Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Richard Laymon

Richard Laymon is my favorite Bad Writer. He ladles out tasty helping after tasty helping of fast-paced horror, amusing & ridiculous banter, inexplicable character motivation, bloody mayhem, sexual torture, horny juveniles, and eye-rolling coincidence. His rich stews are chock-full of laugh-out-loud (or gasp-out-loud) moments that are berserk, bizarre, and often hilarious. He is also insanely repetitious, incredibly sleazy, and his mono-focus on BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS (and the teenage boys who love them) is positively mono-maniacal. Why do i keep returning to his novels? They must be like crack to me. He is a terrible writer in so many ways, but a person cannot fault his expert ability with pacing or the overripe fecundity of his imagination. He's one of a kind.


To Wake the DeadTO WAKE THE DEAD is a surprisingly ambitious novel in some ways, mainly in its structure. It juggles multiple narratives that of course come together in the end - but those narrative strands are absorbingly different from each other. And there are a heck of a lot of them! A curator and her cop boyfriend deal with break-ins and murders at a museum while indulging themselves in romance and margaritas. A semi-mindless mummy snarls her way across various neighborhoods, ripping throats out and searching for babies. A mopey, rich blind girl sighs on the rooftop of her mansion, constantly dreaming of lovers appearing to comfort her. A horny high school teen is kidnapped and wakes to find himself in a room of cages, cages full of captives who must yield to complicated physical torture and sexual abuse each time the lights go off. Three teen runaways flee to California and must deal with a range of predators, bickering the entire way. A repulsively-depicted drug addict and combo sexual predator/prey forms a crush on a gentleman who was kind to her. An egyptian emigre tries to figure out the mystery of the mummy while engaging in a series of sexual hijinks, one of which goes terribly awry. All of that, and then right in the middle of the book we get an old-fashioned, multiple-chapter flashback delivered quaintly through the journal of a young archaelogist finding a mummy's tomb. Of course the journal graphically depicts a bit of wish fulfillment sex-with-twins, but hey that's Laymon for you.


The CellarTHE CELLAR is Laymon’s first novel and it certainly reads as a first novel in its combination of breathless pacing, graphic gross-outs, awkward dialogue, and a narrative that lurches all over the place. It also features highly unnecessary descriptions of child molestation in an odd subplot that is completely inessential to the narrative... and that sort of made me question the author's motives. Overall, I thought this was an incredibly overrated piece of crap. However, taken on its own, "giant human/rat monsters who are obsessed with sex" is sort of an amusing concept. The description of a pair of these fellows earnestly double-teaming their landlady was certainly a first for me.


Allhallow's EveALLHALLOW’S EVE is surprisingly underrated. A conspicuously slim and trim novel that details various events leading up to a carnage-filled Halloween party. There’s a killer on the loose, a bad house with a bad history,  a lovelorn cop, two pathetic teen bullies, and our ostensible hero – the bullies’ victim and the son of the cop’s love interest. I enjoyed this one. It is full of Laymon’s typical flaws but the pacing here is particularly fine, there are several scenes that go in surpassingly surprising directions, and the Halloween party itself is enjoyably brief – which makes its various atrocities all the more vivid. And in its distinctly repellent teen protagonist – cringing, creepy, and cunning – it looks ahead to his later novel ISLAND in its use of an audience identification point with whom no sane audience would like to identify.


ISLAND is incredibly offensive, bizarrely interesting, and often a lot of frenetic, fast-paced fun. Sleazy, escapist enjoyment; I felt guilty. A bunch of survivors of a suspicious explosion on a private yacht run around a tropical island, getting picked off or captured & abused by unknown assailants. Fortunately, a relentlessly horny teenage boy is on hand to be our fearless hero, audience identification point, and cataloger of all things he deems attractive or unattractive in women.

IslandThis novel made me wonder: is Laymon a banal and vapid writer or is this all deliberate - could there be intent behind it? Who knows. Sometimes i can't help but get the impression that everything he knows about human conversation, emotion, and motivation is what he learned from bad tv and 80s slasher movies. Well in this novel that debit actually works well because of the hilariously banal and vapid protagonist. The cataloguing of various cute physical attributes of his fellow castaways gets so repetitious and out-of-place and obsessive that the novel almost becomes an absurdist farce. No matter how dangerous or grueling the situation may be, no matter how often everyone is running for their lives or trying to stake out their tormentors... our hero still pops a boner at the slightest hint of T&A and his inner monologue remains ludicrously obsessed with the most puerile, laughable details. I'm not sure I've read anything remotely like this. Outside of Laymon.

The protagonist awkwardly getting in touch with his dark side a couple times was a nifty touch, although it also meant having to get through some repulsive, drooling depictions of abuse (par for the course for Laymon readers, unfortunately). But "nifty" is definitely not the right word for the very ending, one where our boy-hero decides to bring his exploration of that dark side to the next level. “Genuinely disturbing" is probably a more appropriate phrase.

Witness this finale – BIG, BIG SPOILER AHEAD IN THIS PARAGRAPH – in which our horny young idiot of a protagonist finally gets some of his sexual fantasies fulfilled: after many struggles, a lot of quick thinking, and a bit of luck, he manages to heroically save the day by violently dispatching both of the heinous, monstrous villains... and then simply decides to keep his fellow survivors imprisoned ("uh oh, I can't find the key to your cages!")... and so is able to take those villains' place, living in their island mansion, a bunch of naked women he's been salivating over throughout the novel now full of gratitude towards him... and now also available for his every whim - that is, if they ever want to get out of those cages. Golly gee, I guess it really IS a happy ending for our brave lad!

