My First Fright featuring Michael Wehunt

Usually, I avoid stuff that gives me nightmares; I’m funny like that. I don’t get much sleep as it is (father of two little ones) and when I do, I prefer to sleep soundly, my dreams free of terrifying imagery.

Michael Wehunt apparently doesn’t value his sleep. He watches movies that give him nightmares and keeps going back for more! But perhaps that unbridled enthusiasm for the macabre helped lead to his success as a writer?

Wehunt is an Atlanta-based author. His debut collection, Greener Pastures, was shortlisted for the Crawford Award and a Shirley Jackson Award finalist. His short fiction has appeared in publications like Shock Totem, Innsmouth Magazine and, yes, Cemetery Dance.Continue Reading

News from the Dead Zone #142

Simon & Schuster has made available an excerpt of 11/22/63, which you can read here. It features a cameo from a familiar “character.” Word out of Book Expo America is that the first printing will be 1 million copies. Craig Wasson will narrate the audiobook.

King’s new short story “Under the Weather” is included in the US trade paperback of Full Dark, No Stars, out now.

Jae Lee has signed on to illustrate The Wind Through the Keyhole, which will be published as a limited edition by Donald M. Grant Publisher. Orders are not yet being taken and a final release date has not been established. King has agreed to sign 800 copies of a Deluxe Edition which will be issued in a tray case.

Hollywood Reporter has an update on the status of the Dark Tower adaptation and Ron Howard told Entertainment Weekly, “We had to pull back to our September start date due to budget delays and ongoing story development and logistical issues, but Dark Tower is moving forward,” Howard said. “We’re thinking of starting in early spring now. I can’t really say who’ll be in it yet, but Javier Bardem has shown a great deal of interest. We’ll know by the end of the summer, when our flashing green light goes solid.” The project would start with a feature film, followed by six hours of TV content, starring the same actors as in the movie. “There are elements of the Dark Tower saga that are more personal and can be best dealt with on television,” Howard continued. “TV allows you to roll out details of the characters in a more methodical way.”

King has a new essay and a recipe in Man with a Pan, edited by John Donahue.  The recipe is for “pretty good cake,” and in the essay King advocates the many uses of the frying pan and emphasizes the benefits of cooking over medium heat (plus a bit). He also returns to the pages of Entertainment Weekly with “My Summer Reading List, Best of Summer 2011” (June 3rd issue).

King is interviewed in Screem #22, their all-vampire issue. I also have an essay in that issue about ‘Salem’s Lot, the two TV miniseries adaptations and the dreadful “sequel.”

“The River” writer Michael Green is at work adapting Under the Dome in preparation for DreamWorks TV to shop to broadcast and cable buyers in a few months. There have been reports that Bag of Bones is filming as a TV miniseries as well.

Here’s a commentary by King on his Alliance Theatre musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County and a call for cast members from Playbill. Lilja has some photos from the press conference at Lilja’s Library.

Haven is gearing up for its second season. There’s an article at Fangoria, a trailer and an interview with star Emily Rose.

News From The Dead Zone #46

Breaking News from the Dead Zone

TNT will team with executive producers Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy and DreamWorks Television for a six-hour miniseries adaptation of The Talisman, scheduled to air on the cable network during summer 2008. “We are so happy and proud to be working with DreamWorks Television and Steven Spielberg after such a tremendous experience making Into the West,” said Michael Wright, senior vice president of original programming for TNT and TBS. “We’ve also had excellent results working with Stephen King’s material on Salem’s Lot and Nightmares & Dreamscapes, so the opportunity to bring these talents together on our network is just about as good as it gets. Like those previous projects, The Talisman is a truly epic production, but one that will present all new challenges and opportunities. We look forward to working with this top-notch team of filmmakers as we create what is certain to be a television event to remember.” Ehren Kruger (Skeleton Key, The Ring) will write the script. No director has been announced yet.

Here is the complete text of the Entertainment Weekly article about King’s meeting with the producers of LOST, and his most current column, the first of his year’s best.

