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Wednesday, December 14, 2011


In case you're curious: Stephen King's novel about the JFK assassination takes the "lone nut" position, and ends with the suggestion that the world would have been worse off had Kennedy lived. (His unsuccessful second term leads to the election of President George Wallace and Vice President Curtis LeMay. Funny, funny stuff.)

In an afterword, King confesses that he relied on Gerry Posner's notorious Case Closed for most of his research. Very amusing. Since the publication of that book, Gerry has given the world whole bunches of evidence that he was always what the JFK assassination researchers accused him of being: A scribbler for a Certain Interesting Agency.

(There was plenty of evidence beforehand, actually. You should look up Gerry's testimony on Mengele, given before a congressional subcommittee. Then compare what he said there to the very different tale told in his Mengele book, published not many months later.)

As some of you will recall, Greg G., a contributor to Cannonfire, more or less ended Posner's career by exposing his serial plagiarisms. Although Greg's work was summarized in Salon, his most damning evidence appeared on this site. Since Case Closed reads like a made-by-committee work, one must wonder who provided the raw material that Gerry used for his well-paid typing exercise.

Actually, I think the answer should be pretty obvious.

As for King: I haven't read very much of his work, but what I have read, I like. His short story "The Jaunt" scares me crapless every time memory of the thing creeps into my cranium. You should check out On Writing, the most useful guide of its kind written during the past fifty years. Moreover...

(Shall I say it? Hell. Why not? A little paranoia never hurt anyone.)

Moreover, I hope that his little tax problem, or whatever else the issue might have been, has now been resolved. Perhaps King and Dan Moldea can trade stories over beers.
You should definitely check out Under the Dome, Joe. Not the best ending(actually one of his worst) but every second getting there is gripping and terrifying.

Also, The Dark Tower is the best piece of American Literature. EVER. (It's also the story that explains about why he's not very good at endings).
Also, since I've a feeling you are from the same generation, definitely Hearts in Atlantis. If you want to learn the depths of the profound contempt he has for his generation, read that.
I read "11/22/63" and thought it was just a badly written book. Usually King writes well but this one just plodded along going nowhere for most of it. By the end, I had mostly lost interest.


I can only imagine the cut-and-paste counterattacks that fill your inbox whenever you mention the coup of '63. Recently at the website of the world's biggest bookseller, I posted a comment about a prominent conspiracy-denier's new book on “how to think” about the assassination. Within minutes, a pseudonymous user besieged me with lengthy (and clearly pre-scripted) propaganda about how the case was closed and history has been reclaimed.

In Mark Lane's new book, “Last Words,” he quotes declassified documents from the Cigar Importers of America which confirm that the Agency keeps journalists on retainer to quash any mention of conspiracy. One of those journalists is Max Holland, who produced a new lone-nut documentary for National Geographic which posits that Oswald was shooting for 11 seconds. (If that were true, the inaction of the hung-over Secret Service agents is even more criminal.)

Because he's written a JFK bio, conspiracy denier Chris Matthews hosted both Holland and Stephen King on separate segments of “Hardball” recently, just as he had Vincent Bugliosi on the show a couple years ago. (Matthews matched Bugliosi against David Talbot, author of the book “Brothers,” in which Bobby is quoted as saying there was conspiracy; yet Matthews barely let Talbot say a word. I wouldln't expect a balanced debate when/if Tom Hanks turns Bugliosi's disinfo doorstop into an HBO miniseries.)

Regarding Posner, the take-away for your busy readers is that it's largely based on cherry-picked data from the crime-scene reconstructors at Failure Analysis (who disowned the book) and on a few Zapruder frames of a little girl turning her head as if she'd heard an early shot (when in fact the girl's mother had called her name). To pad the book, Posner (like Bugliosi) labels pro-conspiracy researchers nuts, kooks and profiteers (even though none of them have made as much money as Posner and Bugliosi).

I don't doubt that even posting a comment on Cannonfire produces data-mining mischief inside the Beltway; but like you, I'm getting too old to care. The beneficiaries of the coup are still in power, and I resolve to keep talking about it until they toss me into the landfill with Kennedy's missing brain.
King has revolutionized the world of the freelancer and publishing in general-- to the good for a change.
I can't help but put in my 2 (10?) cents...