That ending is diabolically clever. To make matters even more unnerving, the tone of the novel's first person narrative, one that is in a journal format, is both angsty Young Adult and gee whiz, what a crazy adventure I'm having! That tone remains consistent from the zippy opening to the upsetting final decision. The reader is positively not let off the hook and I was left with that lingering, sickening, dread-filled feeling in my stomach that so many horror authors aspire but often fail to create. Maybe Laymon isn't such a bad writer after all. Having a hero who gradually, increasingly exhibits villainous attributes is nothing new - but it was genuinely startling to see it happen in Island. And I suppose it can also be said that crudity can sometimes get more visceral results than ambiguity and literariness.


NIGHT IN LONESOME OCTOBER: One late night, heartbroken college student Ed decides to soothe his troubled soul by taking a long nighttime stroll to Dandi Donuts. And so begins an addiction. With each subsequent evening walk he learns more about the eerie, threatening, hypnotic underside of the sleepy small town of Wilmington. What lurks in Wilmington? Well, let's see... a vindictive cycling senior, predators in a van with alluring bait, a sad and scary shut-in clown, cannibalistic homeless people lurking under bridges, a sociopath with the looks of a male model who fixates on Ed and his new lady, and an enticing young miss who makes a practice of sneaking into homes to make herself at home.

Night in the Lonesome OctoberWhat a happy relief it was to finally find the book to justify my increasingly inexcusable desire to return to his trashy, sleazy worlds again and again. Night in Lonesome October is appealing and didn't inspire the usual guilt or feelings of squirmy dirtiness. Ed is a likeable and feckless hero who tries to do the right thing, nurses petty feelings of anger towards the lass who dumped him, is realistically horny (as opposed to the over-the-top uber-horniness of most Laymon teen protagonists), and his increasingly addictive behavior in exploring the disturbing underworld of the town around him is portrayed with interesting, often frustrating realism. And the ongoing motifs of nudity and voyeurism in Laymon's novels are handled with a lot more intelligence here - and in a way that rather expertly places the protagonist and the reader in the same shoes. Very Hitchcock! Very Blue Velvet!

The novel delivers genuine chills in set-piece after set-piece, from the creepy exploration of various silent homes to the image of a silent lumbering figure climbing over a fence on the edge of a ballpark at midnight to an increasingly threatening conversation with a lunatic to an ill-judged decision to have a little moonlit sex under a bridge. This was a genuinely tense novel.

It is also, per standard Laymon, a microscopic narrative. Although it takes place over the course of several days, we are often in Ed's head on a minute-by-minute basis. At times this can get a bit tedious but it mainly works. It is all so you are there now.

I was also pleased at how Laymon handles his gay character. At first the hero's frenemy Kirkus was straight-up stereotype and I was annoyed. He's swishy and he speaks in some kind of affected Noel Coward voice and he is constantly predatory towards our hero's apparently hot little bod. But then we get Kirkus' horrifying back-story and I was rather blown away by just how tough Laymon decided to be when depicting how bad it can get for young queers. Kudos! No punches pulled, and even better, the punches thrown land in surprisingly ambiguous and troubling places. And after this revelation... Kirkus is still the same pretentious, pathetic, and rather creepy guy, one who acts in an even more predatory style. It doesn't matter - Kirkus became real, to me and to Ed, and his move from asshole to assholish friend felt well-earned. Oh and spoiler: he also saves the day, so there's that.

If you are a Laymon fan and if any of the above makes you think that this atypical Laymon offering lacks the typical Laymon excesses of torture, rape, sadism, and excessive blood-is-everywhere type violence... well, I guess don't worry. The climax has all of that, sicko.


It is often impossible to defend the author or his books. I usually feel like showering after reading one of his novels. An unclean sort of fun. But still, well, fun. Lots of fun!

Dark Tower Tuesday - The Shelf Inflicted Staff Speak!

As part of Dark Tower Tuesday, the Shelf Inflicted Staff sound off on the following Dark Tower-related topics.

How did you stumble upon The Dark Tower?:
Dan - I came across The Dark Tower on the letters page in Dragon Magazine, someone talking about how Stephen King was capable of doing fantasy, mentioning the Dark Tower and Eyes of the Dragon. I promptly forgot about it until I saw The Gunslinger on the book rack at Wal-Mart one day.  Once Roland mowed down the entire town of Tull, I know there was no turning back.

Brandon - A few years ago, a friend of mine had told me he started reading The Gunslinger. It sounded like something I'd enjoy but I put it on the backburner. Once I joined GoodReads and saw the overwhelming love this series received, I grabbed it right away.

Anthony - Because when you are young and trying to read every Stephen King novel ever written, all roads lead to the Dark Tower.

Kemper - Everyone was reading Stephen King when I was in high school in the '80s. One of his newer books had Dark Tower listed on his bibliography page. It was a limited release and no one knew what it was about, but it made all of us King fans nuts. So when he released it, I got a copy as soon as I could. And then was confused as hell until The Drawing of the Three came out.

Bryce - It was a mix of the forum sffworld.com and Goodreads. The former for the introduction and the latter for the push to actually read it.

