Friday, October 24, 2014

the king is not scary part 1

My friend Jessica Jobes, fellow blogger and avid reader, has taken on the #31DaysofWriting Challenge, dedicating her blog to book reviews--one book every day, for the entire month of October. I can tell you that she and I have different reading piles, though I think she'd be more likely to read some of the stuff in my stack in as I would be to read what she has in her stack.

She said in a Facebook post the other day that she had finished reading "Mr. Mercedes" by Stephen King... now, this is a dandy of a book, and unlike many of his horror/supernatural tales that King writes. This is a straight up serial killer whodunit cat-n-mouse chase kind of story... and so Jessica (who did a review of this very book on her own page today) asks what other Stephen King books are set in real life, and aren't supernatural, horror sort of stories.

And so I thought I would give that list of those non-horror, but still suspenseful and creepy Stephen King novels that I've read... some of them may have a touch of supernatural, but it's not in a frightening way.  All of these are available on, by the way, and I've listened to them all, as well as read the printed page.

Written under the pseudonym "Richard Bachman", it's a dystopian tale of a "Walk", where teenage boys of a certain age are commanded to... well, walk. And walk. And walk. And walk. To win, you don't outpace the other boys, or raise more money or fight anyone... you just outlast everyone else. As in, you are the last one alive. It seems like a long book for such a simple premise, but this is early in King's career... the characters are interesting, but I did find myself just wanting the book to end at some point. I liked it, but won't re-read it.  (384 pages)

Though it's kind of a crappy movie, I actually liked the film, starring David Keith, George C. Scott and a very young Drew Barrymore... but the book is 1000x better. Andy and his daughter Charlie are on the run from the government, as Andy is telekentic, and Charlie... well, she can start fires. The novel chronicles their journey, and those who betray them, culminating with one heckuva flame throwing final scene. (426 pages)

CUJO (1981)
You know the basic story... a big St. Bernard named Cujo... he gets rabies... and he starts drooling a lot and killing a lot more. It centers on two families, the Cambers and the Trentons. The former is the family that owns the dog, the latter is a family that is falling apart due to an affair by the mom, Donna. Cujo gets bitten by a bat, and it's on. A small part of the narrative even looks at the story from the dog's point of view, which is a twist. The movie with Dee Wallace (I can't remember if she was "Stone" or not) is not bad, though the ending is different. (319 pages)

MISERY (1987)
You probably know this story as well... writer Paul Sheldon is wrapping up a very popular series of books, centering on his character "Misery Chastain", and as tradition, goes up to a secluded log cabin to finish the book--and the character--off. A freak snowstorm sends his vehicle into a wooded snowbank, and he's rescued by Annie Wilkes, who turns out to be quite the superfan. Most of the book surrounds the tense relationship between Paul and Annie, who just will not have her favorite character ending the story. The book is brutal in what happens to Paul--if you've seen the movie, there's a scene where Annie breaks Paul's foot with a hammer to keep him from escaping... what she does in the book is just horrendous... (320 pages)

Undoubtedly you have seen this film, but the book(s) are even better as a whole. In 1995, it was announced that in early 1996, Stephen King would release a new novel, but broken up over 6 parts. The first, "Two Dead Girls" would come out in March of '96, then every six weeks, there would be a new chapter in the story.

The parts included "The Mouse on the Mile"... "Coffey's Hands"... "The Bad Death of Edward Delacroix"... "Night Journey" and "Coffey on the Mile", and aside from the last book, all were just under 100 pages. "Coffey on the Mile" was 144 pages. Back before Algore's Internets, I had to go to the bookstore to find out when these would come out, and the day of the release, I was at Walmart, spending my hard earned $4.44 to buy each one, consuming it by midnight.

In 1932, John Coffey, an enormous, but kind hearted and simple black fella, is arrested after he is found holding two dead little girls that were missing. He is taken to the Cold Mountain Penitentiary, led by supervisor Paul Edgecombe, a nice enough guy, with his fellow officers Brutal and a few others, and the sadistic and cruel Percy Whitmore. You also meet a few other inmates that become intrigal to the story, especially a little mouse that is known as "Mr. Jingles", along the way... there is a touch of supernatural, once you find out what John Coffey is actually all about, and you'll find yourself wanting to read each part, telling yourself "Oh, its only 100 more pages..."

This is readily available in novel form as a whole, or you can find it in a used book store in the original six parts, which is what I did a few years ago. Why, you ask, don't I have the novels that I bought originally? Well, I lent them to a chick friend in college, because she smiled at me, and she had a pretty smile. And I never got them back. She's actually here in town now, we are friends on Facebook, but I have never bothered to ask if she still had them.  (By the way--if you've never seen this movie, you should.  It's incredibly well done, suspenseful and heartbreaking.)

Part 2 to come soon, with five more "not scary King" books...

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