The Stephen King Book Tournament 2017

This year I’m doing something a little bit fun on the site…a Stephen King book/novella tournament.empty-brackets

Over on the Google plus, Stephen King Community

https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/116358524459731933858

And over on Stephen King Forever on Google plus community

https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/118018234999179868877

 you can vote for your favorite book(s) to move on in the tournament.  The most votes between the half week’s match-up moves on until a winner is crowned. There’s a field of 64 novels and novellas in this tournament. 17 Novellas didn’t make the cut this year. They are as follows:

  1. The Breathing Method
  2. Fair Extension
  3. Hearts in Atlantis
  4. The Library Policeman
  5. Morality
  6. Blockade Billy
  7. A Face in the Crowd
  8. The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet
  9. The Gingerbread Girl
  10. In the tall Grass
  11. Heavenly Shades of night are Falling
  12. Throttle
  13. Blind Willie
  14. Why we were in Vietnam
  15. Gwendy’s Button Box
  16. The Sun Dog
  17. Everything’s Eventual

The #1 seeded by region Books are followed:

  • The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (Mid World Region)
  • The Shining (The Overlook Hotel Region)
  • The Stand (Captain Trips Region)
  • IT (Derry Region)

 

Mid World Region:

The Dark Tower I vs Blaze

Carrie vs Dr. Sleep

Cujo vs The Langoliers

The Dark Tower II vs Thinner

Insomnia vs The Dark Half

The Body vs Finder’s Keepers

The Dead Zone vs Needful Things

The Tommyknockers vs Dreamcatcher

 

The Overlook Hotel Region:

The Shining vs Cell

Pet Semetary vs Revival

The Dark Tower III vs Misery

The Long Walk vs The Dark Tower V

Desperation vs Gerald’s Game

End of Watch vs Shawshank

Christine vs A Good Marriage

Firestarter vs The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

 

Captain Trips Region:

The Stand vs N.

‘Salem’s Lot vs Under the Dome

Mr. Mercedes vs The Colorado Kid

Apt Pupil vs Roadwork

The Dark Tower VI vs The Green Mile

Rose Madder vs The Dark Tower VIII

Big Driver vs UR

Secret Window, Secret Garden vs The Wind Through the Keyhole

 

Derry Region

IT vs The Regulators

Bag of Bones vs Joyland

Rage vs The Dark Tower IV

Lisey’s Story vs From a Buick 8

The Dark Tower VII vs 1922

The Talisman vs Duma Key

Riding the Bullet vs Eyes of the Dragon

Cycle of the Werewolf vs The Running Man

 

Cell Book Review

“The idea came about this way: I came out of a hotel in New York and I saw this woman talking on her cell phone. And I thought to myself, What if she got a message over the cell phone that she couldn’t resist, and she had to kill people until somebody killed her? All the possible ramifications started bouncing around in my head like pinballs. If everybody got the same message, then everybody who had a cell phone would go crazy”.-SK

Cell for me was one of those novels that could have really, really been expansive much like The Stand. It kind of dealt with the same kind of problems…in a way. It was apocalyptic in nature and there was a heaviness that carried all the way through to the end of the book. To me that was the one thing that stuck out in Cell; the heaviness of the situation.

This novel could have been another The Stand. Easily. But I was glad that he took a worldwide disaster and minimized it to a little over 350 pages. Don’t get me wrong here; Cell would have been awesome if it was expansive as The Stand. But the compactness of it works well.

So why does Cell work:

1)  Cell works because there’s another ‘what if’ situation that King thinks of. King always does a great job at bringing the ‘what if’ card to the table because the ‘what if’s’ in life are the scariest things, aren’t they? ‘What if’ a pulse sent by whomever through ALL cell phone signals turned all those that answered into mindless, murderous animals? This plot isn’t anymore crazier than a super-flu being unleashed in The Stand, is it? When King wrote this novel 2006, phones weren’t like they are now. Now they are a way of life, but ten years ago the usage and tech was growing into what we now have. Think about it: A terrorist group finds a way to jam all cell phone signals and when the phone rings and people answer it they hear a pulse and go crazy…that’s scary. I’m surprised some one or group hasn’t already tried. Maybe they have and the public just doesn’t know it. Hmmmmmmm.Stephen-King-Cell-Movie

2)  Cell works because this book didn’t bog down within itself. King could have gotten too wordy with this novel; could have done extreme overkill. Concerning the subject matter it would have been easy to do. But I think one of the best aspects of Cell is that King didn’t go into too much back story, too much characterization. I usually love that about his novels, but he toes the line making it work here. Fast pacing seemed to work pretty well here.

