Stephen King's 'Full Dark, No Stars' reveals relationships fading to black
A review of Stephen King's collection, "Full Dark, No Stars," which shows the author to be a master of the short story.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
'Full Dark, No Stars'
Scribner, 368 pages, $27.99
BOOK REVIEW |
For a writer whose books need a big stage, Stephen King also can turn out shorter stories just as gripping as his epic novels.
All four stories in "Full Dark, No Stars" are about the dark turns taken in relationships between men and women. Uneven in length, they also are ambiguous in morality, which is one of the delights of this book.
My favorite, "Big Driver," features a 30-something author out on a speaking engagement that ends badly when her hostess sends her on a shortcut home. The shortcut may save a few minutes, but it nearly costs her her life at the hands of a rapist.
While the assault is brutal in King's description, he tempers it, too: "Somewhere people were listening to music and buying products online and taking naps and talking on phones, but in here a woman was being raped and she was that woman."
The author, Tess, survives the assault. She uses her skills as a writer to decide what she needs to do, complete with plotting, research and the ultimate moment(s) of truth. Regardless of whether you agree with Tess' solution, King makes it seem plausible.
An even more gruesome story is "1922." The tale of a farmer and his wife squabbling over land reaches an ugly climax with the couple's teenage son serving as a reluctant accomplice to a parent's murder. If the movie "Willard" left you sleeping with the lights on, you might want to skip the heavy doses of blood and gore that saturate this story.
Of the four stories, the one that might leave readers with the uneasiest feeling is "Fair Extension," because of what happens when one man, Streeter, makes a deal with the devil, or at least an agent named ELVID, and he has to decide where to send his bad mojo. Where else but to the man who has been his "best friend" — who also happened to steal his girlfriend in college, excel in sports and become a millionaire?
In "A Good Marriage," readers will spot some familiarities with the BTK killer in Wichita, Kan., who lived a double life for decades as a city worker while also at work as a serial killer. In the afterword, King acknowledges that he got the idea for his story after reading about the BTK killer.
But in "A Good Marriage," Darcy learns early on that her husband has been a serial killer for decades. Think of how that knowledge shapes her response: "It wouldn't be just the two of them dragged into newspaper speculation and the filthy rinse-cycle of 24-hour cable news; there were the kids to think about."
In all four of his stories, King leaves readers to think about how they might react under similar circumstances. And while we might do as the characters did, the suspense is in the uncertainty.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.