Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction of Stephen King (Not Exactly A Review)
One of my favorite activities is treasure hunting at thrift shops, flea markets, estate and yard sales. I do it just about every weekend. I’m not looking for a deal on golf clubs, or vintage clothing. I don’t look at the tools or the toys. I pass the knick-knacks and the cooking supplies right by.
You probably guessed it. I look for books. And vinyl record albums. Movies, too but not as much as I used to. Books and records are mostly my things nowadays.
Sometimes I will be at a thrift shop, and I’ll see a jag of books all in the same genre, or bunches of them by an author or two. It always makes me sad. I imagine, and it’s usually true, that a reader and collector has passed away. His or her books found no new home from family or friends, and they get dumped at a thrift shop. Occasionally they will be inscribed, or have those accursed owner’s bookplates in them. The bane of any serious book collector.Continue Reading
Shortly 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
The Fireman, Joe Hill’s fourth novel, is an apocalyptic tale in which a deadly disease destroys the world. If this conjures thoughts of The Stand, it’s not a coincidence. Hill is on record as saying that the book is his version of The Stand “soaked in gasoline and set on fire.” In his dedication he says he stole “everything else” about the book from his father other than the title.
The illness that spreads like wildfire is Draco incendia trychophyton, a spore rather than a virus. People exposed to it do not burn with a fever—they simply burn. First, lesions develop. Some are almost decorative, resembling scales, hence the illness’s nickname: Dragonscale. Victims are mostly asymptomatic until they suddenly catch fire, usually when under stress. It’s a devastating and terrifying disease, because the conflagration takes out others in the vicinity. Buildings burn, then city blocks, and cities, and more.Continue Reading
Not long now until End of Watch comes out, the final installment in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy. King is doing a major tour for this book, with twelve stops between June 7 and June 18. The June 16 event in Albuquerque is of particular interest because George R.R. Martin will be interviewing King. Most of the events have already sold out (some in almost record time), but you can find the list of venues here.
After years of saying “no news yet” with reference to the Dark Tower movie, things are finally moving forward. The current release date is set at February 17, 2017, and the following people have been cast: Idris Elba (Roland), Matthew McConaughey (Man in Black), Jackie Earle Haley (Richard Sayre), Fran Kranz (Pimli Prentiss), Tom Taylor (Jake), Abby Lee (Tirana) and Katheryn Winnick (unknown). Some early photos from the set appeared a few days ago, and some of them disappeared soon after!Continue Reading
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
On the evening of February 10th, 2016, John got into his black Cherokee Jeep and went to console an old friend. It seemed like the right decision at the time. He had received Sally’s email just after sundown, informing him of the news that her brother, Peter, had died of an overdose. Sally and Peter had been John’s friends in a time and place that seemed as far away as the memories of his early childhood, and yet it had only been four years ago. These had been his “party” friends. Four years had passed since John made the decision to get sober, and, as such decisions will do, it had created distance between himself and his old friends. He hadn’t told them he couldn’t hang out with them anymore. He wasn’t that kind of guy. He hadn’t even made any concerted effort to stay away from them, really. They just drifted, as friends sometimes do when the road of life they had once tread together diverged in separate directions. Continue Reading
Misery on Broadway – What Every Other Review Won’t Tell You
by Jason Sechrest
In the Fall of 2015, Misery came to Broadway – but that’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds.
The stage adaptation of the novel by Stephen King made its run at the Broadhurst Theater from November 15th, 2015 to February 14th, 2016, starring Bruce Willis as romance novelist Paul Sheldon (who has suffered a near fatal car accident in a snow storm), and Laurie Metcalf as Annie Wilkes, his “#1 fan” who has rescued him from said crash only to hold him captive in her home.
Now, we could have reviewed Misery on Broadway during its run, but where is the fun in all that?Continue Reading
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.
Considered to be one of his darkest works, Stephen King’s Cujo is not for the cowardly. It is relentless in its forward motion, coming at you “like a brick heaved through a window,” as King himself once described.
You hear it all the time: The book is always better than the movie adaptation. Oddly, I mostly hear it from non-readers. They wearily repeat the mantra they’ve heard from tiresome readers like us. “I know, I know, the book is always better.”
But is it? The source novel of any adaptation is certainly much, much, better in most instances. Nearly all of them, in fact.Continue Reading
BEFORE THE WALK I was having brunch with a friend of mine on a recent Sunday, a horror film actress in fact, who asked: Do you really think there’s anything spiritual about Stephen King’s books?
The question was served cold with a heaping side of skepticism, and it took me slightly off guard. It’s not the first time I have been asked the question since starting this column three short months ago, and I’m always somewhat alarmed by it.
When asked, the first thing that springs to my mind is self-doubt: What if I’m wrong?What if there really is nothing spiritual about Stephen King’s stories and I’m just grasping at straws here? What if I’ve doomed myself to write a monthly column about… nothing? The writer’s worst nightmare. Continue Reading
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.
Some 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
In On Writing, Stephen King presents his theories and philosophies about the art and craft of writing. The book is especially popular among writers, including those who don’t, in general, read his novels.
In one section, he demonstrates his revision process. As a case study, he chose the opening pages of “The Hotel Story,” later retitled “1408.” The book reproduces manuscript pages, complete with editorial marks and his annotations, explaining why he chose to make certain changes to the original text.
We don’t often get the chance to see inside the creative mind at that level. I was pleased to be able to include some first draft manuscript pages of King’s work in the Stephen King Illustrated Companion because they demonstrate more of this phenomenon: pages from The Shining, for example, that show how King originally conceived the scene in which Danny has a strange encounter with a fire hose.Continue Reading
Antics on the Web: Dick Cavett’s Horror Roundtable by Robert Brouhard
An interview with Stephen King is always a must read, an interview with George A. Romero can be a ton of fun, an Ira Levin interview is always interesting, and a Peter Straub interview is always eye-opening. Now, an interview with ALL FOUR at the same time… scratch that… a full-on hour-long discussion between the four of them, WOW. Mind-blowing. As soon as I heard that Shout Factory TV was hosting a two-part Dick Cavett discussion with these four amazing people, I started clicking my way to see it. Continue Reading
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