Full Dark, No Stars
by Stephen King
This read was a step out of my comfort zone in two ways: I don’t read Stephen King (or any kind of horror), and it was my first book on my Kindle app. Let’s get the Kindle app out of the way first. I am a former book store clerk. I once wanted to be a librarian. My husband and I might have more books than hairs on our heads (his, certainly!). I love the smell of musty, inky paper and library glue; the only decorating tips I can offer is to pile crooked stacks all over the floor and tables. In other words, I am a book woman.
So it was with great reluctance and a bit of fear that I downloaded the Kindle app on my new iPad several weeks ago. And there is sat, neat and tidy in the folder I’d created labled “books”! A fellow book woman told me she reads only those books she doesn’t want to keep–and I thought to myself, “Well, what books would that be?!” And then book club agreed to try King’s new short story collection, Full Dark, No Stars. Over lunch one day, one of our members recounted the story “A Good Marriage”, based on the BTK serial murderer Dennis Rader. We were spellbound, and turned to each other almost at once–“Let’s read this for our next book!”
First of all, Full Dark is more murder mystery than what I think of as horror–no real supernatural here. Maybe some psychological horror, but no girl with telekinetic powers and no rabid dogs. Oh, wait–there is one sell-your-soul-to-the-devil scenario … but it’s almost fable-like in its brevity. The first story, “1922” tell the story of a hen-pecked husband who (to use a great deal of understatement!) turns the tables and murders his wife. With his teenage son. And dumps her body in a well. Hmmmm. “Big Driver” tells the tale of a rape victim cum-murderer who takes the law into her own hands. And the aformentioned “Good Marriage” peeks into the mind of a wife who finds that her “perfect marriage” is a sham, her husband, a psychopath.
The stories are compelling, even to one not accustomed to such plot lines–I would say to myself, “Oh this is just gross!”, put the book (oops, my iPad!) down in disgust, and before ten minutes had passed, picked it up again. All turn on the idea of revenge–and, really, what would one do to take revenge on someone who had made your life miserable? Or worse? Just as satisfying was King’s afterword. Excusing himself for hovering around matters dark and dim, he reassures his “Constant Reader” that he believes “most people are essentially good”, like himself. “It’s you,” states King, “I’m not entirely sure of.” Perfect ending. And besides–it was just plain fun to be scared.