theyearoftheking

theyearoftheking

Year of the King

One girl’s adventures reading Stephen King all year long.

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theyearoftheking·8 days agoText

“Come 2030, only the rats will be happy.” 

Constant Readers know I consider Steve’s novellas to be the strongest of his works. It’s his sweet spot, and Full Dark, No Stars is absolutely no exception. These dark, twisty stories knocked me on my ass. Truly. They even inspired me to do something I never do… turn to the interwebs to get insight. I knew these four stories had something in common… they were bound by some theme I couldn’t quite put my finger on. 

Well, according to Wikipedia, that theme is retribution. If you had asked me, I would have guessed rats. Because every damn story seems to include some cringeworthy scene involving rats. I just can’t handle them. Despite my beloved Sarah Silverman recently saying on her podcast that rats are just an uglier version of squirrels. Maybe I’m too much of a midwestern girl- give me the damn squirrels any day. 

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But back to retribution! This is the darkest, dirtiest collection of stories about retribution I’ve ever come across. Trigger warnings abound: rape, violent murder, and rats. 

Here’s the requisite list of Easter eggs before I get into the stories:

“Chap in the belly”- which was a phrase we read countless times during Susannah’s pregnancy in The Dark Tower

“Happy Crappy”

Derry: with additional nods to The Barrens and Bill Denbrough’s mom 

Juniper Hill

“Long Days and Pleasant Nights”

“Fall of the Towers” 

Heminford Home, Nebraska: I can’t take any credit for this one, Wikipedia helped me with this Easter egg. But- this is Mother Abagail’s (The Stand) hometown; and it’s also where Ben Hanscom (It) moves when he’s all grown up. 

The first story is 1922; and heavily influenced by Edgar Allen Poe. With a side of rats. The story is written in the form of a letter from Wilfred James, confessing to the murder of his wife, Arlette James. They had some disagreements about whether or not to sell their farm, and he solved the issue by killing her and throwing her body in a well. Their son, Henry was an accomplice to the murder, and the letter details Henry’s subsequent downhill slide after witnessing his mother’s murder. The most graphic part of the entire story is a rat ripping the udder off one of the cows. I just cringed. So much cringing. But it’s got atmosphere for days. 

The second story is Big Driver; and I think it’s the most disturbing thing I’ve ever read by Steve. Tess, the author of the Willow Grove Knitting Society series accepts a last-minute speaking invitation from Ramona Norville at the Chicopee Public Library. As she’s leaving the event, Ramona gives Tess a short cut to keep her off the highway. Tess ends up with a flat tire, and the good Samaritan who ends up stopping to help her change her flat, violently rapes her, and leaves her for dead. Trigger warning: it’s a graphic story. Tess doesn’t want to bother calling the police; so she takes justice into her own hands. After some internet research, she finds out Ramona is actually the mother of the man who raped her, and she may or may not have intentionally sent Tess on the alternate route. Tess refuses to be a victim, and takes care of business. It’s bloody, but she gets hers in the end. 

Third up is Fair Extension; which is the most honest of all the stories. It’s human nature to hate when good things happen to people we don’t deem worthy. But what if you had the opportunity to reverse another person’s luck? Would you do it? Would you pay for it? How would you feel sitting back and watching one bad thing after another happen to this individual? Would that honestly make you feel better about your life? 

Finally, we have A Good Marriage. This is the story that every single true crime documentary and Dateline special is based on… how well do we really know the people in our lives? Do you think you could be married to a murderer? Where are they hiding the evidence? Steve actually based this story off the Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer. That’s Bind, Torture, Kill for all you non-murderinos out there. I mean… just look at this dude… does he scream serial killer; or bored, suburban dad?

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 This was my personal favorite in the collection, but they’re all delightfully dark in their own way.

We even had a Wisconsin mention! Steve based 1922 on a book called Wisconsin Death Trip, which included photos from Black River Falls. Steve was impressed with the isolation in both the geography and the individuals. I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Black River Falls: it has a large rest stop which I have visited and enjoyed many a lunch on my way back from northern Wisconsin. I have enjoyed the views of the falls (yes! actual falls!) and the large moose at the truck stop. FYI: the book is out of print, but you can get copies on Amazon for about $31. I know what’s going on my Christmas list this year!!

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 41

Total Dark Tower References: 59

Book Grade: A+

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Under the Dome: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Full Dark, No Stars: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

Stephen King Goes to the Movies: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Duma Key: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

The Dark Tower: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

Wolves of the Calla: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Song of Susannah: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

The Colorado Kid: B-

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Cell: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Faithful: D

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Lisey’s Story: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D

Next is 11/22/63; which I have read and loved. I also really enjoyed the series on Hulu as well, and James Franco does an excellent job as Jake Epping. And he’s easy to look at. So there’s that. 

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Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,

Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·9 days agoText

“We’re calling it the Dome… but it’s not a Dome. At least, we don’t think it is. We think it’s a capsule whose edges conform exactly to the borders of the town. And I do mean exactly.” 

I’ll be the first to admit… I threw some shade at Under the Dome. To be fair, I threw a metric shit-ton of shade at Under the Dome. And I will also admit, this book did not deserve my snotty comments, my shade, or my dread. 

Under the Dome is a fantastic book. I mean that in the most sincere, un-shady way possible. The mounting sense of dread, the varied cast of characters and their development, the struggle of good versus evil… I loved all of it. I would not classify this book as horror, it’s a complete psychological read, despite the horror that occurs under the dome. So, please recommend this to your, “I don’t like Stephen King, he’s gross!” friends. But if you are a Constant Reader, there are plenty of Easter eggs to keep you amused: 

Shawshank Prison

Castle Rock

TR-90

“Lit out for the Territories”

“Exactly like in that movie The Mist” 

Derry

“Gunslinger style” 

The plot of the story is pretty basic: a large, impenetrable dome goes up and around the town of Chester’s Mill. Airplanes that fly into the dome explode, cars violently crash… there’s no way in or out of Chester’s Mill. 

The town pretty quickly breaks off into two factions: the power hungry who want to control the resources and the people (headed up by the uber-douche and Second Selectman Big Jim Rennie); and the people who want solutions, and to help one another (headed up by short-order cook and former Special Forces Operator Dale “Barbie” Barbara, and Julia Shumway, owner of the local newspaper). 

Big Jim Rennie takes a novel approach (sarcasm font) and feeds on the fear of the citizens. He starts limiting access to propane tanks, groceries (he incites a riot outside the grocery store), and healthcare. Meanwhile, he’s kicked back in his bunker, enjoying temperate climates, and eating all the food his fat ass and time-bomb heart can handle. It would be funny if we hadn’t just lived through four years of it… 

If 2020 (well, the entire Trump presidency, TBH) has taught us anything, it’s that people make conservative choices when they are afraid. As a result of the fear, Big Jim ends up putting together a police force of high schoolers, complete with armbands and everything. The only thing missing were Proud Boy’s t-shirts. 

Big Jim uses his popularity and the fear to convince the town Barbie is guilty of several murders (murders Jim and his psychotic son actually committed); and then he burns down the newspaper building; because he didn’t want Julia to publish anything untoward about him, or his police force’s efforts. 

Meanwhile, no one wants to talk about the fact all the propane tanks are stored at a Christian music radio station, which is secretly hiding a meth lab. Of course Big Jim knows all about that… how do you think he’s made his money? It sure wasn’t at his used-car lot. 

Oh, we also get a Corgi’s narrative voice, which was adorable. You can tell Steve really stretched his creative muscles with this one. I mean, he had to… the book is over a thousand pages long. 

Chaos ensues, people die, the temperatures under the dome rise (literally), and the air quality gets worse and worse. Barbie, Julia and their rag-tag crew of community members (Romeo Burpee is my personal favorite) and neighborhood kids figure out what is causing the Dome, and they’re able to save the day. Kind of. I mean, a lot of people are dead, but at least the Dome is gone. Oh, and Big Jim dies of a heart attack. Which is honestly too good of a death for him. I could have come up with a million more creative ways for him to die. But we don’t always see the justice we want. Someone put that on a coffee mug, please. 

There were two fun surprises. The first, was a Jack Reacher cross-over I wasn’t expecting. Jack gave a citation to his girl Jackie Wettington (Chester’s Mill police officer). That was a fun tip of the cap to Lee Child. I will only reference Jack Reacher books; because Tom Cruise is a gross human being that I refuse to acknowledge. Despite the massive crush I had on him in the second grade. It was the era of Cocktail. Sue me. 

Speaking of crushes, one of my other boos is mentioned as well! My man Lester Holt! I listen to Dateline podcasts almost every single day. No joke. He has those dulcet, angelic tones that make my drive time so much better. 

I just… Sigh. I need to stop fucking reading these books. The similarities between some of these stories and our current world is just too much. I couldn’t stop picturing Trump during every Big Jim scene. He claimed his actions were for the good of the community, but it was all about power and money. “…and praying, unaware that his prayer was basically a series of demands and rationalizations: make it stop, none of it was my fault, get me out of here, I did the best I could, put everything back the way it was, I was let down by incompetents, heal my heart…” 

At least our Kamala/Commala prophecy came true, right? That has to be a sign that better days are ahead. 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 40

Total Dark Tower References: 56

Book Grade: A+

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Under the Dome: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

Stephen King Goes to the Movies: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Duma Key: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

The Dark Tower: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

Wolves of the Calla: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Song of Susannah: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

The Colorado Kid: B-

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Cell: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Faithful: D

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Lisey’s Story: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D

Next up is Full Dark, No Stars… which, wow. I’m still turning the stories over in my head a week later. My apologies- I’m a bit behind blogging, but you’ll be reading my musings soon. 

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca 

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theyearoftheking·a month agoText

Y’all, I suck at reading. Well, not reading-reading, because I’ve made it through sixty Stephen King books this year, but apparently I suck at reading for comprehension. I was so pumped to pick up this book and get some insights from Steve about some great movies. 

That is NOT what this book is. It’s a one page blurb on the movie, and then the short story that inspired it. Ugh. I’ve already read these stories!!!

However. 

It is an excellent collection of both movies and books. You’ve got:

1408: JEFFREY DAHMER DOESN’T HAVE A GRAVE!!! We all read my temper tantrum when I originally reviewed Everything’s Eventual I won’t repeat it again. But I did really like this movie;  John Cusack can do no wrong. Well, mostly no wrong. I listened to a Nerdist podcast with him several years ago, and his incessant vaping was kind of a turn-off. I really hope he’s quit vaping since then… he doesn’t deserve to die of popcorn lung.

The Mangler: I’ve never seen this movie, but I mentioned it to my husband, and he just started laughing. Word on the street is, this movie is terrible… But I loved the story because I used to sell laundry services to hospitals and clinics, and had to visit the laundry plant every couple weeks. I am all too familiar with industrial laundry equipment, and love Steve’s crazy take on it. 

Low Men in Yellow Coats: Love the story, love the book. There was no way the entire Hearts in Atlantis book could have been made into a movie; it would have been six hours long. But Anthony Hopkins did an excellent job as Ted Brautigan, and I pictured him as I was finishing the final Dark Tower book. 

