Tag Archives: Stephen King

And Many More…

kingStephen King turned seventy years old today.a3c5ede143cc4dda46bc7d2e615e2fff--stephen-king-books-stephen-kings

Wow.

Yeah, we all grow up; we all get older. One day we all die. We shouldn’t ever be taken by surprise by these things, yet somehow there’s always one that catches us off guard. I still think of him as the guy on the left… although he’s now closer to this guy on the right.

Stephen King has been a part of my life for over twenty-five years – his words, his ideas. He has influenced me as a writer much more than I would care to admit. Hell, for a while all I was doing was a bad impression of him – at least, that’s how I saw it.

I feel like I know him just a little bit, even though I don’t actually know him at all. Never met him; never will. And that right there is the genius of a great writer. King’s ability to make an ordinary situation, extraordinary, and his knack for building characters that feel so real, you would not be surprised to turn the corner and bump into them, is something I have admired from afar for many years. That’s the power of imagination. Being able to harness that and making it a reality – even a fictional one – is worthy of applause.

My relationship with King has had its ups and downs over the years, for sure. He has written some stuff that has not done much for me – I’m not the kind of narrow-minded fan who can’t admit that. The Talisman. Dreamcatcher. And as much as it pains me to say, even most of The Dark Tower series. None of those set my world on fire. But when he gets it right, which he does more often than not, his words have the ability to soar. The Eyes of the Dragon. Misery. Needful Things. And many others. Classics.

Go read them.

Happy birthday, sir.

5b6424fe79d3248eb2bf6171b47d0b57

Advertisements

Friday Fiction Fixes #8…

Misery by Stephen King – 1987

34c6ac_b4000c40d6ef4e1fbc3d51fdf1aed6eb

The cover that stole my attention in 1991.

I have read dozens of King novels over the years, but Misery was the first one to catch my attention, when I was fifteen. The popular Hollywood interpretation with Kathy Bates’ Oscar winning lead performance had been released the year before, so the story was still quite fresh at the time, and that was probably the catalyst that took me to the library.

Misery is one of King’s most well-respected stories, and for good reason.  It’s claustrophobic, atmospheric writing at its finest, and a very simple idea, told extremely well. Paul Sheldon is a best-selling romance author who crashes his car in a snowstorm, only to be rescued by his self-proclaimed ‘number one fan’ – the soon to be revealed – psychotic Annie Wilkes. She dislikes that Paul has killed off Misery Chastain in his latest entry to her favourite series of novels, and forces him to write an entirely new story – eradicating what she has just read – for her eyes only.

The infamous hobbling scene from the movie, where Annie breaks both his ankles with a sledgehammer, plays out a little differently in the text… where she chops off one of his feet with an axe instead. It’s more violent, bloody and immediately visceral – not that one way is better, or would be more pleasant. I guess it’s like choosing between the Devil and the deep blue sea.

The book was so good that I went on to read another eighteen King novels in a row before I even so much as looked at another author. My writing style in my young adult years was certainly influenced  – and probably hindered to an extent – by my desire to read so much of his stuff, and I sometimes wonder how things would have changed had I decided to vary my reading habits at such an impressionable age.

Many years later, and Misery still ranks very highly in his oeuvre, and if you wanted to make a case for it being the best thing he’s done, I wouldn’t put up much of an argument.

Friday Fiction Fixes #3…

Motel by Ed McBain – 1978

It’s no secret: I’m a big fan of Ed McBain. I’ve read and enjoyed dozens of his novels over the years, but I want to put in a good word here for Motel – originally published in the German edition of Playboy back in 1978. It’s a timeless character study and probably the finest short story of his I have read.

Evan_Hunter_anfas

The man and the myth.

Motel is a thirty page short detailing the brief romance between Frank and Millie, the only two characters in the story. It’s set entirely in a motel room and is about how they come to terms with the stale marriages they are caught in – Frank with Mae, and Millie with Michael – while their relationship with each other changes. There is no murder, no sex, and no swearing. There’s no action of any kind. In fact, nothing really happens at all. Sounds great, right?

McBain has the keenest sense of realistic dialogue I’ve ever read in fiction, and I say that having been a huge fan of Stephen King since I was fifteen… but McBain takes it to the next level. Conversations are so simple, but beneath the surface he manages to create intrigue, depth and subtext that you just wouldn’t think possible with how basic his writing is.

And that’s not a slight on his ability – that’s genius. Prose like that is incredibly hard to write.

 

The Darkness Loses a Soul…

James HerbertJames Herbert died today. He was sixty-nine years old.

My dad was a fan. In fact Moon and The Magic Cottage are probably the only two novels I saw him read. Ever. Years later – when I read both of these for myself – I thought if that was as far as my dad dipped his toe into the library of books the world had to offer, he could have done a lot worse.

I read a dozen of Herbert’s novels, and while he didn’t hit the nail squarely on the head each time, he was one of the few authors I would keep going back to every now and then, because he could always be relied upon to deliver a good, solid story, and I knew that he was capable of great things. The Fog is one of my favourite books of any genre, and definitely in the top handful of horror tales I have ever read.

He is often – unfairly, in my opinion – compared to Stephen King; partly because they both had their first novels published in 1974, but mostly because they both wrote broadly in the horror genre, albeit on opposite sides of the Atlantic pond. But the similarities really end there.

Herbert was (almost exclusively) a balls-to-the-wall horror writer, and he didn’t pull any punches with his prose. Having said that, he was never gratuitous just for the sake of it, and he didn’t care about cheap shocks either. He wrote it that way because that’s how he saw it, and I have always admired him for that.

Rest in peace, James: you will be missed.The Rats

Who is Tom Gordon?

The Girl Who Loved Tom GordonHe is a retired baseball player. Oh, you knew that?

I didn’t know that before this book came out in 1999. Ask me to name as many baseball players as I can, and I promise, I don’t even need two hands.

That is in no way King’s fault, but this short novel will read a lot better to fans of the sport, and even to those who have only a passing knowledge of it. Still, most folk across the pond will be fine with the references, and the psychology of it is still intact, despite the (admittedly, only infrequent) lengthy baseball paragraphs.

Some of King’s greatest pieces – The Mist, The Langoliers, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, and The Body – have been novellas, so I had high hopes and expectations for this one. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reach that lofty standard and ultimately – even as brief as it is – this feels a little stretched.

I think, if this was trimmed by a third, it would be a damn fine piece. As it stands it feels like King is really on autopilot for a lot of the time. Then again, that still means it’s better than a lot of stuff out there…