“Two Star Trek Icons Spent Time in The Night Gallery”

“The Night Gallery” was created by six time Emmy winner Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone). The series, which was nominated for two Emmys, was broadcast on NBC (National Broadcasting Company), from its premier on December 16, 1970, until its final episode aired on May 27, 1973. The series was preceded by the television pilot, which aired on November 8, 1969. The 43 episodes of the series three year run, taken collectively, comprised the genres of drama, fantasy, horror, mystery, sci-fi, and thriller. Each episode was introduced by Rod Serling, who would stand in front of a painting, which was representative of the episode. Serling had originally pitched the idea to studio executives for a show where he would walk around a wax museum. He would talk to the viewer, until he came upon the wax figure that the particular episode pertained to. The networks passed, so he reworked it, and incorporated the idea of hosting from an art gallery. (As an aside artist Thomas J. Wright (NCIS), painted all of the paintings that were used by Serling to introduce the episodes. Furthermore, sculptors Logan Elston and Phil Vanderlei created all of the show’s sculptures). 


“Camera Obscura” co-starred two time Emmy nominee Rene Auberjonois (Benson). On 173 episodes of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” which aired from 1993 through 1999, he portrayed Odo. The character was referred to as a changeling. Odo could change his shape at will. He was also the head of the space station’s security.  

In the episode, Auberjonois plays William Sharsted. He is a seemingly heartless moneylender. At the beginning of the episode, Sharsted arrives at the home of Mr. Gingold, a role acted by Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Ross Martin (The Wild Wild West). Gingold has a vast collection of valuables in his home. Sharsted has come to remind him, that if he doesn’t pay the money he owes, he will begin taking Gingold’s collectables, until he has recouped the financial equivalent, he is owed.

Gingold seems unfazed. All he seemingly is interested in, is showing Sharsted an unusual camera that has the ability to show the town they live in from a high above angle. The camera allows the viewer to see the town the way it looks at the present moment, but it also allows the user to view the town, the way it appeared in the past.      

After Gingold impresses Sharsted with his unique camera, he implores him to forgive the debts of another person, who will become homeless if he doesn’t. Sharsted scoffs at the idea. He turns to leave, but as he attempts to navigate his way out from the room where the camera is stored, Sharsted inexplicably finds himself back in the town of his youth. It is on those unforgiving streets, that Sharsted will learn, primarily through the people he meets, or who scare him for that matter, that a little forgiveness and sympathy can go a long way. Will the realization, however, come too late?

“Camera Obscura” was directed by two time Emmy nominee John Badham. The teleplay was written by three time Emmy nominee Jack Laird (Kojak), based off of a short story written by Basil Cooper. The story was first published by Pan Books, in  the anthology “The Sixth Pan Book of Horror Stories,” on January 1, 1965. The episode aired on December 8, 1971.  

“She’ll Be Company for you,” stars four time Emmy nominee Leonard Nimoy Fringe). Nimoy portrayed Spock, the logic minded Vulcan, one of the three central characters along with Kirk (William Shatner), and McCoy (DeForest Kelly), on the original “Star Trek” series, which aired from 1966 through 1969. Nimoy would go on to reprise his role in films, as well as, lend his voice to the animated “Star Trek” series, and video games. He also guest starred on two episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which aired from 1987 through 1994. 

In the episode, Nimoy plays Henry Auden, whose wife, Margret,  has just died. The only thing he feels about her death, is relief, as the viewer learns via voice over narration. Margret was an invalid, who  Auden took care of. When she wanted something, which the episode alludes to, was often, she’d ring the shrill sounding bell, located on the night table, next to her side of the bed. Auden is alone for the first time in years. He thinks he will be content to live by himself, as well as pursue an open relationship with his secretary, June, who he has been having an affair with. (As an aside, Kathryn Hays, who plays June in the episode, appeared as the character Gem, in the original “Star Trek” episode “The Empath,” which aired on December 6, 1968).    

Henry doesn’t have time to enjoy his new status as a single man, because no sooner does Margret’s funeral conclude, her friend Barbara, played by Lorraine Gary (Jaws), follows him back to his house. She asks Henry questions to gauge how he feels about Margret’s passing. A viewer should get the sense that she doesn’t believe he is upset, and also wonder why she makes the next offer. Barbara is going away on vacation. She wants Henry to look after her cat, Jennet.