The Shawshank Redemption: Once again, love the book, love the movie. Both are absolute works of genius: Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are iconic. I have no new insights into either work. 

Children of the Corn: If you were to ask me what movie best described my middle school years, it would be Children of the Corn. I remember watching it for the first time at a friend’s house, and continually looking out at the corn field that surrounded the back of her house. Nope, nope, nope!! But as an adult, I can see how corny (ha!) and over-the-top this movie is. And the short story isn’t much better. But it’s a fun piece of horror nostalgia. 

Steve was also hilariously talking about how this story inspired more movie sequels than any of his other works. “The only one I was really rooting for was Children of the Corn Meet Leprechaun. I wanted to hear that little leprechaun guy shouting, “Give me back my corn!” in his cute little Irish accent.”  Can someone create a Gofundme and make this happen? Pretty please?

Additionally, the real treat is the last page of the book, where Steve lists his favorite book-to-movie adaptations. Y’all will be (not) shocked to hear The Shining didn’t make the list. 

This book brought nothing new to the table for me. But, I’d recommend it as a gift. It’s honestly a great collection of all things Steve, and could inspire some fun movie nights. Follow me for more great holiday gift ideas!

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 40

Total Dark Tower References: 55

Book Grade: A+

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

Stephen King Goes to the Movies: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Duma Key: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

The Dark Tower: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

Wolves of the Calla: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Song of Susannah: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

The Colorado Kid: B-

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Cell: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Faithful: D

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Lisey’s Story: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D

It’s going to be a while until you hear from me again… the next book up is Under the Dome. It’s over a thousand pages, and I’m low-key dreading it. But, no page unread this year! And I’ve only got eleven years of Steve left to go… that’s seventeen books left for anyone keeping track. So, here we go! 

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·a month agoText

Have you forgotten what we were like then

when we were still first rate

and the day came fast with an apple in its mouth

it’s no use worrying about Time

but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves

and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal

we didn’t need speedometers 

we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn’t want to be faster 

or greener than now if you were with me O you

were the best of all my days…

Duma Key was one of the best books I could have picked up right around spooooky season. I knew very little about it, and it was a well-written, suspenseful ghost story.

Edgar Freemantle survives a horrific accident that involves a crane crashing on his car. In the aftermath of the accident, he lost his right arm, his marriage, his successful business, and his house. It sounds like a bad country song. 

Edgar decides to deuce out of Minnesota (wise choice, friend. The Vikings are an embarrassment this season); and rents a vacation home in Duma Key, Florida. Edgar stays in a house he dubs “Big Pink” and starts feverishly painting. Big Pink definetely has some creepy vibes, and the sound of the ocean rushing over the shells underneath the house certainly doesn’t help. Edgar finds things washed up on the beach during his morning walks, and incorporates them into his paintings. As his body continues to heal from the accident, his walks get longer, and eventually he meets Wireman, the caretaker of the eccentric Elizabeth Eastlake. 

Kids. When someone is rich and crazy, they’re referred to as “eccentric”. When they’re poor and crazy, they’re just, well, crazy. #themoreyouknow

Edgar and Wireman take to each other right away, and Edgar learns more about Big Pink, and Elizabeth. Big Pink had been used in the past as an artist’s retreat; Elizabeth was a patron of the arts, and wanted to inspire local artists. Elizabeth herself is in a bit of decline: she’s dealing with Alzheimer’s, and swings between blinding lucidity, and silent unknowing. It breaks Wireman’s heart. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Elizabeth’s family, including the death of her sisters and father. But, when she’s lucid, she’s the sweetest lady ever.

In between hanging out at the Eastlake estate, Edgar continues painting. His daughter Ilse comes for a visit, and is impressed by her dad’s talent. They try to take a drive around the island, but Ilse becomes violently sick. Edgar later gets a strange message on his answering machine from Elizabeth, informing him the island is not a place for daughters. After Ilse’s departure, Edgar paints a foreboding picture, including a woman in a red cape. He’s not sure what it means, but he’s worried about Ilse. 

Edgar then discovers his paintings have power… there’s a long stretch that includes a killer named Candy Brown, and Edgar giving Wireman his failing vision back again. Also, he has a vision of his ex-wife, Pam with a new rose tattoo (on her boob! So scandalous!), sleeping with one of his friends, Tom Riley, and Tom’s increasingly suicidal thoughts. He calls Pam to warn her, she of course behaves like an ex-wife, but then later finds out Tom does in fact need his meds adjusted. Edgar for the win!! Save? Win? Either way.  Edgar remembers before his accident he liked sketching, but he never remembers being this good, or this powerful. Everyone is amazed by this talent, and they encourage him to show his paintings at a local gallery.

This my friend is the halcyon part of the book… Edgar shows his work at a gallery, all his friends come on a Gulfstream jet from Minnesota to see his work, they are proud of the physical recovery he’s made, and the talent he’s been hiding from everyone. The paintings all sell out, and even Elizabeth Eastlake is lucid enough to have Wireman bring her to the show. She looks at the paintings and tells Edgar what he already knows: he can’t sell those paintings. Bad things will happen to whomever owns them. There’s a curse at work. And then Elizabeth has a seizure and dies; which could perhaps be the most dramatic end to an art gallery exhibition ever. 

But the curse, y’all. Thankfully not all the paintings had been framed and shipped out yet… but the ones that have? Not good. Tom Riley drives off the road on his way to kill Pam. Ilse is drowned in the bathtub by an art critic. Edgar needs to release the spirit that is killing his friends and family. 

So, Edgar, Wireman, and Jack (the island errand boy) head over to the original Eastlake mansion (you know, where Ilse got so sick) to release a demon from a bottle, and capture her in a flashlight. Yep, you read that correctly. 

Even though I’m skimming over the end of the book, I’m doing it on purpose. This is truly some of Steve’s strongest writing. He captures a strong gothic vibe and runs with it. In a rare show of restraint, I’m not going to describe the last quarter of the book, and I’m going to encourage readers to pick it up, and fall head-first into the story. It’s part Bag of Bones, part Rebecca, and part awesomely spooky. It’s so damn good. Duma Key is hands-down one of the best Steve books I’ve read in a long time, and my timing was perfect. 

There were two Wisconsin references: a mention of Eau Claire, and the Packers. Woot! 

Also, there was one Dark Tower mention… at one point Edgar thinks how, “life is a wheel.” It’s ka, bro… ka is a wheel. 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 40

Total Dark Tower References: 55

Book Grade: A-

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Duma Key: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

The Dark Tower: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

Wolves of the Calla: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Song of Susannah: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

The Colorado Kid: B-

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Cell: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Faithful: D

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Lisey’s Story: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D

Next up is Stephen King Goes to the Movies; where he breaks down five of his favorite stories adapted into movies. I hope everyone has a safe, healthy Halloween weekend! Enjoy the last bit of spooooky season, y’all!

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca 

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theyearoftheking·2 months agoText

“Memories screwed up perspective, and the most vivid ones could annihilate time completely while they held sway.” 

I’m going to be honest. I’ve really hit a slump here, and am finding it hard to retain my enthusiasm for this project. I will continue on, because I want to end 2020 being able to tell people I read every word Stephen King has ever written; but right now the struggle is real. 

Lisey’s Story intensified the struggle. I thought it was long, meandering, and it took too damn long to get to the point. I’m not even sure there was a point. And it includes one of the most graphically creative uses of a can opener I’ve ever heard of. I’m still covering my chest and wincing just thinking about it. 

Lisa “Lisey” Landon is still mourning the death of her husband, famous writer, Scott Landon two years after his death. She’s still going through his office, trying to bring herself to donate his manuscripts and assorted sundries when her sister, Amanda, goes into a self-cutting and eventual catatonic state. 

Lisey and her other sister Darla don’t know what to do about Amanda. She has a history of harming herself, and her most recent bout of mania was the result of an ex-boyfriend coming back to town with a new wife. Lisey and Darla finally decide to call Greenlawn, the local mental health facility to see if they have a bed for Amanda. Come to find out, prior to his death, Scott had called Greenlawn, and convinced them to keep a spot open for Amanda, just in case. So, Lisey and Darla get Amanda committed, and the entire process dredges up memories for Lisey.

She is drawn back to her memories of Scott, especially some of the ones she can’t explain. She can’t explain why he was so insistent they not have children, or the strange disappearing acts he’d sometimes do, or how he was so quick to heal, or the weird catatonic states he’d go into- so similar to Amanda’s. Scott told her about how his brother went crazy, his dad had to chain him up in the basement (as you do), and after he was eventually killed, Scott transported him to a mythical place called Boo’ya Moon to try and bring him back to life. He was unsuccessful, so he just buried him there instead. 

In the midst of all these memories, Lisey starts getting strange phone calls from a man named “Zack McCool,” demanding that Lisey donate Scott’s papers to his alma mater. Lisey is annoyed, and politely tells “Zack” to go fuck himself. He retaliates by leaving a dead cat in her mailbox. And then when Lisey still doesn’t donate the papers, he drugs her, ties her up, and attacks her breast with a can opener. *Shudder*

Once Lisey wakes up, she heads to see Amanda, teleports to Boo’ya Moon, and Amanda is cured. Then, they head back to Lisey’s and wait for John Doolin, aka: “Zack”. Come to find out, Doolin spent time in a mental health care facility with Gerd Allen Cole, a man who shot Scott (Ha! Rhymes!) at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new campus library. So, Doolin picked up Cole’s mantle and ran with it. Well, until he ended up shot, and his corpse was dropped at Boo’ya Moon. 

Amanda is cured, the stalker is gone, and Lisey is free to finally get rid of Scott’s belongings. The final chapter of the book concludes with a chapter of his life Scott wrote just for Lisey- all about killing his dad. So romantic, right?

This book was chock full of Steve universe references:

Castle Rock

Derry

“Happy Crappy”

Lisey is from Cleave’s MIlls

Gilead

Dark Score Lake

Chambray work shirts

Norris Ridgewick

Andy Clutterbuck

“Lit out for the territories” 

And the most 2020 reference of all, was when Scott was dying and Lisey had to visit him in the isolation ward. “We think he has some exotic pneumonia, possibly even the Bird Flu, but whatever it is, we haven’t been able to identify it…It’s really doing a number on him. As the saying is. Just a mask should be enough, Mrs. Landon, unless you have cuts…”

Ah, the quaint old days of Bird Flu. #nostolgia 

In case you couldn’t tell, Lisey’s Story just bored the crap out of me. It was too long, and I just didn’t care by the end of it. 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 38

Total Dark Tower References: 54

Book Grade: D

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

The Dark Tower: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

Wolves of the Calla: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Song of Susannah: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

The Colorado Kid: B-

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Cell: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Faithful: D

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Lisey’s Story: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D

Next up is Duma Key, which I’ve heard great things about. And the first ten pages are already more promising than Lisey’s Story. So there’s that.

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,

Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·2 months agoText

“It was the cell phones…”

Actual conversation with my daughter while reading Cell

SB: “What’s that book about?” 

Me: Cellphones that turn people into murderous, rage-filled zombie cannibals.” 

SB: “Yep, that sounds about right!”

