Stephen King’s introduction to Robin Furth’s The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance, says it all:
…her concordance was never meant to be published … but … I was aware of how good it was, how interesting and readable it was … [and] how valuable it might be to the Constant Reader.”
When the original volumes of the Concordance were released, in conjunction with the final three books of the Dark Tower sequence, they indeed proved interesting and readable and perhaps necessary. Initially intended for Stephen King’s private use, the Concordance provided a guide for those working to untangle the sometimes intricate web of Roland Deschain’s journey and history, something that laid out in plain terms what happened, who it happened to, and when.
King’s somewhat surprising publication of an eighth book in the Dark Tower series – 2012’s The Wind Through the Keyhole – necessitated changes – and here we arrive at Furth’s enhanced Concordance: Revised and Updated. Furth wisely retains the texts of her original books, including her original forewords and Stephen King’s illuminating introduction. Those who missed out on the original Concordance volumes are in for a treat here; the sheer breadth and depth of information is staggering. Furth takes an encyclopedic view of Roland’s (and our) universe, referencing and cross-referencing the people, places, and things in Mid-World without ever bogging herself down in dry description or blandness. With a researcher’s eye, she catalogues everything from dialects and diseases to Mid-World moons and Gilead Fair-Days. A fascinating map at the back of the book describes Roland’s weird, backtracking journey through The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three, and a terrific old-school illustration of the Beams, the Turtle, and the Rose is so forcibly Tolkienian that one can almost hear classic Led Zeppelin pouring from the page.
The advent of the new Dark Tower midquel meant a number of exciting changes. An all-new essay on Keyhole proves that Furth is as good a writer as she is a cataloguer. She not only reveals Keyhole’s original title, but also an early subtitle and a sweet epigraph King intended for inclusion. Perhaps more importantly, references from the new novel are woven throughout the Concordance text, fitting neatly into older sections like jigsaw pieces you didn’t know were missing. Some new readers’ group questions spotlight Keyhole, and a new illustration – Sherriff Peavy’s hand-sketched map of Debaria – rounds out the Mid-World cartography nicely.
Now is a good time to be a Dark Tower fan. Almost since Stephen King has been publishing novels, there have been books written about those novels, and the Dark Tower books are no exception. Hot on the heels of Bev Vincent’s fantastic Dark Tower Companion, Furth’s Concordance finds new ways of looking at and thinking about Roland’s world; it has the feel of a living text, one that can be constantly updated and molded whenever King releases a new Dark Tower book. And its beginnings cannot be overlooked. This was a book intended for Stephen King himself, and became a book for his readers. In short, the Concordance started life as a guide, and somewhere along the line, it became a vision.
A limited edition of Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance (Revised & Updated) will be released by Cemetery Dance in 2013, signed by Robin Furth and featuring new cover artwork by Michael Whelan. This edition is limited to only 1,000 copies.
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 Chart of Darkness, Blood In Your Ears, and Stephen King Limited, and co-wrote the upcoming Stephen King Illustrated Movie Trivia Book. His first novel, I’m On Fire, is forthcoming.