Thursday, October 18, 2012


Originally published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman
December 1976

Rage is the only Stephen King story not currently in print.  After a series of "copycat" incidents, SK and the publisher agreed it would be best to no longer keep this story accessible. It was originally released under The Bachman Books. A collection of four novels penned by SK under his pseudonym Richard Bachman.  
The story centers around Charlie Decker. A loner, and frankly, miserable High School student. He is an outcast at school (due to a recent issue of violence against a teacher) and hates his home life. He has a volatile, at best, relationship with his father. And to cap off his banner life, he is about to be expelled from school. So, he decides to take the "system" into his own hands one day.  He shoots two teachers and takes the students of a classroom hostage. In the time that follows, while police are trying to gain control of Charlie and the situation, an interesting shift in the story takes place. The students being held hostage start to understand why Charlie is doing this. They start to sympathize with Charlie in an odd sort of Stockholm Syndrome scenario? The climax of the story is when the students being held hostage, gang up on one of the other students to demonstrate how he needs to learn the lesson Charlie is trying to portray with his act of terrorism. They attack the other student so severely he is left catatonic.

I wish I could remember my original thoughts on this story. I can't remember the first time I read it for the life of me.  Knowing me, I loved it.  Now, I am jaded by being a parent.  I hated it. I couldn't understand Charlie. He is quite unlikable as a character in general.  It is impossible to gain any sympathy for him as he seems to not have any care or remorse for what he is doing.  Maybe my opinion is altered because I worry on a daily basis that my kids may inadvertently piss of the wrong kid and pay for it later. Or, God forbid, they head down a path of angst and become this angry bitter person who feels they need to get back at the world.  Crazy? Knowing my kids now it would seem so, but that doesn't mean it may not happen and I don't worry about it.

The ending, of the class attacking a fellow student to teach a lesson, is horrifying. But maybe that is the point? That we all have a terrible evil side to us? Some of us can control it, while others cannot like Charlie.  Maybe the point of this story is the fact I am NOT supposed to like it. It is far from pretty, that is for sure. It is scarier than any "monster" SK can dream up because this CAN happen and has! I can understand why the publishers and SK decided to stop printing it. As an author, I wouldn't be able to sleep knowing my work may be the influence for something like this happening  But is that right? No author can claim responsibility for how someone interprets their work, and even self censorship is still censorship. I can think of three or four books off hand right now, that have been published since with a similar plot. Why does one resonate with those troubled souls while others do not?

I didn't like rereading this story. It hits too close to home now. I didn't like seeing how all the students sort of "followed pack" and ganged up on the lone hold-out. I also think SK may be a genius. I think I am taking from the story exactly what he wanted his readers to feel.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Welcome to SALEM'S LOT

Salem's Lot
Originally published October 1975

Welcome to Jerusalem's Lot (Salem's Lot for short). A sleepy, quiet, run down town. Some may even say a dead town.  A town where the biggest excitement in memory is a fire that overtook the town years ago.  Well...isn't that about to change.

As we begin Salem's Lot we are introduced to Ben Mears, a writer and native of Salem's Lot.  We learn fairly quickly that Ben has some "interesting" memories of his childhood.  He's come back to Salem's Lot to face his childhood fears and write a novel he hopes will put him in the big time. In typical SK fashion, we are introduced to a plethora of characters right off the bat (so many in fact, you may find yourself thinking "Who is this person again?" as you read).  It becomes very apparent as the story progresses, that one of the main characters introduced is an actual house. The Marsten House. It sits high above town almost staring down on the residents.  It is this house that played a central role in Ben's childhood trauma. Ben returns to try to face what he saw at the house as a child (while sneaking into the house on a dare) only to find the house has been rented out. Who are the mysterious new residents who bought the house? We'll soon find out.

The interesting thing with Salem's Lot is that you spend the entire first half of the book sort of meandering along.  We don't quite know where the story is going, and only get small clues and snippets as to where SK will be taking us. That is where I start to fall in love with this book.  Think of all the folklore you've heard or learned about Vampires. SK uses all those superstitions to hint at the shitstorm he is about to deal us. But more on that in a minute.

Though they are brief, readers start to get glimpses of the "men" who purchased the Marsten House- Straker and Barlow. It becomes pretty clear early on that there is something odd about these new residents of Salem's Lot. We are given pictures of them "introducing" themselves to the residents of the town. Just what is wrong with Barlow? So charismatic and handsome but.....  In addition, we learn more about the Marsten House in that it seems to welcome evil and bad things. Coincidence? I think not. We also meet some other wonderful characters. One being the child Mark Petrie. We'll see through many different novels, SK puts much faith in his child characters. Mark Petrie being no exception!

Let's get back to our "superstitions" and see where they lead us. Many of these are mentioned in SOME form and left sitting for the reader to guess the implication
1. Avoidance of light.
2. Excessive daytime sleepiness and draining of energy.
3. Pale complexion
4. Bewitching of people's minds to make them under your control.
5. Having to "invite" someone into your house.
6. Wearing a cross around a neck
7. Garlic
There are many more mentioned in the book, but a clear picture is painted of the trouble that has come to Salem's Lot. Vampires! Once this revelation is fully spelled out, well, the train wreck has left the station! There is basically no stopping the chain of events  and the transformation of this little town into a town of the undead!

