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FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT By Stephen King – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2009 by stanleyriiks

The last collection of King’s I read was Different Seasons, it’s also one of my favourite collections, and definitely one of my favourite books by Stephen King. Although this is another collection of four novellas, that’s where the similarities end. Different Seasons was filled with stories that weren’t particularly genre tales, Midnight is most definitely and easily defined as horror. Also, the stories seem longer, each of them being almost novel length.

The best of the stories are the book-ends, “The Langoliers”, and “The Sun Dog”. The last of which is very reminiscent of Needful Things. “The Langoliers” harks back to the Twilight Zone. The other two stories, Secret Window, Secret Garden (a classic writer in trouble story from the master), and The Library Policeman (a strange and overlong ghostly tale of childhood hauntings and alcoholism, is well told, but just too long), really do sit in the middle.

None of the stories contained in this huge book really stand out on their own, which is probably why they’ve been collected. Stephen King writes best about characters, and to allow them to really grow he needs a long novel, that’s why Needful Things and some of his other books work so well. That’s also why “The Langoliers” works, it’s about a small group of characters in a desperate situation. As I think about it, these stories will feel very familiar to a King fan, the group of people in trouble, the writer attacked, the stranger who doesn’t fit in, and the shopkeeper whose greed will drive him to his death.

This book is huge, and because of its size it’s quite hard work. Like most of King’s novels, it’s easy reading, and he manages to evoke fear, even if you know what’s going to happen. Not particularly inventive, King still manages to entertain, but this is a McDonalds of a book, satisfying but ultimately of no lasting substance.

ON WRITING By Stephen King – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2009 by stanleyriiks

ON WRITING By Stephen King

An insight into writing from one of the world’s best selling authors? What more could a writer want?

Well, quite a lot actually.

I like Stephen King, I like his work (mostly), and although I don’t know him I hear good things and I respect him as a man. His books are sometimes a little hit and miss, Different Seasons which includes the novella “The Body” is probably my favourite of his books. Rose Madder, which is pretty good up until the ridiculous ending, is my least favourite, and the last book of his I read.

Sometimes the length of King’s books puts me off, but On Writing is fairly brief at just over two hundred pages in hardback.

The first half is a nice and gentle introduction to the Stephen King that many of us are not so familiar with, his poor childhood, his alcoholism, and how he started writing. This memoir is in no way an autobiography, it’s a series of short chapters from King’s life that he wants to share with us and that he believes helped to shape him into the writer he is today. Nice, interesting, but not exactly insightful.

The second part of the book is actually about the process of writing, and there are a couple of hints about how King writes, including his dislike of adverbs and the passive voice, and some tips on revision. This is in no way a manual, but while writing it you are swept away by King’s ability to tell a story, even the story of how he writes. As he says himself he doesn’t have a magic wand he can give to other writers, and a lot of how he writes just comes so naturally that he couldn’t even put it into words. And that’s the main problem with the book. For those seeking guidance there are may be four or five useful tips that can be used and that’s it.

Yes, this is a nice book for Stephen King fans, and despite myself I was swept along for the ride too. But it’s like a rollercoaster, you enjoy it while you’re on there, but as soon as you get off you can’t help thinking: “Is that all there is?” Perhaps other writers will get more out of it. I’m not saying it wasn’t helpful, the tips that are in there are pretty good, although I’m not entirely convinced that not plotting when writing a novel is a good idea. It certainly explains King’s character-driven writing style though.

Writers desperate for some guidance and Stephen King fans will no doubt love this book. King says this isn’t a writer’s manual, and it’s certainly not. It’s a very personal insight into one of the world’s best selling writers.

Reading and Writing

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I finished reading Stephen Fry’s The Hippopotamus last week, and thought I’d raid my bookshelves for something different and came up with Shaun Hutson’s Deadhead. You can’t get more of a contrast, and I’ve been a fan of Huston since the beginning, so I read that one this week too. (Review coming soon!) For those of you who don’t know, The Hippopotamus is a middle-class comedy set in Norfolk, and Deadhead is a brutally realistic urban horror novel

Now I’m reading Stephen King’s On Writing, another old hardback from my ancient collection that’s been gathering dust for years. King says he reads between 60-70 books a year. Like King, I’m a fairly slow reader, and I doubt I’ve ever managed 60-70! At the moment I’m on a pretty good run and I’ve read about four books in three weeks and should finish On Writing tomorrow or Monday, which puts it at four days, which I think is pretty good. Of course, King is counting audio books. I’ve never read an audio book, haven’t listened to one either. Fry would be excellent, he does the Harry Potter books, but I’ve read all of those.

A quick check on ebay and I’ve bought a collection of Clive Barker books, unabridged as King suggests, an Edgar Rice Burroughs collection and H. G .Wells, and some classics. When they arrive I’ll download them to my ipod and listen to them instead of 30 Seconds to Mars.

On Writing is good. King doesn’t like adverbs or the passive voice, so I’m trying not to use those. He also doesn’t plot. Which does explain some of his novels. I am a fan of Stephen King, when he’s on form he’s one of the best, Different Seasons is amazing. But the last book of his I read was Rose Madder, one he says he did plot. That was utter pants. On Writing is much better, and it helps to read books about writing every now and then, it’s like driving, after we pass the test we learn lots of bad habits. It’s the same with writing but without the test. I will try to put his advice to the test and hopefully will wind up with his success.

Wrote the Hutson review (needs to be edited), an article on Scream Queens which was really hard work, and a flash zombie story which was fun. Nose to the grindstone!