Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Review of "The Writing Family of Stephen King" [by Patrick McAleer]

I interviewed the author of The Writing Family of Stephen King not too many days ago, and had a thoroughly enjoyable time doing so.  I'm always happy to chat about King, and when I can do so with someone who clearly has the zeal Patrick McAleer has, it is cause for a bit of celebration here at the offices of The Truth Inside The Lie.

At that time, I'd not read the very book that prompted me to seek McAleer out and try to land a interview, mainly on account of how I didn't own a copy.  That has since been remedied, so as an overdue postscript, I thought I'd chime in with a brief review of the book.




First off, let me dispel any tension that might be building up by answering the question "Bryant, did you enjoy The Writing Family of Stephen King?"  Yes; yes, I did.  I read it in two nights, which is fairly speedy for me; I tend toward slowness as a reader.  Anytime I read a book quickly, it means I've enjoyed it.  I bought my copy of the book via Amazon, and it came in the same shipment with the second season of Game of Thrones, which I'd purchased on Blu-ray.  The urge to sit down and spend three or four hours in Westeros is quite strong, so the mere fact that I instead opted to spend my free time those two nights reading this book tells you much about my level of enjoyment.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #27

This week's installment of Bryant Has Issues is going to be dealing with only two new comics: Locke & Key: Omega #3 and Saga #10.  A bit slow at the racks this week, but then again, when they're as good as these two, who needs more?




Here's what I'll say about Locke & Key: Omega #3: I can't say much of anything about it without being spoilery.  I can hint at a few things; for example, I can say that there were at least three points in this comic at which I became literally tense with worry about what was potentially about to happen to certain characters.

And, of course, I can say that it was -- as is typical -- a damn fine comic book.

Beyond that...?

Can't do it without spoilers.  So for now, I won't say much, except to note that there is an excellent Stephen King-related gag during one scene.

One of these days, this blog is going to have a long, hard look at Locke & Key; but for now, I'm going to give people a better chance to get caught up.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Review of "The Night Boat" [by Robert McCammon]

When last I wrote about Robert McCammon's work, the topic was Bethany's Sin, the author's second published novel.

Close readers will have noticed that I used a qualifier there: "published."  The reason for that is that while Bethany's Sin was the second novel McCammon published, it was the third one he wrote.  The Night Boat apparently preceded Bethany's Sin in terms of composition.

That factoid doesn't make much difference, but it seemed to be worth a mention.  And now that it's been mentioned, let's cease worrying about it, and start worrying about the rest of the novel.




For those of you who may not be familiar with The Night Boat, here comes a plot description: David Moore, a widower who survived the accident that claimed the lives of his wife and child, is diving in the waters off the Caribbean isle of Coquina when he stumbles across a semi-buried Nazi submarine.  He unwittingly sets off an explosive device which -- seemingly -- causes the sub to surface.  Once there, it becomes apparent to Moore and to the local authorities that the sub is in better shape than it really ought to be in, given how many decades the U-boat has been sunk.  The local voodoo priest seems to know something about this, and if you guess that that means trouble for everyone involved, then you guess correctly.

Friday, February 22, 2013

An Interview with Patrick McAleer

I've got a good one for you today, fellow King fans: an interview with Patrick McAleer, who is the author of the books Inside the Dark Tower Series and The Writing Family of Stephen King.  




 
Patrick McAleer



I recently contacted Mr. McAleer via email and pestered him with a bunch of questions; he was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to actually respond to them, and to prove it, here's a transcript:

Bryant Burnette:  If my internet-fu has not failed me, you are an English professor at Inver Hills Community College in Minnesota. How long have you been teaching, and do you have a particular focus?

Patrick McAleer:  Your “internet-fu” is impeccable. I have been teaching for almost ten years (with a few breaks for graduate studies), and I have been at Inver Hills Community College for the last four years.  At Inver, I mainly teach Freshman Composition and courses in Research Writing.  Of course, my background is in literature, and, technically, I consider myself to be a generalist as my main studies are varied (my Master’s thesis was on Robert Browning and my Doctoral dissertation was on Gothic literature…but little about Stephen King made its way into either of these pieces).  I would say, though, that Stephen King is my specialty. Alas, I have not yet had the opportunity to develop a Special Topics/Major Author’s course with Stephen King as the focus.  I do hold out hope that I will have the opportunity to develop such a specialty course—or series of courses, as King’s work cannot be contained within only one semester’s worth of reading—but we will just have to wait and see how this develops.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Under the Dome," "House of Cards," and the future of television

We're going to talk about CBS's upcoming series based on Under the Dome in a bit, but first, let's consider House of Cards, a $100 million, thirteen-episode series starring Kevin Spacey and produced (and partially directed) by David Fincher.  This is Prestige Television of the sort HBO has been airing and collecting Emmys with for the past two decades.  It would have been right at home on HBO, but HBO didn't have it.  Nor did AMC, or Showtime, or FX, or -- don't even make me laugh -- one of the broadcast networks.

Nope.  In fact, it didn't air on televisions at all.

It debuted on Netflix.  The reigning kings of streaming video paid for the series, and on February 1, they made all thirteen episodes available for viewing.  At once.  The first two episodes were directed by Oscar-nominated director Fincher, and if you liked them and felt inclined to check out the next eleven, you were constrained only by your freetime and your butt's willingness to be sat upon.




Better get used to seeing that, folks; something tells me it's here to stay.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #26

FYI: I am currently experiencing a high volume of meowage from my cats, so if I seem distracted, it might have something to do with that.

In any case, there are a LOT of comics to cover on this installment of Bryant Has Issues, so let's dive right in.


