Book Review: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

"The Wind Through the Keyhole" is a novel in the Dark Tower series that many of Stephen King fans never thought we would see. It arrived in 2012, much to my surprise, and fits between book four and book five. Most of the novel is a recollection of Roland's containing both his first job as a gunslinger and a story his mother used to tell him when he was a child. If you are anything like me, you think these types of moments in the series are the best. "The Wind Through the Keyhole" keeps up this belief for me. I was hooked into each story within a story, of which there are three.

The first layer of this story within a story within a story is that of Roland, Susannah, Eddie, Jake and Oy. They meet an old man who drops hints to Roland that something is coming their way. Roland eventually catches on. I would rather not give away what happens, so let it suffice to say that the ka-tet winds up holed up in a deserted town together. It is here that the two other stories fold into the first.

Roland first begins telling a tale about an early experience in his gunslinger life where he went up against a skin walker. In this story, he tells a small boy another story and this is the heart of the novel and the eponymous story -- "The Wind Through the Keyhole." While this story is an ostensibly fictional tale from Roland's childhood, it also has familiar figures, one of whom signs his name "RF." If you know who this is, you should already be reading "The Wind Through the Keyhole." If not, start with the Dark Tower series up until at least book four. If you really want to do it right, read "The Stand" as well.

Bottom line: I loved "The Wind Through the Keyhole." It was a wholly unexpected treat with both the horror that makes King so skin crawling and the touching moments that make his work so approachable. I know I sing his praises a lot, but there are definitely novels by Stephen King of which I was not a fan. It's just that I really love the ones I enjoy by him, and this is undoubtedly one of them.

Shelly Barclay

Book Review: "On Writing" by Stephen King

I'm sad to admit that this review is the first novel that I have read and reviewed for this blog in months and that it took me a few of those months just to finish "On Writing." I assure you, that fact has nothing to do with the quality of King's nonfiction work and everything to do with me slacking on my reading. Nonetheless, I am now done and have learned a few things about writing, but more about Stephen King.

The first part of "On Writing" is a mish mash of anecdotes from Mr. King's childhood, school years, early romance with Mrs. King, early marriage and early writing career. Some of you aspiring writers may read some of this and think, "Oh, crap! I didn't run a hodgepodge newspaper with my brother out of my mother's basement when I was a kid. I still had not thought of becoming a writer yet." Don't worry about it. I doubt Stephen King gave us a window into his life so we could compare him to ourselves. Besides, we can't all be Kings. There can be only one. (Yeah, I went there.)

After these characteristically brilliant disguised as blue-collar passages, Stephen King gets down to the writing part of "On Writing." His advice is rarely technical. You will only see a few words of advice about grammar. Apparently, Stephen King hates the passive voice. What you will see is advice about the meat and potatoes of your writing. He talks about the story. In short, he tells the reader to figure out what they are saying and say it. He says to be honest. Take these pearls of wisdom. They come from, in my opinion, the biggest oyster in the sea. Oh, and this is not a book about technical writing. Stephen King is not going to tell you how to go about writing a vacuum cleaner manual. You're on your own there.

Throughout the writing advice and beyond, Stephen King continues to add anecdotes about his life and career. He also adds bits that he has heard from other authors and even moviemakers. Then things get tough for Stevie (as he often refers to himself, but I only jokingly dare to refer to him). You see, while he was writing "On Writing," he was struck by a man driving a Dodge van and quite nearly died. He speaks about this harrowing experience near the end of the novel. Thankfully, he lived to write another day. Yes, I'm selfish, I know.

So, whether you are a freak that wants to read about someone's hardships, an aspiring writer or just a fan of Stephen King, get it, read it and let others borrow it. Now I'm off to read "The Wind Through the Keyhole" and then the list of books King suggested at the end of "On Writing." Get ready for more reviews!

Shelly Barclay

Website Review: The SCP Foundation

I believe this is a Cracked Spines first. Today, I'm going to give a little review/overview of one of my favorite sites. It has a user-generated content base with reading material ranging from science fiction/fantasy to horror. The site is called The SCP Foundation. I came across it by accident one night and spent a few subsequent nights reading as many entries as possible. Some of it is very good and the site is quite organized for the type of content it produces.

The SCP Foundation is a fictional organization that handles unusual objects and creatures. Think of it as a website version of that warehouse show, but obviously better or I would not be writing about it. Every item in the foundation's possession has a file on this website. When users generate a file, they have to follow a strict format that makes even me cringe and I have dealt with some lengthy client requirements in my day. I'm relatively sure that the users do this for a love of writing as well. If there is pay involved, I have not found a single word about it.

Now, each of these files can just be a description or it can contain notes that are like miniature short stories. Some of them are only a few sentences long. Others would amount to several pages in print format. There are files among them that were clearly written by very talented writers who, in my opinion, should really branch out from free content production. I've had my skin crawl more than once reading SCP. Nothing utterly rubbish makes it through as far as I can tell, but there are some blah entries. These don't even evoke the slightest curiosity. That is the worst. At any rate, there appears to be a filtering process in place that does a relatively good job. I can't even remember seeing a typo, but I'll admit that editing is not my strong suit.

If you are a fan of science fiction or you are a writer looking for a place to stretch your limbs, you might want to check this site out. It appears to have a decent-size fan base online and I'm definitely part of it at this point. Happy reading.

Shelly Barclay