella, an experience that taught him that brevity works. You don’t have to fill in the back story of every character and their grandparents, he said. He appreciates the fact that Emma knows that writing is work, that you have to put in the time. He recalled an incident when she was visiting them and they were just about to sit down to dinner but she said she had to leave. She still had to write two pages that day. “My daughter,” he said with obvious pride.

Owen Kikng and Emma Straub agreed that at an early age they were disabused of some of the more romantic notions about what writing entails. Owen remembered as a child thinking that his father’s job was to go up to his office, close the door and listen to the Ramones. It seemed like a good gig. Then he realized he did it seven days a week and it was actually a very hard job to write a novel, day after day. This knowledge made them put off wanting to become writers for a number of years. Straub said she wanted to be a poet at first, and her father chimed in that he started out as a poet, too. His motivation was that it required much less typing than writing books!

Peter Straub recounted the story of how he and King decided to collaborate, which happened late one evening (after many cigarettes and much beer) the first time King visited Straub in England. After King suggested they write a book together, the first thing they did was figure out when they could do it, taking into account their respective contracts and the relative speeds at which they wrote. They decided they could begin in two years. When they got down to it, they worked on the story’s “Bible.” Instead of a quest to get rid of something, as in The Lord of the Rings, they decided on a quest to bring something back. They started stringing out the story from there and hit it back and forth like a tennis ball. “Never in the middle of a sentence,” Straub said, “but sometimes in the middle of a paragraph!” The second time they collaborated, Straub said they were more relaxed. There was no spirit of competition. King talked about how they made an effort to copy each other’s styles so no one would be sure who wrote what.

Emma Straub explained why she decided to set her first novel in the world of Hollywood. She’d already published a collection of stories that were about things that were similar to her life: young women in New York encountering problems. She grew bored of anything that had to do with New York City. She wanted to go as far away from herself as she could. She had never done research for her writing before and discovered that she loved it. You can actually write about things that you think are cool and want to know more about, she said.

The Kings shared a humorous story about how Owen (and his other children) used to make money by reading books onto tape for his father to listen to while he traveled, and how he used to do funny voices when reading works like Dune. Owen said he has recovered all of those tapes so no one else will ever hear them.

The moderator took questions from the audience and, given that Straub and King were together, one of the first concerned the status of the follow up to The Talisman and Black House. King said that they always knew that the story wasn’t done with the second novel, that there were things that needed to be finished. Peter sent him a book called Redheaded Peckerwood that set his imagination on fire. He described the book as a photographic-impressionistic thing about Charles Starkweather. “We can use this,” Straub said. “It can be a motor.” Straub jokingly suggested calling the next book A Girl, A Car and a Gun.

When the subject of music came up, King talked about buying “Funky Town” by LIPPS INC. He said that he got into a fight in college because he wrote disparaging things about Blood, Sweat and Tears. Straub recalled that they each had their own record they would put on when it was their turn to work on the ending of Black House. King’s choice was “Electric Avenue” by Eddie Grant. King laughed, saying that Peter couldn’t believe that one of the lyrics was “Deep in my heart I abhor you.” Owen said that he listened to Wings Greatest Hits when he was writing his first book. “I don’t even like them that much.” His wife was ready to kill him by the time he was finished. His father said he had the same experience with Mambo No. 5. He added that everything he said about playing music in Revival also applied to writing. Only Emma Straub said that she couldn’t listen to music while writing, especially not anything that has lyrics.

One question concerned what everyone was writing at present. Peter Straub said that he has been working on a novel called The Way It Went Down for three or four years. He also has a big collection, Selected Stories, due out in April 2016. King said that he is trying to finish up the third book in the Detective Hodges trilogy, the title of which will be The Suicide Prince. Emma Straub said that she is on page 247 of a novel that takes place in Brooklyn, but she doesn’t have a title for it yet. “A lot of people are having sex,” she said, which the moderator suggested might make a good title. Owen King said that he has a graphic novel coming out in September that he co-wrote with Mark Poirier, called Intro to Alien Invasion. He’s also working on a TV project that he’s contractually forbidden to talk about.

Here are two other reports about the event:

And here are the event photographer’s pictures. The event video should be available soon.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #176

It’s not every day that you get a brand new short story from Stephen King for free, right? Well, today is just one of those days. “A Death” will appear in print in the March 9 issue of The New Yorker, but the story is online right now. There’s also a brief Q&A with King on the New Yorker website.

“A Death” will be included in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, King’s next collection, due out in November. Among the stories we expect to see in that collection are “Ur” and “Bad Little Kid,” which will be appearing in English for the first time anywhere. (I reviewed it for Fearnet last year.)

The forthcoming story “Drunken Fireworks,” which will be released in audio on June 30th, will also be in Bazaar.  Here’s the publisher’s description: “In this new tour-de-force from Stephen King—unavailable in print or any other format—a salt-of-the-earth Maine native recounts how a friendly annual summer fireworks show rivalry with his neighbor across the lake gradually spirals out of control…with explosive results!”

Before that collection, though, we’ll get Finders Keepers on June 2, the follow-up to Mr. Mercedes. The audio version will once again be read by Will Patton. Here is the publisher’s copy for the novel:

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, a Salinger-like icon who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Sauberg finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.finders_keepers_us_hardcover_full_small

The Marvel graphic novel adaptation of The Drawing of the Three continues with the release of House of Cards #1 on March 24.

Adaptation news:

  • Under the Dome kicks off its third season with a two-hour premiere June 25. Marg Helgenberger has joined the cast for an extended story arc.
  • Sonar Entertainment will develop Mr. Mercedes as a limited series for television. David E. Kelley (Boston Legal, Ally McBeal, The Practice) is attached to write the script and Jack Bender (Lost) will direct.
  • James Franco has been cast as Jake Epping for 11/22/63, which will be a 9-hour series on Hulu.
  • Clarius Entertainment has acquired US rights to Cell, which was produced by Benaroya Pictures and The Genre Company. The plan is to release it theatrically later this year.
  • True Detective director Cary Fukunaga is on board for a new adaptation of It. At Sundance in February, he was a little vague, saying, “If that movie happens, it will be my first movie made in America.” He says he’s only thought about casting for Pennywise (without revealing who). The kids will mostly be unknowns, he says. He confirmed that the first movie will focus on the kids and a later film will do the adult story. He does not yet have a script for the second film.

Here is  King’s review of Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story, by Rick Bragg from the NY Times.

Recent interviews and public appearances:

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #175

I suppose everyone’s busy reading or listening to Revival, right? The book has been out for a week now, and King has wrapped up his six-city tour in support of the novel. He also made a couple of media appearances:

Excerpts from the audio version, read by David Morse, are being released over the next seven weeks at Experience Revival.

King talked about a few projects he might like to work on in the future. He’s interested in returning to the Dark Tower someday, probably to tackle The Battle of Jericho Hill. He wants to write a story about Franny falling down a well after she and Stu head for Maine. And he hopes to work with Peter Straub on a third book about Jack Sawyer. This one garnered the most interest, especially after a photo emerged of the two of them together following King’s signing in New York. However, his administrative assistant indicated that this won’t necessarily happen soon, despite intentions. Read her statement here.

I hope you’re checking out the journey Rich Chizmar is taking at Stephen King Revisited. Starting a couple of weeks ago, he is reading all of King’s books in publication order, including collections, Bachman books and non-fiction. At a pace of 2-3 books per month, we estimate this endeavor will take around two years. I’m along for the ride, writing historical background essays for each book. There are also guest essayists who’ll be appearing from time to time. For example, Ray Garton wrote about Carrie. This week we took on book #2: ‘Salem’s Lot. My essay went up yesterday and Rich’s today. Check ’em out and come on this incredible journey with us.

We now have the title for King’s next story collection: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams will contain twenty stories (not yet identified), and will be published by Scribner in November 2015.

Before that, though, on June 2, 2015, we’ll have Finders Keepers, the follow-up to Mr. Mercedes. Today, Scribner released the book’s description. It’s fairly detailed, so if you want to read the book unspoiled, you might want to skip it!

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, a Salinger-like icon who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Sauberg finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.

ICYMI, here’s King’s interview from Rolling Stone. There’s also a companion article: The World of Stephen King, A to Z.

Did you know that the revised and updated edition of The Illustrated  Stephen King Trivia Book is now available as an eBook?

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #174: Revival

In an interview in June, King revealed his first thoughts about Revival. “It’s too scary. I don’t even want to think about that book anymore…It’s a nasty, dark piece of work.” A couple of months later, on his Twitter feed, he described it as “a straight-ahead horror novel. If you’re going to buy it, better tone up your nerves.”

Those comments, along with his publisher’s statement on the back of review copies that she asked him whether the book “really had to be this dark,” will probably remind people of King’s thoughts about Pet Sematary. After he finished writing that book, he deemed it too gruesome and disturbing to be published. His wife concurred, so a mythos developed around it. How bad could it be? As it turned out, pretty gruesome. Pretty disturbing.

Are comparisons between Revival and Pet Sematary appropriate? Well, yes and no. The first time I read Pet Sematary, I had to put it down from time to time because I could see where King was headed and I wasn’t ready to go there yet. It’s relentlessly bleak from the beginning.

Revival doesn’t start out seeming like it will be a dark book, but it does have a different feel to it. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but there’s something about the voice that stands apart from King’s other books.

The story begins in the 1960s, when Jamie Morton is six years old. He’s the youngest of five children and part of a loving family. They live in Harlow, Maine, his parents are normal and decent, as are his siblings. They attend Sunday services at the Methodist church.

A new minister comes to Harlow, a man named Charlie Jacobs who has a beautiful wife and a young son who everyone in the community dotes on. Looking back, Jamie refers to Jacobs as his “fifth business,” a movie term for an agent of change who pops out of the deck at odd times during a person’s life. You might be tempted to think Jacobs is evil, Randall Flagg in another guise, but that’s not the case. Jacobs and Jamie have a pleasant first meeting in the yard where the young boy is playing with toy soldiers, a recent birthday gift. Neither is Jacobs like the vile, pernicious title character in “The Bad Little Kid,” who keeps showing up time and again.

And yet there is a pervasive sense of dread and foreshadowing of terrible things to come. Jacobs casts a shadow over Jamie during their first meeting. There are hints that the Morton family’s future won’t be rosy. However, when the first crisis comes, it happens to Reverend Jacobs. A calamity befalls his family and, in the aftermath, his faith in God is tested and found wanting. He is forced to leave Harlow, and he falls out of Morton’s life for decades.

As a teenager, Jamie Morton develops a certain level of skill with a rhythm guitar. He and some of his school friends form a band and they play around the region throughout high school. His shyness fades and his popularity soars. He gets a long-term girlfriend. After school, he plays with a number of moderately successful groups. He’ll never be the front man, nor will his guitar chops bring him fame and fortune, but he’s solid, reliable, and can be called upon to fill in when needed. Reliable, that is, until life on the road leaves him vulnerable to various temptations, most notably heroin. He becomes so unreliable in his mid-thirties that his current bandmates take off without him, leaving him stranded in a motel.

He’s pretty much at rock bottom, which is when he again meets up with Charlie Jacobs, who now calls himself Dan Jacobs and is working in a carnival. Jacobs always had a fascination with electricity that borders on obsession. Back in Harlow, he used a homemade gadget to shock Jamie’s older brother out of a psychosomatic bout of muteness. He’s upped the ante now, and is using electricity as part of his act, creating stunning and unbelievable “Portraits in Lightning” of young women.

Jacobs recognizes Jamie…and his addiction, too. He treats Jamie, using a more advanced version of the technology he used on his brother, and Jamie’s addiction is gone. Just like that. He no longer craves heroin. Oh, there are side effects, to be sure, but they seem minor and, with time, they go away.

By now, we’re a third of the way through the book, and nothing truly sinister has happened. By the same point in Pet Sematary, Church had already come back from the dead. I say this to temper expectations that may derive from early comments about the book. Don’t get me wrong: this is a very dark book, but much of the darkness is reserved for the last thirty pages or so, when everything goes horribly wrong in ways readers are not likely to anticipate.

The story is told through the memories of Jamie Morton, who we see from the time he is six until he’s nearly sixty. Is there another King book that encompasses such a long span of a character’s life in such detail? None come to mind. Jamie’s life isn’t exactly overshadowed by the former Rev Jacobs, who goes on to become a televangelist called Pastor Danny, but he never seems to be able to shake himself free of the man, either. Jamie’s not a hero—he’s just an ordinary guy, plugging along, making mistakes…and not making very much of himself, either. He gets a job at a recording studio in Colorado, where he has a comfortable life. But…


Whereas Mr. Mercedes took place in the “real world,” and all of its King references were to fictional events or to film adaptations, Revival is firmly set in the Stephen King universe. The story begins in Harlow, Maine, which borders Chester’s Mill (Under the Dome) and isn’t far from Castle Rock. Later, events move to Nederland, Colorado, which was the hometown of the Colorado Kid. There is a reference to the Joyland fairground, and mention is made of De Vermis Mysteriis, a grimoire invented by Robert Bloch that appears in “Jerusalem’s Lot.”  There is a mysterious #19 or two, and reference to an enigmatic character from Insomnia, Dorrance Marsteller, aka Old Dorr.

Jacobs has come to believe that there exists a secret electricity. If he can tap into that, he will be able to accomplish great things. He has already invented revolutionary batteries and power generation devices that are far ahead of current technology, but he doesn’t use these to get rich, merely as stepping stones in his research. He has also healed afflictions in hundreds of people. However, not all of his experiments are as successful as his heroin cure for Jamie. Some of his patients suffer horrible side effects, and it becomes one of Jamie’s missions to keep track of all these missteps. For his part, Jacobs is willing to accept a few failures because, on the whole, he has helped more people than he harmed. People clamor for his assistance, as they did with Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone.

What does the book’s title mean? The word brings to mind tent revivals and evangelical preachers, and there’s an element of that here. Musicals and plays have revivals—it is derived from “reviving,” after all, as in bringing back to life. What exactly is Jacobs capable of if he finds his secret electricity?

It all comes down to the book’s climax, at which point Jacobs is a feeble old man and Jamie is no spring chicken. Jamie once again crosses paths with Jacobs, only this time the man’s darkest plan is about to come to fruition. How dark? Poe at his darkest. Lovecraft at his most fantastical and cynical. Think of the most pessimistic world view you can imagine and you probably won’t even be in the ballpark. Maybe there are worse things than dying, King suggests. Perhaps we should cling to this life with everything we’ve got.

This book is going to disturb people profoundly. I guarantee it.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #174

When it was announced that Lifetime would be behind a made-for-TV adaptation of “Big Driver,” the second novella from Full Dark, No Stars, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The novella is dark and brutal, whereas Lifetime is better known for the kinds of stories that the novella’s protagonist writes—cozy mysteries—or romances. The network’s material is targeted at women, primarily. So what did that mean for this revenge tale? You’ll be able to see for yourself this Saturday at 8/7C when the movie premieres.

I had the chance to screen the film a couple of weeks ago and I’m here to tell you that it pulls few punches, if any. Tess is played by Maria Bello (Amy Rainey in Secret Window). She gets a last name in this version, Thorne, whereas she was just Tess in the novella. The plot plays out much the same as it did in King’s story. Tess drives herself to a nearby community where she is the featured guest at a brown bag luncheon and regales her sizable audience with the kinds of stories authors tell about themselves and their characters, and has the kinds of encounters writers often do with the public. The woman who organized the event suggests a shortcut that will get Tess home faster and, on a lonely road miles from civilization, Tess has a fateful encounter with the Big Driver. What happens next is brutal and, frankly, hard to watch. If you have any triggers about male-on-female violence, you may wish to avert your eyes. And even when the assault is over, the worst isn’t done for Tess. She has to crawl to freedom. Whoa. It makes me cringe just thinking about it now.

Ann Dowd from The Leftovers plays Rebecca Norville, Olympia Dukakis plays the physical manifestation of one of Tess’s characters, and Joan Jett plays the bartender at the Stagger Inn. Eastern Canada plays the part of New England—in fact, the movie was filmed just down the road from where Haven is shot. I recognize some of the roads, and I’m pretty sure Tess’s reading takes place on my alma mater’s campus, Dalhousie University. At least the external shots look like the old science library and nearby buildings. Events in the final act are somewhat condensed and restructured, but Tess still talks to Tom, her GPS, her cat, and with the characters in her novels, and sometimes they talk back. This monologue with non-human objects seems a bit awkward at first, but it works in general, and Bello is unquestionably the star here. It’s almost a one-woman show, and she nails it. Joan Jett is more of a novelty. She’s done a little acting, but she’s not entirely comfortable here.

There are a few grace notes added by screenwriter Richard Christian Matheson that add to the story’s overall symmetry and should put a smile on viewers’ faces despite the brutality. You can watch the trailer here.

This has been the month of Full Dark, No Stars adaptations. A Good Marriage opened a couple of weekends back in a limited theatrical release concurrent with Video On Demand. You can rent or buy it on iTunes or Google Play (I chose the latter so I could cast it to my television), and on the OnDemand sections of cable services. I had a hard time finding it on UVerse until I discovered it was listed under “S”—for Stephen King’s A Good Marriage. This adaptation, too, is quite faithful to the source material—as well it should be since King wrote the screenplay. Some of the character interactions in the final 10-15 minutes are different, but there are no real surprises here if you’ve read the novella.

King was all over the place promoting A Good Marriage, as well as appearing on the PBS series In Search of Our Fathers. Here are some links.

Mercy, the adaptation of “Gramma” starring the kid from The Walking Dead that’s been in the can for a while, is now available for purchase on iTunes. It will be available for rent shortly. Speaking of The Walking Dead, did you pick up the Creepshow “easter egg” in the season premiere?

JJ Abram’s adaptation of 11/22/63 will be a nine-hour limited series on Hulu. It is being described as a limited “event series,” but there will be opportunities for future subsequent seasons based on the story.

In this interview King did with MTV while promoting A Good Marriage, he discusses his thoughts on the Dark Tower movie adaptation. “It took me 35, 36 years to write ‘The Dark Tower.’ I can wait [for the movie],” King said. “We’ve been close a couple of times. I’m content to see what happens. Sooner or later, it’ll show up.” He explained why he chose to write the screenplay for A Good Marriage and also teased that Josh Boone’s cinematic version of The Stand may be two movies.

CBS has renewed Under the Dome for a third season.

The audio version of Revival is being read by David Morse, who has a strong King pedigree. He appeared in The Green Mile, Hearts in Atlantis and The Langoliers.

And stay tuned for a special announcement from Rich Chizmar on Halloween!

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #173

If you read back over my previous several posts here, you’ll see that they’ve all been leading up today, the launch of Season 5 of Haven, the Syfy TV series loosely based on The Colorado Kid. This season will consist of 26 episodes, spread over the fall and spring in two 13-episode blocks. I visited the set at the end of June, when they were working on the 7th and 8th episodes. This morning, I had the chance to see tonight’s episode, “See No Evil,” which starts immediately after the final moments of Season 4, at which point William had been tossed through the portal under the lighthouse and Audrey had become her original form of herself, Mara, a trouble-maker in the most literal form.

In the first episode, something destroys the lighthouse and the cavern beneath and, presumably, the portal. The main characters are scattered far and wide before the blast, so for a while no one knows where anyone else is, and some time is spent in getting everyone back together. Nathan is the first one to encounter “Audrey,” but she’s not the woman he loves. Not on the surface, anyway. Mara (and kudos to Emily Rose for creating such a different personality, someone who is as gleefully malign as William) has an agenda, and she’s not going to let anyone stand in her way. She wants to get William back, something she can only achieve by a doorway or, rather, via a thinny, which will be a familiar concept to Dark Tower fans. However, something vexes her plans. And Nathan hasn’t given up hope that Audrey is still inside somewhere and he can bring her back.

On another front, Duke is trying to find Jennifer, who is the only lighthouse person unaccounted for. And, of course, there’s a Trouble, which manifests itself in people having their eyes and/or mouths sewn shut with a leather cord that defies all efforts to remove it. Though everyone tries to impress on Dwight the importance of reining in Mara, he knows this Trouble has the potential to be deadly, so that’s his #1 priority. The repercussions of Audrey giving Duke back his Trouble in the penultimate episode last season also start to come to light, and it’s a doozy. And, based on the previews for the season I’ve seen so far, there are going to be callbacks to a lot of past Troubles. Mara made ’em, so she could potentially use them as weapons to achieve her nefarious goals.

And I’m very worried about Dave Teagues. Is he having morphine-induced nightmares or terrifying memories?

Interested in learning more about the origins of the Troubles? There’s a 16-page mini-comic in the Season 4 DVD, and a web series called Haven Origins coming on September 12. Here’s a trailer for it.

King will embark on a six-city book tour to promote the release of Revival. He will appear in New York City (Nov 11), Washington, DC (Nov 12), Kansas City, MO (Nov 13), Wichita, KS (Nov 14), Austin, TX (Nov 15) and South Portland, ME (Nov 17). Further details regarding the itinerary will be posted on King’s official website on September 15th.

Issue 1 of The Prisoner, the first cycle adapting The Drawing of the Three from Marvel, came out this week. For the first time, these comics are being offered digitally as well as in print.

In case you missed it, King’s latest short story “That Bus Is Another World” appeared in the August issue of Esquire. Also, here is King’s response to the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. And here is an interview with King about how he teaches writing, from the Atlantic.

The PBS series Finding Your Roots will feature King in its first episode of the new season on September 23. In this promo, King is shown a photo of his father and in this one, he learns more about his distant ancestors.

Encore is running King movies every day during September, with a special selection scheduled for King’s birthday.