Cell is equal parts cute in it’s nostalgia about a time where cellphones were NOT surgically attached to peoples hands; and oddly prophetic. I actually deleted my Facebook account last month, because scrolling was filling me with the same rage I imagine characters in Cell felt. I mean, I might not have tried to rip someone’s throat out, but I definitely would have slapped a bitch. Or seven. I was tired of every damn decision/preference turning into a political, polarizing, them-vs-us debate. 

Masks

Voting

Covid

Reproductive rights

Science 

Religion

The list goes on and on. I just got tired of people being ugly towards each other. I was tired of the sick feeling I’d get in my stomach when I saw a friend I really liked posting hateful memes, or misinformation, or referring to people who wore masks as sheep. This was finally the meme that did it for me…

In a bitter twist of irony, this person’s workplace (with no masks or social distancing) just had a massive Covid outbreak. So there’s that. Who’s the sheep now, motherfucker?! So, yeah. I primarily hang out on Instagram now, looking at pictures of dogs, and posting pictures of food. It’s not terrible. It’s far preferable to Facebook, that’s for damn sure. But I do miss snooping on people. Not going to lie. 

Ok! So, Cell… This story takes off almost immediately. Clay Riddell, an artist, is celebrating a massive deal he just signed in Boston. He bought his wife a fancy paperweight (as you do); and is in line for an ice cream cone when it all goes to hell. People start getting calls on their cellphones, and beating/mauling each other to death. Clay dashes off, and eventually meets up with Alice Maxwell and Tom McCourt. They hide out in a downtown Boston hotel, and determine the cellphones are behind the rage-filled attacks the city is experiencing. Clay is worried about his wife and son, and convinces Alice and Tom to travel north to Maine with him. 

The rest of the story is like a shortened, but more graphically violent version of The Stand: a long journey on foot, some characters die, some new people join their trio, cryptic messages spray painted all over the city (KASHWAK=NO-FO), and of course a villain: Raggedy Man. 

This was my first time reading Cell, and it was fine. It was a fast read, but I didn’t really feel any connection to the characters or their plight. It was solidly “meh”. There was one Dark Tower reference: a shout-out to our pal Charlie the Choo-Choo. And one Wisconsin reference: the lovely city of Madison was mentioned. 

Oh, and there was this. We can file it under, “Author Bios that Didn’t Age Well and Most Certainly Untrue in 2020″ 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 38

Total Dark Tower References: 53

Book Grade: C+

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

The Dark Tower: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

Wolves of the Calla: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Song of Susannah: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

The Colorado Kid: B-

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Cell: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Faithful: D

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D

Next up is Lisey’s Story. I’ve seen rave reviews all over the Constant Reader fan pages; and I just don’t get it. It’s been so slow to start, and it’s very psychological. Stay tuned…

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·2 months agoText

 “…things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end. If not always in the ways we expect.” Luna Lovegood

I don’t consider myself a materialistic person, and I’m not on the hunt for first edition Steve books or anything like that… in all honesty, the worn, battered books I have from college are far more valuable. However… I really regret losing my chapter copies of The Green Mile

But then a friend texted to show me what appeared in her Free Little Library! 


I quickly offered her two books to replace the one (I mean, multiple chapters, but just one book) copy of The Green Mile. She quickly agreed, and now my paperback copy of The Green Mile and random hardcover copy I don’t remember ordering of Everything’s Eventual are both now in her Free Little Library. I am so happy to have these little chapters back in my possession. 

I don’t know if anyone else went on random spending binges while in quarantine, but I made some truly regrettable purchases including disgusting pre-workout and aminos I promptly threw in the trash, tennis shoes that hurt my knees, and foundation that does NOT in fact make my face look airbrushed. Boo. But, one of the purchases I made (and promptly forgot about) was a Stephen King and Molly Funko. It was a pre-order item, and I had forgotten all about it until the shipping notice showed up in my in-box this past week. 

Y’all.

This thing is fucking adorable. My daughter keeps trying to steal Molly from me. I explained she’s truly a thing of evil, not a child’s toy. Cue the blank stare. But I love it, and promptly need to fill my bookcases with allll the Steve Funkos. 

Stay tuned for some actual book, and not just product reviews soon. 

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·2 months agoText

“I write to find out what I think, and what I found out writing The Colorado Kid was that maybe- I just say maybe- it’s the beauty of the mystery that allows us to live sane as we pilot our fragile bodies through this demolition-derby world. We always want to reach for the lights in the sky, and we always want to know where the Colorado Kid (the world is full of Colorado Kids) came from. Wanting might be better than knowing.”

The Colorado Kid was a lovely little palate cleanser of a book. There was no crazy horror, no over-the-top baddies, and no mysticism. It was Steve’s attempt at an old-school, hardboiled noir piece. He intended for it to be read while at the laundromat, or while hanging out at the doctor’s office. He wanted it to be a quick, two-sitting read. And he succeeded!

Two old-time reporters, Vince Teague, and Dave Bowie (no relation) regale cub reporter Stephanie McCann with the strangest mystery Moose-Lookit Island had ever seen. The mystery seemed pretty straightforward: two high school kids were out for a run before school one morning, and stumble across a dead body on the beach, propped up against a garbage can. The kids quickly call the police, who determine the man is an out-of-towner, and died by choking on a bite of steak. 

The small-town police force doesn’t know how to determine the man’s identity; until a year and a half later when one of the detectives thinks to check the bottom of the deceased’s man’s pack of cigarettes for a tax stamp, and he finds it from Colorado. And just like that, the dead guy becomes “The Colorado Kid”.

From there, the detectives place ads in Colorado newspapers looking for the identity of “The Colorado Kid”. His wife, Arla Cogan, sees the ad, and flies out to Maine to claim her husband, James’s personal effects. Open and shut case, right?

Well, that’s where the mystery comes in. Arla and the detectives try to put together the timeline of James’s last day alive. He was seen leaving his office at 10:15am Mountain Time. He was spotted in Maine eating fish and chips at 5:30pm Eastern time. There were no direct flights from Denver to Bangor, the closest commercial flight would have gotten him in at 6:45pm Eastern. So, did he fly in on a private plane? This was before 9/11, so there were no flight plans logged. Additionally, James Cogan wasn’t the type of guy to be chartering private jets across the country. 

So how did he end up in Maine? 

Thus is the mystery Stephanie is left to unravel. Like I said, a fun palate cleanser perfect for reading between boring books about baseball, and gory books about cellphones turning people into violent monsters.

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 37

Total Dark Tower References: 52

Book Grade: B

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

The Dark Tower: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

Wolves of the Calla: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Song of Susannah: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

The Colorado Kid: B-

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Faithful: D

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D


Like I said, a fun little read before diving into the absolute gore that is Cell. 

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theyearoftheking·2 months agoText

“Hello, world, I’m a Red Sox fan. For better or worse, I’m a Red Sox fan, and I’ve just been screwed again. Same as it ever was.” 

I know I promised I’d leave no pages unturned as a Constant Reader, but I just found 409 pages I could have skipped. I’m not a baseball fan. I don’t hate the Red Sox, or anything like that; I just find baseball insufferably boring. The only thing I enjoy about going to a baseball game is the snacks. Not unlike my five year-old beagle, I am extremely food motivated. Sometimes to a fault. 

So, full disclosure: I skimmed A LOT of this book. I don’t care about batting averages, and I still don’t know what a .500 season means. Furthermore, I don’t care. But Steve, and Stewart O’Nan care, so there’s that. 

I love the city of Boston, and hold it very close to my heart for reasons I can’t quite explain. So, parts of this book were a fun little brain-break… but I really didn’t absorb much. Here’s a short list of things that caught my interest. 

1. When Steve needed a break from Sox mania, he’d watch All My Children, which used to be my soap opera of choice back in the day too. His brief commentary on the relationship dynamics were hilarious. I could have used more of that, and less baseball. 

2. Barry Zito! Who I only know from last season of The Masked Singer. He was super cute and could sing very well. 

That was it. I warned you, it was an extremely short list of take-aways. Here’s the main plot of the book: The Red Sox are cursed, and haven’t made it to the playoffs in a long time. And then after the 2004 season full of highs and lows; they win The World Series. The curse is broken. Fans rejoice. The end. 

Briefest.

Summary.

Ever.

I’m sorry to all baseball (and especially all Red Sox) fans. This was like reading a book in Spanish: I understood about 30% of it and just kind of gave up after 75 pages.

There was one Wisconsin mention… because any book about baseball wouldn’t be complete without a Milwaukee Brewers reference. And there was a Dark Tower mention as well: Steve mentioned when The Dark Tower hit the New York Times Bestseller List. 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 37

Total Dark Tower References: 52

Book Grade: A-

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

The Dark Tower: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

Wolves of the Calla: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Song of Susannah: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Faithful: D

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D

Onward to The Colorado Kid!

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·2 months agoText

What have I become? 

My sweetest friend

Everyone I know

Goes away in the end

You could have it all

My empire of dirt

I will let you down

I will make you hurt

Well hello, Constant Readers! I know, it’s been a while. I really dragged my feet with reading the final installation in the series. Even though I’ve read it several times before, and I know how it ends, I push it off and want to make reading it last one day longer. Well, it took about two weeks longer than expected. But better late than never. 

Y’all. 

This was a chonk of a book. I continue to be thankful for this challenge; because there were so many references and characters I might not have otherwise known about, or appreciated in quite the same way. Here’s a comprehensive list of all the other Steve characters/books mentioned:

It 

Chambray shirts

Bag of Bones (a house named Cara Laughs)

The Dead Zone

Black House

Hearts in Atlantis (our friend Ted Brautigan plays a prominent role in the book)

Carrie 

Sheemie from Wizard and Glass

The Long Walk

Desperation

More chambray shirts!

Cujo

Insomnia

Misery

The Stand

The Shining/Mask of the Red Death: which… by the way… “Unmask! Unmask!” might be the motto of 2021. Fingers crossed. 

Also, a fun line for you to file under the “2020 Was Indeed Written by Stephen King” conspiracy. Early on in the book, Susannah sees a sign that reads, “Say, you cool cats and boppin’ kitties!” 

Ah, the prophesy foretold of one!

There was a ton of background and history included, but I’m going to give you the down and dirty recap of each section. 

Part 1: The Little Red King

Mordred is born, and he’s a human/spider baby. 

Mordred kills Randall Flagg.

Father Callahan dies when a herd of half human/half animal beasts attack him, and the ka-tet escape safely into the bowels of The Dixie Pig.

Part 2: Blue Heaven

Way, way too much background about the Breakers.

 The ka-tet start the town on fire, and free all the Breakers. 

Eddie is tragically shot and dies. 

Part 3: In this Haze of Green and Gold

Roland, Eddie and Oy successfully save Stephen King from dying when he’s hit by the inattentive van driver. 

Jake dies.

Part 4: The White Lands of Empathia

Roland, Susannah and Oy move towards the tower. 

After a vampire almost makes them laugh to death, they meet Patrick Danville in the basement. They learn Patrick can draw things into being, and erase them from existence. 

Part 5: The Scarlet Field of Can’-ka No Rey

Susannah misses Eddie and Jake, and rides through a door Patrick draws, hoping to be reunited with them. 

