Category Archives: Reviews

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.

Skeleton Crew #12 – Beachworld…

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Word count – 6,300

Beachworld is a science fiction story about two men in the far future who land on another planet, only to find it is completely covered in sand. One of them is hypnotised by the allure of the landscape, while the other spends his time trying to get them out of there.

The best thing about this story is the references to The Beach Boys, scattered throughout, but beyond that I have no connection to the tale.

Of course, it’s no secret that sci-fi and I don’t get along very well. As such, I’m probably guilty of losing focus and concentration while reading this. There’s an element of horror to this story, but regardless, Beachworld doesn’t sit well with me. It’s not something I’ll be going back to.

Not Recommended

Skeleton Crew #11 – The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands…

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Word Count – 7,500

The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands is a mysterious story about, well… exactly what the title suggests.

This tale intrigues from the start, but unfortunately it never lives up to the promise of the title. It does what it says on the tin – no doubt about that – but when you find out why he doesn’t shake hands, it’s not really all that interesting.

There’s a poker game at the heart of the story, which at least kept me plodding along until the final reveal, but there’s nothing else here of any note. As such, The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands is perhaps – and unfortunately – the poorest entry in the collection so far.

Not Recommended

Skeleton Crew #10 – Word Processor of the Gods…

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Word count – 7,000

Word Processor of the Gods is about a writer who happens upon a word processor, left to him after the death of his brother. He quickly discovers the machine has the ability to add and delete things from his world.

This story spends a long time setting everything up, and – although the background is relevant to the protagonist’s justification – it really doesn’t make the words more enjoyable. In that way it feels unbalanced.

Word Processor of the Gods is a great concept, and the writing itself is competent, but it’s not as good as I wanted it to be. After the initial set-up, it seems to reach a crescendo very quickly and then it just fizzles until the end, but thankfully, there is enough good stuff here to see it across the line.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #9 – The Raft…

13440Word count – 10,900

The Raft is about four teenagers who decide to take advantage of the dying summer and swim out to a wooden raft in the middle of a lake. Unfortunately, there’s an undisclosed creature living underneath the water, and it’s not happy to see them there.

The Raft is extremely graphic – almost comically so in places  – and it is the kind of no-nonsense monster tale that Stephen King used to write a lot more back in his younger days (and the kind of stuff those who don’t follow his work think he always writes).

Sometimes I wish King would return to this kind of fun, pulp horror more often, because The Raft is up there with the best that King has offered so far in this collection.

Recommended ⇑

The Elephant to Hollywood – Review…

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Michael Caine is one of my favourite actors. My earliest memories of his work are from my childhood and centre around Sleuth and Deathtrap – both of which, coincidentally, began on the stage.

Since those days I have grown to love a lot more of his output. In fact, Alfie (his best film), inspired one of my earliest email addresses, which would probably still be accessible if I could remember the password.

Reading this biography, I quickly realised that although I have seen a lot of his movies, I’ve definitely missed many others – a lot of which are, by his own admission, complete stinkers. But even if the production is bad, Caine never is. He’s a dependable performer and always a believable presence on screen.

This autobiography came out in 2010, and although he has made a handful of movies since, this covers the vast majority of his output, from his breakout performance in Zulu, right through to his supporting role in the Batman trilogy.

But it’s not just the movies he talks about. There are plenty of pages devoted to his wife Shakira, and how they met; his love of cooking; and his life growing up in the Elephant and Castle. And in typical Cockney fashion, he’s a good storyteller, so I was happy to go on all the journeys with him.

If you like Sir Michael (although he doesn’t want you to call him that) this is a good look behind the curtain into one of Britain’s most celebrated actors.