Category Archives: Reviews

Skeleton Crew #19 – Big Wheels…

Word count – 5,100

Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2), which is this story’s full title, follows on from the previous story in this collection, Morning Deliveries, but centres around a couple of laundry workers who go out in the middle of the night trying to find a place to inspect their vehicle and deem it roadworthy… all while they are both knocking back the beers.

As with Morning Deliveries, this story has been cobbled together from chapters of an abandoned novel that King was writing called The Milkman, but unlike that first story, Big Wheels meanders and ultimately doesn’t stand on its own. It also includes references which I am sure are intended to allude to other parts of the novel that he hasn’t included here.

So I will have to pass on this one. It may very well work as part of a larger narrative, but snipped out as a story in its own right, it falls a little flat.

Not Recommended

Skeleton Crew #18 – Morning Deliveries…

Word count – 1,600

Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1), to give it its full title, is exactly what you think it is – a very short tale about a milkman who is going about his daily deliveries. Except, of course, he is not just leaving milk on the doorstep. Where would be the horror in that?

We follow Spike as he does his rounds, but it quickly becomes evident that he is not a model employee, or anyone you would want to accept a milkshake from. At random doors, he leaves a surprise in with the breakfast accompaniment – be it a spider, liquid poison, or maybe even a deadly gas, and then he just continues on with his work.

Morning Deliveries is one of the shortest stories in Skeleton Crew, but it’s also one of the better offerings. Another storytelling example of simplicity sometimes being more important than complexity.

Recommended ⇑

Being Keith – Review…

Ooosh!

I like Keith Lemon. I know he is extremely crude, and a lot of his humour (most of it, in fact) is not very sophisticated and therefore not to everyone’s taste, but there’s something about his innocence and infectious nature that appeals to me.

And yes, I know he is a character.

Being Keith is a fictional account (told in his distinctive patois) of his success leading up to the production of his movie, Keith Lemon: The Film. He details how he rose to prominence as an entrepreneur, quickly winning Businessman of the Year 1993, and his subsequent rise to fame on television… as well as documenting anecdotes about all the women he has banged along the way. And I do mean all the women.

Keith Lemon is a funny guy, but it has to be under the right circumstances. Off the cuff and unscripted. He’s great on Celebrity Juice, where he is allowed off the leash, and he even works on segments of This Morning when he is giving out advice, because you can see him trying to push the boundaries of the restrictions of daytime television.

But unfortunately, a 250 page book is not the way to experience Keith Lemon, because what makes his personality work doesn’t translate very well to the page. Sure, I chuckled on a few occasions, but there’s only so many times you can read about him smashing in the back doors or finger-banging a Z-List celebrity before you switch off and start skim reading.

This is maybe worth looking at if you’re a die-hard fan of Keith, or if you just have to consume everything he does (and they are likely to be the only ones reading this anyway), but it is certainly not essential, and definitely not his finest hour.

Skeleton Crew #17 – Uncle Otto’s Truck…

Word count – 6,900

Uncle Otto’s Truck is about a old beat-up pick-up that has a bit of an evil streak. After being used as a weapon itself, the vehicle sets out to get his revenge on the murderer. Uncle Otto tries to tell his nephew this, but he is waved off as being crazy.

Stephen King certainly likes writing stories about vehicles that come to life (most famously in Christine)… actually, any kind of inanimate object. In that respect Uncle Otto’s Truck treads familiar territory. I’m sure he would be the first to admit that it’s basic horror, but when it’s done right it can be very effective, and here he is mostly successful.

Although this story starts off quite slowly, once it finds its footing it picks up nicely and is a good read through to the end. Another fine addition to this collection.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #16 – Survivor Type…

Word count – 7,800

Survivor Type is about a medical student called Richard who is smuggling heroin on a cruise ship. When the vessel sinks he is stranded on a tiny island and has to figure out the best way to stay alive. Turns out, eating himself is the way to go.

The story is written in a loose diary form, which serves to convey the passage of time without resorting to awkward and sometimes tedious narrative shifts as day turns to night and back again. Richard also has a shit-ton of the hard stuff to get him through the pain.

Survivor Type is suitably gory in its depiction, and King has stretched a little medical knowledge a long way. It’s the kind of tale that appeals to a more primal level of reader… fortunately, I can dig that.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #15 – For Owen…

Word count – 300

For Owen is just pure indulgence. It’s nothing more than an opportunity for King to dedicate something to his (at the time) seven year old son. He’s a proud parent, of course.

