Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #195

Stephen King News From the Dead ZoneCastle Rock.

A little town in the lakes region of Maine, just south and west of Lewiston-Auburn, population somewhat less than two thousand. Not much to make it stand out from all of the other little places in the state. The founders made full use of the Castle name. Castle View is right next door. Nearby bodies of water are the Castle Stream, Castle River and Castle Lake, and the town is the county seat of Castle County. The more affluent people live on Castle Hill.

It has a central common with a bandstand, elementary, junior high and high schools (Go Cougars!), a couple of Little League fields, three graveyards, and just one bar, the Mellow Tiger (topless dancers on Friday and Saturday nights in later years). The Castle Rock Call keeps residents up to date on local news.

Between 1970 and 1975, six women were murdered by a cop, who ultimately committed suicide after being exposed by a psychic. Five years later, the sheriff in charge of that case was killed by a rabid dog, along with a couple of the town’s residents. We know all the sheriffs by name: Walt Bannerman, Alan Pangborn, Norris Ridgewick (with Andy Clutterbuck sometimes acting on his behalf).

There were other odd incidents. Ophelia Todd found shortcuts through the region that took her to strange places. An old woman, grandmother to a boy named George, had some very bad spells. Otto Schenk, the reclusive, crazy millionaire who lived on the outskirts of town, was found dead with his stomach full of motor oil. And the town seems to be a magnet for unusual businesses, including Pops Merrill’s Emporium Galorium and that sinister antiques shop named Needful Things operated by a “man” who called himself Leland Gaunt. Many of the more sinister details were probably omitted from A History of Castle County and Castle Rock, published in 1977.

By the end of 1991, there wasn’t much left to the little town, but it wasn’t erased from the map. People still lived there. During the 1990s, the town was still holding its Summerfest, there were fireworks over the lake, and the hospital (St. Stephen’s) was in operation. The town has a Gore-Tex factory and a Wal-Mart. Heck, they even have a speedway and a radio station, WCAS.

Even though people in Stephen King’s novels may not want to live there any longer, many of them know about the town. Visit it on occasion. Pass through. Even Al Templeton knew about it.

In the new novella “Gwendy’s Button Box,” we are going to get the chance to revisit this strange little town one more time. What’s unique about this story—well, one of the unique things, but I can’t say too much!—is that it was co-written by King and Rich Chizmar. The story will be published as a hardcover and eBook in May. According to King, he had a story he couldn’t finish, so he decided to collaborate with Rich on it. The story spans a number of years in the life of Gwendy Peterson, focusing on how she deals with an incredible burden and responsibility that is handed to her by a mysterious (but oddly familiar) stranger when she is just twelve.

Gwendy's Button Box

[Read my exclusive interview with Stephen King and Richard Chizmar!]

But wait! There’s more! Even before the official announcement of this book, King and JJ Abrams announced that there will be a 10-episode anthology series on Hulu based on the Castle Rock stories. Production starts later this year, with each season following a different set of characters and storylines while interjecting themes and specific characters from previous seasons.

Here is the official description from Hulu: A psychological-horror series set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King’s literary career: Cujo, The Dark Half, IT and Needful Things, as well as novella The Body and numerous short stories such as “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” are either set there or contain references to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an original suspense/thriller — a first-of-its-kind reimagining that explores the themes and worlds uniting the entire King canon, while brushing up against some of his most iconic and beloved stories.

The teaser tweet from Abrams says “What is the hoax in the forest?” with a link to the teaser trailer, which features a list of novel titles, character names and dialog from various Castle Rock stories. Several people took it upon themselves to transcribe and annotate the names from the teaser. Here is one such list.

Of course, that’s not all we have coming up. Here are the other projects in the works that we know about:

  • The Dark Tower film, which launches on July 28, 2017
  • It (Part I), which filmed in the Toronto area last year, will be in theaters on September 8, 2017
  • The Mist, a TV series on Spike which filmed in the Halifax vicinity last year
  • Mr. Mercedes, a 10-part miniseries which is filming in the Charleston area at the moment and will air on AT&T Audience Network later this year
  • Gerald’s Game, which filmed in Alabama last fall and will be on Netflix sometime this year
  • 1922, which was also reported to be filming and is also headed to Netflix

And then of course there’s King’s next novel, Sleeping Beauties, a collaboration with his son Owen, which will be out on September 26.

Sounds like it’s gonna be a busy year for King and King fans.

4 thoughts on “Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #195”

  1. Excellent post, thanks. I very much enjoyed the review of the Rock universe. Looking forward to all the King activity this year.

    Unless I missed it, is there any connection at all in terms of the Hulu series and the novella, at least in a marketing sense? Did King come up with this just after the deal with the streaming service was consummated; perhaps he was asked to do it? Will we see more collaborations with Cemetery Dance-associated authors set in the Rock?

    Bev, where do you think King goes from here in terms of media projects? He seems to be preferring streaming services and cable outlets. Do you think he’ll ever have something land at premiere outlets like AMC and HBO, or is that space too crowded with deals? I like that he is bypassing networks, although it is interesting to note that the Hulu series “11/22/63” had a very network-like tone/feel to it, with specific commercial-break edits readily apparent (notwithstanding, I loved that series, thought Abrams et al. did a great job with it).

    Did the surprise success of “Stranger Things” have anything to do with the Hulu series, as some observers have suggested?

    I have to confess, I am at the moment not recalling too big of a connection between the It/Derry universe and the Rock universe. Can you give an example of such a link?

    Finally, will you be involved with the Abrams series in any capacity, or will anyone from CD be authoring any of the episodes or be a member of the writers’ room?

    Thanks for the informative post, it is appreciated.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it — I had to do some research into Castle Rock recently, so it was all fresh in my mind.

      You’ll find the answer to your first question in my interview with Steve & Rich, which will shop up here in a couple of hours.

      I don’t know where King goes from here. He has always embraced new technology and new venues, and the streaming services are the latest thing, and they seem to have tons of money and are determined to do things right, so we’ll have to wait and see. I don’t know that he is “bypassing” networks — he’s just finding another avenue, one that has far fewer limitations than ABC or CBS or NBC would have. No commercial breaks, no standards and practices oversight, etc. Mr. Mercedes is coming in via another, different stream, so I don’t think he’d exclude anything if it were properly presented.

      I have no involvement with Abrams or his series. Alas! I’m available!

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