Tag Archive: stephen king


Best-Horror-of-the-Year

Audiobook review “The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 4”

Edited by Ellen Datlow

Read by Various Readers

Published by Blackstone Audio

Approx. 17 hours

Always the fan of horror and always the fan of short stories this book was a must read for me. When I saw the title, “The Best Horror of the Year…” my first question was what year? Seeing that the hardcover version was published in 2012, I looked further and discovered this was the best of 2011. Being a bit cynical I thought, we’ll have to see about that.

Well, the cynicism went away right at the first story. Each story in this collection represented a different point in the horror genre of fiction from mysterious faith-healers to monsters that live underground and sense vibrations of their prey to two spies trying to capture a Lovecraftian villain and more. This collection will introduce you to some new horror story telling and allow you to revisit some of your favorite storytellers.

Each story was read by a different narrator creating the fun from each of their own vocal talents. The editors matched perfectly each story to a different voice, not only allowing the difference from a male or female point of view, but also the tone of the stories match the vocal tones of the readers. The narrators includes Lindy Nettleton, Charles Carroll, Shaun Grindell, Angela Brazil, and Fred Sullivan

I will briefly describe a few of my favorite stories from this collection, in no particular order.

“The Little Green God of Agony,” by Stephen King opens the book with a story of a rich man seeking to live forever, pain-free without the grueling physical rehab. Hearing of a faith healer that has a history of positive results the man uses his influences to bring in the faith-healer, not all of the man’s staff hold the same faith. He summons the Rev. Rideout to his bedside. Rideout is no mere faith healer. He doesn’t heal, “I expel.” He casts out the demon god that feeds on hurt.

“Blackwood’s Baby,” takes place in rural Washington state, This story tracks a 1930s expedition of diverse hunters seeking a beast of legend more dangerous than any of them anticipate.

In John Langan’s “In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos,” two government agents try to prove themselves when they’re hired to grab a “Mr. White,” who may not be a human. Mixing spy thriller with a touch of Lovecraft this story has a great creepiness factor.

“The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub is a bit of a surreal journey down a river on a luxury yacht where Ballard and Sandrine could live comfortably as long as they don’t ask questions. But as is human nature the couple investigate their surroundings if only to find where their food comes from. Everytime they gain new information it seems to be lost, forgotten or clouded by the next interlude.

“The Moraine” has a feuding couple lost on a mountain in a whiteout fog with a monster. The monster in this story mixes the monsters from “Tremors,” “The Ruins” and “The Mist.” This is a good old-fashioned monster story that could have been a drive-in movie theater hit if made into a movie.

In my favorite story out of the group, A.C. Wise’s “Final Girl Theory,” “‘Kaleidoscope’ isn’t a movie, it’s an infection, whispered from mouth to mouth in the dark.” A cult movie is the basis for an underground following that leads one fan to seek out the leading lady in the film.

A great collection of different horror stories with a great collection of narrators makes this audiobook one to grab.

joyland

Audiobook Review: “Joyland”

By Stephen King

Read by Michael Kelly

Published by AudioWorks / Simon & Schuster

Running time: Approx 7.5 hours

 

So, all I knew was that Stephen King had a new book out.  I have been a fan of King’s ever since his book “Christine” came out back in 1983.  That was the first Stephen King novel I read, and I was hooked ever since.  I have read every book published and as soon as a new one  comes out I HAVE to have it.  Anymore I don’t bother reading what the book is about I just read it, or in this case, listen to it.

 

Looking back at the wide variety of Stephen King books you never really know what you are getting into.  Sometimes it is a murder mystery, sometimes a fantasy about dragons, or an alternate world.  King is known as the master of horror and that could lead to a really nice horror novel.  Putting together clues from the cover of the book I deduced that this book must be some sort of murder mystery.

 

The book cover features a picture which closely resembles the art work on the covers from the Pulp-fiction / Crime Drama magazines from the middle of the 20th century.  The book was originally published in paperback through “Hard Case Crime” which is an American imprint of hardboiled crime novels, just like the novel “The Colorado Kid.”  So putting these together I deduced that it was going to be a crime novel that features that extra Stephen King twist, and it was.

