The Great “Dark Tower” Reread: “The Gunslinger”

I first started Stephen King’s magnum opus “Dark Tower” series in April of 2016 and finished the 7th and final book in early December of that year. Upon finishing “Storm of the Century,” a couple weeks ago, I decided to take the epic journey to the Tower with Roland and his ka-tet once more (and not for the last time). I will review each book as I finish, so without further ado, lets palaver, you and me.

“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”

Im doing this reread with the always awesome, Olivia. Beginning with those iconic first lines, “The Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger,” was originally released in 1982 and heavily revised in 2003 to fit the ending of the series. When you write a series of 7 novels all about one thing over a 20-year period, ideas are bound to shift.

We start with the last gunslinger, Roland Deschain of the fallen city Gilead, following the mysterious Man in Black. Roland is on a quest to reach the mythical Dark Tower, but first needs answers from the Man in Black. Roland’s world is “moving on” a phrase he continually uses to describe its death. He hopes that reaching the Tower will give him the answers to fix it.

“The Gunslinger” is a little on the slower side, pace-wise, but it is still a really intriguing read and King’s revisions were excellent in placing subtle hints about the upcoming novels. I enjoyed reading this more the second time than I did the first, and that is probably since I know more now. Going into “The Gunslinger” for the first time it is a tad confusing, but trust me, push through because the next books are some of King’s best work.

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Below is a slightly spoilery synopsis so beware.


During his travels through the desolate Mohaine desert, we get glimpses into Roland’s childhood and learn just how this dark figure came to be. Roland is quiet and intimidating with an air of danger surrounding him. Throughout the novel you have a hard time deciding whether or not you like him.

Roland enters the town of Tull, following the Man in Black’s steps. Here he discovers the Man in Black has spread his influence on the people of the poor desert town. After shoving his gun up the cooch of a crazy religious fanatic and killing the entire city’s population, Roland moves on. He’s a savage, plain and simple. (side note: I hate to condone the movie… because it sucked… but the gifs are cool)

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After leaving Tull, Roland happens upon a way station which seems to resemble today’s gas stations. Here he finds a boy named Jake Chambers. Jake is from New York and was transported to this world when he was pushed in front of a moving car and died.

Roland tells Jake of his past and how he bested his teacher Cort to become the youngest Gunslinger. Roland learns Jake is a sacrificial pawn in his journey to reach the Man in Black and the Tower. This part of the story gets interesting because King makes the reader attached to Jake and shows Roland’s growing affection for the boy.

Roland and Jake follow the Man in Black into the mountains where they fight off slow mutants (monstrous subterranean creatures) before coming to an abyss with a small, rickety piece of track across it. With the Man in Black on the other side of the abyss, waiting, Roland and Jake attempt to cross.

Roland makes it but before Jake can, the track breaks and Roland, instead of helping him, allows him to fall, but not before Jake utters one of the many famous lines in this series:

“Go then, there are other worlds than these.”

After Jake’s sacrifice, Roland and the Man in Black, aka Walter aka Marten, palaver (talk). The two discuss Roland’s fate with tarot cards: The Sailor, The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows, Death, and the Tower. After some trippy scenes where the Man in Black shows Roland the universe and explains the Tower, Roland sleeps for 10 years, wakes up, and ends up on the beach watching the sunset.

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“The Gunslinger” is a great intro to an even greater series, I’m really looking forward to the second installment, “The Drawing of the Three.” Before I get there though, here’s my rating for “The Gunslinger” after my reread:

4 out of 5

Review Time: “In The Tall Grass”

Stephen King collaborated with his oldest son Joe Hillstrom King (Joe Hill) to create the terrifying novella, “In The Tall Grass.” Check out my review for the soon-to-be Netflix movie.

Originally released in the June/July and August 2012 issues of Esquire magazine, “In The Tall Grass” can now only be acquired as an e-book. If you get the opportunity to acquire this novella or even just read it, I highly recommend you do it.

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Cal and his sister Becky are travelling across country to move Becky into their aunt and uncle’s house. During their drive, on a desolate road in Kansas, Cal and Becky hear cries for help coming from a tall grass field on the side of the road.

They park at a seemingly abandoned church, The Black Stone Church of the Redeemer. All the cars in the lot are covered in dust; looking like they’ve been there for ages. Cal and Becky now hear cries from a little boy named Tobin, and his mother. They try leading the source of the voices toward them, out of the grass.

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Eventually the siblings go into the grass in search of the lost mother and son. They get separated and insanity ensues. They cannot find their way out, or to each other, no matter what they do. There are moments when King describes the siblings jumping and yelling to find each other, but the landscape moves around them, making it impossible.

Once in the grass, King fans immediately think of his short story “Children of the Corn.” The tall grass and tall corn are where the similarities stop though. This is a much more brutal and disturbing story that had a couple scenes, one particularly, that made my jaw drop.

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I want to go deeper into this; the gruesome scenes the overall sense of desperation, distress, claustrophobia and hopelessness… but I don’t want to spoil the story. It is very good and quite terrifying. I am really interested to see how Netflix goes about adapting it.