There’s lots of news on the movie/TV front. Let’s hit the high spots:

  • A Good Marriage will be in cinemas and available via Video On Demand on October 3. ‘We went in fearlessly’: Stephen King on adapting A Good Marriage for film.
  • Big Driver will premiere on Lifetime on Saturday, October 18 at 8pm ET/PT. The movie stars Maria Bello, Olympia Dukakis, Joan Jett, Will Harris and Ann Dowd (from The Leftovers). The script is by Richard Christian Matheson, with Mikael Salomon directing. Here is a teaser video.
  • Mercy, the film adaptation of “Gramma,” will be “dumped to digital” in October. I assume this means it’s going straight to Video On Demand.
  • Mr. Mercedes will be a 10-episode TV series. Jack Bender will be on the production team.
  • CBS has ordered a “put pilot” (a serious commitment) from Warner Bros. TV for a series based on “The Things They Left Behind.” It is described as a supernatural procedural drama in which an unlikely pair of investigators carry out the unfinished business of the dead.
  • Mark Romanek will direct Overlook Hotel, the prequel to The Shining.
  • In this video, King discusses his involvement with the second season of Under the Dome, which is nearing the end of its second season. There are also a couple of good interviews with him: Stephen King Isn’t Afraid Of The Big Bad Adaptation and Written by — and tweaked for TV by — Stephen King
  • Now that Cell has wrapped, King teased what he could about the film. “The movie is not totally close to the original screenplay that I wrote,” he said. “But I’ll tell you what, the end of it is so goddamn dark and scary. It’s really kind of a benchmark there.”
  • Writer Jeff Buhler has come aboard director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s Pet Sematary reboot for Paramount. He discusses the project with Dread Central.
  • The Stand director Josh Boone says: I finished writing the script maybe a month ago. Stephen [King] absolutely loved it. It’s, I think, the first script ever approved by him. [It’ll be] a single version movie. Three hours. It hews very closely to the novel…I don’t imagine we would shoot the movie until next Spring at the earliest. His full comments are available at Collider.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #172 (Haven part 6)

This is Part 6 of my Haven series leading up to the premiere of Season 5 on Thursday, September 11. Note: at least the first episode will be airing at 8/7 Central instead of the previously announced 10/9C. However, my DVR has not updated to reflect that announced change.

In the first part, I looked at the series in general and in Parts 2 -5 I reviewed the events of Season 1Season 2Season 3 and Season 4, respectively. For each season, I include a list of episodes along with a summary of the Trouble(s) featured in each episode and a list of the Stephen King references (some of them admittedly a stretch).

Haven: Part 6

A Haven Who’s Who

Haven promo


Audrey Prudence Parker:

When we first meet Audrey Parker at the beginning of the first episode, she is in her rather sparse NY apartment receiving orders from her boss at the FBI, Agent Byron Howard. She’s to proceed to Haven, Maine to find an escaped convict who killed a prison guard. Audrey has a reputation for being “open to possibilities” beyond the norm and has a good reputation for closing cases. Audrey believes she’s an orphan, born in Ohio and raised by the state. She became a cop because one of her foster sisters at her third foster home, in Dayton, reported abuse from her father and Audrey stuck a pair of scissors into his neck.

However, the reality is that there is an FBI Special Agent named Audrey Parker with that background, but it isn’t her. The opening scene probably takes place in that place between worlds that we will come to know as “the barn” and this is where the person known to Havenites as Audrey is created. In some ways, her background is a blank slate. For example, she doesn’t have a favorite film (although she does admit that Justin Timberlake was her favorite musician). She also has talents that don’t come from the other Audrey Parker—she can play the piano, for example, and Agent Parker never took lessons. She doesn’t always trust her memories. In one scene, she deliberately tries vegemite to see if she likes it because her memories tell her she doesn’t. She does remember that Audrey Parker was popular in high school.

Audrey has been to Haven before; by my calculation, perhaps as many as twenty times. Audrey Parker is her identity in 2010. In 1983, she was Lucy Ripley, who was in Haven for a few months and disappeared shortly after the Colorado Kid murder. She tried to run away when it came time to go into the barn but was forced to do so by the Guard. In 1955, she was a VA nurse named Sarah Vernon—Vince and Dave Teagues tried to blow up the barn so she wouldn’t have to go away but that plan failed. A future incarnation is a saucy bartender called Lexie Dewitt. Her original persona seems to be a woman named Mara who came from another world with a man called William. During her repeat appearances in Haven, she always helps Troubled people, but Mara was a Trouble-maker who took great delight in inflicting the Troubles on people for sport.

When she gets to Maine, older people comment on how familiar she looks, and she is soon shown a photograph from a newspaper article about a mysterious crime from the 1980s. The body of the Colorado Kid can be seen in the picture, along with a woman who strongly resembles Audrey. For most of the first season, Audrey seeks information about this woman, whose name she learns is Lucy Ripley and who she suspects might be her mother. Eventually she figures out that Lucy is really her (based on an identical scar on their feet) and—surprise of surprises—the Colorado Kid is actually her son, the offspring of Sarah Vernon and Nathan Wuornos (who had been sent back to 1955 by a Troubled man).

Audrey is immune to the Troubles (although she can be affected by physical manifestations created by a Troubled person), which facilitates her role as someone who assists the afflicted. She has great intuition and an innate sense of what’s behind the Troubled person’s problems. As Lucy, she worked with Garland Wuornos to help the Troubled and, without knowing any of this history, she falls into the same pattern with Nathan in 2010.

Jordan McKee suggested that all of Haven’s Troubles are actually her Trouble—after all, it may not be a coincidence that the Troubles return every time she does. When Audrey starts to remember Mara, it’s different from her previous personalities. She can remember being Mara, and it’s no one she wants to be. She has a strong connection to William—not only do sparks leap between them when they touch, when something physical happens to one of them, it happens to the other. Presumably we will learn in Season 5 the truth behind this assertion because at the end of the Season 4 finale, Audrey has turned into Mara after pushing William through the portal to the other world and she wants to bring William back.

What is Audrey’s true nature? Agent Howard, who is her otherworldly chauffeur, tells her that the barn is a kind of amplifier for her powers. When she’s in the barn, her energy keeps the Troubles at bay. But every 27 years she needs to recharge, so she emerges from the barn in a different guise to find the love she needs to last her another 27 years. Is she human? According to Agent Howard, she’s all too human, which is her problem. Is she being punished? As always, Agent Howard is coy in his answers: “It does seem that way,” he says. She can either end the Troubles for 27 years or she can end them forever, by killing the man she loves the most. But who is that? It’s easy to assume that it’s Nathan, with whom she has fallen in love with as Audrey, but perhaps Howard means it’s the man the original she—Mara—loves: William.

Nathan Thaddeus Wuornos

For most of his life, Nathan Wuornos believed he was the son of Haven’s police chief, Garland Wuornos. In fact, he is the son of a murderer named Max Hansen, who has been in Shawshank Prison since Nathan was very young. Hansen supposedly abused both his mother and Nathan. Garland Wuornos married his mother and adopted him, though Nathan has no memory of his early life. His mother died when he was young. He was a geek in high school, president of the A/V club, and was often bullied by Duke Crocker.

He followed his adoptive father into the police department, though the two have a generally strained relationship. Over the course of the first four seasons, he will be Detective, Acting Chief, Detective, Chief, Citizen and, once again, Detective Wuornos. In a perfect world, one without Troubles, Nathan would have remained with his Hansen family and grown up to be a doctor with a wife and daughter. His favorite food is pancakes, for any meal, and he has been known to do decoupage to relax.

Nathan’s Trouble is the ability to feel anything. He experienced this curse when he was a boy: he broke his arm while sledding, a compound fracture that caused him no pain whatsoever, but he didn’t know what it was at the time. His Trouble flared up again recently after an altercation with Duke. His old tormentor invited him out on a boat trip under the pretext of patching up their relationship. Duke actually wanted Nathan to cover for him as he smuggled something past the Coast Guard. When Nathan found out, they got into a fight and Nathan’s Trouble activated. Even then, he refused to believe it was a trouble and went to a doctor, who diagnosed him with idiopathic neuropathy. Eventually he is forced to confront his affliction. However, when he is briefly cured of his Trouble, he performs a heroic and generous act by accepting his inability to feel again so that another Troubled woman could live a normal life.

Though he and Audrey get off to a rocky start, pointing guns at each other shortly after she arrives in Haven, they become friendly and gradually more. Because Audrey is immune to the Troubles, he is able to feel her touch, something he realizes after she gives him a peck on the cheek. Their relationship doesn’t run smoothly, though. She pushes him away when she realizes her time in Haven is running short. He starts a relationship with Jordan McKee, a woman whose Trouble causes her to inflict terrible pain on anyone she touches. Their Troubles are complementary—she can touch him, because he can’t feel. Eventually, though, Audrey and Nathan are able to get past their issues and get together…until Mara comes along.

Duke Crocker

Duke is another Haven native. He and Nathan are the same age and have known each other since they were five. Theirs is a rocky relationship, though. As kids, Duke frequently tormented Nathan (on one memorable occasion, he stuck tacks in Nathan’s back, knowing Nathan wouldn’t feel or notice) and as adults, Duke works on the opposite side of the law. Though he was very young at the time, he knew Lucy Ripley; however, he has lost all memories of the day he was with her at the scene of the Colorado Kid murder.

He is a rogue, a bon vivant and a ne’er do well driven mostly by self-interest. One of his operating principles (which he often breaks) is that he doesn’t help cops, even those he likes. He is a procurer of big ticket rare and illegal goods. He buys and sells things, and sometimes acts as a delivery person for products (he doesn’t always know what they are) on behalf of third parties. He takes pride in his work—he’s not a petty crook; he’s an exceptional crook, with a heart of gold. He can read Chinese and speaks Japanese and Russian. He often quotes Buddha and is a yoga practitioner. He was married to a woman named Evi (Evidence) Ryan, with whom he used to run illegal and dangerous capers until she was shot and killed shortly after she came to Haven.

He has been away from Haven for a period of time, traveling the world and pulling con jobs, but his father had always told him that if he heard the Troubles were back, he was to return. He lives aboard a rusting junker moored in the harbor and becomes the proprietor of the Grey Gull bar after it is gifted to him by an old friend. Though he operates on the shady side, he is a loyal friend and a straight arrow. However, he is also afflicted by a Trouble, the Crocker family curse. When the blood of a Troubled person touches him, his eyes turn silver and he experiences a brief surge of superhuman strength. This is used on occasion as a litmus test to tell whether a person is Troubled or not.

If he kills a Troubled person, that Trouble is forever erased from the family’s bloodline. For that reason, his family has often been sought in the past to rid Haven of Troubled people. His father Simon and grandfather Roy—and members of each generation before that all the way back to Fitzwilliam Crocker in 1786—gave in to the temptation to exert their special talent, which gives the killer a drug-like rush and can become addictive. Duke resists the family obligation, though he begrudgingly agrees on one occasion to kill Harry Nix, a dying man whose family Trouble endangers many people. Previous incarnations of Audrey have been responsible for the deaths of Duke’s ancestors. Duke’s other curse is that he was told by a Troubled person how he would die—but not when. He will be killed by someone who has the Guard tattoo. Because of the Crocker family curse, he has long been at odds with the Guard.

His brother Wade, who did not grow up in Haven, was unaware of the Crocker family curse until Duke vanished inside the barn with Audrey. When he is informed of his talent, he falls pretty to it and is consumed by it. Duke is forced to kill him, which also rids Duke of his Trouble—until he asks Audrey to give it back to him to resolve another Trouble that could have killed hundreds of people.

Though Duke is Troubled, he has also been impacted directly by the Troubles of others. He grew prematurely old (after fathering a daughter) and nearly died, he was turned back into a teenage version of himself, and he was sent back in time to meet his grandfather. One Troubled person possessed his body, intending to keep it, a little girl convinced him to leap from a balcony at the Grey Gull and he is almost drowned by another Trouble. In the un-Troubled version of Haven, William shoots him. At the end of Season 4, it was revealed that every Trouble the Crockers have ever absorbed into themselves has been activated, turning him into a ticking time bomb. Ironically, in a trouble-free world, the Crockers would all have been Haven police officers instead of rogues.

During a trip with Audrey to Colorado to dig up information about the Colorado Kid, Duke kisses Audrey. He later confesses to Nate that he loves her, too, although he is able to put his feelings aside and form a relationship with Jennifer Mason, the woman he meets after he passes through the barn.

The Teagues brothers

Vince and Dave Teagues know everything about Haven’s past, but they are tight-lipped and often at odds with each other over what information should be shared with anyone else. They’ve lived through the Troubles twice before and have archives that go all the way back to the earliest days of Haven. They secretly own half the commercial real estate in Haven and have millions of dollars in off-shore accounts. They are yin and yang to each other—one is big, the other small. Dave likes to photograph (it reveals truth, he says), while Vince sketches (it reveals his soul, he claims). They bicker all the time. In an alternate reality, Dave murders Vince. In another, William murders them.

As the owners and operators of the Haven Herald, their main duty is to write cover stories that sweep supernatural incidents under the rug so that Haven doesn’t come to the attention of outsiders. They can be quite creative at times, but there have been a lot of “gas leaks” in Haven. A lot. They have also worked together (or at cross purposes) to end the Troubles. When Sarah Vernon was supposed to enter the barn, they attempted—unsuccessfully—to blow the building up. This time, Dave wants to keep Audrey out of the barn and Vince wants her to go inside to end the Troubles.

As the series develops, we learn a lot more about these brothers and what they know about this troubled community. Vince, the older brother, has a flickering birthmark on his forearm, the sigul of the Guard, a group of Troubled people who help others—a kind of underground railway, bringing Troubled people to Haven from across the country and providing them with a safe haven. Unbeknownst to even those closest to Vince, he has been their leader, which is the legacy of the firstborn Teagues since the beginning of Haven. The Teagues have Mi’kmaw  blood. However, his younger brother, Dave, is adopted—another in a group of important people placed in Haven by the man known as Agent Howard (or Captain Howard to Sarah Vernon). He comes from the mysterious universe on the other side of the thin spot that exists in Haven.

The Teagues are Trouble-free. However, Vince’s wife’s family had a terrible Trouble, so he activated Simon Crocker (Duke’s father) and convinced him to kill Vince’s father-in-law to end the family curse. Ultimately his wife discovered what he did and hated him for it. Later, with Lucy’s help, he had to kill Simon Crocker.

Dwight Hendrickson

Dwight Hendrickson emerges as an important character to the point where he can now be considered a series regular. He was introduced as a “cleaner,” a man who is brought in by Vince on occasion to clean up the fallout from a Trouble incident. He worked with Chief Wuornos, who didn’t ask too many questions about what he did, which suited Dwight fine. He is an imposing presence, so when he tells people they imagined something, they tend to believe him. He is a Gulf War vet whose Trouble made him unfit for combat: he is a bullet magnet. Any bullet fired in his vicinity will divert from its course and hit him instead.

He became a member of the Guard (he has a large version of the maze tattoo on his back instead of his forearm) after they brought him to Haven to help him when his Trouble manifested, ferrying Troubled people from around the country to Haven, but had a falling out with them when he was ordered to kill a man who refused to go with him in a forced relocation. He also had a young daughter, Elizabeth, who died under circumstances related to his curse and his work with the Guard. His wife, never seen in the series, left him. After Nathan abdicates from his post as Chief of HPD following Audrey’s return to the barn, Dwight is given the job, which he continues to hold at the end of Season 4. Because of his Trouble, Dwight’s primary clothing accessory is a bullet-proof vest. His weapon of choice is a crossbow (no bullets).

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #171 (Haven part 5)

This is Part 5 of my Haven series leading up to the premiere of Season 5 on Thursday, September 11. Note: at least the first episode will be airing at 8/7 Central instead of the previously announced 10/9C. However, my DVR has not updated to reflect that announced change.

In the first part, I looked at the series in general and in Parts 2 -4 I reviewed the events of Season 1Season 2 and Season 3, respectively. In a couple of days, I’ll wrap up with an overview of what we currently know about the major characters. For each season, I include a list of episodes along with a summary of the Trouble(s) featured in each episode and a list of the Stephen King references (some of them admittedly a stretch).

Haven: Part 5

Season 4 — After a While, You Sort Of Get Used To It

For Duke Crocker, only minutes have passed since he jumped into the barn and fell through the floor as the building collapsed on itself. He fell into the seal tank at the Boston Aquarium and was arrested and taken to a psychiatric hospital on a temporary hold after he pretends to have amnesia. The fact that his wallet is full of fake IDs calls his true identity into question.

Jennifer Mason sees Duke on the television news and recognizes him. A former reporter for the Boston Globe, she’s been having her own psychiatric issues of late. She’s been hearing voices, but comes to realize that she had a channel into the barn. She heard Audrey, Nathan, Agent Howard and Duke. However, she was diagnosed as schizophrenic and the drugs she was prescribed have silenced the voices. She seeks Duke out in the hospital, pretending to be his sister “Audrey.” Duke believes she’s Troubled and talks her into helping him escape and going back to Haven with him. If he escaped from the barn, then maybe Audrey did, too and Jennifer might be able to help track her down. After she sees what’s going on in Haven, she voluntarily goes off her meds so she might hear the barn voices again.

For the rest of the world, six months have passed and Duke’s friends in Haven think he’s dead. His older brother Wade has been making regular trips from New York to tend to the Grey Gull and Duke’s other affairs. Nathan is no long working for the police department and Dwight is the new chief. The Troubles are pulling the town apart. People who have no Troubles in their family history begin to shun the Troubled, going so far as to create segregated schools for un-Troubled kids.

When Duke tracks Nathan down, he’s making money by letting bikers beat him up outside a bar. It’s cheaper than seeing a shrink, he says. The meteor storm stopped shortly after Duke went into the barn. Dave believes that by shooting Agent Howard, Nathan somehow disrupted the natural cycle. Even though Audrey is gone, the Troubles persist and a lot of people in town, especially those who belong to the Guard, are angry enough to kill him. At the top of this list is Jordan, who survived being shot after Nathan explained her condition to the doctors who treated her.

Nathan keeps at bay those who want to see him dead by explaining that there’s a way to end the Troubles forever: by letting Audrey kill him. He plans to find her so she can do just that. If anyone kills him now, they ruin what may be the only chance of ending the Troubles. Vince convinces Nathan that it would be a show of good faith on his part to help Haven with its current spate of Troubles, so he agrees to rejoin HPD, but only as a detective. Abdicating his post as chief means he’ll never get that job back again, but being on the force gives him access to police databases that will help him track down Audrey. He soon puts into practice the things he learned about handling Troubled people from Audrey. Jordan isn’t happy that Nathan is risking his life by being at the front lines of dangerous situations.

Meanwhile, inside the barn, the woman formerly known as Audrey Parker is now Lexie Dewitt, 31, born in Tucson, a sassy bartender working in a seedy joint called the Oatley Tap. A handsome man named William comes in one day, telling her that she isn’t who she thinks she is and that she needs to remember or a lot of people are going to die. There is someone she loves, but it’s not anyone she has met in this imaginary life of hers. She needs to recall Haven and what happened there. At first it seems like he’s talking about Nathan, but ultimately it will be revealed that he’s talking about himself.

A creepy guy points a gun at her and William comes to the rescue. When the guy returns with a giant of a sidekick, William forces Audrey to reassemble the gun to scare them off, which tells her she has skills she doesn’t remember. She thinks William is weird, though, and is reluctant to engage him in serious conversation.

He starts breaking down her defenses, and she realizes something strange is going on when she leaves the bar through one door and immediately re-enters through another. For her, no time has elapsed, but her co-worker acts as if it’s the following day. William gradually gets her to accept that nothing around her except for him and the barn is real. Once she does, the other people vanish. She needs to find a door that will get her out of this place, which is imploding—dying—and if she doesn’t find a way out, it will take her with it.

Duke tries to get his brother to return to New York because the Guard won’t be happy to discover that there’s another Crocker in town. Wade knows nothing about the family curse, though, and his Trouble is inactive. When he discovers that his wife is having an affair, he ends up staying in Haven.

Jennifer starts hearing voices again and tells the others that Audrey is still inside the barn. Everyone has been assuming she got out like Duke did, so this changes matters. They have to figure out where to find the second door that needs to be opened for Audrey to come through from the barn. Lexie knows that someone on the outside is looking for her, which helps her focus on finding her door. She always has friends, William tells her. It’s part of who she is. She gets to pick who she wants to be when she returns to Haven.

The door materializes in a clearing, although only Jennifer can see it and she can’t open it. Dave isn’t at all happy with the plan, saying that opening it could unleash powers beyond their control. The others can only see the door after Lexie opens hers, at which point Jennifer can open the one in the clearing. There’s a stormy void between the two and William tells Lexie she needs to take a leap of faith and go through to the door she can see in the distance.

The Guard shows up, heavily armed and prepared to force Audrey to kill Nathan as soon as she comes through the door. Duke tells Nathan he’ll create a distraction so he and Audrey can escape but Nathan wants the Troubles to end right now. When Audrey appears, Nathan gives her a gun and a kiss and tells her to kill him. Audrey foils their plan by pretending to be Lexie. Unlike with her other identities, Audrey can remember being Lexie and can tap into that personality to keep the ruse going. However, if everyone thinks she’s Lexie, they’ll believe that it will be pointless for her to kill “cheekbones,” aka Nathan, since she doesn’t love him.

Duke concocts a delaying tactic that he presents to the Guard via Vince, who tells Nathan that he has to get Lexie to fall in love with him, so they are to spend as much time together as possible. The biggest flaw in this plan is that Nathan doesn’t particularly like Lexie. Duke is the first to see through her trickery when she reveals knowledge of the Troubles that only Audrey would have. For a while he tries to keep her and Nathan apart, but Nathan figures it out before too long as well, but they keep up the pretense, knowing that the Guard will be after them again if they realize Audrey has returned. Jordan wants to find the barn again and shove Lexie back inside but Jennifer knows that the barn is gone for good.

Everyone else in town believes she’s Audrey, so they go along when she shows up at crime scenes. Jordan isn’t on board with this plan. She thinks that Haven’s Troubles are all Lexie’s Troubles (she isn’t far wrong on this point). She befriends Wade, believing that if she can activate his Trouble and he kills Lexie, the Troubles will come to an end. She doesn’t understand the seductive nature of the Crocker family curse. Once Wade gets a taste of the rush from killing a Troubled person, he goes on a rampage, killing several Troubled people, most of them members of the Guard, including Jordan, just as she was about to leave Haven.

Duke finally figures out what Wade is doing and locks him up on his boat; however, Jennifer doesn’t know the full story, so she releases him. When Duke finds Wade about to kill Jennifer, he kills his brother in a struggle, thereby putting an end to his own Trouble. He buries Wade without telling anyone what happened, which means he can’t admit that his Trouble is gone without revealing that he killed his brother. In the aftermath, Duke temporarily decides it’s time to leave Haven—he’s a businessman but somehow he’s become the “schmuck” who helps everyone else.

After the barn is destroyed, Jen decides to return to Boston, but Duke convinces her to stay with him and they begin a relationship. She gets a job at the Haven Herald, which gives her inside access to Vince and Dave’s intelligence, but also gives the brothers a chance to dig into her background to find out why she was connected to the barn. Her first assignment is to do a deep background check on herself. Vince and Dave come up with a list of possible people who might be her real parents once they discover that the man they know as Agent Howard was responsible for her adoption.