 

Before I talk more about the book I have to praise Michael Kelly on his narration of the book.  The book is presented as a first person point of view.  That point of view comes from Devin Jones, a University of New Hampshire student who takes a summer job at Joyland in 1973.  Michael Kelly perfectly captures the mood and psyche of Devin Jones as he starts out at the amusement park as a greenie and eventually attempts to solve a murder and brightens the life of a dying child.  Kelly’s voice fits the voice of Devin Jones like a glove and makes this character come to life in this audiobook version.

 

As I stated, Devin Jones takes on a summer job at Joyland amusement park in North Carolina working with the “carnies” and “wearing the fur” Joyland talk for portraying Howie the Happy Hound, Joyland’s mascot.   Devin soon learns of the local urban legend of the ghost in the haunted haunted house in Joyland.  A few years past a young girl was murdered in the horror house and the killer was never caught.  Every so often the ghost of the girl appears to someone in the park.

 

Devin also learns from the park’s fortune teller that he will meet two children that summer. One is a girl with a red hat. The other is a boy with a dog. One of them has The Sight.  So with a little bit of “The Shining” mixed in with a little bit of “The Colorado Kid,” Stephen King weaves a tale of murder, mystery and psychic powers in a way that only he can tell a story.  This is a coming of age, human interest, horror, murder mystery that will have you laughing, crying and leaving the lights on at night.

 

True Hideaway Geeks podcast Episode 4.

True Hideaway Geeks podcast Episode 4

 • June 14th, 2012

This week Gil T. and Shawn discuss the latest comics, Stephen King’s new Dark Tower book, Magic the Gathering Deck building, video games and most importantly how you can enter for a chance to win the complete set of the “Hater” Trilogy by David Moody, which includes the books; “Hater,” “Dog Blood,” and “Them or Us”.

“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.

“11/22/63” by Stephen King

“11/22/63”
by Stephen King
Published by Scribner (2011)
849 pages

If I remember right, “Christine” was the very first Stephen King book I read, and since then I have read every book published by Mr. King. The King of Horror is my go to man when it comes to wanting something to read and not sure what I want to put my hands on. He has never let me down and always creates a story that is not only intriguing but can envelop the reader completely. I have read every thing he has written to date, and when he announced he was retiring, I desperately sought out other similar authors; Dean Koontz and Clive Barker were a couple, but none seemed to grab me as much as Stephen King. I have other favorite authors, but Stephen King will always be my utmost favorite. So with that in mind, understand I enjoy every Stephen King book and don’t think I could give them a bad review if I tried. This one is no different.

A lot of critics say he gets too wordy, but I think that is what I enjoy in a Stephen King novel, the expansion of the main story into something else entirely and eventually he will bring you back to the main idea that started the story in the first place. This book is exactly that. The main premise is that there is a portal that goes back to September, 1958, and when you return it is only as if two minutes have passed, no matter how long you stay in the past. So with that as the main part of the story and the title of the book “11/22/63,” you know someone is going back in time to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Again, this is a Stephen King book and the development of a story doesn’t stop with that idea. There are whole lives involved and whoever goes back to the past has to live in the past for five years before the event happens, so now the story really unfolds.

Basically 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. In the beginning of the story he receives an essay from one of the students, which is a true Stephen King 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 a mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

It seems Al has tried this but the past is obdurate and does everything it can to prevent the future from being altered. Al has been diagnosed with cancer and is about to die. Jake is the only one that can change the past to make the future better. Before he does something as drastic as preventing Kennedy’s assassination, Jake decides to first try and save Harry Dunning’s family from his murderous father. While the past does try to keep Jake from changing the outcome, he manages, barely, to save all but one member of the family. When he returns to the present he sees that it can be done but that there are consequences.

One other thing, each time someone goes back through the portal to 1958, the past/future resets. So Jake must save several people on the second time round and eventually move to Texas and get ready for the big mission. Here’s where the story gets involved and becomes more than just a time travel novel. Jake, Now George Amberson, has taken up teaching in a small town while he stalks Lee Harvey Oswald, to confirm he is the one and only shooter and to plan on how to stop Oswald before the deed is done.