No sooner does the cat arrive at the house, that unpleasant things begin to take place. For example, Henry is convinced that he is not dealing with an ordinary house cat, but one that can transform itself into a leopard. Other things begin to transpire, which causes him to lose sleep, and hear phantom sounds, or does he? The further the episode advances, the more it appears that Henry is descending into madness. Is what he thinks he’s experiencing real? Could it be nothing more than a manifestation of the guilt toward his griefless feelings regarding Margret’s death?    

The episode was directed by Emmy winner Gerald Perry Finnerman (Ziegfeld: The Man and his Women). The teleplay was written by David Rayfiel (Sabrina), based off of a novelette written by Andrea Newman. The novelette was published by Pan Books in “More Tales of Unease,” on January 1, 1969.  The episode aired on December 24, 1972. (As an aside, Finnerman also had a connection to Star Trek. He was the director of photography on sixty episodes that aired between 1966-1968). 

In addition to Auberjonois and Nimoy, there was a cameo appearance by “Star Wars” legend Mark Hamill, in the “Night Gallery” episode “There Aren’t Any More MacBanes.” Furthermore, the “Night Gallery” series wound up featuring fourteen Oscar winners: Jack Albertson (The Subject Was Roses), Broderick Crawford (All the King’s Men), Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce), Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker), Sally Field (Places in the Heart), Joel Grey (Cabaret), Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire), Burl Ives (The Big Country), Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show), Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend), Geraldine Page (The Trip to Bountiful), Gale Sondergaard (Anna and the King of Siam),  and Orson Welles (Citizen Kane). Additionally, among other talented directors, three time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List) directed two episodes: “Eyes” for the 1969, pilot film, as well as “Make Me Laugh,” which was written by Rod Serling. The episode aired on January 6, 1971.    

The two episodes I reviewed were of interest to me because of their Star Trek connections. “Camera Obscura,” was the more attention grabbing of the two. I’m not sorry I watched “She’ll Be Company for you,” because Nimoy portrayed one of, if not, my all time favorite Star Trek characters in Spock, so I did want to see it. The episode, however, apart from Nimoy’s acting, does leave a bit to be desired. While “The Night Gallery,” as a whole, did feature some corny episodes, as well as some silly vignettes, more often than not, the creative work of Jack Laird, there were a number of episodes that were good and entertaining, most of which were culled from Rod Serling’s imagination, and various works of literature.    




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The Black Phone

The film “The Black Phone” opens in Denver in 1978. A baseball game is in progress The pitcher on the mound is thirteen year old Finney (Mason Thames). He needs one more out to close the game, but Bruce (Tristan Pravong), the formidable hitter for the opposing team, is not going to permit Finney to have his victory. The homerun hit by Bruce will be a short lived moment of happiness. The pain Finney feels having lost the game, will, in the near future, be an afterthought. Both teenagers will be contending with something, rather someone, who will soon command all of their attention.     

The children of Denver are on high alert. A person, the press has dubbed The Grabber, has been abducting teenage boys. Detective Wright (E. Roger Mitchell), and Detective Miller (Troy Rudeseal), have few leads. Unbeknownst to the members of law enforcement, The Grabber drives around in a black van, with the word abracadabra, printed on it. He uses his job as a magician to lure children into helping him, before submerging them in an entanglement of black balloons, and using a spray that renders them unconscious. The character is portrayed, in a chilling manner, by four time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke (Training Day). He completely embodies the role of the maniacal murderer.

Finney lives with his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), and  their abusive, alcoholic father, Terrence, portrayed by BAFTA and Emmy winner Jeremy Davies (Justified). Things aren’t much better for him at school, where he is frequently bullied. As if that weren’t bad enough, it gets worse when he is abducted by The Grabber. When Finney awakes, he is laying on a mattress on the floor of a dark, concrete, and what he will soon learn, is a soundproofed basement. There are some rolled up rugs, and a toilet. The only other thing in the basement is a disconnected, black rotary phone, hanging on the wall. Every time The Grabber comes to see Finney, his face is partially obscured by a variety of different macabre looking masks.  Furthermore, The Grabber displays different moods while interacting with Finney. He attempts to be charming one moment, only to turn sadistic the next. The Grabber also modulates his voice depending on his mood. (As an aside: The masks Hawke wore in the film were designed by, amongst other talents, special effects guru Tom Savini).    

