by Jay Wilburn
The plan is to reread all of Stephen King’s novels and collections and assorted other publications in their order of publication. Richard Chizmar of Cemetery Dance set out the challenge for himself and invited others to join in. It is an idea which indulges my obsession with King’s writing. I’m doing it because I am a writer and I want to improve my long fiction and storytelling. I think there are secrets to be discovered or rediscovered in it too. As Chizmar posts his after read posts and Bev Vincent posts his accompanying history, I will add links to those in my corresponding posts.
Here is Bev Vincent’s historic essay.
Here are Richard Chizmar’s thoughts.
You can also go back to the beginning and read Before Carrie and follow all the blog posts through each book.
Much of what I write in these posts will really be notes for me. I will do my best to make them into coherent observations for you. I will also style my comments to be as spoiler free as possible for those who haven’t read the book, but in a way which will also work for those who have read the books. Be warned though that I am discussing the content of the book and the writing.
So, let’s wrap up Roadwork.
The book is dedicated to Charlotte Littlefield with (Proverbs 31:10-28)
The reporter and the man will meet again 17 months later, but neither would remember.
“Hey, Georgie.” Reminds me of It.
There is an honor rack for papers. Merv Griffin with Lorne Greene on TV. Lots of TV references for this character’s life and his relationship with his wife. Shows around the dial. Saving for the TV becomes significant in their backstory. Motorized antenna on the roof. The Godfather for $2.50 tickets. An IBM typewriter popping up out of a desk was fancy. Esso became Exxon. Nixon Democrats are discussed. A Rolling Stone album plays a big role at the end of the novel. The Exorcist is in theaters. Sony tape recorders no bigger than your hand was amazing technology.
The kid shoots a bird and then doesn’t us the gun again. Same reaction and backstory as the father from Firestarter. Books written far apart in time, but published close together under two different names.
“Talking” to characters not there makes for a jarring introduction to the protagonist. The narrative was a little confusing at the beginning. It made following the character a little tough starting off. He waited a while to begin to unravel the George and Fred mystery.
Gun store “fetish” wording reveals his underlying aversion to guns here early on. “Shaky cease-fire holds” Good symbolism in the gun store and for the coming story.
“It’s only in books that everyone says everything right the first time.” Great line.
Nickles seemed to gravitate to him. Never a dime for the meter. This is an interesting bit.
The hitchhiker scene is a bit odd. It shapes into something different later, but much like other introductions in the book, it starts out odd.
The hand and the arm in the sink from and acid trip is wild. It seems to be the genesis for the later short story “The Finger.”
“As many loopholes in the Bible …” They run through mortal and veneral sins. This will play into an important struggle at the end of the book. As he prepares to do the deed. Vivid dreams of all the forms of suicide. The dreams culminate in carbon-monoxide like a previous character in the story had done.
“I feel like I’m a character in some bad writer’s book and he already knows how it’s going to end.” That’s a hell of a thing to write.
Dawes finding out his great fiery plan had failed is quite the gut punch.
“It’s your play again. In this game, it’s always your play.” Great line.
“He never thought words had a taste, but this one did.” Another great line.
Description of childhood cancer is powerful and heartwrenching.
“Is life only preparation for Hell?” Great line.
King describes being high in heavy detail.
The trapped memories of yearbooks is described very well.
A killer’s take on the “favor” of killing bad men early is interesting and terrifying.
The moment of escape missed: He could get in the car with the money and just drive. He considers it. It’s missed because the world is round just like the track his thoughts were on. You always get back to where you started.
The climax and ending unfold quickly.
A great last line. It is jarring and slams the door on the story as abruptly as the story begins.
This is a wild story of a man, a life, and a marriage coming apart. It stands up differently than much of King’s other work.
The next book is Danse Macabre.
— Jay Wilburn