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First Meetings, by Chad A. Clark

first meetings

Before the crew had even finished the landing sequence, the delegation of Khaln’aari had emerged from the forest to greet them. Captain Altranor led them down the ramp to meet the party with the crew already in full dress uniform. Theirs was one of the first crews to come to the planet, and it lifted their spirits to find such a warm reception.

The digital network that was streamed through their comm badges was able, albeit slowly, to translate what the Khaln’aari were saying. Before long, the formalities of the reception had lessened somewhat to a more comfortable familiarity. They exchanged gifts, the Captain giving the Khaln’aari a glass figurine of Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom. The Khaln’aari had given each of the crew necklaces of tiny, but intricately sculpted pieces of brawn’dak stone.

The two groups entertained each other at the reception site with traditional myths native to each others’ cultures. They traded the stories, back and forth, until the sun was starting to set beyond the southern horizon.

The food was by far, the highlight of the evening.

Being nighttime hunters, the Khaln’aari allowed several members of the crew, including the Captain to join them on that evening’s excursion. The crew had been able to achieve several kills, even though all they saw of the animals were dark shapes running through the trees. The Khaln’aari had several dozen kills, and they sent the younger hunters of the tribe to collect the bodies and clean them for the feast.

Hours later at dinner, the servers brought out pots, steaming from within. The stews, all different, were served to everyone, dark and rich, with the most moist, and flavorful meat any of them had ever eaten. The over-sized glasses of blood-red wine went straight through them, and soon, most were seeing the table through an unsteady haze of pre-intoxication.

The Captain stood to toast the hospitality of their hosts and to thank the Khaln’aari for the feast.

There was a tittering of laughter in response to the toast and for the first time, the Captain looked uncertain. The leader of the Khaln’aari rose and spoke loudly for quite some time, the rest of his delegation chuckling as he went on. It took a minute before the neural network was able to fully translate what was being said, and another minute before the implication of his statement set in.

“That is precisely what the last group of humans who visited here said. I know that you believe you were the first to set foot here, as did they. You were incorrect in that assumption, as were they. They enjoyed their meals as well, that is, before they knew what they were eating, or rather, who they were eating. As great as their anger was at being tricked into hunting their own kind, the humans who had visited here before them, it paled in comparison to the revelation that it was those fellow travelers who they had been dining on.”

The crew all pushed back from the table, meaning to stand, reaching for weapons that the Captain had not let them bring for fear of offending the Khaln’aari. Before they could even rise to their feet, guards stepped forward out of the shadows and held them down in their chairs. The Captain stood frozen in place, unable to move or react. The leader spoke one last time, “I wonder,” he said as he lifted a glass, “how the next crew will feel about hunting you. Do you think they will enjoy the food?”

 

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

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Tracing Trails : Carrie, Revisited

 

Carrie PrimaryReturning to this book after having gone through King’s entire catalog, I think a part of me was expecting to notice a really stark contrast in style and prose from one to the next. It was for this reason that I thought re-reading Carrie would be a poignant way to end this project, returning back to where I started. I’ve read Carrie several times but I was eager to see what I would think of it, given this new context.

I think what I found most interesting was that in terms of the prose itself, I don’t know if I can notice a huge difference in his style. The content of the books themselves, sure. There is a difference but the tone of the writing still feels like King. He has always seemed to have a solid, blue collar understanding of people across the entire spectrum. I think it’s one thing that has always attracted me to his books. That even though he’s a famous, rich author, I’ve always gotten the feeling from his writing that he would also be the kind of guy I could be comfortable just hanging out with. He’s never put off an air to me of snobbery or judgment and I think that can be seen in the sympathetic treatment in his books of all his characters, heroes and villains alike.

There is one aspect to King’s earlier books that I was happy to return to. If I had to characterize the vibe of King’s recent work it would be that they all feel very polished and composed. I don’t mean that in a bad way but I often feel like I’m reading a fairly standardCarrie 5 thriller formula. He does it well and there are still some moments here and there that show the classic King intensity but by and large, the books feel more on the safe side than I recall from his earlier work. Coming back to Carrie, I loved how danger had returned. His early books often had a feel of gritty B horror films and they could be brutal. No one was safe in a Stephen King book. And that hasn’t completely vanished from the landscape of his fiction but it was what I fell in love with in the early days of his career and reading Carrie again was a reminder for me.

I couldn’t help but feel the sharp edge underneath the narrative. With King’s recent books, while there are moments that are gripping, underneath it all is the sense that things are going to turn out okay, for the most part. This was never an aspect of his earlier work and I don’t know if that has to do with where he was in his life and his overall outlook. It goes without saying that as you age, that nihilistic streak tends to diminish as families grow and priorities change. Did King’s view on his own life affect his writing and the overall themes of his books? There’s no way to know for sure, obviously, but it was a thought I found running around as I went back to Carrie. Throughout Carrie 1the book, King interlaces the narrative with excerpts from books and interviews, all retrospective accounts looking back on some horrible event that we, as the reader, are about to bear witness to ourselves. It is an amazingly effective means of foreshadowing and injects a feeling of dread into the entire book that I think is incredibly evocative of King’s earlier books.

With On Writing, King put forward the notion that in all books, villains should be treated like real people. No one actually sees themselves as an archetype and are instead the star of their own story. We often fall into the trap of seeing everyone in context with the protagonist, as if the other characters in the story were nothing but pieces of furniture, only there to serve the needs of someone else. With Carrie, King manages to make all the characters complex, whether they be good and bad. And what I find most effective is that most of the characters have good and bad aspects. This isn’t just incredibly good characters being persecuted by incredibly bad characters. And in a brilliant twist as the story goes on, I found that the hero was edging close to being a monster while the monsters were Carrie 4actually shifting back to being sympathetic victims.

The morality of Carrie as a character and what she does is something that has held this book high in my regard over the years. I think it’s an interesting question to ponder, whether or not acts of such violence we see here could ever be justified. Can a person be pushed so far in the process of bullying that literally all bets are off and any kind of response is okay? Or is it that, by allowing herself to lash out at the people she had been hurt by, did Carrie become just as reprehensible as the rest?

I have always seen Carrie’s mother as the real monster of this story, the one who led her daughter to this mental place where an act like this could be conceivable. As a parent myself, it was hard to see a child treated so badly by a parent, to see the life she was subjected to. But then again, is it also possible that Margaret White could be redeemed in what she does? Is it possible she was more aware of Carrie’s latent abilities and acted the way she did because she recognized the inherent danger present in her daughter?Carrie 1

They are all interesting questions to pose and that I think were effectively laid out within the covers of this book. It was a piece of literary work that launched a career of more best sellers than I could keep track of. I’ve moved carefully through every book of Stephen King’s and returning now, to this first one, I feel reinforced more than ever that I chose wisely in selecting Stephen King as my favorite author.

