Author Archives: Richard Chizmar

Revisiting The Eyes of the Dragon by Richard Chizmar


Well, this should be an easy one.

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen KingWhen I began this journey many months ago, I admitted that there were two Stephen King books I had never read before. I purposely kept both titles a secret, promising to only let the cat outta the bag once I had reached each of the two books on my Stephen King Revisited list.

Roadwork was the first of the pair, and despite its overwhelmingly dark nature and (at times) rough prose, I greatly enjoyed that initial reading and regretted not doing so earlier.

And so now, ladies and gents, we come to the final Stephen King book I’ve somehow managed to never crack open: The Eyes of the Dragon.

My reasoning these past nearly thirty years was simple (and clearly misguided; but more on that later): Eyes of the Dragon, huh? It sounds a little too fantasy-oriented for my tastes. Castles. Dragons. Kings and Queens. Heck, there are probably a dozen characters with names I can’t even pronounce. And elves, I bet you anything there are elves running around a dark forest. And fairies living up in the treetops. And…

…and no thanks. I’ll pass for now and get around to it one day. When I have nothing else tempting to read.

But I never did.
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Revisiting Pet Sematary by Richard Chizmar


I can’t remember when I first read Pet Sematary or where I was when I first read it (unusual for me). All I really remember is the story, and my intense reaction to it.

Pet SemataryI was a freshman in college when Pet Sematary was published in November 1983. My best guess is that I read it within a year of publication. I do recall devouring a hardcover edition that I believe my sister, Mary, gave to me as a gift (she blessed me with several of King’s books during those early years).

So…I was young. That much I know. Brand shiny new to the perils of adulthood. Wide-eyed, unmarried, and childless.

And still Pet Sematary destroyed me.

‘Salem’s Lot and Carrie and The Shining had thrilled me and scared me – but Pet Sematary was different. Once things went bad (and this happened quickly by King standards; only about a third of the way into the book), they not only stayed bad, they kept getting worse. Much worse. The rest of the book was a dark spiral and there were no reprieves to be found anywhere. The story was grim and unrelenting and profoundly unpleasant…yet I couldn’t stop reading.

King spends the first third of Pet Sematary introducing and establishing a fairly small (for him) cast of characters and a wonderful sense of place. Ludlow, Maine is the kind of small, picturesque New England town so many of us wish we had grown up in, and the Creeds and the Crandalls are the kind of folks we wish we had grown up across the street from: kind, big-hearted, interesting, companionable folks with a real sense of friendship and loyalty. » Read more

Revisiting Cycle of the Werewolf by Richard Chizmar


Cycle of the Werewolf was yet another Carol’s Used Bookstore find for me. I had somehow completely missed the spring 1985 release, so when I stumbled upon a used copy of the Signet trade paperback on the crowded shelves at Carol’s it was a total surprise to me – and what a wonderful surprise it turned out to be!

cycle of the werewolfI had recently wrapped up my sophomore year in college and was heading to the beach the next day to decompress. I’d just been named to the All-America team for lacrosse and was looking forward to a much-needed week of rest and celebration. I stopped at Carol’s the evening before my departure for some beach reading, and there was Cycle of the Werewolf, crammed high on a dusty shelf, just waiting for me.

Clocking in at a mere 127 pages, Cycle was a slender volume, especially compared to my earlier Stephen King reads. That was my first impression, and I remember feeling mild disappointment because it was so short. But then I opened the glossy, black cover and flipped a couple pages, and that feeling went away pretty darn fast.

There was artwork inside – both color and black-and-white illustrations – and so much of it! In fact, I couldn’t turn more than a page or two without being confronted with yet another magnificent, visual feast. Full-page paintings, two-page spreads, even spot art! I flipped back to the cover and saw that the illustrator was a guy named Bernie Wrightson. I made a mental note to remember his name (not realizing at the time that I already knew his amazing work from many previous comic book excursions).

And then there was the story…boy, what a fun, old-fashioned story. I couldn’t even remember the last werewolf novel I had read, much less one presented in such a unique manner. » Read more

Revisiting Christine by Richard Chizmar


Something a little different this time around.

ChristinePeter Crowther, head honcho of the magnificent PS Publishing – look em up on the internet, folks; you’ll thank me later – was kind enough a couple years ago to ask me to write the Afterword for his special anniversary edition of Stephen King’s Christine.

I was flattered and thrilled—and scared to death.

But, of course, I said yes.

I’ve decided to reprint my Afterword here in its entirely. Not because I’m being lazy, but because it covers my reading experiences regarding Christine in significant detail—and brutally-honest emotion.

(Okay, maybe I’m being just a tiny bit lazy—but I really like how the Afterword turned out, and I’m doubtful I could improve on it very much in a new essay).

I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. » Read more

Revisiting Different Seasons by Richard Chizmar


Different SeasonsIt was Christmas 1982. I had just turned seventeen four days earlier and was looking forward to my final semester of high school…and then college. But, first, I had two weeks off and couldn’t wait to do absolutely nothing.

I can’t remember what Santa left under the tree for me that Christmas, but I do remember what my sister Mary surprised me with: an inscribed (by her; not King) hardcover copy of Different Seasons.

