Full Dark, No Stars.
Hodder and Stoughton
I was 11 when I discovered my Step-Dad’s extensive collection of Stephen King novels. They were stored up in our loft with the rest of his youth that had come from his parents house when he moved in with my mother. I devoured them all within a short space of time, stopping only to discuss the most gruesome scenes with my step-Dad and learning to do so out of ear-shot of my mother lest he be reprimanded for allowing me to read such stuff.
Let me put this into some perspective: Kerrang! was officially banned from our house after the infamous Cradle of Filth cover and Alice Cooper vinyl was relegated to the damp loft until such a time that my mother discovered he was a born-again Christian and then it was okay to play the record, just not on a Sunday.
So Stephen King was a point of reference between me and my Step-Dad. A way we could connect as step-parent and child. Between that and Meatloaf, we get along just fine. Every time I go visit, I find the latest Stephen King novel in what was once my bed room, propped up against the bedside lamp, ready for me to read and then review next time we speak. It has become something of a tradition, in spite of my change of taste in novel over the years and the arrival of the Kindle.
I suspect that my step-Dad has not entirely converted to the Kindle as much as my Mum would like given a the shiny new hardback waiting for me on my visit last month. I have yet to find out how he managed to sneak this one into the house but suspect that by lending them to me, I have become his new book storage area.
I find Stephen King as a person incredibly inspiring but his novels less so after reading so many. I was genuinely enchanted by Full Dark, No Stars not least because it strikes many a resemblence to my favourite author, Neil Gaiman. In fact, his review of the book is found here and I wholeheartedly agree. In particular, ‘Fair Extension’ could quite easily fit alongside character portraits from his own American Gods.
Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of four short stories are steeped in Americana, in the outback, the road-trip and the macabre. They weave from murder of convenience in ‘1922’, to revenge in ‘Big Driver’, out of greed and jealousy in ‘Full Extension’ to necessity in ‘A Good Marriage’. The characers are real and remind us that anyone has the capability to commit murder, whether they realise it or not.
These are four dark and uncomfortable tales, looking at the nastier side of human nature but as King reminds us himself in the afterword, even murderers can help an old woman across the road. Even in humanity’s darkest hour, there is never pure evil, there is always something human still left inside the most inhumane. They are certainly not moral tales trying to illicit sympathy for wrong doing but examining what ordinary people can be forced into given extraordinary circumstance.
Full Dark, No Stars is an absolutely gripping read, if not one that should be undertaken right before bed time.