My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page


Rural Research, by Chad A. Clark

rural research2

The barn loomed tall against the pitch black of the nighttime sky. Oscar looked up as he heard the sound of birds taking flight and could see the darkened silhouettes as they rushed by. There was a hint of thunder, as lightning kissed the furthest reaches of the southern horizon. The heat felt oppressive, pressing in on him with physical force. They needed this rain.

“Sorry I had to bring you out here so late at night like this.” Daniel was the caretaker of the property, the one who the bank had arranged to give Oscar the tour. “Frankly, I don’t really know why you’re so interested in this place anyway. Nothing here you can’t read about in books and police reports.”

“The paper wanted me to be thorough,” Oscar explained. “It’s been ten years since Mr. Rollins’ disappearance and they want the coverage to be extensive.”

“Sure,” Daniel said as he continued fiddling with the padlock.

“I’m surprised that all of this is still here, with what the land has to be worth. What’s the point of just leaving it abandoned?”

‘Well, it isn’t like anyone would ever want to live here. The property went into some anonymous trust, and our company is being paid for the upkeep. I have no idea what the owner has planned for this place.”

They walked into the main part of the barn. Oscar heard the fluttering of wings from somewhere up above. There was a strong smell of mildew in the air, indicating not complete neglect, but of a definite absence of attention.

“So what are you looking for anyway?” Daniel asked.

Oscar took out his notebook and flipped it open. “You’re a local, right?”

“Sure. All my life.”

“Would you mind going over with me what happened here, your memories of the events? Just so I can make sure my facts are right?”

Daniel nodded and dropped his gaze to his feet, shuffling them in the dirt as he contemplated his answer.

“Mr. Rollins was kind of a nobody around here. Came in after the war. You didn’t really like or dislike him. He kept to himself for the most part, minded his own business.”

“What did he do for a living? My understanding is that he owned the farm but didn’t actually do any farming himself.”

“Yeah, he rented out his fields to the neighboring farms. He inherited the land originally, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t have any interest in working it. Times were good enough that the farmers around him could afford to expand onto his land and he made enough money renting out the property.”

“And when did things start to go wrong for him?”

“An older couple came into town claiming that their son and his girlfriend had been driving through here and had gone missing. Sheriff was ready to write them off until someone found the kids’ car, partially buried in the woods.”

“How was it found?”

“Well, whoever had done it had rushed the job a bit. Some of the bumper had been exposed, likely from a recent wind storm. They called in the Staties and started going door to door, questioning people. They didn’t have anything else to go on.”

“Until they talked to Mr. Rollins.”

“Not even then, at first. One of the officers thought that he was acting strange, but wrote it off. After a few weeks of chewing it over in his head, the officer decided to report his concerns. They were so desperate that they went and got a search warrant based off of it.”

“And that was when they found all the bodies?”

Daniel nodded. “Dozens of them, piled up all over this room here. Whatever he had been doing with them, it had been going on for a pretty long time. The bodies had been hacked up, thrown all over the place. It was a dammed mess. There was a bunch of strange equipment down below and it looked like he had been operating, conducting tests of some kind.”

“And Mr. Rollins was not present during the search, wasn’t heard from again?”

“That’s correct.”

“And what about his research?”

Daniel snorted. “I guess if that’s what you’d call it. They found boxes of Steno notebooks full of his chicken scratches. Crap about other universes, lots of mathematical equations, numbers and more formulas, dates for test subjects. Kept going on and on about finding something. ‘I’m going to figure out how to get there, I will leave this world for good and enter the next.’ Shit like that, mostly.”

Oscar looked up at that. “What was he talking about?”

Daniel shrugged. “Who knows?”

“Do you think the people he killed were the test subjects he was referring to?”

“Probably. Anyway, the last entry they found just had one word. Success.”

Oscar strolled around the barn’s interior. As much as the property outside had remained untouched, most of what had been in here had long since been removed. All that remained was a few stray bales of hay. The wood surfaces all around were colored, stained from the sins of acts long past. He bent down and ran his hand along the handle of a water pump that was jutting up and out of the ground.

“Who were his victims? The people he killed, was there any kind of connection established?”

“Best anyone could tell, they were all drifters, people out on the road for some reason or the other. He never killed anyone who lived here. Guess he didn’t want the attention.”

Oscar nodded, but didn’t say anything to add to the theory.

“Your paper said that you were going to want to see the cellar, is that right?”

“Yeah, I think I need to go down there, unfortunately. Is that a problem?” Oscar found himself half hoping that it would be.

“Nope. The trap door is just over there by the back wall. It’s just that…if it’s all the same, I’d just as soon stay up here.”

Oscar shook his head. “That’s all right. Not a problem.”

Daniel seemed to relax noticeably and went to unlatching the door. Oscar stared down the stairs leading into the cellar and contemplated the immensity of what had likely occurred down there.

“There’s a work light,” Daniel said. “About ten feet to the right from the very bottom of the stairs. Just turn as soon as you step off and go in a straight line, you’ll run into it.”

Oscar nodded and began walking down, wincing at the groaning from the wood, sure that he was about to end up trapped down here for hours while Daniel tried to get a rescue unit out here to fish him out. The stairs held out though, and he soon found himself standing on the cellar floor. There was a rectangle of light around him, cast from the open trapdoor above and all else was darkness.

He took several stops to the right, waving his arms around until he made contact with the light, hanging from the ceiling. As he fumbled with it, trying to find the switch, he had a brief image of Rollins reaching out to him from across the room.

The light finally clicked on and cast illumination all around the thirty square foot room. There was an even stronger smell of damp mildew and mold down here, bugs and worms oozing out from the walls and the muddy mess that the floor had become. There was a wooden work bench set against the wall with pegs, where various tools had likely once hung. Oscar found himself fixating on what Rollins might have been doing to all these people, what horrific lengths he had gone to, in pursuit of what he evidently saw as the needs of science.

The coroner’s original report had suggested that the cuts and wounds on the bodies were consistent with that of an axe, or possibly a saw. Standing here in this place, where so much violence and suffering had occurred, he could almost detect the metallic taste on his tongue of blood in the air.