Nathan and Audrey struggle with their relationship with each other. Audrey feels that too much has happened for them to be able to go back to that magical time and Nathan isn’t a big fan of the Lexie aspect of her personality. However, passion wins out and they finally consummate their smoldering affair.

Among the new characters this season is Gloria Verrano, the feisty medical examiner who takes over from Dr. Lucassi after he snaps, steals the neighbor’s cats and leaves Haven. She used to work with Garland Wuronos, but then left to become a medical examiner in Ixtapa. She knows Duke because she used to buy marijuana from him. She’s only planning to stay in Haven long enough to get her intern, Vicky, up to speed. However, events conspire against this move when her husband is Troubled by Audrey in an attempt to rectify another family Trouble.

Haven only thought it had things bad with the Troubles, when another twist happens. Troubles become contagious or appear in families that were previously un-Troubled. People can even acquire multiple Troubles. The common thread is the two guys from the barn, the tall one and the creepy one. People with permuted Troubles have glowing black handprints on their bodies, but only Audrey can see them.

Vince and Dave refer back to Sebastian Cabot’s journal. He wintered with the Mi’kmaw in 1497 and describes much of what is currently known about the Troubles. The blackest times the Mi’kmaw knew dated back to a time when someone opened an other-worldly door that shouldn’t have been opened. There are indicators that these times have returned—horseshoe crabs with human eyes—that Jen has seen. The book contains a riddle: What was once your salvation is now your doom; i.e., Audrey killing Nathan will now make things much worse instead, a message that arrives just in time.

Creepy Guy and Big Guy kidnap Dwight while looking for a box. When Audrey and Nathan rescue Dwight, they find William in a closet, tied up and beaten. As he was in the barn, William seems at first to be a good guy. He’s charming and charismatic, and seems genuinely interested in helping Audrey. However, he feigns amnesia while biding his time to figure out how to get what he’s really after. His two henchmen will turn out to be his creations—even though they were present in the barn, they didn’t come from another universe.

The first indication that there’s some kind of mysterious connection between Audrey and William is a spark that occurs whenever she touches him. When she left the barn and went back to being Audrey, he thought he’d lost her forever. Everything he’s been doing with his two henchmen has been in hopes of jarring her memories. He plans to keep doling out new and more twisted Troubles to get her to remember who she once was. He loves her and the original Audrey loves him. He tells her that she’s not some kind of savior to Troubled people—she caused the Troubles. That’s why she keeps coming back again and again—she’s being punished. She and William made the Troubles together and they liked it. The connection between Audrey and William is underscored when Nathan shoots William and Audrey suffers the same wound.

Jennifer becomes increasingly important to solving the William problem. She was born on the same day the Troubles began in the 1980s. Audrey sees her with a copy of Unstake My Heart that she found among the remaining possessions of her birth parents—the same book Audrey gave Agent Howard before she came to Haven. Its importance is revealed when Jennifer uses it to defeat William’s transdimensional rougarou. The Guard insignia glows orange on the cover, but only she can see it. Inside the book, she finds a message: In times of great evil, the child of ruin must find the heart of Haven and summon the Door. She is the child of ruin, the only one able to banish William.

Once William realizes Jennifer has the book, he steps up his game. He creates a Trouble that Audrey can’t fix with her normal methods. In 1901, the same curse killed hundreds of people and the version of Audrey present at the time wasn’t able to end it—the Troubled person had to be killed. She’s going to have to give someone else a complementary Trouble to rectify the situation; otherwise, many more people are going to die. William believes that she will remember who she really is when she gives a new Trouble.

Duke understands the seductive power of the Troubles and is afraid that once Audrey starts down the path of doling out Troubles, they’ll really be screwed. After her first failed attempt, Audrey admits to Duke that she felt something—a jolt of evil that some part of her liked. Duke convinces her to give him back the Crocker family curse so he can take care of the deadly Trouble William concocted. She does, but it has unforeseen effects on Duke. William later says that Audrey reactivated every curse the Crockers ever absorbed and they are now mutating and combining, becoming something deadly: Duke is now a ticking time bomb. Duke senses that something happened with Audrey when she Troubled him and advises Nathan to keep an eye on her. She had a flashback to herself as Mara, frolicking naked in a Haven pond with William.

When Jennifer mentions that the Guard insignia flickers in and out, Duke realizes that it’s doing the same thing as Vince’s tattoo, which turns out to be a birthmark inherited by the eldest son in his family. When the book and Vince’s birthmark are in close proximity, they act like a compass, pointing at the lighthouse. There’s always been one on that spot as long as anyone can remember. Jennifer is the only one who can see the trapdoor in the floor inside of it, so that points them in the direction they need to go. In the basement, they find an oversized carving of the Guard logo. They need to find four people to stand at the compass points—four people who come from another world. Ultimately these people are revealed to be Audrey, William, Jennifer and Dave, although Dave goes to great lengths to hide the fact that he came from the other side of the void, too.

The connection between Audrey and William makes it more difficult to get rid of William. They can’t just shoot him, although Nathan tries to tranquilize him. Ultimately he is forced to knock William out by bashing Audrey in the head. Later, he realizes that William has body parts Audrey doesn’t, and uses that to his advantage (and glee).

The climax of the season takes place in the cavern beneath the lighthouse. The gang is all assembled, William and Dave reluctantly. Duke is exhibiting signs that his illness is worsening. William still believes that Audrey won’t be able to throw him through the door once it’s open. He tries to frighten them by implying that something dangerous will come through to this side when the door is open. Dave is so terrified by the possibility that he’ll be dragged through the door that he shoots Vince; however, Dwight anticipated the danger and stood behind Dave so the bullet turns around, hits Dave in the shoulder and then Dwight’s bulletproof vest.

When Jennifer holds out the magic book, the Guard symbol on the cover glows and a square portal in the floor opens. Once there’s a very real possibility that he’s going through the doorway, William displays fear for the first time. He promises to fix Duke’s Trouble. Dave falls through the doorway and dangles while Vince, Dwight and Nathan rescue him. Duke collapses. Audrey keeps watch on William and, when the time comes for him to leave, she pushes him into the gaping hole. However, there’s another spark between them, stronger than ever before. After Jennifer closes the door, she collapses, saying that they should never have opened the door. William wasn’t what they should have been afraid of. She stops breathing and Duke starts bleeding from the eyes. Audrey is now fully Mara. She steps forward and asks, “Who’s going to help me get William back?”


1) Fallout

Trouble: Marian Caldwell again causes catastrophic weather events after her husband dies.

King references: Haven police officer Rebecca Rafferty (played by Lucas Bryant’s wife), shares a surname with another cop, Ennis Rafferty in From a Buick 8. Lexie is a bartender at the Oatley Taproom, a reference to a bar from The Talisman. The Haven Bookshop’s shelves are filled with Hard Case Crime novels—is The Colorado Kid among them?

2) Survivors

Trouble: Donald Keaton, a guilt-ridden firefighter, burns people who think he’s a hero.

King references: Don Keaton shares a surname with a selectman from Castle Rock in Needful Things. Black House Coffee is a reference to the King/Straub book of the same name. Its logo is a black crow, alluding to Gorg from that book.

3) Bad Blood:

Trouble: When someone in the Gallagher family’s blood spills, it comes to life and goes after whoever that person hates the most.

King references: Lexie Dewitt’s last name is a reference to a character from “LT’s Theory of Pets.” A Trouble that travels via the sewers is reminiscent of It.

4) Lost and Found

Trouble: Braer Brock, a childless man, conjures douen to lead astray other children so he can build a family with his wife.

King references: Free-standing doors into another universe that can only be opened by certain people are common in the Dark Tower series. Jake Chambers returned to Mid-World through a door that had to be opened simultaneously on both sides.

5) The New Girl

Trouble: Tyler can temporarily turn other people into his puppets so long as he is holding something that belongs to that person.

King references: Katie is named for a character in “Sorry, Right Number.” The way Tyler possesses people is similar to what Roland does with Jack Mort in The Drawing of the Three. Duke is still inside his body but Tyler is in control and Duke is in the back seat.

6) Countdown

Trouble: Paul Krebbs causes other people to see a countdown timer that marks the seconds until they die from rigor mortis.

King references: Paul Krebbs was named after a forensic assistant in The Colorado Kid. Cleaves Mills is a town in The Dead Zone. Paul asks Ellie on a date at Black House Coffee, named after the sequel to The Talisman. The school for the un-Troubled, Stillwater, is named after a river next to which King lived after he graduated from the University of Maine.

7) Lay Me Down

Trouble: Carrie Benson’s worst nightmares come to life and happen physically. This Trouble used to be confined to the women in her family, but William made it contagious, passed from her to the people on her newspaper delivery route.

King references: Sonia Winston is named after Patrick Danville’s mother (Insomnia) and Carrie Benson is a reference to King’s first novel. Stansfield National Park is named after the patient whose story is central to “The Breathing Method.” Jennifer becomes the Girl Friday at the Haven Herald, just like Stephanie McCann was in The Colorado Kid. Duke’s license plate number is 98 KA 16—Ka is a central concept in the Dark Tower series.

8) Crush

Trouble: Jack Driscoll and his brother Aiden create enormous pressure bubbles when under duress. They are related to Reverend Driscoll and are hence from a family that has never been Troubled before.

King references: Lumley Street is named for a character in “One for the Road.” Jack Daniels’ name is a combination of the main character from The Talisman and a villain from Rose Madder. The concept of a soft spot between universes is common in the Dark Tower series.

9) William

Trouble: Nathan, Dwight and Jen suffer paranoid delusions in a temporary Trouble caused by William’s henchmen.

King references: The concept of paranoid delusions comes from the poem “Paranoia” in Skeleton Crew.

10) The Trouble with Troubles

Trouble: Cliff wishes the Troubles never happened, turning Haven into a blissful but boring seaside resort. When Doreen Hanscomb remembered her Hawaii vacation, she would get sand in her shoes until William amplified her Trouble. She then caused a volcano to erupt in Haven.

King references: Two businesses in the Trouble-free Haven are Balazar’s Clothing Bazaar (a reference to a mob boss from the Dark Tower series) and Joyland Bicycles. Doreen Hanscomb shares a surname with a main character in It. Cliff’s ability to rewrite reality is akin to “The Word Processor of the Gods.” One of the boat repair shops is at 123 King Boulevard. Many of the labels on the card catalog in the Haven Herald reference King stories or important dates from his works.

11) Shot in the Dark

Trouble: William creates a rougarou, a werewolf-like creature that eats the hearts of people born on the same date as Jennifer Mason. It is a Trouble that has no Troubled person attached. It is a transdimensional Trouble.

King references: The ghosthunters are called Darkside Seekers. King contributed a short story to the movie Tales from the Darkside. Tarker’s Mills Grocery is a reference to the small town where “Cycle of the Werewolf” is set. Canaan Street references a Barony in the Dark Tower series whose capital is Gilead.

12) When the Bough Breaks

Trouble: “Never let a Harker cry lest people near or far die.” This Trouble normally didn’t kick in until puberty but William activated a baby. Duke Crocker gets his family curse back to put an end to this particularly lethal Trouble. When Gloria’s husband Lincoln hears sounds, they are magnified to ear-splitting volume, a Trouble given to him by Audrey to try to counter the Harker curse.

King references: Ben Harker is named for Ben Richards, the main character in The Running Man who sacrificed himself for his child.

13) The Lighthouse

Trouble: Audrey activates within Duke every Trouble the Crocker family has ever absorbed.

King references: Doors between worlds and the concept that Haven is located at a “thin spot” in reality is a common concept in the Dark Tower series.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #170 (Haven part 4)

This is Part 4 of my Haven series leading up to the premiere of Season 5 next Thursday, September 11. In the first part, I looked at the series in general and in Parts 2 & 3 I reviewed the events of Season 1 and Season 2, respectively. After tackling Season 4 in the next post, I’ll wrap up with an overview of what we currently know about the major characters. For each season, I include a list of episodes along with a summary of the Trouble(s) featured in each episode and a list of the Stephen King references (some of them admittedly a stretch).

Haven: Part 4

Season 3 — They don’t call them Troubles for nothing

Season 3 begins immediately following the end of the twelfth episode of Season 2. The Christmas episode was a kind of lagniappe, and isn’t in sequence with the rest of the episodes.

A lot happens in the third season: we are introduced to the Guard, the identity of the Colorado Kid is revealed, a Troubled serial killer stalks Haven, a new cop comes to town, Nathan finds a new love interest, and a timer starts to count down the amount of time Audrey has left before she is supposed to leave Haven and end the troubles. And that’s just a quick summary.

The season begins with a fight between Nathan and Duke that is reminiscent of the one that triggered Nathan’s Trouble. There is a gunshot, but no one is injured. At first, Nathan has the advantage in that he can’t feel Duke’s punches. However Duke gets an upper hand when a drop of blood triggers his supernatural powers. They are interrupted by the manifestation of another person’s Trouble. Audrey, meanwhile, is tied up in the basement of an inn, taken prisoner by the indi­­­vidual we will come to know as the Bolt Gun Killer. This individual, a shapeshifter, wants to find out what Audrey knows about the Colorado Kid. The Bolt Gun Killer is also digging around at the Haven Herald because Dave and Vince know so much about the town’s past.

Audrey’s captor claims that Lucy Ripley loved the Colorado Kid and implies that someone else did, too—a major clue to the kidnapper’s identity. It turns out to be Arla Cogan, the Colorado Kid’s wife, but we won’t learn that—or the Kid’s real name—for quite some time. We won’t find out the real reason why Lucy loved Cogan until late in the season, either: he is her son, or rather the son of Sarah Vernon and a time-traveling Nathan Wuornos, who was sent back to 1955 with Duke. Uncertain that he’ll ever get back to the present, he and Sarah have a fling in the back seat of a car on the day she arrived in Haven and later that same day Sarah kills Duke’s grandfather, Roy Crocker.

Audrey now thinks there’s a chance that the Colorado Kid is still alive, even though Dave and Vince refute that possibility. When they exhume his grave, the coffin is empty except for some bricks, and there’s a cryptic message written in Audrey’s—or, rather, Lucy’s—handwriting that says she has to find him before the hunter arrives. At first they assume that’s a reference to a person, perhaps someone hunting the Colorado Kid, but Duke figures out that it refers to a meteor storm that always occurs at the end of the Troubles.

The next storm is due in 49 days (at the beginning of the season), which sets the countdown on Audrey’s remaining time in Haven. Audrey, like her predecessors, is supposed to enter the mystical barn, which will end the Troubles for 27 years. This knowledge creates a shift in the relationship between Audrey and Nathan. Aware that she will be leaving in less than two months, she starts pushing Nathan away because she knows he’s intent of saving her. Hedonistic Duke tries to talk her into seizing the day, taking off from Haven and enjoying what time she has left, but Audrey stays on the job until the bitter end.

The Troubles, of course, continue as before. Because of their past issues with the Rev and his faction, Audrey and Nathan often work these cases alone, without the backup of the rest of the Haven Police Department. They don’t want to draw any more attention to these situations than necessary.

Nathan has the maze tattoo on his forearm. He figures that if the person who kills Duke someday has the tattoo, he wants to make sure he’s on the approved list. He doesn’t know what it represents at first, but Dwight warns him that not everyone who has the tattoo is good. Vince and Dave finally cough up some helpful information by telling Nathan and Audrey what the maze tattoo means. It is a symbol of the Guard, a group that has existed for generations. They refuse to let the Troubled be victimized and won’t hesitate to kill to protect them. Vince won’t admit for a long time that he’s the head of the Guard, though it’s clear he knows more than he’s saying. The Guard also relocates Troubled people to Haven from around the country, sometimes against their will. They know what is supposed to happen to end this round of the Troubles and they are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure Audrey keeps her rendezvous with the barn.

Several new characters rise to prominence this season. Dr. Claire Callahan, a psychiatrist who works with Troubled people (she treats many of the characters from past seasons) is assigned to counsel Audrey after her abduction. Claire insists on shadowing Audrey at work and the two eventually become close and work together on several cases. She also tries regression therapy to see if Audrey can access her past lives, which works to a point. Audrey has visions of herself as Lucy in the company of the Colorado Kid, which provides the clue she needs to find out his real identity, although these flashbacks take a physical toll on her. Ultimately, Claire is murdered and her body taken over by the skinwalker.

Dr. Lucassi, first seen as the psychiatrist affected by the music Trouble in the Season 1, becomes Haven’s medical examiner, a position he will hold until he has some sort of breakdown and vanishes from town with his neighbor’s cats.

Detective Tommy Bowen comes to Haven on the trail of the person who killed his trainee back in Boston. After the case is solved, Nathan offers him a position on the Haven Police Department, though they keep him in the dark about the Troubles for a while. His bosses back at Boston PD aren’t unhappy to see him go—he has been under Internal Affairs investigation because of a shooting incident, although the file is sealed. Nathan figures out he’s the Bolt Gun Killer after seeing his GPS history. Bowen kills Nathan (who is later resurrected by Noelle Keegan) and flees, taking Vince and Dave hostage before pretending to be killed in a boat explosion. The real Tommy Bowen was killed by the shapeshifter before Audrey and Nathan met him the first time.

Jordan McKee is the member of the Guard to whom Vince directs Nathan. She works at a bar and dresses in black, including black gloves. Her Trouble is extreme pain delivered to anyone she touches or who touches her. However, because of his Trouble, Nathan is unaffected. She is seduced by the fact that she can touch him, and they have a brief but intense relationship. Jordan doesn’t trust Nathan at first and gives him a few tests to pass before she is semi-convinced that he’s being straight with her. She gets him to transfer a prisoner who she claims is dying to a nearby facility, but it’s a setup so they can break the Troubled man loose and take him somewhere safe. She lies to Nathan on other occasions when his purposes oppose those of the Guard’s, making it plain where her allegiances lie. She is arrested after trying to take Ginger Danvers but is released in a prisoner exchange deal with the Guard. The Guard wanted the girl for her powers of persuasion, which they planned to use on Nathan to coerce Audrey if she refused to go into the barn.

After Audrey learns the Colorado Kid’s identity and sees what he looks like in a vision, she and Duke travel to Nederland, Colorado, James Cogan’s hometown. There she learns that the Cogans are part of the Guard’s underground network and operate a safe house for Troubled people in transit to Haven. They also learn that James was married to Arla, though she hasn’t been seen since he went east and there are suggestions that she killed herself. The Cogans took James in when Audrey (as Sarah) brought him to them—he was Sarah’s son, which explains why Lucy loved him. On this trip, Duke and Audrey kiss, the first time that Duke admits that he has feeling for her, too—something he will confess to Nathan at the end of the season.

Duke struggles with his curse. Nathan suspects that he is ready to use it at any time and chides him about it, but Nathan isn’t above letting someone sacrifice himself to end a dangerous trouble, which leads to some philosophical discussions about what the difference in their approaches are, if any. Audrey talks Duke into killing a dying Harry Nix, who has hundreds of offspring and his Trouble is lethal. Countless lives are at stake. Duke refuses at first, but finally gives in when he sees what the consequences of his inaction might be, but he’s furious with Audrey for putting him in that position, even though Nix would have died in a few minutes anyway. The worst thing about his curse is that giving into it feels good, like a drug. Nathan’s not happy about Audrey using Duke this way, especially without consulting him first.

The Bolt Gun Killer is murdering women. In some cases, the killer takes off the victims’ skin so that it can be worn later when it’s time to take on a different guise. In other cases, only specific body parts are removed: lips, noses, ears. The common thread in all of these murders is the way the people are killed: a bolt gun shot at the back of the skull, which leaves no exit wound and does minimal damage to the skin. Unlike the chameleon seen last season, this shapeshifter/skinwalker does not need to change bodies regularly—only when circumstances require it. The shapeshifter first appears as Rosalyn Toomey, the woman Audrey talks with through the wall while she’s tied up in the cellar. For most of the season, though, the killer is in the guise of Tommy Bowen, who was dead before he first appeared in Haven. The shapeshifter is Arla Cogan and her goal is to create a skin for herself that looks the way she did back in 1983 so that her husband, James, will be comfortable seeing her when he emerges from the barn. Audrey is able to identify her by putting together the stolen body parts in a police Identikit program.

After James was murdered (perhaps by the Guard to force Lucy into the barn), Lucy took him to the barn, believing that its restorative properties that kept her the same age would bring him back to life. Lucy was supposed to take Arla in, too, but she didn’t because Arla’s Trouble kicked in and she murdered someone to steal their skin. Now, Arla wants Audrey to show her where the barn is so she can be there when James emerges. James told her that Lucy had found a way to stop the Troubles for good. However, James leaves the barn (in the company of Agent Howard) before anyone reaches it and stumbles into town, confused over how much time has passed. He’s deathly sick—he can’t survive outside the barn. Arla has convinced James that Lucy killed him to try to end the Troubles.

The Hunter meteor storm arrives, and it’s a killer. Fireballs rain onto Haven, destroying buildings, starting fires, and killing people. The storm won’t stop until Audrey leaves, according to the Guard. It will only intensify until Haven is destroyed. Audrey meets Agent Howard in the field near the barn’s locations. He sends Arla into town to find James and tells Audrey that the barn will appear whenever she’s ready to go inside. She has to want to go inside, to leave Haven—she can’t be forced in against her will.

One of the main themes of the season is destiny. Duke struggles with what everyone else calls his family’s destiny. His purpose. He commiserates with Audrey, telling her that she shouldn’t blindly accept this fate. He chooses his own fate, he says. Nathan struggles with the notion that Audrey must go into the barn on the appointed day. He feels there must be another way to end the Troubles without losing Audrey. There is, as it turns out, but it’s not a palatable one: Audrey must kill the person she loves most, and she’s not going to do that.

In the final scenes at the barn, Duke tricks Arla into bringing James along and then holds her at gunpoint. James is very sick but manages to revive himself enough to dash inside the barn. Audrey follows, believing him to be her one chance to end the Troubles forever and stay in Haven without losing her identity. Nathan goes inside with her while Duke keeps Arla at bay. Inside, Nathan’s Trouble goes away. The barn shows them things from the past they need to know: it shows Vince and Dave’s failed attempt to blow up the barn with Sarah Vernon, and it reveals that Nathan is James’s father.

The Guard, led by Jordan, shows up to make sure that Audrey is still inside the barn when it leaves. Vince and Dave arrive on the scene separately—Vince wants Audrey to go into the barn and Dave doesn’t. Dwight sides with Dave—he wants the Troubles to end, but there must be a way to put a stop to this vicious cycle. Vince is revealed to be the leader of the Guard. He orders them to leave, but Jordan lingers.