3)  Cell works because there was a character that I hated to see die. When Alice Maxwell is killed by those idiots in the car by the cinder block my heart fell to pieces. I think I hurt even more as she lay dying talking about things that she was remembering at certain points in her life. For me as a reader it was one of the hardest deaths in all his novels. It stayed with me for a few days.

4)  Cell works because you get captivated by what’s going to happen next. That kept me turning the pages until the end. You journey with this rag tag group and you have to keep reading because you want to know how all this is going to end. And often times in the King U. these type of stories don’t end well for those involved…

 
5) Cell works because the Raggedy Man/President of Harvard was a dark character and force. He had the full use of telepathy, could get into places of the survivors minds to make them do things at his will. A very supernatural character. The zombies were the villains as well as the humans that were still sane, but the Raggedy Man/President of Harvard was the boss. When he came into a scene he stole it because he was such a presence. King did really well with this baddie…

Cell rings in at-3/5 (Very Good)

Stephen King and the Conspiracy Theories

I ran up on something the other night that made me think about how stupid some people can really be. Maybe paranoid would be a better word. Yup, let’s use paranoid here.  We’ve all heard about conspiracy theories in our lives. Probably from someone we know closely or from some random guy sitting beside us in a hospital waiting room. Hell, we’ve all got that one family member that thinks the government places tracking strips in our cash to follow us around and listen in on our conversations. Oh, your family doesn’t have that odd ball?…my bad. I thought that was commonplace. 


Anyways, back to point here. Awhile back I’m surfing the Internet just prowling around looking for obscure Stephen King interviews from decades gone by, when all the sudden I stumbled upon this website about Stephen King and all the wild conspiracies out there that involve him…I never knew such things existed about King. Sure, I’m naive, here I thought King was just a writer, actor, musician, philanthropist, etc., not the topic of someone’s wild and crazy ideas.


I was reading page after page of these people who seriously think this crazy shit about King. At some point I had to make sure that I wasn’t reading a spoof. Nope. It was the real deal, Hollyfield. These people have thought about this for a long time and thanks to the Internet, they have a soapbox. Or had, hell I don’t know…for all I know they can still be peddling their insane ideas with a room full of cats.


Here’s a list of some of the conspiracy theories (Not in order from my memory). I was stunned by some of the craziness I read. And usually I don’t get stunned or surprised that much on the Internet. But by God I did this time…


1. Mind control- WTF?? Mind control? Some out there think that King puts subliminal messages in his books using his words to motivate people to do some of the crazy things he writes about.hyptnotic eyes Granted, they’re some mentally bent people out there that are suggestible, but to say King has some sort of mind control that maybe the CIA was looking into? That’s a little much…come to think of it, after my dog Lucky died when I was 14, I did have this eerie pull to go bury him in an old part of town where it was rumored that Indians had buried their dead…damn you Stephen King and your mind games!


2. The Dollar Baby Deals- Ever heard of this? Well, the Dollar Baby Deals are simply this: If you’re an aspiring film maker and want to adapt one of King’s works for the small/big screen, just send him a dollar for the rights and the finished film.dollar bill However, some crazies out there have theorized that King does this only because he feels badly because he’s stolen so much material over the decades and that the Dollar Babies is his way of setting things right. I’ll say this: Writers are often inspired by other writers, okay? That’s just natural. 


3. King Was Behind the Murder of John Lennon- This is nuts. I mean off the reservation. Supposedly, this crackpot some time after John Lennon was murdered  was sending out 24 page leaflets telling everyone his crazy accounts about who really shot and killed John Lennon. Apparently, somewhere in the book this guy wrote, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon had gotten with Stephen King and arranged the murder of Lennon.john lennon The writer (who I’m not even going to name; you want the name look it up. Pretty easy to locate) also claimed that King had written about his part in the murder throughout his books (there’s those subliminal messages again).  In later years when Stephen King was ran over and nearly killed in 1999, the same writer claimed it was some covert government group that was sent to kill King because he was about to expose not only his role in the murder, but those presidents that told him to do it…I don’t even know how to respond to this one.