Stephanie - I don't remember. I didn't read it until after it was completed though.

Trudi - I've been reading King since I was 10, and my mom has a used copy of the trade paperback lying around when I finally got to it at 14.

Favorite Dark Tower novel:
Dan - The Wastelands is my favorite.  Everything comes together.  The Ka-Tet is made whole, Eddie and Susannah progress as Gunslingers, and the whole gang shows what its made of in Lud.

Brandon - I've only read the first 4 books (a crime, I know) but I very much enjoyed the third one a lot.

Anthony - Drawing of the Three

Kemper -The Dark Tower. So much heartbreak but it feels so right.

Bryce - #4 Wizard and Glass, but The Waste Lands is close. Greatest love story ever. (disclaimer: only read the first 4 and 4.5)

Stephanie - The Drawing Of Three.

Trudi - The Drawing of the Three – I've re-read that one the most. It's when the series really took hold of me and I knew I was hooked. Just thinking about it now makes me want to read it again (Runner up would be The Waste Lands)

Least Favorite Dark Tower Novel:
Dan - The Wind Through the Keyhole is my least favorite, probably because I waited eight years for minimal gunslinging action.

Brandon - I haven't had an experience worth blaming a singular book for yet. Granted, I've only read the first four and Wind Through The Keyhole is next - which I'm told is the weakest of the series.

Anthony - The Gunslinger

Kemper Wizards & Glass. A flashback love story with Wizard of Oz elements was not my cup o' tea.  The Wind Through the Keyhole. This is not a Dark Tower novel.

Bryce -  #1 The Gunslinger. It's amazing I even read further although there were some genuinely good parts.

Stephanie - I don't have a least favorite. To me the books are all one big book, maybe that's because I read them one after the other without a break the first time through. I litteraly finished one, put it down, and picked up the next without missing a beat. So I coukdn't tell you where one ends and the next begins. But I didn't read the wind through the keyhole yet (because of Kemper)

Trudi - Wizard and Glass – I was so hyped for the story to continue. I was not ready for a flashback novel. While I have come to appreciate it in later years and in context with the rest of the series, it is still my least favorite.

Favorite Moment along the Path of the Beam:
Dan - I'm going to go with the gun fight at Balazar's.  Roland and Eddie throwing lead at Balazar's goons while one of them is buck naked and the other one is dying from lobstrocity bites is hard to beat.

Brandon - So far, when the Ka-Tet stumbles into the setting of The Stand really stuck out. The Stand is probably my favorite novel so reading a new experience in that world really pleased me.

Anthony - When Eddie defeats Blaine the Pain with dead baby jokes and a fistful of bullets.

Kemper -Roland walking up to the Tower while calling out the names of all his friends and family and demanding that it open to him.

Bryce - The stand-off with the Big Coffin Hunters and Alain and Cuthbert.

Stephanie - Wow. I can't pick one....I'll think more on it.

Trudi - ack! So many! The train cliffhanger with Blaine was awful and thrilling. The looong wait for its resolution excruciating. Roland on the airplane inside Eddie's head from Drawing of the Three, loved that. And pulling Jake through to Mid-World through that crazy door, and Eddie having to carve the key just right.

Favorite Ka-Tet member:
Dan - Roland, hands down.  He goes through a remarkable transformation in the series, only to wind up back where we started.

Brandon - Well, I love Roland obviously but I'm going to go with Eddie. There's something about his introduction, that gunfight in New York and his struggles to come to grips with just how integral he is are all reasons to enjoy his character.

Anthony - Roland, duh.

Kemper - Roland. Because he's such a bastard.

Bryce - Cuthbert. Doh! I mean, the Gunslinger himself, Roland.

Stephanie - Breaks down like this......Oy, Jake, Roland, Susannah, Eddie then the preacher. That being said I like all of them.

Trudi - Roland is the man. Then there's Eddie. But love me some Oy too!

Least Favorite Ka-Tet member:
Dan - I'm going with Susannah.  It's not that I don't like her, just that I like her the least.  She gets the nod mostly because she left Roland high and dry in the last book.

Brandon - Eh, this is a difficult one. I love them all. I know that's a cop-out answer but I've really got nothing disparaging to say about anyone.

Anthony - Susannah. To be fair I like her a lot, but she has the baggage of carrying around the bitch-witch Mia.

Kemper -  This is a tough one because I really do like them all. Susannah, I guess. Not because I don't like her but because she got stuck with the whole Mia/pregnancy thing which was one of the weaker subplots.

Bryce - Eddie, but only because it's comparative - I love them all.

Stephanie - Well I guess that means the preacher....but I really do like them all.

Trudi - I love them all, but I suppose if I had to choose, Susannah. Which sucks because she's the only chick in the ka-tet, but there you have it.

Stephen King writing himself into the story: Good or Bad?:
Dan - King writing himself into the books didn't bother me that much but I wouldn't be heartbroken if he rewrote the series and left himself out of it.

Brandon - I haven't come across this yet but depending on how it's done will influence my decision. I remember when Stan Lee became a character in the 1990s Spider-Man cartoon and not liking it very much.

Anthony - Good. I thought it was a stroke of meta-fictional genius.

Kemper -  I liked the way that he established that the Tower was tied to the forces of creation itself and writing himself in as an agent of that creation was kinda clever. And he didn't make himself look very good in the process. But it did feel a little too meta at times.