At school, Finney sometimes had his friend Robin (Miquel Cazarez Mora), to fight his battles for him. Now he will have to stand up on his own if he hopes to survive. Well, not entirely. The phone, which shouldn’t be working, helps Finney in his efforts to outwit The Grabber. Even though it is disconnected, when Finney picks it up, he hears voices of The Grabber’s victims, who met their end in the basement. Furthermore, his sister Gwen is attempting to help him. She inherited their late mother’s gift of being able to see visions of future events in her dreams. Gwen is desperately trying to come up with an image that will lead to where Finney is being held. Can the voices in the phone help guide Finney to safety? Will Gwen be able to see his location in her dream in time, so she can let the police know, before The Grabber kills again? Those questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion.

“The Black Phone” was directed by Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange). In addition, Derrickson co-wrote the screenplay for the film with C. Robert Cargill (Sinister). The screenplay was based on Joe Hill’s short story of the same name in his book “20th Century Ghosts.” The book was published by PS Publishing in October of 2005. The film premiered on September 25, 2021 at the Fantastic Fest, which is held annually in Austin, Texas. Parts horror, and thriller, the movie has a runtime of  103 minutes.

The film is well paced and the atmosphere was excellent, and helped to add to the overall sense of dread of what was transpiring on screen. Exposition as to the how and the why of the black phone was thankfully avoided, because I think it would have distracted from the movie. Suspense builds throughout the film, as Gwen, and the police attempt to figure out who The Grabber is, and where Finney is being held, before it is too late. The performances, as aforementioned, by Hawke, and especially from the film’s young leads were spot on. Another aspect of the movie that I thought was worthy of credit, is that it never depended on jump scares or gore to help advance the narrative. Overall, a solid horror film, that will more than likely be enjoyed by fans of the genre, and those seeking a thrilling, under two hours of escapist cinema.


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“John Carpenter’s Vampires” (1998)

“John Carpenter’s Vampires,” centers on a group of vampire slayers. The leader of the slayers, is the leather jacket clad, cigar smoking, tough minded, Jack Crow. The character is portrayed by Oscar nominee, and Emmy and Golden Globe winner James Woods (Promise). During the day, Crow and his slayers are on the hunt for nests, where the vampires are holed up. The slayers are comprised of hard edged men, who are serious about their work, and don’t mind getting their hands dirty. The group of slayers also comes with a Vatican sanctioned priest, who accompanies them on all of their missions. (As an aside: Actor Mark Boone Junior, who plays Catlin in the movie, should be known to fans of the hit series “Sons of Anarchy.” He played Bobby Munson on the show. In addition, fans of “Sanford and Son,” as well as, “Barney Miller,” should recognize Gregory Sierra, in the role of Father Giovanni).  

In the opening scene, Crow and his slayers destroy a nest of vampires, minus their master. They celebrate with liquor and escorts at The Sun-God Motel. They’re all feeling good as they revel in their victory. Unbeknownst to them, however, the master of the nest, Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), has come to avenge those that they killed. Valek goes about thoroughly destroying each of the slayers. The only survivors of his attack are Crow, his long time sidekick Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), and Katrina (Sheryl Lee). She is an escort who Valek bit on the thigh, but did not kill. Crow and Montoya take Katrina and flee. A chase ensues, but the trio manage to lose the seemingly all powerful vampire.

Crow is angered. He believes, the slayers were set up to be killed, especially since Valek used his name. Even though she has been bitten, Katrina hasn’t yet turned into a vampire. Crow and Montoya decide to keep her as bait. Furthermore, since Valek is Katrina’s master, they want to exploit the psychic connection that will inevitably be established between the two of them, in order to more efficiently hunt Valek.    

A short while after the horrific incident at the motel, Crow goes in search of his stateside contact from the Vatican. Cardinal Alba, portrayed by Oscar winner Maximilian Schell (Judgment at Nuremberg), enlightens him as to who Valek is, an over six hundred year old vampire. In fact, Alba informs Crow, Valek is the first and most powerful vampire that ever existed. Alba wants Crow to build a new team of slayers to go after Valek. In addition, he wants Father Adam Guiteau (Tim Guinee), a Vatican historian, to accompany him. Crow has no patience for either. As Crow will soon learn, there is more to the story than Alba and Father Guiteau are letting on. Can Valek be stopped? That will be determined by the end of the movie.

The film was directed by John Carpenter (Halloween). The screenplay was written by Don Jakoby (The Philadelphia Experiment), based off of the novel “Vampires”  by John Steakley. The novel was published by Roc Books on November 3, 1990. Credit to the special effects and makeup department for doing their best with a budget that was reduced by two thirds, before filming began. Among those who worked on makeup and special effects were Oscar winner Howard Berger (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe); Robert Kurtzman (From Dusk Till Dawn), and BAFTA and four time Emmy winner Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead). The music composed by John Carpenter, helps to heighten the tension, and up the action factor of many a frenetic scene. The film premiered in France on April 15, 1998. Parts action, horror, and thriller, the movie has a runtime of 108 minutes.