4. Ghost Writer Team- There’s one conspiracy claim that he’s got a team of ghost writers who write his books. How else can one man write that much, right? Wrong. All I got to say is look at Agatha Christie; she wrote 66 novels and 14 collections in her career.ghost writers Should I even mention Ray Bradbury’s lengthy work and career?  So that “there’s no way one person can produce that much so he must have a team writing for him” is complete and utter bullshit. I mean come on…I file this one under JEALOUSY 


There’s perhaps more conspiracy theories out there but these were just a few that kind of made me laugh and wonder where our world is. Don’t get me wrong, I like to question things because in questions we find the answers. But I think sometimes people go too far. If I’m Stephen King and read these “theories”, I don’t know if I’d laugh or be afraid. 


The scary thing about all this is: These people think they’re right. They’ve spent time and energy thinking about it. Maybe King needs to write a book about this. Who am I kidding? He should pick someone off his “team of ghost writers” to do it for him because he’s probably busy with writing “mind control” passages in his books and talking with the president on who he should murder next…

Stephen King Stories You Ought to Know

“I like this story a lot; it tickles me. And the old guy’s voice is soothing. Every now and then you write something that brings back the old days, when everything you wrote seemed fresh and full of invention. “Mrs. Todd” felt that way to me when I was writing it.”-SK

Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut

This story is one of the classic stories, at least for me it is, in King’s second collection in 1985 called Skeleton Crew. The story itself was originally published in 1984 in Redbook magazine.

blue-ribbon1

Blue Ribbon Award-Winning Short Story

There’s a certain freshness to this story when you read it. Even if you’re reading King’s work in order or skipping around, when you come to this story there’s something unique about it. I know, unique is a broad word when describing King’s work sometimes. But this story is remarkable.

The story is about a woman who is obsessed with finding shortcuts and saving time. And who doesn’t like a good shortcut? But those of us that have read King know that sometimes shortcuts can lead to danger. Not here…not really.

Mrs. Todd tells Homer about these special shortcuts and how taking them cuts literally miles and time off of her trips. Doubtful of some of the tales she was telling (much because Homer knew how long some of these trips would actually take), Homer takes Mrs. Todd up on her offer to ride with her one day on a trip so she could prove to him she was truthful. 200px-SkeletonCrewHC

On the trip, Mrs. Todd takes a shortcut with Homer in tow. As they drive down the mysterious and unknown road, Homer sees things that his eyes cannot believe nor his mind comprehend. And as he sees these weird and odd things like live tress and odd creatures on either side of the old country road, he sneaks a peek at Mrs. Todd who seems to be looking younger.

Later on, Mrs. Todd turns up missing and is never found or heard from again. But Homer seems to think that he knows where she has been all these years; she’s found another shortcut that has taken her to parts unknown. And the end of the story, he’s right…

This story is about a woman finding a country road that turns into a portal of sorts between our world and the world unseen. Todash, if you will. And these “todash” places have cropped up a lot in King’s work over the years.

Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut is a great shortcut indeed- 5/5 (Certifiable Classic)

1922 Book Review

“1922 was inspired by a nonfiction book called Wisconsin Death Trip (1973) written by Michael Lesy and featuring photographs taken in the small city of Black River Falls, Wisconsin. I was impressed by the rural isolation of these photographs, and the harshness and deprivation in the faces of many of the subjects. I wanted to get that feeling in my story.”-SK

1922  is one creepy fucking story. This was the lead off story and perhaps the most engrossing of the four in Full Dark, No Stars. The story is told in first person by Wilfred James, the narrator and the man that with the help of his young son, murdered his wife and tossed her body into a well.

blue-ribbon1

Blue Ribbon Award-Winning Story

The story is a confession by James about what he had done in 1922 and how it has driven him crazy in the end. This story had several disturbing scenes for me but none tenser than when Wilfred James and his son went into his wife’s bedroom to murder her. That scene was gory and scary.