Speaking of that: Vincenzo Natali will write and direct the film which has landed stars Patrick Wilson and James Marsden. Laysla De Oliveira, Will Buie Jr., Avery Whitted, Rachel Wilson and Harrison Gilbertson have also joined the cast of “In The Tall Grass.” It is unannounced, but its very possible that Gilbertson and Oliveira will play Cal and Becky. Buie Jr. is set to play Tobin and Rachel Wilson will play his mother.

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Anyway, I highly recommend you get your hands on this thriller as soon as you can, it’s worth it. Hopefully the movie doesn’t cut too much of the gruesome parts out… they are just insane.

5 out of 5

Review Time: “Creepshow”

“Creepshow” is a 1982 cult classic horror anthology film directed by George A. Romero (RIP) and written by Stephen King. This is the comic adaptation of the movie with illustrations from Bernie Wrightson (RIP).

Gallery 13 published this graphic novel edition of “Creepshow” in 2017, and it is entertaining for sure. We get to see The Creep, with his hooded decaying face, introduce and close out each story with his classic “heh-heh” laugh.

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I enjoyed the illustrations a whole hell of a lot, and the stories were fun as well. In the end, the movie was just a better medium though. Below, I’ll go into each story a little bit, but my advice: skip the comic and watch the movie. Really, only get this if you want the art because it is something special.

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“Father’s Day”

This is a twisted tale about a family reunion where the members discuss their crazy aunt who killed her just as crazy father seven years ago. The aunt visits her fathers grave every Father’s Day at 4 pm sharp. This year however, daddy decides to dig his way to the surface.

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Zombie dad runs around asking for cake and killing the family members. It’s a great time.

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“It’s Father’s Day and I want my cake!! And I mean to have it!!”

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“The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”

In the film, Stephen King himself played ole Jordy. Jordy, a simple man, lives by himself in the middle of nowhere. One night he sees a meteor crash into his property. He goes to inspect it and gets infected with what looks like grass.

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Jordy has visions of selling the meteor and when snapped back to reality he realized the alien grass is spreading. The itching becomes unbearable for poor Jordy and the grass spreads to cover his entire body. He eventually kills himself and we see his entire house and lawn are now covered in the alien grass.

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“The Crate”

This is my favorite from the anthology. A janitor finds a mysterious crate at a University. He calls one of the professors to come check it out. The janitor and professor open the crate. The janitor reaches his hand inside and gets sucked in by a mysterious beast.

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The professor runs for help and finds a student who also investigates the crate and also gets attacked by the beast. The professor then goes to his co-worker’s house, tells him the story of the crate. Mr. co-worker decides to get a little revenge on his cheating wife and tricks her into checking out the crate. You can probably guess the result for the Missus. After she gets torn up, the professors lock the crate up and sink it.

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“Something To Tide You Over”

We start out seeing a man’s head in the sand… he is buried up to his neck at the beach. This turns out to be a revenge tactic. The man had relations with Richard’s wife. Richard buried the man, Harry, and Becky (the wife) both up to their necks in the sand. He set up television screens and cameras in front of both of their faces, so they could watch each other drown as the tide came in.

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While they watched each other, Richard watched them die from the comfort of his home. After watching them die, Richard takes a shower. While showering, zombie Becky and Harry arrive and bury Richard up to his neck on the beach.

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“They’re Creeping Up On You”

This one gives you the creepy-crawlies for sure. A man living in his spotless apartment begins having trouble with roaches. As he battles the roaches, the city experiences a blackout. During this blackout, the apartment is infested with roaches. When the lights turn back on, there are no more bugs… except for the millions escaping from the dead man’s mouth.

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“Creepshow” was very enjoyable, but I the comic format only served as a good visual, it wasn’t very fun to read. My rating may seem generous based on what I’ve said, but I do like all the stories and the movie is just so awesome. It is a cult classic for a reason and I highly recommend it.

4 out of 5

Review Time: “Storm of the Century”

Stephen King’s screenplay “Storm of the Century” was my 71st and final book by the master of the macabre. It’s a bittersweet feeling, but with a few short stories remaining and “Elevation” coming late October, I’m not done yet! Anyway, check out my review for “Storm of the Century.”

Released in 1999, Stephen King wrote the “Storm of the Century” screenplay for a television movie. The film was released in three parts, totaling over four hours of air time. The book was interesting for sure, but I felt like the screenplay style hindered what it could have been. The film was exactly as you’d expect after reading the book.
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The residents of Little Tall Island off the coast of Maine (of course) are battening down the hatches and preparing for what the news is referring to as the storm of the century (go figure). While this is happening, a mysterious man shows up and kills an innocent old woman.

Side note: You may recognize Little Tall Island. It was the setting for “Dolores Claiborne” and the short story “Home Delivery.” Dolores is mentioned a couple times by the residents in “Storm of the Century.”

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Anyway, this mysterious man is Andre Linoge. He ends up being like a lame version of everyone’s favorite King baddy: Randall Flagg. Linoge gets himself arrested by island constable, and the main character of the story, Mike Anderson.

Anderson is in charge of keeping the citizens calm and making sure everyone is safe during this storm, but now he must also deal with a murderous stranger. The storm escalates to its title and all the residents of Little Tall Island end up taking refuge in the town hall building. Meanwhile Mike and a few others stand guard outside of the island’s one cell where Linoge is being held. 