Audrey can’t convince James that there’s something wrong with Arla, so she brings Arla inside the barn. Her Trouble ends, so the grotesque stitches in the skin she is wearing are revealed to her husband. When he finds out that she has murdered so many people, he is enraged. Arla pulls a knife, meaning to attack Audrey, but James gets in the way and is stabbed. In the ensuing struggle, Arla is stabbed, too, and dies. Nathan takes her from the barn so she won’t be revived by it. Agent Howard spirits James away somewhere so he can heal. He can never leave the barn.

Audrey doesn’t love James—she just met him—and she won’t kill the person she loves, so she makes the decision to leave. She goes outside to say her goodbyes and gives Duke a gun to prevent Nathan from stopping her. After she goes back inside, Nathan tries to open the door, but it won’t budge. In a rage, he grabs the gun and shoots Agent Howard several times. Jordan shoots at him but misses—Duke pivots Nathan around so that he can shoot Jordan before she tries again. Instead of vanishing, the barn begins to break apart. Light streams through holes that mimic Agent Howard’s wounds, and from his wounds as well. Nathan tells Duke, who admitted his love for Audrey, to go after her. Duke leaps into the barn as it collapses onto itself, screaming her name. The meteor storm is still raining fire and destruction down on Haven.


1) 301

Trouble: Wesley Toomey, whose grandfather was abducted by aliens, thinks they are back and about to attack Haven. He brings to life several “news” items about alien incidents from the past.

King references: The Altair Bay Inn is named after Altair 4, an alien planet from The Tommyknockers. Wesley Toomey is named for Craig Toomey from “The Langoliers.”

2) Stay

Trouble: Whenever people in Tor Magnusson’s family try to slaughter animals, they become human. When he treats the animals (dogs in this case) like people, they revert.

King references: The Dixie Boy truck stop from Maximum Overdrive makes its second appearance. Dr. Claire Callahan shares a surname with the priest from ‘Salem’s Lot. Dr. Lucassi goes surfing in Ogunquit on Wednesdays—that’s where Fran Goldsmith and Harold Lauder lived in The Stand. The Tarker’s Mills Tigersharks mentioned in the Haven Herald references a town from “Cycle of the Werewolf.”

3) Farmer

Trouble: Harry Nix suffers chronic organ failure. He secretly fathered dozens or hundreds of children so he would have a source of replacement organs, which he sucks out of his victims with a tube that comes out of his mouth. If his attack fails, the victim’s trouble (which is the same as his) is triggered, so this lethal Trouble spreads.

King references: Tommy Bowen is named after Todd Bowen from “Apt Pupil.”

4) Over My Head

Trouble: When Daphne’s car goes off the highway into the water, she transmits whatever bad thing that’s happening to her at the moment to the people who she thinks might rescue her. When Jordan McKee touches anyone, she delivers an extremely painful jolt.

King references: Frank Bentley shares a surname with Wes Bentley from “Dolan’s Cadillac.” Jason Dooley shares a surname with a character from Lisey’s Story.

5) Double Jeopardy

Trouble: Lynette creates a golem out of the painting of Lady Liberty she sees every day in the courthouse. This vengeful creature exacts fitting justice on people she believes have gotten off on technicalities. Duncan Fromsley starts fires in his sleep.

King references: The hidden camera has Dandel-O’s brand, with a spider on the box, a reference to the shape-shifting creature Roland meets close to the Dark Tower. James Dooley shares a last name with Jim Dooley from Lisey’s Story. Judge Boone shares a surname with Charles Boone from “Jerusalem’s Lot.” The Dixie Boy truck stop from Maximum Overdrive is seen for the third time. A gazebo plays a pivotal role in the serial murder case in The Dead Zone. Lynette enters a painting much like Rosie McClendon does in Rose Madder. Duncan Fromsley was incarcerated at Shawshank Prison.

6) Real Estate

Trouble: Roland Holloway became so obsessed with the house he was restoring that he lost his body and became the house itself. Lucy Ripley couldn’t help him 27 years ago, so now he’s set on pitting everyone who comes to the house against each other.

King references: The Holloway House is on Marsten Road, a reference to the haunted house in ‘Salem’s Lot. Roland Holloway’s first name is a tribute to Roland Deschain, the gunslinger from the Dark Tower series. For Halloween, Dwight is dressed like the gunslinger. Tina Teagarden shares a last name with a police constable from Gerald’s Game. James Cogan is real name of the Colorado Kid in the book. Nederland, Colorado is also a setting from King’s forthcoming novel, Revival.

7 & 8) Magic Hour

Trouble: Moira and Noelle Keegan can bring people back from the dead (one per day) by absorbing their injuries. Moira uses this Trouble to extort money from people.

King references: Arla is the Colorado Kid’s wife in the book, too. Trapingus Cove is named for Trapingus County from The Green Mile. Grady Smith, one of the Bolt Gun Killer’s victims, is named after Delbert Grady from The Shining. The Kitchener Mill is a reference to the Kitchener Ironworks from It. EMT Joseph Brentner shares a surname with Ralph Brentner from The Stand.

9) Sarah

Trouble: Stuart Mosley, a war vet, sends people back and forth in time to put them out of harm’s way.

King references: Roy Crocker is named for Roy Depape from Wizard and Glass. Both men are Big Coffin Hunters. Roy’s family lives in Derry. Traveling back in time and changing the outcome of the future is the main storyline in 11/22/63.

10) Burned

Trouble: Young Ginger Danvers has the power of suggestion / command.

King references: Ginger Danvers shares a surname with Mrs. Danvers from the “Father’s Day” segment in Creepshow. Waterman Lane may be a nod to King’s favorite pen maker, the brand he used to write Dreamcatcher longhand. The warehouse where the Bolt Gun Killer kept his skins has a “King Bros.” sign on the wall.

11) Last Goodbyes

Trouble: Will Brady, who has been in a coma for two months and was being transferred home to die, sends everyone in Haven into coma so he can wake up.

King references: Will Brady shares a surname with the mother and son from Sleepwalkers. His prolonged coma is reminiscent of Johnny Smith from The Dead Zone.

12) Reunion

Trouble: Robby “Robert” Farson, who was bullied as a teenager, turns his former tormentors back into their teenaged selves. Any food former prom queen Janine touches turns into cake.

King references: Robert’s last name is Farson (according to credits), which is a tribute to John Farson, the so-called Good Man from the Dark Tower series. Also, the initials RF are common to identities adopted by villain Randall Flagg. The basement boiler that builds up explosive pressure is reminiscent of The Shining.

13) Thanks for the Memories

Trouble: Arla Cogan is a skinwalker, able to strip the skin from other people and wear it like it’s her own. The meteor storm can be thought of as Haven’s Trouble.

King references: The inside of the barn is impossibly big with many doors, like the Black House. The destructive meteor storm is reminiscent of an incident in Carrie.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #169 (Haven part 3)

This is Part 3 of my Haven series leading up to the premiere of Season 5 on September 11. In the first part, I looked at the series in general and in Part 2 I reviewed the events of the first season. After tackling Season 3 and 4 in subsequent posts, I’ll wrap up with an overview of what we know about the major characters by the end of Season 4. For each season, I’ll also include a list of episodes, along with a summary of the Trouble(s) featured in that episode and a list of the Stephen King references (some of them admittedly a stretch).

Haven: Part 3

Season 2 — Having a Haven Moment

The second season begins immediately after the final shot of Season 1, with the arrival of a new Audrey Parker in Haven. This Parker also has a boss named Agent Howard, but he doesn’t look anything like the Howard Audrey knows and who Nathan and Duke have both met. While trying to get to the bottom of this latest mystery, Audrey locates an apartment where her Agent Howard stayed in Haven. There she finds a copy of Unstake My Heart, the book she was reading in her NY apartment when Howard sent her to Haven. This book contains a set of latitude and longitude figures, and will also figure greatly into events in the fourth season.

It’s a season of identity questions for Audrey, who must now grapple with the notion that she was a different person in the past and that all of her memories are borrowed from someone else. Though Nathan and Audrey originally think this new Parker is a Troubled person, they gradually come to accept that she is exactly who she says she is. She even helps out solving cases for a few episodes until she follows the coordinates on her own and accidentally summons the barn, which wipes her memories.

Thanks to some research by Nathan, Audrey gets the chance to meet the original Lucy Ripley, the one on whom the Haven version based her memories. The woman tells Audrey that Lucy came to visit her 27 years ago. People (including Simon Crocker) were after her and she had discovered the secret behind the origin of the Troubles and how she could end them.

We learn that the Troubles are not restricted to people. Inanimate objects such as machines can be Troubled, as can plant life. Audrey comes to realize that she is immune to the Troubles, but she can be affected by physical manifestations of a Troubled person’s actions. Again, not every incident that Haven PD investigates is the direct result of a Troubled person. Mayor Brody, for example, is murdered by his jealous wife who uses another person’s Trouble as a cover story, and Cole Glendower uses the mermen Trouble as cover to murder Leith, who was planning to blackmail his mother for information.

Audrey has a brief romance with Chris Brody, the mayor’s son, who inherits his father’s charisma curse after the mayor is murdered. He’s a marine biologist and not a terribly likable guy until his Trouble kicks in and everyone loves him. He’s intrigued by Audrey because she is not affected by his charisma. Eventually their relationship sours when it seems that Chris needs her because of her immunity instead of simply wanting her. He leaves Haven to spend the rest of the Troubles in some remote, isolated location.

Another major plotline in this season is the struggle for control over Haven. Nathan tells the town that his father was “lost at sea.” Vince and Dave encourage the town’s selectmen to appoint Nathan as the interim chief. However, Reverend Driscoll has a lot of influence with the town council and he doesn’t approve of the way Nathan and Audrey handle Troubled people. After one of the selectmen discovers Nathan’s unedited files about the Troubles, the town hires a new police chief from outside Haven for a while, but that doesn’t work out very well—for the new chief.

Driscoll attempts to gain Duke’s allegiance because he worked with Duke’s father in the past. He’s willing to use the Crocker family curse, which can bring about the end of a Trouble in a family, even though he believes most Troubled people are damned. He’s an angry man because his wife was having an affair with a Troubled person and faked her death so she could be with him.

Duke learns about the Crocker family curse when he locates a trunk containing the weapons his father used to kill Troubled people. He also discovers that Lucy Ripley killed his father—he didn’t die at sea as he always thought—and finds a message in his father’s journal telling him that he must kill “her”—meaning Audrey. The ghost of his father tells him stories of tragedies that could have been averted and lives that could have been saved if only he had killed certain Troubled people. It is Duke’s destiny, Simon Crocker says. Duke resists, but gets his first taste of what it’s like when a Troubled person kills himself with the knife Duke is holding so his Trouble won’t be passed along to his soon-to-be-born son.

Duke’s wife Evidence Ryan (Evi) comes to Haven, too. It’s been three years since they’ve seen each other. She wants to get Duke to join her in one of the cons they used to pull, but Duke doesn’t want to have anything to do with her. She becomes something of a double agent, pretending to help Duke while she’s actually supplying information to Reverend Driscoll, some of which lead to Nathan’s removal as police chief. The Rev had convinced her that getting Nathan out would be beneficial to Duke, who the Rev believed was important to their cause. She is killed by a sniper working for the Rev after she breaches a lockdown at Haven PD. For a while Duke pretends to side with the Rev to gain as much inside information as possible about the mystery tattoo and his father’s secrets. Audrey is forced to shoot and kill the Rev when he was about to kill a Troubled person, which magnifies the conflict between the factions in Haven and annoys Duke, who lost his one source of potential info.

The character of Dwight Hendrickson is introduced in Season 2. He “cleans up” after Troubled incidents, helping Vince and Dave to cover up the Troubles by hiding evidence and coming up with alternate explanations for events, which range from global warming to the always handy “gas leak” scenario. Dwight, whose Trouble is that any bullets fired in his vicinity will strike him, worked with Nathan’s father and he becomes an increasingly important player in the show.

Nathan and Audrey begin to admit their feelings for each other—they’re more than partners. However, things keep getting in the way, and the ghost of Chief Wuornos warns Nathan that the situation is too dangerous for them to be in love. If Audrey is in love with Nathan, she’s going to want to take risks for him, and she’s too important to Haven.

The season also begins a concerted social media campaign by the program. Twitter accounts for Dave and Vince are integrated (awkwardly, perhaps) into scenes and the brothers are engaged in a contest to see who can garner the most followers. Most of the main cast members were active, especially on Twitter, and social media engagements would increase each year.

The season proper ends on a cliff-hanger. Someone zaps Audrey with a Tazer in her apartment over the Grey Gull, and Nathan—who is now sporting the maze tattoo—gets into a fight with Duke aboard the Cape Rouge because he thinks Duke had something to do with Audrey’s disappearance. The camera draws back as a gunshot is heard.

The season’s thirteenth episode is an out-of-sequence Christmas episode.


1) A Tale of Two Audreys

Trouble: Whatever T.J. Smith reads about comes to life, including the Biblical plagues.

King references: The opening scene from It featuring Georgie and his paper boat is played out. There’s also a Wickham Street in Derry. The Regulators takes place on Poplar Street. McCausland St is a reference to Ruth McCausland, who was Haven’s sheriff in The Tommyknockers.

2) Fear & Loathing

Trouble: When people look at Jackie Clark, they see whatever or whoever scares them the most. Ian Haskell can steal another person’s Trouble by touching their blood, which cures the Troubled person until Haskell takes on another Trouble. Tristram Carver’s puzzle of Haven is cursed so that whenever one of the pieces is placed on the board, the corresponding building crumbles.

King references: Pennywise the clown also appeared to people as their worst fear. Audrey Parker’s worst fear is a clown with jagged teeth. The grocery store scene is a callback to “The Mist.” Ian Haskell shares a surname with a surgeon in Chester’s Mill (Under the Dome).

3) Love Machine

Trouble: Machines become Troubled and come to life to keep the man who fixes them from leaving Haven.

King references: The concept of machines coming to life and attacking people is reminiscent of “Trucks” and the film version, Maximum Overdrive. The scene where someone reaches into an in-sink garbage disposal is reminiscent of a similar scene in Firestarter. The Zamboni crushes a woman against the boards in the hockey rink in much the same way that Christine crushed one of its victims against a wall.

4) Sparks and Recreation

Trouble: Members of the Brody family have a charisma Trouble. Everyone loves them. Nurse Lori Fulcher emits blasts of electricity when under stress.

King references: There was a story about supernatural lights appearing over a Little League baseball game in The Colorado Kid. One of the Haven baseball teams is called the Sea Dogs—a man wearing a Sea Dogs baseball cap appears in Under the Dome. Dwight Hendrickson may be named after Lance Hendrickson, the actor who played Larry Underwood in The Stand.

5) Roots

Trouble: A Troubled tree where a long-ago act of violence took place sends out roots that feed off the anger generated by a family feud.

King references: Weeds overtook Jordy Verrill in the short story “Weeds,” and a plant with a taste for human blood was featured in The Plant. Scenes where the roots attempt to break into a building are reminiscent of the tentacle scenes from The Mist. Beverly Keegan shares a surname with a character from Joyland.

6) Audrey Parker’s Day Off

Trouble: After Anson Shumway’s daughter is struck by a car due to his OCD issues, his Trouble causes him to repeat the day over and over again.

King references: The name Anson Shumway is inspired by Julia Shumway from Under the Dome. The Boston Red Sox are King’s favorite team and the topic of his book Faithful, co-authored with Stewart O’Nan.

7) The Tides that Bind

Trouble: During the Troubles, the men in the Glendower family can only breathe air for short periods of time. They must breathe water instead, effectively turning into mermen.

King references: They weren’t exactly mermen, but human-like creatures emerged from the water to attack a man in “Something to Tide You Over” from Creepshow.

8) Friend or Faux

Trouble: Cornell Stamoran, an embezzler and a murderer, spins off clones of himself that contain his worst aspects. Each time a clone is killed, another appears.

King references: The notion that the worst parts of a person could turn into their doppleganger is also used in The Dark Half.

9) Lockdown

Trouble: Nicky Coleman has been bottling up years of abuse until it becomes a poison that spreads to other people. Dwight Hendrickson is a bullet magnet—any bullets fired near him will target him.

King references: Chief Merrill shares a surname with Ace (“The Body”) and Pops (“The Sun Dog”). Officer Stark is named for George Stark (The Dark Half) and Dr. Underwood for Larry Underwood (The Stand).

10) Who, What, Where, Wendigo

Trouble: Sisters Amelia, Frankie and Sophie Benton become Wendigos, strong and fast creatures that need blood to survive.

King references: Creatures like lobstrocities (The Drawing of the Three) are mentioned on the radio news. A truck stop named the Dixie Boy also appears in Maximum Overdrive. The transport is carrying pesticide-free corn from Gatlin, Nebraska, the setting for Children of the Corn. A Wendigo also appears in Pet Sematary.

11) Business as Usual

Trouble: Stu Pierce’s sweat becomes toxic to anyone who comes into contact with it. Duke Crocker gains superhuman strength when he comes into contact with the blood of a Troubled person.

King references: Dwight uses a coroner from Cleaves Mills, a town from The Dead Zone. Duke won his boat in a poker game with Ray Fiegler, which is an alias used by Randall Flagg in Hearts in Atlantis. Fiegler was from Castle Rock, a town featured in many King stories and novels.

12) Sins of the Father

Trouble: The ghosts of people Kyle Hopkins buried in the Eastside Cemetery come back and entice the living to settle old scores on their behalf. Duke learns that if he kills a Troubled person, he eliminates the Trouble from the family.

King references: The story of the poisonings at the church camp is reminiscent of the Tashmore church poisonings, as told in The Colorado Kid.

13) Silent Night

Trouble:  Young Hadley Chambers creates Christmas in July by entrapping Haven inside her favorite snow globe. She makes everyone in town vanish because people are always leaving her—her father had just moved out of the family home.

King references: When the snow globe forms, it cuts a person in half, reminiscent of what happens at the beginning of Under the Dome. A truck accident occurs at the Mohaine Bridge, a reference to the Mohaine Desert from the Dark Tower series. Gordon Chambers supposedly moved to Derry, the setting for It and other King novels. His last name is shared by Jake from the Dark Tower series and Chris from “The Body.”

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #168 (Haven part 2)

This is Part 2 of my Haven series leading up to the premiere of Season 5 on September 11. In the first part, I looked at the series in general. For the next four installments, I’ll review each season as a refresher, and I’ll wrap up with an overview of what we know about the major characters by the end of Season 4. For each season, I’ll also include a list of episodes, along with a summary of the Trouble(s) featured in that episode and a list of the Stephen King references (some of them admittedly a stretch).

Without further ado:

Haven: Part 2

Season 1 — It’s a Haven Thing

The first season begins with the arrival of FBI Special Agent Audrey Parker in Haven, Maine, where she has been dispatched by her boss, Agent Byron Howard, to bring back Jonas Lester, an escaped federal prisoner who killed a guard. Upon her arrival, she is greeted by the sudden appearance of a sinkhole on the road that sends her car dangling off the edge of a cliff. She is rescued by Nathan Wuornos, an encounter that winds up in a standoff when they both realize the other is armed but neither is sure why. Shortly after they meet, Audrey discovers that Nathan is incapable of feeling pain, which he attributes to a medical condition.

In town, people start to comment on the fact that Audrey looks familiar. She is shown a photograph from a 1983 copy of the Haven Herald about an unsolved murder where the unidentified victim was referred to as the Colorado Kid. A woman (also unidentified) in the picture looks exactly like Audrey except for some cosmetic differences. Nathan knows the story because his father (currently Chief of the Haven Police Department) was a beat cop at the time.

Audrey, an orphan, wonders if this might be her mother. She asks Agent Howard for vacation time to attempt to identify this mystery woman. It turns out that sending Audrey to Haven was part of a secret plan between Agent Howard and an at-first-unidentified person who is later revealed to be Haven Police Chief Garland Wuornos, who has been attempting to hold the town together under the latest onslaught of the Troubles, supernatural afflictions that plague many of the town’s inhabitants. Chief Wuornos tells Audrey about the Troubles and says she should stay in Haven and work for him because she has a special talent: she can see things the way they really are. He hopes some of that will rub off on his son. Few people will talk to her, though, because she isn’t a local. Ultimately she comes to realize that Lucy Ripley, the woman in the photograph, wasn’t her mother—it was her, somehow.

Audrey, who was seen reading a vampire novel in her apartment, is open to all possibilities when investigating cases, which makes her a perfect person to try to figure out what’s going on when a Troubled person’s affliction manifests and to talk the person down when possible. Nathan, though he was born and raised in Haven and is Troubled himself, tends to remain skeptical at first, perhaps as a reaction to his father’s willingness to attribute most problems to the Troubles. The Chief and his son have a rocky relationship.

Lines within the town are drawn. On one side is Reverend Driscoll, who regards the Troubled as unnatural, a blight to be cast out, saved or destroyed. On the other is the faction consisting primarily of Audrey and Nathan who attempt to alleviate the Troubled person’s affliction.  Not all of the crimes they investigate are caused by Troubled people, though. In one case, a woman poisoned her boss and, in another, Audrey and Nathan discover that a boat wreck was caused by the sale of shoddy and defective parts.

After several weeks of handling Troubled people, Audrey receives a visit from Agent Howard, who threatens to bring her back to NY. He demands a true accounting of the cases—not the whitewashed versions she’s been turning in. Ultimately she quits the FBI and joins the Haven Police Department as Nathan’s partner—which was Howard’s plan all along. She just needed a push from him.

During the course of one investigation, Audrey and Nathan see an interesting tattoo that consists of a maze with figures standing at each of the four compass points. (This same sigul can be seen in the show’s opening credits.) Duke Crocker, the local rogue and an old nemesis of Nathan’s, learns from his former babysitter that he will die at the hands of a man with this tattoo on his arm, but ultimately it is revealed that many people have this tattoo. Audrey recommends he look into the meaning of the tattoo rather than be concerned about any one person bearing it. It appears on the headstones of many people in the Haven Cemetery, for example.

Nathan forms a romantic relationship with Jess Minion, a Quebecois who the locals believe is a witch. He is tentative because he’s afraid his lack of sensation will make him unable to be physical with her. Jess ultimately leaves town because she’s afraid of the Troubles, which seem to be attracted to Nathan.

Another ongoing thread is the appearance of cracks. They’re seen on the road leading into Haven in the first episode and later at Carpenter’s Knot Island and on Duke’s boat. A lighthouse crumbles because of another crack. In the finale these are revealed to be caused by Chief Wuornos’s trouble, a manifestation of his attempts to hold Haven together.

