All Hallow’s Read (Day 7) – Joyland

Have you read Stephen King before? I am amazed every time the answer is ‘no’. On the other hand, shouldn’t I be amazed every time someone who used to read every book he had has given up? I’m not. To each his or her own. There is always a watershed book that had a King fan fall off. I took a break after Wizard and Glass. Some people have not read a thing since It. I’m not sure why readers would draw a hard line against an author with so much to offer. Romance, crime, mystery, science fiction, coming of age, and horror can be found across his entire body of work. There really is a Stephen King book for everyone.

One of his latest books, Joyland, is an All Hallows Read for those who had given up on their favorite author. It is also for those who have never picked up a Stephen King book before. Now, I could recommend old standbys like Pet Semetery. I could go balls out and say read The Shining, but no. You had, what, an entire lifetime to read those? Let’s go with something new It’s short. As in, not 1000 pages. It’s catchy like a really good pop tune. Carnivals and ghosts… you can’t go wrong with that combination in Kingland! 

I’d buy this book for anyone who has not read Stephen King before. I would counter any former-fan argument with this book too. Not into his writing on women’s issues? This one is nice and balanced. Not into his brand of horror? Joyland is a spook story, a mystery. Not into romance? Well, this guy listens to a hell of a lot of breakup music. Not into aliens? No surprise greys here, folks. Not into the Dark Tower? Okay, I’d love to see where this one crosses over. Not into long fiction? Bam! Joyland.

Those who are not horror fans need not be alarmed. It’s not gory or something that will keep you up at night. His talent for getting under your skin is kicked down a notch. This is fun King. This is King chilling out on a long weekend. This is King Light.

For those who enjoyed creepy carnival horror like Laymon’s Funland, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Bradbury or It, this is for you. Jam packed with old and new carnival references, it’s as fun to read as it is to recall your first candy-floss enhanced trip through the spook show . 

One of us will be reviewing Joyland on Dreadful Tales eventually as two of us have read it. With all the Doctor Sleep buzz and books coming out for Halloween I wanted to talk about this one today so it doesn’t go in one door of this haunted house and never get out.


Dreadful Tales Book Club – May 2013 Edition


This beautiful banner is courtesy of Mark Brown, a.k.a. Dark Mark

Dreadful Tales has a number of enthusiastic members who consistently read the book of the month as well as chime in on The Mortuary message boards to discuss their thoughts, so this month I handed the baton to a gentleman that goes by the moniker Nut of the Living Dead (“When there’s no more room in shell…” Pretty clever, huh?), and as you can see from the lovely banner above, he chose one of Stephen King’s earlier titles, Firestarter.

Like Nut, the only recollection I have of Firestarter is the film adaptation starring Drew Barrymore as Charlie which I watched probably some 20 years ago. The only memory I have of that movie is Miss Barrymore sweating and setting shit on fire which I’m pretty sure I thought was cool as hell when I was younger. I think this time around I will be able to appreciate the psychological trauma, confusion, and moral struggle that comes with that kind of power.

I hope all you diehard King fans, King fans-in-training, and those who have yet to read a King novel will join us to celebrate one of King’s earlier works. As always, we’ll all be hanging out here and chatting about the book.

“See” you there!


Dreadfully Anticipated: Bag of Bones Miniseries



Bag of Bones is one of the most personal books that Stephen King has ever written.  There are moments of quiet reflection that give us wonderful glimpses into the author’s mind as he mulls over his love for the written word.  There is no doubt that King outlines his passion for fiction as he name drops some literary heavy hitters like Mary Higgins, Ray Bradbury, Ed McBain, Herman Melville, Thomas Hardy and Daphne DuMaurier.  The writing reflects the dense style that made some of these authors and, almost as much as the namedropping, the style reflects more of Kings influences than anything else in the story.

This is what makes Bag of Bones such a fascinating read.  If one were to take the basis of Danse Macabre and try to create a work of fiction based on its themes, Bag of Bones would be that book.  The story drips with the atmosphere of the subtle ghost stories that King has praised through the years but there is also a very vicious backbone that is found in some of the author’s gore soaked tendencies.  It is a brilliant cohesion of influence and originality that only a writer of Kings talent would ever be to accomplish.

To further emphasize the point, King himself, took it upon himself record the audio version of the novel.  For those of you not in the know, it is extremely rare for Stephen King to record the audio for his novel adaptations and he pulls it off to perfection.  At first King’s voice is a bit jarring reading protagonist Mike Noonan’s innermost thoughts as he copes with the loss of his wife.  After the initial shock of hearing King read his own work, the listener is drawn into a haunted world of love and heartache and Kings voice strains with pain and fear- making for one of the most memorable listening experiences you’re likely to get from an audio book.