Of course, I was thrilled and grateful and dove right in.

“Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”

I remember opening Different Seasons and scanning the promo copy for “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” on the inside dust jacket flap—the most satisfying tale of unjust imprisonment and offbeat escape since The Count of Monte Cristo—and feeling just a bit underwhelmed. A prison story by Stephen King? Hmmm. Well, maybe the prison will be haunted, I thought.

It was haunted, all right—and so was I by the time I finished reading “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.” » Read more

Revisiting The Gunslinger by Richard Chizmar


The Dark Tower - The GunslingerAn admission: despite being a lifelong Stephen King fan, I didn’t read The Dark Tower series until just about ten years ago.

I know, I know—I should be ashamed of myself.

To make matters worse, the long delay made absolutely no sense.

I loved Stephen King books. I devoured each new title as soon as they were published.

I loved westerns. Especially movies like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The Wild Bunch. The Unforgiven.

And, of course, I had read and heard all the rave reviews (especially from trusted readers, Brian Freeman and Bev Vincent). Heck, I had even published a bunch of those reviews in Cemetery Dance.

But for some reason, I still wasn’t sold on The Dark Tower.

Something kept making me hesitate. Maybe it was all that chatter about talking trains and crystal balls… » Read more

Revisiting The Running Man by Richard Chizmar


The Running ManI first read The Running Man in the fall of 1985, when the Plume omnibus edition of The Bachman Books was published. I was nineteen years old and laid up with torn ligaments in my ankle, an unfortunate lacrosse injury. I read a lot of books that autumn.

I remember The Running Man because I tore through it in a single day sitting outside in my parents’ screened-in back porch, a November breeze sighing in the trees that bordered our yard, falling leaves dancing just out of my reach.

Feeling sorry for myself was something I rarely did, but I remember my mindset that day, and if I wasn’t slipping into a dark hole of self-pity, I was pretty damn close. I was just coming off my sophomore year in college, a year that saw me earn All American status as a lacrosse midfielder and a scholarship to a Top 20 Division One university.

I had worked hard my first two college seasons to overcome a nagging knee injury, and now my ankle was a mess and I was hobbling around on crutches. It felt like I couldn’t catch a break.

Of course, I knew better, and it didn’t take long for common sense to make an appearance and kick me in the ass. A lot of things contributed to the quick rebound: my own stubborn nature, the support and encouragement of family and friends and teammates, and books like The Running Man.

As a lifelong fan of “man hunting man” stories such as “The Most Dangerous Game,” I knew that The Running Man was my kind of book just by glancing at the overly brief jacket copy:

Welcome to America in 2025 when the best men don’t run for President. They run for their lives…

Cheesy as hell, but that’s all I needed.  » Read more

Revisiting Cujo by Richard Chizmar


CujoI don’t remember a lot about my first reading of CUJO. Not sure how old I was or where I was or even where I got my copy (I recall it was a paperback, but that’s about it).

I remember liking the book quite a bit, but thinking it was dark and depressing. Everything about it. The people. The town. The dog. Even the damn weather.

Oddly enough, I also remember really disliking the lack of chapter breaks — don’t ask me why because I don’t have an answer — and thinking that I knew a couple guys who were well on their way to growing up to become Steve Kemps.

I don’t recall being that surprised or upset by the death of young Tad Trenton. I figured if King could kill off Susan Norton in ‘SALEM’S LOT, no one was safe.

One thing I do remember about that initial reading of CUJO, and with great clarity, is Tad’s Monster Words. You see, although I never had any pre-planned, written down, magic words to shield me from monsters when I was young, I did have my very own monster.

As mentioned before, I was the youngest of five children growing up in a military family that moved around quite a bit (we were Air Force brats; two of my sisters were born in Spain; I was born in Venezuela). When I was five years old, we moved to Edgewood, Maryland to be close to Edgewood Arsenal and Aberdeen Proving Grounds, where my soon-to-be-retired father would eventually work at the airfields. » Read more

Revisiting Danse Macabre by Richard Chizmar


Danse MacabreI bought my first copy of DANSE MACABRE — a beat-up paperback from a used bookstore, of course — sometime early on in college. I remember taking it home, along with three or four other books, and being disappointed when I discovered it wasn’t a novel or a new collection of stories.

I skipped around a lot the first time I picked it up. Chapters with scholarly titles such as “Radio and the Set of Reality” and “The Modern American Horror Movie–Text and Subtext” were blown by without a second glance. In truth, I was probably intimidated, but I never would have admitted that. Instead, I’m sure my take on it was something along the lines of: I get enough teaching in school, and I’m not much interested in taking a home course right now.

But, in a way, that’s exactly what ended up happening.

Because while I remember skipping over certain chapters altogether and liking — but not loving — certain other chapters, the sections of DANSE MACABRE that did capture my interest did so in such a significant way that they helped shape the direction of my life. » Read more

Revisiting Roadwork by Richard Chizmar


This one is easy, folks.

Because, for ROADWORK, there simply wasn’t a “That Was Then…”

roadwork--smallThat’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

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