Everything comes to a head with the arrival of two people to Haven. The first is Max Hansen, fresh out of Shawshank Prison , where he’s been incarcerated since 1985. He has a maze tattoo and the same Trouble as Nathan, and he has some ancient scores to settle—in particular, he wants to see Chief Wuornos die for stealing his family from him. Nathan discovers that Chief Wuornos isn’t his real father, which causes a further rift between them. Another sort of rift—the kind Wuornos generates—opens up in front of Hansen, who falls to his death. There is speculation that Hansen killed the Colorado Kid, though that was never proved.

Chief Wuornos is at the end of his tether. He’s tried everything to keep his affliction at bay: drinking, smoking, going to church, but it’s time for him to die. Now that Audrey is back, he can let go. A series of cracks emanates from him. He pulls them into himself and explodes into a million pieces. Vince and Dave Teagues from the Haven Herald gather the parts into an ice chest and bury him in a remote location. They know a lot more than they’re telling about Audrey and her purpose in Haven, but they’ve decided (sort of) to keep out of it and let her discover things on her own.

Though Audrey and Nathan keep the chief’s death a secret, Rev. Driscoll knows and makes a power play to control his replacement. He tells Nathan to leave Haven or suffer like the rest of “his kind”—the damned.

The second arrival is an FBI agent named Audrey Parker. There’s a near-exact repeat of the showdown that occurred in the first episode. Once again Audrey’s identity is called into question, as the new FBI agent asks, “Who the hell are you?”


1) Welcome to Haven

Trouble: Marian Caldwell causes catastrophic weather events when pressured or threatened.

King references: Audrey’s radio is set to 103.1, which is WZLO, a station owned by King. The Haven Herald is located at 217 King Street. Room 217 was the haunted room in the Overlook hotel in The Shining. Marion Caldwell share’s a surname with Rebecca Caldwell from The Dead Zone television series on which Nicole De Boer appeared.

2) Butterfly

Trouble: Bobby Mueller brings to life in his dreams the things he sees before he goes to sleep.

King references:Hannah Driscoll’s secret bank account is in Bangor, King’s home town.

3)  Harmony

Trouble: Ray McBreen causes people around him to go berserk when he plays music—but his Trouble has a beneficial effect on catatonic patients.

King references: A scene features a folded paper boat like the one Georgie plays with in It.

4) Consumed

Trouble: When Bill McShaw gets upset, the ingredients of any food he eats (all the way back to the original source) go bad.

King references: The Grey Gull is the name of a restaurant in The Colorado Kid. Marnie Snell shares a surname with Sue Snell from Carrie.

5) Ball and Chain

Trouble: When Beatrice Mitchell turns into an alter ego named Helena and has sex with a man, she gets pregnant and gives birth in a few days. The father ages rapidly and dies when she holds the baby for the first time.

King references:King’s signature can be seen on the Harbor Master’s certificate. Beatrice’s nanny is an older black woman named Abigail who hails from Nebraska (The Stand). Deaths like the ones that occurred in this episode are mentioned in 1954 records from Derry (It).

6) Fur

Trouble: Piper Taylor and her son Landon cause stuffed animals to come to life and go after the people who killed them. Piper had been brought back to life by her father during earlier Troubles and she resurrected Landon after a fire.

King references: Jess Minnion had her car towed in Derry. Derry Road is also mentioned in “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut.” The resurrection plot—especially the strong temptation to bring a loved one back to life—is reminiscent of Pet Sematary. The hunt for the killer wolf is reminiscent of a scene from Silver Bullet. Tobias Gillespie’s name is inspired by Constable Parkins Gillespie from ‘Salem’s Lot.

7) Sketchy

Trouble: Victoria Dutton’s drawings come to life. Anything done to them is also inflicted on the subject—people or objects.

King references: The concept of artwork coming to life is common in King’s work. Patrick Danville has this ability in The Dark Tower, as does Edgar Freemantle in Duma Key and Richard Sifkitz in “Stationary Bike.” Vicky’s sketch of Haven was done from the perspective of King’s Point.

8) Ain’t No Sunshine

Trouble: Thornton Aaron’s anger at his wife’s death from cancer detaches from him as a shadow that kills others.

King references: Members of a support group believe a “Dark Man” is responsible for the premature deaths of their family members. King wrote a poem called “The Dark Man” that is the genesis of his character Randall Flagg, a name that is mentioned in the opening credits. Two cops are named Stan and Beverly after characters from It.

9) As You Were

Trouble: Vaughn Carpenter is a chameleon. When his trouble is reactivated, his ability to exist in any one body for any length of time is limited, so he has to kill people to take them over.

King references:  The hotel on Carpenter’s Knot Island is reminiscent of the Overlook. One of Audrey’s birthday gifts is a first edition of Misery Unchained signed by the author before that lady chopped off his foot (Misery). Nathan’s middle name calls to mind Thad Beaumont (The Dark Half). The shapeshifter in this episode is reminiscent of the Skin-Man from The Wind Through the Keyhole.

10) The Hand You’re Dealt

Trouble: Matt West has pyrokinesis, which he uses to pay back his tormentors and wreak general havoc in Haven. Vanessa Stanley sees the last thing other people see before they die.

King references: Charlie McGee from Firestarter was also pyrokinetic. Photographer Morris Cross mentions lobster-like creatures that chattered back and forth at each other, i.e. lobstrosities from The Drawing of the Three.

11) The Trial of Audrey Parker

Trouble: Ezra Colbert has bouts of acuity and prescience—the ability to predict what a person is about to do or say.

King references: A copy of Tommyknockers can be seen among the books Audrey moves in the stateroom of Duke’s boat. Agent Howard refers to the people Audrey has been investigating as the “Children of the Corn.” Duke’s boat’s position is given relative to Little Tall Island, the setting for several King stories, including Dolores Claiborne and Storm of the Century. Tobias Blaine may be named for Blane the Mono from the Dark Tower series.

12) Resurfacing

Trouble: James Garrick vibrates to the point where he can longer be seen or heard.

King references: The boat that washes ashore with one body on board and several men missing is similar to the unsolved mystery of the Pretty Lisa Cabot from The Colorado Kid. A model of a car exactly like Christine moves across a desk. James Garrick’s interactions with reality are reminiscent of a poltergeist and, for a while, his kids are suspected of possessing telekinesis like Carrie. In a sense, he’s like Jo Noonan’s ghost in Bag of Bones, moving things around to interact with “the living.” In The Tommyknockers, Bobbi Anderson’s farm was formerly known as the Garrick farm.

13) Spiral

Trouble: Garland Wuornos causes cracks all around Haven. Max Hansen can’t feel pain.

King references: Max Hansen has just finished his sentence at Shawshank Prison. Max’s all-denim apparel is meant to call to mind Randall Flagg from The Stand.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #167

Haven: Part 1 — What the hell kind of town is this?

Season 5 of the Syfy series Haven begins on Thursday, September 11, so I thought I would review the series to date in the weeks leading up to the premiere. The show’s move to Thursday nights seems to be a vote of confidence, along with its 26-episode renewal after a successful fourth season. The first 13 episodes will air this fall and the second batch in 2015.

Haven, as you probably know, is based (loosely) on Stephen King’s short novel The Colorado Kid, published by Hard Case Crime in 2005. That book involved two old-timers named Vince Teague and Dave Bowie, editors of the Weekly Islander, and their young intern, Stephanie McCann. A reporter from the Boston Globe has just treated them to lunch while attempting to extract from them local unsolved mysteries for an article in his paper. After he leaves, the men tell Stephanie about a real unsolved mystery, that of the Colorado Kid. His body was found on the beach without any identification. His pocket contents were uninformative and mysterious. Eventually he was identified, but no one knows why he came to the coastal Maine island and how he made a seemingly possible trip there from Colorado.

Very little survives in the series from the novel. The story of The Colorado Kid is there, and his real identity (and that of his wife) is the same as in King’s novel, although the series expands upon this greatly. Some of the other unsolved mysteries Vince and Dave tell Stephanie show up as parts of plots (the story of the boat that washed ashore, for example, or the Tashmore church poisonings), but that’s about it. The setting is changed from Moose-Look Island to the coastal community of Haven, Maine. Vince and Dave are now the Teagues brothers, who run the Haven Herald.

And yet, the concept behind The Colorado Kid is still there: the notion that our world is a place filled with unsolved mysteries. Each week, the main characters confront such a mystery. In a sense, the show is a cop drama or a whodunit, because the identity of the person behind the strange incidents is a mystery and the writers do an excellent job of creating red herrings to misdirect the audience into suspecting different characters.

“Haven?” I hear you asking. Isn’t that the place where The Tommyknockers is set? Well, yes and no. The towns share a name, but they aren’t the same place. In particular, the Haven in The Tommyknockers is not on the coast. Quoting the novel, “Haven was not on either of Maine’s two major tourist tracks, one of which runs through the lake and mountain region to the extreme west of the state and the other of which runs up the coast to the extreme east.” And yet, the TV Haven is in the Stephen King universe, not far from Castle Rock, Derry, Bangor, Little Tall Island and Cleaves Mills.

In fact, the writers of this series are very conversant with the Stephen King universe. Every episode contains at least one subtle or overt reference to a King book or story. Often these come in the form of names that are drawn from characters in similar situations in other works, but in one memorable instance, the opening scene from It, in which a little boy in a yellow rain slicker plays with a paper boat that goes down the drain, is recreated in loving detail. The writers are strongly influenced by It and the concept of something evil that recurs on a regular basis. In later seasons, Dark Tower concepts such as doorways to other worlds and thin spots between universes also enter the story. Ideas from King stories creep in (in one case, machinery comes to life and attacks people, much as in “Trucks”). There are also a lot of businesses around Haven with the word King in their name, and physical copies of King novels (and a Misery novel by an unnamed Paul Sheldon) appear on screen.

Haven (sometimes known as Hayven) is an old community, with a current population of about 25,000 (according to the Season 2 Christmas episode).  There was a strong Mi’kmaw presence in the area when it was established in the late 15th century (its original name, Tuwiuwok, is a Mi’kmaw word that means Haven for God’s Orphans) and the aboriginal lore pervades its history: legends of Wendigo and shapeshifters, for instance (both also used by King in other works).

The town’s main claim to infamy is the so-called Troubles, afflictions that have plagued its residents throughout its history. Every 27 years (a timespan that will be familiar to people who’ve read It), the Troubles return. They run in families and often bear a relationship to something about the afflicted individuals. A stressful incident triggers a person’s Trouble during the period when they are active, giving him or her a supernatural ability that generally has terrible consequences for the person and for those around him or her.

On the same repeat cycle, a mysterious young woman comes to Haven. She is a kind of “Troubles whisperer.” She has the ability to help the Troubled, usually by making them aware that they are the cause of whatever strange events have been taking place of late and by talking them out of the strong emotions that unleashed their supernatural power.

Most Troubled people can be taught to manage their Troubles—though not all. Many of them cannot remain in society for the duration of the Troubles and must be sequestered in one way or another. For others, more drastic measures are sometimes called for. The writers seem to have a bottomless supply of interesting and innovative Troubles to inflict upon their characters, and one of the show’s intriguing aspects is the various ways some people take advantage of their afflictions. One character, for example, uses her power to blackmail people. Another uses it to gain revenge on enemies and yet another thinks that his ability to create conflagrations is super-cool, so he wreaks mayhem on Haven. Most people, though, are ashamed by their Troubles and few talk openly about their individual afflictions.

One of the things that appeals to me about the series is its essential Canadian flavor. Though it is set in Maine, filming takes place in a number of communities on the south shore of Nova Scotia, not far from where I lived during the 1980s. The symbolic lighthouse often seen (and occasionally destroyed) is the one at Peggy’s Cove, a popular tourist destination. I had the chance to visit the set in late June—you can read more about that on my blog.

With the exception of Emily Rose (Audrey Parker) and Eric Balfour (Duke Crocker), most of the cast is Canadian. Familiar faces, from the actor who plays Chief Garland Wuornos to the most recent medical examiner, played by Jayne Eastwood, pop up from time to time. Lucas Bryant, who plays Nathan, and Adam Copeland (aka WWE’s Edge), who plays Dwight, are both Canadian, as are John Dunsworth (Dave Teagues) and Richard Donat (Vince Teagues). Colin Ferguson, who came into the series as the mysterious William in its fourth season, is from Canada, as is Jason Priestley, who appeared in a four-episode arc and has directed episodes as well. People familiar with the region will see all manner of recognizable sites, including the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and Lunenburg’s Town Hall, which doubles as Haven’s police headquarters. Fans travel to Nova Scotia from all around the world to see the beautiful scenery depicted in the show, and while there isn’t a Haven Tour of the South Shore yet, there should be some day.

Though the show’s mythology started out slowly, giving viewers time to become familiar with the characters and the overall scenario, Haven has developed a complex mythos that asks questions and occasionally answers them.  I recently watched the four seasons over the course of a few weeks and I was amazed and gratified by how well it all holds together. There is clever writing, with callbacks to incidents from early episodes that pull everything together, and good chemistry among the main characters. Although no one will likely mention it in the same breath as The Wire or Breaking Bad, I think this is a vastly underappreciated series, even though it appears to have a substantial following, both in the US and internationally.

One place where this show succeeds where Under the Dome, perhaps, does not is in its sense of humor. It isn’t unreasonable to compare the two series, which are both “inspired” by King novels and strike out into uncharted territory very early in their runs and never look back. Under the Dome has little or no sense of humor, whereas Haven is rife with humorous dialog and asides, mostly from Duke and Dwight. There is playful banter and some black humor that will make you jump and then laugh.

Next time, I’ll look at the course of events that shape the show’s first season, and will follow up with each of the subsequent seasons, culminating with a look at what we know about the main characters and where things might go in Season 5.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #166

Mr. Mercedes debuted in the #1 position on the Publishers Weekly hardcover fiction list and #2 on USA Today’s mixed fiction list (which includes paperbacks). There is a lot of associational material to explore at King’s official website. For example, there’s The Basement, an interactive adventure that takes you into Brady’s domain, where you can delve into the things that are stored on his array of PCs. For some clues on how to get started, it helps to watch the video of Brady’s letter to Detective Hodges. There’s also a book trailer, a saucy TV commercial, an excerpt from the audio book, some “merch” at the Cafe Press store, and a letter from KingTemple Hill and Media Rights Capital have acquired the movie rights to the novel. King talks about the real-life incident that inspired the novel here, but to-date he has only given one interview. There’s also a collection of many of the reviews on his site, and I have another collection of reviews here.

Hodder & Stoughton also produced a whimsical series of promos in which the villain of Mr. Mercedes is introduced by the likes of Annie Wilkes, Carrie White, Andy Dufresne, Pennywise and Danny Torrance.

The big news, of course, is the fact that Mr. Mercedes is the first book in a proposed trilogy. King has already finished the first draft of the second novel, which will be called Finders Keepers. The tentative publication date is sometime in the first half of 2015. King says that the three books “seem to revolve around the City Center Massacre that opens Mr. Mercedes.”

Before we get to Finders Keepers, though, we have Revival, which comes out in November. The newly released paperback edition of Doctor Sleep contains an eight-page excerpt of that novel. And there is a good possibility of a collection in late 2015, bringing together all of the recent short story appearances, including some of those that you can find on my list here. No word yet on whether there will be any brand new stories in the collection. The third book in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy will presumably be out in 2016. I don’t think we’ve known King’s publication schedule so far in advance since 1986-7, when we knew about the next four books he planned to publish.

Big news for people who haven’t had a chance to see Ghost Brothers of Darkland County yet. The musical play will go on tour this fall, with dates in Orono, Toronto, Philadelphia, Durham, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Red Bank, N.J., Portland, ME, Boston, Providence, New York, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco in November and December. See the announcement here.

Just a few weeks until the return of Under the Dome, with the first episode scripted by King. You can see a 30-second clip of King reading the opening section of the episode. On June 23, CBS will run Inside Chester’s Mill, a one-hour special that features highlights from last season and new interviews with the cast and executive producers. In addition, the special will have an advance sneak peek at the season two premiere. The second season will be missing its original showrunner and executive producer Brian K. Vaughan.

Although it had a premiere in New York in April, there’s been very little news about the fate of the film version of A Good Marriage. Last week, though, it was announced that Screen Media Films acquired North American rights to the film, with plans to distribute it in early October, with a nationwide theatrical release accompanied by a day-and-date VOD platform release. “I’m delighted that A Good Marriage is going to be available to the movie going public very soon, and hope we can scare the hell out of millions of people,” King said. “To me, that’s always an exciting prospect.”

Josh Boone, currently riding high with his film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, promises a three-hour R-rated single film adaptation of The Stand with “an amazing A-list cast across the board…Every single one of those characters will be somebody you recognize and somebody you relate to. And it’s gonna be awesome.” The only person named as a potential cast member is Nat Wolff. Of course, Boone isn’t the first director to try to get a grip on this remake.

In other movie news, the story that is thus far only available in French and German, Bad Little Kid, has been optioned by Laurent Bouzereau , who wrote and directed the 2011 TCM film A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King, which featured King discussing horror films and their popularity with moviegoers.

Oculus and Somnia director Mike Flanagan has committed todirect Gerald’s Game. Flanagan wrote the script with his writing partner Jeff Howard. There’s also an unconfirmed rumor that Gravity director director Alfonso has been approached to direct a prequel to The Shining titled The Overlook Hotel.

TNT is developing  a TV series called The Shop, billed as a sequel to Firestarter. The drama centers on the insidious agency responsible for kidnapping and attempting to exploit the psychokinetic powers of a young girl named Charlie McGee in the original story. Now it’s 20 years later and Charlie has been tracked down by one of The Shop’s former members, Henry Talbot, who introduces her to a group of people with their own unique abilities. From the announcement: “It turns out The Shop is very much alive, bigger and badder than ever, and its dark experiments are unleashing terrifying new entities on the world. It’s now up to Talbot, Charlie and the rest of the team to find The Shop and destroy it for good.”

Here’s a fun dialog between King and Damon Lindelof, as captured by Entertainment Weekly.

The Marvel graphic novel adaptation of the Dark Tower series returns in September with the five-issue series The Prisoner, which tells the backstory of Eddie Dean before he met Roland. You can check out the cover and the first pages here. The artist is Piotr Kowalski. Here’s the promo text: As this tale of urban crime opens, you’ll meet Eddie Dean as an innocent child who grows into a troubled young man gifted with the ability to open doors to other worlds. Can he survive family tragedy, a haunting addiction, and the deadly forces that conspire to stop him from challenging the Man in Black? Eddie faces trials and tribulations at every turn – and the badlands of Mid-World can’t hold a candle to the dangers of Brooklyn in the 1960s! Witness the story of a young man on the path to an unlikely destiny and the most important journey of his life.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #165


By Bev Vincent

In early 2011, en route from Florida to Maine, Stephen King watched the evening news in his roadside hotel. One item was about a woman who had an altercation with another in line at a job fair. The attacker got into her car and drove it into the crowd. King decided that he wanted to write about the incident, although he didn’t know how at the time.

He came up with what he thought would be a short story about a psychopath who deliberately runs his car into a crowd of people. After the detective handling the case retires, the perpetrator writes him a taunting letter, bragging about how much he enjoyed killing and maiming all those people. He won’t get caught, he states, because he doesn’t plan to do it again. The cop should just give up and eat his gun. The idea blossomed into a 450-page novel, King’s first foray into straight crime fiction at book length, although he has written a number of non-supernatural crime short stories in the past.

Mr. Mercedes opens with the attack at the job fair. In a dozen pages, King introduces us to a few characters, makes us grow fond of them as only he can, and then throws the 12-cylinder Mercedes into the fray, ripping apart everything he so carefully constructed.

Det.-Ret. Bill Hodges has been sitting at home for six months, watching afternoon reality TV shows and toying with the idea of killing himself. When he retired, he left behind a number of open/unsolved cases, including a serial killer and a Scott Peterson-style missing wife, so he isn’t obsessing over the so-called Mercedes Killer in particular. If the perpetrator had left well enough alone—if he hadn’t decided to poke Hodges with a sharp stick—then his reign of terror might have continued unchecked, culminating in his magnum opus, the incident that forms the book’s climax.

Brady Hartfield is beginning to think he’s invincible. When he plunged the car into the crowd, he thought there was a very good chance he’d be caught, perhaps even ripped to shreds by witnesses, and was okay with that. The fact that he got away has emboldened him. He tells Hodges in his carefully crafted letter that he has no intention of repeating his crime, that he’s content to relive it in his mind, but Hodges knows better. He’s caught many “perks” like his unknown interlocutor, and he has an idea that the Mercedes Killer will strike again.

The poison pen letter was meant to goad Hodges into killing himself, but it has the opposite effect: it spurs him into action. Rather than turning the letter over to his former partner in the police department of this unnamed, economically depressed Mid-West city (the same one that was the setting for Rose Madder?), Hodges opens his own file on the Mercedes Killer and embarks on an off-the-books investigation.

Aiding Hodges is Jerome, the computer-savvy, Ivy League bound teenager who mows his lawn. The Mercedes Killer offers to communicate with Hodges via an anonymous website called Under Debbie’s Blue Umbrella (hence the book’s cover image) but Hodges is afraid to use his own computer in case he inadvertently gives the killer access to his hard drive. Once the connection is established, it doesn’t take him long to get under his adversary’s skin. He knows it doesn’t take much to trip up a killer: Son of Sam was caught thanks to a parking ticket.

Thus ensues a cat and mouse game, though it’s often not clear who is pursuing whom. Hartfield is young, brash, profane, bigoted, and mostly lacking in conscience. He still lives with his alcoholic mother—his father died in a work-related accident—and his relationship with her makes Norman Bates look well-adjusted. His younger brother died under mysterious circumstances. He works two jobs that provide him with access to his targets without raising suspicions. In his basement he has a rank of computers and a sophisticated voice-activated security system to prevent his secrets from falling into the wrong hands. Ominously, he also has a cache of homemade plastic explosives.

The book’s contemporary action is told in the present tense, something King doesn’t often use. Past tense is reserved for flashbacks distributed throughout the book. Though the prose is generally straightforward, Mr. Mercedes has some very nice turns of phrase. He describes a room “as big as a politician’s promises” and a warehouse yard “filled with empty boxes that stood around like Easter Island monoliths.”