The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- Sheemie's Tale #2

The two-part interlude "Sheemie's Tale" came to a conclusion this week, and...

Monday, February 11, 2013

One Could Wait Forever For It To Drip: A Review of "The Glass Floor"

One of my goals for this blog is to write in-depth reviews of all of Stephen King's books and movies, as well as his short stories, major pieces of nonfiction, comics, and whatever else I decide is review-worthy.

This is going to take a while.

I'm cool with that, because after all, it's fun, and having fun is the best reason to spend the required time on a project that's apt to take (by my calculations) a decade or more.

In any case, we're going to be starting the short-story component of the project in earnest with this post -- this very one! -- before your eyes today.  The reason for that is simple: "The Glass Floor" was King's first professionally-published story.  Where else would you start, if not at the beginning?

Some people would probably argue that I should start with "I Was A Teenage Grave-Robber" (also known as "In A Half-World of Terror"), which is sometimes listed as King's first professionally-published story.  That story, however, was published in a fanzine, which is by definition not a professional publication.  That's not to say that there are no quality fanzines, nor is it to say that "I Was A Teenage Grave-Robber" is entirely without merit.  Neither of those things would be true.  But they'd be mostly true; the vast majority of fanzines I've ever run across are shabby as hell, and having read "I Was A Teenage Grave-Robber," I can say that it is best viewed as a piece of advanced juvenilia.  Not an uninteresting piece, but certainly not what I'd consider to be a good story in comparison to the rest of King's career.

So for me, King's professional career begins with "The Glass Floor."

Let's us begin (he said, Cajun-style) with a brief recap of the story's publication history.  The story's first appearance was in a magazine called Startling Mystery Stories.  Specifically, it was in No. 6, which was the Fall 1967 issue:


Some day, when I have money, I shall obtain one of these, oh, yes, I shall...


Though it would have been natural for the story to appear in King's first collection, Night Shift, "The Glass Floor" did not make the cut, nor did it make the cut for the by-then-superstar author's second collection, Skeleton Crew.  Evidence indicates that King simply didn't think very highly of the story, so odds seemed good that it would remain buried.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Dark Tower comics -- not dead yet?

In this week's issue of Comic Shop News, an interesting item appears in the previews for comics scheduled to be released in April.

I quote:

In Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- Evil Ground #1 by Robin Furth, Peter David, & Richard Isanove, Roland relives one of his past adventures, in which he and his ka-tet fought Farson's forces, only to be trapped by supernatural enemies.

Hmm...

I'd been assuming that the series was folding its tent after Sheemie's Tale concluded, but it seems that there are still a few more issues upcoming.  Having never heard of Evil Ground, I decided to do a little Googling and see what it turned up.  At thedarktower.org, I found this:

DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER - EVIL GROUND #1 (of 2)

ROBIN FURTH and PETER DAVID (W)
RICHARD ISANOVE (A/C)

While traveling through the Desatoya Mountains towards Eluria, Roland comes across a haunted camp. While there, he relives one of his past adventures, in which he and his ka-tet fought Farson's forces, only to be trapped by supernatural enemies. A fascinating prequel to THE LITTLE SISTERS OF ELURIA, and also a return to Roland's much-loved early adventures, EVIL GROUND is a must-read for all Dark Tower fans.

It even had an image!


The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: Evil Ground #1

I borrowed that description and image from this page, incidentally.

I've been hard on the Dark Tower comics on occasion, but never without feeling it was merited, and on the whole, I'd say the needle is still pointing toward "like" moreso than "dislike."  I kinda loved the first issue of Sheemie's Tale, and I'm onboard for the idea of another two-parter.  Especially if Richard Isanove is doing the art.

Stay tuned: an upcoming "Bryant Has Issues" will happily offer you a review of the comic when it hits shelves in April.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Review of Owen King's "We're All In This Together"

A few years ago, I stumbled across an article that mentioned the publication of a new book: We're All In This Together, by Owen King.  Somewhere in my brain a bell went off, but I did not immediately get the math on two-and-two to equal four.

Owen King, the article explained helpfully, was the son of horror author Stephen King.  The math came together for me about half a second before I got to this line, though: I remembered Stephen King's poem "For Owen," and realized that the subject of that poem and the author of We're All In This Together must be one and the same.  The article, of course, confirmed this.

Naturally, this intrigued me mightily.  The article -- if I'm remembering it correctly (I have no notion of where, exactly, I read it) -- described the book as being more akin in tone to John Irving than to Stephen King, which was fine by me, seeing as how I'd read and thoroughly adored two Irving novels (The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meaney) in college.
 
The next step, obviously, was to buy the book, and that happened almost immediately.

You'd be totally forgiven for assuming, based on the context presented by the review thus far, that the purchasing of the book was immediately followed by the sitting-down-and-reading-of the book.  It's a natural assumption.

However, it would be incorrect.

Once I'd bought a copy, I immediately began to fret over it a little bit, trying to decide whether to actually read it.  What if it sucks? I asked myself.  What if sucks, and you end up thinking that Stephen King's son is a complete hack?  Wouldn't that make you feel like an asshole?  Do you WANT to feel like an asshole?  HUH?!?  That was an unattractive proposition, so I let the book sit there for a while, gathering dust.
 
Finally, though, I read it.  And guess what?

Stephen King's son ain't no fuckin' hack.




Let's deal with something right up front: Owen King does not write horror fiction.  His brother, Joe Hill, writes horror (and damn fine horror, too); Owen, however, does not, so if you're inclined to take on We're All In This Together in the hopes of reading something by Stephen King Junior, you're apt to be disappointed by the book.

Your loss, bub.