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In "Big Driver," a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book-club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face-to-face with another stranger: the one inside herself.
"Fair Extension," the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the nastiest and certainly the funniest. Making a deal with the devil - never a stranger from most people with something to lose - not only saves Dave Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment.
When her husband of more than twenty years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It's a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends a good marriage.
Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2010-09-27
- Reviewer: Staff
Eerie twists of fate drive the four longish stories in King's first collection since Just After Sunset (2008). In "1922," a farmer murders his wife to retain the family land she hopes to sell, then watches his life unravel hideously as the consequences of the killing suggest a near-supernatural revenge. "Big Driver" tells of an otherwise ordinary woman who discovers her extraordinary capacity for retribution after she is raped and left for dead. "A Good Marriage" explores the aftermath of a wife's discovery of her milquetoast husband's sinister secret life, while "Fair Extension," the book's most disturbing story, follows the relationship between a man and the best friend on whom he preternaturally shifts all his bad luck and misfortune. As in Different Seasons (1982), King takes a mostly nonfantastic approach to grim themes. Now, as then, these tales show how a skilled storyteller with a good tale to tell can make unsettling fiction compulsively readable. (Nov.)
A collection of horror stories from the King
In his latest collection of never-before-published stories, Stephen King proves once again that he has no equal at delivering chills. While one can debate whether at least two of these stories might qualify as novellas, all four are meaty tales of humans in extremis, narrated with the propulsive energy that’s the hallmark of King’s work.
Tess, the protagonist of “Big Driver,” is a writer of cozy mysteries who is raped on her way home from a library tea. Calling on her skills as a mystery writer, and with the aid of an unusual GPS device, she methodically stalks her attacker, unleashing some unintended consequences in the process. In “A Good Marriage,” inspired by the grisly story of Wichita’s BTK killer, King imagines with clinical skill how a wife might react when she discovers her husband of 27 years, an accountant and coin collector, is a serial killer.
There’s only one story in which the supernatural predominates. “Fair Extension” is a clever account of the pitfalls of selling one’s soul to the devil. Dave Streeter, a middle-aged bank manager dying of cancer, meets the mysterious George Elvid, who offers to trade him at least 15 years of life in exchange for giving up the name of someone he hates, in this case a lifelong friend whose success has gnawed at Streeter.
The collection’s title story, its longest, is set in 1920s rural Nebraska. Told in the form of a confession by Wilfred James, a farmer who brutally murders his wife to prevent her from selling an inheritance of 100 acres to a meatpacking company, it recounts the eight years he spends haunted by memories of the crime. The story is also noteworthy for its stark depiction of the travails of the country’s midsection on the eve of the Great Depression.
Each of the tales in this strong collection features enough frightening scenes to provoke a spate of nightmares. And yet, like all the work of this master of suspense and the macabre, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to put any of them down until you’ve reached the end.