Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #198

Stephen King News From the Dead ZoneThe Dark Tower trailer we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. Let’s get that out of the way straight off:

However, before the trailer showed up at 9:19 am Keystone Earth Time today, we were treated yesterday to some Twitter banter between Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey as they laid the groundwork for a couple of teaser trailers that contain some footage not found in the official trailer.Continue Reading

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.Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #193

Stephen King News From the Dead Zone

Hearts in Suspension-the new Stephen King book that contains his long essay “Five to One, One in Five,” the novella “Hearts in Atlantis,” four of his “King’s Garbage Truck” essays from the University of Maine newspaper, and essays by a dozen fellow students—will be out from the University of Maine Press in a few weeks. The book also contains a photograph and document gallery that chronicles his university years. UMaine will host the book launch on November 7 at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono.Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #192

We’ve been spoiled in recent years by getting two novels from Stephen King. 2016 will see the end of that streak. The recently published End of Watch is the only book from King we’ll see this year. Later this fall, though, we’ll get Hearts in Suspension, edited by Jim Bishop, a collection of essays by King and others about his time as a student at the University of Maine. The publisher says that King’s essay is quite long (the longest of the set of about ten essays by various authors), and that the essay is “funny, truthful, and an involved work about Steve’s experiences during the 60’s, 70’s and the anti-war work of the Vietnam era, and so much more.”Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #191 — Review: 'End of Watch'

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End of Watch by Stephen King
Scribner (June 7, 2016)
448 pages; $18.00 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Bev Vincent

End_of_Watch_coverShortly after the publication of Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King announced that the book was the first in a trilogy that would be connected by the City Center Massacre (in which a psycho named Brady Hartsfield stole a Mercedes and plowed into a crowd of people who were waiting in line at a job fair in a struggling Mid-western city).

Hartsfield got away with that crime but was—during the commission of an even more audacious and nefarious scheme—eventually brought to justice by a rag-tag group led by retired police detective Bill Hodges. Hartsfield was effectively taken off the playing board at the conclusion of Mr. Mercedes but, at the end of the second book, Finders Keepers, King hinted strongly that this villain would be back, front and center, for the finale. He also suggested that the third book would be closer to a traditional King novel, by which I mean it might have supernatural elements.

The phrase “End of Watch” will be familiar to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of police dramas. In one context, it refers to the day when a cop retires. On another, more ominous level, it refers to a cop killed in the line of duty. Bill Hodges has already experienced the first usage—the question the title of the third book poses is whether he will experience the other.Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #189 – '11.22.63'

The Obdurate Past: 11.22.63

The day has come for those of you who have been holding back: All episodes of 11.22.63 are now available on Hulu and ready for you to binge. You can even see it all for free if you sign up for the month-long trial the service offers. There are two options: one with commercials and one without. The latter is more expensive on a monthly basis if you stay on after the trial ends, but it’s worth the few extra dollars in my opinion to eliminate the ad breaks.

I know I promised you a mid-series update, but I didn’t get around to that. Sorry!

My feelings about the series as a whole haven’t changed since I first wrote about it a couple of months ago. I think it is one of the best miniseries adaptations of Stephen King’s work. There have been a lot of complaints about the changes to the story, but on the whole I think they worked without doing the novel a disservice.Continue Reading

Stephen King News from the Dead Zone: A preview of Hulu's miniseries '11.22.63'

You Shouldn’t Be Here: 11.22.63

The past is resistant to change, and so, too, are many fans when it comes to adaptations of Stephen King’s novels. How many liberties should a screenwriter take with a literary work? (“The book’s always better, everybody knows that,” Sadie says the first time she meets Jake in the 11.22.63 miniseries.)

11/22/63 might have an advantage in that it’s a relatively new novel, one that hasn’t been firmly entrenched in readers’ minds as other works. Also, some adaptations remain essentially true to the source material despite making significant changes. Dolores Claiborne comes to mind, an underappreciated adaptation that deletes characters, brings others to the forefront, invents scenes, but captures the book perfectly.

This is the case, too, with 11.22.63. Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #185: 'The Bazaar of Bad Dreams' review

Featured Review: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

There’s something for everyone in Stephen King’s latest collection. Even the most avid fans who try to track down each short story as it is released will find several new tales in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.

bobd-cover-reveal-5Some of the stories were published in the customary places: magazines like The New Yorker, Playboy, Esquire, Tin House, The Atlantic, and Cemetery Dance or in anthologies like Turn Down the Lights and A Book of Horrors, but others were released in less usual places. “Ur” and “Mile 81,” for example, were only released as eBooks. “Blockade Billy” was originally a limited edition novella. “Drunken Fireworks” was previously available only in audio. You’ve only read “Under the Weather” if you bought the paperback version of Full Dark, No Stars. And “Bad Little Kid” is the strangest case of all, previously available only as an eBook in French or German. Two of the stories, “Mister Yummy” and “Obits,” have never been published anywhere before, in any language or using any technology.Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #184 (Haven 5B)

The old ways are gone. This is the new Haven.

Preview: Haven Season 5B, episodes 1 & 2

All good things must come to an end, and tonight marks the beginning of the end for the Syfy series Haven. For the past 65 episodes, since the series premiered in 2010, the residents of Haven have been dealing with the most recent outbreak of the Troubles, which are far worse this time around than they’ve ever been before, in part because people have been meddling with the works. If Nathan and Duke and Dwight and the rest of the merry band had simply let matters run their natural course, Audrey Parker would have gone into the barn and everything would have been fine for another generation. But, no! They had to try to fix things and, by doing so, everything has gotten exponentially worse.Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #183 (Haven part 5a)

Haven is set to return on October 8th for its final season. You may not have time to catch up on the 13 episodes that make up Season 5A, so this is a synopsis of events that I hope you’ll find helpful. If you want to read my posts about the characters and previous seasons, you can start here and work your way back. I’ll be updating the Who’s Who with info from Season 5A in due course, and I’ll have a sneak peak of Season 5B for you soon: I’ve already seen the first two episodes. Stay tuned. The game is changing in many different ways.Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #182

Next week will be busy for Stephen King. On September 9, he will be appearing in Cambridge, MA in conversation with Lee Child to promote the new Jack Reacher novel, Make Me. The next day, he will be among the eleven individuals receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in the East Wing of the White House. The citation says, “One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, Mr. King combines his remarkable storytelling with his sharp analysis of human nature. ” Then, on the following day, September 11, he will be a guest on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show during its inaugural week.Continue Reading

News from the Dead Zone review: 'The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film'

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Featured review: The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film

The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film
The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film

I don’t make a habit of reviewing books that I’m involved with. However, I’ll make an exception in the case of The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film. My essay takes up only about 2% of the book’s 750 pages. Full disclosure, though: I know the book’s editor, Danel Olson, personally. He lives a couple of miles from me, we’ve gone to see movies together and I’ve spoken to his college classes on a couple of occasions.

Having gotten all of that out of the way, this is the sort of book I wish I’d had access to when I was writing my essay, which is called “The Genius Fallacy: The Shining’s ‘Hidden’ Meanings.” Continue Reading

News from the Dead Zone #180: DRUNKEN FIREWORKS Review

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Featured review: Drunken Fireworks

drunken-fireworksThose 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.Continue Reading

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.

Crossovers

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.