Let me not forget her corpse getting 1922out of the well and coming back into the house later on…classic King. Here’s the situational question with this story: would we kill to keep our home? Wilfred did but in the end it cost him everything.

 

1)   1922 works because King successfully places us back in time. He does this time traveling seamlessly without us even noticing that we’re back in the old days. His descriptions of vehicles of times past and farm life come off as authentic like he was there writing down his observations to give to us, the reader

2)   1922 works because of the total destruction of the James family. Not only does Wilfred not get along with his over bearing wife, he murders her and tosses her body in the family well out back. Their son eventually breaks underneath the weight of what happened to his mother and his part in it and runs away from home apparently on a robbing spree to keep he and his girlfriend going. Wilfred himself eventually breaks down along the way.

3)   1922 works because this book has some really cool and grotesque scenes in it. The part where Wilfred and his son kill Arlette in their bedroom was wickedly twisted. Also don’t forget the entire scene where she is dragged out of the house in the night and thrown down the well to hide her corpse.

4)   1922 works because one night Wilfred’s dead and rat-riddled wife escapes the well and enters into the farmhouse. She tells him the future of his life and their son’s. Turns out she was right in her prophecy from beyond the grave.

5)   1922 works because Wilfred ends up selling the house and land that he murdered his wife for. I thought that this was a huge piece of irony written by King that we find peppered throughout his work. Wilfred lost everything and for what? To be eaten by rats at the end of the story all alone in a hotel room in Omaha? Great King story.

 

1922 is a disturbing place to go- 5/5 (Certifiable Classic)

Stephen King Stories You Ought To Know

“This probably the only story in the book (Nightmares and Dreamscapes) which was written to order. John Skipp and Craig Spector came up with the idea of an anthology of stories exploring what things would be like if George Romero’s zombies from his Deadtrilogy (Night of, Dawn of, Day of) took over the world. The concept fired off in my imagination like a Roman candle, and this story, set off the coast of Maine, was the result.”-SK

Home Delivery

This short first appeared in 1989’s zombie anthology, The Book of the Dead. Later in 1993, it was collected in King’s short story collection, Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

Home Delivery is a zombie short that takes place on a small island off the coast of Maine. It’s not a long story, but it’s one of those shorts that kind of puts you right in the middle of what’s going on within the community’s problem. And that problem is a world-wide one: zombies.

This isn’t King’s first foray into the world of the reanimation. If you remember, Pet Sematary was one of King’s first dives into the zombie pool. Later came our month’s feature,Home Delivery and later in the 2000’s came his novel, Cell.

Home Delivery is a really cool situational story meaning that you get to see how the small island town is dealing  with a world-wide plague that has spawned perhaps millions of zombies across the globe targeting the living.

This story isn’t more of his popular stories or best known. But this story is creepy in parts and keeps you interested in what’s going on until the last page. Zombies and Stephen King equal a great combination.

Home Delivery delivers the goods- 3/5 (Very Good)

Bag of Bones Book Review

“I wanted to have one more book that was big, that felt like I was running the tables in terms of sales. I wanted to knock Tom Clancy out of the No. 1 spot. Like Leonardo DiCaprio, I’m king of the world, even if it’s only for two weeks, whatever. I wanted those things.”-SK on B.O.B

 

 

Book Store Totals

Released on September 22, 1998 by Scribner

First book published by Scribner

1998 Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award Winner for Novel 

1999 British Fantasy Society Award Winner for Best Novel

1999 Locus Award Winner for Dark Fantasy/Horror Novel 

This book is a great read. Plain and simple. This was King’s first book with Scribner and what a novel to lead-off with. This book has everything: Love, loss, redemption, a ghost story and a murder mystery all in one book.

Bag of Bones is more than just a ghost story or a haunted house story. It’s a story of loss, coping, self-examination, and hoping for a brighter future. You literally go through the range of emotions with Mike as you read the book, most importantly, his thoughts on what was and what is going on in his life.

When I first read this book I was young. I was 19 a few months before I turned 20. I didn’t know anything about a mid-life crisis and certainly didn’t know about losing a spouse. And when I read the book for the first time back then, I didn’t get it because of my age and life inexperience.