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From his cell, Linoge uses some sort of psychic abilities and sorcery to cause chaos. I wont go much further into details to avoid spoilers, but some of the events Linoge causes are quite intense, especially the ultimatum at the end.

“This is a cash-and-carry world, pay as you go. Sometimes you only have to pay a little, but mostly it’s a lot. And once in a while it’s all you have. ” – Mike Anderson

This review is shorter because the book itself wasn’t long. The screenplay, coming in at 376 pages, is hard to go over without spoiling and it read much faster than that page count suggests. You can watch the movie and honestly probably enjoy it more. Like I said before, this story isn’t bad, and the end is even a little heartbreaking, but I would have liked it much more if it were in novel form.

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Overall, “Storm of the Century” wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t King’s best work.

3 out of 5  

Review Time: “Hearts in Atlantis”

My 70th Stephen King book, “Hearts in Atlantis,” was incredible. Check out my review for this interconnected collection about the Vietnam generation.

“Hearts in Atlantis” was released in September, 1999 but King had this 522-page collection of two novellas and three short stories finished in December 1998, before his near-fatal car accident in June of 1999. Sales and reception of the collection were probably hindered by this, but the collection is still a thing of beauty.

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This is King’s deep dive into the generation involved with the Vietnam War. King repeatedly refers to this generation, and America during this time period, as the lost city of Atlantis. In one passage, King even refers to the war itself as “the apocalyptic continent drowner.”

These stories span from 1960 to 1999 and are all connected by feel, theme, and recurring characters. The first two stories have a feel of a brewing storm and impending doom while the last three all seem to deal with the after-effects of the storm (flood). They are all beautifully written; it is truly some of King’s best work.

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“Low Men in Yellow Coats” 

1960: They had a stick sharpened at both ends.

The first story in the collection is a beautiful coming of age tale, somewhat similar in feel to King’s novella “The Body.” Here King introduces the readers to all the main characters you will encounter later. Bobby Garfield, Carol Gerber, John Sullivan (Sully-John), William (Willie) Shearman and Ted Brautigan.

Bobby is the main character in this one. He lives with his mother and pals around with his best friends, Carol and Sully-John. An older gentleman, Ted, moves into the apartment above Bobby’s. Ted and Bobby soon become unlikely friends and Ted hires Bobby to read him the paper and keep a lookout for Low Men in yellow coats, as well as a few other signs.

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We learn Ted is a “breaker” and the Low Men are after him because he can help destroy the beams supporting the dark tower, the nexus of the universe. Bobby, upon learning all of this, was obviously confused. All of that makes more sense if you’ve read “The Dark Tower” series.

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If you have already read “The Dark Tower” series, then Ted and all his little references are incredible pleasing. If you haven’t, well, read that series. That’s all I’ll say because it is amazing.

Anyway, Bobby comes to love Ted, learn from Ted, and see Ted as a father figure. When Ted must leave toward the end of the novella, Bobby doesn’t take it well. The last few pages, watching Bobby turn from a sweet young boy to an angry teen, are heartbreaking.

“You had to keep your nose to the grindstone and your shoulder to the wheel. Life wasn’t easy, and life wasn’t fair.” – Bobby Garfield.

There’s a lot more to this novella, but I don’t want to spoil too much for you and there are more stories to get to!

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“Hearts in Atlantis”

1966: Man, we just couldn’t stop laughing.

The titular story in the collection. This one almost felt like a non-fiction story. Pete Riley is the lead here and we get to journey through freshman year at the University of Maine during the beginnings of the Vietnam conflict through his perspective.

Pete makes many friends on his hall, one of whom, Ronnie Malenfant appears in the following two stories as well. Another is Carol Gerber. Yep, the same Carol Gerber. Carol and Pete get pretty chummy if you know what I mean, but she leaves school for good after Thanksgiving break to protest the Vietnam War.

“Hearts are tough. Most times they don’t break. Most times they only bend.” – Carol Gerber.

Ronnie gets Pete’s entire freshman dorm hall enamored with the card game Hearts. The freshman are so obsessed with “chasing the bitch” that over half of them move dorms, or flunk out. This becomes problematic and much more serious once the reality of being drafted hits the boys.

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Toward the end of the semester, Pete and his best friend Skip plead to their teachers for extra opportunities or make-up tests to bring their grades up. Their pleas work and both boys pass their freshman year and successfully avoid the war.

“Years later I realized that for many of the instructors it was a moral issue rather than an academic one: they didn’t want to read their ex-students’ names in a casualty list and have to wonder if they had been partially responsible; that the difference between a D and a C-minus had also been the difference between a kid who could see and hear and one sitting senseless in a V.A. hospital somewhere.” – Pete Riley

Throughout the novella, King emphasizes the feeling of impending doom that is the escalating crisis in Vietnam. We see Pete fall in love, and lose her to protests. We see Pete make friends, and lose them to Hearts. We see Pete start to fail, revitalize his schooling, and then throw it all away to protest the war himself.

