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.