Stephanie - Good. I liked the move. It was out of the ordinary....beside the Tower is King and King is the Tower.

Trudi - Good, brilliant, ballsy, insane. Some people have called it self-indulgent hubris, but that's bullshit. It served the story extremely well. I loved that fourth wall coming down. Very meta.

Did you cry during the final volume? :
Dan - Yes.  Both times I read it, for Jake, Eddie, and even Oy the Billy Bumbler.

Brandon - Not yet!

Anthony - Like a little girl.

Kemper - I probably would have if I had any normal human emotions.

Stephanie - Yes! I cried at different points through all the books because I'm a weepy girl.

Trudi - Jesus yes. Like a goddamn baby. Even just saying goodbye, knowing the journey was over, man, that was tough. I kept looking at how many pages I had left with a panicky flutter in my chest.

Cast the Ka-Tet:
Dan - I'd pick Hugh Jackman for Roland, Aaron Paul for Eddie, Zoe Saldana for Susannah, and some kid for Jake.

Brandon - A younger Clint Eastwood would be perfect as Roland but since that's not an option, I'd have to go with Vigo Mortenson. I liked James MacAvoy for Eddie, Zoe Saldana for Detta and I'm not really sure who for Jake. I have a hard time casting kids in roles. Oy could be CGI'd.

Anthony - I don't want there to be a movie. Or show. It would only end in disappointment.

Kemper -  Timothy Olyphant. Tall, thin, bad-ass and wears a hat well, Eddie - Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Looper showed that he does a great job playing a guy with a drug problem who can handle big guns while dealing with crazy shit like time travel, Susannah - Danai Gurira- a/k/a Michonne on Walking Dead. If she can kill a thousand zombies, gunslinger in a wheelchair shouldn't be that hard, Jake - ?? Hell, I don't know. Whatever kid actor is the Haley Joel Osmont of the moment when they film it.

Bryce - Roland: Sam Elliott, Susannah: Halle Berry (don't judge), Eddie: Bradley Cooper or Aaron Paul, Jake: Wil Wheaton from "Stand by Me". Okay, he could probably still do it, Oy: Air Bud?

Stephanie - The pictures in my head are so specific that this is hard (I'm bad at names)...

Trudi -I'm one of those who wants an animated adaptation. I think it could be kick-ass and you could make everything look and sound like you wanted.
Roland: Clint Eastwood (he's too old now, but his voice is great). I don't think I would have hated Javier Bardem as long as he could get that accent under control.
Eddie: I'm in love with Norman Reedus and I think he'd make a great Eddie.
Susannah: Angela Bassett (NOT Jada Pinkett-Smith please)
Jake: As long as the kid can act and we don't have a Chandler Riggs situation on our hands

Parting Shots:
Dan - Can't wait to reread it again in a year or two.

Stephanie - I think this series is one of the greatest ever written. I'm not a re-reader in general but these books tend to draw me back yo them over time. I miss the Ka-tet.

Dark Tower Tuesday - Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came (Phoenix 60p Paperbacks)Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came by Robert Browning
Dan's rating: 3 of 5 stars
Availability: Free

For the past decade or so, one of the ways I find books to read is to see who or what influenced some of my favorite writers. I discovered P.G. Wodehouse after he was mentioned by Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and Christopher Moore, for example. One of Stephen King's influences for the Dark Tower saga was this poem by Robert Browning.

I've been a Dark Tower junkie for somewhere between twelve and fifteen years at this point but I never read the poem Stephen King drew inspiration from until today. It's not a long poem by any means. There are many reviews on this site that are longer. Yet it contains a lot of parallels to The Dark Tower series.

The poem is in an AABABB rhyme scheme and told in 34 stanzas. I'll note the Dark Tower inklings that jumped out at me.

The first four stanzas seem to be an inspiration for the first book in the Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger. Roland, recalling his wanderings, is tempted to give up on his quest for the Dark Tower by a lying old man with a staff. Sound familiar?

The seventh stanza also harkens to the Gunslinger, when Roland things of the others who have fallen in the quest for the Dark Tower. In the eighth, Roland resumes his quest. In the ninth, he's lost and the only man is gone, kind of like when Roland finds himself lost on the seashore, just before the lobstrocities attack.

In the sixteenth stanza, Roland remembers his friend Cuthbert's face. In the seventeenth, a traitor and a hanging are mentioned. In the flashback sequence in the Gunslinger, Roland and Cuthbert witness the hanging of a traitor.

In the thirty-first stanza, Roland finally sees the Tower in the distance, built of brown stone. Finally, in the final stanza, Roland blows his horn, signifying the end of his quest, something that didn't happen on the last iteration of Stephen King's Dark Tower, but may happen in the next one.

Sadly, there is no giant bear with a satellite dish on it's head in Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. For the bear, I'll be reading Shardik sometime in the future.

Also On Goodreads

Dark Tower Tuesday - The Goodreads Group Speaks!

As part of Dark Tower Tuesday, the Dark Tower Goodreads Group sounds off on the following Dark Tower-related topics.

1. How did you stumble upon The Dark Tower
Drew - I was looking for an audiobook to borrow and listen to at my local public library, and found "Wizard & Glass". It was certainly an odd place to pick up the story, but I was hooked.

PJ - Bought The Waste Lands at a yard sale in a large box of books, seemed interesting so I went out and purchased The Gunslinger.