During this time Jake/George, falls in love, finds his life is teaching and that he loves helping out the students, but all the while Oswald lurks near and must be stopped.

So while enjoying a story of a man out of time thoroughly getting lost in life, the time travel aspect keeps coming up, especially the mention of the “butterfly-effect,” and how much of the future is changed by his simple interactions with people and especially students. This effect is made even more prominent when near the end of the book he returns to his own time, only it is not his time anymore.

Can this simple (really not that simple) plan of saving one of history’s favorite Presidents be a good thing or a bad thing. In writing this story King not only relied on his gift of an elaborate imagination, but he also had many discussions with historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin and actually has a fully thought out and debated plan for the future with Kennedy surviving, which may surprise you.

All around this is a fun book and yet another Stephen King book that provides one more answer to the What If question.

“Full Dark, No Stars”
by Stephen King
Read by Craig Wasson and Jessica Hecht
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio (2010)
Approx 15 hours

Okay, off the top here I’ve gotta admit, I’m a HUGE Stephen King fan, I would read a grocery list if he wrote it.  That’s the big reason I picked up this audiobook.  Stephen King is the master of horror, and can always bring me to dark places and allow me to leave unscathed.  This collection of novellas was no different.  In fact this collection will take the reader/listener to some pretty dark places, but you will come out ok, trust me.

“Full Dark, No Stars” is a collection of four novellas  dealing with the theme of retribution.  In all cases someone gets retribution, in one case I’m not so sure if the retribution was steered toward the rightful person but it was there.  This collection also explores the human psyche in its darkest corners.   King always asks the question “What if..?” and can create some startling stories.  Sometimes in King’s novels the what if may be “What if an alien landed? What if a giant spider/clown thing lived underground and fed on children?”  This time around, however, he takes on a trek through some dark realities; What if you were married to a serial killer?  What if you dumped your wife down the well?  What if you escaped a serial killer? What if you could be cured of cancer?

The four novellas are tell of murders of some sort, two of which from a male point of view and two from a female point of view.  This is why there are two different narrators, one male and one female, both do a superb job of presenting these dark stories.  I think Craig Wasson shines best in his presentation of the first story “1922,”  he creates the down home feel in his vocal presentation, making it sound as if we are listening to Wilfred James actually talk out his confession.

Now, let’s talk a bit about the four stories:

“1922”
Wilfred James, the story’s narrator, writes a lengthy confession for the murder of his wife, Arlette, in Hemingford Home, Nebraska, in 1922.  (King fans will recognize the town as being the center of the psychic magnet for the “good guys” in “The Stand.”)  Wilfred owns 80 acres of farmland that have been in his family for generations. His wife owns an adjoining 100 acres willed to her by her father. Wilfred loves his farm and scorns the thought of living in a city, but Arlette is hates the farm life and wants to move to Omaha, (Insert “Green Acres” theme song here.) She wants to sell her land to a livestock company for use as a pig farm and slaughterhouse. But if she does so,  Wilfred’s farm will smell like pig shit and the water will become disgusting, as he lives downstream from it. Arlette wants Wilf to sell his land to the farmers as well so they can all move to Omaha, while Wilf wants her to use the land to farm crops. They cannot agree, so Arlette decides to sell her land, divorce Wilf, and move to Omaha herself. Wilfred, who is very attached to his land, can’t stand to have it be laid to waste in this way, and manipulates his reluctant 14-year-old son, Henry/Hank, into helping him murder his own mother, by convincing him of how awful and selfish she is, and how terrible their life in Omaha will be, particularly since it will take Henry away from the girl he likes.

They do the deed and then dump her body down the well, at first this seems like the deed is done, but soon the rats come.  The rats used to live in the well and seem to have become Arlette’s minions.  Haunting and torturing Wilf and his cattle.  To top it off Hank gets a neighbor girl pregnant and soon his doom is unveiled.  Wilf does not come out on top like he hoped and the rats follow him everywhere.