Trivia buffs take note: John Carpenter’s first choice to play the role of Crow was Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Kurt Russell (Elvis). Russell turned the part down because he had prior commitments. Furthermore, Bruce Campbell (Ash vs. Evil Dead), was Carpenter’s first choice to play Montoya. Film critic Gene Siskel thought highly enough of James Woods’ performance in the movie, that he felt Woods deserved to be nominated for an Oscar. At the time, Siskel stated the reason was because it was such a complete departure from the types of roles Woods had been cast in throughout his career. Prior to filming “Vampires” John Carpenter contemplated retiring from directing. He felt burned out, because at the time, a number of his more recent movies which preceded “Vampires” had been critical and commercial failures. Once he was able to make what he dubbed his horror-western hybrid, it reinvigorated him to give directing another shot.


The vampires in the film are not traditional like Dracula, nor are they quick witted, romantic, or brooding, like various other screen and television incarnations of the undead. Carpenter’s intention, and he succeeded, was to make the vampires in the film come across as feral animals, with an insatiable bloodlust. There is a good deal of action. This is the sort of film where the gore is shown during the kills, not just implied. The filmmakers add their own twist on vampire lore, which explains the reason for the carnage that Valek is unleashing. Overall, an entertaining addition to the vampire cinematic mythos.                                                                                                                                       


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The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper (1981)

On November 24, 2022, it will be fifty-one years, since the enduring mystery as to the identity of D.B. Cooper began. There have been at least one thousand suspects that have been investigated as possibly being Cooper. Furthermore, over three dozen books have been written on him, speculating as to his identity, each one claiming that their suspect is the case solver. Films have been made about Cooper, as well as documentaries, and episodes on television series such as “Unsolved Mysteries,” and “In Search of,” that have dealt with who Cooper could be. As of the writing of this post, no one has been able to provide definitive proof as to his true identity. 

November 24, 1971, on the eve of Thanksgiving, a man with slicked back, black hair, who was wearing a plain dark suit, purchased a ticket under the name Dan Cooper. He boarded Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305, a Boeing 727, in Portland, Oregon. The plane’s destination was Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Once on board, he ordered a bourbon and soda from the flight attendant, Tina Mucklow. He then handed her a note. Mucklow took the note, and began to walk away, when the man informed her, in a calm manner, that she needed to read the note right away. The note stated that he had a bomb in his briefcase, and unless his demands were met, he was going to blow up the plane. Cooper took back the note from Mucklow, removing one of the few potential pieces of physical evidence that could’ve been used against him. Next, he stated his demands. They were as follows: When the plane landed in Seattle, he would exchange the passengers on board for $200,000 cash, four parachutes, dinner for the crew, and for the plane to take off again. Cooper’s demands were met. The one problem is that, when the plane was airborne, he wanted to be flown to Mexico City. He was informed that the plane didn’t have enough fuel to make it there. When Cooper learned of the situation, he ordered the pilots to fly under 10,000 feet at a speed slower than 230 miles per hour. Somewhere between Seattle and Reno, he lowered the back entrance of the plane, and jumped into infamy. (As an aside: At the time, the F.B.I. investigated a real D.B. Cooper, in case the hijacker was foolish enough to use his own name. The media found out about the suspect, and that is how the name Dan Cooper was changed to D.B. Cooper).

I was initially going to review “D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!” The four part Netflix series premiered on July 13, 2022. After thinking about it, there wasn’t much, of anything, that was new in the series about D.B. Cooper, as to his possible identity. The series seemed to be piggybacked off of something I watched several years earlier on the History Channel. In fact, most of the people shown talking on camera were the same people that had tried to get a deal with the History Channel for a series. The people involved with the series felt that they had proof as to who D.B. Cooper was; at the time, however, the History Channel decided to pass.  Instead, I decided to watch, and now review, a film I have know about for a good deal of time, but had never watched, “The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper.” 