Up until maybe 5-6 years ago, I'd read just about everything King had published, often more than once. I haven't really kept up with anything past Bag of Bones, but I did read Under the Dome.

And... I love 'The Jaunt.' I don't think I've ever met someone who's read it who didn't like it. Maybe 20 years after I first read it I became aware of it's conceptual origins & the title reference, "The Stars My Destination" by Alfred Bester (which is ~150 pages of 1950's sci-fi high adventure, barely a dull moment).

I would agree that King is certainly a great story-teller and often a pretty good writer, but IMO, his best work was done before 2000 and largely before 1990. While I can't say I've read anything to compare it to, I have no reason to disagree with your statement about On Writing - I found it very enjoyable even though I'm not a writer or aspiring to become one.

I would NOT recommend Under the Dome; I generally enjoyed the premise and how it developed, but I felt like the characters were obvious stand-ins for contemporary ideologies - the character that ran the town was obviously supposed to embody the Bush-era Republican terrorist paranoia, and of course his opposite was an Iraq War vet.

And sadly, I'd have to say the same for the Dark Tower series. The first three books of the series were great - and the first, considered by itself, is some of the best writing he's ever done - but it took him too long and the second half of the series was written during his (shall we say) 'later' period, post-1990, and it shows. When I finished the series I was vaguely disappointed; it didn't fulfill the promise of the earlier books in the series.

Aside from the first book of the DT series (which is not 'complete in itself'), his best single work is, almost certainly, The Stand (the re-issue, not the original). The mini-series is tells the story effectively but loses the depth that makes the book great; the book achieves an epic grandeur and transcendence of the horror/thriller/suspense genre that typifies his work. IT would probably rate 2nd since it achieves a similar feat, but rather than an epic story that spans the continent it is, in a sense, a reflection upon youth vs adulthood, and effectively captures the feel of being 12 years old with a close group of friends (a la 'Stand By Me' / 'The Body').

Hearts in Atlantis is actually pretty good, even if you don't care about the Dark Tower series (which is the underpinning of some of the plot elements).

Other than that, I'd say... Salem's Lot is a great 300 page vampire novel (never watched the mini-series). Christine is very well-executed (and the Carpenter film is pretty damn good, and faithful). The Shining is one of the very few examples I can cite where the I prefer the movie to the book (although they focus on very different character/plot elements - and, natch, another example would be A Clockwork Orange, another Kubrick film). The Talisman was pretty enjoyable after the first 100 pages of set-up, and if someone read it and enjoyed it I would then recommend Black House as a follow-up. Insomnia is fairly good. I would highly recommend two of the short novels he published as Richard Bachmann: The Running Man (nothing like the movie) and The Long Walk (which simply begs for a movie to be made from it, and I believe Durabont has the rights). Neither are more than 150-175 pages. And of course his short story compilations are generally pretty satisfying regardless of when they were written - they're too short to become frustrated or bored with, and often contain very creative plot premises.

But other than those, I can't recommend any other King works to someone who isn't a King fan. If you read all or most of them and want more then keep going, but if you're only a casual fan in search of some light reading, those are your best bets.
Very intuitive of you, Joe, to unsubtly hint at King's disinfo book being a repair job for some tax problem. You do remember that Norman Mailer's own financial wounds experienced a miraculous healing when he made a similar Faustian bargain with the Copious Inseminators of Arses, too, don't you?

So, what bargain have you made, in supporting the NIST and Zelikow works of fiction, which history will show were cut from the same, moldy weave of Langley Linen as the King and Posner time-wasters.

Your loyal reader,
Joe, thanks for this. I've been itching to read 11/22/63 since I heard about it some time ago.

King is definitely one of my favorite writers--I've read most of his earlier works, and I agree that "The Jaunt" is a damned scary story. But my favorite King work has to be "The Mist".

I would recommend HEARTS IN ATLANTIS, the DARK TOWER series, and IT. King is truly one of our finest writers.

(Also, kudos for mentioning ON WRITING. It truly is one of the best books on the craft of writing.)
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