“Big Driver”
I’ve always heard that when you write for a living write about what you know best, I’ve noticed King takes this to heart in that a lot of his main characters are writers, this story is about yet another writer.  Tess is a successful mystery writer who appears at a speaking engagement for the group Books & Brownbaggers at the Chicopee Public Library in Chicopee, Massachusetts. After the event, the head librarian, Ramona Norville, who had invited Tess to the library for the event, tells Tess to avoid Interstate 84, which she believes to be dangerous. Instead, she gives Tess the directions to Stagg Road, a presumably safer shortcut to Tess’ home in Connecticut.  However, as Tess takes the shortcut, her Ford Expedition rolls over pieces of wood with nails that lie across the road, giving her a flat tire. The place where the incident happens is by an abandoned store/gas station.

Shortly afterwards, an enormous man in a pickup drives by and offers to assist Tess. However, when Tess looks in the truck’s bed and notices pieces of wood similar to those that punched out her tires, the hulking man knocks her out. She returns to consciousness as the man is raping her inside the abandoned store. This begins a horrific ordeal in which Tess is repeatedly assaulted, both sexually and physically, finally being choked to unconsciousness. Tess plays dead while the man dumps her into a culvert, where she sees the rotting corpses of several previous victims, indicating that she has encountered a serial killer.  Tess manages to find her way home but is a changed person and seeks revenge.  King says he got the idea for this story while going to a book signing himself and stopping at a rest stop and seeing a woman with a flat tire getting help from a friendly truck driver.  Of course, King turns this into a darker story with a darker ending than what probably happened with the good samaritan at the rest stop.

“Fair Extension”
On his way home, Dave Streeter sees a man with a roadside stand by the road to the Derry airport (here King brings back the town of Derry, Maine, which has gone through all sorts of different hells). Street goes out and talks with the man, George Elvid, who tells Streeter that he sells extensions of various types. Streeter, who is dying of lung cancer, thinks Elvid might be a mental patient escapee after he claims to have existed for centuries. Elvid offers Streeter a chance to live for approximately 15 years if he pays 15 percent of his salary for every one of those years… and transfers the “weight” of his misfortune onto someone he knows, but not just someone he knows, it has to be someone he hates.

Streeter selects Tom Goodhugh, his best friend since childhood, whom he has secretly hated for years. Streeter has done everything for Goodhugh, including doing his homework. Later, Goodhugh stole Streeter’s girlfriend in college and married her. Goodhugh founded a successful million-dollar waste removal business with Streeter’s assistance and now lives a lavish lifestyle, has three children on the fast track to great lives, and doesn’t look like age has caught up with him, unlike Streeter.

A couple of days later, Streeter goes to his doctor, who tells him his tumors are shrinking. Four months later, Streeter is declared cancer-free, which perplexes his doctor. The good luck continues in subsequent years, as Streeter is promoted several times at work and his marriage becomes joyous and rich with lavish lifestyle improvements. His children begin a long line of career successes: his son creates two bestselling video games and his daughter gets her dream job as a journalist at the Boston Globe right out of college after graduating from the Columbia School of Journalism.

At the same time, Goodhugh’s wife develops breast cancer, one son has a heart attack and lives but suffers brain damage, his daughter’s husband dies, she gives birth to a stillborn baby (due to same heart defect that caused the heart attack in his other son).  Streeter wins a longer life but at what cost.

“A Good Marriage”
Darcy Anderson has been married to Bob, a partner at a Portland, Maine accounting firm, for 27 years. They have two children, Donnie and Petra, who have left home for college. They also have a mail order business selling and appraising rare coins. But one night, while Bob is away on a business trip, Darcy goes into the garage to search for batteries. When she rummages through Bob’s belongings, she stumbles across a pornographic magazine showing images of sadomasochism. Unnerved by the magazine—and the fact that it is in Bob’s possession—Darcy finds a secret compartment behind the garage’s baseboard and makes a more horrific discovery: a small box containing the ID cards of Marjorie Duvall, a victim of a serial killer called “Beadie.”  Once Darcy has discovered this and then she researches and finds that all of Bob’s out of town trips correspond to other murders by “Beadie.”  What will Darcy do with this information?  If she tells the cops what will the neighbors think?  She and her children’s reputations will be ruined, after all, how could she be married to him and not know?  What she does may surprise even the most avid fan of King’s work.  Stephen King wrote this after hearing the news reports of the “BTK” murderer caught in Kansas a few years back, and his exploration of how the wife of BTK could not know is what makes this story so realistic.

