Total Pageviews

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More Skipped Stories, Part I

Do enjoy this photo of Stephen King struggling to poop
Does anyone have any idea why The Colorado Kid is seemingly harder to get a hold of these days than Jimmy Hoffa?

I never had a copy of this one. I was a little angry at the way The Dark Tower ended back in those days and I kinda swore off King for a while. I saw copies of it everywhere, but never picked one up. Curse my short-sightedness.

Today that freaking book is harder to get a copy of than any book I've ever tried to buy. I have a copy of Rage, and it's not even in print anymore. I have a copy of Cycle of the Werewolf, a book that I have never seen a copy of that isn't second-hand. Apparently it can be ordered through my local chain book store, so I guess it's still in print. Maybe. I dunno.

Anyway, I have three choices when it comes to The Colorado Kid. I can either continue to scour my local secondhand stores, hoping against hope that it will come in some day (they have it marked as rare. A book younger than my 14-year-old son, and it's rare.). I can pay exorbitant prices to have a physical copy through Amazon (I can't even order it from my local chain book store!), and by exorbitant I mean anywhere from $35 to hundreds of dollars. I'm not comfortable with paying $35 for a book that retails for eight bucks. The third option is to get the e-book. This is the one I'm leaning toward, but I have this thing about buying an internet version of a book I know exists in paper format. I definitely prefer the book in my hand, not my kindle app (I don't even own an actual kindle). I have shelf space cleared for when I get it, and I'm loath to only own a soft copy when I have literally all his other published works (barring Throttle, A Face in the Crowd and In the Tall Grass) physically on my shelf.

It will be a while before this becomes an issue. As I'm reading or re-reading King's books and stories in publication order, The Colorado Kid is many, many books down the line, so hopefully I'll find a hard copy of it before then (or break down and pay Amazon's prices) and won't have to resort to e-booking it.

Sorry for the rant. Now on to the topic of today's post.

I'm nearly finished with Rage now, and coming after that are the remaining stories in Night Shift as well as a couple of others. I doubt any of them are getting a casting from me, and the ones I've read so far aren't going to be cast either, so here's a post about the stories I am not casting, and why.

Before I go much further, let me say thanks to a reader who hooked me up with some of King's harder-to-find stories. I believe this person wishes to remain anonymous, and I can understand why, as I doubt they wish to be inundated with requests from others asking them to share the stories. But, you know who you are, so, thanks.

I Was a Teenage Grave Robber (Short Story) (1965) (Uncollected)
This is one of the earliest short stories King wrote that anyone outside his circle of childhood friends has read. It was "published" in an independent fanzine called Comics Review, which from what I can tell was so independent that the art for it was hand-drawn. King was 18 when it saw publication, and I gotta say, it's not bad for an 18-year-old. I enjoyed it better than The Reaper's Image, which has been collected in Skeleton Crew. It employs some pretty obvious cliches of the horror genre, and the title really tells you everything you need to know about the story, but King showed he was already skilled in the use of mood and atmosphere, and if I'd been his creative writing teacher, and he'd handed this in, I would have given it an A- (marked down a bit due to some grammatical problems any 18-year-old writer would have made). So you can probably see why I don't think this one would work as a film.

The Glass Floor (Short Story) (1967) (Uncollected)
Here it is, folks, the first of King's writing that the general public got to see. This one was published by Startling Mystery Stories, a pulp magazine that went out of print just a few years after this story hit. This is, for good or ill, the one that Started It All. How is it? Well, it's not bad, per se. It's not at all the greatest example of early writing from King. It kinda reminded me of The Reaper's Image, oddly enough, what with the protagonist going to an old, creepy house, getting into an argument with the guy who owns it (despite the owner not being a bad person), meeting an unfortunate end, and heck, it even involves mirrors. That said, I liked this one a bit better because there were more issues that I felt bubbling under the surface, such as, what does the house's owner know and when did he know it, why is the room there and who put it there, and what's up with the housekeeper? Don't tell me it's nothing; that broad clearly knows more than she's saying. Anyway, I'd like to see a future collection include this one, but I don't think there's enough there for an adaptation.

Slade (Short Story) (1970) (Uncollected)
To paraphrase Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Stephen King, when you tried to scare us with a haunted laundry machine, you were funny. When you tried to make "SSDD" a viable catchphrase, you were funny. But when you try to be funny, you suck." Slade is an old west parody that seems to take itself too seriously to be an out-and-out parody but is too satirical to be serious. King has never really made humor that worked, but there were two moments here when I laughed in spite of myself. The first, I'm ashamed to admit, was when a thoroughly drunk Slade tells the bartender "I know how to lick my holder". So sue me, it made a child-like part of me grin. Until, that is, he killed the joke by having Slade realize what he just said and correct himself. The other part was when it describes Slade's underwear, which, unlike his tough-guy all-black outer attire, is light blue with "nice flowers". We later learn he wears it because it's bulletproof, but the "nice flowers" part makes it seem like he picked the color and pattern because he liked it! This was published in The Maine Campus, the college newspaper at the University of Maine, which King was attending when he wrote this. It's just...odd. For one thing, the hero name-drops King himself, as though acknowledging that he's a fictional creation, and there's also a weird out-of-left-field slam against Republicans that in no way matches the setting.