There were random mechanical parts, in piles all over, but only one piece of actual, intact equipment, in the center of the room. It looked like it had once been the pilot’s chair of a plane, stripped out and mounted on the floor, which was possibly the reason it had never been moved. A primitive control panel of sorts was bolted onto one of the arm rests, with a number of dials and switches, marked with numbers and letters, but with no indication of their actual purpose.

Oscar felt an urge to take a seat, examining the contours that looked perfectly suited for his frame. There were two pedals on the floor of the contraption and, without really thinking it through, he reached down and pressed one of them with an open palm, pushing it down until there was a clicking sound from somewhere inside the mechanism, and the pedal made contact with the former floor of the aircraft.

The barn began to shake, a deep rumbling that came from somewhere under the ground itself. He looked to his right at the sound of tools clanking against the wall. Tools that weren’t even there before.

“What the hell is going on down there?” He heard Daniel yelling at him, but from across a wide gulf. The building was shaking so much that pieces of the rafters were starting to pull loose and rain down on him. The bulb in the work light popped, fading to dark and showering glass down on him.

Oscar knelt down on the floor, crouched, with his hands thrown up over his head. He was afraid to make his way back to the stairs in the dark, not knowing what debris had fallen that he now couldn’t see.

The howling of the wind outside was joined by the ringing in his ears. As he stood, another sound began to creep into his awareness. It was a dragging sound, shuffling across the dirt floor.

The sound of footsteps.

Rollins had never been found, presumably out there somewhere, making himself scarce. Despite that, Oscar somehow knew, in that moment, whose presence he now felt. It bore down on him like a sudden physical weight as his senses detected the new person, now in the room. Somehow, Oscar had managed to bring the man back from whatever infinite gulf he had figured out how to cross.

“Daniel?” He tried calling out to the caretaker, but there was no answer other than the sound of wood fracturing. The room shook with the sudden noise and impact of the stairs finally collapsing under the weight of some unknown force. He heard the footsteps approaching him in the dark, and now the sound of ragged breathing. He also heard something else, dragging like the footsteps, but this had a metallic edge to it.

The head of an axe.

 

For more short fiction like this, check out Chad A. Clark’s collections, A Shade For Every Season as well as Two Bells At Dawn.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page


Tracing Trails : Gwendy’s Button Box

TGwendyhe final new book of this project.

As a brief editor’s note, I should mention that at the time this review is being posted, we are a month or so removed from the release of Sleeping Beauties, King’s collaboration with his younger son, Owen. Because of the timing, I won’t be including that review as a part of this project. However, when I compile all of these into the format of a book, that review will be included as bonus content.

Keeping this on Gwendy, this book represented only the second author King has collaborated with in this fashion. He worked with his son, Joe Hill, on a short story but in terms of books, the only other ones were the two titles he co-wrote with Peter Straub.

I’ll be honest, I have had no experience with the work of Richard Chizmar. I’ve been aware of Cemetary Dance publications for some time as well as the gorgeous books they produce. Their anniversary edition of IT is the crown jewel of my tiny book collection. The point is that I had no kind of road map or expectations going into this book. So in a way, I suppose you could say that End Of Watch was the last book I read that was completely Stephen King. With this, it’s hard for me to really evaluate who’s who. As much as I’d like to say that I’ve become so familiar with King’s tone that I can identify who wrote which sentence, my dumb brain just doesn’t work that way. Ultimately, for me, there’s really no way to know where King ends and Chizmar begins. In any authorial collaboration, it’s pretty much impossible to separate one voice from the next, unless one of the authors is Tarzan or Jar Jar.

I can say that having just finished End Of Watch that this book felt consistently in line. I’ll be completely honest and admit that seeing this coming out in such close proximity to Sleeping Beauties, it wasGwendy 5 hard to not immediately think of Tom Clancy. For those who might not be aware, Clancy began at some point in the mid-nineties to authorize books with his name but written by other authors. At first, this was limited to a special series of books, separate from the main universe he wrote in but that bubble slowly expanded until, for the last chunk of his career, pretty much all of Clancy’s books were being penned by someone else. Even now, despite the fact that he passed away several years ago, we are still seeing new books hitting the market with his name on the cover. An author that I loved as a child eventually become essentially a brand name.

And to be clear, I don’t feel like I have the right to criticize Tom Clancy for taking his career in this direction and if it were the case with King, I would also feel inappropriate in calling that out. Certainly both authors have proved the world many times over their ability to write beautiful books. I don’t see a conspiracy, as I suspect some people would. For me, it’s simply a matter of an author getting on in years and changing the way they work. And who’s to say how involved they are in the process? For all we know, Tom Clancy was sitting down with his writers, extensively outlining the books while not wanting to undertake the grueling work of writing out the actual prose.

I don’t feel for a second that King is checking out from his process Gwendy 4or handing off the reins to someone else. My opinion is that he is likely just as invested in his craft as before. Having seen him speak in person as well as other interviews, I can sense the connection he feels with his work, something that I think wouldn’t be as evident if he wasn’t doing any of the actual writing. And I think there is more evidence of this in the recent announcement of a new (solo) King book, The Outsider, a mystery novel set for release in early 2018. So I’m not going to make this a treatise on hyper-analyzing each turn of phrase and conjunction to evaluate who deserves more of the credit. I’m just looking for an entertaining story. This, after all is likely the best legacy King has left for us.

When news came out regarding this book, much was made of the story being a return to Castle Rock, a long since abandoned locale for King and a product of what I think is the best stage of his career. I was both excited and nervous. How well would this hold up to what KingGwendy 3 has already done with the town? Needful Things was such a great sendoff, would this be a letdown?

In reality I would only classify this peripherally as being a “Castle Rock story”. There are some cool references here and there but otherwise, the actual story is the heart of this as opposed to the setting, as it should be.

And in this regard, the story is actually pretty entertaining. I thought it read as a kind of long form fable, but intended for an adult reader. The main character of the book, Gwendy, is gifted an ornate box with several buttons. This box has the ability to make her life qualitatively better. It also gives her the power to harness great destruction. How she deals with this power establishes a question of morality and integrity that runs throughout the whole book.

There is an interesting scene in which Gwendy is questioned by a teacher as to a moral decision. If you could kill anyone in the world, who would it be? The ensuing conversation is almost a microcosm for the entire book, more than likely intentional as Gwendy struggles with this notion from the moment she receives her special box.

As such, the book serves as an interesting version of a “what would you do?” type of story. It’s almost like a a long parable and I Gwendy 2think that King and Chizmar did a good job making that concept entertaining, while at the same time thought-provoking. It isn’t an easy balance to strike and often stories of that nature seem to be heavy-handed or preachy but I actually enjoyed this. It wasn’t just about making some heavy-handed points through the specifics of the narrative. I really felt for Gwendy and her situation.

