Friday, June 10, 2016

Stephen King Countdown: one week

King is famous for his casts of characters and stretched-out time spans. Books like IT that jump eras or 11.22.63 that goes back in time and spend years before reaching the climax are good examples.

And so, I sit here, counting down the days until I get to see the man himself. One week. A week is all.

I haven't done many lists, but I guess I'll do one now. Seven favorite Stephen King books, maybe? Or top seven King film/TV adaptations?

How about a mix? Top seven Stephen King... everything. This is going to be harder than I thought.

These shall be in no particular order other than as they come to me.

1. Joe Hill.
    Does that seem odd? One of my favorite things about Stephen King is that he gave us Joe Hill. The best thing is that Hill made his own way and is very much his own person/writer. I firmly believe there will be a day when Hill is considered by most readers to be a better writer than his father. Maybe not a better storyteller, but a better pure writer, a better student of the craft.

The two have collaborated on a few stories--"Throttle," which was paired on an audiobook with Richard Matheson's "Duel" is my favorite--and perhaps will do so again. But it is time to recognize that while their subject matter is similar and they do occasionally reference each other in their works, they are not the same person. And we can be grateful for that.

There will never be another Stephen King. But there IS Joe Hill.

2. Blurbs
    A Stephen King blurb will put a book or movie in front of more eyes that the work would have ever dreamed of having on its own. This has been true since THE EVIL DEAD and the time he called Clive Barker the new face of horror. And it continues today. Be honest: Would Justin Cronin's THE PASSAGE have reached you if not for King's blurb on the cover? Or Benjamin Percy's RED MOON or THE DEAD LANDS?

What's important, however, is that these works actually be good. Obviously King doesn't blurb everything he reads. That's part of the value of a King blurb. Sure he's been wrong, but individual taste does play a role. He even wrote a column about blurb writing back during his "The Pop of King" days with Entertainment Weekly. 


    King has a history of mirror stories. Not sequels, per se (THE DARK TOWER series, THE TALISMAN/BLACK HOUSE, THE SHINING/DOCTOR SLEEP, and the Bill Hodges Trilogy are in the sequel category), but rather books that are designed to play off of each other or just happened to be close enough in theme and character to demand they be taken together. DESPERATION and THE REGULATORS are a designed pair, as are DOLORES CLAIBORNE and GERALD'S GAME. BAG OF BONES and LISEY'S STORY, on the other hand, seem more like something that just happened, as opposed to having a plan behind.

Both are about how the creative world can intrude on real life. In BAG BONES, writer Mike Noonan must come to grips with the sudden death of his wife. In LISEY'S STORY, Lisey Landon must come to grips with the sudden death of her husband Scott, a bestselling author. Grief runs rampant through both novels. In each, we see the effects of a creative life that has in many ways ceased. The books also mirror each other in that one has a male lead and the other has a female lead. Both are brilliant and heartbreaking. BAG OF BONES has been my favorite book of King's since I read it and I am constantly learning to appreciate LISEY'S STORY more and more.


    He knows it and I know and you all should know it: MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE is not a good movie. It's horrible. But it is damn fun to watch. Emilio Estevez, pre-SIMPSONS Yeardely Smith, an all-AC/DC soundtrack (screw you, IRON MAN II for thinking you did that first), and best of all a King cameo.

And now the Green Goblin head has been restored and tours horror conventions. How cool is that?

5. Audiobooks

    King has been a supporter of audiobooks for a long time. In ON WRITING, he says many of the books he reads in year are on audio and listened to during long drives between Maine and Florida. Unabridged, of course (is there anything worse than an abridged version of a book?)

The best ones, to me, are the ones King reads himself. I happen to be the proud owner of the first three DARK TOWER books on cassette, read by King. Not that I listen to them anymore. I don't want them to break. But they are out of print, as it were, and one of those collector's items I haven't been broke enough to part with.

King did return to THE DARK TOWER to read THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE and it is great to have him in my ears. I tend to listen to audiobooks as a sleep aid. Not because they are boring or monotonous, but because a good reader lulls me into the story and gives me pleasant dreams. King is an excellent reader of his own work.

6. THE SIMPSONS 25th anniversary figure.


I bought one the day they became available. How could I not? There should be more action figures of writers. I heard there is a Neil Gaiman SIMPSONS figure out there and I'd like one of those, too.

7. A book a year... and sometimes two

    King is reliable. Writing is his job and his passion. Because of this, we usually get one book a year (for 40 years!) Sometimes we even get two. One ing the spring/early summer and one in the fall, often right around my birthday. The first King book I ever bought, NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES was released just before Halloween. I talked my mom into letting me buy it for my birthday. Lately, I do pre-orders so the books come to me. I even pre-ordered END OF WATCH but I canceled the order once I knew I had a ticket to his reading in Salt Lake City. The admission comes with a copy of the new book and there is a chance I'll get one of the 400 random signed copies. 

If I do, I'll have to replace something on this list.

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