The Blue Air Compressor (Short Story) (1971) (Uncollected)
This is one of those "the fuck did I just read?" stories. This strangely plotless story concerns a young writer (is this the first King protagonist who's also a writer? Maybe!) who rents a beach cottage from an old woman who is apparently ungodly fat. He's so fascinated, and repulsed, by her size that he decides to write about her, and when she discovers the story, she's all mockery, telling him that he can't write and "didn't make [her] big enough", that he's not enough of a writer to adequately describe just how big she is. Then he...does something that involves the title object, and I'm not going to describe it here. You can google it. I found it weirdly gruesome and not in a way that was pleasing to this horror fan. Also, for whatever odd reason, King stops the story mid-way through, introduces himself and tells you what he's trying to do with this story. Why? I don't know. Just proves that King was self-inserting years before he started actually honest-to-god doing it in published works. Anyway, there's not enough to this story to warrant being adapted.

Weeds (Short Story) (1976) (Uncollected)
Once I start describing this story, it might seem familiar to you. There's a reason for that. The story was published in Cavalier magazine, but never collected in one of his omnibus books. I'm not sure why, because it was used as the basis for the Creepshow segment "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill", marking the first time Stephen King played a character he created, and the only time it was something more than a cameo (that's him in character up top, if you didn't already know). As an actor, King is...not awful. He's a better actor than he is screenwriter or director, that's for sure. Anyway, Weeds is a story about a Maine hick who has a meteor land on his property that starts turning him into  a plant. It's mostly noteworthy due to the surprising homage paid to HP Lovecraft, surprising because this is in no way a Lovecraftian story aside from the way it opens. The adaptation it already had is good enough for this story, which is a forgettable little tale, all told.

The Ledge (Short Story) (1976) (Collected in Night Shift)
A taut little thriller with a satisfying ending, this one has already been adapted as part of the film Cat's Eye. I liked this story, but there's not really enough story here to make a theatrical film out of, so I think the adaptation it's already had is about as good as it can get. This is one of those stories that's not really horror, just nail-bitingly tense. I definitely recommend it, but again, only as a short story.

I Know What You Need (Short Story) (1976) (Collected in Night Shift)
I liked this one, too, even if I saw the twist coming well before it was revealed. This one stars a young college girl who meets a weird, nerdy guy who seems to understand her better than anyone else, including knowing what she wants before her thoughts have even fully formed about it. Now that I've said that, you can probably guess something about the reveal as well. I agonized over whether this would work as a film. I think it could; it's certainly long enough, but there's not enough here to set it apart from the myriad of "young adult horror films" that litter the horror landscape. It kinda reminded me of the movie Abandon for some reason. Abandon didn't make good box office and I don't think this one would, either. I reminded myself in the end that not all King stories need a movie, even if there's enough there to make one. If this King Cinematic Universe ever comes to fruition, flooding the market with unnecessary little movies like this one would wear out the welcome, especially since the very first one was a college-centered story.

Children of the Corn (Short Story) (1977) (Collected in Night Shift)
I said in my last post that the world doesn't need more adaptations of this story, but I think I was wrong. The 1982 film Children of the Corn was silly, with an over-the-top performance by its lead "child" actor and horrible, horrible visual effects. The 2009 SyFy version was, well, a SyFy film. Neither one captured the creepiness of this short horror story, which, unlike the original film has a downer ending and implications about what's really going on that will make your skin crawl. I really liked this story, and I'd love to see it done on film with a competent director, good child actors and keeping to the original ending, but here's the problem; the first film was an inexplicably big hit and spawned about nineteen thousand sequels, each one stupider than the last. So the market is saturated with crappy COTC titles, and another would get lost in the shuffle unless there was a genius marketing campaign. I don't see this happening, so I'm not bothering to do a full post on it. That said, I imagined our two adult leads played by Jim Parrack and Kate Mara.

One For the Road (Short Story) (1977) (Collected in Night Shift)
This one serves as a sequel, sort of, to 'Salem's Lot, and it feels kinda neat to read, especially if you just read 'Salem's Lot not that long ago. It cements the idea that King's world is an extended universe, and that much of it is directly connected. That said, while I liked this story a lot (no pun intended), I don't see an adaptation working. It's not very long, it's only got three main characters, and there's not enough story there to make an adaptation worth it. I pictured it playing during the credits of a 'Salem's Lot movie, or at least in part being a post-credits sequence, but it's too long for that to work. What would be cool is if it ended up as part of an anthology film, perhaps coupled with the short story Jerusalem's Lot, but since I said I won't be doing anthology films, I'm not doing a casting.