Mordred kills Oy.

Roland kills Mordred.

Roland and Patrick make it to the Tower. The Crimson King taunts, and throws Sneetches at them. 

Patrick draws, and then erases the Crimson King.

Roland goes inside the tower. 

Part 6: Susannah in New York

Susannah rolls into NYC at Christmas time, hearing the choirs of children singing, just like in her dreams. 

She finds Eddie, who doesn’t remember her, but knows he’s drawn to her. He gives her a hat he bought for her, and then introduces her to his little brother, Jake. They all live happily ever after. 

Coda

Roland makes his way to the top of the tower, passing rooms full of memories of people he met along the way to the Tower. The memories flood over him, and then he remembers. 

He remembers he’s been here before, and it’s his ka to get sucked into the final door, and start all over again. He fights it, but ka is like a wheel.

But this time he has the Horn of Eld, so maybe it will end differently. 

The End

I feel emotionally drained just typing all of that. While I felt there was too much background and filler in this final book; the emotions I felt when losing members of the ka-tet made up for it. As Susannah was wheeling away, trying to convince Oy to come with her; there were tears in my eyes. UGHHH! So good. 

Is this a perfect book? No. And honestly, the first time I read it, I was fucking pissed about the ending. All that, just to end up where we started in the first place? No thank you. But then a friend asked me how else it was supposed to end. I didn’t have an answer. And as I’ve gotten older, I have realized this is the best possible ending to an epic tale. And to be fair, Steve DOES advise you to stop reading after Susannah finds her boys in New York City. I’m just stubborn, and don’t listen well. Ask my husband. 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 36

Total Dark Tower References: 51

Book Grade: A-

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

The Dark Tower: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

Wolves of the Calla: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Song of Susannah: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D

Next up is Faithful; a non-fiction book about the Boston Red Sox that Steve wrote with Stewart O’Nan. I don’t really follow baseball, and I don’t really love sports teams from New England, so this should be interesting. Stay tuned.

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·2 months agoText

See the TURTLE of enormous girth!

On his shell he holds the earth,

His thought is slow but always kind;

He holds us all within his mind.

On his back the truth is carried,

And there are love and duty married.

He loves the earth and loves the sea,

And even loves a child like me. 

In every epic series, there’s what I refer to as the “bridge” novel. Song of Susannah is the bridge novel in the Dark Tower series. Except for the coda at the end, nothing major happens; it just sets up the epic final novel. 

For the first time ever, the ka-tet is scattered: Roland and Eddie are tracking down Calvin Tower, the owner of the land where the beautiful rose currently resides; Susannah and Mia are in 1999 New York City, headed to the Dixie Pig to deliver their baby; and Callahan, Jake and Oy are headed after Susannah. 

We find out more about Mia, and how the baby she and Susannah are carrying was fathered by Roland (seriously confusing case of sperm snatching and then demon turkey basting into Susannah). Mia believes that the Crimson King is going to let her hold onto her baby, at least for a little while… and Susannah correctly calls her out as the fool she is. So, Susannah tries to drag her heels, but with the help of a magical carved turtle, they end up as guests of honor at The Dixie Pig. 

Gulp. 

Roland and Eddie end up thrown into a gunfight, courtesy of Mia. Calvin Tower hasn’t done the best job of hiding out from the mafia who is strong-arming him into selling his bookstore. Eddie wants to choke the life out Tower for being a stubborn pain in the ass. Roland just smirks and tells him if he was successful in not killing Eddie when he was coming off of heroin, Eddie can control his rage too. After telling Tower and his pal to keep a low profile (for real this time!) they end up visiting the one and only Stephen King. 

Steve freaks out seeing Roland. At this point, he had written a draft of the first Dark Tower book, but had lost it. He was also drinking pretty heavily, soooo, yeah. But the conversation between Steve, Eddie and Roland is surreal. I can’t help but wonder how much fun Steve had writing that scene. 

Jake, Oy, and Callahan pop in towards the end of the book, they grab Black Thirteen from the hotel Susannah and Mia had stashed it at, and show up at The Dixie King, ready to go to battle to rescue Susannah. 

Hands down, the best part of the novel is the coda at the end. It’s journal entries from Steve, covering what books he was writing, and how they all seemed to tie back to The Dark Tower. I’m sure a good portion was autobiographical, since he talks about publishing, readers reactions, his substance abuse issues and eventual sobriety, and even letters he had received. But the end is one hundred percent fiction. Dun-dun-dun!!!! 

In addition to all the books mentioned in the coda, here are a few more nods to the Steve universe:

-the concept of “pain rising” and Eddie biting down on a belt while Roland takes care of a gunshot wound: same thing Ted Brautigan does with Carol when she dislocates her shoulder in Hearts in Atlantis. 

-The Little Sisters are mentioned! 

All and all, this might be the weakest of the later book in the series, but it helps lay the groundwork for an epic finale. 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 36

Total Dark Tower References: 51

Book Grade: B+

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

Wolves of the Calla: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Song of Susannah: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D-

On a personal note, I’m writing this book on Steve’s birthday. I just wanted to use this opportunity to explain why he’s so important to me. I didn’t always have the best childhood, and books were a constant escape for me. When I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed with shit twelve year-olds shouldn’t have to deal with, I’d hide in a book. I’d tune out the world, and escape in a fantasy realm. And I loved Steve’s books, because for a little while, my own world didn’t seem so bad in comparison. Hours would pass where I’d forget about my parents fighting, or the fact I didn’t have money for the class fieldtrip, or my complete lack of normal social skills. The world was okay between the pages of a book. Thank you to Steve for still giving me a place to hide in a year that has presented some new and unique challenges. 

Steve, you are like my sixteen year old cat, Jackers… familiar, wildly entertaining, and my greatest wish is for the both of you to be eternal; because I don’t want to know a world without either one of you in it. Thank you. 

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·3 months agoText

“First comes smiles, then lies. Last is gunfire.” Roland of Gilead

Hi. 

It’s been two weeks, I know. 

For whatever reason, every excuse under the sun kept popping up, and preventing me from reading this book. I just had no interest in it… which is kind of ironic, considering I couldn’t wait to get my grabby little hands on it when it was first published. It had been six years since Wizard & Glass had been published, and I was dying to know what happened to my beloved ka-tet. 

In so many ways, this book is perfect; it’s when the entire King universe all comes together: 

-We meet Father Callahan from Salem’s Lot

-Low Men/Big Coffin Hunters/Regulators are all lumped into the same group of predatory assholes

-Charlie the Choo Choo is written by none other than Claudia y Inez Bachman (you know, Richard’s wife) 

-Chambray shirts!

-The line “silence gives consent” is used again… it first appeared in Dreamcatcher, and I ranted enough about it then, I don’t think I need to repeat it. 

-Callahan discusses what would have happened if the Kennedy assassination never happened… which makes me wonder if this was the seed for 11/22/63

The line, “I am what ka and the King and the Tower have made me. We all are. We’re caught” just sums it up perfectly. 

Now. 

I have an important matter to attend to. Any Constant Reader of this blog knows there has been a lot of eerie foreshadowing that’s gone down in 2020. Deadly global pandemic. Evil politicians. Crazy storms and climate change. I have one more piece of foreshadowing that needs to happen. The term, “Commala” is thrown around quite a bit. The Commala is a song, with some wicked choreography Roland shows off. But the term “Commala” is used to refer to a variety of things. 
Commala. 

Kamala. 

Do you know what 2020 needs?

MORE FUCKING KAMALA!!! 

Preferably in the role of Vice-President. 

Look at this bad-ass bitch in my hometown over Labor Day weekend… I don’t know what I love more: the Chucks, or the mask. Or just the whole demeanor. 

So, let’s put this out into the universe, please?

Ok, so back to Wolves of the Calla. Roland and the crew are making their way along the beam, when they meet up with some visitors from the nearby hamlet of Calla Bryn Sturgis. The visitors explain that every twenty years or so, a pack of wolves descends on their town, and steals away one child from each set of twins (the town is overrun with twins). The stolen children eventually return, but are “roont”. We later learn that twins have a strong brain connection which The Breakers feast on in order to help them try and break the beams supporting The Tower. The residents of the Calla ask the gunslingers to please help them fight the wolves, they don’t want to lose any future generations of children. 

While all this is going on, Susannah has been sleepwalking off in the middle of the night, feasting on toads and other gross objects for her “chap”. In this dreamlike state, she’s Mia, daughter of none, mother of one. Yes: Susannah is pregnant with the demon spawn. 

One of the individuals the ka-tet meets is Father Callahan, who recaps Salem’s Lot for us, and tells us how he was chased down by Low Men, before teleporting himself into the Calla. He’s lived here quite happily ever since. But, he’s also in possession of Black Thirteen, a glammer ball he’s hidden under the floorboards of the church, because it’s so damn evil. 

The ka-tet agrees to help the townsfolk, and almost immediately, sense something is rotten. No one trusts Andy, the C3PO type robot who wanders around town, telling fortunes, singing, and watching out for the kids. Additionally, Jake doesn’t trust his new pal Benny Slightman’s dad. He caught him out late one night, speaking in hushed tones to Andy. M-O-O-N: that spells trouble, it does. 

Roland finds out many of the women are skilled at throwing sharp rice plates, known as Oriza. He figures this is his best defense against the wolves. It totally is. He misleads both Andy and Ben Slightman (although his son ends up as a casualty); and they kill the wolves, who are nothing more but animatronic creatures Ben and Andy had been snitching to. Fun fact: one of the weapons the wolves use are Harry Potter model sneetches. 

Before the ka-tet have a chance to celebrate, Mia takes over Susannah’s body, and she ends up grabbing Black Thirteen and deucing out to New York City through a magical doorway in a cave.

I should add, there’s a part of this book that gets super meta. At one point, Father Callahan and Eddie use the doorway to get back to New York City and try to protect a piece of land where a magical red rose is blooming. Father Callahan finds a copy of Salem’s Lot, and can’t get over the fact some humbug named Stephen King wrote his life story down. Is he real? Was it all fiction? Who’s to say. 

The book ends with Susannah in New York, and the ka-tet racing after her. Despite the fact it took me forever to read it, it was a fun book. It will never be my favorite in the series, but at the time it was published, it was the book all Constant Readers had been waiting for. So, the nostalgia is fun. 

One Wisconsin mention- Green Bay, Wisconsin. 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 36

Total Dark Tower References: 51

Book Grade: B- (generous, considering the Dahmer gaffe)

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

Wolves of the Calla: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D-

Next up is Song of Susannah, we keep the Dark Tower good times rolling! Please wear your masks, wash your hands, and please help my Kamala 2020 vision become a reality!

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,

Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·3 months agoText

“There comes a time in most lives when we must face the deaths of our loved ones as an actual reality… and, by proxy, the fact of our own approaching death. This is probably the single greatest subject of horror fiction: our need to cope with a mystery that can be understood only with the aid of a hopeful imagination.” 

I had dinner once with a guy who was trying to either relate to me, or impress me… the jury is still out. Once he found out I was from Milwaukee, he told me how he had once seen Ted Bundy’s apartment in downtown Milwaukee. 

Slow blink.

