Friday, October 05, 2007

THE DEAD ZONE by Stephen King

The Book: Stephen King, THE DEAD ZONE. The Viking Press,1979 (unsigned first edition). Very good book in fine dust jacket; book pages are slightly browned with age.
First read: 1981
Owned since: 2000 (this copy)

I've said before that I am not a book collector in the true sense of the term, but I do like to have good copies of books I love. This unsigned first edition replaced a battered, well-read hardcover copy that had lost its dust jacket years ago.

Stephen King is #7 on the ALA's list of banned or challenged authors, and The Dead Zone is my favorite of all his novels. The television series, which I've never seen, is based only on the book's premise: schoolteacher Johnny Smith spends seven years in a coma, and wakes up with the power to know people's secrets by touching them.

The Dead Zone is not a conventionally supernatural story. All the monsters are human, and the book's central questions have to do with the responsibility attached to special gifts, and what someone might be willing to do when he's convinced that he alone knows the truth.

The book begins in late October, with Johnny and his girlfriend, Sarah, going to a fair that claims to be the last agricultural fair of the year in New England. It's just the right time of year to reread this book, because the Fryeburg Fair closes this weekend. My usual fair-going companions are out of town this weekend, but if anyone reading this wants to make the trip with me on Sunday, send me an e-mail.

What I Read This Week

George Pendle, The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President. Regular readers of this blog may remember that I had to read a lot about President James Buchanan for a client's project last year. When Laura Lippman recommended this book on her blog, I went directly to the nearest chain bookstore to pick up a copy. This brilliant spoof of presidential biographies reveals that Millard Fillmore, far from being the least distinguished man to serve as Commander in Chief, invented everything from the ballpoint pen to the rubber band; survived the Alamo; prevented the assassination of Andrew Jackson; and helped to open Japan. Oh, and he was Zorro. Among other things. It's hard to sustain a joke like this for 250 pages, and the book does go on a little long -- but as I read it, I found myself wanting to call friends on the phone and read passages aloud to them.

Lisa Lutz, Curse of the Spellmans. This sequel to Lutz's adorable debut, The Spellman Files, won't be out until early next year -- but it is just as good as its predecessor, if not better. Curse of the Spellmans finds PI and problem daughter Isabel Spellman obsessing over the secrets kept by her neighbor. It's funny but it's also realistic about the line between charming wackiness and pathological compulsions, as Isabel's irrationality has real-life consequences.

Terry Pratchett, Making Money. Career criminal Moist von Lipwig, who transformed Ankh-Morpork's mail service in Going Postal, takes over the Royal Mint in Making Money. It's the usual entertaining Discworld novel, rooted in some pretty sound insights about monetary theory.

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