At last! The waiting is over - see below for my review of the new King blockbuster - Doctor Sleep!

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  Book of the Month - Stephen King: Doctor Sleep [Hodder HB]


An epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon. King says he wanted to know what happened to Danny Torrance, the boy at the heart of The Shining, after his terrible experience in the Overlook Hotel. The instantly riveting Doctor Sleep picks up the story of the now middle-aged Dan, working at a hospice in rural New Hampshire, and the very special twelve-year old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals. On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless - mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and tween Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the 'steam' that children with the 'shining' produce when they are slowly tortured to death. Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father's legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him and a job at a nursing home where his remnant 'shining' power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes 'Doctor Sleep.' Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan's own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra's soul and survival . . .


Danny Torrance, now grown up, still has the Shining, and ends up using it to assist the passage of the old-timers in his care as they make the transition from living to dead, comforting them as they pass over. At the same time, he meets Abra and realises that she too has the Shining, a more powerful Shining than his own, and learns that she is in danger from The True Knot. Danny must overcome his alcohol addiction and his inner demons to summon up the strength to help Abra as she faces death at the hands of these evil people... Stephen King is on absolute top form in this long-awaited sequel, and it's a fact that he has honed his story-telling skills to perfection in the intervening years between the original novel and Doctor Sleep. The characters are more rounded, the dialogue is more perfect, and the story itself has enough "extras" to keep everyone happy. This is not vintage Stephen King but the new, improved Stephen King, the Stephen King who wrote 11:22:63, which I think is his best novel since IT and THE STAND. This is the Stephen King who can truly be described as the Charles Dickens of the United States, and their finest ever novelist. Superb.


Stephen King: Joyland

[Hardcase Crime (Titan Books HB)]


Published today by Titan Books is a HARD CASE CRIME paperback, JOYLAND. A STUNNING NEW NOVEL FROM ONE OF THE BEST-SELLING AUTHORS OF ALL TIME! Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. "I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts. That combo made Hard Case Crime the perfect venue for this book, which is one of my favorites. I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we're going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book." Stephen King.


Books Monthly says: This is King's second work for Hardcase Crime and again one of the shortest of all his books. I enjoyed it much more than I did Colorado Kid, and I can't explain why. Joyland is told in first person by Devin Jones, who works at the amusement park during the summer of 1973. There are some parallels with BAG OF BONES, with the "hero" encountering people on the beach who later come to play a huge part in his life, and the mystery surrounding the death of a young girl several years earlier - it turns out the original murderer is still indulging his pastime, and Jones's friends and associates are under threat. Gone is the visceral horror of King's youth; this is very much a simple but very effective creepy thriller, with mild elements of supernatural in the form of people with second sight, and a rush to discover who the killer is. Hugely enjoyable, and proves emphatically that King can and does write the best prose in contemporary American literature. This is a showcase of his writing talents - a simple, effective, highly readable novel that won't take too long to read and leaves an element of satisfaction that other writers can only dream about! Great characters, great setting....utterly brilliant!


Also available is an audio CD read by Michael Kelly and published by Hodder:




2013: Three new Kings...





THE NUMBER ONE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER. For readers new to The Dark Tower, THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE is a stand-alone novel, and a wonderful introduction to the series. It is a story within a story, which features both the younger and older gunslinger Roland on his quest to find the Dark Tower. Fans of the existing seven books in the series will also delight in discovering what happened to Roland and his ka tet between the time they leave the Emerald City and arrive at the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis. This Russian Doll of a novel, a story within a story, within a story, visits Mid-World's last gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and his ka-tet as a ferocious storm halts their progress along the Path of the Beam. (The novel can be placed between Dark Tower IV and Dark Tower V.) Roland tells a tale from his early days as a gunslinger, in the guilt ridden year following his mother's death. Sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape shifter, a 'skin man,' Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, a brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast's most recent slaughter. Roland, himself only a teenager, calms the boy by reciting a story from the Magic Tales of the Eld that his mother used to read to him at bedtime, 'The Wind through the Keyhole'. 'A person's never too old for stories,' he says to Bill. 'Man and boy, girl and woman, we live for them.' And stories like these, they live for us. The back cover of the UK hardcover edition features some 8,000 faces of those who entered the StephenKingFaces competition. These faces are indiscernible to the naked eye on the actual covers but they can be found and identified with the zoom mechanism on


BOOKS MONTHLY SAYS: The arrival of the paperback version of last year's long-awaited new Dark Tower novel prompted me to read it again. Robin Furth, the world's greatest expert on Stephen King's Dark Tower series, believes it to be one of the most important in the series. She should know... and yet, I don't. It's a story within a story within a story, and in my opinion it doesn't work quite as well as WIZARD AND GLASS, in which Roland discovers the love of his life and loses her. I see it as a kind of interlude - it doesn't drive the story of Roland's quest for the Dark Tower forward, so it's an adjunct to the series rather than a part of it, for me. It is a fascinating story, but I find it strange Roland has never warned his fellow travellers of the existence of the starkblast previously (or later, after WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE has finished). There are, too, a number of colloquialisms in the speech used by many of the characters that Roland and his ka-tet should have encountered before and, again, after. It's almost as though Stephen King is writing about something using a different language to that used in the rest of the Dark Tower series. I love it - I really love it! It just seems to me to be separate from the other seven books, that's all. You could convince yourself that after Roland tells the story of himself and Susan Delgado et al, they have a convenient break and he tells them another story, this time of an earlier episode in his life - and that's obviously what Stephen King intended. But in that sense, in that it is a part of the series, I don't believe he's achieved it, it's more like the Marvel graphic novel series, in which Robin Furth takes us off in a slightly different direction to the original series. It is a brilliant novel, and I hope there will be more Dark Tower "interludes". But for me it's not essential to the series - it's another story entirely.




