Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Viking Adult
Publication Date: November 1989
Source: personal purchase
Summary from Goodreads:
Thad Beaumont would like to say he is innocent.
He’d like to say he has nothing to do with the series of monstrous murders that keep coming closer to his home.
He’d like to say he has nothing to do with the twisted imagination that produced his bestselling novels.
He’d like to say he has nothing to do with the voice on the phone uttering its obscene threats and demanding total surrender.
But how can Thad disown the ultimate embodiment of evil that goes by the name he gave it—and signs its crimes with Thad’s bloody fingerprints?
Such a long journey I embarked upon with this novel! I started it way back in October, as it was supposed to be my last "spooky" read around Halloween time. However, things got away from me, and suddenly it was Nonfiction November, and I put this one on the back burner. However, I'll admit that I also put it off because the beginning of this book was just not doing it for me.
A lot of my initial dislike stemmed from my view of Thad Beaumont (the protagonist). He was extremely difficult for me to like--he seemed to enjoy talking (at great length) just to hear himself talk, and his wife Liz appeared to suffer from the same affliction. The two of them together were hard for me to stomach, even as I was supposed to feel mildly afraid for them as their friends began dying one by one.
Around this time is when I took my break from the book. When I picked it back up in late November, the action intensified, Thad stopped talking so much (thank God), and I felt myself getting into the Stephen King happy place that I know and love. By the end, I was whipping through pages and completely absorbed in the story.
I did end up enjoying the second half of the book, and the way it wrapped up, though it's worth noting that this novel was written from a unique perspective. King released The Dark Half in 1989, 4 years after his own pseudonym (Richard Bachman) was outed. There are many (many!) similarities between King's pen name experience and Thad Beaumont's--the work he wrote under Bachman was darker than his King novels (as Beaumont's novels as George Stark were darker than his Beaumont novels). He and Beaumont were both teachers...they were both "outed" by random nosy citizens in Washington DC...Beaumont and King are both alcoholics...the list goes on. Obviously, the idea of the pseudonym coming to life is exclusive to Beaumont, but it is interesting to read this book with the knowledge that King grappled with his own "dark half" at one point in his career.
(Also, I can't help but wish that King didn't model Beaumont too closely after himself, given the whole "Beaumont talks just to listen to his own voice" thing that I was harping on before. I love Stephen King too much to assume that about him...)
Despite the rocky beginning, The Dark Half ended like the thrilling, horrific King-style novel that I was hoping for. While not in my top 10 for King's work, I still think it's an intriguing read, especially when you take the King/Bachman backstory into account.
(Oh, and for the faint of heart--you may want to choose a different book from King's canon to try. 'Tis a bloody one!)
Have you read The Dark Half? Where is it on your list of King favorites?