I finished my latest book over a week ago but hadn’t found the time to write about it yet. I sat down to do it this morning, not yet looking at the calendar. When I was at the bank later at saw the date, I realized there was some part of me that had intentionally held off on writing this entry until today. My mom was born on October 10, 1951. I don’t normally dedicate posts to people, but I think this one was clearly written with her somewhere in my mind.
11/22/63 – Stephen King
Stephen King and I go way back. Back to before I even thought about reading his books. My mom was a huge fan of his and she bought each of his books the moment she could get her hands on them. Our bookshelves always had a large section dedicated to him. She told me many times that his books weren’t appropriate for kids, but once I was old enough, she would help me figure out which ones to read first.
Which didn’t sound super exciting to me, to be honest. I was never a big scary story fan so I filed all his books under the “I’ll Never Read Those” tag.
That, obviously, changed. In college a roommate was slowly working his way through the uncut edition of The Stand. Every now and then I’d pick it up, read some of the blurbs on the back cover, flip through a few pages, and slowly got interested in the story. When I went home that summer (1992? 1993? I’m not sure which.) I grabbed my mom’s original edition of The Stand and got to work. When I was done with it I picked up The Shining and did my best to repeat what my mom had done 15 years earlier: read it in one night.
I was hooked. I don’t think I read anything but King books that summer, and continued to work my way through his catalog over the next couple years. I never got into his darkest books like Cujo which were written during his cocaine days. But I did knock out most of his books.
Along the way I got through the first three editions of The Dark Tower and soon I was in the same boat that older King fans had been in for years: waiting for volume four. Eventually it arrived, my mom and I took turns reading it, and we began the wait for volume five.
During that wait my mom died in a car accident and King was nearly killed after being struck by a car. His recovery was long and difficult, and he admitted be might not be able to finish the series, let alone write again. I wondered if I would want to read the rest of the series if he did finish it, so closely was his writing tied to my memories of my mother.
He found his muse and cranked out the last three entries in the series, promising before he was done that he would retire from writing when volume seven was published. Perfect, I thought. How could he have any more stories in his head, anyway?
That retirement lasted about five minutes and he has continued his prolific publishing schedule over the last decade. I read his first post-Dark Tower book, The Cell, but thought it was half-assed and boring. If he wasn’t going to retire from writing, I was going to retire from reading his new books.
When 11/22/63 hit the shelves last year, I was intrigued by the concept, a time traveler from the modern age going back to stop the Kennedy assassination, but not really interested in reading it. Then I saw several positive reviews for it. I heard from a couple friends who had read it who enjoyed it. Eventually I relented and put it on my reading list, and finally knocked it out last week.
It’s good. It’s entertaining. It’s exciting. There is a nice Dark Tower-ish twist at the end. But if you’ve read most of King’s books, you won’t find a whole lot new here. Just a solid story about bouncing around different ages through time-space portals centered around one of the biggest moments in American history.
Since 11/22/63‘s release, King has published an eighth volume for the Dark Tower. Maybe I’m not done with him after all.