Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rediscovering an old friend

I don't do this enough. Curl up with a good book, I mean. Although in reality, I was out on the patio all day with coffee, a couple of nice cigars and a good book.

Some backstory: I've always been a Stephen King fan, but sometime a few years after Reagan was elected to his second term, he lost me. I mean, I struggled through Tommyknockers, but to this day, I couldn't tell you what the damned thing was about. And don't even get me started on Insomnia or Rose Madder.

I mean, was this really the man who wrote Salem's Lot? The Stand? The Dead Zone? Pet Semetary? What the hell had happened to him? Well, I found out soon enough. I remember watching MTV news sometime back in the day and they reported that King had entered rehab for an addiction to booze and drugs. Well. I could relate, having done the exact same thing a few years earlier.

Hell, no wonder Tommyknockers made no sense. I read later that he couldn't even remember writing Cujo. How the hell anyone can write an entire novel (and not a bad one, really) and not remember it is beyond me.

Although now that I think about it, I guess I can relate. I mean, I remember about ten minutes of my first marriage -- and the damned thing lasted almost four years!

But I digress. I remember thinking I was glad he was cleaning up. I hoped he'd get back to writing those big, nasty horror novels that I so loved in my younger years.

But I lost track of him. I quit buying his books. I did the same thing with Elvis Costello. I was a huge fan in the late 70s and early 80s, then he just sort of drifted off my radar screen. Life happened and it blotted out a lot of my earlier loves. In more ways than one, sadly.

But I rediscovered Elvis Costello in the mid-90s and got to savor the stuff he had done throughout the years as though they were new. Because they were new to me. Blood and Chocolate. King of America. Elvis had never stopped making great music; I had just stopped listening.

But still King was left behind while I read John Updike and Anne Tyler and discovered new faves like Neil Gaiman and Cormac McCarthy.

And then one day a few years ago, I saw a new King book at Border's called Cell. On a lark, I bought it in hardcover and, although it wasn't as good as his earlier stuff, I really enjoyed it. It was like sitting down to coffee with an old college chum. Nice and familiar, you know?

I purchased Under the Dome a few months ago and LOVED IT! This is old King, back when he was, um, king. It was right up there with The Stand, Salem's Lot and The Shining. I had also purchased On Writing, and loved it. In it, he often referenced a book of his that I was not familiar with: Bag of Bones.

Then I read a blog post recently and the person (I don't remember who it was) was listing his or her favorite Stephen King novels. And Bag of Bones was listed second, behind The Stand.


So I went online and read some reviews and it sounded like a book I would enjoy. So I went out a few days ago and bought it in paperback, along with Donald Maass' wonderful Writing the Breakout Novel (if only).

I started BOB yesterday when I was feeling crappy and read it all day today. It's wonderful. I'm not yet done, but should finish it tomorrow. And the best part of all? It's getting me really, really excited about diving back into my second novel, which is eerily King-like.

I wonder what else I missed over the past 20 years or so?

UPDATE: My first beta reader checked in today -- and he loved The Devil You Don't Know! Yay. Only six more to sweat out.


  1. Isn't it great when you find your old 'loves' again? Writerly speaking of course. Hope you're feeling better.

    Let me know what you think of the Donald Maass book. I have to go to B & N soon, it's on my list.

  2. Anne, I've already read most of the Maass book and it's wonderful. Very helpful. It's mostly commonsense advice, but he often SHOWS rather than just tells how to do something.

    I'm enjoying it, although it's a notch below On Writing.

  3. Congrats on the positive feedback from your beta. I wish you the best of luck with it, truly.

  4. Your reflection on Stephen King mirrors my opinions, I loved Salem's Lot, Cujo, Pet Cemetary and Carrie and all the earlier books, but when I got to Rose Madder I thought WTF??? A painting? WHO CARES? I persevered and was also totally befuddled by his weird sci-fi and found reading Insomnia an ironically quick way to fall asleep.
    I did love The Stand and now you've convinced me to give Bag of Bones a try. Here's hoping :-)

  5. Charmaine: I highly recommend "Bag of Bones" (what a horrible title, huh?). It's quite possibly in his top two or three best novels, believe it or not. It's (gasp) a very sweet love story mixed in with some good old fashioned horror. Yum.

    I also recommend "Under the Dome" if you haven't read it yet. Terrific read. Both of them.

  6. Thanks Christi! Right back at you. :)

  7. I loved Bag of Bones. My favorites are still The Stand and Secret Window, Secret Garden. I know what you mean about some of his work though. For the life of me I have never been able to finish reading Gerald's Game.

    I'm glad you reconnected with an old favorite. Unfortunately, Anne Rice is a fav of mine I fear I may never be able to go back to. She wowed me with all her earlier Vampire Chronicles and The Witching Hour, but then she found God and all of her works since have taken on a far too religious outlook for my tastes.