Stephen King Special

Stephen King‘s new book is out soon!!! Here’s the blurb…

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed forever.
If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you? Would the consequences be worth it? 

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time. 

It sounds really great and I can’t wait to read it but I should hold up my hand and admit I only just finished reading King’s story collection Full Dark, No Stars. These are all good stories but a couple of them are especially good.

‘1922’ is exceptional; a simple, straight-forwardly told tale of a man who thinks killing his wife will solve all the problems of his life but slowly learns otherwise. It’s understated and slow-paced and yet amazingly suspenseful.  ‘Big Driver‘ is about a woman who is raped at a roadside and her struggle for survival and revenge. It achieves a level of suspense that I’ve never found in prose before; makes you feel like you’re watching one of those films where you want to shout “don’t go in there!” at the screen. The part where the woman hunts down her attacker felt weaker and the satnav and pet cat developing imaginary voices seemed a bit too wisecrack-ish (I know… it’s not a word). ‘Fair Extension‘ was funny in a very dark way but nothing special.

A Good Marriage‘ was amazing! The best story of the lot, it focuses on a woman who discovers evidence in the garage that her husband is a serial killer. This is so underplayed and realistic that I just couldn’t stop reading. Again, suspense levels are sky high (I don’t know any other writer who can do this!). The wife’s reactions were completely authentic and grabbed me from the start. This is a truly great story; not in a literary sense maybe but for sheer visceral honesty. Creating suspense in writing is phenomenally hard and many so called literary authors could not possibly affect the emotions the way Stephen King does in this story.

On top of all this we have King’s e-book Mile 81 which also looks intriguing. I haven’t really got into reading on a screen yet; haven’t got a Kindle or any gadget of that type. My main problem with the reading machines is the fact that I love reading in the bath and I don’t know whether me and my rubber ducky would get fried alive if I accidentally dropped the thing into the water. Sounds like something that might happen in a King story!

Anyway that’s the end of my Stephen King special. If you have read any of the stuff I’ve mentioned above I’d love to hear your comments/recommendations etc. Please squint hard to find the COMMENT button below.

 

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12 thoughts on “Stephen King Special

    1. I know it’s only personal taste, Gregory, but I think this collection is great! They’re all very small, intense, personal tales and I think that’s SK’s strongest suite. Suspense in prose is really hard (I know because I tried to do it in Ghost Road; it’s for others to judge how successful I was) and SK does it like a master.

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  1. King owes you a beer at least next time he visits Widnes, Jon. I just finished Big Driver a few hours ago(currently sitting at the comp because sleep is elusive. Listening to John Stewart’s Midnight Wind on constant repeat – but I digress) and liked the way he got the gory details across without being too gory.
    11/22/63 arrived in the post during the week. I preordered through Amazon – make that TWO beers – but I was kind of put off when I opened the box. I was thinking this would be a Misery-length job. Looks more like The Stand or Needful Things. Still, I know that once I start turning those pages I won’t be able to stop until I get to the end…

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  2. I don’t think Mr King would let me buy him a beer; I think he’s been off the booze (and other substances) for a few years. He would need to have a few beers before coming to Widnes though just to cope with the place. Looking forward to hearing what you think of 11/22/63. Don’t wait until the end to let me know; give me regular updates. I find that my feelings towards a book change as I progress through it. I read a William Trevor short story the other night; 10 pages in I completely loathed it, by page 25 I thought it was one of the best I’d ever read.

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  3. Okay. I started reading last night, having prepared myself by reading The Last Days by Raymond Queneau, as well as a few short stories by Hubert Selby.
    I read up to the moment where Al invites Jake to open the freezer door – so far, King at his best, building an atmosphere of strangeness that will keep me itching for explanation.

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  4. Sorry about my prolonged silence Jon, but when you said you hadn’t read it I realised we weren’t going to be having a back and forth about the parts we liked (or disliked). I’ll post again in a couple of days. Just a wordsketch, a few quotes and observations to pique your interest.

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  5. So here goes… Observations on 11/22/63.

    The book runs to 800-plus pages, but I never felt the story was dragging or failing. There’s detail enough to create the period of the late 1950s-early 1960s, ‘enough’ being the operative word. No overwhelming barrage of trivia.

    The story does require a considerable suspension of disbelief. It’s time travel, Jon, but not as the Time Lords of Gallifrey would know it: the doorway here is more akin to the soft places described by Neil Gaiman. There is a sort of explanation toward the end, but at the beginning the story either carries you over that hurdle or it doesn’t.

    Very strange rules apply. From 2011 the portal always delivers the traveller to the same place at the same time of the same day in the same year. Going back the other way, the traveller always arrives just two minutes after he left.

    How well can a man from our day fit into the world of fifty years ago? Fairly well – provided nobody looks too far into his background.

    The old adage says that hindsight is always 20/20. Not in this narrative. If anything, King proves that hindsight is just as unreliable as foresight. It’s easy to point to one event and say ‘This is where the downhill slide began. This is the day everything started turning to crap.’ Can you save the world by changing that single moment? Perhaps. But there are many routes into decline. And some routes lead to places far uglier than you can imagine, or would want to imagine.

    Coincidences are prominent in 11/22/63. The lead character, who adopts the name George Amberson, meets unrelated people who share a name. It happens several times in the course of the story but didn’t seem overdone to me. I’ve had friends who had the same initials. A few months after I arrived in Perth, I got talking to someone at my first job here and we realised we’d been at school together twenty years earlier. Robert Drewe built a whole story around coincidences in Fortune. As he said, coincidence is common in everyday life but the writer who used it that often would be accused of cheating.

    Speaking of coincidences – George Amberson’s initials are my intials, too.

    One final observation:

    Sooner or later, we all of us shed tears.

    I hope I haven’t given away too much there. And now, a few memorable quotes.

    In 1958, there’s always smoke.

    Sadie wasn’t clumsy, she was accident-prone. It was amusing until you realised what it really was: a kind of haunting.

    In my humble opinion, things do happen for a reason, but do we like the reason? Rarely.

    A man with a bum knee really shouldn’t have to carry the future of the world on his back.

    There was nothing but a hole where his nose should have been.

    The past is obdurate. It doesn’t want to change.

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    1. Thanks for that great review. I’m looking forward to reading it even more now. I have another book on the go which is OK but I’m conscious of rushing it to get to the King!

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