Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #221

Stephen King News From the Dead Zone

Hard Case Crime (The Colorado Kid, Joyland) will publish Stephen King’s next supernatural crime novel in March 2021. Later will be a paperback original (cover by Paul Mann) and eBook, but there will also be a limited edition hardcover featuring two covers by Gregory Manchess, one for Later itself and one for a fictitious novel within the novel that features prominently in the plot.

In this installment of News from the Dead Zone, I’ll tell you a little more about Later, bring you up to date on recent King appearances, let you know  what adaptations you can expect to see soon, which ones are in production, which ones are on the table and which ones have died on the vine. I’ll also give you an early look at Hope and Miracles from Gauntlet Press, which collects the screenplays of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, along with tons of ancillary material. Pull up a chair!

Here’s the cover copy for Later:

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine—as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

Later is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel It, Later is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.

“I love the Hard Case format, and this story — combining a boy who sees beyond our world and strong elements of crime and suspense — seemed a perfect fit,” said King in a statement.

HCC editor Charles Ardai says the book is “a beautiful story about growing up and facing your demons — whether they’re metaphorical or (as sometimes happens when you’re in a Stephen King novel) the real thing. It’s terrifying, tender, heartbreaking and honest, and we’re so excited to bring it to readers.” You can read a very brief excerpt here.

King and James Lee Burke were interviewed by McKenna Jordan, owner of Houston’s Murder by the Book bookstore. You can watch a recording of this engaging event here.

King also appears briefly in a video of the Rock Bottom Remainders performing a pandemic-inspired version of “Stand By Me” in support of The Book Industry Charitable Foundation. You can watch the clip on YouTube. According to Dave Barry, “The Remainders, like all authors, love independent bookstores and booksellers, and wanted to use our musical talents to help them. Unfortunately, we don’t have any musical talents. But we hope this video will help anyway.”

In July, King reviewed Lauren Beukes’s new thriller Afterland for the New York Times.

The first three issues of the graphic novel adaptation of Sleeping Beauties from IDW are out, with part 4 due in November. Rio Youers and Alison Sampson are scripting and illustrating the series, respectively.

A couple of adaptations have managed to complete production and will be airing before the end of the year. First, there will be an animated special of Creepshow on Shudder that adapts King’s “Survivor Type” and Joe Hill’s story “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead.” The episodes were directed by showrunner Greg Nicotero, with animation by Octopie animation studio. Keifer Sutherland will provide the voice of the man trapped on a deserted island in the King story, and the Hill story stars the aptly named actress Joey King as a teenager on a family road trip that turns sinister. Season 2 of the anthology series is now in production after Covid delays.

Then, on December 17, CBS All Access will air the first episode of Josh Boone’s miniseries remake of The Stand. The first teaser trailer dropped recently, and the full trailer came out today.

The miniseries got a promotional push from a cast appearance at the virtual version on New York Comic-Con. Anthony Brenzican interviewed stars Whoopi Goldberg, James Marsden, Greg Kinnear, Amber Heard, Jovan Adepo, Odessa Young and Owen Teague, along with showrunner Benjamin Cavell and executive producer Taylor Elmore as they discuss what fans can expect from the series. Check it out here.

Production on Chapelwaite, the 10-episode series inspired by the story “Jerusalem’s Lot,” starring Adrien Brody and Emily Hampshire, is underway in and around Halifax, Nova Scotia. The series will air on Epix, although no release date has been announced.

There’s been no word yet about Lisey’s Story resuming production. That series for Apple TV+ was nearing the end of filming when it was shut down by the coronavirus.

Peacock, the new streaming service from NBC, is breathing new life into Mr. Mercedes. When AT&T ended their Audience Network, the series was left in limbo. However, the first two seasons will premiere on Peacock on October 15. In a recent in-depth interview, director Jack Bender says, “Once the show has a terrific audience, they’re going to play season three.” He says there’s no commitment yet from Peacock to produce new episodes, but he and David Kelley “definitely have something in mind for a season four if the stars were to come together.”

Three of the four novellas from If It Bleeds have been optioned. The only one not mentioned is the title novella, but it could end up as the source of material for a second season of HBO’s The Outsider.  Yul Vázquez, who plays Yuni Sablo, confirmed it wasn’t going to be a limited series without providing any details about HBO’s plans.

Here’s a rundown of the adaptations that have been announced or updated since we last spoke:

  • “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” was optioned by Netflix, Blumhouse and Ryan Murphy, with John Lee Hancock picked to adapt and direct.
  • “Rat” has been optioned to Ben Stiller, who intends to product, direct and star in the feature.
  • Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa has optioned “The Life Of Chuck.”
  • “The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson” (a short story adapted from material extracted from The Tommyknockers) will be turned into a one-hour drama for the CW network. It sounds like another one of those series that takes an incident from a work and then runs off in new directions with it, like The Mist and Haven. Here’s the description: After accidentally shooting herself in the brain with a nail gun, a Pollyanna-ish Becca Paulson is recruited by an over-it Jesus to be his “chosen one” in stopping the apocalypse. In order to save the world, Becca will have to prove that our deeply backward planet Earth is redeemable—starting with her quirky midwestern hometown.
  • Jim Mickle will direct From a Buick 8 for Thomas Jane’s Renegade Entertainment.
  • Lionsgate is developing an adaptation of “Little Green God of Agony” from a script by Ian Goldberg & Richard Naing.
  • Zac Ephron has been cast (probably as Andy McGee, although this hasn’t been confirmed) in the remake of Firestarter, scheduled to film next year. The script was written by Scott Teems and will be directed by Keith Thomas for Blumhouse. Jason Blum says they will be “relatively faithful” to King’s novel. Thomas says the script has “everything you would want, people’s heads catching fire and their faces melting off, and a dad and daughter on the run trying to survive being chased in this heightened tense experience. We are hoping to film it this year, and it will be a lot of fun.”