Johnny - I read an article about the series getting a TV/Movie adaptation. I'm not a big fan of book-to-movie adaptations in general, but the story caught my interest so a gave the book a try.

Cherstin - I came the first book in dusty, paperback form in the late 80's at a friend's house: it belonged to her mother. I read it, liked it, but wasn't overly thrilled about it as I was in junior high at the time and didn't consider "westerns" my thing. ;) (Boy, I had NO idea how wrong I was on both counts!)

Neil - I saw a copy of the gunslinger at a yard sale and thought it looked interesting.

Glyn - I always saw the book within book stores, just something about it, I was always drawn to that cover as a youngster. I finally took the plunge and swiftly fell in love with it.

Johnny (2) - Saw the series in my school library and recognised it from people who like Lost referencing it. Decided, since I hadn't read a book in over a year, that I should try it out.

S.A. Hunt -  I don't even remember. It's been so long ago since I read the first book -- I don't even remember when it was. It might have been just after the house burned down in 2003. As a housewarming gift to myself when I moved into my new apartment, I went on a book binge and plowed through Dan Simmons' Hyperion series, most of Dean Koontz' repertoire, and a lot of Stephen King.

Louisiana - I was introduced to the series by my fiance when I was pregnant with our son. He wanted to name him Roland, so during my pregnancy I embarked on reading the entire series so I would understand. Our son is now 2 1/2 and his name is Roland Alexander

Jeremy - My dad read it when I was a kid and after seeing the cover of The Gunslinger, I knew it was ka that someday I'd read the DT.

2. Favorite Dark Tower novel
Drew - The last one ("The Dark Tower"), mostly due to the amazing ending.

PJ - Wizard and Glass

Johnny - Either The Drawing of the Three or The Dark Tower.

Cherstin - After reading the whole series over again with the addition of "Wind Through the Keyhole," I think "Song of Susannah" grabbed me most this past time through.

Neil - The Waste Lands

Glyn -  Wizard and Glass, although it can split opinion, I loved the flashback to Roland as a younger Gunslinger... finding out his character journey added so much more to what was already an intriguing character.

Johnny (2) - The Drawing of the Three - the way the pace of the series picks up so quickly after the switch to NY caught me off guard will never be matched by another book series as one of my favourite pace-changes.

S.A. Hunt -   I'm not sure I have a favorite. I favored the first few books because they were so dreamlike in style, sparse in narrative, and King seemed to get so much more out of the story when he only had Roland and Roland's inner monologue to contend with.

Louisiana -  Either Wastelands or The Dark Tower #7

Jeremy - The Gunslinger

3. Least Favorite Dark Tower Novel
Drew - None. They are all gems.

PJ - Song of Susannah

Johnny - Wizard and Glass.

Cherstin - Hmm. Difficult to say, because I love them all. If you forced me to choose at gunpoint, though, probably "The Waste Lands," because I couldn't stand Blaine.

Neil - Wizard and Glass

Glyn - I couldn't possibly say, I have favourite parts to the tale, but like to view the Dark tower as a cohesive whole. If I was pushed to choose, Song of Susannah was more of a "build up" novel imo... but i still loved it and finished within days.

Johnny (2) - Song of Susannah - Too meta to take seriously. You just lose any sense of fantasy when you go self-aware.

S.A. Hunt -   Probably Book Seven. That was a huge letdown for me. After all that build-up, across King's repertoire and the whole DT series, I totally expected a lot more from the Crimson King.

Louisiana -  Wizard and Glass.

Jeremy - Wizard and Glass.

4. Favorite Moment along the Path of the Beam
Drew - The ride on Blaine the Mono.

PJ - Wizard and Glass' conclusion at Eyebolt Canyon.

Johnny - The shooting at Balazar's place in The Drawing of the Three, probably.

Cherstin - the fight to the end with the "wolves" in "The Wolves of the Calla." It gets my blood racing every time.

Neil - The scenes in Lud

Glyn -  Roland's early days story in W&G

Johnny (2) - The riddling.

S.A. Hunt -   This one isn't in the books. It's when halfway through The Dark Tower, I decided I wanted to write my own fantasy gunslinger series one day, and now I've written the first novel in that series: highly-reviewed "The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree".

Louisiana -  I am one of those folks who really really enjoyed the end of the last book. I don't think there was any other way it could go and I loved it.

Jeremy - The drawing of Eddie

5. Favorite Ka-Tet member
Drew - Jake Chambers.

PJ - Eddie Dean (also Cuthbert)

Johnny - Oy

Cherstin - Roland

Neil - Eddie Dean

Glyn -  Roland and Eddie, joint... Eddie cracked me up at times!

Johnny (2) - If not Roland, then Eddie.

S.A. Hunt -   This one is a tossup between Eddie and Roland. I'll always love Roland, but Eddie's got personality in spades. It's easy to relate to him because he's so glib, and it serves to draw the reader in.

Louisiana -  Roland Deschain

Jeremy - Roland of Gilead

6. Least Favorite Ka-Tet member
Drew - None. They are all great characters.

PJ - Susannah

Johnny - Detta Walker.

Cherstin - Ugh! Another difficult question. Again, if you forced me to pick, it would probably be Susannah because I would often get tired of Detta's nasty attitude.

Neil - Susannah Dean

Glyn -  None!

Johnny (2) - I'm probably not alone in thinking Susannah. I think it's just because, after becoming her own person, her new form was not really developed enough as a character. I can't just be expected to know exactly which aspects of her personality were carried over.