The mysterious stranger who gives Gwendy the box is definitely intriguing for me. I would love to know more about him and where he fits into the whole shared universe of King’s books. The language he uses in their first meeting, asking Gwendy to take a seat next to him on a bench so they can have a “palaver” had me thinking quite a bit of the Dark Tower. Not that I’m going to just declare this to be a Dark Tower book but I did appreciate the reference. A part of me did wonder if perhaps this stranger was indeed another manifestation of our friend Walter, Randall Flagg, the Man in Black. Seeing how the character behaves throughout the book though makes me think this isn’t likely. It’s fun to think about, especially in the occasional moments throughout the book that are creepy and unsettling, but looking at the larger picture, it’s a theory that I don’t think holds up in the actual text.

Stephen King has been a master of this craft for quite some time. I Gwendy 1genuinely believe that there is at least one Stephen King book out there for everyone. His work has spanned more years than I’ve been alive and we have nearly lost him a number of times along the way. While he invited a partner to ride this particular trail with him, I think that his creativity and spark still shows through. I have faith and I have trust. And I’m excited to see what the future will bring.

My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader.

 

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page


Behind Our Walls, A New Afterword

Behind Our Walls PrintEditor’s Note : The print edition of Behind Our Walls is soon going to be re-released with some new content, including a brand new afterword from the author. Check it out here, first!

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It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly where the story of Behind Our Walls came from. In the beginning, this entire universe began with a short story, titled Tomorrow’s Memory. I wrote it largely as a challenge to myself. I wanted to try and create a story entirely through journal entries. I wanted it to take place on an apocalyptic landscape but I didn’t want the focus of the story to be about walking from point A to point B of how the world collapsed. It seemed to me that that story has been told often enough. I also didn’t want to bring any supernatural elements to bear on this.

I wanted it to be a human story.

I’m a big fan of George Orwell’s 1984. And one aspect of the book I’ve always found chilling is the manipulation of people to achieve the ends of the state. Eliminate revolution by removing the lingual ability to express discontent. The political landscape and the “enemies” of the people need to change? Just rewrite the history books to agree with your new reality.

The point is that I was intrigued by the idea of a survivor in the apocalypse using a journal as a way of speaking to future generations, to maybe plant the seed for a solution that could be generations away.

While it is only mentioned in passing in this story, I was intrigued by the idea of a football stadium being used to rebuild a community. If it could be secured from the outside, there would be a great deal of space for a group of survivors to come together, with luxury suites being used essentially as apartments. I think that wanting to explore this further was a big part of what led to a longer book.

I was happy with how the story came out and it was included in my debut collection, Borrowed Time : And Other Tales. And at the time, I assumed I was basically done with it.

In early 2014, I decided that there was a larger story to tell here. The snapshot provided in Tomorrow’s Memory was interesting enough but I wanted to back out and put out a more traditionally structured narrative.

The main character Of Tomorrow’s Memory only makes one appearance outside of that short story. At the end of Behind Our Walls, we see Fiona for the last time as she is about to approach a pair she has come across on the road. She makes mention of one of them writing in a journal. Did you catch that one? The pair she encounters is indeed Stella and our unnamed narrator from Tomorrow’s Memory. I don’t suspect we will see him again and I kind of like that he is simply an anonymous figure. I think his status as a symbol is more important than his actual name.

When I wrote Tomorrow’s Memory, I was intrigued with the character of Fiona and found myself wanting to give her a larger role, to see more of what she was like. Also crossing over from Tomorrow’s Memory was the author in the final entry of the infamous journal, Sophia. With two characters set firmly in my head, I went about to the task of building a story around them.

The book grew. And grew. And grew. As I often tend to do, I was trying to tell a story that was just too ambitious for a single book. A large crux of my issues seemed to be around the character of Fiona.

In the early drafts, Fiona was a cruel, unsympathetic character, similar to how she ended up being in the book. I seemed to think that she needed to be softened and made to be more complex so, denying my early instincts, I pulled a vintage George Lucas Mos Eisley reversal and tried to increase Fiona’s humanity.

It didn’t work.

Put simply, the narrative of the story was dancing around all these characters so much that it ended up not being about any of them, really. Fiona might have been more sympathetic but she was less engaging for the reader. After some key advice from a friend, I made the decision to pare down the book and did so spectacularly. The book was about 100,000 words at that point and I think I cut close to 30,000. All of the chapters from Fiona’s point of view were removed. In one case, I took a scene in which Fiona and Nairi are kidnapped by a man in the woods. Nairi is raped. The chapter containing this went away but I decided to give the scene to Sophia and Corrine, keeping that essential character element to the story.

Besides cutting back on Fiona and returning her to the vicious character she was from the start, I also stripped away most of the first sections of the book, choosing to start things literally in the middle of the drama. The specifics of the origins of this universe isn’t as clear but I think the opening we ended with was much more powerful. When I wrote the first paragraph, starting up in the moments immediately following the killing of Sophie’s mother, the tumblers clicked in my head and I immediately knew I had made the right decision. The story that followed was much more tight and focused than any previous incarnations.

As I said previous to this, Behind Our Walls is a human story. It’s about keeping the story at ground level without the loud, booming narrative voice. It’s about these characters that have been dumped into their own collective nightmares and how they struggle to find themselves again.

One aspect that was important to me was that, while the story is bleak and harsh, there are also elements of optimism. I think it’s important to remember that even in the depths of the darkest corners of our souls, there is still a potential for goodness. There is still a possibility and a reason for hope. Living in the world, nowadays it has been harder to hold on to that. So while the book was written well before our most recent Presidential election, it has been nice to have been able to turn back to this story.

So the question at this point is where the franchise will go from here. I can say with certainty that there will be two more books. The second of the trilogy, From Across Their Walls will be released in 2018. The story is not a sequel, really. The protagonist is a new character, although there will be some familiar faces. And this will start at a similar point, running alongside Behind Our Walls for some time before splitting off on its own, occasionally crossing paths with the progression of the first book. I’m happy with how this story has shaped up and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

And as for the third book, there isn’t much I can reveal at this point. It’s still very early on and it won’t start to really take shape until the second book is completely finished. I can say that like the second book, a new central character will be introduced and the story will have some time to walk on its own legs before joining up with the collective narrative.

In the end however, I have to make sure I give thanks to all of you who have taken interest in Behind Our Walls, which to date has been my most successful release. It’s a world that I have loved creating and I’m looking forward to spending a little more time there.