The film “The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper,” opens with Cooper, (name given in the film, Jim Meade), jumping out of the airplane he hijacked. Meade is played by three time Golden Glove nominee Treat Williams (Hair). He’s former military, and skilled enough to make the dangerous jump. After the jump, the film, speculates as to what might have happened if Cooper actually survived. The viewer will soon learn that Meade planned the entire thing out, not only the hijacking and the jump, but what he would need to get away with the crime, if he landed safely. The manner in which Meade is able to avoid detection, as well as conceal the money, and escape the tight net of law enforcement that has descended on the area, is impressive. Through some quick investigating, one person who is on to Meade, thanks to confirmation of a photograph by an eye witness, is his former army sergeant, Bill Gruen portrayed by Oscar winner Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies). Since he left the army, Gruen has become an insurance investigator, and has been assigned by his company to retrieve the $200,000 dollars given to Meade during the hijacking. Further complicating matters for Meade, is Remson (Paul Gleason). He is someone who served with Meade in the army, that is living in squalor in Mexico. He remembers that Meade spoke about hijacking a plane, and is convinced that Meade is D.B. Cooper. He manages to get a plane ticket and two hundred dollars cash, and goes in pursuit of Meade, and the money.

As it turns out, one of the main motivating factors for Meade attempting the hijacking was to get enough money for him, and his wife Hannah (Kathryn Harrold) to live comfortably. Hannah runs a white water rafting business, and while it does okay, it brings in nowhere near the kind of money that Meade has absconded with. The problem is, simultaneously, as Meade is getting in touch with Hannah to arrange a place to meet, Gruen is already at her business asking her questions about his whereabouts. He uses a ruse of potential employment, so as not to tip her off. 

Hannah decides to join Meade, and attempt to escape with him and the money to Mexico. Although he’s angry with what he’s done, his father, retired Brigadier General Meade played by three time Emmy winner Ed Flanders (St. Elsewhere), helps to aid in their escape. The getaway will not be easy. Gruen and Remson are always one step behind them. Gruen desires to reclaim the money, in order to gain respect and prestige from his employer. Remson also wants the money, so he can escape the poverty he finds himself in. Will Meade and Hannah get away?   

Trivia buffs take note: The original director of the film was four time Emmy winner John Frankenheimer (George Wallace). When the movie was being released Universal Pictures offered a one million dollar reward to anyone who provided information that led to the capture of D.B. Cooper. Emmy winner Henry Winkler (Barry) was originally cast to play Meade. Additionally, two time Oscar nominee Roy Scheider (All That Jazz) was originally cast to play Gruen, and Oscar winner Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) was cast to play the role of Hannah. On February 10, 1980, an eight year old boy, Brian Ingram found $5,800 dollars of the money that had been given to Cooper, five miles west of Vancouver, Washington. On July 8, 2016, the F.B.I. officially closed the D.B. Cooper investigation.  

“The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper” was directed by Emmy nominee Roger Spottiswoode (And the Band Played On). Additional direction was done by six time Emmy nominee Buzz Kulik (George Washington), but was uncredited. The screenplay was written by Jeffrey Alan Fiskin (Cutter’s Way). The source material for the screenplay came from the book “Free Fall” written by J.D. Reed. The book was published by Delacorte Press on January 1, 1980.  Kulik, as he did with the directing,  also contributed to the writing of the screenplay, but again did not receive credit. In addition, Oscar nominee Ron Shelton (Bull Durham), and Oscar nominee W.D. Richter (Brubaker), worked on the screenplay, but also did not receive credit. Two time Oscar winner James Horner’s score synchs up well with what is transpiring on screen. The cinematography done by two time Oscar nominee Harry Stradling Jr. (1776), and BAFTA winner Charles F. Wheeler (Tora! Tora! Tora!) moves seamlessly from one scene to the next. The film premiered on November 13, 1981. Parts adventure, crime, drama, and thriller, the movie has a runtime of 100 minutes.     


“The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper” might be pure speculation, but it is an entertaining film nonetheless. The performances, especially by Duval and Williams, are spot on. What really happened to Cooper remains a mystery. Given how much time has passed, and with the exception of very few pieces of evidence, such as Cooper’s skinny black tie with mother of pearl clip, that he took off before he jumped, his true identity might never be revealed. As of the writing of this post, the film is available to stream for free with advertisements on Tubi.






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“The Man Who Loved Flowers by Stephen King”

The setting for “The Man Who Loved Flowers” is an early evening in May of 1963. A young man is walking with a brisk step up New York’s Third Avenue. The weather is perfect, and as written in the story, is being appreciated by a number of the denizens living in the city. Everyone, who the young man passes, notices that there is something special about him. He’s not very good looking, nor is he unattractive, but as King alludes to, there is a vibe that seemingly radiates from the young man’s presence. The particular vibe the character is giving off, is that of someone who is very much in love.

