Monday, January 24, 2011
CBRIII Book#5: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
I say with no sarcasm or undue praise that this collection of short stories is probably the best work that King has done in a while. The stories are haunting at times, terrifying at others, and always a study of the pitfalls of human behavior.
We begin in 1922. Wilfred James is a farmer in Nebraska that has murdered his wife, Arlette. Arlette inherited 100 acres of land from her late father and the couple was unable to agree on the best course of action for the parcel. Wilfred delves into the very deepest and darkest parts of his being in order to get his way, involving even the couple's son in the nasty business. King fully explores the thought process of the farmer and his viewpoint during the disagreement and his plan to murder his wife. The story becomes difficult to read at times, not only because of the brutality but because it makes you think that you never really know someone and what they are capable of. Not at all. And that seems to be a theme in this collection.
Our next stop on this macabre tour of the depths of human depravity is with author Tess. She has a string of popular stories about an older group of women, the Willow Grove Knitting Society, that solve murders in their spare time. Tess is building her own retirement fund with the proceeds of her various speaking engagements. She also has rules about where she will travel for these engagements and how much money she must receive. One day Tess receives an email from Ramona Norville of Books & Brown Baggers in nearby Chicopee. Tess decides to drive to the paying engagement and back in one day. Everything goes well until Ms. Norville suggests a short-cut for Tess.
Streeter has cancer and little time left to spend with his wife and children. While taking a drive one day, Streeter notices a pudgy merchant in the gravel of the Harris Avenue Extension. The sign says "Fair Extension" and piques Streeter's interest. The merchant is named George Elvid and he offers Streeter exactly what the sign says: a fair extension. Of his life. The only catch? Streeter must transfer the weight of his cancer to someone that he knows and hates.
Darcy Anderson has been married to Bob for twenty-seven years. Bob is an accountant and numismatic while Darcy becomes a stay-at-home mother to their two children, now grown. During one of Bob's trips to look at some possibly rare coins, Darcy ventures into the garage to forage some batteries for the television remote. She trips over a box under Bob's work bench. This seemingly innocuous occurrence leads to the unraveling of everything that Darcy ever thought she knew about her life and her husband.
As I said, the theme here seems to be that you never really know anyone. Not completely, at least. The woman next door can mete out vigilante justice and the man next door can be a misogynistic murderer. People that you thought were your friends can become enemies when the circumstances of your relationships change in any way. Truly, King has created stories that are not far from the realm of reality. And that makes them all the more terrifying and emotionally draining.