I have an essay about upcoming King projects in the Overlook Connection catalog, which should be out in January. Other contributors to the magazine include Ellen Datlow, Jack Ketchum, Mick Garris, Jonathan Reitan and Rob Zombie. The catalog features over 1,300 related King items, from signed limiteds and first editions to rare magazine appearances and special signed videos by Frank Darabont and Mick Garris. If you use the coupon code BevSentMe, you’ll get $5 off the list price of the catalog, as well as an additional $10 off your purchase total if you buy something else. The Overlook Connection will launch their new web site later this month, but you can have a sneak peak right now.

News From The Dead Zone #20

Breaking News from the Dead Zone

Talk of an It remake are surfacing again. Peter Filardi, who scripted the ‘Salem’s Lot remake for TNT as well as The Road Virus Heads North for Nightmares and Dreamscapes, told attendees of Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors that he’s developing a new “televisualization” of It. The project has the attention of the Sci Fi channel and might end up as a four-hour broadcast event, perhaps told from the point of view of Beverly Marsh.

TNT has a new official web site for the Nightmares & Dreamscapes series with galleries, information and games. I’ve also posted the full broadcast schedule, production trivia and interviews on my message board.

TNT sent me screener DVDs of seven of the eight episodes (all except Autopsy Room Four), and I had the opportunity to watch them over the past several days. The first thing I noticed is the high production qualities, which was also true of their ‘Salem’s Lot remake. However, unlike that adaptation, these stories are incredibly faithful to the source material. Where they’ve had to change things (because of length, for deeper characterization or for context), everything seems loyal to the original story’s intent. The acting is top notch, too.

William Hurt is on screen for almost every second of Battleground and never utters a word. A few grunts of pain, but he acts with his face and his body to convey his character’s hard-as-nails pathology. When the impossible starts to happen, he doesn’t talk to himself or utter words of disbelief. He simply reacts as an assassin might. Slowly, though, his hard shell splinters. It’s a tour-de-force performance and sets the tone for the series. The animation and other effects are convincing—as might be expected since the episode is directed by Jim Henson’s son Brian. Screenplay by Richard Christian Matheson, son of the legendary Richard Matheson.

Crouch End is a daring adaptation, since it strays into the surreal world of Lovecraftian mythos. It represents the first time I’ve ever heard some of the bizarre names from Lovecraft pronounced. It also contains the first ever cinematic depiction of what can only be described as a “thinny.” Claire Forlani is the heart of this episode, the pretty, vivacious newlywed on honeymoon who tolerates her husband’s need to network while on vacation, only to find an innocent trip out to dinner turn into madness. The question in this kind of tale is: how much to show and how much to leave to viewer’s imagination. I think this adaptation strikes the right balance.

Umney’s Last Case is the episode I was looking forward to most, and it doesn’t disappoint. William H. Macy is stellar as both Clyde Umney and his creator, Sam Landry. He comes off as stiffly stereotypical in the opening moments, until you realize that’s exactly what he is. One of my favorite moments takes place when Sam steps into the detective’s shoes, starts hearing awkward dialog coming out of his mouth and checks himself. A few seconds later he lets loose some purple prose straight out of Chandler, and he stops to admire it. The ending is a little abrupt, which dilutes the episode’s impact, but these screeners aren’t 100% complete, so they may do something in the production version that softens this nebulous finale.

I saved The End of the Whole Mess until the end because it was the story I had the least interest in, but it turns out to be a strong episode. I really like the emotional arc of this one. It makes use of the dreaded voice-over technique, but in a clever way that makes sense, given what the main character does for a living.

Tom Berringer. Wow. What more can I say? In The Road Virus Heads North, he plays  Richard Kinnell, a horror writer who has just received disturbing news. On the way home from a lecture—which is a horror show in its own right—he picks up a creepy painting and things start getting strange. Marsha Mason has a nice cameo as his Aunt Trudy. This is the other episode that has a less-than-satisfying conclusion, but everything up to that moment is pure terror. Unlike William Hurt’s character, Berringer does talk to himself, expressing shock, amazement and disbelief. Both approaches work because they reflect character.

The Fifth Quarter is probably the story readers will be least familiar with. It’s a straight crime drama, with no supernatural elements. It’s about dishonor among thieves, and their other associates, too. It’s a brutal episode, with lots of realistic violence. Samantha Mathis, though she isn’t the primary focus of the story, carries the show from beginning to end. Jeremy Sisto turns in a strong performance, too, as the guy who can never quite get it right, who has spent all but eighteen months of his seven-year marriage behind bars.

