Riding With The King: Dolores Claiborne (1992)

dolores claiborneRight after not being super into The Gunslinger, I dove into Dolores Claiborne and basically tore through it as quickly as I could. I wasn’t sure if that would be the case when I read a little bit about the book and realized there were exactly no page or chapter breaks because it’s one woman’s account of the tragedies and triumphs of her life. Continue reading Riding With The King: Dolores Claiborne (1992)

Riding With The King: The Dark Tower – The Gunslinger

dark tower my coverI am on a crazy reading kick these days. I don’t think I’ve finished this many novels in such a short period of time since college. The main difference? This time they’re all books I want to read. They also all happen to be written by Mr. Stephen King.

As anyone paying attention to UM will notice, I listened to Joyland and Revival which launched me into reading Mr. Mercedes (mostly on my phone, but I also got a hard copy from the library). After that, I was curious enough to jump into a realm I have very little experience and interest in: fantasy. Yup, I read The Gunslinger.

Going in I knew just a few things about this book. First, it’s the beginning of an epic series King wrote over decades that brings in various characters and ideas from his other books. Second, my buddy Sean didn’t like how it ended. And third, Marvel made a bunch of comics based on the main character, Roland the Gunslinger. It’s about the last Gunslinger chasing the mysterious and supernatural Man in Black across a big desert and presumably someone wants to get to this tower. Continue reading Riding With The King: The Dark Tower – The Gunslinger

Riding With The King: Mr. Mercedes

mr mercedes 1After listening to Joyland and Revival, it seemed appropriate to make a Stephen King book my next reading experience. I have a lot of his works in my to-read pile, but after liking those more recent titles, I figured I’d give Mr. Mercedes a shot because I’d seen that it kicked off a trilogy of stories featuring the main character, retired police detective Bill Hodges.

This one, from 2014, follows Hodges as his lackluster retired life gets interrupted and rejuvenated when a letter from a never-caught killer makes its way to his mailbox. Bill and his partner were lead on a case where a guy stole a Mercedes and drove it into a crowd of people waiting for a job fair, but they never figured out who he was (and probably wouldn’t had he not gotten cocky/bored and sent the letter in the first place). Continue reading Riding With The King: Mr. Mercedes

Riding With The King: Revival By Stephen King, Read By David Morse

revival stephen kingAs I mentioned when writing about Stephen King’s Joyland audiobook, I got it as well as Revival for a pair of car trips that wracked up about 20 hours of drive time. The former turned out to be a somewhat horror-light mystery with a lot of engrossing characters and a fun setting. Revival has all of that, but also turned out to be a much more horrific and darker experience. Continue reading Riding With The King: Revival By Stephen King, Read By David Morse

Riding With The King: Joyland By Stephen King, Read By Michael Kelly

joyland audio book stephen kingA few weekends back, I went on a 10-ish hour trip to hang out with some of my grade and high school buddies near Hocking Hills, Ohio. I knew I’d need some fast paced, engrossing audiobooks to listen to while I made the solo trip. When perusing that section at the library, I immediately headed to the Ks and found myself a pair of Stephen King books: Joyland and Revival. I grabbed the former because I have a hard copy in my to-read box and the latter because, well, it looked like it would get me through the rest of my trip there and all the way back. Continue reading Riding With The King: Joyland By Stephen King, Read By Michael Kelly

Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think Of The Children: The Ghost Next Door by R.L. Stine

goosebumps the ghost next doorAs I mentioned when I reviewed Christopher Pike’s Weekend, I was way into the world of young adult horror in my earlier years. Long before I dove into the mega scare franchises that had taken on legendary status to a kid growing up in the late 80s and 90s, I read a metric ton of books by Pike and R.L. Stine.

So, when I saw a free copy of The Ghost Next Door from Stine’s epic and beloved Goosebumps series, I had to grab it. I don’t think I read this one as a kid, I’d probably moved on to Fear Street by that point, but it was a fun look back at the kinds of stories I remember from childhood.