It is at this point in the book, that things take another shift and we enter into one of my favorite themes that SK will continue to write about in multiple books. SK can try to complicate the plot with the side stories of families and loved ones, but ultimately Salem's Lot boils down to an old fashioned Good vs. Evil novel.  It is at this point in the book we are introduced to Fr. Callahan, the local priest who is flawed in his own ways.  Through Fr. Callahan the reader is taken on a journey of faith. Can a man of the cloth have enough faith in his religion to battle an ultimate form of evil. Or will his faith waiver and allow evil to conquer? During one conflict between Barlow and Fr. Callahan, Barlow taunts the priest with
Then will you throw away your cross and face me on even terms- black against white?
It is an interesting turn of events on how Fr. Callahan's story progresses. He faces off against Barlow yet doesn't win! Rather than rebuild his courage and try again, he tucks his tail between his legs and hightails it out of town. So much for the faith of the church.  It will be shown, that the faith of a child, is a completely different story. Ben teams up with Mark Petrie to take on, well, the town! Again, I cannot stress how wonderful SK creates his characters who are children. They have hearts of adults and intelligence! A strong faith in "it has to work or else" is all it takes for these two to face the most horrible things imaginable.  It is a wonderfully climatic ending and showdown for our "heroes" who face Barlow.

Overall, just a fantastic story. The plot is amazing. Though the novel starts off with a slow build, the climax (which is really the entire second half of the book) keeps you on the edge of your seat and wanting more.  The scenes that are painted through SK's writing leave you feeling as if you are within the story.  It is hard to imagine that this is just his second novel.  There are great things to come!

Salem's Lot movie:
I know I mentioned I would comment on the movies when they applied. Salem's Lot was made into a movie but it has been so long since I have seen it I don't feel like I can make any honest remarks about it.
I do remember being scared by the scene when Ralphie Glick comes to try to visit Mark Petrie and get him to let him into his room.  Well done. Other than that- I got nothing. Clearly it is time for a rewatching.

Monday, October 1, 2012



Originally published April 1974

Carrie was Stephen King's first novel. Well, first published novel.  He wrote three manuscripts prior to Carrie that were rejected (oh the horror!- pun intended). For those who don't delve into all the little bits of information on SK, he originally threw Carrie away thinking it crap.  Stephen's wife, Tabitha, dug it out of the trash and told him to finish it. Thank you, Tabitha! Carrie then went on to become the book that put Stephen King on the map. 

Most people will describe Carrie as a coming of age story about a high school girl named Carrie White, who realizes she has Telekinesis power and eventually goes batshit crazy on her classmates and town. The end.  Sound good? Intriguing? Yes? Carrie is so much more! It is a horrific look into how fucking miserable high school can be! How hard it is to be the outcast of your high school class. How incredibly cruel and mean kids can be without realizing the repercussions. How, all it can take is, one person hellbent on tormenting another to make someones life just miserable.  

You see touches of SK's amazing character development in Carrie (this will be interesting to watch as we continue through all the books). You feel for Carrie from the beginning as SK opens the book with quite a scene. Cue a women's locker room in high school. Girls showering and getting dressed after gym class. The quiet girl with no friends in the shower discovering she has blood running down her leg, and having no idea what it means. All the classmates laughing at her distress while throwing tampons and maxi pads at her yelling for her to "Plug it up!"  Quite the set-up for a book.  You'll quickly see Carrie's misery extends beyond school, as you meet her unstable and fanatically religious mother, Margaret White. Poor girl can't catch a break!

The book is told from a very interesting perspective.  It bounces from present tense to future news and media clippings.  These news clippings will talk of the horror that will be the climax of the book.  This becomes an interesting writing tool for SK in future books. He likes to tell you of what is to come, most times revealing a death or even the most pivotal points of his books.  As in Carrie, with the news clippings, you already know Carrie is going to be a mass murderer, but yet, you are compelled to feel sorry for her! Oh, SK you are a genius.

As a first novel, let's face it, this a great piece of work. Had I been reading this for the first time, I would be giving it ultra high marks.  Now, is where I see how hard this reviewing and offering opinions is going to be for me. Carrie is solid writing, strong characters, an incredibly unique plot and story. BUT (and see that's a big but) I know what is to come! So I can't give it 5 stars because there is no way Carrie trumps The Stand or IT or 11/22/63! Maybe for the sake of this blog, I won't give star reviews but will do an attachment listing the books in my order from best on down.  Thoughts? I'll just update the list as I go? Bear with folks, this is a work in progress.  

As we go through this journey together, I plan to touch on any movie adaptions of SK's books that have been made.  Let's face it- some STINK! Carrie is not one of them.  The movie is a great adaption of the book.  It is hard to even read Carrie now, without thinking of Sissy Spacek as Carrie (even though she resembles nothing of SK's original description).  Piper Laurie may have actually been in SK's head as he penned Margaret White. Wow, what a performance!  I know I'll knock a few people off their seats when I pronounce "the book was way better than the movie". It still shocks me the amount of people out there who will watch a movie and then think "they know the book". Idiots. I prefer the ending of the book to the changes that were made for the movie.  Better to fuck up a whole town than just a high school (well, in my opinion). 

All in all, Carrie is a great place to start for any SK "newcomer".  The movie is a great introduction into the cinematic world of SK movies (brace yourself for this journey folks. It will be a bumpy ride at best!). Next up, will be Salem's Lot!  I should be starting soon for anyone who wishes to read along!!