Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Forgotten Books: Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King; Executive Pink

You're right. No novel or story by Stephen King is forgotten. But his newer material sometimes causes pieces of his enormous and generally excellent body of work to fade from time to time.

Secret Window, Secret Garden is contained in a fine collection called Four Past Midnight. Originally published in1990, in 2004 it became a feature film starring Johnny Depp, Maria Bello and John Turturro. I pretty much liked the movie but I missed the richness of King's writing.

Morton Rainey is a best-selling novelist living alone in isolated western Maine in a cabin that was once the summer home of Rainey and his wife. They have just divorced and Rainey is devastated. His emotional distress has led to his inability to write. He sits uselessly at his computer.

One day a strange man shows up at Rainey's. He is Southern Gothic, the mutant offspring of a marriage between William Faulker and Flannery O'Connor. He introduces himself as Johnny Shooter, an unlikely name. He accuses Rainey of plagiarizing a story that he, Shooter wrote, some years ago. Rainey recognizes Shooter for what he is. A lunatic.

But a relentless and crafty one. He wants Rainey to confess his sin and will settle for nothing less than that admission. Bizarre and terrible things begin to happen, not the least of which is Rainey's cat being nailed to Rainey's back porch.

I don't want to do any spoiling so I'll simply say that just about all of King's virtues are on display here. The land, the local customs, the sweaty Woolrichian desperation and the absolute gripping storytelling. I've read this novella three or four times but I was flipping the pages the same way when I read it most recently. It is a startling piece of suspense writing and demonstrates why he still dominates the book charts.

Alternately moving--King gives us a believable and moving look at a lost marriage--and terrifying--Rainey's interior monologues are a miasma of horror, dysfunction, sadness and rage--making the characters every bit as stunning as the plot. Fine work by a master.


Executive Pink
by Mathew Paust
194 pages
President invites suspected assassins to Rose Garden press conference.
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Cap'n Bob said...

I saw the movie with Depp and it changed my mind about the joys of rural living.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Got it, Ed.

Matt Paust said...

Thank you, Ed. A true gentleman!
- Matt