Definitely a good dive into the dark side from Stephen King.

“UR” by Stephen King

“UR”
by Stephen King
Read by Holter Graham
Produced by Simon & Schuster Audio, 2010
approx 2 hours

It is  a running joke that Stephen King can take any inanimate object and turn into a vassal of evil, and in this short story King seems to perpetuate that bit of humor.  In the past he’s had a possessed car, lawnmowers, household appliances, and more, now King has turned the latest form of literature, the e-book, or more specifically Amazon’s Kindle, into a bringer of evil.

Stephen King wrote this story specifically for the Amazon Kindle e-reader and was previously only available as a Kindle download, now Simon and Schuster have released the book in audiobook form.  Being a huge King fan, I almost bought a Kindle just to have this story but I’m still a hold out for buying an e-reader.  So, when it came out in audiobook form I jumped at the chance to listen.

Holter Graham does a great job performing the book.  He captures the eeriness in the story and does a great job voicing the different characters.  His voice is very captivating and keeps the listener in the story.  In a very interesting not, Holter Graham is not a stranger to King’s work, he starred in the film “Maximum Overdrive”  which was written and directed by Stephen King.  Graham played the kid, Deke.

In “UR,” a Midwestern English instructor, Wesley Smith, has recently broken up with his girlfriend and is haunted by her parting shot, “Why can’t you just read off the computer like everyone else?”  In trying to create an atmosphere that could lead to reuniting with his girlfriend, the coach for the college’s ladies basketball team, Wes logs on to his Amazon account and orders a Kindle.  The Kindle arrives the next day via “One Day Delivery” which Wes did not request.  The other odd thing is that the Kindle comes out of the box with no instructions and is pink in color (at the time the Kindle only came in white).

Once Wes powers up the Kindle he finds a menu for UR functions.   The UR functions seem to be various alternate realities.  At this point, King does one of the things I love about his books and stories, he ties in this story to his Dark Tower Mythos.  Each reality is a different level in the tower.  In one reality Wes and colleagues discover that the Bay of Pigs conflict led to nuclear annihilation of the Earth.   Wes’ colleagues are another English teacher and a student.

Wes decides to look at UR Local, which is stated to be under construction.  UR Local will only download local papers from future dates and is governed by Paradox Laws which are enforced by the “low men in yellow coats” (remember “Hearts in Atlantis”?).   When Wes and his student explore this function they discover that the Lady’s Basketball team is involved in a tragic accident with a drunk driver.  Can they stop this drunk driver? Can they avoid the low men?  You’ll have to find out for yourself.

As to purchasing a Kindle…well I’m still undecided…probably so, as long as it’s not pink.

“Blockade Billy”
By Stephen King
Published 2010
by Cemetery Dance Publications
144 pages

As many fans know, Stephen King is a baseball fan,  especially of the Boston Red Sox, having written the book “Faithful…” chronicling the Red Sox’ 2004 season.  This time around King has mixed his passion of baseball with his talent for writing chilling stories.  “Blockade Billy” takes a fictional baseball team that could have been contenders for the series if not for the dark tale of their strange catcher,  William “Blockade Billy” Blakely.

This story goes back to the golden age of baseball and tells the struggling tale of the New Jersey Titans.  The 1950s was a decade of real baseball heroes and Blockade Billy was on the road to become one of those heroes.  The Titans seemed to have problems with their catchers during spring training.  The star catcher was arrested for killing a woman due to drunk driving and another was severely injured while taking a collision to put a man out at home.  The Titans send out to their farm team to find someone to at least start their season, until a replacement can be found.

Turns out that replacement is sent to them from Iowa.  “Blockade Billy” gets his name during his short stint in the big leagues because the road to home was closed due to his blockade style.  Billy was also a great hitter so the package deal came in with this young farm boy.  During one exciting play at the plate a player gets cut and while nothing can be pinned on Billy the equipment manager has his concerns.