Ted Bundy was never in Milwaukee, dumb ass. You’re obviously talking about Jeffrey Dahmer, and comparing the two is like chalk and cheese. Completely different victim populations, MO’s… basically the only thing they have in common is both being white men. Oh, and Bundy is considered more conventionally attractive. If you were to listen to the Parcast Serial Killers podcast on Dahmer, they described him as, “good looking, by Milwaukee standards…” So, there’s that. 

This conversation still upsets me years later. It should have upset me more that the “Bundy in Milwaukee” guy went on to talk about his wife’s STD, but that’s a conversation for another time. 

I didn’t choose the Dahmer life, it chose me. When he was captured in 1991, I was my daughter’s age, and it was the most sensational piece of news to hit Milwaukee… well, maybe ever. The details about the half-eaten corpses, the body parts in the freezer… I couldn’t get enough of it. Had I not stumbled across my mom’s copy of Small Sacrifices years earlier, it’s possible Dahmer could have been the catalyst for my murderino obsession. Sadly, Diane Downs got to me first. I was obsessed with the pictures in the middle of the book… it was the first time I realized monsters are real, and human monsters are scarier than anything Stephen King or Dean Koontz could dream up. 

Sidebar: check out the Two Face podcast, told by the daughter Diane put up for adoption. I’m obsessed. 

But, Dahmer is my local serial killer, so my knowledge is complete and wildly inappropriate at dinner parties (remember when those were a thing?). There’s even a local neighborhood bar that does a Dahmer walking tour; where my sister talked me out of buying this especially cool t-shirt… she felt it was too on-the-nose. She might be right. I even dragged a friend with me to see My Friend Dahmer... because I was scared of looking like a creeper at the theater alone. Every time we drive past Columbia County Correctional, I make sure to remind my (very annoyed) daughter that Dahmer was killed there. 

My point is, I know a lot about Jeffrey Dahmer. What’s one of the key things I know? HE’S NOT BURIED. HE DOESN’T HAVE A GRAVE. HIS PARENTS HAD HIM CREMATED AND SPLIT HIS REMAINS. 

Once more for the cheap seats in the back: 

JEFFREY DAHMER DOESN’T HAVE A GRAVE. 

Why all the shouty caps? 

Because Steve doesn’t know this. Steve is blissfully unaware that he has a character bragging about sleeping on Jeffrey Dahmer’s non-existent grave. I can’t even give you a good review of Everything’s Eventual, because this bothers me so much. It’s like the fucking Starbuck’s cup someone forgot to remove from the Game of Throne’s scene. It bothers me that much. 

Here was my reading process on this short story collection…

Autopsy Room Four: Creepy! This is the shit that haunts my dreams. Good start to the collection!

The Man in the Black Suit: Fun! A Castle Rock mention

All That You Love Will Be Carried Away: Are we to the Little Sisters short story yet? I need a Dark Tower fix…

The Death of Jack Hamilton: I love a good mobster story. And this one mentions the Dillinger gang shoot-out at Little Bohemia, so yay for a Wisconsin reference! Great story. 

In the Deathroom: Escobar. Meh. If we’re going to do back-to-back mobster stories, the Dillinger one was better. 

Little Sisters of Eluria: Swoon. Double swoon. Steve uses the line, “tintinabulation of the bells.” Tintinabulation is a word Edgar Allen Poe completely made up, but it’s an excellent example of onomatopoeia. This is an example of what I have to show for all my student loan debt (thanks, Cares Act for the deferment!): the fact I can both recognize and give an obscure example of onomatopoeia. And spot Poe like a boss bitch. This story is set post Wizard and Glass, and ties back into The Talisman; and almost makes up for the Dahmer slippage. 

Everything’s Eventual: Thought provoking, but I’m really looking forward to finishing this collection and diving back into The Dark Tower universe. 

L.T.’s Theory of Pets: Trigger warning for violence towards animals. I once had Blood and Smoke- an audio book collection Steve did; and this story was included. I’ve never forgotten it. It’s a classic. 

The Road Virus Heads North: A Derry mention! Oh, and Dahmer too. That’s fun. 

Lunch at the Gotham Cafe: Weird. This is the second story that includes a Dear John letter, and a jilted husband. Wonder what was going on with Steve and Tabby… Oh gross, a Donald Trump and Ivana line. *Swallows vomit*

That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French: Oh good, 1408 is next! 

1408: DAHMER DOESN’T HAVE A GRAVE!!!!!! 

Riding the Bullet: Oh, a Castle Rock mention. But, um, DAHMER DOESN’T HAVE A GRAVE!

Luckey Quarter: Why is lucky spelled wrong? And also… DAHMER DOESN’T HAVE A GRAVE!!! 

So, yeah. Full disclosure. Re-living the Dahmer’s grave story just made me crack open a juice box full of sangria. Fun fact: the friend who made this sangria, is the same one I dragged along to My Friend Dahmer. She is a lovely, wonderful, generous human being; who is not the least bit fazed by my serial killer knowledge. And her sangria is delicious too. 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 35

Total Dark Tower References: 51

Book Grade: B- (generous, considering the Dahmer gaffe) 

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

Storm of the Century: B-

Everything’s Eventual: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D-

Next is Wolves of the Calla. I am so stupid excited to finish off The Dark Tower series. Only 18 years of Steve left to go, and a little over 3 months to get it done. Stay tuned.

Until next time, Long Days and Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·3 months agoText

“You don’t fuck around with the infinite.”

Yes, you read that correctly… book FIFTY. It’s kind of crazy I’m two-thirds of the way done with this challenge, and only have eighteen years worth of Stephen King to read through. I have to admit, From a Buick 8 was one of the reasons this challenge was so fun. I never would have picked this book up on my own, I would have assumed it was hokey and lame, and not worth my time. 

Don’t get me wrong, it was a little hokey (come on… a car that both eats people and expels strange variations of animals); but it was also fun. What saved this book from lame territory was the characters. They were warm, well-drawn, and they spun a compelling yarn. There were also some really great lines of dialogue. I was worried this was going to be Christine 2.0; but instead it was a mix of The Green Mile and Christine… because of the car, obviously. 

From a Buick 8 is set at a state police barracks in rural, western Pennsylvania. Ned Wilcox’s dad used to be a state trooper at these same barracks, and he’s taken to hanging around shoveling snow, and cutting grass after his father’s untimely death. Ned is accepted into the fold, and even starts doing some dispatch work. But one afternoon, he notices a car in Shed B, and wants to know how the police ended up with it. 

Sergeant Sandy Dearborn pulls the old-time employees together, and they tell Ned all about how they came to own the mysterious Buick. Ned’s father, Curt, and another trooper received a call from a gas station, informing them the car had been abandoned, and the driver just disappeared. He was there one minute in his swirling back coat, letting the gas station attendant know not to check the oil; and the next minute he was gone. He wasn’t taking an excessively long dump, or looking for gas station snacks… he just vanished. 

Upon further inspection, the Buick had some oddities. I’m not going to go into great detail because I barely know how to check the tire pressure on my lovely Subaru. The fact I drive a Subaru, and am on a first-name basis with the manager of my local Tire’s Plus should tell you everything you need to know about my auto mechanic know-how. But suffice it to say, the car shouldn’t even be able to drive. The knobs on the dashboard don’t work, the glove box won’t open, and there are no spark plugs (I think). Also, despite being a warm, muddy day, the car is immaculate, with nary a spec of dirt on her. 

The troopers tow the car back to the barracks, and deposit her in Shed B. And then strange shit starts to happen. They installed a temperature gauge in Shed B, and noticed when the temperature starts to drop, strange things happen. They see lights and sparks coming out of the car, and sometimes it expels strange frog/bat/monster type things. When autopsied, these creatures just explode a lot of black goo. Additionally, if you were to place a live animal in the shed, there’s a good chance the Buick will “absorb” it. Same goes for humans who have done her wrong. Basically any human who wronged the car in any way ends up dead, or disappeared (presumably absorbed by the car)… including Ned’s dad Curt.

After hearing the whole sordid story of the Buick, Ned tries to start the car on fire, and wants to get absorbed by the car, so he can kill whomever is waiting on the other side. The troopers pull him back from the Buick, and he survives. In fact, he grows up and becomes a trooper at the very same location his dad worked at. 

It’s a quick read with lots of interesting characters popping in and out to tell about their interactions with the mysterious car. All their stories weave together into a fun narrative. It’s also a treat to read the Author’s Note and find out how Steve got his inspiration for this story while on a cross-country drive from Florida to Maine. I won’t ruin it for you, Steve is always at his best when he’s autobiographical. 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 33

Total Dark Tower References: 50

Book Grade: B

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

From a Buick 8: B

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

Storm of the Century: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D-

Next up is Everything’s Eventual; which I read at some point and gave a shockingly low rating on Goodreads. We’ll see if time has tempered my opinion at all. 

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·3 months agoText

“Here is a true American loner, an internal vagrant, a creature of shabby rooms and cheap diners, of aimless journeys resentfully taken, a collector of wounds and injuries lovingly fingered and refingered. Here is a spy with no cause higher than himself.” 

After almost fifty books, The Talisman still stands at the top of the leader board as my favorite Steve book. It’s richly layered, full of memorable characters and horrible villains, with a satisfying conclusion. It’s the type of book fantasy and horror lovers alike are eager to escape into. 

It’s sometimes hard to embrace the sequel to a book you love so much… I mean, I can be bought, but my criteria are stringent:

Consider setting the book in Wisconsin… perhaps the beautiful, sad, remote, desolate western part of the state right along the Mississippi river.

Maybe a Dahmer reference? 

Scratch that. Instead, go with an old-school serial killer no one really talks about anymore. How about… Albert Fish? He’s pretty gross. 

On second thought, reconsider a Dahmer reference. Maybe an evil spirit that links Dahmer and Fish together? 

TONS of Dark Tower references. 

If Steve and Pete were to consider writing a follow up to The Talisman with all these elements, I might consider reading it. 

Spoiler! 

Dark House contains all this goodness, and more. 

It’s so fucking dark, y’all. I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to drive past a long-term care facility and NOT think about an old man inside wanting to eat the buttocks of small children.

Oh hey, trigger warnings for cannibalism, and violence against children. 

So, Dark House is set in fictional Coulee County, Wisconsin (not a place). But Steve and Pete (I need to start giving Peter Straub some shout outs as well) describe the western part of the state magnificently. Not too long ago I had a sales job that required me to travel the entire state, and I always loved my jaunts west. I’d park right along the Mississippi, eat my lunch and just soak up the isolation. I’d much rather make the drive to Pierce county than the Quad Cities, which my current employer is asking of me. *Silent scream for help*

Despite Coulee being fictional, the actual Wisconsin references are thick:

De Pere (where we recently found out Steve spent a few formative years)

The Brewers 

Miller Park 

Kingsland Ale- while fictional, it’s a nod to Wisconsin’s rich brewing history, and favorable climate for microbreweries

Dahmer (several times, actually)

Racine. Y’all. I have no idea what Steve’s obsession is with Racine… it comes up in multiple books. It’s really not that great. Take that from someone who spent a brief period of time working there. Honestly, my favorite thing about Racine is the authentic Thai restaurant right in downtown, Sticky Rice. If you find yourself in Racine, please go check them out… their red devil curry is amaze-balls. 

