Full Dark, No Stars

I just finished reading Stephen King’s newest collection, Full Dark, No Stars. Over the last 34 years or so I have read almost all of King’s work. Some of his books are brilliant, some not so good, but I’ve always felt that he was best at short stories and novellas. Don’t get me wrong, his full length novels, for the most part, are great, but they tend to ….go on to long.  Be overly verbose?  I don’t know, but I’ve always thought his work could benefit from a really firm Editor, one that trimmed all the fat off the story to make it leaner and more focused.King does that in his short stories and novellas, and that’s why I’ve always thought those stories were his best.

Full Dark, No Stars, is a collection of four stories: 1942, Big Driver, Fair Extension, and Good Marriage. These stories are all very different, but they have a central theme; Revenge. Perhaps “retribution” would be a better word, but I will go with Revenge, just because I like that word better.

1922 is the story of Wilfred James, a farmer in Hemmingford Home Nebraska. Wilfred, with the help of is 14 year old son,  killed his wife, Arlette  in the sumer of 1922. King does a good job of establishing why he wanted to kill his wife, but that is not particularly important. What is important is what happens to Wilf and James after the murder. 1922 is the only story in the collection that has a supernatural element. Arlette’s ghost haunts Wilf, causing him to lose his farm, his son, and ultimately driving him to suicide.

Big Driver is a straight revenge story. The main character, Tess, is the author of a series of murder mysteries, who is raped while on her way home from a speaking engagement. She refuses to be a victim, and with the help of her cat and a TOM TOM unit that offers advice on more than driving directions, manages to find her attacker and get her revenge.

Fair Extension is the story of Dave Streeter. When we meet Dave he is dying of Cancer. He strikes a deal with a very unusual salesman for a “fair extension” of his life. The only catch is, for every person that gets an extension, someone else has to get a reduction. To play the part of the person getting the reduction, Dave choses his best friend/worst enemy, Tom Goodhugh. What follows next is darkly funny.

Good Marriage explores what happens when Darcy Anderson, discovers that her husband, Bob, is the serial killer known as Beadie. Just as Tess did in Big Driver, Darcy decides to not be a victim, and to deal with the situation herself.