King mixes in some of the notable players at that time to make this story seem true and the constant reference to how the record of the team being erased from the books due the dark history behind Billy makes you want to look up the player roster for the New Jersey Titans.  In fact the early publications of the hardcover of this book came with a promotional baseball card depicting “Blockade Billy.”  The story is told in a way that seems as if King were sitting in a home interviewing the old equipment manager and he is reliving the memories.

This book also comes with a second story, “Morality.”  This second story is that of a struggling young couple, barely able to pay their bills get an indecent proposal of sorts.  The wife is a nurse that has taken on a job of taking care of a pastor after he as suffered a stroke.  The husband is trying to bring in money by taking on substitute teaching jobs while trying to write a book.

The pastor is about to die and says to the wife that if she were to help him commit one sin he would pay her over $200,000.  This money would allow them to move to a better home and allow the husband to finish the book.  Is the 2 hundred grand worth the cost?  I won’t tell you the sin, but I will tell you it changes the young couple forever.

Two great stories from a master of suspense.  Enjoy.

“Under the Dome: A Novel”
by Stephen King
Published 2009 by Scribner

When it comes to horror Stephen King is the master, but he doesn’t always write about horror, sometimes Stephen King writes about the human condition and how human beings treat other human beings, and when looked at under the Stephen King magnifying glass that can be pretty horrific.

When I first picked up this huge book, I thought, “When am I going to find the time to read a 1,500+ page book?”  Well, I did find the time and am I glad I did.  During the reading of this book I felt as though I were hovering above the microcosm of the town of Chester’s Mill, Maine and observing the trapped insects within.  Stephen King has taken the faithful reader on many adventures which are epic sagas, for example;  “The Stand,” The Dark Tower series, “The Shining,” “It,” and others.  These books not only tell a story but they tell a story on a grand scale that would astonish Tolkien or Herbert.  “Under the Dome” definitely falls into this grand scale, not only because of the length of 1,500+ pages, but because of the depth the reader gets to know the characters involved.

The premise of the story is pretty much, “What would happen if all of a sudden a town was covered in a dome?”  The answer to that is, “It depends on who lives in that town.”  That’s what happens to the small town of Chester’s Mill.  A dome of unknown material and origin surrounds and covers the town all of a sudden on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  Being a typical Stephen King novel the initial affects are pretty gruesome; a woodchuck gets sliced in half with one side on the dome and one on the other, a plane flying in the dome hits the dome itself, crashes, and sends body parts flying, a woman gardening at the edge of where the dome materializes gets her hands cut off, and many birds flying nonchalantly smash into the dome and die.  All of this within the first 50 pages!

What happens next is where the true epoch begins.  The U.S. government tries to bust the dome from the outside with missiles and learns the strange phenomenon is impermeable.  Inside the dome is a former soldier, Dale Barbara, who after Afghanistan wants to simply blend in and not be noticed.  But the President jumps him up to Colonel and says he’s in charge until the threat is gone.

The problem with that is a greedy politician and religious zealot, “Big Jim” Renfield.  Rennie, to his friends, is the second selectman in this town and uses the dome to try and become a dictator.  The issue with Big Jim is that he has also used the town, his church and the local Christian radio station to become the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of meth-amphetamine.  He was under investigation by the state’s attorney general and the local sheriff but since the dome happened he sees himself as exonerated and in charge.

Rennie soon starts recruiting the town’s bullies as police officers and declares his own form of Marshall law.  He closes down the grocery stores, ceases all sales of liquor and even starts a food riot to show how he knows best. Rennie sees Barbara as a threat to his power and soon pins 4 murders (which were committed by Rennie and his son) on now Colonel Barbara and arrests him.  Rennie then begins to brainwash the public into thinking the government sent Barbara into the town to create the dome and conduct an experiment on the little town.

This book takes the reader in depth into the struggle for power and shows just how corruptible people can be.  I will admit that the explanation of the dome’s creation lacks a little umph but that is not really the main ideal behind the story so I’ll let that one slide, although it did seem a bit of a juvenile way to end the book.  No matter how it ends, the total consumption of this book is a great adventure.

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