The Cat From Hell (Short Story) (1977) (Collected in Just After Sunset)
Would you believe this story was around for over thirty years before it was included in any of the omnibus collections that King has put out? Would you like to know why? Because King didn't realize he'd never included it before. Seriously, when he told his agent that he was putting together another collection, she asked "Is this one finally going to include The Cat From Hell?" He responded saying surely it had been collected before, and was surprised to learn that it had not. This one has already been adapted as a segment of the film Tales From the Dark Side: The Movie, and to be honest, that's the only adaptation I see ever happening for this one. It's not all that scary, it's in no way able to be extended, and honestly, I didn't like it that much.

So those are the stories from the last short while that I'm not doing a casting for, and there are more to come, let me assure you. There are nine more stories (one is a novel) between these and The Stand, and you can bet your ass a full casting is coming for The Stand. I doubt I'll be doing any full casts for the stories leading up to it, but I'm reserving the right to change my mind should one of them prove cinematic.

Until then, stay tuned!


  1. Dang, I didn't know "The Colorado Kid" was that hard to find. Weird. I'd say just keep looking; eventually, a cheap one will turn up, because it sold too many copies for that not to happen.

    Kate Mara would be good for the bitchy-wife role in "Children of the Corn." I'd like to see a good version of that, too, but it's NEVER going to happen. Nevereverever.....

  2. I've spent a good deal of time and money on gathering resources for this blog. I don't consider it poorly spent because I really am digging reading King in publication order like this, and I'm glad I have a chance now to read stuff I never read before. I went from having about a third of his books on my shelf to having all but The Freaking Colorado Kid. I went ahead and got the e-books of Throttle, A Face in the Crowd and In the Tall Grass, but literally everything else I physically have a copy of. Except that one.

    Right now I'm reading The Stand and wondering if Jerusalem's Lot would make a good movie. I love the story and I would love to see a film version some day, but I'm worried it would be ruined. I could see the climactic scene going from crazy scary cool to just plain lame.

    1. You probably already know this, but physical copies of those three stories are obtainable. Throttle appeared in an anthology called "He Is Legend"; A Face in the Crowd showed up in an anthology called "Field of Fantasies"; and In the Tall Grass was in two issues of Esquire that ought to be relatively cheap.

      As with most things, I think Jerusalem's Lot COULD make a good movie . . . but, given how things typically go with King adaptations, almost certainly wouldn't be taken seriously enough for a good movie to be the result.

    2. I knew about He Is Legend, but not the other two. I'm willing to make exceptions for stories that haven't been collected in a King-only omnibus. Of course, some day the probably will be, which means I'll have two copies, but, meh.

      Full novels, though, even short ones, I really want to have them in hand.

  3. No issue with your choices to ignore these stories. I had no idea The Colorado Kid was hard to find. Pretty odd, for a ten-year-old book. I actually liked that one, too.

    My only thought worth voicing here: King's attempts at comedy do sometimes fall a little flat, but I read Dolores Claiborne this past March, and the first seventy pages or so, when Dolores is telling a long, drawn-out story with homespun, folksy language about what a bitch her longtime employer was, I had a permagrin stuck to my face, and laughed out loud multiple times, which I don't do all that often. I don't know if it was just my mood at the time, or something else, but I've never even seen the movie, but am 100 percent convinced that Kathy Bates was the perfect actress for that part. I read the whole thing with her as Dolores, and after the background, things obviously get darker and murkier and a lot less funny, but it was probably the most unexpected reaction I've had so far from reading King.

  4. Perhaps I should put it this way; King is at his funniest when he's not really trying to be. Slade is a parody of westerns which seems like an outright attempt to be funny, but because being funny does not come naturally to King, it was both too serious to be all that funny and too silly to be a serious story. I did like the underwear joke, though.

    Apparently The Colorado Kid only got one printing, and that's why it's so hard to find, and so expensive when I do find copies to order. I broke down and got the e-book version when my wife tried ordering a hard copy for me and even after confirming her order they later informed her that it was no longer available.

  5. It seems like I've heard that criticism of King before, but I don't know where. I have no idea when he's trying and when he's not, but we can go with that.

    1. Probably from Bryant, who hated King's attempt at making one of his characters a professional comedian (I agree), but generally, King is at his funniest when he's being natural. If it feels forced, it probably was.

    2. Which character is that? I recall a horribly unfunny comedian in the It miniseries, but of course, that whole thing sucked ass and probably had nothing to do with anything he wrote.

    3. That's him. Richie Tozier. I have an idea on how a new adaptation can make him funny; hire an actual comedian and let him come up with the jokes. It's so simple I don't see why they didn't do that the first time.

      What they did was hire an actor known for a sitcom. There's a huge difference between an actor known for doing comedy and an actual comedian.