Hodges is an unlikely hero. He put in his forty years with the police, but in the process he lost his wife to divorce and has an adult daughter who calls dutifully once a week but whom he hasn’t seen in two years. He’s grossly overweight—a heart attack waiting to happen, assuming he doesn’t shoot himself with his father’s gun first. When he was on the job, though, he had one of the best records in the department, and he’s still near the top of his game when he sets his sights on the Mercedes Killer. He’s an everyman, eminently likeable. Someone readers can root for. He’s so desperate for something to keep himself from spiraling into depression and despair, though, that he makes a few questionable choices, paramount among them his decision to keep his investigation a secret from his former colleagues. Hartfield may have poked him with a stick, but he pokes back twice as hard, and goading a killer who revels in inflicting maximum harm to maximum people isn’t a good idea.

Hodges begins to question the way he and his partner treated Olivia Trelawney, the owner of the Mercedes SL that Hartfield drove into the crowd. She became collateral damage because they suspected she left her key in the ignition, thus providing the killer with his weapon. She was pilloried in the press and questioned mercilessly and repeatedly by Hodges and his partner. Eventually she overdosed on Oxy. However, Hodges now wonders if the killer somehow played a part in her death. Once he starts digging around, he learns things about Trelawney that didn’t turn up during the initial investigation. He also becomes involved with other members of Trelawney’s family, including her vivacious sister Janey, who inherited the substantial estate—much to the strident dismay of other relatives—and cousin Holly (“the Mumbler”), a fortysomething with emotional problems who acts like a teenager but who comes alive once she meets Hodges.

Though Hodges is the book’s protagonist, and it features several other engaging and lovable characters, Mr. Mercedes’ biggest accomplishment is the title character, Brady Hartfield, one of the most twisted villains in King’s oeuvre. King doesn’t hide the identity of the madman from readers, so this isn’t a whodunit. Hodges doesn’t know who the Mercedes Killer is until late in the proceedings, but readers see Hartfield going about his daily life, pretending to be human. He doesn’t have friends, but he can be friendly, in a Dexter Morgan kind of way. His mother loves him (maybe a little too much!) and he’s able to hold down jobs. His head is full of crazy thoughts, and it’s fortunate that he only acts on a fraction of them. King doesn’t make him the least bit sympathetic or likeable. There’s a tragic backstory, of course, but make no mistake about it: Hartfield is a human monster. He schemes to make Hodges’ life miserable by targeting those around him, but his plans don’t always work as intended. His first gambit goes tragically wrong for him, and his second has significant implications for Hodges, making him question his decision to take on a madman solo.

Once things kick into high gear and Hartfield starts planning his end game, the suspense never lets up. For a while, Hodges and his ragtag gang of helpers are so far off the mark that it seems like Hartfield might go completely unchallenged in his last hurrah, but the pieces start to fall into place, culminating in a tense and nerve-wracking finale.


Since Mr. Mercedes takes place in the “real world,” Keystone Earth if you will, the place where time runs in only one direction and there are no do-overs, you shouldn’t expect any significant crossovers to King’s other books. The Crimson King isn’t behind Brady Hartfield’s actions, and there’s no grand cosmic plan. The stakes are simple human lives. However, that doesn’t mean there are no nods to familiar King tropes. Christine is mentioned, as is Pennywise, but the references are to the fictional versions of them—the movie about the haunted car and the insane clown from that TV movie. In other words, they are referenced in the same way we would mention them: as popular fiction icons that come to mind in certain situations.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #164

In case you haven’t heard the news yet, Cemetery Dance recently announced a deal to create Deluxe Special Editions of the six books King published with Doubleday. The series launches this summer with Carrie. Check the link for specifics, including the artist, cover art, and the extra material that will appear in the book.

We’re less than two months away from the publication date of Mr. Mercedes, and the first reviews have started to show up. Publishers Weekly’s review came first, calling it a “suspenseful crime thriller” and lauding King for his disturbing portrait of the book’s villain, Brady, “a genuine monster in ordinary human form who gives new meaning to the phrase ‘the banality of evil.'” Then came the Booklist review, which concludes: “No need to rev the engine here; this baby will rocket itself out of libraries with a loud squeal of the tires.” My review will appear in the next issue of Cemetery Dance magazine, but I loved it. I’ve been waiting for King to write a non-supernatural crime novel for ages and at last my wish is granted. And PW is right: Brady is one twisted guy. He’s not at all sympathetic, but he’s fascinating. And Bill Hodges is a comfortable narrator / protagonist to spend five hundred pages with. The audiobook will be narrated by Will Patton.

King’ second book of the year is Revival, which will be out on November 11. Here is the synopsis:

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs—including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of 13, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties—addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate—Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.

To thank all his German and French fans for their warm welcome during his Doctor Sleep book tour last fall, King wrote a novella, “Bad Little Kid”, which is available in e-book format in German (Böser kleiner Junge) and French (Sale Gosse). You can’t buy it in the US at the moment, but it is available in Canada and the UK (but not in English). I wrote an article / review for FEARnet, probably my last piece for that market, which was gobbled up by Comcast last week.

And, no, he isn’t writing a sequel to Christine called Christine Lives as was announced on April 1.

King will appear in a cameo role in the first episode of the second season of Under the Dome, which launches on June 30. According to an article in USA Today, he wrote the episode, titled “Heads Will Roll,” and will show up in the town’s diner as “just a citizen of Chester’s Mill for at least the moment.” Check out the article for a photo of King being served coffee at Sweet Briar Rose. Several new characters will be introduced this season, including barbershop owner Lyle Chumley (Dwight Yoakam), Big Jim’s late wife Pauline (Sherry Stringfield), his brother-in-law, Sam Verdreaux (Eddie Cahill), teacher Rebecca Pine (Karla Crome), Greg (Dwayne Boyd), and Melanie (Grace Victoria Cox), a character pulled from the lake by Julia at the end of the first season. If you haven’t seen it already, be sure to check out this promotional video of King “tweeting from the set.”

During his Emerald City Comicon Secret Origins panel, Peter David revealed that Marvel will resume adapting the Dark Tower series with The Drawing of the Three, without providing any timeline. He told the story of how he pitched the idea when King came to visit him while he was convalescing after suffering a stroke.

In other comic news, Walter Simonson’s 22-page Lawnmower Man Artist’s Edition portfolio, collecting the entire story into a deluxe portfolio from IDW, is set to arrive in time for San Diego’s Comic-Con International in July.

King has a short non-fiction piece called “The Ring” in Tin House, Issue, 59, Volume 15, Number 3. The theme for the issue is Memory and King’s 2-page essay is about their wedding rings and the day they got married.

He and Karen Russell talk about their books Doctor Sleep and Sleep Donation in this interview posted at Goodreads.

Joyland, which is now available as an e-book for the first time, was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar in the Best Paperback Original category. Doctor Sleep was nominated for a Thriller Award in the Best Hardcover Novel category by the International Thriller Writers.

The latest movie adaptation, A Good Marriage, premieres in New York on Thursday, April 24.

Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) is in early talks to take over as director of The Stand for Warner Bros. and CBS Films. He will be at least the fourth potential director for this project. Boone is also currently attached to direct a movie version of Lisey’s Story.

Cary Fukunaga, fresh off his recent success directing HBO’s True Detective, is working on a script for the two-part remake of It. It appears that the first part will be about the kids and the second part about the adults. Fukunaga said, “There will be no spider at the end of our movie. We’re definitely honoring the spirit of Stephen King, but the horror has to be modernized to make it relevant. That’s my job, right now, on this pass. I’m working on making the horror more about suspense than visualization of any creatures. I just don’t think that’s scary. What could be there, and the sounds and how it interacts with things, is scarier than actual monsters.”

The SyFy series Haven was renewed for 26 more episodes, 13 to air this year and 13 for 2015, although they are all supposedly part of a single season. In a related concept, Universal TV is adapting the short story “Ayana” into a TV drama set in a world of miracles. The series has not been picked up by a network yet, though.

King has been interviewed for the PBS series Finding Your Roots, where “we trace people’s habitypes, which tell where your ancestors came from.” Dr. Henry Louis Gates’ interview with King will air later this year.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #163

A quick update because a couple of interesting things have come to light over the past few days. First, a report from Quint at Ain’t It Cool News reveals that Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul has taken a few meetings regarding the possibility that he might play Eddie Dean in Ron Howard’s adaptation of The Dark Tower.

Then, the very next day, someone known only as “The Phantom” claimed that Media Rights Capital (MRC) will be funding a $60 million version of the first film and that Liam Neeson is in the running to play Roland. MRC recently produced Elysium. The information about MRC is in line with earlier reports (as is the possibility that Netflix could do the TV component of the adaptation), but the source is anonymous, so file this one under “unconfirmed rumor.”

Under the Dome will return on June 30, with an episode written by King. In a trailer for Season 2 that debuted at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, viewers see that two favorite characters won’t survive the first episode and there will be an unexpected kiss.

King’s three year-end best-of essays appeared in the same double issue (Issue 1291/1292 dated 12/27/13 and 1/3/14) of Entertainment Weekly at the end of December. Since the essays won’t be on EW’s website, they were posted at King’s message board.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #162

Scribner has released their description of Mr. Mercedes, King’s next novel, which will be out on June 3, 2014.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

 In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

 Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

 Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

This is just one of two novels we’ll see next year, the other being Revival. There’s a new King short story, “Summer Thunder,” in the CD anthology Turn Down the Lights. Editor Rich Chizmar says it “might be one of the most heartbreaking post-apocalyptic tales we’ve ever read.”

King joined Twitter late last week. Within minutes he had 30,000 followers and the number has since climbed to nearly 200,000. You don’t need to join Twitter to see his feed, though. Just click here.

Samuel L. Jackson will play Tom McCourt in the movie adaptation of Cell, joining John Cusack for the second time (1408). There were some amusing follow-up articles in which Jackson confessed that he didn’t know that his character was gay in the novel. The film will be directed by Tod “Kip” Williams (Paranormal Activity 2). Production is scheduled to begin in January.

Long-time King fan Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) plans to adapt Lisey’s Story. King had a cameo in Boone’s debut, Stuck in Love. Boone talks about how King responded when he sent some books to be autographed when he was 12 in this article.

Add another title to the list of remakes or reworkings. Bob Weinstein is developing a proposed 10-part series with Frank Darabont, based on Dimension’s film version of The Mist. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) is in talks to direct Pet Sematary. The day after it was announced that Scott Cooper was considering Christian Bale for the theatrical version of The Stand, the director left the project. Paul Greengrass is now being courted to help the film. Cary Fukunaga is currently attached to the remake of It.

Doctor Sleep link roll:

European tour:

In closing, here is my review of the campy horror film You Can’t Kill Stephen King, which should get US distribution in 2014.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #161 (Doctor Sleep edition)

Doctor Sleep, which has been out for less than a week, went straight to the top of all of the major bestseller lists. According to USA Today, it is King’s seventh book to debut at #1 since he moved to Scribner in 1998. For those of you who think that the book’s ending invites yet another sequel, King told USA Today that Doctor Sleep will be “my first and only solo sequel.”

Scribner made a book trailer for the novel that has some creepy scenes drawn from the text. They also created an interactive website for Doctor Sleep, which requires you to have the Chrome browser on your desktop and iPhone. An audio excerpt narrated by Will Patton can be found here.

King did a brief tour in support of the book, with appearances in New York, Boulder and Boston. Here is a report from Boulder. He will appear (with son Owen, who was also at the east coast appearances) in Toronto on October 24. In mid-November, he will go on a limited European tour (Paris, Munich and Hamburg). All the details about those events can be found here.

He also did a few interviews, including these:

The reviews have been, for the most part, very positive. Here is a selection from the major outlets:

You can find my review in Cemetery Dance #70. I joined the Lilja and Lou podcast for a discussion of The Shining leading up to Doctor Sleep’s publication day. Apparently it was the most listened-to installment of their podcast series. I also wrote a brief article for the Early Reader’s Club about crossovers between Doctor Sleep and other novels (not just King’s). I don’t think I’ve ever had an online article generate that many comments!

The Stanley Hotel, inspiration for The Shining, has been getting a little press of late, too. There was a report that they plan to dig up and relocate a pet cemetery on the grounds and Yahoo Homes presented a pictorial tour of the hotel.

The sequel has also renewed discussion of the Kubrick adaptation of The Shining, including a couple of pieces in Salon: The Shining’s horrifying misogyny and What Stanley Kubrick got wrong about The Shining. Well, other than the miniseries, there’s always the opera version. The what?

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #160 (Under the Dome recap)

As everyone prepares to get copies of Doctor Sleep tomorrow or perhaps even head out to Boulder or NY or Boston to see King, I thought I’d talk about Under the Dome, which wrapped its first season last week. I’ll be back later with my Doctor Sleep coverage—or you can check out my review in issue #70 of Cemetery Dance.

Not everyone was enamored of the show. One objection was that some people went into it thinking they were committing to a limited-run miniseries instead an open-ended, ongoing series. When it was renewed, there were howls from some quarters, even though that was always the producers’ hope.

The biggest complaint, though, was the degree to which it departed from the novel. Every Tuesday morning, the woman in the office next to mine would stop at my door, express her frustration at the most recent changes, shake her head, and continue on to her desk. Stephen King wrote an open later defending the changes on his website after only a couple of episodes had aired. He said, “I’m enjoying the chance to watch that alternate reality play out; I still think there’s no place like Dome.”

The writers and producers didn’t sneak these changes into the story. The opening scene features Dale Barbara burying Peter Shumway’s body. That was as clear an announcement as any that this wasn’t Uncle Stevie’s Under the Dome, for better or for worse.

In my opinion, mostly for the better. If the TV series had followed the novel to the letter, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much as I did.

But let’s be clear. It won’t go down in the annals as one of the best TV shows ever. This isn’t Lost or Breaking Bad. Why? It’s hard to put a finger on the reason. I didn’t mind that I often didn’t get to see an episode until a day or two after it aired, whereas missing Lost was a major crisis. Under the Dome is a show about mysteries, and the characters are intriguing, but it doesn’t have that frisson that comes with the crème-de-la-crème of television. The acting is generally satisfactory but not award-worthy. The writing is mostly decent. The story is engrossing. The special effects can be quite good at times. Faint praise, but praise nonetheless.

The show delivered consistently strong ratings, with more than 10 million people watching most episodes. The final episode had the second-highest viewership of the season, after the premiere. Compare that to Breaking Bad, which peaked at 6.4 million viewers. It had strong support from the network and from its cast. Dean Norris (Big Jim) was one of its biggest advocates. My Twitter stream during the hour the episode ran was overrun by cast members commenting on the episode. I’m still not 100% sold on the concept of live tweeting—is it wise to distract viewers from the show?—but the level of commitment is encouraging.

Let’s talk about the characters. Every one of them departs from the novel versions in some aspect. Angie lives on the TV show, whereas she’s dead (but not gone) throughout the book. “Scarecrow” Joe is older than his novel counterpart; Julie Shumway is younger (and hotter). Maxine Seagrave, Norrie Calvert’s moms, and several other characters are new to the series. Few are “sacred,” in the sense that just about anyone could be killed.

In general, they’re more ambiguous in the TV show. At times you feel bad for Big Jim, or you think that he might redeem himself. Similarly with Junior, who is basically a confused and disturbed young man seeking his father’s approval and love. On the other hand, Barbie has aspects to his personality that aren’t so laudable.

This added depth is intriguing. Consider Linda, who is forced into the role of chief lawkeeper after Duke dies (and how great would it have been if Jeff Fahey had stuck around a little longer?). Her allegiances drift over the course of the thirteen episodes. Some complained about inconsistent characterization, but in Linda’s case, she’s simply befuddled and confused. She’s not privy to as much information as viewers are. Swayed by stronger personalities and overwhelmed by the demands of her job. By contrast, Maxine, who was uniformly and delightfully evil wasn’t all that interesting

Unlike in the book, there is weather inside the dome. This is more of a filming consideration than a deliberate decision on the part of the writers, but it gives them some interesting things to play with. The dome itself is different, too. It seems sentient. It communicates via Lost-like apparitions, but also displays a temper, sending massive storms when it’s displeased. However, it also sends needed rain, so it’s not altogether hostile, and we learn late in the season that the dome claims to be protecting the people of Chester’s Mill, although from what we don’t yet know. And then there’s the egg. Is it the generator or something more? Have we seen the last of it, now that it’s at the bottom of the lake?

The producers promised that they wouldn’t make us wait for the answers to some of the big mysteries, and they were true to their word. We found out why Barbie was burying Julia’s husband. We found out why Big Jim was stockpiling propane. The mysterious “pink stars are falling” mantra began to make some sense with the revelations about Big Jim’s dead wife. We even learned something of the nature of the dome, though not everything. It appears that some extraterrestrial force is at work, though one less capricious and juvenile than what King created in his novel. Was I surprised that Julia ended up being the monarch? In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have been. After all, she was the narrator, and I’d found myself wondering from time to time why that was. It makes sense now.

Will I be back for the second season? Yes, definitely. I doubt that Barbie is going to dangle (did anyone else think about Roland and Cort watching Hax during that scene?), but I’m curious to see how he gets out of that pickle. How long can Big Jim keep on doing what he’s doing before more people catch on?

There’s still plenty of story to tell, and some shows improve with age. The writers have time to step back and assess what works and what doesn’t. Stephen King will be writing at least the first episode of the second season, so there’s that, too.

The Dark Man by Stephen King Lettered Edition (First Video)

We’ve received the approval copy of the box for the Deluxe Lettered Edition of The Dark Man by Stephen King and we thought our collectors might like a little sneak peek at a unique feature we’ve never tried before:

The rest of the boxes will be done this month.

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #159

Check out the The New York Times Magazine in this Sunday’s paper for a cover story called The Kings of Maine. The text is online at this link, but there may be more pictures in the print version. The author of the interview also posted a sidebar on the Times site: An Easter Egg Hunt With Stephen King and Family.

King will be making three stops on his book tour for Doctor Sleep. First, he’ll appear with his son, author Owen King, in New York City on September 24th at 7:30 PM, presented by The Center for Fiction at the Gerald Lynch Theater at John Jay College. Then he’ll be at the  Colorado Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder on Wednesday, September 25th at 7:30 PM. His final appearance is an event hosted by Harvard Book Store at 7 PM on September 27th at the Memorial Church, One Harvard Yard, in Cambridge, MA. See King’s official web site for links to the various sites and the full details of each event.

Under the Dome has been a big hit for CBS. Factoring time-shifting viewers and people downloading it on Amazon, more than 15 million people have been tuning in. Last week, CBS announced that they are renewing the series for a second season. The first episode of the 2014 series will be written by King. A lot of people have been complaining about how much the series diverges from the novel. King addresses these complaints here. On CBS Sunday Morning, King took the producers to the Maine town that was the inspiration for Chester’s Mill:  Stephen King and his compulsion to write. And this was pretty funny: On David Letterman, Bruce Willis joked  that he was joining the series, playing “the guy who lives right next door to the dome.” Because of the realities of filming outdoors, the producers have had to make some concessions about the weather. It’s impossible, for example, to eradicate the wind, so they published the rules of Under the Dome.

Here is a report from King’s recent appearance at Mark Twain House and a video of the event.

During a Q&A session promoting Under the Dome, King said that he’s halfway through a novel called Revival. During his interview at Mark Twain House (see above), he said, “The main character is a kid who learns how to play guitar, and I can relate to this guy because he’s not terribly good. He’s just good enough to catch on with a number of bands and play for a lot of years. The song that he learns to play first is the song that I learned to play first, which was ‘Cherry, Cherry’ by Neil Diamond. One of the great rock progressions: E-A-D-A.”

In an interview with The Atlantic, King discusses why he spends “months and even years” writing opening sentences.

The AARP website has posted an excerpt: Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep Revisits The Shining — Nearly 30 Years Later. During the premiere of Under the Dome, CBS ran an ad for the book.

Haven creators Sam Ernst and Jim Dunn have sold a pilot to ABC based on the short story “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates.”

NBC has announced plans for a miniseries remake of The Tommyknockers. Emmy Award winner Yves Simoneau (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee) is attached to direct.

After years of being unavailable, The Golden Years is once again on DVD and Blu-Ray.

News from the Dead Zone #158

This is a link post for all of the recent promotional appearances and articles related to Joyland and Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

Also, with Under the Dome premiering in less than two weeks, some interesting articles:

Look for my review of the first episode some time next week. In a nutshell: It’s good!

News from the Dead Zone #157

Next week is going to be busy in the Stephen King universe. Joyland and the all-star soundtrack for Ghost Brothers of Darkland County both come out on June 4. My review of Joyland can be seen here. It will also appear in issue 70 of Cemetery Dance magazine, together with an interview with Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime’s publisher.

Here are the media appearances that are slated for next week to promote the two releases. Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett will be involved with some of them.

  • Monday, June 3rd: The Today Show and Meet the Creators (a live event at Apple’s NY Soho store that will be broadcast later in the week)
  • Tuesday, June 4th: Morning Joe and Charlie Rose
  • Wednesday, June 5th: All Things Considered and Late Show with David Letterman
  •  Thursday, June 6th: The Colbert Report
  •  Friday, June 7th: SiriusXM Live Conversation with Mojo Nixon

King has already done a few interviews about Joyland. Last weekend he was on the cover of Parade magazine (there’s a cool behind-the-scenes video online) and a couple of days ago he did a long interview with Terry Gross on NPR (On Growing Up, Believing in God and Getting Scared). Some people have been complaining about the lack of an eBook edition of Joyland (for now at least). Charles Ardai wrote an essay that explained their rationale: Why Cling to the Past? Exclusive essay by Stephen King’s publisher about Joyland. There’s a 15-second teaser trailer for the book on YouTube.

Concord Music group has announced that Ghost Brothers of Darkland County will be released as an illustrated digital book for iBooks on June 3rd. The comprehensive multimedia edition fuses the production’s story, soundtrack, artwork and video extras into a complete interactive experience. The soundtrack is streaming live at The Wall Street Journal.

That’s not all that’s new. “Afterlife,” the story King read in its entirety at UMass Lowell last December, is in the “summer reading” issue of Tin House magazine. You can get it from the various online bookstores, but it’s only $15 straight from the publisher, with free media mail shipping.

And I assume you’ve already ordered a copy of The Dark Man, the lavishly illustrated edition from CD that showcases Glenn Chadbourne’s awesome art?

Then, on June 17, Coliloquy is publishing the eBook Hard Listening, which has a collection of essays and e-mail exchanges from members of the Rock Bottom Remainders. The iPad/iBooks version is enhanced and interactive, with videos and audio files embedded in the text. There’s a great video of everyone in the green room getting a laught out of Mitch Albom’s Elvis wig. Steve is rolling on the floor with laughter. It’s a funny and fun book. Also of note, there’s a new King short story. However, I won’t reveal the title because three other authors were tasked with writing a story in King’s style and readers get a chance to vote on which one they think is the real King. After you vote, you can see how other readers voted and, separately, how other Rock Bottom Remainders voted. All author proceeds from the sales of Hard Listening will be donated to offset the late Kathi Kamen Goldmark’s medical bills. You can read an excerpt here.

