In his latest novel, King brings us four tales, linked by the theme of retribution. The first and longest of these, 1922, takes us deep into rural America. Here we witness the murder of Arlette James by her husband, and all that follows, including the effects on their son.
In Big Driver, a mystery writer is attacked driving home from a book-club engagement. After being raped and left for dead, she finds it in her to plan her revenge, and changes herself for ever.
The shortest tale, Fair Extension, is a darkly humorous story about a dying man who makes a deal with the devil, whatever the price.
Finally, A Good Marriage brings us full circle, looking at a marriage gone wrong. Darcy Anderson discovers there’s far more to her husband than she realised, even after twenty years of being married. After she discovers his terrifying secret, how will she react?
When it comes to Stephen King, this is one of my favourite formats. It allows for more scope than short stories, allowing the story and characters to expand. However, that story needs to be compact and to the point – and in this quartet, he pulls it off brilliantly.
In his afterword, King says that these are harsh stories, with ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. He’s looking to evoke a reaction in his readers, which these tales certainly do. However, they also have a dark humour to them – whilst flinching at some of the descriptions or characters actions, you’ll also find yourself wondering if it’s normal to be giggling.. and whether it’s a nervous giggle!
Even with the shorter format, King still manages to build interesting and believable characters, including Tessa who talks back to her sat nav as she plans her next step, and Wilfred, who tries to do his best for his son, but fails.
They are four different types of story, bound together with the theme of retribution, and the nagging question of how you would deal with a similar situation. 1922 captures living in a rural area in the 20’s, whilst Big Driver takes you deep into the heart and thoughts of a woman looking for revenge. Fair Extension looks at the price we may be willing to pay, and A Good Marriage starts as a great suspense tale, and soon moves into something completely different.
Full Dark, No Stars took me back to the older days of King, with characters and stories which get under your skin, and stay in your memory. It’s a book to devour on a cold winter’s night – I wanted to keep reading, and yet I was sad to finish.. always a sign of a good book! Every Stephen King fan should add this to their collection, and for anyone who hasn’t yet experienced his writing, this could be a good place to start!