S.A. Hunt -   Susannah, hands down. She went from irritating, shrill harpy to an awkwardly-written character. I never could fully take her in as a person.

Louisiana -  Eddie Dean

Jeremy - Is there a bad one? If pressed, I'd go with Susannah

7. Stephen King writing himself into the story: Good or Bad?
Drew - Very cool.

PJ - Neutral, I didn't find it particularly good, nor particularly bad.

Johnny - Good. I actually loved that. It's the kind of weird that makes the series so memorable.

Cherstin - Brilliant

Neil - I think Stephen King wrote himself really well, but it was pointless overall.

Glyn -  Different, but handled extremely well. I didn't expect it to happen, but that for me is brilliant. It turned the entire series on it's head and I feel puts the DT novels on a pedestal above many other fantasy series.

Johnny (2) - Bad all the way. He never should have done that. I mean, it was as well-written as it could have been - very well-handled - but it just lost the sense of fantasy, which was hard to pick back up in the last book. It made everything that happened afterwards less impactful emotionally because, even in the book's world, it didn't feel as REAL as before.

S.A. Hunt -   I'm not sure. I'd like to tell you it was bad, because while the execution was great, the concept of introducing himself was a sideways choice. But I'm fond of meta-situations in my stories, though. Hell, my own book does it rather profoundly during its climax.

Louisiana -  I love that Stephen King wrote himself into the story. It connected the story more with the real world and its what I would have done.

Jeremy - At first I thought it was bad, but I loved how Song of Susannah ended

8. Did you cry during the final volume? 
Drew - Absolutely. I still get teary when I think about it.

PJ - Of course

Johnny - I didn't, but I came pretty close while Jake was dying. Oy's death was also really quite sad.

Cherstin - Yes, each and every time for different reasons.

Neil - I cried when Eddie and Jake died in Volume VII

Glyn -  Very nearly, was heartbreaking!!

Johnny (2) - Nah, I'm too macho ;) Just kidding, but I didn't cry.

S.A. Hunt -   No, but I did cry at the end of 11/22/63, if that counts for anything.

Louisiana -  Yessir, thankie-sai.

Jeremy - I have about 800 pages left

9. Cast the Ka-Tet
Drew - Sorry, not my thing.

PJ - Roland - Javier Bardem, Eddie - Aaron Paul

Johnny - Clint Eastwood in is 40's would be a perfect Roland. Other than that, I don't know.

Cherstin - Clint Eastwood as Roland, Leonardo DiCaprio as Eddie Dean, Halle Berry as Susannah, an unknown actor for Jake, and Oy would simply have to star as himself.

Neil - Roland- Viggo Mortensen, Eddie- Joseph Gordon Levitt or Aaron Paul, Susannah-Gina Torres, Jake- Unknown child actor, Oy- A dog, Father Callahan- Clint Eastwood

Johnny (2) - Christian Bale as Roland, and the other three should be unknowns - with Stephen King himself as Oy (he won't be it in ANY OTHER FORM, I SWEAR TO GOD ALMIGHTY).

S.A. Hunt -   Cast the Ka-Tet, Roland - Viggo Mortensen, Eddie - Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jake - Chandler Riggs

Louisiana -  Eddie Dean: Jared Leto, Detta Walker: Halle Berry, Roland Deshain: Clint Eastwood (even now) and I dunno who would play Jake Chambers. <3

Jeremy - Roland of Gilead: Daniel Craig
Eddie of New York: Taylor Kitsch
Susannah of New York: Jennifer Hudson
Jake of New York: I don't know kids actors.
Oy: I don't know dog actors either.

Go then, there are other worlds than these - Stephen King's The Dark Tower

The man in black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed.

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, Book 1)The Gunslinger by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Roland Deschain, the last of the Gunslingers, is on a quest for the Dark Tower, a mysterious edifice that is the axle of worlds and holds all existence together. In this, the first volume, Roland pursues his nemesis across the Mohaine Desert. He follows the man in black's trail to a little town called Tull, then through more desert, encountering a boy named Jake from our world, and then into the mountains. Will Roland finally catch his arch-nemesis after years of pursuing him? And what means will he go to to achieve his goal?

When I first picked up this book, I had no idea it would shoot to the top of my favorites list. I wolfed down the first four books in three weeks, then entered an agonizing period of waiting the last three to be published. I think I've read the first four books five or six times each. The whole Dark Tower series, while on the surface a fantasy-western, is really the story of one man's obsession. In this volume, we get a hint of what Roland will do to get to the Dark Tower.

The writing is great and it warmed me up to Stephen King. Roland's world is unique. Part fantasy, part western, part post-apocalypse. While it's the first book in a series, it's quite satisfying to read on its own.  I think it's a testament to Stephen King's skill as a writer that even on my sixth or seventh go round, I was still hoping Roland wouldn't let Jake fall.

Some of the additions in the revised edition of this book were much-needed and brought the first book into synch with the later ones. Others seemed a little ham-fisted and took away a bit of Roland's mystique.

I like the idea a certain curmudgeonly Kansan reviewer proposed that the first edition of The Gunslinger and this one are from different cycles in Roland's quest.

The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, Book 2)The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Roland Deschain, fresh from the events of the Gunslinger, lies exhausted and poisoned on the shores of the ocean. In his delirium, he finds three doorways leading to our world and his new ka-tet. Will Roland survive long enough to bring his new ka-tet?