This story of haunting loss is the perfect backdrop for King to bring to life some of his most vivid characters.  There are classic incarnations of good and evil and sitting squarely in the middle is Mike Noonan.  Noonan is a writer who is experiencing a justified mid life crisis- having just lost his wife and suffering from the most intense cases of writer’s block.  In an attempt to rid himself of the ghosts of the pat, Mike Noonan takes off for his summer home.  Little does he know that the ghosts that had haunted him in the past are nothing compared to what is waiting at the sleepy summer escape.

Upon release the novel was praised by critics and fans- receiving a Stoker and British Fantasy Award for ‘Best Novel’.  The novel spent time atop the New York Times Best Seller list and is routinely cited as a fan favorite.  Simply put, people love this story.

Now, 13 years after the novels initial release, Bag of Bones will get the miniseries treatment from A&E. The four hour adaptation will be helmed by Mick Garris and boasts a budget in excess of $15,000,000.  Garris is primarily known for his adaptation of the King classic, The Stand, but he has quite a bit of experience with King ‘s other work, having brought The Shining, Desperation and Riding the Bullet to the small screen.  Many think of Garris as a poor man’s Frank Darabont since the Garris helmed films have been met with mixed reviews.  With that said, Bag of Bones seems like it is a story that Garris may do much better with.  The New England setting and strong mise-en-scene will play more to Garris’ directorial abilities than some of his previous efforts.

The Bag of Bones miniseries seems to be drawing quite a bit of interest from genre fans and fans of fiction alike.  There are pages upon pages devoted to the topic on various genre message boards while people try to get a grip on what this adaption has in store.  The success of the series may also impact the newly announced Dark Tower project to be aired on HBO.  Huge ratings for Bag of Bones could certainly help see that The Dark Tower gets fast tracked to production.  On the surface, this appears to be nothing more than an adaptation of a beloved modern King piece but this production may have a bit more at stake than just some ratings.

As previously mentioned, it would be absurd to think that the success of Bag of Bones will not directly impact The Dark Tower. This project has been on and off for about 10 years and seems to be gaining momentum as preliminary plans for a TV release were just recently announced.  Aside from TV projects, King’s reputation as a writer could sink or swim with this airing.  King has recently seen resurgence with the solid release of books like 11/22/63 and Bag of Bones, along with the novella collection Full Dark, No Stars.  This resurgence is well documented on genre websites as King reestablishes himself as an important name in modern horror. This resurgence has recently begun making its way into more mainstream circles and a few positive reviews of Bag of Bones would only help to foster that.  Now, conversely, if Garris and his team fail to deliver it could seriously hinder any headway that King has made over the last few years.

Whatever the end result is, fans should rejoice that a station like A&E is taking a gamble and bringing us one of King’s newer works in an uncut fashion.  Their efforts should be applauded and their ratings should reflect that. I know that I will be sitting in front of the TV with bated breath.

The first half of Bag of Bones will air on A&E on December 11th.  Check your local listings for full details.

Free Fiction Friday

Time for another round of Free Fiction Friday.  For those of you not in the know, Free Fiction Friday is a feature where we search the internet in an attempt to bring you the very best free genre fiction available.  Today we have three of the biggest names in the genre including some free stuff from Stephen freakin’ King so let’s have at it!

First up we have some free fiction from Stephen King.  In anticipation if King’s new release, 11/22/63, Simon and Schuster will be releasing seven audiobook samples every Monday and Friday through October 24th.  The first is up and, I have to be honest,  Craig Wasson (FULL DARK, NO STARS & BLOCKADE BILLY)  sounds awesome!  Check it out!      

Our next piece of free fiction comes from one of the biggest names in the genre, Brian Keene.  Brian has been offering a serial novel called DELUGE on his site for months now.  This is a thank you to fans that have fallen on hard times and can’t afford to pick up new books.  DELUGE is available every Friday on Brian’s site.  On a side note, Brian has announced that once DELUGE is over he will be giving away a second free serial novel called DEAD AIR.  Rock!