The series ends with You Know They Got A Hell of a Band, which is the lightest, most whimsical episode, and probably the weakest entry. It stars Steven Weber, who impresses me less each time I see him, and Kim Delaney. I didn’t buy into their relationship, which weakens the story. Delaney looked odd and Weber’s delivery isn’t convincing. The episode also has the most outright grue (maggots, empty eye sockets, etc.) but is tongue-in-cheek throughout. It’s sort of fun, but the tone feels completely different from the other episodes.

The series debuts a month from today. Check it out! I look forward to hearing viewer feedback about the individual episodes, and I especially want to discuss the last couple of minutes of Crouch End!

News From The Dead Zone #15

Breaking News from the Dead Zone

The countdown to Desperation (ABC, May 18) has begun. A few people have reported seeing a trailer on television. The current issue of TV Guide (Without a Trace cover) has a small paragraph about the three-hour movie with accompanying photos.

King discusses his depiction of Malden, Massachusetts in Cell in this interview.

Sci Fi Channel will run Kingdom Hospital in four-hour blocks on Tuesday nights starting April 11. The network has also purchased the replay rights to ‘Salem’s Lot (miniseries), The Langoliers, Rose Red and Storm of the Century.

Check out several batches of photos from the upcoming Nightmares and Dreamscapes series at Lilja’s Library.

News From The Dead Zone #1

Breaking News from the Dead Zone

Welcome to the first installment of the web version of News from the Dead Zone. Those of you who read Cemetery Dance magazine know that I’ve been publishing a column in every issue for nearly five years now. However, because of the magazine’s publication schedule, getting timely information out has been a little problematic. With the relaunch of their web site, the good folks at CD suggested doing an online “lite” version of my column. The magazine version will continue, focusing more on in-depth analysis, review and commentary than on breaking news.

Up top, you’ll always find a handy-dandy calendar of important, upcoming dates so you can see at a glance what’s on the horizon. Then I’ll expand briefly on each item as news is announced. Then follow up in the next issue of CD magazine for more details and commentary.

* * *

The next book due out from King is called Cell, which will be published on January 24th, 2006. Here is the description from the publisher as posted to the Barnes & Noble web site.

Civilization doesn’t end with a bang or a whimper. It ends with a call on your cell phone.

What happens on the afternoon of October 1 came to be known as the Pulse, a signal sent though every operating cell phone that turns its user into something . . . well, something less than human. Savage, murderous, unthinking-and on a wanton rampage. Terrorist act? Cyber prank gone haywire? It really doesn’t matter, not to the people who avoided the technological attack. What matters to them is surviving the aftermath. Before long a band of them-“normies” is how they think of themselves-have gathered on the grounds of Gaiten Academy, where the headmaster and one remaining student have something awesome and terrifying to show them on the school’s moonlit soccer field. Clearly there can be no escape. The only option is to take them on.

Cell is classic Stephen King, a story of gory horror and white-knuckling suspense that makes the unimaginable entirely plausible and totally fascinating.

I should have a review for you in the next issue, but let me just say that this book is sure to inspire some interesting discussions, with comparisons to classic books like The Stand and darker tales like The Regulators. King describes the book as “like cheap whisky . . . very nasty and extremely satisfying.” I find it interesting that the main character in Cell is a graphic novel artist who has just sold his first major project, given the recent announcement of a graphic novel Dark Tower series (see below).

When you read the book, look out for a character named Ray Huizenga. His sister paid $25,100 in an eBay charity auction of character names benefiting the First Amendment Project. The real-life Huizenga is a fishing captain and longtime King fan, but is also the son of the owner of the Miami Dolphins. Huizenga beat out another strong bidder who was willing to take out a credit line on his house for the honor of having a character in Cell named after him.

* * *

The Dark Tower fan community was recently thrilled to learn that Marvel comics was planning to release a series of graphic novels based on untold Dark Tower stories. Originally planned for a May 2006 release, a recent memo on King’s web site revealed a new schedule for this project.