For Owen is a sweet poem, and I’m sure little Owen got a kick out of it when his dad read it to him, but it has no real business being in a collection, sandwiched between Nona, a story about murder, and Survivor Type, which is about cannibalism.

That being said, it would be kind of heartless for me to ding such a sweet and thoughtful addition, so I’ll give it a pass.

Recommended ⇑

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Skeleton Crew #14 – Nona…

Word count – 13,800

Nona is about a man behind bars who retells the story of how he met an enigmatic woman when he was in college, who subsequently led him down a dark path and co-erced him into committing evil deeds during their brief time together.

Throughout the course of the story it becomes increasingly clear that all is not what it seems with the tale being relayed to the reader. Nona doesn’t do anything new, and although it is quite long, it’s written confidently and King crafts a good relationship between the protagonist and the mysterious woman that may very well not have been there at all.

After a run of three stories that I couldn’t vibe with, it’s nice to have something that is much more satisfying. One of the better entries in this collection.

Recommended ⇓

America Unchained – Review…

Dave Gorman is an underrated British talent. He’s a very funny guy, but he has never had the recognition that others in his line of work seem to get. I think it’s because he is not so much a jokesmith as he is a storyteller, and attention spans sometimes only extend to one-liners.

America Unchained is about Dave’s attempt (along with Stef, the girl holding the camera) to drive from the west coast of the United States to the east coast without giving any money to the large corporations – you know, the chains. It’s a task that doesn’t sound all that difficult, but when you start thinking about it you soon realise just how much of our world is run by big business.

Gorman buys a big and brash second-hand muscle car that guzzles copious amounts of petrol and (because it’s older than he is) is rapidly running out of miles on its clock. Can they make the trip successfully? Is it even possible these days? What is it like to sleep inside a dog? All these questions and more are answered…

Gorman infuses all his anecdotes with humour and heart, and although most of his stories are there to show the kind and generous side of Americans, there is no shortage of the crazy ones along the way either.

Skeleton Crew #13 – The Reaper’s Image…

Word count – 2,600

The Reaper’s Image is an old King story about a man who visits a museum, with the intention of purchasing an antique mirror… only to be told when he arrives that an image of the Grim Reaper is seen by anyone who stares into it for any length of time.

This is a straightforward horror tale and it doesn’t do anything unexpected, although the writing is a little dry and unmemorable. Again, I will give him some rope as this was an early effort, so this is likely a confidence thing.

With the exception of the couple of poems, The Reaper’s Image is one of the shortest things in Skeleton Crew. It isn’t around for long enough to make a lasting impression, although even then, it mostly outstays its welcome.

Not Recommended

Listening to Movies…

I have been listening to podcasts regularly for quite a while – so much so that I don’t listen to music nearly as much as I used to – and now everyone else seems to have jumped on that particular bandwagon. But, you know, I like to think I was here on the ground floor.

I’ll listen in the car, in the shower, or maybe when I’m walking around Tesco (other supermarket chains are available) because it’s a more active experience than sticking Taylor Swift on shuffle.

I wanted to give a shout-out here to Now Playing. It’s a weekly movie podcast that I first discovered by accident when I had fallen down the Google well one day, and ever since then I’ve had it on my audio rotation.

Now Playing is hosted by three guys (sometimes there’s a girl) and it’s been going for over a decade. Each episode is at least an hour and often goes beyond two. Their primary focus is franchises, but they also manage to keep up with a lot of the new releases too.

They discuss the movies in great depth, breaking down the plot and the performances, usually with some detailed insights into the production along the way. Each person invariably comes at the movie from a different angle – with their own personal thoughts and biases – and it encourages some good conversation. At the end they each give it a thumbs up or down.

Occasionally, if I have not seen the movie for a particular episode, I’ll try to find it on one of the various subscription services we have and watch it first. They’re not always worth the effort, but it’s good to have a fresh opinion.

Once I found them I scrolled all the way back to where they began and started listening to their words chronologically. I’ve listened to about seven years worth of their content, but there’s still about four years for me to catch up on.

Now Playing. You’ll find it on your favourite podcast player. Failing that, you can find out more information here. If you’re a movie buff you won’t be disappointed.