As well as being the most celebrated horror and fantasy writer of the modern age, Stephen King is a noted commentator on the genre, and some of his most intriguing writing includes studies of his great predecessors. The first story in the mesmerising collection of novellas which is Full Dark, No Stars
bears the imprint of one of King's favourite writers, Edgar Allen Poe: it is the first-person confession of a murderer, in which he invites us not to judge him -- not unlike the narrator of Poe’s ‘The Tell-tale Heart’. King's protagonist, an unlettered farmer, does not relate his gruesome story in an elegant fashion. But King, of course, as well as being adroit at chilling our blood, has few equals at finding the right voice for his characters, whatever background they come from. That is precisely what happens here, as the farmer, Wilfred James, tells us how he planned the murder of his unsympathetic wife with the aid of his reluctance son. The murder itself has all the typical King flair for the macabre, but it is the steady unravelling of the killer’s plans that fascinates here – a theme that reappears in a grim tale involving a young woman's revenge on a man who raped her. As always with King's novellas, characterisation is strongly to the fore in these pieces, but the principle appeal of this form for the author would appear to be the opportunity to exercise his steely grasp of narrative technique, displayed in all the stories on offer here.
These King novellas are perhaps something of a relaxation for the author after the massive The Dome; for readers, Full Dark, No Stars is a reminder that this is a writer for whom both long and short formats are firmly in his grasp.
Some years ago, Stephen King announced that he was planning to cut down on his astonishing level of productivity, but this promise was barely kept (even a grim car accident was weathered – albeit with a heavy price paid – by the author), and though the exalted standard of the early books has faltered at times, he still has the knack of pulling that rabbit out of the hat (usually covered with blood). --Barry Forshaw
Praise for Under the Dome: (.
'America's greatest living novelist delivers his masterpiece.' (Lee Child
'King's most purely entertaining novel in years . . . utterly compelling.' (John Connolly
'Tight and energetic from start to finish.' (New York Times
'The pedal is indeed to the metal.' (Guardian
'You're sorry when you come to the end.' (Daily Express