And then, on June 24th, we get the premiere of Under the Dome. Here’s a long trailer and Hollywood Reporter’s 10 Things to Know about the series.

PS Publishing has added two more 30th anniversary King editions to their roster, in addition to the already announced Christine and Pet Sematary. In 2014 they will issue Thinner and Skeleton Crew. There’s a strong Cemetery Dance angle here, too. Rich Chizmar has written the afterword for Christine, and I wrote one for Pet Sematary.

Chris Evans (Captain America) has been cast as the lead in Tom Holland’s adaptation of “The Ten O’Clock People.” Filming is expected to begin in Atlanta this fall. The John Cusack film Cell is also scheduled to begin filming in September. Tod “Kip” Williams (Paranormal Activity 2) is directing.

I attended the Dollar Baby Film Festival that was held in conjunction with Comicpalooza in Houston last weekend. Here’s my report on the event at FEARnet.

News from the Dead Zone #156

Since we last spoke, my book The Dark Tower Companion came out in trade paperback and eBook (Kindle | Nook). The reviews have been rolling in, so if you’re on the fence about buying a copy, check them out here. One of my favorites says, in part, “Bev Vincent … is so fluent in Mid-World, one gets the feeling he has gone through a doorway and visited. Really, you have the sense that he’s been there.”

Did you miss your chance to see Ghost Brothers of Darkland County when it played in Atlanta last year? If so, don’t despair. There are a couple of options available that will allow you to experience the show. First, you can order the soundtrack on iTunes or various other places. There’s a one-disc version that has the songs interspersed with select dialog from the play and a 2-disc deluxe set that comes with a trade paperback of the libretto and a DVD containing a Making of Ghost Brothers mini-documentary, featuring in-depth interviews with King, Mellencamp and Burnett along with the digital libretto and other bonus material. Then there’s the  3-disc version that has an additional CD that is just the music (no dialog) and a hardcover version of the libretto. The soundtrack will be available on June 4. Rolling Stone has been featuring individual tracks recently, including one of my favorite songs from the musical, Home Again.

On the other hand, maybe you’d rather see the play itself. If so, you may be pleased to hear that the show is going on tour, playing in 20 cities in the Midwest and Southeast beginning October 10 in Bloomington, IN, and ending November 6 in Grand Rapids, MI. Tickets go on sale Friday, May 17 at 10am at aeglive.com. The full list of cities and dates can be found here.

June 4 is also publication day for Joyland. Check out issue 70 of Cemetery Dance magazine for my review and an interview with Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai. Thus far the only review has been from Publishers Weekly, and it’s a good one. The audiobook will be narrated by Michael Kelly. Last week it was announced that Tate Taylor (The Help) has optioned the film rights.

Cemetery Dance has revealed some of Vincent Chong’s spectacular artwork for their limited edition of Doctor Sleep here and here.

A Dollar Baby Film Festival will be part of Comicpalooza in Houston on the Memorial Day weekend. Twenty of these short films will be screened. I will be attending as a special guest. Shawn S. Lealos is hosting the event, screening his adaptation of “I Know What You Need” and promoting his upcoming book Dollar Deal: The Stories of the Dollar Baby Filmmakers.

The film adaptation of A Good Marriage is getting in gear. Filming will start in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Joan Allen and Anthony LaPaglia star as husband and wife, with Kristen Connolly playing their daughter. Stephen Lang plays a retired investigator from the Maine Attorney General’s office who is obsessed with solving a crime. Peter Askin is directing from King’s screenplay.

Only six more weeks until the premiere of Under the Dome, the summer series on CBS. Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), who plays Big Jim Rennie, tweeted a picture from the set with King recently. Cast members and producers discussed the series recently at Wondercon. You can see video of that panel at the bottom of this page. It’s hard to turn on ABC these days without seeing a promo for the show, but just in case you’ve missed them, here’s the latest teaser trailer. Be on the lookout for a shout-out to The Simpsons when the show airs. The plan is for this to be an ongoing series rather than a limited miniseries.

JJ Abrams has stepped in with a proposal to turn 11/22/63 into a TV series after Jonathan Demme recused himself from the project.

Season 4 of Haven began production recently. Eureka’s Colin Ferguson joins the cast as (what else?) a mysterious stranger.

The Dark Tower comics from Marvel are nearing the end of their run. The second issue of Evil Ground, the prequel to The Little Sisters of Eluria, comes out this month. Then, in July, a one-shot called So Fell Lord Perth ends the series.

Could the Dark Tower adaptation find its way to Netflix? Chief Creative Officer Ted Sarandos has revealed that he has talked to Ron Howard about the possibility. He says that he and Howard plan to continue their discussions after Arrested Development is finished.

Hard Listening is a forthcoming e-book by members of the Rock Bottom Remainders. It is a collection of essays, stories, musings, group email exchanges, candid conversations, compromising photographs, and audio and video (semi-musical) clips, as well as interactive quizzes. It will feature a new King story, as well as stories by some of his collaborators written to imitate him.

On July 18, King will appear at The Bushnell in Hartford, Connecticut, in conversation with WNPR radio personality Colin McEnroe. Proceeds from the event benefit the continuing educational and preservation activities of The Mark Twain House & Museum. He and son Owen will headline the PEN Canada annual benefit on October 24. The Q&A discussion will be moderated by the award-winning mystery writer, Louise Penny.

Want to blow your mind? Check out this flowchart of The Stephen King Universe. You may think you’ve seen it before, but it was recently updated to include the Dark Tower series.


News from the Dead Zone #155

The official Stephen King Facebook page debuted today. Be sure to click on the banner when you get there to see a clever mosaic.

Once upon a time, not so terribly long ago, I pretended to be Scarecrow Joe as part of the promotion leading up to the hardcover release of Under the Dome. I wrote the kid’s blog entries and ran his twitter feed. Colin Ford (We Bought a Zoo) will play him in the CBS TV series that debuts on June 24th. That’s the first casting news to be announced. There’ll be a promotional ad for the series during the Super Bowl. Neal Baer serves as showrunner. DreamWorks’ Stacey Snider is executive producing with Spielberg, King, Baer, Brian K. Vaughan (who wrote the pilot), Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. Here’s an interview with King and Vaughan about the adaptation. Filming starts in Wilmington, NC in February. The thirteenth and final episode will reveal a vital piece of information about the town’s situation, but will be open-ended, the hope being that the series will be renewed and there will be more adventures in Chester’s Mill.

The third season of Haven ended with a series of bangs last night as the final two episodes were aired. What a cliffhanger it was, too. We learned some new information (who’s the Colorado Kid’s father? Who’s in charge of the guard?) but now we have to wait months and months to find out what will become of Audrey and Nathan and company. Turning Duke into a teenager, albeit briefly, was a stroke of brilliance.

The signed, limited edition of The Shining from Subterranean Press will go on sale at approximately 12:00 PM, EST, on Wednesday, January 23. The artist for this edition is Gabriel Rodriguez (of the comic series Locke & Key).

There’s a three page interview with King in the January 11 issue of Entertainment Weekly about Doctor Sleep. “6 Books We Can’t Wait For — Stephen King on His Shining Sequel” I haven’t found it online yet, though.

PS Publishing is going to do two 30th anniversary editions of King’s books this year. Their plan is to get the books out as close to the original publication dates as possible: Christine (with an introduction by Michael Marshall Smith) in late April and Pet Sematary (with an introduction by Ramsey Campbell) in mid-November. The books will have wraparound covers, two-page endpapers back and front (each one different) and full color wraparound artwork on a special slipcase plus six interior b&w illustrations. The artists will be signing the tip sheets and they’re hoping to include King’s signature as a facsimile. Print run should be 300-400 numbered copies.

Part 1 of the two-part Sheemie’s Story is now out from Marvel, with the concluding section coming out in February. After that, another two-part series called Evil Ground launches in April. It’s described as a prequel to “The Little Sisters of Eluria.” Here’s the blurb: “While traveling through the Desatoya Mountains towards Eluria, Roland comes across a haunted camp. While there, he relives one of his past adventures, in which he and his ka-tet fought Farson’s forces, only to be trapped by supernatural enemies”

Sony Pictures announced recently that the Carrie remake has been pushed back from its March 15 release to October 18.

The Facebook page Blumhouse Productions has released two behind the scenes photos for the movie Mercy, based on King’s short story “Gramma.” Dylan McDermott joined the cast recently, along with Frances O’Connor, Chandler Riggs and Joel Courtney. Peter Cornwell is directing. See more here.

News from the Dead Zone #154

The end is drawing nigh. The end of the world? Pshaw. The end of the year, certainly. This will probably be my last update for 2012, and what better day to do it than on 12/12/12?

Last Friday, King made an appearance at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. During the day, he talked to a creative writing class and that evening he took part in a conversation with faculty member and writer Andre Dubus III. Dubus interviewed him for the first 30 minutes, and King took questions from the audience during the final 30 minutes. In the middle, he treated the audience to the world premiere of a new short story called “Afterlife,” which is not scheduled for publication at this time. Earlier in the day, he talked at length about the novel he is currently working on, describing the genesis and how it developed from a short story idea into a 500 page manuscript. Mr. Mercedes is more of a mystery novel and it has no supernatural elements. You can find video of the entire event at the UMass Lowell website.

Look for the rare King short story “The Glass Floor” in issue #69 of Cemetery Dance magazine. This is the Glenn Chadbourne issue, and my buddy Glenn has put together special illustrations for this creepy tale, King’s first professional sale, originally published in 1967 and only reprinted once since then.

The 24-part graphic adaptation of “Little Green God of Agony” is now finished.

The long-delayed soundtrack for Ghost Brothers of Darkland County will be released on March 19th, 2013. The (enhanced CD) Standard Edition features the complete soundtrack, dialog excerpts and digital libretto. The (2CD/1DVD) Deluxe Edition contains the complete soundtrack (with and without dialog), deluxe art work, handwritten lyrics, specially printed libretto and the “Making of Ghost Brothers” mini-documentary DVD featuring in-depth interviews with King, Mellencamp and Burnett along with other bonus material. Digital editions for tablets, smartphones and e-readers will allow users to interact with the complete soundtrack + digital libretto, as well as exclusive video and graphic materials. King and Mellencamp are still exploring the possibility of bringing the show to Broadway, and King thinks that it might make a good movie, too.

Under the Dome will be a series on CBS next summer. This isn’t going to be a literal translation, though, and neither is it going to be a miniseries. Writer Brian K. Vaughan is using the novel as a launch pad for an open-ended series that could potentially continue beyond the initial 13-week run. Perhaps it will be something like The Dead Zone series, which ran for several years, or like SyFy’s Haven, which has been renewed for a fourth season.

John Cusack will play the lead in an adaptation of Cell from Cargo Entertainment. Richard Saperstein, who produced 1408, will co-produce this feature. No word on when production might begin. And in other casting news, Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead) and Joel Courtney (Super 8) are joining the cast of Mercy, a feature based on “Gramma.”

Ben Affleck is having a hard time wrapping his head around his proposed adaptation of The Stand. “I like the idea,” he told GQ. “It’s like The Lord of the Rings in America. And it’s about how we would reinvent ourselves as a society. If we started all over again, what would we do?” The film is still on his radar, but it won’t be the next thing he works on. “The script is not ready yet, it needs a lot more work.”

Jonathan Demme had sufficient problems with 11/22/63 that he decided to step away from the project. “This is a big book, with lots in it,” he told Indiewire. “And I loved certain parts of the book for the film more than Stephen did. We’re friends, and I had a lot of fun working on the script, but we were too apart on what we felt should be in and what should be out of the script. I had an option and I let it go. But I hope it’s moving forward, I really want to see that movie.”

The San Francisco Opera will present the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne on Sept. 18 next year, the first of six performances running through October 4.  The libretto is by J.D. McClatchy. Mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick will sing the title character, soprano Elizabeth Futral will perform Vera Donovan, Susannah Biller the daughter Selena St. George, Wayne Tigges the husband Joe St. George, and Greg Fedderly will be Detective Thibodeau. George Manahan conducts and James Robinson directs.

Remember that famous “Study, Dammit” cover from the Maine Campus? The one adapted at King’s website to say “Read the FAQ, Dammit”? Well, the original artwork was discovered recently and you can now purchase copies, with proceeds going to support both The Maine Campus and scholarships at the University of Maine. Visit http://www.studydammit.com/.

Cemetery Dance announced the publication of my signed, limited edition chapbook, Twenty-First Century King recently. The 50-page booklet compiles my reviews of every book King has published in the 21st century, starting with “Riding the Bullet” and ending with The Wind Through the Keyhole. That adds up to 21 reviews and 21,000 words of text. Seems like a theme—the mystical number 21. There are only 750 copies. They make great stocking stuffers for the King fan in your life.

And, last but not least, I recently announced my third book, The Dark Tower Companion, to be published by New American Library (Penguin) in April 2013. This massive companion is 50% longer than The Road to the Dark Tower. It covers not only the eight books in the series, but also the Marvel graphic novel adaptations. I interviewed King for the book, along with Robin Furth, Richard Isanove (colorist), Peter David (script), Jae Lee (artist) and most of the subsequent artists. I also, much to my great delight, got to talk with Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman about how they plan to adapt the series. The book features a comprehensive glossary and two maps drawn by none other than…me! It will be published as a trade paperback and a Kindle eBook, both of which can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

News from the Dead Zone #153

The big news today (other than Hurricane Sandy, of course) is Subterranean Press’s announcement that they will be publishing a signed/limited edition of The Shining next year. There’ll be a numbered edition of 750, a lettered edition of 52 and an unsigned trade edition. It will feature over 40 illustrations by acclaimed artist Dagmara Matuszak. The signed editions will be signed by Stephen and the artist. Preorders for this offering will begin in January 2013. News regarding preorders will be sent first from Subterranean Press through their newsletter, so anyone interested is urged to sign up at their site.

Issue 25 of Screem magazine is shipping soon. It contains my interview with Mark Pavia about his film The Night Flier and his anthology project in development, The Reaper’s Image. I also have an essay about the various King-based anthology projects over the years.

Have you been checking out the webcomic adaptation of “The Little Green God of Agony” at King’s official website? Adapted by well-known comic artist Dennis Calero, the webcomic will run in serial installments on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for eight weeks. King’s opinion? “It rocks most righteously.”

To date, three of the four novellas from Different Seasons have been adapted to film. Scott Teems is working on a script for the remaining novella, “The Breathing Method.” Scott Derrickson (director of Sinister) will direct, assuming it gets financing.

Universal is working with the same production company (Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Prods.) on a fantasy-horror film based on “Gramma.” The film will be called Mercy, with Peter Cornwell directing from a script by Matt Greenberg (1408). Frances O’Connor  is set to star. The story was previously adapted by Harlan Ellison for The New Twilight Zone in 1986.

The Gunslinger section of the Marvel graphic novels is finished. Next up is Sheemie’s Tale, a two-parter that debuts in January 2013. By the way, Robin Furth’s The Complete Concordance has been revised and updated to include The Wind Through the Keyhole. It will be released on November 9.

Brian Freeman interviewed Lawrence Cohen about his book Stephen King’s Carrie: The Book, The Movie, and The Musical! The director and cast of the forthcoming remake of Carrie appeared at ComicCon in NY to discuss the project. Here is the movie’s official site.

A year ago, a group of high school students in Sussex, NB, Canada, embarked on a project whereby they hoped to entice King to visit their school, which is located a few hundred miles from Bangor. They started a letter-writing campaign, sending hundreds of requests to his office. They created videos and rap songs. Finally, their persistence paid off. In late October, King was a surprise visitor to the school, where he spent an hour with a small group of writing students critiquing their work and another hour with a larger group in the school auditorium. No journalists were invited to the event, but articles ran after the fact in the Bangor Daily News and many Canadian markets. Here is the CBC news coverage, including a video news clip and an audio news report. Even better, the students recorded the appearance and made two YouTube videos, a 5-minute synopsis and a 30-minute extended version.

Joyland by Stephen King Announced!

Joyland by Stephen King
A Brand New, Never Before Published Novel!
“I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts.” — Stephen King

Hi Folks!

We’re pleased to report we’re now taking preorders for Joyland by Stephen King, a new novel Hard Case Crime will be publishing next year! We’re also producing a custom-made slipcase for this title like we have for the last couple of King books, which you can also preorder now if you’re interested!

About the Book:

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

Note From the Publisher and the Author:
“I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts,” Stephen King said in the press release. “I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book.”

Charles Ardai, editor of Hard Case Crime, promises a layered, genre-crossing story. “Joyland is a breathtaking, beautiful, heartbreaking book,” he said. “It’s a whodunit, it’s a carny novel, it’s a story about growing up and growing old, and about those who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time. Even the most hard-boiled readers will find themselves moved.”

Add A Special Exclusive Slipcase To Your Order To Protect Your Book!

Even though Joyland by Stephen King is being published by another publisher, we’ll be producing a custom-made slipcase for this title like we have for the last few Stephen King books!

The easiest way to add a slipcase to your purchase is by selecting the “Paperback with Exclusive Slipcase!” option on the Joyland product page — you’ll also save on shipping by ordering this way! (You can order just the slipcase by itself on the Joyland Slipcase product page.)

Don’t know what a slipcase is? That’s okay! It’s easily the best way to protect your book for generations to come. You can see some sample images of other slipcases we’ve made below. We’re using the same high-quality materials we have used for our previous Stephen King cases, with one color hot foil stamping. The company who makes these for us is the best in the business and you won’t find a better way to protect your investment! (If you are new to collecting, you can read more about slipcases on our Book FAQ page.)

These cases will be produced after the book is published because we need a real copy of the book to get the sizing just right and your book and slipcase will ship together to save you on shipping. We think our collectors will be very pleased with what we have in mind for these very special cases, so don’t wait to place your order!

Sample Slipcase Photos:

Sample Photos

Read more or place your order while supplies last!

News from the Dead Zone #152

The cover art for Joyland (see right) was released today. The book, from Hard Case Crime, will be released on June 4, 2013. The original publication will be in paperback only. Other editions (hardcover, electronic, audio) are possible but not currently scheduled. Joyland takes place in a small-town North Carolina amusement park, where college student Devin Jones arrives to work as a carny for the summer, but he ends up experiencing much more than he bargained for when he confronts the legacy of a vicious murder and the fate of a dying child. Read the entire press release.

Three months after Joyland, we’ll get Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. The publication date was announced earlier this week: September 24, 2013. The story picks up with Dan Torrance (formerly Danny), who is now middle-aged and working at a hospice in rural New Hampshire. He meets Abra Stone, a very special twelve-year old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals known as The True Knot, quasi-immortal creatures that live off the ‘steam’ that children with the ‘shining’ produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Have you ever read “Weeds,” the rare King story that was the basis for “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” in Creepshow? If not, check out Shivers VII, which also features stories by Clive Barker, Ed Gorman, Bill Pronzini and many others, including me!

King’s short story “Batman and Robin Have an Altercation” appeared in the 9/12 issue of Harper’s Magazine, the first time he has published with them. “In The Tall Grass,” his collaboration with Joe Hill, first published in Esquire last summer, will be released as an audio book and an eBook in October. I wrote an essay about the story behind the story of “A Face in the Crowd” (which came out as an eBook and in audio on August 24) for FEARNet: Faces in the Crowd.

Movie news: Joan Allen will play the lead in The Good Wife, which should start filming next month. Rachel Nichols is in negotiations to join Justin Long in The Ten O’Clock People.

A group of filmmakers are working on a documentary called Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary. They have have already shot every location and filmed over two dozen interviews with the cast, crew and Maine locals who worked on the production, most of whom have never been interviewed on camera about their role in the film. John Campopiano says, “Our goal is to show the unique bridging of a relatively small Hollywood production with a small Maine community who continue to think highly of its involvement in the film. We’re also seeking to explore the legacy the film has established and how its core themes are being taught and explored in the film and academic worlds.”

Warner Bros.is quietly exploring the possibility of a prequel to The Shining. The studio has solicited Laeta Kalogridis and her partners to produce the proposed film, which would focus on what happened before the Torrances arrived at The Overlook. A WB spokeswoman cautioned that the project was in a very early stage and not even formally in development.

King, Dave Barry and The Rock Bottom Remainders, appeared on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson. You can see it in its entirety here.

Earlier this week I received an advanced copy of Carrie: The Musical – Premiere Cast Recording from Ghostlight Records. For the first time ever, the music from the infamous Broadway adaptation is available, revised and updated for its recent reincarnation that closed after less than 50 performances (which is about ten times more than the original version). One motivation behind the reboot was to come up with a musical that could be licensed for productions across North America. The CD booklet has a reflection on the show’s history written by Lawrence D. Cohen, who wrote the book for the play as well as the script for the Brian De Palma film. Here’s a video for the opening song, “In.”

Matt Selman, an executive producer of The Simpsons, has undertaken the task of writing Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” as it would have been recorded in the universe of 11/22/63.

James Smythe has gotten as far as The Dead Zone in his chronological reread of King’s books.

Here is a trailer for Season 3 of Haven, which premieres this Friday night on SyFy.

The Wind Through the Keyhole will be out in paperback on November 6th.

Finally, I have to share this enthusiastic (6 out of 5!) video review of The Stephen King Illustrated Companion.

A Face in the Crowd by Stephen King & Stewart O’Nan! Read It Today!

A Face in the Crowd

Have you heard about A Face in the Crowd by Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan, a new eBook that Simon & Schuster just published TODAY that you could be reading mere seconds from now? We are not involved in this project, but the news is so cool, we just had to share!

About the Book:
Dean Evers, an elderly widower, sits in front of the television with nothing better to do than waste his leftover evenings watching baseball. It’s Rays/Mariners, and David Price is breezing through the line-up. Suddenly, in a seat a few rows up beyond the batter, Evers sees the face of someone from decades past, someone who shouldn’t be at the ballgame, shouldn’t be on the planet. And so begins a parade of people from Evers’s past, all of them occupying that seat behind home plate. Until one day Dean Evers sees someone even eerier…

ORDER ON AMAZON: http://amzn.to/AFaceInTheCrowdUS

ORDER ON AMAZON UK: http://bit.ly/AFaceInTheCrowdUK

ORDER ON BARNES & NOBLE: http://bit.ly/AFaceInTheCrowdNOOK

ORDER ON ITUNES: http://bit.ly/FACEitunes

A Face in the Crowd by Stephen King & Stewart O’Nan!