Thanks for being there with me.

Click here to purchase Behind Our Walls in paperback or for the kindle. Click here for the audiobook edition.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

 


Tracing Trails : End Of Watch

end of watchI think that one of the more interesting aspects of this trilogy is the fact that each book seems to have its own unique vibe and ecosystem. And in the third installment, we finally have more of what I would consider to be the classic Stephen King story type. I would still classify this as more of a thriller but with much more influence from the paranormal.

King wastes little time getting into the heart of this story. Bill Hodges is back. And so is the Mercedes Killer, albeit in not the form you might expect.

As the title of the book, as well as the various interpretations would suggest, this is a book that deals largely with endings and watching the world move on around you. I thought that King did a good job creating an atmosphere for this finale that was poignant and heartfelt. I thought there was genuine growth that I saw in the characters and in their relationships.

One storytelling device I have always found effective was the notion of a killer continuing to pursue previous victims. To create the notion that just because a certain character might survive, it doesn’t keep them safe in any other books yet to come. I thought it was powerful how the survivors of the original City Square incident continue to be victims of a killer whose capabilities are only growing. It’s incredibly evocative in the sense that for the lives of these characters, things don’t necessarily stop just because you’ve reached the last page of the book. Despite surviving a traumatic event, there is still plenty of potential for a person’s life to steer off the path and take a turn for the worse. Just because you experience a victory in the course of your struggles, it doesn’t mean that defeat still can’t be right around the corner. In a sense, looking at this from an existential perspective, the ultimate failure is out there waiting for all of us.End Of Watch 1 Maybe that’s a bit too much of a downer for something as simple as a book review but I think that it is a point that is well underlined over the course of this story.

I could be projecting here but I feel like Stephen King at this stage of his life is just giving himself the freedom to really enjoy his writing. Not that he has ever allowed himself to be dictated to by the fans but it seems like he is writing stories for the sake of doing things he likes. And some may criticize him, arguing that his edge isn’t as sharp or his craft isn’t as refined. Personally, after so many books I think he’s earned the right to take things easy. It’s one thing to write a book of a thousand or more pages and take five years to do it when you’re in your thirties. But when you’re in your late sixties, having traversed the fires of drug and alcohol addiction and nearly lost your life at the hands of several tons of automotive steel, I think you’re entitled to scale down the professional obligations in your life. Take time for yourself and your family. We will continue to be eternally grateful for what we have gotten and might still get.

I’ve said this before in previous reviews, but I think Bill Hodges is a great kind of a hero, reminiscent somewhat of Ralph from Insomnia. Sometimes the heroics that are needed can be found in unlikely places. I’m less interested in the heroes that are so powerful, it’s almost like End Of Watch 4reading a comic book. Just like villains, heroes are made that much better if their strengths are balanced by more weaknesses. I’m never going to relate to a Bruce Wayne type character. But Hodges seems like the kind of person that I can understand. And ultimately in any suspenseful story, this is essential. And in End Of Watch specifically, Hodges has grown a lot since Mr. Mercedes. With the third book of the trilogy, I feel like the character actually has some complexities to him and that it isn’t just a case of the same personality being forced through a different plot as if it was a sausage factory. Even the more secondary characters of the book feel like they have grown and changed from the beginning of the series.

One other area that I wanted to point out that I appreciated and that would be the relationship between Hodges and his partner in his private detective agency, Holly. There is a trend anymore in film and books and television I have been increasingly annoyed with and that would be the incessant need to create romantic pairings between two characters. If there’s a male character paired up against a female character, it’s like the immediate assumption for many readers is to wait for the inevitable moment when they get it on. With End Of End Of Watch 3Watch, it would be an almost standard expectation that, despite the difference in age, Hodges and Holly would eventually cross over the divide between friendship and romance. And while King seemed to flirt with this at times, for the most part I felt like he maintained the relationship as something that was at least a little more unique, that went against the flow of what had to be many people’s expectations.

A trilogy of books is something that I don’t think I would have ever expected to come from Stephen King. Besides the Dark Tower series and the Talisman books, he seems to have established himself as a one-off author. There are plenty of references throughout his work but most of his them stand tall on their own. It was cool to see him take on the challenge of telling a story on this level and in this format and I think that for the most part he was successful.

On a personal note, I should mention that on the publicity tour for this book, I finally got to achieve two things that had been a dream of End Of Watch 2mine for a long time. First, I got to see Stephen King live and in person. He did a tour of smaller venues, hitting not necessarily the bigger cities and I was overjoyed earlier in the year to see that he would be coming to Iowa City, my home town. The event was at a local theater that had also been a huge part of my childhood. In fact, I think I saw Pet Semetary in that theater. The evening was fantastic and it was a thrill to see him talking about his craft. One story I have held on to in particular is how he described the existence of three Stephen Kings. The first is the guy who lounges around the house, watching Red Sox games and taking out garbage when asked. Then there’s the version who goes out on the road to do appearances and speaking engagements. He commented that his kids used to describe this as him going on the road to “be Stephen King”. And finally, there’s writer Stephen King, the dark presence that he leaves behind in the shed out back, the one who rises to the surface to pen so many books that we have come to love.

I also received a hard-back edition of End Of Watch as a part of the cost of my ticket. King wasn’t doing a book signing at the events, I suspect because it’s much harder for him to stay comfortable for long stretches after his accident. But there were several hundred autographed editions of the book mixed in with the stacks so as I End Of Watch autographdeparted the theater and was given my book, I found that I had reached the second dream in about as many hours.

I had an autographed Stephen King book.

My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader.

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For more Stephen King reviews, check out Tracing The Trails, a blog dedicated to his collected works.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page


Special Sauce, by Chad A. Clark

special sauce

The health inspector walked alongside the counter, running his finger over the surface and frowning at the thick layer of grime and dust that he pushed through. Dale watched him go through his routine, wondering how long this particular dance would have to go on.

“So…What happened to our regular guy?” he asked.

“Food poisoning, I’m afraid.” The twerp removed his gloves long enough to scratch his nose and adjust the glasses that were perched on the end of his nose. Once done, he removed a fresh pair of gloves from his pocket. “Though I can’t say that his absence has been a bad thing, especially considering his obvious inattention to certain details.”

“Uh-huh.” Dale watched as the inspector looked over the menu scrawled onto an old chalkboard. He pointed at the listing for the house special, which was currently marked as unavailable.

“What exactly is a…luck of the…” He frowned and leaned in to get a closer look at the menu. “luck of the day-wich?”