For my money, this is when the Dark Tower really started coming together. The first thing that happens really shocked the crap out of me. Damn lobstrosities! I had no idea what Roland was going to go through when I first opened this one.  After many re-readings, it seems really illogical that Roland let himself fall asleep so close to the ocean.

The new characters are interesting, as are Roland's relationships with them. Eddie Dean, funnyman and heroin addict, is pretty codependent at first, while Detta/Odetta, a multiple personality in a wheelchair, really causes some havoc. Jack Mort, well... you just better read it.

The action in this one is great. The gunfight in Andolini's is one of my favorite Stephen King scenes of all time. While the Gunslinger got me interested in the Dark Tower, this one grabbed me for the long haul.

The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, #3)The Waste Lands by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After the events of the Drawing of the Three, Roland the Gunslinger has two people from our world along side him in his quest for the Dark Tower. However, he's also going mad because of a strange double set of memories in his head, memories of a boy he crossed the desert with...

The Waste Lands is probably my favorite Dark Tower book and epitomizes what I like about the series.    It drives home the notion that Roland's world is coming apart at the seams. It also gives us hints about what Roland was like before the world moved on, hints that will be further explored in Wizard and Glass.It's got the lost technology, lots of action, more bits about Roland's world, and makes Roland's ka-tet complete. The story of Jake in New York was well done. I even liked Oy the Billy-Bumbler. All the stuff that goes down in Lud had me dying to read the next book in the series. The ending would have made me furious had I been reading the Dark Tower books as they were published.

Even though I knew the whole deal with the key during my last reread, it was still a tense moment when the key didn't turn and the creature was loose in the haunted mansion in New York. I felt a single man tear threaten to roll down my cheek when Roland and Jake were reunited.

I also liked the Robert Howard reference, something I didn't catch the first time around.  It's a testament to Stephen King's skill that I was still a little worried about Jake in Lud, even though I've read the book a few times before.

Blaine is a pain and that's the truth.

Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, Book 4)Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a riddle contest with Blaine the Mono, Roland and his ka-tet continue on their quest for the Dark Tower. While camping, Roland reveals the story of his youth and his first love.

The best part of this was Roland's backstory. You see that he wasn't always the killing machine he's become and learn a lot more of the backstory of the series as well. Astute Stephen King readers will appreciate the world they go through after entering the thinny.

My opinion of Wizard and Glass has been colored somewhat by the passage of time. While I enjoyed the tale of Roland's first love and the confrontation with the Big Coffin Hunters, the flashback seemed about a hundred pages too long, like maybe Stephen King wasn't sure where he wanted the story to go next and decided to do some stalling.

That's not to say I don't like Wizard and Glass. It's just my least favorite of the first four Dark Tower books. It's still pretty good, though. The tension mounts as Roland and his young ka-tet head toward their inevitable conflict with the Big Coffin Hunters. It reminds me a lot of the battle between the Earps and the Cowboys in Tombstone.

The middle book of the Dark Tower is still a satisfying read, no matter what your opinion of the extended flashback. Roland's back story makes him an even more tragic figure than before.

The Wind Through the Keyhole (The Dark Tower, #8)The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While taking shelter from a storm along the Path of the Beam, Roland tells his ka-tet a story from his youth, about going up against a skin-man with Jamie DeCurry, in which he tells a frightened youth yet another story to bolster his courage...

First off, it pains me to give a Dark Tower book less than four stars but I thought this one was on par with Wizard and Glass.

The Wind Through the Keyhole is really three tales nested within one another. One features our beloved ka-tet, somewhere between the green city from the end of Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla, the second a tale from Roland's youth, and a third a fable from Roland's world. Since The Dark Tower is one of my all time favorite works, my expectations were extremely high and this book didn't live up to them.

It isn't a bad book, though. Roland and the ka-tet are true to form. It didn't feel forced or tacked on. Rather, the stories felt natural and fleshed out both Roland's background and the mythology of Mid-World. I liked the Covenant Man quite a bit and the tale of the skin-man held my interest. If they weren't part of The Dark Tower, I probably would have rated them higher. Tim's tale reminded me of Eyes of the Dragon, one of Stephen King's more underrated works.

I guess my main gripe was that there wasn't much in the way of gunslinging action. Sure, Roland got to strut his stuff a bit but I was hoping for something to explain the ka-tet's transformation between books four and five.

Despite my gripes, I did enjoy The Wind Through the Keyhole and I was quite pleased that King left the ending open enough that he could stick another book or two in before the gang gets to the Calla.

Wolves of the Calla (Dark Tower 5)Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Roland and his ka-tet of gunslingers ride into Call Bryn Sturgis, a town with a problem. Once every generation, a gang of marauders called The Wolves ride out of Thunderclap and steal half of the town's children. The ones that return come back roont, or brain-damaged. Can Roland and the others stop the Wolves before Susan gives birth to the demon in her womb?

It was a long wait between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Callah. Was it worth it? Well, does a horse piss where it pleases?

The main story of Wolves of the Calla is right out of The Magnificent Seven or Seven Samurai. The gunslingers ride into town, prepare the town, and settle the bad guys' hash. The secondary stories, of which there are several, are what make the book. You've got Father Callahan from Jake, Eddie, and Susannah's world and his fearsome burden, Black Thirteen. You've got someone in town helping the Wolves. You've got Roland and his arthritis. You've got Calvin Tower and the vacant lot containing the Rose. And most of all, you have Susannah's disturbing pregnancy.