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King leaves us with conflicting feelings of empowerment and dread. “Hearts in Atlantis” is a beautiful novella and King utilized the realism and non-fiction feel to drive home the Atlantis metaphor.

“Time goes by, Atlantis sinks deeper and deeper into the ocean, and you have a tendency to romanticize.” – Pete Riley

Both, “Low Men in Yellow Coats” and “Hearts in Atlantis” deal with the youth learning the world is bigger than what they thought. The next three stories deal with how that world is not a nice place.

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“Blind Willie”

1983: Godbless us every one.

“Blind Willie” follows a day in the life of Willie Shearman, yep the Willie I mentioned from “Low Men in Yellow Coats.” Willie leaves home every morning, goes to an office building where he writes notes apologizing to Carol Gerber (yeah her again) for helping his friend beat her up when they were kids. After this is done, Willie dresses as a blind homeless man and panhandles for money.

Willie is a Vietnam War vet. He fought alongside Sully-John (yep, same guy) and Ronnie Malenfant. He was sent home after being partially blinded by a flash-bang grenade and carrying a seriously wounded Sully-John to safety.

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Willie is not actually blind, only pretends to be when he panhandles. He has to pay off a cop who isn’t convinced of his ploy.

This was the weakest story in the collection, but it was still good and dealt with heavy themes guilt and contrition.

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“Why We’re in Vietnam”

1999: When someone dies, you think about the past.

This story follows Sully-John in his post-war days. After being wounded and saved by Willie, Sully starts to see the ghost of a Vietnamese woman whom Ronnie had killed, seemingly for no reason.

Years later, Sully is attending the funeral of one of his fellow soldiers and reminisces with his old Commanding Officer. They discuss how everyone who came home is falling apart (drowning), dying too early and selling out.

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After the funeral, while stuck in traffic on his way home, Sully spots a woman who looks like Carol Gerber. Sully dated Carol before college and had been seeing her photos in the news at anti-war protests. One article in particular mentioned a house she was in had burned down.

Sully realizes the woman is not Carol and random objects begin falling from the sky, crushing cars and killing people. He gets hit by a baseball glove… his old friend Bobby Garfield’s baseball glove.

In the final pages, I won’t say how, but King tears our heart out.

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“Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling”

1999: Come on, you bastard, come on home.

The final story in the collection, the epilogue of sorts. Bobby Garfield has returned home for a funeral.

Bobby and his mother left their hometown shortly after Ted did. In the years that followed, Bobby was troubled and a problem child. He eventually cleaned himself up, and that is where we see him now.

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While home, he revisits areas around the town, churning up old childhood memories. Bobby is sitting on a park bench when Carol comes up to him. Bobby is shocked because he had presumed Carol was dead after reading about her protests in the paper.

Throughout their conversation, Bobby reveals he received a package from Ted. The package contained his baseball glove and a message telling him to go home.

This was a mini reunion and slightly heartwarming, while at the same time very sad. The few remaining survivors of Atlantis. King brought everything full-circle… as he tends to do.

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Overall I thought this collection was incredible. King absolutely crushed it. These stories were beautiful, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and impactful.

I hope I didn’t give too much away in my review, and I hope, if you’re confused or thought some things were too vague, then you’ll grab yourself a copy. I highly recommend you check it out.

5 out of 5.

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Review Time: “Nightmares & Dreamscapes”

“Nightmares & Dreamscapes” was Stephen King’s third short story collection, and my 69th book of his and it was absolutely incredible. Check out my review below!

King released this 960-page collection of 24 short stories in 1993. The only King collection I have left to read is “Hearts In Atlantis,” which has novellas and short stories mixed in, so really “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” was the last one… and for me, it was the best one.

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The introduction, which King titled “Myth, Belief, Faith, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” was truly incredible and inspirational. It was without a doubt the best introduction to anything I have ever read. I highly recommend you check out the intro, even if for some stupid reason you don’t read the rest of the book, at least read that.

“First, repeat the catechism after me:

I believe a dime can derail a freight-train.

I believe there are alligators in the New York City sewer system, not to mention rats as big as Shetland ponies.

I believe that you can tear off someone’s shadow with a steel tent-pole.

I believe that there really is a Santa Claus, and that all those red-suited guys you see at Christmastime really are his helpers.

I believe there is an unseen world all around us.

I believe that tennis balls are full of poison gas, and if you cut one in two and breathe what comes out, it’ll kill you.

Most of all, I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks.”

 – Stephen King

Forewarning, this post will be long because I am going to briefly go over each story, so sit back and enjoy the ride!

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“Dolan’s Cadillac” – The lead-off story, as King put it, got readers right in the zone. A noir revenge story with an extremely intricate build-up. I really enjoyed this tale and it was one of my favorites in the collection.

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“The End of the Whole Mess” – Another gem, and probably my favorite in the collection, just purely for the thoughts you’re left with afterward. One man’s genius brother discovers the saying “there’s something in the water” is actually true. The cure to violence ends up having some serious side-effects.

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“Suffer the Little Children” – this story was very dark and pretty disturbing. It leaves you questioning what the right “answer” was. Once you read it, you’ll understand.