So, yes… lots of Wisconsin. Also, lots of Dark Tower:

Eye of the King

Crimson King

The Tower

Red roses

Breakers

Little Sisters 

Gunslingers and their weapons

Roland and the ka-tet

Monos! Blaine and Patricia

Chief Breaker Brautigan- who allegedly tells hilarious stories about his escapes. I miss him already. 

I have questions about how Steve convinced Pete to include so many Dark Tower elements into this book…

Steve:  “Pete, bud… I know you might have a different vision for how this book plays out. Buuut what about if we make it part of the Dark Tower universe?”

Pete: Stares for a long minute. “Um, I thought that series was dead in the water. Do we really need to use Dark House to resuscitate it?” 

Steve: “Remember the car accident? You know, the one that almost took my leg?” 

Pete *Oh fuck, he’s bringing up the car accident as a bid for sympathy, and to convince me to make this a Dark Tower book…* “Of course I remember!”

Steve: “Well, it shook some things loose. I’m about ready to finish the series. I just thought it might be fun if we make this book a lead-up to the finale” 

Pete: “It’s intriguing, but I’m not really sure it’s the direction I want to go in. I was thinking more-”

Steve: “I ALMOST DIED IN THAT ACCIDENT!” 

Pete: “Cool, Dark Tower book it is!” 

I should write fan fiction. I’ve obviously got a gift. 

Black House is told from a birds-eye narration view. Literally… there’s this fat, evil crow named Gorg flying all over town, giving us the lay of Coulee County. Bad stuff has been going on: little children have gone missing, and only a few of their bodies have turned back up mutilated and broken. 

The chief of police, Dale Gilbertson, knows he’s in over his head, and keeps trying to convince his pal, retired police detective, Jack “Hollywood” Sawyer to come consult on the case.

Jack isn’t having it. He retired young and moved to Coulee County from Los Angeles after tracking down and arresting serial killer Thorny Kinderling. The majestic beauty of western Wisconsin caught him by surprise, and he happily invested in reasonably priced (read: cheap) real estate with a view. 

Upon moving to Wisconsin, Jack befriended Dale’s blind uncle Henry Leydon; who voices several radio programs, including The Wisconsin Rat, which plays indy screamo bands and has plenty of shock-jock antics. The two hang out together, listen to jazz music, and sometimes Jack reads to Henry. Henry was able to use his elevated senses to study Jack’s speech pattern and figure out Jack’s mom was THE Lily Cavanaugh; the Queen of the B’s. 

While Jack and Henry are reading Bleak House, Charles “Burny” Burnside is wandering around the Maxton Elder Care Facility, pretending to have dementia, and dragging children into The Territories for Lord Malshun to either use as Breakers, or for Burny to snack on if they have no Breaking skills. So, Burny’s a bad dude who did some suspicious things in Chicago; but an evil spirit (the same one who invaded Albert Fish and Jeffrey Dahmer’s bodies) is what’s causing his kidnapping and cannibalistic urges. I know I say this every ten books or so, but Burny might be the worst King villain ever. I was not upset later on when his intestines were violently ripped from his body.

A sweet little boy (with strong Breaker powers) named Tyler Marshall goes missing outside the Maxton Elder Care Facility. While he was being pulled into the bushes by Gorg who kept repeating his name; his mother, Judy receives a taunting package and letter from The Fisherman, which sends her over the brink, and she’s institutionalized. 

Tyler’s disappearance really amps up the town outrage, and Jack agrees to help the police department out. He’s starting to suspect there’s some Territories nonsense going down, and he can help. 

From here, the book goes at break-neck pace and includes everything from micro-brewing bikers, a dog bite that causes one to dissolve into a foamy puddle on the couch, our old friend Speedy Parker showing up as a gunslinger, the world’s most annoying newspaper reporter, plenty of flipping between worlds via the creepy old black house hidden in the woods, and a happy(ish) ending. Honestly, there’s a warning at the end of the book, which allows you to choose your own ending. You can stop reading five pages before the end, and enjoy a happy ending where the good guys win; or you can get the real world ending. Both are satisfying… I recommend reading all the way to the end. 

So, just a few quotes for you… 

“Wolf died of a disease called America.” 

This line gutted me. I didn’t realize how much I loved Wolf as a character, until I had to read a follow-up that didn’t include him. His soul was too clean and beautiful for a fucked-up world like the one we currently live in. 

“He doesn’t like the cell phone to begin with- twenty-first-century slave bracelets, he thinks them…”

No explanation needed. 

“Why must life always demand so much and give so little? Parkus answers her question with a single word: ka.” 

Again, no explanation needed. 

Was this book as good as The Talisman

No. 

Did I want more? 

Absolutely.

But was I satisfied with the end?

You bet your (un-chomped on) ass.

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 33

Total Dark Tower References: 50

Book Grade: A-

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

Black House: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

Storm of the Century: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D-

Now I move onto From a Buick Eight. I’ve had an advanced reading copy since the book came out, but never had the urge to actually read it. That should tell you everything you need to know about my level of enthusiasm right now. I’m hoping it’s not a Christine 2.0. 

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca 

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theyearoftheking·3 months agoText

Here’s some random information about me. First and foremost, I hate poop. The smell of dog poop makes me start gagging. Can’t handle it. Never have, never will. My husband knows he’s on active duty (ha! pun NOT intended) if one of our dogs has an accident in the house.

So, it’s kind of ironic I work for a pharmaceutical company that promotes all kinds of GI drugs… I’ve helped sell drugs for various kinds of IBS, and now opioid induced constipation. I spend my work days talking to doctors about poop while they eat tacos. Truly… that’s how I spent my lunch hour yesterday. 

So, why am I talking about poop? Dreamcatcher, y’all. This book is literally FULL OF SHIT. We’re talking everything from the smelliest, most graphically described excrement, to high school aged kids trying to force a boy to eat dog poop… SO MUCH POOP. 

Which made me wonder… Steve wrote this book after his horrific accident, which I’m sure involved massive amounts of pain-killers. Was Steve suffering from opioid induced constipation? Was Steve dreaming about a massive shit that would ease his constipation pains? It’s really the only logical thing I can think of. 

I haven’t read this book since it was first published back in 2001, but  the first thing I always think of is how graphically Steve describes the smell of poop… “a mixture of ether and overripe bananas…” 

Gross. 

So gross. 

Dreamcatcher is an alien invasion story… aliens plan to take over a hunting town in rural, northern Maine. And they multiply by fuzzy spores, known as byrus. When someone comes into contact with the spores, it’s not long before an alien explodes out their anus… hence, the horrible smell and flatulence. 

Four friends, Beaver, Henry, Jonsey, and Pete are all up north hunting when the alien invasion goes down. Jonsey ends up with the alien leader, Mr. Gray, invading his body; Pete and Beaver end up dead, and Henry is tasked with preventing Mr. Gray from depositing a dog heavy with byrus into a major water filtration plant, which would infect a huge swath of the population. 

The boys all have a low-grade form of telepathy, which they developed the day they helped save Douglas “Duddits” Cavill from some high school kids who stripped him down, and tried to force him to eat a dog turd. Duddits has Down Syndrome, and was walking home from school when he was accosted by the high school assholes. After the rescue, Beaver, Henry, Jonsey, and Pete added Duddits to their clan, and he’d tag along with them, play cribbage, basically be one of the boys. 

Their telepathy has intensified into adulthood, and while the boys have lost touch with Duddits, they still try to go hunting every year. So, they’re out hunting when the aliens and the National Guard sweep in. The Guard tries to keep everyone quarantined and prevent the spread of the byrus. It’s okay… take a second and laugh. It’s just another example of life imitating prophetic art. There’s one particularly ucky guardsman, Kurtz, who just wants to build a name for himself by killing the entire town, and preventing the spread of the aliens. 

75% of the book is a race between Jonsey/Mr. Gray, Kurtz, and Henry/another guardsman and eventually Duddits. Henry and Duddits save the world, Duddits succumbs to the leukemia that has been killing him, and life goes on, shit and all. 

There were some fun Steve universe mentions: 

The town of Derry, Maine

Castle Rock radio station

Low men

The Losers Club 

Pennywise

The Dead Zone

Shawshank 

And then there were some lines that made me laugh. cringe, and want to cry. Shall we proceed?

The concept of “temporary quarantine”. We’re currently on day 572,000 of social distancing, quarantining, and living our best lives six feet apart. We were also told this would be temporary.

“Silence gives consent” Steve, buddy, pal… can we work on updating this line in future publications? I think we know that only consent gives consent. Silence is NOT consent. Help a girl out here. Speaking of consent, there’s a line, “…he was with Tom T. Hall: he liked beer.” I immediately thought of this asshole. 

He also thinks silence is consent, and likes beer. For fucks sake, does this man not have the most punchable face in the world? Just looking at it is raising my blood pressure. Fuckstick. 

So, then there’s the greatest debate of our time… “Underhill donned his mask and adjusted the straps without further comment…Do they work? They work on Ebola, they work on anthrax, they work on that new super-cholera. Do they work on Ripley? Probably. If not, we’re fucked, soldier. In fact, we may be fucked already.” I laughed way harder than I should have at this line. Do the world a favor, and just wear ya masks, kids. Look at this cute gaiter I got on Etsy!

Then, there was a reference to a period in time when the Patriots sucked, and no one wanted to root for them. As a die-hard Carolina Panthers fan (don’t ask, it’s a long story); I was pissed with how the Panthers did Cam Newton dirty. So, I’m hoping the Pats have a fantastic season, and make it to the Super Bowl. 

And finally, there was a speech from the fictional president about the alien infection, in which he said, “…we believe that our visitors brought this virus with them much as travelers from abroad may bring certain insects into their country of origin in their luggage or on the produce they’ve purchased. This is something customs officers look for, but of course-our recent visitors did not pass through a customs checkpoint…” 

There’s a good chance this president would have also referred to Covid as, “The China Virus”. 

The plot of this book? Meh. But the number of parallels to our current society nineteen years later? Excellent. Also, I give maddd props to Steve for writing this book out longhand, while recovering from an accident that could have taken his life (or at the very least, his leg). While Dreamcatcher is never going to be one of favorites, you have to respect the grind. 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 30

Total Dark Tower References: 45

Book Grade: D

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

Storm of the Century: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

Dreamcatcher: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D-

Next, is Black House… which I’m rapidly devouring. The Talisman is still fresh(ish) in my mind, so that should help with making connections between the two. 

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·4 months agoText

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs…”


My career path was pretty clear from a young age… I wanted to write. I wanted people to find my books at the library, I wanted people to recognize me on the street, and I practiced my loopy scrawl for those autograph opportunities. 

The people around me encouraged my writing; but no one (except for the esteemed Danielle Steel) taught me HOW to write until I got to high school. My first formal writing class was actually a journalism class, and that was the best start I could have had. I was taught crisp, concise writing, absent of flowery prose, excessive words, and unnecessary details. So, I basically un-learned everything Ms. Steele had taught me (flowing locks, cornflower blue eyes, shockingly beautiful… you get the idea). So, thanks to Rod Vick, my journalism teacher, for teaching me the WHAT and the HOW of writing. And thanks to my Grandma, for keeping all those romance novels around the house. 

