News Article

News Article

Overlooking 2014: Stephen King in the New Year

up
92
With 2013 almost behind us, it’s time to start looking forward to the future. By this time last year, Stephen King had announced two new novels for 2013 – Joyland and Doctor Sleep – but we ended up with so much more: The Dark Man, Hard Listening, “Afterlife,” “Summer Thunder,” plus surprises like an unfinished manuscript surfacing and King’s earliest fiction sale, “The Glass Floor,” being reprinted by Cemetery Dance. What’s in store for 2014?
 
We’re in the same position we were in last year: two new books announced, and not much more. Still, 2014 looks to be unique in every sense of the word: for the first time since 2011, we have a year without any sequels. However readers felt about The Wind Through the Keyhole or Doctor Sleep, there’s something exciting about going into two new Stephen King novels completely blind. Well, maybe not completely. What do we know about these novels?
 
King first mentioned Mr. Mercedes during a talk at the University of Massachusetts Lowell on December 7th, 2012 – the same appearance at which he first read the short story “Afterlife.” Nearly a year later, he announced plans to release the novel on June 3rd, 2014. It's rare for King to release novels in the summer – before 2013, the last non-series hardcover written under his own name to arrive in the summer was Rose Madder, way back in 1995 – but the unqualified success of this summer's Joyland must have been encouraging. Soon after nailing down the date, King issued a press release and an appropriately grim cover:
 
SK_Mercedes
 
In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.
 
In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the "perk" and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.
 
Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again.
 
Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.
 
Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.
 
A seemingly non-supernatural, straightforward crime novel? Intriguing. While King’s latest splashy bestsellers don’t seem to point toward this sort of work, all one needs to do is look at some of his recent low-profile stories: Blockade Billy, for example, or three of the four novellas in Full Dark, No Stars. Even the light supernatural touches in Joyland were in service to a dark crime story with a deranged killer at its core. It’s fascinating to watch King work his noir out – a little less Clive Barker, a little more Lawrence Block – and to see King challenge expectations while still delivering an exciting story. If Joyland set a precedent, look for Mr. Mercedes to rule next summer’s bestseller charts.  
 
Speaking of Full Dark, No Stars, the upcoming film adaptation of “A Good Marriage” has been completed. Directed by Peter Askin (Trundo, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and starring Joan Allen, the film is based on a screenplay by King himself. This marks Stephen King’s first produced screenplay since Mick Garris’s Desperation in 2006, and his first theatrically produced screenplay since Mick Garris' Sleepwalkers, way back in 1992. On December 10th, King tweeted, “Have seen the completed film version of A GOOD MARRIAGE. I thought it was terrific. Of course… I wrote it!”
 
If little is known about Mr. Mercedes, even less is known about Revival – even the release date! While we know this new book is coming in 2014, we don’t know if it’s a fall or a winter book, how long it is, or much about the plot. On July 18th, 2013, King spoke with columnist Colin McEnroe at a benefit for the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, and offered the following tidbit:
 
The main character [of Revival] is a kid who learns how to play guitar, and I can relate to this guy because he's not terribly good. He's just good enough to catch on with a number of bands and play for a lot of years. The song that he learns to play first is the song that I learned to play first, which was 'Cherry, Cherry' by Neil Diamond. One of the great rock progressions: E-A-D-A.
 
Other songs to use that particular chord progression: “What I Like About You,” by The Romantics, and “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.,” by John Mellencamp, with whom King wrote the play, The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. Which isn’t to say Revival is a ghost story … but it could be. (And since we’re grasping at straws, the word "Revival" in a rock and roll story immediately brings to mind Creedence Clearwater Revival; could that fact hold any bearing on the story? We’ll just have to wait.)
 
Now, just because Mr. Mercedes and Revival are the only two announced books of 2014, that doesn’t mean King has to stop there. In 2013, King released three books (Joyland, Doctor Sleep, and The Dark Man), but The Dark Man was a bit of an under-the-radar title. Chances are slim for a new novel, based on King’s recent output. The last time King had three major books in one year was 2004, with Song of Susannah, The Dark Tower, and Faithful (with Stewart O’Nan); the last time he released three novels in one year was 1996 (The Regulators as Richard Bachman, Desperation, and The Green Mile,); and the last time he released three novels in one year under his own name was 1987 (Misery, The Drawing of the Three, and The Tommyknockers).  
 
While an as-yet unheard-of novel is probably not in the offing, we’re overdue for a short story collection, especially considering all the uncollected work floating out there now. Next year, it will have been six years since Just After Sunset, plenty of time to accumulate enough new work for a book-length collection. Even without dipping into past, uncollected work, we have a strong list:
 
Morality
Premium Harmony
Herman Wouk Is Still Alive
Ur
Mile 81
The Little Green God of Agony
The Dune
Under the Weather
Throttle (with Joe Hill)
In the Tall Grass (with Joe Hill)
A Face in the Crowd (with Stewart O’Nan)
Afterlife
Summer Thunder
 
If King were interested in including nonfiction, his bestselling Kindle Single “Guns” could make the cut, as could his insightful essay from Hard Listening, “Just a Little Talent.” There’s poetry, too, beyond the recent The Dark Man: “Tommy,” “Mostly Old Men,” and “The Bone Church,” not to mention the obscure 1994 poem, “Dino.” Of course, King spent a lot of 2013 plumbing his past, allowing reprints of “The Glass Floor” – his earliest published story – and “Weeds,” which was later adapted as Creepshow’s “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill.” Throw in the 2012 reprint of “The Crate” (from Shivers VI), and maybe some vintage uncollected work like “Night of the Tiger,” and “Squad D,” and King could emerge with an extremely strong collection.  
 
A lot of 2014 is up in the air, but that’s always been part of the excitement. Some definites, some maybes, and a lot of unknowns. We likely won’t know everything 2014 will bring us until this time next year, but one thing’s for sure: it’s going to be a hell of a journey. 
 

 

Kevin Quigley is an author whose website, CharnelHouseSK.com, is one of the leading online sources for Stephen King news, reviews, and information. He has written several books on Stephen King for Cemetery Dance Publications, including a book on comics and Stephen King, Drawn Into Darkness, as well as Chart of Darkness, Blood In Your Ears, and Stephen King Limited, and he co-wrote the recently released Stephen King Illustrated Movie Trivia Book. His first novel, I’m On Fire, is forthcoming. Find his books at cemeterydance.com.

 

<none>