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So, when I was like, 13? 14? I picked up Stephen King’s Christine at my library and it changed me. I thought to myself, this is the kind of writer I am meant to be. But then, when I was 16, I read Vonnegut for the first time and I abandoned my dream of being a horror writer in favor of becoming a witty social commentary novelist.

The jury’s still out on where I’ll shake out.

It has been many years since I’ve read Stephen King. I think the last one I read was “Needful Things” and that may be going back about 15 years? Last year, he was a regular columnist in Entertainment Weekly, which is like, where I get ALL of my pop culture information, and I’ve tended to enjoy his columns and agree with his taste in all things pop culture. So, when I saw Full Dark, No Stars on my library’s “Hot Reads” shelf, I snatched it up immediately.

What excited me most, even before diving in, was that this is a collection of four long-form stories, much like his long story collection Different Seasons, which spawned two of my favorite all-time movies: Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption. If these stories were of that ilk, I thought, this would be a good read.

“1922” is the a confession written by a man who murdered his wife, who was a real pain in his ass. He tells of the horrible aftermath he faces after her murder, which goes from bad luck to downright nasty. It envelops the lives of his son and young girlfriend, who are also caught in the horrific chain of events that follow the murder. Probably the goriest of the four.

The protagonist in “Big Driver” is a female writer, somewhat famous, who becomes the victim of a brutal rape and beating. Left for dead, she becomes intent on revenge.

“Fair Extension” examines what happens when a man dying of cancer meets roadside peddler Mr. Elvid (do a little word jumble on that one and see what you come up with) and agrees to pay an interesting price in return for his health.This is the shortest – and weakest – of the three. I think the result is fairly predictable here, and although the use of humor helps get through the story, I felt like it could have gone in a different direction.

Finally, “A Good Marriage” centers around happily married, middle-aged Darcy, who accidentally discovers that her husband is a serial killer. Does she alert the authorities? What would YOU do if this happened to you – and you discovered that the person sleeping next to you is not who you’ve thought they were for many, many years?

Of the four, I could see potential for “1922” to be a movie, and possibly “A Good Marriage.” The characters in all four are well-written, and of course you expect some violence and gore when reading a Stephen King story – so be warned. Not his best work, but a good collection of novellas.

 

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