Full Dark, No Stars (Book)

Full Dark, No StarsReviewed by Elaine Lamkin

Written by Stephen King

Published by Simon and Schuster

The title of this compilation of four novellas by the über-prolific King of Horror should be taken seriously. Very seriously. These stories are DARK. VERY dark! I will be interested in seeing if any of them are, or even can be, turned into a feature film like Different Seasons‘ “The Body” (aka Stand By Me), “Apt Pupil” (filmed under the same name) and “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” (aka The Shawshank Redemption) or Four Past Midnight’s “Secret Window, Secret Garden” (aka The Secret Window).

The four stories which make up Full Dark, No Stars are “1922” (the creepiest of the stories), “Big Driver”, “Fair Extension” (in my opinion, the weakest of the stories) and “A Good Marriage”. According to the book’s afterword, “1922” was inspired by King taking a look at the classic Wisconsin Death Trip (which no self-respecting horror fan should be without – check it out on Amazon and get yourself a copy) and fashioning a story of murder, greed, rats and a haunting. Very bleak and very effective.

“Big Driver” had a more mundane inspiration – King stopping at a rest stop and observing a woman having car trouble and being assisted by a long-haul trucker. This story reminded me a bit of the notorious film I Spit on Your Grave in that it is a rape-revenge story but done à la King as the heroine is a cozy-mystery writer who ain’t taking what happened to her lying down.

“Fair Extension”, the shortest story, is the Faustian tale of a cancer-stricken Derry resident meeting a stranger with a suspicious name as he is walking near the airport and the deal he makes to right some wrongs in exchange for a remission of the cancer.

The final story, “A Good Marriage”, came from King reading about Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, whose wife of thirty-four years NEVER knew about her husband’s secret life. And it DOES make you think about just how well anyone knows those closest to them.

If I had a choice, I would love to see “1922” made into a feature film (are you reading this, Frank Darabont?) as it has the most characters and the creepiest storyline. But in the right hands any one of these stories could make an unsettling film. And in Full Dark, No Stars that is what King accomplishes – unsettling the reader.

4 1/2 out of 5

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