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“The Night Flier” – A writer for a tabloid magazine, one that seems to specialize in blood, guts, horror and all things supernatural, chases a vampire with a private pilot’s license down the east coast. The final confrontation was intense. The 1997 film adaptation was decent too.

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“Popsy” – A young boy gets abducted and later saved by his grandfather, Popsy, who displays similar characteristics to the antagonist of “The Night Flier.” In the notes at the end of the collection, King confirms they are indeed the same person. This story started off somewhat disturbing in the sense of the subject matter but finished in classic bloody-King fashion.

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“It Grows on You” – I was disappointed with this one. I was intrigued with the Castle Rock setting and the elderly characters whom had survived the events of “Needful Things,” but the story was just… meh. It has a couple creepy bits but overall, I think it would actually serve better as a novel where we could get more detail.

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“Chattery Teeth” – A classic case of King turning something mundane, such as the toy wind-up teeth with feet, into something utterly horrific.

“Dedication” – This story was strange. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. It had a sense of realism that made it good, but overall it was slow and not very exciting. This story would be better suited in the collection “Full Dark, No Stars.”

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“The Moving Finger” – CRAZY. That’s seriously the best way to describe this one. A man discovers a finger prying around his sink poking through the drain… It was intense, and the way King wrote it made you feel like you were going insane too. WAS IT REAL????

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“Sneakers” – this was a strange ghost story, but it definitely gave me the creeps and I really liked it. You’ll never look at a pair of shoes underneath a bathroom stall the same way after reading this one…

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“You Know They Got a Hell of a Band” – A couple takes a wrong turn and ends up in a town called Rock and Roll Heaven. Little do they know, it IS Rock and Roll Heaven, and they are now trapped and must listen to nightly concerts from dead rockers. Doesn’t sound too bad actually.  

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“Home Delivery” – King spins out another gem here. A pregnant woman on an island off the Maine coast, loses her husband while he’s catching Lobsters. She decides to have the baby in the comfort of her own home. Why? Well only the small matter of a zombie apocalypse on the mainland. This is one of my favorites in the collection mainly because of the way King hides the horror and spins a great tale around it.

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“Rainy Season” – This story has a very classic King feel to it. A couple staying at a summer home in Maine decide to stay there the wrong year. That night, they get rained on by killer toads with razor sharp teeth. As you can guess, this one doesn’t end well for our “heroes.”

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“My Pretty Pony” – A slower tale about a grandfather sharing some wisdom with his grandson. Reading it I really didn’t think I was going to enjoy it, but as the tale unfolds, I grew to really appreciate it and the lesson it left me with. A great message about the passage of time. Not a favorite, but really a beautiful story.

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“Sorry, Right Number” – This one blew me away. I didn’t cry, but I definitely got close. King wrote it like a screenplay and I think it really added to the pace and atmosphere of the story. Super dark and depressing but a great tale with a wild twist.

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“The Ten O’clock People” – King spins an excellent story here, tapping on real social issues while also adding his usual supernatural twist to it. Every day, at 10 O’clock, people converge outside to smoke their cigarettes (since the office buildings started to ban smoking inside). These people can see things… What they see, are people in higher-power positions with giant grotesque bat heads. This story escalates quickly and is super interesting. One of my favorites.

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“Crouch End” – Another favorite of mine from this collection. A couple (huh, King likes screwing with couples, doesn’t he?) gets lost in the suburbs of London and find themselves in the mysterious town of Crouch End. The wife loses the husband after a series of creepy events and begins seeing and hearing disturbing things. She finally makes her way to the police station to share her story. The ending makes readers shout “NO!” King wrote this one as a little ode to Lovecraft.

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“The House on Maple Street” – Four siblings discover metal growing beneath the floors and behind the walls of their house. In the cellar, they then discover a control panel with a series of numbers counting down. The eldest hatches a plan to trap their evil step father in the house when the countdown hits zero. When it does, the house takes off. It was a crazy little tale but very fun and left you with a smile on your face.

“The Fifth Quarter” – This felt like a Bachman story, and King even admitted as much in the notes at the end. A man discovers one of his friends got mixed up with some bad people. These people stole money, buried it, made a map to find it again, and tore the map in four pieces to be distributed amongst themselves. Of course, no one trusts one another, and all are trying to get the pieces for themselves. Our main character, the fifth quarter, seeking revenge for his friend, slowly gathers the pieces. It was a cool little tale and I don’t think I did it justice here.

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“The Doctor’s Case” – King writes about the classic characters Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in this murder mystery. In this case, Dr. Watson is the one to discover the murderer, but Holmes, Watson, and an Inspector all decide to hide the evidence and leave the mystery “unsolved.” This was a really interesting tale and pretty ballsy of King to do his own take on such classic characters.

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“Umneys’ Last Case” – Umney is  a private investigator or detective of sorts who goes about the same daily routine. The day of the story however, things have changed and Umney can’t deal. He gets to his office where he meets his doppelganger who happens to be “God” aka the man who created Umney. Umney is fiction and the doppelganger is the author of the Umney stories. The author intends to write himself into Umney’s life and Umney into the real world. It is a very unique and very cool story.