“Just a sandwich. We use whatever’s on hand, you know? You get what we give you. But it has a real special kind of meat. Sort of need it, you know? It’s hard to get, real regular.”

The inspector smiled, a thin expression that did nothing to convey any kind of mirth or good will. “Charming.” He turned his back on Dale and began his seventh tour around the diner, an establishment that was barely larger than a one bedroom apartment. This was going on way too long.

“So what’s the verdict?”

The inspector ignored the question as he did another soul-sucking lap. When he finally returned to his starting point, he took his gloves off and put the pen back into his breast pocket.

“Perhaps we should go somewhere more discreet to discuss this?”

Dale stuck out a lip and shook his head. “Just get out with it, I don’t care.”

“Well, then where do I begin?” He lifted his clipboard and began tracing down it with his finger even though Dale suspected that he knew the whole thing by heart. “You have no hand-washing stations. I have observed your cook returning from the lavatory twice without washing his hands and when I asked him, he was unable to tell me what your procedures are for properly holding perishable food.”

“Well come on now, the sink in the bathroom’s just fine for—”

“You have unlabeled bins of meat in your reach-in, cooked meat sharing containers with uncooked meat, and vegetables that are mostly rotten. You have inadequate holding temperatures in all of your coolers, blood on the floors, no properly maintained dish-washing station and your waitress has been sneezing and coughing on the food the entire time I have been here.”

He looked up from his clipboard with a smug look of satisfaction as if Dale was supposed to just figure out the answer to his original question on his own. He tried repeating it, but slower and enunciating the words more effectively.

“So, what’s the verdict?”

“Sir, I cannot in good conscience allow you to continue serving food to the public in these conditions. You will need to shut down your kitchen immediately, confiscate any food from your patrons and you are not to charge anyone for what they have ordered or partially consumed. I will also need to see the documentation from your last inspection.”

“Yeah…” Dale looked around in the mess under the register, stealing glances at his customers who were all rolling their eyes at the show that this officious prick was putting on for everyone. “Tell you what. That green binder over there, next to the phone? Down by your knees? Pretty sure it’s in there.”

The inspector leaned down to reach for the binder. As he did so, Dale grabbed the meat cleaver that the cook was passing through to him from the kitchen. He raised it, and brought it down into the center of the prick’s back. The man shrieked as he fell forward and Dale brought the blade up for a second blow, this time to the back of the head. After a third, fourth and fifth time, the screams stopped. He tossed the cleaver into the sink and stood up with a grin lighting up his face.

“Special’s back on boys!”

For more short fiction like this, check out Chad A. Clark’s collections, A Shade For Every Season as well as Two Bells At Dawn.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page


Tracing Trails : The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams

bazaarThe last short story collection.

I would be lying that while I am looking forward to being done with the stress of making sure my reading is outpacing the reviews, I am sad to be moving on from this project. So for the short stories, we are signing off with 2015’s book, The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams.

The release of this book seemed to be with both fanfare and grumbling. Some celebrated King’s return to a medium he had done so well in. Others were put off that nearly every story, including the novellas had already been released separately. The biggest stories in terms of size in this volume would be UR, Blockade Billy and Mile 81, all of which were available before the release of Bazaar.

In King’s defense at least somewhat, the stories that were reprinted did get additional revision before being released. Also, with most of them, the stories weren’t available in print form so while it might be splitting hairs, Bazaar at least made the stories available across all formats. Of course I can’t deny the disappointment felt by fans who, upon seeing the release of a new King book realized that they had already read most of the content.

As for me, with the exception of UR, I hadn’t read any of the stories before. So for me, I got to enjoy these for the first time. I suspect this issue is going to hold different water for different people. As far as I’m concerned, it’s fairly common practice for authors to compile stories they have published in magazines and anthologies. All of King’s previous collections featured primarily stories he had published previously. So while I can see the point somewhat, I alsobazaar 5 don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Whether or not a story is completely new and never seen the light of day or not, there is always going to be a new audience for that material.

To me, it seems like the advent of the Kindle and digital technology is a big factor here. When King published Night Shift, the only way you could have read any of those stories previously would be if you happened to have come across a physical copy of one of the periodicals who had published them. Now, all you need is a search engine. His short stories are much more accessible than they used to be so bringing them to press in a compiled book isn’t as big of an event.

One aspect to these stories that I thought held up better than some of the previous collections was that they felt much more polished and put together. In some of the more recent books, King’s short stories have sometimes had a feel of gasping to a stop, and I thought he could have done maybe a better job finding a button to end on. With Bazaar however, I rarely got to the end of the story feeling somewhat puzzled, wondering what the point was. There was a definite arc going on through most of these stories and for the most part, I enjoyed them.

While I enjoyed most of the stories here, there were some standouts. In no particular order.

MILE 81

Of the novellas in Bazaar, this was definitely my favorite. Blockade Billy was entertaining on some level, likely from my own love of baseball but it was kind of straight-forward, a bit on the bland side. I read UR when it was originally released, exclusively for the bazaar 7kindle and reading it now, I had pretty much the same reaction. It was okay but also just seemed like kind of a long setup for a Dark Tower tie-in moment.

Mile 81 started out amazing. For a while, I thought that it was like taking King’s novel, From A Buick 8 and reducing it down to the core, essential premise of the story. It was like picking out the scariest parts and stripping away all the unnecessary story-telling around them. What we were left with was this terrifying demon car that destroys anything that comes near it. I loved the way King broke the story up into little vignettes as victim after victim blunders into their own deaths. The scenes were brutal and the descriptions were definitely reminiscent of classic era King.

The story isn’t without its flaws. The main character is introduced at the beginning of the story but then vanishes for a significant chunk of the story. That might fly with Tolkien, but not so much in this context. King eventually returns the kid to the fold but it would have bazaar 5been nice to see him around more throughout. Also, while the pacing of the story is awesome and the bleak situation of the characters was perfectly done, it does all kind of build up to an ending that was a little too clean for my taste. Things just seemed to wrap up a little too nicely for me and I think I would have preferred seeing the last few scenes worked out a bit longer. At the very least, I thought the conclusion to the tale needed a few more sharp edges to it.

Still, there is a lot to love and despite not caring for how it finished, I’m crazy-happy about the rest.

