Palaver's Stephen King blog

Category: Stephen King (page 3 of 8)

Writings in English on the works of Stephen King.

The Dark Tower 5: Wolves Of The Calla (2003)

“The wolves are coming,” he said. “I have this news from Andy.”

After the typical long wait, but also a near-fatal accident which was to find its way into the rest of the tale along with Mr King himself – the fifth volume finally appeared. The last two were to follow surprisingly quickly, as if King had realized through the accident that his tale might never be finished if he dawdled.

Here, the spaghetti western becomes an even more apparent influence, in the shape of events partly echoing “The Magnificent Seven”. The people of a small village on their way to the tower need help, and there Roland’s Ka-tet will also find new paths towards the tower as well as to other wheres and whens.

A meta theme which will become a major thread in the remaining books is started here, as we are reaquainted with a certain Father Callahan who once was the priest in a town called Salem’s Lot.

Everything’s Eventual (2002)

As with almost all of King’s later work, obvious ties to the Dark Tower can be found here, but the short stories collected here also remind me of Night Shift in their often simple greatness. This is uncomplicated storytelling by a master craftsman, ranging from the darkly comical to the melancholy.

From A Buick 8 (2002)

“People ignore it, mostly,” she said, “the way they always ignore things they don’t understand… as long as they can, anyway.”

In a shed belonging to a Pennsylvania police precinct, an old Buick has been standing for some time. It’s not anything as simple as haunted – like Christine, for instance. In fact, the main theme of the book may well be the frustration of not being able to solve a mystery. Curt Wilcox, and then his son Ned, try their best though – and on the way a portrait of a small police station is painted.

Sort of an anti-book in some ways and may leave some readers dissatisfied. Can’t honestly say that it’s one my personal favorites, although I appreciate what King is trying to do here (at least, what I think he’s trying to do).

Black House (2001)

The fact that King’s second collaboration with Peter Straub is a sequel to their fantasy epic The Talisman is not immediately obvious. Nor does it have to be; Black House is a hypnotic and often gruelling read but with numerous moments of sheer magic even before we realize that Jack Sawyer, the main character in The Talisman, lives in the same small town as the murderous “Fisherman”.

As the story moves ever further from “realism”, the links to the Dark Tower become apparent, but Black House works as a stand-alone story as well. The narrative style in the beginning of the book is almost unique, and deeply effective.

Dreamcatcher (2001)


Revisiting both Derry, the haunted town of IT, and the bodysnatcheresque Sci-fi tone of The Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher is a rather extreme and often stomach-turning yarn about the events following the crash of a hostile alien spacecraft in New England. Most of the story is concentrated to one or two eventful days, but there are also a number of flashbacks to the main characters’ past, as a small gang of boys in Derry become friends with a strange boy called Duddits. Dreamcatcher swings wildly between black comedy, horror and moving drama, all these emotions skillfully juggled by a King writing in long-hand, since sitting by a computer was too physically painful after his accident in 1999.

There are a number of memorable characters here, such as general Kurtz, the alien Mr Gray and, above all, Duddits. Many of my favourite scenes involve an alien using the body of Jonesy, one of the main characters, as a vehicle, trying to get used to both this strange planet and unpractical human flaws like emotions and hunger, as Jonesy meanwhile, trapped in a “room” inside his own brain struggles to thwart the alien and his evil schemes. I have a theory that the “memory palace” of Dr. Lecter in Thomas Harris’s Hannibal inspired some of these strange and fascinating scenes.

On Writing (2000)

“Write a lot and read a lot.”

A non-fiction book on writing fiction. Begun before the road accident in 1999 and finished afterwards, this book is a should-read for not only every King fan but people who are serious about writing and want some initiated advice. The book consists of three parts, equally interesting. First out is a brief memoir of events that shaped King as a writer and a person, from childhood memories to the beginning of his success. King, always an honest writer, tells his own story as plainly and clearly as anything else, including the less flattering parts. A collection of tips and thoughts on writing follows, and its not a bunch of vague, philosophical nonsense, either. Some very practical advice can be found here, often conveyed in a very humorous way, and best of all, it makes you want to write. King manages to infect the reader with his obvious love for the craft of telling stories. Finally (well, almost), King summarizes the events around and after the accident in 1999 that nearly killed him. A perfect ending for a book like this, as it ends with the difficult road for King back to writing. Perhaps the main point of the book is that writing is hard work (emphasizing work), but can be very rewarding.

Hearts in Atlantis (1999)

“When someone dies you think about the past.”

Five stories, of very varied length but with recurring characters and a common theme; the Vietnam war. Very few pages of story take place in the actual war, however. This book is about how it affected people, not only those who fought, but those who protested against it or applauded it in the states, and how, somehow, a entire nation was seemingly changed by it, though not a second of actual battle was fought there. Atlantis is, obviously, King’s metaphor for an America that sunk into oblivion and now seems like a myth or legend, the America of the 60’s. He doesn’t romanticise it, but seems to feel a genuine grief over the loss of that mentality. This would be a good book to offer one of those few lingering people who still insist that King is ‘just a horror writer’.

The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)

“I can’t stay out here all night, she thought. No one can expect me to stay out here all night.”

A remarkably short novel for King, just above 200 pages. No links to the Dark Tower universe or his other work. Just a story about a young girl lost in the woods. This is Blair Witch horror, where half of the terror comes from the very real fact of being lost and ever more hungry and desperate and slowly going insane; the other half coming from a conviction that there’s something out there. Something hostile, and terrifyingly playful. Trisha McFarland’s one link to the real, civilized world is her Walkman, on which she listens to baseball games, rooting for her hero; pitcher Tom Gordon, hence the title of the book. Read it late at night.

Bag of Bones (1998)

“help r”

A haunted love story, the cover calls it, and it’s as good a description as any. I wouldn’t know how to summarize it, other than with superlatives and hype-words, because this is – hype, hype – in my mind, one of King’s finest. Not only one the scariest, it’s also one of the most moving, funny, poetic and complex novels King has written. Written in first person, which in itself is unusual for King, it reminds me of Peter Straub’s books, being sort of a puzzle, where you only see the whole picture as you finish it and take a step back. While you read it, it’s hard to have enough distance to analyse and discover the clues, the story being – to me, at least – hypnotically involving. Only afterwards, you see the signs for what they are. Other things that make me think of Straub are the theme of dark secrets in the past and some neat details, like mentions of “blue roses” and “Underwood”. No disrespect to Straub, though, but his novels seldom glow with life like, say, Bag of Bones.

Personal trivia: my cousin had the good sense to be in England at the same time as King, so now I own an actual signed copy of Bag of Bones. That’s nice 🙂

The Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass (1997)

“And scary as Ka is, I find the idea of no Ka even scarier”

Although it tells more of the travels of Roland and ‘the three’, in Mid-World and other worlds, Wizard and Glass is mostly about what happened before, in Roland’s dark youth. Names that have flickered by in brief memories before- such as Cuthbert and Susan – turn into real characters and Roland himself becomes more human, almost understandable.

Here King’s other work – mainly the Stand – and the tales of others – from the Wizard of Oz to the Arthurian Legends – come together in a way that’s much more than playful referencing. There’s so much ambition here, and sheer storytelling that IT may yet be overthroned, making me as determined as Roland’s new companions to follow him all the to the dark tower.

The hope that it would not be another five years till the next installment proved futile – volume V appeared in 2003.

Olderposts Newerposts

Copyright © 2023 Palaver's Stephen King blog

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