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“Head Down” – This is a non-fiction essay, originally published in “The New Yorker,” about Stephen King’s son Owen’s baseball team, Bangor West, and their run at the Little League championship. King, being a huge baseball fan, and a gifted writer (obviously) was able to spin the tale of his son’s team’s triumph out for readers like one of his own stories. He kept it light and factual but still extremely intriguing and heartwarming. When King told readers of a non-fiction tale in the intro, I was like “Oh boy this will be boring.” WOW was I wrong. Reading this story gave me HUGE feelings of nostalgia back to my little league days.

“Brooklyn August” – King spins out a little poem about baseball for us. It’s a nice conclusion before we reach the notes section where he tells us about some of the stories.
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“The Beggar and the Diamond” – After the notes, King hid an extra story. This one is somewhat religious and its King’s take on a Hindu parable. The story wasn’t anything amazing, but the message and the lesson were nice.
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Overall, this short story collection was absolutely incredible. I was blown away. If I could give this collection more than a perfect score, I would. But alas, I give “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” a:

5 out of 5

Review Time: “Just After Sunset”

“Just After Sunset” was my 68th Stephen King book and the 5th Short Story collection of his that I have read… it also happens to be the 5th collection of short stories that he wrote. Without further ado, read below and check out my review!

“Just After Sunset” was released in 2008. This 360 page collection containing 13 stories, had a somewhat depressing tone throughout. I enjoyed it but didn’t love it. It was underwhelming.

This is the first time I have reviewed a story collection. I’m going to go through each story individually, so be prepared for some spoilers, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from reading, they won’t be bad, I promise.

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The first story, “Willa,” tells the tale of a group of people waiting in a train station. David realizes his wife, Willa, is missing and decides to leave the station to find her even though the other waiting passengers advise against it. He finds her in a bar with live music.

Throughout David and Willa’s discussion, it is revealed to the reader that they, along with the other passengers waiting at the station, are all dead. Their train derailed, killing everyone, but only a few have accepted the fact that they are ghosts stuck in this station.

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“The Gingerbread Girl” is the second story and this one was fun. A woman, grieving after the loss of her infant daughter, leaves her husband and lives alone in Florida. While there and on one of her daily runs, she is abducted by a neighbor. She escapes and is chased by her abductor down the beach. I wont ruin the ending, but this was definitely one of the stronger stories in the collection and it is being adapted into a movie.

Next up is “Harvey’s Dream.” This story was more of a tale of foreshadowing than anything. Harvey has a dream, tells his wife, and then they receive a phone call and, as you would expect, Harvey’s dream came true. It’s a little creepy once you read what his dream was about.

“Rest Stop” followed and this one was okay. A man stops at a rest stop to use the restroom and hears a couple arguing and hears the man begin to harm the woman. Our hero steps in to save the day.

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“Stationary Bike” was a very interesting story that fell flatter than the Earth (haha just kidding). This story had so much promise, but the ending sucked, it just didn’t wrap up how you’d want. The concept was very cool, touching on aspects from “Rose Madder” or “Duma Key.”

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“The Things They Left Behind” was depressing and creepy as hell. A man who decided to call out of work one day, survives 9/11 because of this decision. About a year later, his coworkers’ possessions start showing up in his apartment and he hears things coming from each one. Creepy and depressing are the best words for this story. It is a good one though.

“Graduation Afternoon” came next, and King stayed with the depressed, destroyed New York theme. A girl is being a loner at a graduation party and watched New York city explode in the distance. The story was alright, but that feeling of dread really hit you.

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“N.” was my favorite story in the collection. It was also adapted as a comic by Marvel and in my opinion, it deserves a movie. It was creepy, disturbing, and just great. A man finds a Stonehenge-like stone circle in a field in Maine. Looking upon these stones gives him extreme OCD and makes him believe he must act upon these compulsions to keep demons from escaping the circle.

Each person that sees these stones and becomes infected with the compulsions commits suicide after passing the infection onto someone else. The story is very dark but its fantastic. The comic version had an alternate ending that was extremely disturbing.

Next up was my second favorite, “The Cat from Hell.” This story started out a little slow and strange, but the later half and ending were CRAZY. An old man hires a hitman to kill a cat. The old man tells the hitman about the cat’s history of murdering his family members. The hitman, thinking “this will be the easiest job of my life,” takes the cat, but during the car ride, the cat attacks. This story also appeared in the 1990 film version of the horror anthology series from the 1980’s: “Tales From The Darkside.”

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I won’t say anymore because its wild, you have to read it. In the “Sunset Notes” section of the collection, where King talks about why he wrote each story, King says he actually wrote “The Cat from Hell” 30 years ago but never used it in a collection until “Just After Sunset.” The story is definitely different from the others, and I think that 30-year difference is why.

“The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” was next and this one was interesting. A woman receives a call from her husband during his funeral. Yes, you read that right. Her husband is in a building reminiscent of Grand Central station waiting to move on. He tells her a couple premonitions because “time moves differently here.” The story is depressing but has a nice little twist.

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“Mute” came next and I really enjoyed this one. A man is in a church confessional telling the pastor about one time he picked up a supposedly def-mute hitchhiker. While driving the man tells the hitchhiker about his cheating wife who is also in trouble with the government for stealing money. Later his wife and her lover turn up dead. Police say the mute hitchhiker is responsible. A very interesting concept and a dark little tale. I liked it.