In the cast of The Ghost Next Door, Hannah’s all alone in her small town during the summer. Her friends have all gone off to camp or are on extended vacations, so she’s pretty surprised to see Danny appear and say he’s been living next door for a while. Hannah and her family have no recollection of him actually moving in and weird, wild things start happening that make her think that he’s the titular specter.

Not to toot my own horn too much, but I called the big twist pretty early on this 1993 book for children. I take more pride in that than I probably should as a 33 year old man. But, I think this would have made my 10 year old brain SPIN had I read it in 1993 when it first came out. I’ve often said that it doesn’t really matter how good the movies are you see as a kid because they become important for a variety of reasons. In other words, the very idea of playing with narrative structure like Tarantino did is mind-blowing even if you saw it for the first time by one of the many 90s imitators (or if your first exposure to the Citizen Kane story was through an episode of Tiny Toons or Alvin And The Chipmiunks or whathaveyou).

Let’s call this paragraph SPOILER TERRITORY if you’re so inclined to avoid such things. The big reveal here is that Hannah is actually the ghost, which explains why her friends aren’t writing her back and only a few people actually seem to interact with her. I caught on to this when she was writing the letter to her best friend complaining about how nothing was happening (I think she actually says “Everything is dead around here,” or something to that extent) and she wants to hear back. It seemed unlikely that her bestie would totally abandon her like that (or maybe I’m just a hopeful romantic when it comes to besties). I wonder if kids who read this book were more or less likely to catch the Sixth Sense twist coming because they’d been exposed to something similar.

Okay, back out of spoiler country now. I had a great time reading this story, not just because it was a nice trip down memory lane, but also an easy read that I could pick up and put down while I was taking care of the kids for a few days. It also makes me want to get a Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think Of The Children podcast because it’s super interesting finding out what kinds of stories we gravitated to as kids and how they changed the way we understand how these things work. Maybe in a few months…

Book Review: The Death Freak by Clifford Irving & Herbert Burkholz (1976)

the-death-freak-by-clifford-irving-and-herbert-burkholzI seem to be inadvertently drawn to action books from the 1970s with a fair amount of kink these days.First there were Trevanian’s The Eiger Sanction and The Loo Sanction in physical form, and now The Death Freak by Clifford Irving and Herbert Burkholz. While those were about an art historian-turned-secret agent, this one’s about U.S. and Russian murder masters who pull a Strangers On A Train and start taking out each others’ targets.

Both Eddie Mancuso and Vasily Borgneff work for their respective governments as architects of death, not actual assassins, but the people who figure out how to kill the targets when a simple sniper rifle won’t work. They both want out, but know that the very small group of agents they work for will never have it. Luckily, since the number of people who officially know about them is relatively small, it’s a number that can be easily terminated. Of course, none of it’s actually easy as both sides use computers to figure out the probability of each man’s next move.

So, once they make contact with one another thanks to the help of a woman who’s sleeping with them both, the two men come to an agreement and get to work figuring out how to take out their targets. The first few go quite well, but eventually the agents catch on and bring in a contingent of soldiers to put their scheme to an end.

As an action and intrigue story, Death Freak is on point. The authors bounce back and forth between each target making sure you never quite lose interest in their dirty deeds. Speaking of which, boy do some of these assassinations get kinky. The book actually starts off with a woman and her husband — one of Eddie’s superiors — getting violent before making love so there’s precedence right off the bat, but I was not expecting the graphic BDSM scenes. I don’t consider myself overly squeamish, but I definitely grimaced through those chapters.

Much like with Eiger and Loo, I feel like Death Freak would make a fantastic action thriller on the big screen. You’d only have to take out a few scenes and update a few others (actually, that whole Soviet Russia thing might be tricky, let’s do it as a period piece!). Still, there’s plenty of solid material here to bring to the big screen. Maybe if I keep reading these largely forgotten thrillers, I’ll hit on one that I can adapt into the next big blockbuster!