If you weren’t lucky enough to have Mr. Vick teach you how to write, and if your grandma didn’t keep shelves full of bodice-rippers, the next best thing is On Writing. Steve is clear; he considers The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White the bible for writers. And he’s not re-writing the bible. Instead, he just gives some fun insight into his stories, some biographical nuggets, and some clear, concise rules for writers. Here are a few of those rules in no particular order:

1. “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open…Once you know what the story is and get it right… it belongs to anyone who wants to read it.” This is far better than Hemingway’s advice to write drunk and edit sober. Your liver will thank you for this later. 

2. The best advice ever: “…put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” 

This is my little corner of the dining room where I write. When I need to “close the door” I pop my headphones in and focus. When I’m rewriting, I can use my husband and daughter as a sounding board. As I type this, my daughter is grilling herself some Asian-marinated tofu, and chattering about her first day of virtual middle school. It’s perfect, I much prefer it to having a big desk in the middle of a lonely room. 

3. Adverbs. Avoid them like the lovely, deadly, horribly common plague they are. 

4. “The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said.” I had a dear friend tell me she had learned this in a writing class, and applied it to her manuscript. Her writing professor informed her most people breeze right past the attribution, and pay more attention to the dialogue itself. When writing my own manuscript, I rejected this piece of advice and instead used lots of “grunted,” “sighed” “considered” “pondered” instead. Seeing as how I’ve now head this advice from two different people, I suppose it’s time I start listening. 

5. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. So. Damn. True. Early in the book, Steve talked about how most writers have a moment where they read a book and decide, “Yeah, I could do better than this. So I’m going to!” Writers also have moments when we’re so blown away by the beauty of a turn of phrase or an image, and we know we’ll never be that damn good. Both are worthwhile experiences, but you need to pick up a damn book and read in order to have them. Steve also talks about how one can read in sips and swallows. Quick reading done in a waiting room or on a bus can be a sip. Reading done under the comfort of several quilts with a cup of tea on a cold night is a swallow. Both types of reading get the job done. 

6. The difference between a novel being plot driven, or character driven. Steve claims most of his novels are character driven. The only plot driven novels he has written are Insomnia and Rose Madder, which he doesn’t find particularly inspiring. I agree about Insomnia and the damn Oompa Loompas, but Rose Madder is still an og favorite. Sorry, not sorry. 

7. Maybe the most cardinal rule of all… “Never tell us a thing you can show us instead.” 

Interspersed with these nuggets of wisdom are stories about Steve’s life. He talks about his start as a writer, how a paycheck managed to appear just when his family needed it the most, and his recovery after his horrific accident. And perhaps the greatest mystery of all was solved! Steve talks about a year or two of his childhood spent living in West De Pere, Wisconsin!!! Yaaaas! The most important of ALL Wisconsin references. 

In case you can’t tell, I love this book. I have a well-thumbed copy I come back to for inspiration and direction. Many regard it as one of the most important how-to books for writers. Even non-writers will enjoy the biographic details as well. It’s a lovely book. <- intentional and ironic adverb use 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 30

Total Dark Tower References: 45

Book Grade: A+

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

On Writing: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

Storm of the Century: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D-

At the moment, I’m currently deep inside Dreamcatcher, which is just as miserable as I remember it being. Must…keep…reading… Dark House is waiting for me on the other side. 

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,

Rebecca 

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theyearoftheking·4 months agoText

“There are also books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… Don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read something for the words- the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers that won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.” 

As a lifelong and Constant reader, there are certain books that act as a time machine… I can remember where I was when I cracked the spine for the first time, my current mental state, how the people in my life impacted the way I viewed the characters, current events… the best type of books do this for you. They act as a time machine and take you back to being young and eighteen, even when you’re forty, your back hurts and you no longer have the deep sleep that only the youth are blessed with.

Hearts in Atlantis is this book for me.

 I remember being eighteen, and sitting on the second floor porch of the Edgewater in Old Orchard Beach, Maine; devouring the advanced reading copy like it was my job. Well, it kind of was my job; I was gainfully employed at a bookstore that took more of my money than I made. I remember a young, cute cleaning guy seeing my book, and telling me to drive up to Bangor and find Steve’s house. This struck me as a particularly inspired idea, and I convinced my mom and sister to do it. 

For the very young Constant Readers, this was back before the days of social media and accessible internet. There was no typing, “How do you get to Stephen King’s house?” into Google. So, we took off on our drive, and stopped at the Bangor Chamber of Commerce and stupidly asked, “Hey, how do you find Stephen King’s house?” 

They proceeded to give me directions which I jotted down…and kept! Finding this piece of paper tucked inside the book made me smile. 

But spoiler! The directions are backwards. Back in the day before social media, Bangor protected Steve (well, except for the asshole who hit him with his van), and they didn’t give directions out to his house to obvious tourists. Thankfully, my sense of direction is terrible, and we accidentally found Steve’s house anyway! I wish I still had the pictures, I remember grinning like a fool. It’s still one of the craziest, most spontaneous adventures ever. 

Is Hearts in Atlantis a good book? 

Yes. 

Is my review colored by the memories surrounding this book? 

Also yes.

And honestly? My reading of it this time was far richer because of all the Dark Tower references I hadn’t yet read. It’s obvious in the first novella that Steve is deep in Dark Tower thoughts. The concepts of Breakers hasn’t even been discussed in the previous four books yet. So let’s get into it, shall we?

Hearts in Atlantis is broken up into five novellas and in my opinion, the first is the strongest, and they get progressively weaker as they go on (still good, just not AS good). 

The first one, Low Men in Yellow Coats centers around the unexpected friendship between Bobby Garfield and his new neighbor, Ted Brautigan. Bobby is being raised by his cold, and slightly distracted single mother, and Ted hires him for a kind-of detective job: looking for missing pets signs around the neighborhood, “items for sale” signs hung upside down in the local grocery store, and hearts, stars, and moons drawn around hopscotch outlines. If Bobby sees any of these things, he needs to tell Ted immediately, because it means The Low Men are after him. The Low Men wear yellow coats, and drive around in obnoxiously flashy cars. Ted doesn’t explain WHY they’re after him, he just explains they’re bad guys. 

In the midst of his detective work, Bobby is hanging with his friends Sully-John and Carol Gerber, who he might be feeling some kind of way towards. There’s a day at the beach, and a kiss on the Ferris wheel that’s particularly sweet in it’s innocence. But then Sully John leaves for a week of YMCA camp, and Bobby is left mostly with Ted. Ted recommends Lord of the Flies, which changes Bobby’s life. He swears he’ll never go back to reading kids books again. 

Bobby’s mom is really suspicious of Ted, but not too suspicious, since she leaves him in charge of Bobby while she goes to a real estate conference with her creeper of a boss. A word about Bobby’s mom. I find her to be one of the worst Steve villains written. She’s truly as evil as Pennywise. Why? Because she’s real. And there are moms out there like her. Moms that let their kids go without, but always manage to have a fresh manicure or a new bag. Moms that blame their poor living situation on their ex, and make their kids feel bad about it. Moms that just don’t like their kids. It’s a thing. And it makes me sad. 

While she’s at her conference, Bobby and Ted hit up a sketchy bar in an equally sketchy neighborhood, where Ted makes a bet on an upcoming boxing match. Bobby then understands Ted has powers: he can see into the future and can read minds. And when he touches Bobby, his ability brushes off on him. Bobby has seen some of the things Ted has been warning him about, but he hasn’t told Ted, because he didn’t want Ted to get spooked and leave town. Bobby doesn’t have a lot of people who have shown an interest in him the same way Ted has. 

The story comes to a climactic point when Bobby finds Carol being beaten up in the woods by some neighborhood boys. He carries her back to his place where Ted fixes her dislocated shoulder. Bobby’s mom walks in beaten up (physically) from her time at the real estate conference, and assumes Ted is molesting Carol based on the way he’s touching her, and his torn shirt. 

Ted leaves, Bobby is hysterical, and his mom goes to take a nap. Bobby heads back to the bar he and Ted went to, assuming Ted is going to stop there to pick up his gambling wins. Bobby finds the Low Men escorting Ted away. Come to find out, he’s a very powerful breaker: one who can break the beams The Dark Tower is resting upon. If the breakers all go, there’s no Tower. 

SO MANY DARK TOWER REFERENCES!

“All things serve the Beam”

“Ka”

“Other worlds than these”

“The Crimson King” 

“All things serve The King, or All things serve The Beam?” <- a moral dilemma for our times.

“Tower, Beams, and Breakers”

So, Ted is shuffled away by the Low Men, Bobby ends up with his winnings, his mom recovers from her sexual assault, she and Bobby move away, and he keeps in touch with Carol. One day, she sends him a letter she had received from Ted, with the most beautiful rose petals inside. Tis ka. 

Novella two is Hearts in Atlantis… the story of how the Vietnam War affected a group of students on the University of Maine campus in Orono, especially Peter Riley. 

Pete shows up on campus with his Goldwater bumper sticker, and eventually leaves as a war protester with a peace sign scrawled on the back of his letterman jacket. It’s an honest look at how college changes kids. Few kids leave with the same beliefs and sheltered world views they go in with. And no, Karen, it’s not indoctrination by liberal professors… sometimes kids talk to each other and realize they’re not all the same, and some have viewpoints worth listening to, and potentially adapting. Mind-blowing, I know. 

There’s a lot of card playing… so much card playing in fact, most of the boys don’t end up coming back to campus. This isn’t great, since you’re on the draft list if you’re not in college. Pete makes friends with, and eventually hooks up with Carol Gerber, who has to break it to her boyfriend John Sullivan (Sully John) that she’s kind of in love with someone else. Awkward. 

Carol ends up protesting the Vietnam war, and drops out of college. Pete never hears from her again. He pulls his shit together, passes his classes, and realizes his original viewpoints on politics was silly and sheltered. It’s a great story. 

Novella three is Blind Willie, and it’s a short, strange little story. Bill Shearman (one of the boys who beat Carol Gerber up in the first novella), travels to his office in New York City where he transforms into Blind Willie, a Vietnam war vet who panhandles for change. It’s unclear if his wife knows this is how he brings money home, and it’s also slightly unclear whether or not Bill actually becomes blind when he puts on his Blind Willie costume. But, his claim to fame is that John Sullivan pulled him out of the jungle and onto a helicopter during the Vietnam War. 

Novella four is Why We’re In Vietnam and starts with John Sullivan going to the funeral for a soldier he served with in Vietnam. We find out John is frequently visited by an elderly woman he witnessed being killed in Vietnam. He refers to her as “Mamasan”. John ruminates over his fallen soldiers (some of whom were dropouts from the University of Maine Orono campus, and all knew Pete Riley), what the war did to his life, and how upset he was that Carol Gerber became an extreme protester who ended up blowing up a building that killed quite a few people, including (presumably) herself. 