PLUS A FREE Cemetery Dance eBook This Week Only:
Four Legs in the Morning by Norman Prentiss

Hi Folks!

Have you heard about A Face in the Crowd by Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan, a new eBook that Simon & Schuster just announced? We are not involved in this project, but the news is so cool, we just had to share!

A Face in the CrowdAbout the Book:
Dean Evers, an elderly widower, sits in front of the television with nothing better to do than waste his leftover evenings watching baseball. It’s Rays/Mariners, and David Price is breezing through the line-up. Suddenly, in a seat a few rows up beyond the batter, Evers sees the face of someone from decades past, someone who shouldn’t be at the ballgame, shouldn’t be on the planet. And so begins a parade of people from Evers’s past, all of them occupying that seat behind home plate. Until one day Dean Evers sees someone even eerier…

PREORDER ON AMAZON: http://amzn.to/AFaceInTheCrowdUS

PREORDER ON AMAZON UK: http://bit.ly/AFaceInTheCrowdUK

PREORDER ON BARNES & NOBLE: http://bit.ly/AFaceInTheCrowdNOOK

PREORDER ON ITUNES: http://bit.ly/FACEitunes

PLUS A FREE Cemetery Dance eBook This Week!

Four Legs in the MorningWe’re also very pleased to announce that the Amazon Kindle eBook edition of Four Legs in the Morning by Norman Prentiss is FREE FOR EVERYONE THIS WEEK ONLY at this special Amazon.com link:


Please Note: You do NOT need to own a Kindle to read Kindle eBooks! You can try the Kindle App (for iPhones, iPads, Android Phones, PCs, and more) or you can even read Kindle eBooks in your web browser using the free Kindle Cloud!

Please help us spread the word about this FREE giveaway by posting the news and those links on your websites, blogs, message boards, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Download your FREE copy of FOUR LEGS IN THE MORNING before time runs out!

News from the Dead Zone #151

My 150th post was so memorable, so legen—wait for it—dary that I was hesitant to follow it up. Nah, I’ve just been busy with other stuff (a likely story). So, here it is, #151. All the news that’s fit to print, and even some that isn’t.

The hottest news is the pending publication of “A Face in the Crowd,” an e-book and audiobook short story co-written with Stewart O’Nan, release slated for August 21. You can read the plot synopsis at King’s website. If you find yourself saying, “Hey, that sort of sounds familiar,” there’s a good reason. King talked about this story idea in Faithful, also co-written with O’Nan, while discussing the Face Game, something he’d do to amuse himself while watching baseball games. “What if a guy watches a lot of baseball games on TV because he’s a shut-in or invalid…and one night he sees his best friend from childhood, who was killed in a car crash, sitting in one of the seats behind the backstop…After that the protagonist sees him every night at every game.” You can read the full passage from Faithful here. The idea stuck around. King mentioned it again at the end of his appearance at the Savannah Book Festival, where Stewart O’Nan was in attendance. You can hear King talking about it at the 1 hr 5 min mark of this video.

The next book to be published will probably be Joyland, which will be out from Hard Case Crime next June. Neil Gaiman spilled the beans about this crime novel in an interview with King published in the Sunday Times in April. The book will only be available in paperback at first because King wants people to experience it as a physical book. Presumably there will eventually be an eBook, too. Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. Publisher Charles Ardai calls the it “a breathtaking, beautiful, heartbreaking book. It’s a whodunit, it’s a carny novel, it’s a story about growing up and growing old, and about those who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time.  Even the most hardboiled readers will find themselves moved.”

Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining, originally slated for a January 2013 release, has been pushed back to give King more time to work on revisions. A new release date has not yet been announced, but you can hear King read the opening section on the audiobook version of The Wind through the Keyhole.

Part 1 of “In the Tall Grass,” a novella co-written with Joe Hill, was published in the June/July issue of Esquire, with the conclusion following in the August issue. It’s a nasty little story about what happens to people who unwisely choose to listen to the Canadian rock group Rush while traveling cross-country.

Movie update: The remake of Carrie is currently in production, with Chloë Grace Moretz in the starring role. Julianne Moore, Judy Greer and Portia Doubleday are also in the movie, which is directed by Kimberly Peirce. Justin Long is starring in a feature film adaptation of “The Ten o’Clock People,” directed by Tom Holland (The Langoliers, Thinner). Both are slated for 2013 releases. At Cannes, there were reports that “The Reach” and “A Good Marriage” would be turned into films, too, but there’s been no further news since then, nor has there been anything else about SyFy’s plans to turn The Eyes of the Dragon into a 4-hour TV movie. There are still rumblings about a 2-movie remake of It, too, but who knows if that project will take off or not.

King played with the Rock Bottom Remainders at their last-ever gigs in California recently. Before the shows, King said,  “A few years ago, Bruce Springsteen told us we weren’t bad, but not to try to get any better otherwise we’d just be another lousy band. After 20 years, we still meet his stringent requirements. For instance, while we all know what ‘stringent’ means, none of us have yet mastered an F chord.” Kathy Kamen Goldmark, who came up with the idea for the band, passed away shortly before these shows. You can find some clips of their performances on YouTube. Here’s an article about the band in the L.A. Times.

King will take to the stage at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, offering fans the chance to hear him read his work, ask him questions and listen to him discuss his passion for writing and his advice for aspiring authors on Friday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m.  See more about the event here.

Mark and Brian of KLOS hosted a wide-ranging interview with King recently You can listen to it here: Part 1 | Part 2.

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County may make the move to Broadway. Director Susan V. Booth plans to workshop the play in New York in September to try to arrange financial backing. In case you missed it in the awesomeness that was NFtDZ #150, here is my review of the Premiere at FEARnet.

James Smythe, a writer for the UK newspaper The Guardian, has read every King book and is now reading them again and reviewing them along the way. If you’re interested in following along, his first post on Carrie can be found here.

Season 3 of Haven is currently filming in Nova Scotia. The SyFy original series, based on The Colorado Kid (loosely based, that is), returns with thirteen new episodes on September 21. Hmmm. There’s something special about that date. Now, what could it be?


News from the Dead Zone #150

My 150th post to the online version of News from the Dead Zone. Let’s make it worth while, shall we?

The big news, of course, is yesterday’s publication of The Dark Tower 4.5, aka The Wind Through the Keyhole. I have a long review of the book in CD #66 and a shorter one at Onyx Reviews. The book is also out in the UK with a fascinating concept: The back cover is composed of hundreds (if not thousands) of user-contributed photographs, including mine. I haven’t seen the final product yet, but I expect that the pictures will be so small as to be unrecognizable but the online graphic lets you look around to see how it was built. A neat idea.

King reads the audio version, which is available on audio CD (not to be confused with this CD) and as an MP3 download. It also contains the opening section of Doctor Sleep, which will be published next year. There is an official Dark Tower page on Facebook, where you can read a discussion between King’s longtime editor, Scribner Editor-in-Chief Nan Graham, and his longtime editor and agent Chuck Verrill, of Darhansoff and Verrill, about the new book. My pal Bill Sheehan reviews the book in the Washington Post.

While we’re on the subject of the Dark Tower, the Marvel series The Way Station wraps up this month and the final series, The Man in Black, launches in June with artist Alex Maleev taking the reins. No word if Marvel will continue on past the end of The Gunslinger.

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is nearing the middle of its run at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA. I wrote an essay for FEARnet about the show’s long road from inception to execution (Ghost Brothers I: The Long Road to Atlanta) and another in which I review the musical (Ghost Brothers II: Review). I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at for the red carpet premiere on April 11 and got to meet many of the principles and actors afterward. You can find a lot of great photos (not mine) here. No word yet on any CD release of the songs or if the show will have a life beyond Atlanta. Here’s a study guide about the story.

Neil Gaiman interviewed King for the Sunday Times (UK) magazine a couple of weeks ago. Among the revelations was the news that King was working on a novel called Joyland about an amusement park serial killer. King’s administrator follows up by saying that “this is indeed a work in progress that has been completed but will need to be edited. There is no official publisher or publication date set at this time. We will update you as more official news becomes available.”

11/22/63 was a winner at the 32nd annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes in the mystery/suspense category. It has also been nominated for an International Thriller Award. The trade paperback edition will be out in October.

“Herman Wouk is Still Alive” (yes, he really is) won the Bram Stoker Award for short story. An audio adaptation of the story was prepared for Tales to Terrify in the run-up to the award ceremony. (While you’re there, check out an audio adaptation of my story, “Silvery Moon.”)

SyFy plans to adapt The Eyes of the Dragon for the cable network, we learned yesterday. It’s “in development,” with Michael Taylor and Jeff Vintar writing and Taylor executive producing with Bill Haber.

Mark Pavia (director of The Night Flier) is working on an anthology movie called Stephen King’s The Reaper’s Image that will adapt these four stories: “The Reaper’s Image,” “The Monkey,” “N,” and “Mile 81.”

Chloe Moretz has been chosen to play Carrie in the remake planned for next March. Julianne Moore is reportedly in talks to play Margaret White. Kim Pierce, the director, writes on Facebook: “I have gone back to the wonderful Stephen King book Carrie; I am also modernizing the story as one has to in order to bring any great piece of work written in one era into the next and especially given how very relevant this material is right now.”

I did an hour-long podcast about the Mick Garris miniseries Bag of Bones hosted by Louis Sytsma and featuring his frequent fellow podcaster Karen Lindsay.

All the links fit to print:

News from the Dead Zone #149

It can’t really have been two months since I last updated this site, can it? Apparently so. My apologies. I’ve been somewhat busy with an as-yet-unannounced book project that I hope will interest y’all when I can talk about it.

So, what’s new? The biggest thing, probably, is the fact that The Wind Through the Keyhole is starting to ship from Donald M. Grant. If you ordered the Artist Edition, you’re at the head of the list, though us poor alphabet-challenged people will have to wait a little longer than the Andersons and Billings and Carpenters of the world. My review of what King calls Dark Tower 4.5 (because the contemporary action takes place after the ka-tet leaves the Green Palace) will appear in the next issue of Cemetery Dance magazine.

I won’t bore you with news about the various remakes of movies based on King’s works. None of them seem to be going anywhere fast these days. However, I wrote an essay for FEARnet about the various Carrie adaptations, both cinematic and dramatic: Carrie On.

What’s King reading these days? According to Entertainment Weekly, he’s deep into the second volume of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Issue #1 of Road Rage, IDW’s graphic novel adaptation of Throttle is out this month, as is The Way Station #4.

King has commented about how he reworked the ending of 11/22/63 in response to feedback from his son. The original version of the last page or so of the manuscript is now available on his website.

Do you have your copy of Cycle Zombies by Stephen King? Nope, me neither. When showrunner Kurt Sutter asked King if he had a book he would like to promote during an episode of Sons of Anarchy last fall, this is the title King came up with. Sutter put his art department to work, and you can see the results here. Note that the text below the image is a spoiler for the fate of a major character, so if you haven’t seen the most recent season yet, don’t read the text!

King was at the Savannah Book Festival last weekend. He read from the opening pages of Dr. Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. This is a different passage than the one he read from last fall and features Danny and Wendy. You can find audience videos of the reading on YouTube.

Speaking of The Shining, you might be interested in Room 237, a documentary that digs into Kubrick’s film and comes up with some surprising deductions and extrapolations. Some articles about the movie: Cracking the Code in ‘Heeere’s Johnny!’ and Fascinating ‘Room 237′ Will Forever Change ‘The Shining’ For Audiences.

This week’s Saturday Night Live featured a sketch in which “Maya Angelou” stars in a ‘prank show.’  One of her victims is Bill Hader playing Stephen King (which can be seen in this video at about the 1:40 mark).

Just a couple of months until the premiere of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. I’ll be attending and will file a report after the event. A guest star-packed studio concept album is scheduled to be released on May 22 in both a single disc and 3-CD deluxe edition.

“Fair Extension” appears in the charity anthology Rage Against the Night to benefit King expert Rocky Wood. I also have a story in the book, which you can order here.

“Herman Wouk is Still Alive” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in the short fiction category.

I found this in-depth essay fascinating: You Can’t Always Get What You Want: On Stephen King from The Nation.

Shipping Update on It: The 25th Anniversary Special Limited Edition by Stephen King

We started shipping the Gift Edition of It: The 25th Anniversary Special Limited Edition by Stephen King right on schedule this week and the first 600 copies have already gone out the door.  The rest of the preorders will be shipped this week and early next.  Orders are shipped in the order in which they were received and when your book ships you will be emailed a shipping confirmation.

The Limited Edition traycases are due to arrive on Monday, and we will begin shipping that edition at that time.  Please note that it will probably take the entire week to ship all 750 copies due to the extra steps involved in shipping the Limited Edition, so please do not panic if you do not receive a shipping confirmation right away.

Please Note: Cemetery Dance managing editor Brian James Freeman has posted the first photos of the Gift Edition and the Limited Edition on his blog, with more to come:


Be sure to subscribe to his blog to be emailed about future updates and photos of interest to Stephen King fans.  There are some cool, exclusive things in the works!

News from the Dead Zone #148

Last week, I participated in a conference call with several other journalists hosted by A&E to promote Bag of Bones, which premieres on Sunday, December 11. This is the first time I’ve been involved in something like this. Basically it’s a press conference, except it’s done over the phone. While it seemed a little chaotic at first, once the moderator established the rules, everything fell into place. Each of us got to ask three questions in turn.

The interview guest was Annabeth Gish, who plays Jo Noonan in the two-part, four-hour miniseries, which is directed by Mick Garris and stars Pierce Brosnan, Gish, Melissa George and William Schallert. In case you haven’t seen it already, here are the links to my three-part interview with Mick Garris, which was posted on FEARNet.com: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Stay tuned later this week for my review of the miniseries, which I watched with my wife last week.

Gish previously appeared in Garris’s 2006 TV movie Desperation, where she played Mary Jackson. She received an offer for the part of Mike Noonan’s wife, read the script and accepted the role, even though her character dies early in the movie. “Jo was so clearly drawn, and her essence is throughout the film, so in that sense she kind of resonates. I was automatically drawn to say ‘yes’ for several reasons. One is that I’ve worked with the director, Mick Garris, before and I absolutely adore him. And, again, this is another Stephen King project for me and I respect him immensely. I just jumped at the chance.”

Because of the nature of her role, her on-screen moments are almost entirely with Pierce Brosnan. She first met Brosnan during the photo sessions that gave rise to the Dark Score Stories website before filming began. “You can get to know a little bit more about Jo and her paintings and her relationship to solving the Sara Tidwell murder . . . That was nice to get loose and to play, because we were supposed to be captured as in real life moments. That was really helpful to get to know each other.” They also took a rowboat ride together, but she didn’t feel it was necessary to process their relationship too much before the cameras rolled. “Here’s the thing about Pierce Brosnan that I can’t say enough: He is a consummate professional and an actor. He would come so prepared, with so many diverse options and choices. He’s such an impeccable actor and a great human being that what he brought was fantastic.” A scene in which she lies on the dock with Brosnan was a personal highlight for her. “He’s always been idol of mine from a young age,” she says, remembering him for his days on Remington Steele.

The fact that she was working with Garris for the second time helped, too. “You’ve gotten all of the niceties out of the way. You’re comfortable. You know each other. You know each other’s styles. And Mick has such an open heart. My level of comfort with him was immense, and I trust him implicitly. I would do anything for him. Mick is such an exquisite filmmaker. He has this mastery of horror. Anything he did technically with this film, I trusted, and you knew it was going to be beautiful. Sometimes when you walk onto a set you know everyone is in accordance with the director. Everybody is getting the memo. Filming is working efficiently. That was the vibe whenever I worked.”

Because she is the mother of two young children, she didn’t relish the idea of spending a lot of time away from them, or taking them to Nova Scotia to live in a hotel. She says that everyone worked around her schedule. “I had to take five separate trips to Halifax, but I was able to do only three and four days away from my sons. They were so considerate to me being a mom and knowing that I didn’t want to leave my sons.”

As for Nova Scotia, which doubles for Maine in the miniseries, she says, “Halifax itself as a location was this murky, mysterious, lush landscape that really fit. I think it really gives a sense of the landscape and infuses the film throughout. Weather in that kind of coastal environment always can present a problem but it was beautiful. I would shoot in Halifax any time. I think it’s such a gorgeous area of the planet and I would return there in a heartbeat.”

The most difficult aspect of the miniseries for her was the fact that she had to convey her character’s spirit. “You have a limited amount of time to convey a certain amount of feeling. Mick and I particularly talked a lot about Jo’s essence and what needed to come as a kind of feeling state without words over the screen, which is really amorphous and difficult to execute.

To help capture her character’s vibe, between scenes she often hung out in the set of Jo’s studio and examined the paintings. “They are so kinetic and so emotionally turbulent that they were an immediate hook in for me to Jo. I love that. I have no painting/artistic ability at all but just to take a brush and pretend and follow the strokes of this artist and imagine was inspiring. Pierce is a painter. He paints and draws. On an artistic level it made me think about taking a painting class, even though I’m not good at it.”

An early scene that has her underneath her bed was both psychologically disturbing and physically challenging. “We would get under the bed when we were children, but I don’t know when I’ve been under my bed recently. It was kind of a tight-quarters stunt that they actually did have to pull me with velocity from under the bed. I couldn’t sleep that night thinking of a wife reaching out to her husband from beyond the living world. It’s pretty scary. From a physical, visceral experience of filming, that was one of my favorite scenes.” However, she says, the impact of such scenes doesn’t stay with her long, “Maybe I didn’t sleep for a couple of nights, but after the movie it’s gone. It hasn’t affected my life.”

She also had to undergo extensive makeup sessions. “This project has probably been one of the most physically challenging for me in the sense of the prosthetics. I had to do a four-hour make-up job three times and become the ghost of Jo. That was for me personally very scary. It was claustrophobic and you have to wear all of this gunk all over your body. That was challenging.”

A scene involving a bus crash early in the movie was also challenging. “It was a short scene but it was a very difficult scene to shoot, not diminished by the fact that it was freezing cold and raining in Halifax that day. It was very emotional. To speak to Pierce’s commitment level, he just went for it and brought his grief to life. It was emotional and wrenching.”

She didn’t read King’s novel until after she read the script and had started working on the project. She pointed out some differences between the two that are necessary for “the economy of bringing such a large piece to the screen, to television.” However, she continues, “what I found so impressive in hindsight was how Matt [Venne], the screenwriter, really captured the extent of that universe, that world—it’s kind of like three worlds. It’s Jo and Mike, and it’s Mattie and Mike and then it’s Sara Tidwell and Mike. There are some discrepancies but in general the essence of the project is very authentic and loyal to the book. The script was so tight once we went to production, and so good that our goal was just to be faithful to what we saw on the script pages.”

Though she only started reading King after doing Desperation, Gish has a copy of On Writing on the nightstand in her bedroom, and is currently reading Lisey’s Story, which see describes as “phenomenal.” She says that King’s books translate well into film “because he always has character at the heart of his horror. There is always a real human struggle within these extravagant, horrific circumstances. It’s reality pulled out to its most dramatic stakes. What Stephen King does so masterfully is the human element. He does love. He’s really an expert at writing about love, which is probably why all of his horror is so good.” She says that the miniseries “is not just a horror film or a mystery project or a thriller or a love story—it’s all of them. People will, on a purely entertainment level, be able to sit down, get a little scared, have a few tears, freak out and fall in love with these people.”

She is attracted to horror, but not for horror’s sake. The goal of Bag of Bones is “not just to scare the bejeezus out of anybody. It’s all wrapped very intricately in with a story about real drama and real heart and/or real mystery. This isn’t about zombies, this is about a love affair—three love affairs. This about solving a mystery. This is about race. This is about genealogy. It spans a whole expanse of things that I think people will be drawn to watch it for.”

She says that she “kind of believes” in ghosts and that spirits can exist and wander around. “I would say I have met some ghosts before, let’s just put it that way. I have danced with a few ghosts. I don’t know how you can’t. When you’re on a set, you’re inviting this world in, and if you’re open you can’t help but be sensitive to it. I’m not opposed to believing in it, that’s for sure.” However, what really scares her are catastrophic events, such as someone from her family being harmed.

Social media has played an important part in promoting Bag of Bones. Programs like Twitter neutralize the playing field, she says, by letting people know that “everybody is human and happy to share about their life and open up beyond their work. Pretty Little Liars is what got me started because their whole social network is humungous and electric and certainly wields a lot of power, I would say. They kind of were schooling me in Twitter and how to tweet and all that, and then you do realize that it is a wonderful new platform. It’s hard to define the line between being private and self-promoting. I don’t post pictures of my kids or my husband or anything intimate like that. I do try to use it mainly to publicize the work that I’m doing and also to show a little bit more who I am personally. But that’s me, not my family.”

She has been acting since the age of thirteen and feels lucky not to be pigeonholed in a certain kind of role or genre. In some ways, she feels that her career is just beginning. “Now that I’m forty and I have two children, I’m thinking more along specific lines. What do I want? Your clock starts ticking and you think, what do I want to really say with my work? Things are clicking into place and I feel much more compelled to be driven now, which is odd. I’m excited to see what the next ten years will bring. I think that they might bring a little more concentrated focus, perhaps.” She says she would love to dig deeper into flawed characters like the one she portrayed on Brotherhood, and she would also like to do action films. “A new phase for me, too, is to start developing things of my own that I have passion for, that I’m excited to bring and be more proactively involved in rather than just showing up and doing my job. To comprehensively create something.”

She never feels the need to shift gears when shifting genres. “As an actor, you just play the truth. Whomever you’re playing, whatever circumstances they’re in, whether they’re on a horse or they’re in a space ship or whatever, that’s their truth and you just play the truth. As long as you’re being honest and authentic, then you can cross any genre.”

News from the Dead Zone #147

Bag of Bones will run on A&E on December 11th and 12th as a four-hour miniseries. Part 1 of my interview with Mick Garris is now up at FEARNet. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week and Part 3 the week after that.

A&E provided more pictures than we were able to use at FEARNet so here are a few that I selected to accompany Part 1 that haven’t been published before.

Welcome to Dark Score Lake

Mike Noonan (Pierce Brosnan) and his wife Jo (Annabeth Gish)

Director Mick Garris prepares to shoot a bookstore scene featuring a signing by mid-list author Mike Noonan.

Pierce Brosnan as Mike Noonan at the Dark Score Lake Fair in 1939. Sara Tidwell (played by Anika Noni Rose) is on the stage with her band.