“Ayana” followed, and this was another interesting one. A family taking care of their terminally ill father are visited by a woman and a young girl, Ayana. Ayana kisses the sickly father and one of the sons and days later the father is no longer dying. The son who received a kiss also, was given a gift. Every now and then, a man visits the son and takes him to hospitals where he must kiss someone else with a terminal illness and save them. This story was mysterious but uplifting, it was enjoyable.

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The last story, “A Very Tight Place,” was my third favorite. This story was disgusting but awesome. A man gets locked in an overturned porta-potty by his rival neighbor. I don’t need to say anymore because you can probably smell the fecal matter now. It was so gross to imagine being trapped there, but the story was so good.

Sorry this ended up being long-winded, but it was the best way to show you that the collection as a whole, was underwhelming, but it had some very, very good stories. Overall, I enjoyed it, but of five collections I’ve read, it is number five. I am currently reading the collection “Nightmares & Dreamscapes,” and it is incredible (review coming soon).

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Before my rating, I’ll leave you with the last few sentences King uses to close out the collection:

“Take care of yourself… and say! Did you maybe leave the oven on? Or forget to turn off the gas under the patio barbecue? What about the lock on the back door? Did you remember to give it a twist? Things like that are easy to forget, and someone could be slipping in right now. A lunatic, perhaps. One with a knife. So, OCD behavior or not… Better go check, don’t you think?”

Anyway, here is my rating for “Just After Sunset:”

3 Out of 5

Review Time: “The Outsider”

“The Outsider” was my 67th Stephen King book, and it is his most recently published novel. It was an absolute thrill ride from start to finish. Ill warn you when spoilers are on the horizon.

Quick synopsis: Flint City (a fictional city in Oklahoma) detective Ralph Anderson makes an extremely public arrest of Terry Maitland. Terry is a very well-known and respected member of the community. He coaches little league baseball and football and works as an English teacher. Ralph arrested Terry for the brutal murder of a child.

DNA evidence and eye-witness accounts all point to Terry, but Terry claims he was in Cap City (another fictional city in Oklahoma) for a literary convention on the same day the murder occurred. Video evidence and statements from other teachers who were at the convention with Terry support his defense.

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Ralph and his team are stuck with conflicting evidence and one impossible question: How can someone be in two places at once?

“The Outsider” was released just two months ago, (May 2018), but this 560-page thriller is an amazing and fast paced page turner. It felt like vintage King but also gave Constant Readers the new modern touch King has acquired.

The characters were amazing as usual, the story was tight, and the villain was great. A beautiful yet horrifying novel. It is the best novel King has put out since “11/22/63.” King takes some shots at Trump and even throws a diss out to Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of “The Shining.”

Warning: Spoilers Below! Scroll to the bottom to see some future “Outsider” info and my rating, (you’ll see the “End Spoiler” marker).

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Have you read “The Outsider” yet? If so, keep reading, if not, scroll down and why did you ignore the spoiler blocker??

So, if you’re here, I’m assuming you’ve read “The Outsider.” First, the description of the murder: BRUTAL. Second, as I said before, King’s usual amazing characters sucked me right in once again and, of course I was upset when a few died. Damn you King! (Just Kidding).

Third, the mystery King lays out is extremely intriguing, and the villain, the Outsider, El Cuco or El Cucuy, is one hell of a creep. He/she/it, is a sicko but is definitely up there on the list of my favorite King villains (hmmm maybe a future post). The back-story King weaved in is characteristically disturbing.

As usual, King ties in other stories, specifically the Hodges Trilogy, “Mr. Mercedes,” “Finders Keepers,” and “End Of Watch.” Holly Gibney, Bill Hodges protégé, is recruited to help Ralph Anderson in discovering how Maitland could have been in two places at once.

Holly, having dealt with the supernatural before with Brady Hartsfield, must convince Ralph that even the impossible can be reality. Holly relays the events of the Hodges trilogy to Ralph and his team, bringing up major nostalgic feelings for constant readers.

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The final confrontation was a tad anticlimactic, but it also included one of the most terrifying scenes in the novel.

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SPOILERS OVER, if you haven’t read “The Outsider,” do not read above, but feel free to read everything beyond this point.

“The Outsider” was heart-pounding, unique, creepy, and just downright amazing. It is so good; a TV adaptation is already in the works. Media Rights Capital, writer Richard Price, and executive producers Jack Bender and Marty Bowen are teaming up for a 10-episode series of the #1 bestseller.

Bender and Bowen worked together on the Mr. Mercedes series, the TV adaptation of King’s Hodges Trilogy. Richard Price is best known for his working writing for shows and movies like “The Wire,” “Sea of Love,” “Ransom,” and “The Color of Money.”

Anyway, this is a review, so to finish it off, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: my rating. It is a no-brainer and from what I’ve seen in other reviews, many agree.

Drumroll please…

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5 out of 5

Review Time: “Bag of Bones”

“Bag of Bones” was my 66th Stephen King novel and it was a good one (as usual). The tagline: “A haunted love story” is a next to perfect description. Read below for my review, and don’t worry, there are no spoilers ahead.

