Childe Casey to the Dark Tower Came

Stephen King is a man who needs no introduction from someone as lowly as me.  Everybody’s heard of him.  Almost everybody’s read his work or watched a movie based on one of his many, many novels or short stories.  I cannot claim to have read all of his work (nowhere close at this point), but I have read my fair share.  As you may have noticed, I am a fan of horror/thriller novels.  I do not remember a time in my life when I wasn’t fascinated by frightening things.  Come with me down memory lane, just a bit.

***

I am in elementary school, paging through a frightening, black book. There is a picture of a bald, grinning man on the cover. He is smoking a pipe…or, he would be, if he had lips. The book, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, is illustrated with disturbing line drawings. One story in particular frightens me deeply. I think it was the singing dog.  I go on to read the two volumes that follow. Some of the stories aren’t really that scary. Others, I’m sure, were frightening. That singing dog has yet to leave my mind; I think of it more often than I would like to admit.

***

I am starting middle school, devouring books by R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and a dozen or more forgettable writers of cheap, junior horror novels. They are borrowed from other girls in my class, my seventh grade teacher’s classroom collection, and the public library’s Books by Mail program. The strangest is probably the one about a girl who is stalked by the Phantom of the Shopping Mall (basically).  Stine is my favorite of them all. I tear through the Fear Street books over and over again. It doesn’t matter if I already know the ending. The act of reading the stories makes me feel smarter and braver than the silly teenagers within the covers. I wouldn’t fall under a vampire’s sway, allow myself to be kidnapped, or become possessed by an evil spirit. I know what to watch out for.

***

I am almost finished with middle school. For reasons that I cannot understand now, my mother decides that I am mature enough to read adult horror novels. Christmas comes, and “Santa” brings me copies of Firestarter, Pet Semetary, Cujo, and Carrie. When my birthday rolls around several months later, my parents gave me copies of Christine and The Shining. Stephen King, I decide, is my favorite writer. I thrill in the inexpensive paperbacks at the wonderful little used bookstore that my small, quaint town was fortunate enough to have while I was growing up. The Eyes of the Dragon becomes my favorite book.

***

I am in high school and I no longer have a mother. My grandmother and father are doing the best that they can to raise my brother and me. All of us are heartbroken and find different ways to cope. I cycle through my Stephen King collection over and over, taking comfort in the fierce love that the characters have for each other. Over and over again, friends and families try to save each other from otherworldly demons, ghosts, and rabid animals. Horrible things happen, but people survive and love triumphs more often than not.  ‘Salem’s Lot scares the snot out of me, enough so that I sleep with the light on and dig out an antique crucifix to hang in my window.  (Go on, laugh.)  My father purchases The Two Dead Girls and The Mouse on the Mile (the first two volumes of The Green Mile) for me at the grocery store.  I eagerly gobble down each new installment of the serial almost as soon as it rolls out over the next few months.

I read The Gunslinger. I am so unimpressed that it will be years before I give Stephen King’s novels a second glance.

***

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I have decided that it’s time to revisit The Gunslinger and finally read the rest of the Dark Tower novels.  So what made me decide to finally try reading Mr. King’s magnum opus in its entirety?  Idris Elba probably has something to do with it. There is a movie coming out in late July. I have seen it being described as a “quasi sequel” to The Dark Tower series.  Upon looking up information about the film, I have learned that it seems to be is more of a re-imagining of the tale than a true adaptation. I am utterly intrigued by this idea, enough so that I have decided that it’s time for me to dive in and read the novels that inspired it. The series proper is currently made up of eight novels of various lengths. There are countless references woven throughout many of King’s other books. While I certainly will not have the time to read everything that is tied peripherally to the series as a whole, I am going to be making my best effort to read through the eight core novels before the movie’s debut. This is January. Can I finish the series in almost-seven months? I certainly hope so.

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If you haven’t read this series before, why not join me on this merry jaunt? Anyone who is familiar with King’s work knows that the man can be wordy when he wants to be. Some of these novels are going to be personally challenging; I have a short attention span. Nevertheless, I am committed to doing this. I invite you to play along with me! Read The Gunslinger, then come back in a few weeks and discuss it with me!

(Post title is shamelessly ripped off from Browning’s masterpiece “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”)

6 Comments

  • Ron Edison January 11, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    I’ve had problems with THE GUNSLINGER too. I’ve read nearly all of King except this series. I tried the print edition and the audiobook but it just doesn’t grab me the way his other writing does.

    Reply
    • Casey January 11, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      The introduction to the newest edition explains a bit about why people seem to find this book challenging when compared to King’s other work. I was glad to read that it wasn’t just me!

      Reply
  • Kelly McCarty January 11, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    I think you and I had the same tastes in reading as kids, although I also had a weird thing for true crime books in middle school. Did you know that they changed the illustrations in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to make them less scary? I feel like this is a travesty. I still have one of the original books, in case anyone needs to properly traumatize their children.

    I read a lot of the old school Stephen King (Carrie, The Stand, Cujo, Salem’s Lot) but I feel like he hit a slump somewhere in the mid-1990’s and I didn’t read another Stephen King book until 11/22/63. I’m really excited about this project. I have already read The Gunslinger in anticipation and I have to confess, I wasn’t that into it. It doesn’t really “feel” Stephen King to me and I found it confusing and disjointed. If I hadn’t heard so many good things about The Dark Tower series, I probably wouldn’t keep going, but I plan to forge ahead.

    Reply
    • Casey Price January 17, 2017 at 6:17 pm

      The authors notes in the beginning of my edition said that this was unlike the other volumes in style, so I’m hoping to have fewer problems with the next volume.

      Reply
  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier January 14, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    I remember those Scary Story books! There was one story about a girl who had a spider CRAWL INTO HER FACE and LAY EGGS there. At the end, the spider babies BURST OUT OF HER CHEEK EN MASSE.

    It took me a long time to recover from that one.

    Reply
    • Casey Price January 17, 2017 at 6:15 pm

      THEY WERE SO DISTURBING.

      Reply

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