Not every project that has been announced makes it to production. Of course, we all know by now that Amazon decided to pass on their pilot of The Dark Tower. Showrunner Glen Mazzara was also working on a prequel to The Shining inspired by “Before the Play,” which has been canceled. Mazzara told Phantom Limbs many details about he had in mind for the prequel.

Hulu’s series inspired by The Eyes of the Dragon is no longer going to happen. Seth Grahame-Smith, the intended showrunner, envisioned Sam Rockwell in the part of the magician Flagg. The first season would have adapted the entire book, with subsequent seasons continuing the story. According to Grahame-Smith, the show’s collapse was due to both budget and some behind-the-scenes changes of Hulu execs.

Hope and Miracles is a massive volume from Gauntlet Press that reproduces Frank Darabont’s screenplays of The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. The book also has plenty of ancillary material, including never-before-seen behind-the-scenes photographs from Darabont’s archives.

I have a slight connection to this book. In early 2017, Gauntlet Press announced in their newsletter that they were looking for someone to edit the book, including conducting interviews. I immediately thought of Tyson Blue, who had been working on a book about The Green Mile and spent quite a bit of time on the set. I texted the information to him that same day and, lo and behold, he got the gig.

The book is slated to be released at the end of the month, and pre-orders are currently being taken for the numbered edition, which is signed by Frank Darabont and Tyson Blue. Gauntlet is maintaining a waiting list for the sold-out Platinum Lettered Edition, which will be signed by both King and Tom Hanks, in addition to those who are signing the lettered edition: the other contributors (see below), Richard Christian Matheson and cover artist Drew Struzan.

The centerpiece of the book is, of course, the two complete scripts of Darabont’s most famous pictures. Darabont had them completely retyped to present them as close to the original form as possible. In his introduction to the book, the director discusses the importance of reading screenplays. He laments the fact that only a few people (cast and crew, for example) ever get to see most scripts, comparing the experience to a novelist whose books are only read by the printers and bookbinders. He also scoffs at the trend of publishing screenplays that are transcriptions of the finished movies instead of the shooting scripts themselves.

His introduction is about gratitude for all the people who helped him on his journey to becoming a director. He also takes the opportunity to set the record straight about rumors that he’s faced in the past, and lauds the production company Castle Rock for creating an environment where movies can be made with relatively little interference from “the suits.” He believes these two movies could never be made today.

In addition to the scripts, there are photo galleries, annotated storyboard samples used to determine camera positions and shot compositions, and, for The Shawshank Redemption, a lengthy scene-by-scene explanation of why certain things in the script were either changed or omitted during filming/editing. He also provides a great deal of behind-the-scenes trivia about that film.

There are a couple of essays by King. They aren’t new, but they’ve appeared in places where many fans might not have had access to them before. His 1995 introduction to the previously published script of The Shawshank Redemption discusses how he first encountered Darabont, who was one of the earliest Dollar Baby directors, and how their relationship was renewed when Darabont acquired the adaptation rights to “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.” His 1999 introduction to the previous standalone publication of The Green Mile script tells of how a phone conversation with Darabont led the director to express interest in obtaining the rights to the serial novel while King was still writing it. Darabont traveled to Colorado, where King was working on The Stand miniseries, to seal the deal. After both introductions, there is a matching response from Darabont.

Tyson Blue provides essays of his own, including a profile of Michael Clarke Duncan, who Darabont reveals bombed his first audition, failed to impress on his second and was only narrowly cast from a field of three after his final audition, only to garner an Academy Award nomination for his performance. Blue closes the book with an essay about Darabont’s road to The Green Mile starting with his adaptation of “The Woman in the Room,” one of the few Dollar Babies that received wide commercial distribution.

The book also contains essays from people who have been associated with King and Darabont over the years. These feature Josh Boone (director of the forthcoming remake of The Stand), Mick Garris (director of the original version of The Stand and other King adaptations), Greg Nicotero (showrunner of Creepshow who did practical effects for The Green Mile and The Mist), James Cole (director of the Dollar Baby “The Last Rung on the Ladder”), who provides his detailed diary of the four days he spent visiting filming of The Green Mile, documentary director Constantine Nasr, and Stephen Spignesi.

The book comes with a fairly hefty price tag, but it appears to be popular based on how quickly the upper-end editions have sold out. I didn’t get a chance to see a physical copy, but I expect this will be a handsome volume. For students of film or fans of Darabont’s adaptations, there’s a lot to be found here.

That’s all the news for now. I hope everyone is keeping safe during these unusual and difficult times. We’ll all get through this eventually — especially if everyone wears a mask!

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