BOOKS MONTHLY SAYS: 2013 sees at least three more significant and important new Stephen King publications. The first, published this month, is the tenth volume in the excellent Marvel adaptation of King's THE DARK TOWER series. Robin Firth, King's most ardent follower, has given us a brilliant insight into the greatest fantasy work ever published, and whilst I wasn't particularly enamoured of the first few volumes' artwork, it has blossomed into the very best comic book art around. Volume 10 is entitled THE MAN IN BLACK and we join the story at the point where Roland meets with Marten to palaver, and where the decision is made that he will drop Jake into the abyss and pursue the man in black further rather than remain behind and save Jake. It is a decision he will regret for much of his life, especially when it comes to rescuing Jake later in the epic saga. I'm not quite sure what Robin Furth will do when we get to WIZARD AND GLASS - she's already told the story of Roland and Susan in previous volumes of the Marvel series...




Inspired more than thirty years ago by works as diverse as J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and the 'spaghetti westerns' of that time, the Dark Tower series is the backbone of Stephen King's legendary career. Eight books make up this bestselling fantasy series.THE DARK TOWER: THE COMPLETE CONCORDANCE is the definitive encyclopaedic reference book that will make navigating through the series an even more enjoyable reading experience for readers.With hundreds of characters, Mid-World geography, High Speech lexicon, and extensive cross-references, this comprehensive handbook is essential for any Dark Tower fan.This updated volume is an invaluable guide to all of Mid-World and one of Stephen King's most significant literary achievements.


BOOKS MONTHLY SAYS: This is a dream of a book. Robin Furth's dedication to Stephen King's magnum opus is legendary, and, for readers similarly dedicated to it, a must-have. Seven volumes of story must inevitably carry a huge amount of characters, places, animals, creatures, dialects, etc., etc., and to be able to make sense of it all is essential. I would use the Concordance as one would an encyclopedia, to look up something you remember but can't place which book it's in, for example. And Hodder have excelled themselves by designing this volume to fit with the recently republished original seven novels and this month's paperpack reprint of The Wind Through The Keyhole. A superb book, comprehensive, well-arranged, and a joy to consult. The maps at the back of the book are fascinating, too, and help the constant reader to see what's happening, (or happened) and where. Fully revised and updated to include The Wind Through The Keyhole, this is a brilliant publishing event. The foreword, by King himself, reveals that he "writes by the seat of his pants", i.e. without planning, more or less, and that will come as music to the ears of writers (like me) who find it difficult to plan, far easier just to put finger to keyboard and watch the words appear on the screen. A magical book, an essential part of the Dark Tower series.




Many Stephen King fans and followers believe that THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is the very finest movie based on a King novel (novella, in this case, though it's as long as someone else's novel, of course). I love Shawshank, and believe it is a truly great film. But I would disagree about it being the very finest. My choice would be THE GREEN MILE. I read it first when it was originally published, waiting impatiently for the newsagent to get in copies of each of the six instalments. I think I probably read it again when the film was released, and I read it again over Christmas. Christmas is traditionally a poor time for decent fiction, I was stuck for something to read and I plucked my trade paperback from the bookcase and immersed myself in the pure magic of Stephen King's fine writing. He is, for me, the Charles Dickens of the modern age, though he might deny it. He brings the 1930s to life in a way no other writer can. All the while I was reading it, I was thinking of the actors in the movie speaking the lines King had written for them, and they were all, to a man (and woman) perfect. It's a long movie, it's an 18 in the UK (which means that there are scenes that shouldn't be watched by people younger than 18, which is arbitrary, really, given some of the extreme violence younger people can "enjoy" with computer games and console games. This means that, because it's Stephen King (whom my wife acknowledges to be a very good writer), there will be something in it she won't want to see, and so she has never experienced a film which, for me, is one of the very finest films I have ever seen, certainly the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel, and in my opinion one of the greatest films ever to leave Hollywood. She refuses, point blank, to watch it. I think it's because I made her sit through Poltergeist one evening after I had sat up watching it alone and proclaiming it to be the very finest horror film I'd ever seen. She has never forgiven me for that! I wish I could persuade her to watch THE GREEN MILE. It is a beautiful film.


Bag of Bones...


UK's Channel Five treated us to a three-hour version of Stephen King's BAG OF BONES starring Pierce Brosnan as Mike Noonan and the luscious Melissa George as Mattie Devore over Christmas - I watched it last weekend and it was great - typical Stephen King horror-fest strewn with rotting corpses and drownings - BAG OF BONES is high on my list of the very best of King's output, and I thought the TV movie was quite good, though they took some liberties with the story. Melissa George is always watchable and Brosnan was perfect as Noonan. The rest of the cast were also-rans, although the young lady who played Sara Tidwell was very good, and had an acceptable singing voice, if it was hers, that is. We don't see enough Stephen King over here, and this was a welcome offering. I had toyed with the idea of trying to convert my home cinema to accept Region 1 DVDs and getting the DVD version, but it's not something I would want to watch again... the book, on the other hand, is one I will be reading again this year...



 is published by Paul Norman on or before the first day of every month. Contributions in the form of reviews, feature articles or short stories are always welcome, use the "CONTACT ME" link in the menu to get in touch.