THE DARK HALF

Book #1 (of four) of King's celebrated megabucks publishing contract—and it's King at his effusive near-best, with a long, ultra-violent, suspenseful story of a best-selling writer whose pseudonym comes to life and goes on a murderous rampage. As in Misery, King again fantasizes from his own writerly experience, creating as his hero Maine author Thad Beaumont—who, in addition to literary novels under his own name, has written four grisly best-sellers under the pen name of George Stark. Unlike King's own Richard Bachman pseudonym, though—to whom King claims "indebtedness" here, and who was laid to rest after exposure by a resourceful reporter—Stark takes on malignant flesh after Thad (staving off threatened exposure) kills him off by going public in People magazine. Rising from his mock grave pictured in the People spread, Stark beats to death a local Maine man—and draws the ire of subsidiary hero Sheriff Alan Pang-born. When Stark's fingerprints turn out to match Thad's, the writer becomes the law-man's prime suspect—until Stark's graphically detailed blood-riot in Manhattan, where he kills Thad's literary agent and everyone associated with his "death," convinces Pang-born that Thad is innocent. King enriches this mayhem with his usual psychological soundings (are the now telepathically linked Stark and Thad truly two halves of one whole?) and occult symbolism (in an effective borrowing from The Birds, millions of sparrows, "psychopomps," herald Stark's moves). But the strong accent here is on violent action, with matters reaching a ripping climax as Stark kidnaps Thad's family to force Thad to help him write one last novel—the writing of which will allow the crazed Stark, now decaying, to suck up Thad's life force. A potent, engrossing blend of occult and slasher horror, not as fully riveting or grandly ironic as Misery, but without the pomposities of much other recent King—It; The Tommy-knockers—and certainly slick and scary enough to make it the book to beat on the fall lists.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 1989

ISBN: 0451167317

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1989

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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