“The most brilliantly drawn character in a novel is but a bag of bones”

Quick synopsis: Mike Noonan, a famous author, is still grieving four years after the sudden death of his wife and decides to leave his current home in Derry (you may recognize that town name) and stay at his lake house on Dark Score Lake in TR-90, near Castle Rock (more towns you may recognize).

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Mike hopes the move will get him past his current writers block and also help him along the grieving process. While staying in the lake house Mike gets wrapped up in a custody battle and discovers there are some angry spirits on the lake and in his house.

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One of my favorite parts of this novel was the way King had the spirits communicating with Mike through the magnets on his refrigerator.

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Stephen King released this 529-page Gothic beauty in 1998. “Bag of Bones” was the first book King released after leaving Viking and signing a deal with Scribner to be his new publisher.

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I really enjoyed this one. There were some scenes that were genuinely terrifying, and a moment or two even brought out tears. The last 100 pages were incredible, they flew by.

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The novel was paced very well, with a great start. it did have a somewhat jumbled middle though and was maybe a tad slow during some of the custody battle bits, but overall it was fine and all the middle jumble came to a head and shot from a cannon, creating the fire of the last 100 pages.

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“Bag of Bones” was adapted into a TV mini-series in 2011 coming in at a little over two and a half hours long. It was very boring. Could have easily cut an hour out and it would have been better.

Pierce Brosnan portrayed Mike Noonan and he did fine. He had the look of Mike down, but Pierce is just so cheesy. The whole movie was cheesy.

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The film caught the essence of the novel, but it was definitely just okay. The ratings say just that: 34% “Liked It” on Rotten Tomatoes and it received a 5.8 out of 10 on IMDb. I give the movie a 5 out of 10 myself.

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In the end, I definitely recommend reading this gothic romance novel, but the movie is totally skippable. I give the book a:

4 out of 5

Review Time: “Lisey’s Story”

“Lisey’s Story” was my 65th Stephen King novel and it was definitely one his most beautiful works yet.

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“Lisey’s Story” tells the tale of Lisey Landon who lost her husband Scott two years ago. Scott was a famous author, and Lisey is in the process of attempting to clean out his study.

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Published in 2006, this 509-page novel received relatively good reviews, with some negative ones, as all novels will. I personally loved it. It was fantastic. Paced well, tender, honest, imaginative, and emotional.

Stephen King said this is one of his personal favorites. He said he came up with the idea when he returned home from the hospital following a fight with pneumonia and saw his wife was redecorating his writing studio and had a lot of his things in boxes. This sight gave him the thought, “this is what it will be like when I die.”

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This is a very sad novel. We as constant readers relive Lisey’s time with Scott. King intertwines Lisey’s memories and flashbacks of specific events with her husband and her present efforts to finally finish the grieving process.

King seamlessly weaves the past and the present, showing us Lisey’s heartbreak, but also showing us her strength. I cried a couple times, was shocked quite a few times, and even caught myself with a goofy smile on my face a couple times.

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I said it was sad, but “Lisey’s Story” is heartwarming, shocking and has its scary bits too.

Below I am going to go into a bit of a spoilery review, so if you haven’t read yet, I highly recommend you do and you can continue reading this review, it won’t ruin the book, but it may not surprise you as much when you do read it.

If you have read, please, continue reading this review. If you haven’t, continue if you want, and whether you stay or go, make sure you read this vivid and amazing story.

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This may be one of King’s most imaginative books to date.

King introduces us to Boo’ya Moon, another world, adjacent to ours, that Scott discovered when he was a child.

Scott grew up with his older brother Paul and their insane father. Scott adored his older brother, but his father would torture the poor boys. To escape and recuperate, Scott would take his brother to Boo’ya Moon, a world adjacent to ours. A world where you are not safe at night.

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King’s vivid descriptions of Boo’ya Moon are absolutely incredible. The flowers, the tall grass, the trees, the pool, the laughers, and of course, Scott’s creepy “long boy.” (I won’t go any further into details)

While cleaning out Scott’s study, Lisey often hears the voice of her late husband and his terms of endearment, “Baby. Babyluv.” Hearing his voice and his other quirky sayings trigger the flashbacks.

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One day, Lisey receives a call from John Dooley. Dooley wants her to give Scott’s unpublished work to a professor at Pitt. Dooley threatens Lisey with her life if she does not cooperate.

Dooley shows up at Lisey’s home one night and maims her as a warning. Once he is gone, she travels to Boo’ya Moon and takes a dip in the pool, healing her wounds.

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Once healed, Lisey returns to this world and visits her catatonic sister Amanda. She travels back to Boo’ya Moon and brings her sisters conscious back to the real world, waking her up. Together, Amanda and Lisey confront Dooley and bring him to Boo’ya Moon where he meets Scott’s long boy.

This novel is truly fantastic. The writing is flawless, the pace is perfect. There are some creepy bits, some beautiful bits and some heartbreaking bits.

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Overall this novel is intricate and complex, but not hard to understand, and it will blow you away. I highly recommend you check it out.

5 out of 5

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