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.

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

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.