Different Seasons is a collection that contains only four tales and, with the exception of “The Breathing Method,” there is nothing remotely supernatural in them. None of the stories had been previously published. That may not seem unusual now, but at the time it was something of a departure for King.
The publishing landscape was different in 1982. In his lengthy afterword to Different Seasons, King bemoans the sad state of the novella, that peculiar form of fiction that falls between longer short stories and shorter novels, tales in the 25-30,000 word range. This is a territory King called “an anarchy-ridden literary banana republic.” Nowadays, there are more opportunities to publish novellas, especially in the small press. Even “The Mist,” a later novella, was published as a standalone book from one of the big houses as a movie tie-in.
He calls the stories in this collection his bedtime stories. The ideas came to him while he writing other novels. He couldn’t stop those books to tackle these ideas, so he got into the habit of telling the stories to himself while he was going to sleep at night instead of counting sheep. He says that he often has six or seven of these ideas going on at the same time and many of them never pan out. Either that or he ended up telling the entire story to himself, so there was no point in writing it down. In a later interview, King says he originally submitted only three novellas to his then-editor John Williams but, since he called them “seasons,” Williams felt there should be a fourth, so he wrote “The Breathing Method.” » Read more
THAT WAS THEN…
This one is easy, folks.
Because, for ROADWORK, there simply wasn’t a “That Was Then…”
That’s right. ROADWORK is one of two Stephen King novels I had never read before. (And, nope, I’m not going to tell you the other one, but you are all welcome to guess, of course.)
So…why didn’t I read ROADWORK when news first hit many moons ago that Richard Bachman was actually Stephen King? After all, I gobbled up the other Bachman books — THE LONG WALK, RAGE, THE RUNNING MAN, THINNER — and enjoyed them all to varying degrees.
So, what was the deal with ROADWORK?
I promised myself I would remain honest at all times while taking this journey, so my answer here is a simple one: I tried to read ROADWORK. Several times. But it just didn’t take.
There was something about the book’s voice that failed to reach me. Something about the character of George Bart Dawes himself that failed to reach me. And I wasn’t crazy about the storyline of the book either — “A Novel of the First Energy Crisis”? No, thanks.
Was I simply too young or naive to connect with and enjoy the book? Perhaps. But then again King was only 25 years old himself when he wrote the darn thing.
Whatever the reasons, ROADWORK eventually slipped through the cracks for me and was largely forgotten. » Read more
We have to go back in time again to discuss the genesis of King’s tenth published novel, his third under the Richard Bachman pen name. In 1973, he finished the first draft of ‘Salem’s Lot (known as Second Coming at the time). Carrie was slated for publication the following spring. However, his mother, Ruth, died in December of that year after a long and painful illness. She knew her son would be published, but never got to see it happen.
Her death left King grieving and shaken by the apparent senselessness of how cancer had tormented her. In an effort to work through his thoughts and feelings about this loss, he started writing Roadwork. The book has a number of autobiographical aspects. The protagonist, Barton George Dawes, has recently lost a family member to cancer. Like King, who memorialized the experience in his short story “The Mangler,” Dawes worked at an industrial laundry. In fact, the company has the same name in both stories: The Blue Ribbon Laundry, and the ironing machine in Roadwork is nicknamed “the mangler.” Anyone who suspected that Bachman was really King would have their smoking gun from these details alone.
Roadwork was also an effort to write a straight novel, i.e. one that would not be classified as horror or science fiction. In the essay “Why I was Bachman,” King says he was young enough at the time to worry about the “casual cocktail-party question” about when he was going to write something “serious.” » Read more
The two Stephen King books I have NEVER read are:
How about you? Which ones have you never read? Post the titles below and let us know why you haven’t read them yet if you want! » Read more
After Doubleday accepted Carrie for publication, Stephen King’s editor, Bill Thompson, asked what they should consider for his follow-up. King had two books in mind, Roadwork ¹ and ‘Salem’s Lot (originally titled Second Coming ²). Thompson warned King that if they went with the vampire novel, King ran the risk of being branded a horror writer. King said that as long as the checks didn’t bounce, he didn’t care what people called him.
He’d started ‘Salem’s Lot in 1972, when life was still difficult for the family. He was writing in the furnace room of their trailer with a fourth-grade desk propped on his knees to support his wife’s Olivetti typewriter, while Tabitha tried to figure out which bills had to be paid now and which could be put off. Fighting vampires was a form of escape for King. They seemed more benign than the creditors harassing them. » Read more