The gang going todash was one of the more interesting parts of the book and something I'd forgotten about in the years since I read this book the first time. I devoured the book in a day and a half when it first came out so I must not have savored it. There were so many wrinkles to the story that I'd forgotten.

I love how the Man in Black doubled back and met Callahan at the Way Station while Roland and Jake were on in trail in The Gunslinger. In the revised edition of The Gunslinger, Roland contemplates putting his quest on hold for a few years and training Jake so he'd have another Gunslinger with him. Would they have met Callahan if they'd let the Man in Black get away? Tantalizing...

People say that the long flashback in Wizard and Glass fleshed out Roland's personality. I'd say watching Roland interact with the people of Callah Bryn Sturgis in this book went a lot farther in showing what kind of man Roland was before the world moved on.

I can't really say much more for fear of giving too many things away to people who have never read it. If you like the Dark Tower, this one is probably in the top three books of the series.

Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, Book 6)Song of Susannah by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Susanna/Mia uses Black Thirteen and flees to New York to have her baby. Roland, Eddie, Jake, and Callahan get the Manni to open the Unfound Door and end up in the wrong places. Can Roland and Eddie convince Calvin Tower to sell them the lot where the Rose grows? Can Jake and Callahan find Susannah before she has her baby?

Song of Susannah was my least favorite book in the Dark Tower series the first time through. Susannah has never been my favorite character in the Dark Tower saga and this book is really Susannah-heavy. On the second read, I had to raise it another star. The Susannah/Mia conflict had its moments and did a lot of setting up for the big shebang coming in the seventh and final book. A lot more background information was revealed.

I'd be lying if I said Susannah wasn't part of the reason I upped this one a star upon re-reading. The other reason is that Jake and Eddie seem like bonafide Gunslingers in this book, even more than they did in Wolves of the Calla. I have a feeling their fates in The Dark Tower are going to be almost as painful the second time through. The relationship between Eddie and Roland has developed quite a bit since The Drawing of the Three, as has Roland's character. I still love Long, Tall, and Ugly, even though he'd probably leave me along the Path of the Beam the first morning I bitched about not having coffee.

There is something else that I liked a lot more the second time but it's pretty spoilerific. Now that I've had a few years to digest Stephen King writing himself into the story, it doesn't really irk me like it did the first time.

While it's not my favorite of the Dark Tower books, it's still good and it lays a lot of the cards down on the table for the final volume, The Dark Tower.

The Dark TowerThe Dark Tower by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The quest for the Dark Tower comes to a brutal conclusion. Can Roland and his friends stop the Breakers of Algul Siento, safeguard the Beam, protect the Rose, stop Stephen King from being run down and killed, and reach the Dark Tower?

This is the end of my favorite epic of all time.The rest of the review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

When the last Dark Tower book was finally published in 2004, I took a Friday off work to make sure I'd have plenty of time to read that first weekend. I don't remember how many days it took to read through the 800+ pages but I know I tore through it. The re-read was almost like a completely new book. Except...

...Well, there's no real way to sugar coat this. The first time through, I shed silent man tears at the deaths of Eddie, Jake, and even Oy the billy-bumbler. Since I knew what was coming, you'd think I'd be able to brace myself during the re-read. Nope. There were silent man tears shed once again. I think it was actually worse this time since I knew what was going to happen.

So much has changed since 2004 when I last finished this book. People have passed through my life and some have passed on altogether. To the clearing at the end of the path, as Roland would say. A lot happens in seven years. When Roland calls out the names of his ka-tet and the others outside the tower, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought of doing something similar.

There's a feeling of suspense throughout most of the 800 pages, from the battle at Algul Siento to the saving of Stephen King to the final fight at the end. Roland's feeling of loss was a very real thing. I know because I felt it too. I think it was actually Roland's loss that pushed my buttons rather than the actual deaths and the breaking of the ka-tet. When the toughest son of a bitch in all the worlds cries, it's some serious shit. By the time this book rolls around, Roland is a vastly different person from the ruthless Man with No Name he was in The Gunslinger.

Even before the Dark Tower was completed, it was one of the books against which I measured all others. Since re-reading the entire saga a second time, I'm happy to say that it still is.

That's not to say I don't have any complaints about the saga. For one thing, I felt like Eddie and Walter both went out like chumps. Walter's portrayed as a big bad throughout the series and didn't really do much. It made Mordred seem like a capable threat but I would have preferred Walter dying by Roland's hand. Speaking of Mordred, his storyline almost felt tacked on and I felt the whole Susannah-Mia thing was overly complex. The Crimson King was a little bit of a letdown as well. The final battle felt like something out of a video game and I couldn't help but picture The Crimson King looking like Dr. Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog.

The ending seems to be a big problem for a lot of people. I didn't have a problem with the ending during the first read, nor do I have a problem with it now. The underlying theme of the series is that Ka is a wheel. Roland going back to the beginning reinforces that fact. King also let himself an opportunity to redo the series if he is so inclined in Roland having the Horn of Eld in his possession at the resumption of his quest.

I don't really have much else to say. It was my favorite epic when I was 19 and will probably be my favorite epic when I'm 99. It's not for everyone but few really good books are.

See you all along the Path of the Beam.