“The Wind Through the Keyhole” by Stephen King 

“The Wind Through the Keyhole”
Written and Read by Stephen King
Published by Simon and Schuster
Approx 10.5 hours

I thought I heard a few years ago that Stephen King was retiring. I also heard he wrote his last “Dark Tower” novel. I’m so glad he didn’t really retire, or maybe he just found that he had more stories to tell, either way, I love me some Stephen King. I’ve been a fan since way back and made it a point to read every published book by him and so far so good. Now all I have to do is keep up with his retirement.

This latest book from the master storyteller runs in the “Dark Tower” series. For those of you who know and probably love this series, as I do, and are curious about the continuity of this installment, it fits in between “The Wizard and Glass” and “Wolves of the Calla” books, or books four and five. The neat thing about this book is that it is a story within a story within a story, let me explain; basically Roland, Eddie, Susanna, Jake and Oy have just left the Emerald City and are on their way on the path of the beam to the Dark Tower. They come to a river and as they are crossing on a ferry, the ferryman and the Billy Bumbler, Oy, alert the Ka-tet (in the Dark Tower world a Ka-tet is a group travelling with common goals, usually of spiritual nature) of an oncoming Starkblast is coming. A Starkblast is a severe storm that not only brings with it high winds but freezing temperatures that can kill any living creature not in shelter. The ferryman tells the Ka-tet they can seek shelter in the common house of an abandoned town but they have to hurry.

They arrive in the town and are in the middle of securing the common house when the Starkblast hits. While holed up in the building, Roland tells a story of his past at the request of Jake and the others when they discover they cannot sleep. Roland’s story is one when he was just a beginning gunslinger and when his father sends Roland and another young gunslinger, Jamie, to a town that is being terrorized by a “Skin-man,” an apparent shape shifter who transforms into various animals at night and embarking on murderous rampages. As they spend the night in the town the Skin-man strikes, this time there is a survivor, a young boy named Bill, who witnessed the Skin-man viciously attacking and killing all the residents of a local farm, including his own father. Roland hypnotizes Bill to find some evidence that the frightened boy may have witnessed but is to terror-struck to remember. A clue is found and the deputies along with Jamie, the gunslinger go to round up a group of suspects that will be used as a line-up for Bill to identify. As they are waiting on the suspects Roland tells the young boy a story to help ease his fears.

The story Roland tells is the Legend of Tim Trueheart from Roland’s childhood. A story Roland’s mother used to tell him. This story is a mix of a morality tale with a typical Stephen King Dark Tower story. 11-year-old Tim’s father was what could be called a lumberjack, his specialty was the ironwood which grew in the area and was a strong wood. Tim’s father is said to have been killed by a dragon, and after his father’s death, his father’s friend Bern Kells tricks Tim’s mother into marrying him. Bern has had a problem with the drink, but swears he no longer drinks. After the wedding it is discovered his sobriety is a lie and when he drinks he beats on Tim’s mom. When the covenant man comes to collect taxes, the mysterious man in black gives Tim a key that opens Bern’s trunk. In the trunk Tim discover’s his dad’s lucky coin which was said to have been burned by the dragon. Tim runs into the woods and meets with the dark man to find out more. Once there the man in black shows through magic Bern beating Tim’s mom after discovering the trunk has been opened. His mother is blinded by the beating and Tim now must travel along the path of the beam to find a cure for his mom. The cure is held by Maerlin.

Each of the stories come to a close and once complete it is as though the reader/listener has gone through three separate novels. The story-telling ability of Stephen King hits an all-time high with this story that visits the strange world of the Dark Tower stories. The one thing I love about the Dark Tower stories is that they mix up olden times, times of magic, today and future times all in one smooth blending of worlds. King’s imagination is kicked into high gear with this book as he is able to blend all these worlds and deliver a story that you can’t stop reading or listening to until the very end.

Combining, dragons, gunslingers, magic, legends, fairies, shapeshifters and strange creatures Stephen King tells a fantasy story that could only fit in his Dark Tower world.

As an added bonus this audiobook is read by Stephen King, himself. At first I was a bit wary of the author doing the audio version. I’ve heard some author read audiobooks, and while the author may know the material to be read, and can add some insight through the vocalizations, they are rarely actors and able to portray the audiobook in a lively fashion. I am such a die-hard Stephen King fan that I was determined not to let this bother me. After listening for only a few seconds, I knew this was going to be fun. Stephen King not only acted out vocally the parts but he was even able to change-up his voice giving some very nice vocal characterizations that usually only able to be performed by the best audiobook readers. I guess I should have remembered that he did do cameos in all of the films made of his books and he did play Jordy Verrill in “Creepshow.” So yeah, King not only pulls it off, but he puts himself up there with all the professional audiobook readers.