For a writer like Stephen King, who has put out work in a nearly non-stop frenzy since the 1960s, it is almost unthinkable that there's work he hasn't published. With over fifty books, scores of short stories, and a bafflement of non-fiction pieces, King is one of the most prolific writers of our time ... or, really, any time. What may surprise the uninitiated is that beyond the shiny bestsellers, there's a whole wealth of underground Stephen King material: work that has been published but never collected, work that has never been published, and work that has never been finished.
The subject has been of significant interest to King scholars and serious fans. In 1987, Tyson Blue released The Unseen King, which examined both King's uncollected and unpublished work, and the growing world of Stephen King limited editions. Stephen Spignesi's 1998 book, The Lost Work of Stephen King, expanded on and streamlined Blue's work; more "lost" work had come to light, and limited editions had become an almost-mainstream commodity and a different subject altogether. In 2005, critic/expert Rocky Wood released the first Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished, the most in-depth research guide on the subject yet. One of the most interesting aspects of "lost" King work is that it expands from both ends - that is, King keeps writing new stuff that doesn't get published, and old stuff he'd never released keeps being discovered.
Wood covered (and continues to cover) it all - unpublished novels, unproduced screenplays, juvenilia, uncollected and unpublished short stories and poems, and non-fiction pieces. A glimpse at the table of contents is tantalizing to all but the most casual King readers; unfamiliar titles like "Comb Dump," "Charlie" and "Mobius" stand out like glowing beacons, begging the reader to find out more. "Stories from Journals" looks at story fragments King included in a single journal in the late 80s and early 90s: "Muffe," "Movie Show," "The Examination," and "Chip Coombs" are looked at in-depth. Segments on King's unproduced screenplays, such as those for Children of the Corn, The Dead Zone, and Cujo, examine how those films might have turned out with more direct involvement from King. Two intriguing sections – "Variations and Versions in King's Fiction" and "Stories Swallowed by Monsters" – discuss the mutability of King's work, and how he sometimes continues to tinker with work even after it's published. A full section detailing King's unpublished poetry is the most thorough look at this under-examined portion of King's writing anywhere. Wood's up-to-the-second commentary includes King's newest unpublished and uncollected work, too: "The Little Green God of Agony," "The Dune," the Stoker-winning "Herman Wouk Is Still Alive," and more. Perhaps best of all, Uncollected, Unpublished actually publishes some of King's heretofore "hidden" work: the obscure poem "Dino," as well as a significant portion of King's early unpublished book, Sword In the Darkness.
This update, the book's fourth, is the most significant and – for King scholars and fans – the most important yet. Like Spignesi's exhaustive Stephen King Encyclopedia and Bev Vincent's amazing Stephen King Illustrated Companion, this edition of Uncollected, Unpublished benefits from direct contact and comments from Stephen King himself.
King's involvement helps the book in two ways, the first and most obvious being that it clears up a lot of misconceptions about the validity of King's work. Over the years, a number of assumptions have been made about King's unpublished writing, sometimes wrong and sometimes misleading; as time goes on, some of those assumptions have become, for all intents and purposes, facts. Wood has waded through the apocrypha and gotten the gospel from the only man who knows the truth. For the first time, we have definitive answers on what involvement King had with the screenplays They Bite and Poltergeist (the quick answer: not much), whether King wrote "Loon Call," "History Lesson," and "I Hate Mondays," and what, exactly, is the deal with the unpublished novel Hatchet Head. There's loads more, a veritable feast of knowledge.
But while it's terrific to get the facts straight on King's unseen work, what really makes this version of Uncollected, Unpublished come alive are the quotes from King, reminiscences that cast a human light on this deep history of dates and titles and plot synopses.
"I remember it well," King states about an unproduced screenplay he'd partially written in 1977 about a radio station. "What I can't remember is why it never got finished. Probably because something else came along. In those days, the ideas were popping like corn in a microwave." Quotes like these – from interviews Wood conducted with King in 2011 – add flavor and resonance. That King doesn't frequently comment specifically on his work, especially his unpublished and unfinished work, makes this book even more invaluable.
Beyond his exclusive contact with King, Wood – who won a Bram Stoker award for King criticism in 2011 (Stephen King: A Literary Companion) – is a foremost expert in his subject, and knows how to convey his knowledge to readers who aren't as versed with the subject. It's an underrated quality in literary criticism, making books appeal to a broader market than other literary critics. Wood handles the material deftly, transforming what could have been a dry examination into a fun, engaging read.
Note: Wood's book can be purchased at Overlook Connection. All proceeds benefit his ALS treatments.