Stephen and Marvel have decided to push back the launch of the Dark Tower comic books to 2007. “Given the size of the project and all the creative talent involved, I want to give the Marvel series all the room to breathe it needs and deserves,” said Stephen. “I’ve got so much else going on in 2006-two novels coming out, Cell and Lisey’s Story, and the work with John Mellencamp on ‘Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.’ The Marvel series is going to be a blast, and I want to have the time to enjoy it.”

The 1st issue of the yet-to-be-named first arc of the Dark Tower comic series will be shipping in February 2007. The last issue of this six-issue series will be shipping in July 2007. The first hardcover collection will be shipping in October 2007.

Though original reports billed this project as The Dark Tower 8, in truth the stories will fill in some of the gaps in Roland’s early history, in the era covering the trip to Mejis and the final battle at Jericho Hill, “new stories that delve into the life and times of the young Roland, revealing the trials and conflicts that lead to the burden of destiny he must assume as a man.”

Jae Lee is the illustrator who will bring King’s stories to life, and the colorist is Richard Isanove. The complete number of series has not been announced, but there may be as many as six different stories.

Links:

* * *

A stellar cast has been announced for the eight-part series Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King that will debut on TNT next June. Despite the show’s name, the stories actually come from several King collections. The eight stories being adapted are:

  • Umney’s Last Case
  • You Know They Got a Hell of a Band
  • The End of the Whole Mess
  • The Fifth Quarter
  • The Road Virus Heads North
  • Battleground
  • Crouch End
  • Autopsy Room Four

Though originally scheduled to be part of the series, Mick Garris’s adaptation of “Home Delivery” was shelved due to schedule changes for the series and his commitment to the Masters of Horror series on Showtime, which was recently renewed for a second season.

Among the cast members announced for the series are Steven Weber, Kim Delaney, William H. Macy, Henry Thomas, Tom Berenger, Marsha Mason, William Hurt and two actresses familiar from the recent ‘Salem’s Lot remake, Samantha Mathis and Rebecca Gibney. Richard Christian Matheson adapted “Battleground” and Lawrence M. Cohen (Carrie) penned “The End of the Whole Mess.” The show will run one episode per week during the summer months of 2006 starting with “Umney’s Last Case”—one of my favorite short stories—which will reportedly run without commercials. Filming is currently taking place in and around Sydney, Australia. An upcoming issue of Fangoria will feature a visit to the set.

* * *

King and his collaborator John Mellencamp got together in November to continue their work on a musical production about death and reconciliation called “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.” A member of The Dark Tower dot Net forum helped crew the latest reading. A self-admitted skeptic when he first heard about this project, he reported that the music is fantastic, the cast was great and, though there is still work to be done, he says it will be a worthwhile endeavor.

Mellencamp reports that the guys who did “Spamalot” are now involved, which may make the final stages of development “less hectic.” King’s story involves two brothers who dislike each other immensely. Their father takes them to their family vacation cabin, where, a generation before them, the father’s two older brothers killed each other in a similar sibling rivalry.

“There’s a confederacy of ghosts who also live in this house,” Mellencamp told Billboard. “The older (dead) brothers are there, and they speak to the audience, and they sing to the audience. That’s all I want to say, except through this family vacation, many things are learned about the family, and many interesting songs are sung.”

* * *

Quick Notes:

  • CD’s very own Rich Chizmar co-scripted an adaptation of From a Buick 8 that is currently attached to George Romero as director, who also has the film rights to The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. However, recent reports hint that Romero may tackle another zombie feature before working on either of these King adaptations.
  • Galleys of Stephen King: Uncollected and Unpublished by Rocky Wood (The Complete Guide to the Works of Stephen King) are in distribution, so the book can’t be far behind. I’ve started perusing my copy and am impressed by the amount of information and detail contained in this volume. In addition to containing the first appearances of some very rare King works (a poem, and a chapter from the early novel Sword in the Darkness), the book highlights the various appearances of rare King stories and indicates the ones that were substantially revised for later publication. Makes me want to go back to some of the earlier appearances to refresh my memory of what the stories were like in their original incarnations.
  • A new King project called The Secretary of Dreams was announced recently. Stay tuned to the CD web page for more details very shortly. This one is very cool!

Have news, information, corrections? E-mail me!