As most of King’s work, especially after I have gotten older and more mature in life (at 35), I’m connecting with Stephen King’s work on a higher level. And Bag of Bones is one of those books that I emotionally connected with. Not only did I connect with Mike, but sympathized with him as well. No cardboard cutouts in this novel. Most characters were the real deal.

Stephen King to me puts on a writing clinic fusing a great story with a full reaching arc that never tires. His use of ghosts, love gained and love lost and a murder mystery of long ago make this book a don’t miss.

So…Why does Bag of Bones work?

  1. Bag of Bones works because Mike Noonan is such a likable character. His life has been shattered by his wife’s death which has affected not only his mental and physical state, but his career as well. You just root for this poor guy as he tries to put his life back together. And you really hope that Mike is going to end up happy again. Mike is one of the good guys in King’s work with no flaws that make him unsympathetic. One of my favorite main characters.
  1. Bag of Bones works because it’s a great ghost story. That gets lost in this book I think because of the stuff going on with Mattie and her estranged father-in-law, the evil and decrepit Max Devore. When the story turns back to the actual haunting and why it’s going on in Sara Laughs, Mike uncovers why exactly the place is haunted and who it is doing the haunting.
  1. Bag of Bones works because of the authentic relationship that Mike forges with Mattie and Kyra. This relationship comes across on the pages as real even though Mike tries to not think of Mattie in the ways he thinks about her. He has a boyish crush on her but reminds himself of the age difference. I think the dynamic between Mike and Mattie was truly authentic as King intended it to be. Also, I think that Mike saw himself as a father to Kyra because of the connection that they had. All of that felt real to me and came alive on the pages.
  1. Bag of Bones works because at its core it’s a love story of sorts. Mike loved his wife profoundly. And for several years he couldn’t get over her untimely death. I don’t really think he ever got over Jo’s death at all. It was really a cool idea to have Jo’s ghost being at Sara Laughs with Mike helping him solve the mystery of Sara Tidwell’s death. It was good for Mike to have that connection with Jo even if it was from beyond the grave.
  1. Bag of Bones works because it plays into three different themes: A love story, a murder mystery and ghost story. It seems like a lot going on, but King managed to weave in and out of each theme seamlessly without confusing the reader. Not many writers can perform this kind of magic. But Stephen King has been doing it for years.

 

Bag of Bones rattled my bones at- 4/5 (Awesome)

Stephen King Stories You Ought To Know

One for the Road

This scary tale was first published in 1977 in the March/April issue of a  magazine called, Maine. Later on the next year this short story was collected in King’s first book of short stories, Night Shift.

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Blue Ribbon Award-Winning Short Story

One for the Road tales the story about a family that has taken a wrong turn during a snowstorm at night and wind up in a town that looks like a snowy ghost village. And that town is ‘Salem’s Lot.

Not knowing the events that had transpired in that town a few years ago, the husband decides he’s going to get out of the car and go for help leaving his wife and child safely inside the stalled and locked car. What’s the worse that could happen? Right?

When he and a bar owner and the bar owner’s friend drive through the storm back to where the man’s car was to save his the his family, the husband to his horror, finds that his family is missing. The bar owner and his friend know exactly what has happened: it must have been the vampires that are said to still roam the town at night…beware of a twist at the end.

It was good to come back to the Lot even though if it was just for a few minutes.

One for the Road goes the distance- 5/5 (Certifiable Classic)

From a Buick 8 Book Review

“I’ve had ideas fall into my lap from time to time-I suppose this is true of any writer-but From a Buick 8 was almost comically the reverse: a case of me falling into the lap of an idea.”-SK

Bookstore Totals

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Blue-Ribbon Award Winning Novel

  • Released by Scribner on Sept. 24, 2002
  • Was #1 on NY Times Best Seller list on Oct. 13, 2002
  • 2003 Horror Guild Winner for Best Novel

 

What can I say about this book? Only that I loved it! Yeah, it was a great, well-written novel by one of the best writers alive or dead. I can say for sure that I went into this book not knowing what this novel, at its core, was really about. You think it’s going to be about a haunted car or something but how wrong you’d be; how wrong I was.