SUMMER THUNDER

Easily my favorite story from the book and might be a contender for my favorite King short story of the new Millennium. Although I have started to feel some fatigue in regards to zombies, I do still love some good post-apocalyptic fiction. Summer Thunder is a perfect example of a powerful story that doesn’t have to expend a ton of energy explaining everything to the reader. The world has been bazaar 1essentially destroyed in a nuclear war. The protagonist of the story is one of the lone survivors, along with a dog he has taken in. The only other character we see is a nearby neighbor who he visits every day.

The thing I love about the story is the creeping sense of dread you get as the story progresses and you realize that beyond the actual bombs going off, these people are now forced to deal with the reality of radiation sickness and the likelihood of eventual death. I can’t say much else without spoiling the specifics but King brings some serious emotional impact to this story. It’s beautiful and tragic, all at the same time and it builds up to a spectacular ending. Anyone who thinks that short stories don’t have enough time or space to reach the reader should check out this one.

By the way, if you want to play the game of connecting threads and finding similarities, I think this story could function as a sort of followup to King’s short story, Graduation Afternoon. You can find it in the collection previous to this, Just After Sunset.

 

THAT BUS IS ANOTHER WORLD

Looking at this from a practical perspective, very little happens in this story. A traveler is on his way to New York City for an important bazaar 4business meeting. As he arrives at the airport, we watch as he hits delay after delay and the comfortable time cushion he had for himself slowly begins to deteriorate. Then, in the process of waiting in the back of his cab, he happens to glance over at the bus next to him and what he sees is pretty shocking.

Despite this, the story carries a lot with it. First, there is the experience of sitting alongside the protagonist and imagining what it would be like to witness something yourself. It’s a reminder that at any given moment in our lives, there’s always the potential for some unknown danger to pop up and reveal itself to you in violent, horrifying fashion. I also love that King provides no context or explanation for the violence that the protagonist witnesses. In my opinion, not understanding the reason for something makes the fear of the situation that much higher. We generally try to avoid dangerous situations in our day-to-day lives but if we don’t even understand what made a particular encounter dangerous, how are we supposed to protect ourselves?

On another level, there is also a moral question here that I thought made the story effective. It’s the old, what would you do scenario? If you were the sole witness to an act of violence, what would you do? Would you speak up or try to get help for the person? Would you callbazaar 3 the authorities and try to alert police? What if you were on the way to a potentially career-changing meeting that could turn your life around? What if there was nothing really you could do to help the person? Would there be any circumstances that would make it okay to turn your back on someone in need of help?

This story shocks and makes you think. Fantastic stuff.

BAD LITTLE KID

Another great venture into the supernatural with this one. A lawyer is interviewing his client, a man (George Hallas) who is sitting on death row for the murder of a child. Hallas tells a story about repeated sightings of a young kid who seems to be constantly taunting him and who always seems to appear on the brink of some kind of tragedy. Of course no one else seems to be aware of the kid’s existence and as Hallas gets older, the encounters seem to get more dangerous and violent as the kid even starts to communicate with Hallas.

The story is frightening enough but also contains scenes that are pretty shocking, bringing me back to the early years of King’s career when his books seemed to have more of a take no prisoners approach. It’s the kind of thing that is disturbing but at the same time you can’t bazaar 2help but keep on reading because you have to understand. I love that the story starts off with a feel of being a bit absurd and innocent and progressively gets darker and more frightening. The point in the story where Hallas reveals what he did to get himself on death row is chilling to read.

And of course, in fine King fashion, the story winds down to an ending that is pretty chilling and dark.

UNDER THE WEATHER

One last one I’ll gush about here. This was a bit of a gnarly one when you consider the reveal at the end. The character at the center of the story is Brad, who is caring for his wife who has been sick for some time, feeling under the weather. I don’t want to say much about the story as this is a fun one to unravel for yourself. But it all moves forward to an ending that is tragic and disturbing. I think it is also a great study of the mental outlook of this character and how he can delude himself into seeing what he wants. I suppose on some level, this story speaks to the intense levels of love and devotion that Brad feels towards his wife but it all manifests in a pretty brutal fashion.

bazaar 6

In the end, I suppose I would say that if this ends up being King’s last collection of short stories, I think he gave us a pretty good sendoff. I still wouldn’t place this ahead of the likes of Night Shift and Skeleton Crew. But it’s definitely a step up from Nightmares & Dreamscapes. I would probably even rank it above Just After Sunset and slightly above Everything’s Eventual. It’s a great collection of stories that I had no trouble making through in quick fashion. This is one that you shouldn’t pass up.

My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader

 

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page


Knock, by Chad A. Clark

knock

Marissa groaned as the doorbell rang again and slammed the book down on the table. It had seemed like such a good idea to do Halloween this year and actually buy some candy for the kids. This was her first year in the new house and she thought it would be a good way to meet the neighbors.

Almost right away, she regretted the decision.

It was Halloween candy, how expensive could it be? Still, she had spent thirty dollars that she didn’t really have. And while she had consoled herself at the time with the thought that she would end up with a bunch of leftover candy, it was actually looking like she would have to close down early. Or head to the store to buy more. Maybe she was giving out too much. Probably letting the greedy little vultures take too much.

She greeted the fourth iteration of the complete Avengers team at her door by trying to smile sweetly while dumping the candy into the outstretched buckets and bright orange plastic pumpkins. If she had to put up with the aggravation, maybe she could take her anger out on them by helping guarantee a diabetic coma for the next day. The happy laughter and giggling as the little shits tore off down her driveway was only converted in her head to the sound of them making fun of her.

She wished she could get through a chapter without the doorbell ringing. A voice in the back of her head said that she should just call it quits and switch off the porch light. She didn’t owe anything to these people’s kids. Still, she intended to see this thing through to the end. She would not be seen by the neighborhood as a quitter.

She managed to read one page when she heard the sound, but this time it wasn’t coming from the front door. She looked over and saw the door to the closet on the far side of the room shaking back and forth, as if there was someone inside, pushing out. That was idiotic though, no way it could be possible. It must have been something inside that fell over, maybe a broom that was displaced. She pulled the door open and staggered back several steps, nearly yelling out as she did so.

One of the kids from the neighborhood had sneaked into the house without her hearing and was evidently hiding out, waiting to surprise her. The kid, she guessed it was a he, just stood there, staring up at her through the grotesque excuse for a Halloween mask he wore. It was unique at least, unlike anything she had ever seen, looking like some odd cross between a werewolf and an alien costume. Considering the lack of tags anywhere, and how worn everything looked, she wondered if this kid was some kind of budding fashion or costume designer.

Her curiosity was quickly drowned out by the anger of having her home intruded upon.

“Who the hell are you?” she asked. “How did you get in here?”

He stared at her through the mask, his breath coming out in sharp gasps as he rocked from side to side.