On his way home from the funeral, he’s stuck in crazy traffic. He looks over, and thinks he sees Carol in a car a few lanes over. He goes over to investigate, and all of a sudden, heavy, deadly garbage starts falling out of the sky. One of the things that falls is Bobby Garfield’s old baseball mitt (that Bill Shearman had stolen from him when they were kids). John grabs the mitt and tries to duck the garbage. Mamasan beckons him to her, and promises to take care of him. 

There was no garbage falling out of the sky. John was killed by a major heart attack. But, he did somehow end up with Bobby’s baseball glove. Curious. 

The final novella, Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling recap Bobby Garfield going back home for John’s funeral. He meets with Carol; who is no longer Carol, and now Denise Schoonover; her new identity after that whole ‘blowing up a building, killing people and faking her own death’ thing. Carol/Denise has his old baseball glove, and somehow got it from Ted, who got it from John. I’m not sure. And then fade to black. 

It’s a lovely collection of novellas, all strung together with the same group of characters. Admittedly, I’m too young to know anything real about the 1960′s beyond bell bottoms and peace signs, so it was a slice of history and culture. And it wouldn’t be a Steve book if there weren’t mentions of the Derry newspaper, and a chambray work shirt. 

There was one Wisconsin mention. In the first novella, Sully John’s mom was taking the Greyhound to northern Wisconsin for vacation. God bless. My own family wasn’t even able to do that this summer. #thankscovid 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 29

Total Dark Tower References: 45

Book Grade: A+

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Hearts in Atlantis: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

Storm of the Century: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D-

Next up we have On Writing; which I also adore. But I need to build up all this goodwill and warm feelings toward Steve, because Dreamcatcher is right on the horizon, and to borrow a quote from the second novella, “It sucks the rigid cock of Satan.”

Seriously, y’all…

That is hands down one of the best insults I’ve heard in a long time. If I wasn’t the mother of an already feral child, I’d start using that on the reg. Do me a favor, and find a subtle way to use it in conversation sometime soon. 

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,

Rebecca 

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theyearoftheking·4 months agoText

When is the last time you thought about a Walkman? Or Surge soda? Or Chumbawamba? Fun fact… Tubthumping is not just a drinking song or soccer anthem… it’s a punk anarchist message. True story. I listened to a whole podcast about it a few years back, and have never forgotten it. Here, for your listening pleasure…

And your thirst needs…

Oh, the 1990′s are alive and well, my friends. So, lace up your Sketchers, grab your baby backpacks, and I’m gonna tell you what I want, what I really really want… it’s to dive into The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

God damn, I miss the 90′s. 

Nine-year-old Trisha McFarland is out on a hike with her mom and brother on the Maine-New Hampshire part of the Appalachian trail. They’re fighting as they have been constantly since Tricia’s parents divorced, and she wants no part of it. So, while they’re bickering and fighting, Trisha steps off the trail quick to pee. But, she loses her sense of direction, and ends up lost in the woods. 

The only supplies she has are sunscreen, a bottle of water, a bottle of Surge soda, a tuna sandwich, a hard boiled egg, a Twinkie, and some chips. Oh, and her trusty Walkman. So, she sets off towards what she thinks is the trail she was originally on. 

Nope.

So, then she starts following a stream of water, hoping it will lead to a bigger body of water, and people.

Double nope. 

Trisha’s only companion is Tom Gordon, the Red Sox relief pitcher. The internet is truly a magical thing. The first time I read this book, there wasn’t a handy search engine on my phone (I had no phone!!) to type Tom’s name into for a visual. I guess the roaring 20′s have some cool stuff the 90′s didn’t have. Other than that whole pesky pandemic thing… 

Trisha uses her Walkman to listen to Red Sox games at night, and pretends Tom Gordon is watching over her while she sleeps alone and vulnerable in the woods. Steve really nails the nine-year-old girl psyche and imagination. When I was Trisha’s age, I would hope Jordan Knight (or Joey McIntyre) would be casually driving through Greendale, Wisconsin in their NKOTB limo, and pull over to randomly ask me for directions. They’d be captivated by my crappy school uniform, and awful haircut, and scoop me out of obscurity. 

Pause for laughter. 

So, Trisha wanders, and uses her foraging knowledge to live on berries and nuts, and polluted water. I give the girl mad props… my eleven-year-old wouldn’t last nine minutes, much less nine days in the wild. Although, my kid would have a cellphone on her to call me the second she lost sight of me. Yes… cellphones have rendered this story quaint and obsolete. But still enjoyable.

Trisha finally finds her way back to civilization, destroys her Walkman by throwing it at a bear in self-defense, and a local hunter kills the bear before it kills Trisha. The hunter recognizes her from the local news stories about her disappearance, and she’s reunited with her family in the hospital. She’s lost a ton of weight and has pneumonia in both lungs, but is destined to make a full recovery. It’s kind of like Cujo, but with a happy ending instead. 

It’s a cute, quick, shot of nostalgia, with only one mention of the Steve universe (the requisite Castle Rock mention). I’d also recommend this one to any/all baseball fans potentially going through withdrawals right now. 

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 28

Total Dark Tower References: 39

Book Grade: B

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B

Storm of the Century: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D-

Next is Hearts in Atlantis… one of my all-time favorite Steve books. I picked it up last night and am already over 100 pages in. There’s something about this story that just captivates me. I’m glad to be visiting old friends again. 

Until next time, Long Days and Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca

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theyearoftheking·4 months agoText

WHY DID THIS BOOK HAVE TO HAPPEN???

THIS BOOK DID NOT NEED TO BE A THING. TRULY. 

Ok, bless Claudia Inez Bachman for finding this manuscript among her husband’s belongings, but it didn’t need to be published as a companion piece to Desperation. I mean, yes, it’s cute how the two books match up… but the cuteness ends there. 

Imagine all the character names from Desperation being put into a randomizer; and coming out as completely different characters in an alternate reality with vans shooting people up on a residential street in Ohio. That my friends, is The Regulators

This might be the quickest and dirtiest review ever, because I honestly feel like this book was a money grab on Steve’s part. What would possess him to write this book? As a writer, I understand not wanting to be done with a character… I understand wanting to continue their journey in a new and interesting way. But this is NOT that. It honestly just feels like a gimmick. And I am not a fan of the cute, or the gimmick. 

So, some strange looking vans start driving down Poplar Street in Wentworth, Ohio; and they start indiscriminately killing residents, children, and pets. It’s pretty gory and consider this a trigger warning for anyone upset by gun violence, violence against children and animals. 

Meanwhile, Audrey Wyler is hiding inside her home, slightly scared of her eight year-old nephew, Seth. Seth’s entire family was killed in a car accident, and he was left in Audrey and her husband Herb’s care. Sadly, he committed suicide about a year ago (more on that later).

Seth is autistic, and absorbed in all things Western, and the animated series Motokops. According to Audrey’s journal entries (maybe the best writing in the whole book); she’s not scared of Seth per-say, but more the SLB (Stalky Little Boy) that sometimes invades Seth’s body. The SLB makes bad things happen. It even had Audrey dye her hair and change her appearance to better match that of Cassie Styles, one of the Motokops. The SLB is even responsible for Herb’s suicide.

Come to find out, Seth’s family had visited the China Pit mine outside Desperation on a family road trip. Seth, who is mostly non-verbal, had a breakthrough and clearly asked his father if they could stop to visit the mines. One of the employees at China Pit, Allen Symes, indulged the family on a behind-the-scenes tour. While touring, Seth took off through one of the mines, and the evil spirit of Tak invaded his body. 

God damn it, I thought we were done with Tak. Alas, he has more chaos to cause.

Tak was dormant for a while, but as he got more comfortable in Seth’s body, shit started to go left. So, the vans that showed up on Poplar Street? They looked like the vehicles the Motokops drove around. And, the suburban street started to change in a hazy fog, and started to look more like an outpost you might find in Bonanza. Yep, this is allll Tak. 

Audrey discovers the only time Tak leaves Seth’s body (brace yourself for this one), is when he’s taking a dump. So, she spikes his chocolate milk with Ex-lax, and grabs him off the toilet before Tak has a chance to invade his body again. As someone who is completely grossed out by fecal matter, but at the same time sells GI drugs for a living; this scene was too much for me. But before Audrey and Seth have a chance to flee, an irate mother who lost her children in the neighborhood shoot out shoots Seth, killing both him and Audrey. And Tak’s spirit just kind of dissolves. Maybe. Who the hell cares. 

The book ends with a letter between friends, where Pat Allen, on her honeymoon, tells her Shining loving friend Katherine Anne Goodlowe about the mother and son ghost pairing people talk about seeing out in the meadow. The images she describes are dead ringers for Audrey and Seth. So, that’s sweet I guess. 

In case you couldn’t tell, I didn’t love this book. I struggled to keep all the characters straight (there were way too many of them); and the ending with Seth getting shot was too much for me. I didn’t need the graphic description of it. Again, trigger warning. This book was published back in 1996, when school shootings weren’t quite as common as they are now; so I think the world just has a heightened sensitivity when it comes to children being shot. Unless you’re a member or supporter of the NRA. *Stares* 

There were a few nods to Steve’s universe: 

Pat’s letter mentions both The Shining (book! Not movie! Book!) and Stephen King’s vision of The Overlook. 

Before all the shooting starts up, one of the residents of Poplar Steet is making what keen observers and Constant Readers know to be an elementary martini: “filling a martini glass to the three-quarters point with Bombay gin; popping in an Amati olive; tipping the rim of the glass against the unopened bottle of vermouth for good luck.” from The Talisman

There was also a mention of a door-knocker shaped like a Saint Bernard head. (Cujo)

In conclusion, I don’t know if this was a money-grab, or a fun joke… but I missed the punchline, and am glad I only spent $8.00 on this first edition from Half Priced Books. God bless. But I do kinda want this cute Motokops t-shirt from Zazzle as a reward for finishing this hot mess.

Total Wisconsin Mentions: 28

Total Dark Tower References: 39

Book Grade: D

Rebecca’s Definitive Ranking of Stephen King Books

The Talisman: A+

Wizard and Glass: A+

Needful Things: A+

The Green Mile: A+

Rose Madder: A+

Misery: A+

Different Seasons: A+

It: A+

Four Past Midnight: A+

The Shining: A-

The Stand: A-

Bag of Bones: A-

The Wastelands: A-

The Drawing of the Three: A-

Dolores Claiborne: A-

Nightmares in the Sky: B+

The Dark Half: B+

Skeleton Crew: B+

The Dead Zone: B+

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: B+

‘Salem’s Lot: B+

Carrie: B+

Creepshow: B+

Storm of the Century: B-

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

Danse Macabre: B-

The Running Man: C+

Thinner: C+

Dark Visions: C+

The Eyes of the Dragon: C+

The Long Walk: C+

The Gunslinger: C+

Pet Sematary: C+

Firestarter: C+

Rage: C

Desperation: C-

Insomnia: C-

Cujo: C-

Nightshift: C-

Gerald’s Game: D

Roadwork: D

Christine: D

The Regulators: D

The Tommyknockers: D-

Next up is The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I read it when it first came out, and don’t remember much. But it will be bittersweet reading it in a year when baseball isn’t really a thing…

Until next time, Long Days & Pleasant Nights,
Rebecca 

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