Yeah, the title says it all: From a Buick 8. You know it’s going to be about a ghostly car, a 1954 Buick Roadmaster to be exact. And you already know King’s work with a car in the past. But was this going to be like Christine at all? The answer is no. This novel was waaaay better than Christine. Buick 8 had a certain texture and tone to it that made it more about the people than the car itself.

This novel is a gem hidden among all of his work, novels and shorts. It doesn’t get the fanfare that I think it deserves because casual readers of King will ask where are the scary parts? Well, it ain’t a horror novel. It does have supernatural tones, but the book achieves in making us realize that for all the questions that we have about the world we live in, they are hardly any answers if any at all. That’s what King conveyed to me at least. Sometimes there are’t any answers. It is what it is… as the kids these days say.

So why did From a Buick 8 work?

  1. Buick 8 works because King writes characters that we just can’t help but to like and identify with in some way or another. In this novel, he does it again because he lets us meet Trooper Curtis Wilcox, a rookie with the Pennsylvania State Police. When he comes in contact with the abandoned 1954 Buick Roadmaster, he becomes obsessed with it, wanting to know where it came from, what it is, and what it could do where the owner was. I think there’s a Trooper Wilcox in all of us because most of us obsess over things from time to time. Sometimes to the point of insanity. And sometimes in that pursuit of obsession we lose ourselves. The lucky ones are brought back.
  1. Buick 8 works because the car takes the backseat so to speak. The novel is more about trying to solve questions that have no answers. There’s so many questions about the car that is stowed away in Shed B at the Barracks at the PSP (Pennsylvania State Police) building. However, the tone of the book weighs heavy because it strikes a nerve with the deep readers that have asked existential questions before about certain things only to never have a real answer. Sometimes, just like in Buick 8, there is no answer. Things just are. There’s a lot of talk about fate. And King rolls fate fast and hard in this novel.
  1. Buick 8 works because the pacing of the novel King presented to us. They weren’t chapters per say but flashbacks from the past to the present concerning the car that was locked up in Shed B. I liked the way different people took to the narrating giving their slant on the overall story about the car and experiences they had.
  1. Buick 8 works because there was a distinct aura of mystery surrounding the car. It just shows up at a gas station and the driver disappears around the corner of the building never to be seen again. That’s where the story picks up because there is the plot: where in the hell does a car like that come from and why did someone (a man dressed all in black) leave it and never come back for it? Questions with no answers.
  1. Buick 8 works because it does exceed expectations. It’s one of his most philosophical novels because it dives into a broad range of emotions. I think the more emotional parts of the book were these: 1) King’s description of Trooper Wilcox being hit and killed on the side of the road by a drunk driver (The same man that found the Buick at the gas station where he worked in 1979) 2) At the end of the book where Ned is a trooper just like his old man, still watching over the Buick Roadmaster locked up in Shed B just like his father before him had. Talk about the use of fate…

 

From a Buick 8 roars in at-5/5 (Certifiable Classic)

Stephen King Stories You Ought To Know

The Man in the Black Suit


“This story is proof that writers are often the WORST judges of what they have written.”- SK

The Man in the Black Suit is an award winning (World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction, 1995–O.Henry Award for Best Short Fiction in 1996) short story that was originally published in 1994 in The New Yorker magazine and later collected in King’s 2002 collection of shorts,Everything’s Eventual.

The story came to Stephen King when a friend of his told the story about how his grandfather had a run-in with what he described as the Devil himself while walking around in the woods one day.

This story is told as a recollection of a much older Gary narrating the tale about the day he escaped the devil down by the fishing stream when he was 9-years-old.

One day, Gary goes fishing at a nearby stream for trout and falls asleep there on the bank. When he wakes up he discovers a man in a black three piece suit with skin like milk and claw like fingers with sharp, pointy teeth and eyes red as fire standing there before him. Along with this frightening imagery of the man, Gary could smell burnt matches in his presence.

As the man in the black suit stands there, he begins to talk to young Gary telling him all kinds of scary shit about his mother being killed by a bee sting while he’s been away fishing, his dad eventually molesting him later on in the future and that he, the man in the black suit, was going to eat him whole there in the woods. Gary manages to get away from the man in the black suit and heads for home.

This is a must read…

The Man in the Black Suit rocks-5/5 (Certifiable Classic)