“Christ’s sake, we’ve got a moron here or something.” She glared at the kid, trying to figure out who it was. He had to be from the neighborhood, but behind the mask she couldn’t tell for sure. “Are you just going to stand there like an idiot? What are we doing here?”

For the briefest moment, Marissa thought he was going to start walking forward but he just rocked back onto his heels and stayed put, incomprehension glowing behind those eyes.

“Do you live around here?”

No answer.

“Are you friends with someone in the neighborhood?”

Silence.

“Where are your parents?”

The situation had extended beyond odd and was now infuriating her. She was about to take a step forward to grab the kid when the knife came around from behind, gripped in the tiny little hand. And for as much as she wanted this to simply be a prop that came with the costume, as she looked at it, she immediately realized that was not the case. This did not look like a cheap piece of plastic that most toys of this ilk would be made of. It was hard steel, stained up and down with dried blood. The hand that held it flexed on the handle, as if it was about to raise the blade to strike.

Marissa took in several breaths to try and calm herself before stepping forward. She had to control the situation, stay calm and try to figure out what this kid needed. She reached out to try and place her hand on the handle of the blade, but just before she got there, it pulled away from her smoothly. The look of rage in those eyes behind the mask made her breath catch in her throat.

Maybe it was the mask. The kid was hiding behind it and acting out in ways that he might not do otherwise. She needed to shake him out of his daze and this might be the only way to do it. Moving her hands slowly, holding them open to show she didn’t intend to hurt him, she reached up and felt around on the back of his head for a zipper or Velcro or a seam. Anything that would dislodge the thing from the kid’s face.

She found nothing.

The swirl of silence in her head became deafening, as she heard the kid’s breathing grow in volume. The eyes looking up at her had a bright red glow to them that she hadn’t noticed before. She had immediately taken the eyes as being behind a mask, but they were actually sunken down into skin that looked inhuman. The rage baked off the thing in waves and in the blink of a moment, all she could think about was the knife, still held in its hand. She turned to run, but before she could get more than a step, a hand that she couldn’t believe she had ever taken as human snaked around and grabbed her from behind. It pulled her in close, enfolding her in the stink of its breath and cutting off the scream rising to her lips on the sharpened edge of cold steel.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page


Tracing Trails : Finders, Keepers

finderskeepersBeing completely honest, as I began Finders Keepers, I was a little perplexed as to how this book was going to fit as a followup to Mr. Mercedes. The characters from the first book are largely absent until fairly deep into the story and all I really had to hold on to was that it seemed to take place in a shared universe.

That said, the story of Finders Keepers is entertaining, despite not immediately feeling like a direct sequel. It had certain shades of his previous books as it seemed to deal somewhat with fandom and how those people interact with a favorite author.

As the book opens, a popular but reclusive novelist is accosted at home and robbed. In the course of that he is killed, the perpetrators taking with them a great deal of money as well as unpublished writing. It is this money and this writing that becomes the center of the story. It’s told largely from two perspectives, one being Morris, the killer. Before he is arrested for another crime, he manages to hide the money and the writing in hopes of using it to his advantage one day. The second character is Pete, a teenager who, years later stumbles across Morris’s hiding place and decides to use the contents to help his parents.

The story is largely a waiting game to see when these twofinderskeepers 3 characters will inevitably be brought together and King plays the tension well. And eventually, our heroes from Mr. Mercedes are brought into the fold.

I won’t say that this book is without its issues. Like the Mercedes killer, Morris starts off with several brutal acts of violence but for a large portion of the book, he just doesn’t carry the same level of menace I’ve come to expect from King villains. And as I hinted at already, I would have liked there to be a slightly stronger connection to Mr Mercedes. For a large part of the book, I felt like I was reading the next installment in a standalone series as opposed to the second book of a trilogy. And that might seem like a minor point but I think there is a difference. It’s the difference between reading something like say, Michael Marshall’s Straw Men trilogy and simply saying, “this week on the Hardy Boys.”

I did enjoy the story but when Bill Hodges does finally make his entrance to the story, I felt like he was shoehorned in somewhat. I think the makeup of the story could have been stronger if he was incorporated earlier on.

Still, the book manages to entertain. I did like the scattered moments throughout in which King took the various threads and characters in the story and brought them slowly together.

I also liked that, while Misery explored the relationship from the finderskeepers 4writer’s perspective, in this book we got to see things more from the reader/fan’s point of view. It’s an interesting notion to think of fans who passionately call for more material and product from the artists they love and support. Are they somehow deserving or owed more content like they demand, simply for their enthusiasm and monetary support?

It raises an interesting philosophical question. As fans who reward a writer with their hard earned money, do they have the right to demand access to the writer, to expect more? As a writer myself my natural response is of course to say no. But I also have to acknowledge that by creating the books, we did kind of entice them onto the ride in the first place. So while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that readers have to right to order up like they are at a drive-through window, we as authors should try and treat our readers with the respect and gratitude they deserve. There needs to be a middle ground.

And obviously I can’t support the way in which Morris airs his grievances to his favorite author. Homicide is definitely a few steps too far. And in the days of social media when authors pretty much need to have a presence online and are relatively easier to access, howfinderskeepers 1 many more Morris-like characters are really out there, lurking in shadows? It’s definitely something that deserves contemplation and I have no doubt that Stephen King has had his fair share of tenuous interactions with fans.

Holding this up against Mr. Mercedes, I’d say that both have their merits. Finders Keepers doesn’t have the handful of shocking scenes like Mr. Mercedes does but I also felt like the story was a little more engaging and crafted slightly better.

This book definitely shirks what would be the standard three-act book formula. In the standard model, act one serves to purely introduce the characters and the story is largely standalone. This actually fits with the Mercedes trilogy. But then, typically in act two, the same characters are put into a horrible position which then dovetails into act three. Acts two and three will generally feel much more connected.

And at the end of Finders Keepers, King does deliver a quick jab, a gasp of a moment that serves as a great cliffhanger. It also functions great as a launching point into End Of Watch. But with the core of the finderskeepers 2cast of characters being new to this installment, it does make the two books feel slightly out of sync with each other.

I would rate this along with Mr. Mercedes as towards the upper end of King’s recent output. They aren’t stunning literary achievements but they’re entertaining and really that’s what we need from a book. And I think these books have also been a sign of King’s versatility and his ability to bear down and just turn out a simple but well made story.

My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader.

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To see more King reviews, check out my ongoing project, Tracing The Trails, reflections in order on the works of Stephen King.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page