James Newman has posted his entry into Shock Totem’s Flash Challenge for free on his site.  This is important for two reasons: 1)James Newman is one of the best authors working in the genre today and 2) Shock Totem is a criminally slept-on publication that should be read by every genre fan out there. Here is the story and here is the Shock Totem site.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Stephen King announces Dr. Sleep

Stephen King has always been a favorite of mine.  He was my gateway into horror literature and, for that, I am forever in his debt.  Over the last few years my interest in King has waned a bit and I no longer feel the need to pick his books up upon the initial day of release.  I guess I’ve discovered so much in the small press that I don’t have time for the man who brought me to the Promised Land.  Well, all of that changed when I heard that King was currently in the process of writing a sequel to one of my all-time favorites, THE SHINING.  The book is called DR. SLEEP and it follows Danny Torrance as an adult as he is pursued by a traveling group of psychic vampires.

I know it sounds a little hokey but after hearing King read an excerpt from the story, I am convinced (even it does sound a bit like Near Dark).  What do y’all think?

Dreadful Tales will be following this all the way until the release so keep checking in for more updates regarding this story.

Here is the official clip from the George Mason website:

Stephen King from GMU-TV on Vimeo.

Bit by Bloody Bit: Stephen King’s IT – Part 5: The Ritual of Chud

This week concludes the first installment of Bit By Bloody Bit and the end of my journey through Derry, Maine. While I’m a bit sad to leave the haunted town and the Losers Club, I am ready to move on to new terrors as well. There is also a gnawing disappointment that comes with finishing a book like Stephen King’s It. For one thing, the excitement of not knowing, of trying to figure out the big reveal is gone. And for another, you have to start that hunt for the perfect book all over again. You’ve got an itch you just can’t scratch. Many genre fans started here with It or with another epic Stephen King book. Maybe this was your gateway drug to horror, the one that led you down a path lined with trees casting ominous shadows that hide monsters, ghouls, sinister fiends, and lost souls.

I think It deserves a more diverse categorization than simply horror, but still I can’t help coming back to the same conclusion: It is almost the perfect horror novel. The characters are relatable. Not even secondary characters are lazily drawn into the background as fodder for plot development. As I mentioned in the first Bit By Bloody Bit post, King takes great care with all the characters in his book. He gives them emotional context and makes the reader care about them. King also has a terribly complex monster with a rich history anchored to the town of Derry. He has developed the landscape as diligently and scrupulous as the people in it.

That painstaking effort and care for his story make the entire reading experience a level above the simple act of taking in a book. The story takes on a life of its own, haunting you long after turning the last page. It is not just a scary book. It is many things: horrifying, sad, psychological, suspenseful, social commentary… The book isn’t just filled with bullies and monsters; it’s filled with real life truths, hard truths that exist in and out of the book.

So why is It only almost the perfect horror novel? There are probably many fans that had the same reaction as me, but the conclusion was a bit of a let down. After a thousand pages sharing the lives of seven other characters, a monster, and some bullies King unveils the big reveal which left me with a womp womp womp ringing in my head. I don’t know that there could be a perfect conclusion to such a great story. Your expectations are built so high that it’s hard to imagine how you could finish it off gracefully. Maybe I had that reaction because part of me didn’t want it to end at all.  The ending doesn’t ruin the book and I would still highly recommend this novel to anyone (not just fans of speculative fiction), but if I had one gripe about the almost perfect horror novel, that’s it.

If I read It in my youth, my literary history would probably be much different, but as it were I finally found It, the seven Losers, and Derry at the ripe young age of 30. I’d be curious to see how someone who read this in their youth would interpret the story as an adult.

Did you read It when you were still a kid and then again as an adult? How was the experience different or the same? Did you appreciate certain aspects of the book more or less? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Bit by Bloody Bit: Stephen King’s IT – The Covers

I’ve been reading Stephen King’s It for over a month. Of course, I had to take breaks from reading to get married, buy a house, do a little remodeling, move in, and all the good stuff that comes with being a grown up. But still, after a solid month and a half (maybe even 2 months!) of reading the same book I am getting a little burned out. Don’t get me wrong, King’s It is by no means plodding. The characters are engaging, sympathetic, and carefully developed. The history of the town is deep and complicated. Only a novel of this girth could possibly cover all the ground necessary to make the story really impactful and truly terrifying. And yet, as we near the month of October I find myself getting restless. My pre-ordered copy of Cosmic Forces, Greg Lamberson’s third installment of The Jake Hellman Files (review by Colum here), has arrived. I started Cullen Bunn’s Crooked Hills and there are a number of books coming out in October that I have been looking forward to all year, John Everson’s The Pumpkin Man among them. So, I’m getting a bit distracted. I thought this would be a good opportunity to have an intermission and peruse the covers of It across the globe. Join me beyond the break for my favorite interpretations of Stephen King’s It in the art of the covers!

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