"I believe there is another man inside every man, a stranger ..." writes Wilfred Leland James in the early pages of the riveting confession that makes up "1922," the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerizing tales from Stephen King. For James, that stranger is awakened when his wife, Arlette, proposes selling off the family homestead and moving to Omaha, setting in motion a gruesome train of murder and madness.
In "Big Driver," a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book-club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face-to-face with another stranger: the one inside herself.
"Fair Extension," the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the nastiest and certainly the funniest. Making a deal with the devil not only saves Dave Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment.
When her husband of more than twenty years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It's a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends a good marriage.
Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.
"Starred Review ...King takes a mostly nonfantastic approach to grim themes. ... show how a skilled storyteller with a good tale to tell can make unsettling fiction compulsively readable." - Publishers Weekly
"Starred Review. King has gone on record saying he believesthat American readers should pay more attention to the virtues of short fiction; and if anyone can get reluctant short-story and novella readers into the swing, he certainly can with this book." - Booklist
"While not as subtle as some of King's other fiction, these novellas offer dark humor and to-the-point gore." - Library Journal
"A collection of page-turning narratives for those who prefer the prolific tale spinner at his pulpiest." - Kirkus Reviews
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Rated of 5
master of the long dark tale
Full Dark, No Stars is an omnibus of four dark tales of retribution by Stephen King.
In “1922”, dedicated Nebraska farmer, Wilf James, murders his wife, Arlette, when she threatens to sell her portion of the family farm to buy a dress shop in Omaha. He involves his 14-year-old son, and, though they get away with murder, Arlette never really seems to leave and life goes downhill from that moment on. 4/5
In “Big Driver”, mystery novelist Tessa Jean takes a shortcut home from a book-club engagement with almost fatal consequences. Although frightened of her attacker, Tess refuses to let things lie: the New Tess uses the Old Tess’s skills as a crime-writer to exact revenge. This tale has a very strong female lead character: I really enjoyed her inner monologue and I found it “edge of the seat” reading. 5/5
In “Fair Extension”, cancer-ridden Dave Streeter makes a deal with a man selling all sorts of extensions, George Elvid (that’s right, rearrange the letters) for a life extension. His cancer disappears, but a price has to be paid: it turns out that Elvid wants more than mere money. A reflection on the “fairness” of life. 4/5
In “A Good Marriage” , Darcy Anderson accidentally stumbles on something that has her questioning just how well she really knows her husband of twenty years. Her neat, clean, organised husband, the father of her children, appears to have a dark secret, a terrifying pastime she has never suspected, something that will irrevocably change her life and that of her children if it becomes known. Another strong female character. 5/5
Plot, characters and their interaction are all things in which King is the expert. His characters are ordinary people in extraordinary situations and King explores how they act and react. His natural dialogue has the voices speaking in the reader’s head. Black humour ensures plenty of laughs. Horror is another thing that King excels at, and the horrors in these tales include rats, rape, murder, decaying corpses, disease, torture and madness. Scary too, is how people will justify their actions. In each story, the characters feel a change come over them, as if a stranger inside them has taken over. For Wilf it is the Conniving Man; for Tess, the New Tess; for Dave it is someone inside him who has held a grudge since grammar school; and for Darcy it is the Dark Wife within, for Bob, the ghost of his childhood friend, BD. King skilfully builds the tension so that the stories are real page-turners. These four stories prove, once again, that King is the master of the long dark tale.
Stephen King has written more than forty novels and two hundred short stories. He has won the World Fantasy Award, several Bram Stoker Awards, the O. Henry Award, and the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
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