As the young man crosses over Sixty-third Street, he walks by a handcart filled with flowers. In addition to the flowers, the vendor also sells carnations, as well as hothouse tea roses. On the vendor’s transistor radio, there is a news update, that is filled with predominately bad news. The voice on the radio gives quick snippets of information pertaining to  a drug war, the pulling of an unidentified female body from the East River, the fact that there is a serial killer on the loose in the city – his weapon of choice is a hammer, as well as, a mention of Vietnam. For the briefest of moments, the young man in love, allows his romantic mindset to be soured, before he quickly regains his composure.    

“The young man passed the flower-stand and the sound of the bad news faded. He hesitated, looked over his shoulder, and thought it over. He reached into his coat pocket and touched the something in there again. For a moment his face seemed puzzled, lonely, almost haunted, and then, as his hand left the pocket, it regained its former expression of eager expectation.”    

The young man goes back to the street vendor’s cart. He has decided to purchase flowers for the woman he loves. Her name is Norma. The young man loves to see her eyes light up when he gives her surprises, such a box of candy, or a bracelet. After a conversation with the vendor, the young man purchases a half dozen tea roses, and continues on his way to meet Norma.

The young man walks a significant distance. As he walks, he passes people who are not only envious of the attitude he projects, but also of the person who is going to be the recipient of his love. King lets the reader know, that a good deal of time has passed, since the young man purchased the flowers. The sun has set, and he still hasn’t arrived at Norma’s apartment, or a pre-arranged destination they agreed to meet at. Where is Norma? Is she real? Could she be a wishful product of the young man’s imagination? What is the driving force behind the young’s man’s behavior? All of those questions will be answered by the conclusion of the story.      

“The Man Who Loved Flowers” was first published in the August 1977 issue of Gallery magazine. Less than a year later, on February 17, 1978, it would be included in “Night Shift,”  the first ever collection of author Stephen King’s short stories. In total, the collection, published by Doubleday, contained twenty stories, sixteen of which had been previously published. “Jerusalem’s Lot,”The Last Rung on the Ladder,” “The Woman in the Room,” and “Quitters, Inc,” were stories that appeared in publication for the first time in the collection. “Night Shift” also marked another moment in King’s literary history; it was the first time that he had ever written a forward for one of his books.


In 1979 “Night Shift” was nominated for a Locus Award, which since 1971, are annual literary awards given by the monthly science fiction and fantasy magazine “Locus.” The winners are selected by the magazine’s readers through voting. The same year, the collection was nominated for the World Fantasy Award,  which has been given yearly since 1975, and awards the best fantasy work published during the previous year. In 1980, “Night Shift” received the Barlog Award, which was given annually from 1979 through 1985 to the best works and achievements in speculative fiction from the previous calendar year.  

“The Man Who Loved Flowers” is one of my favorites from the “Night Shift” collection, of which I have several, which include, “One for the Road” and “Strawberry Spring.” King masterfully uses third person narration to progress the story to its conclusion. He utilizes the literary elements of foreshadowing and symbolism to great effect. For fans of the iconic writer, who haven’t read “Night Shift,” which more than likely consists of newer King fans, as opposed to his constant readers, I highly recommend the collection.  

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“Licorice Pizza”

Sixteen year old, Gary Valentine, played by Cooper Hoffman, in his film debut, is instantly taken with twenty-five year old, Alana Kane, portrayed by Alana Haim, in her film debut. Gary meets Alana at his high school. She is there assisting a photographer, who is taking yearbook photos. Gary begins talking to Alana. He follows her everywhere she goes, telling her snippets about his life. The viewer will learn that Gary isn’t just another teenage boy with carnal fantasies. In addition to being a child actor, who is slowly aging out of that category, but hasn’t yet reached the point where he can audition for adult parts; he is also an entrepreneur. Gary owns a public relations company, which his mother Anita (Mary Elizabeth Ellis), manages for him. Not wanting to end their conversation, Gary asks Alana to join him later that evening at his favorite restaurant. As Alana is saying so long to Gary, she intimates that there is no way she’s going to meet him. Gary dismisses her negative attitude. Alana does windup meeting him at the restaurant, which sets the remainder of the film in motion. (As an aside: Cooper Hoffman is the son of Oscar winner, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote). Alana Haim, is a member, along with her sisters, of the Grammy nominated rock band Haim).  

 Despite their age difference, and the fact that Alana, rightfully so, refuses to be anything more than friends with Gary, the two form a close knit bond. The film showcases their experiences, which range from everything from humorous, to light hearted romance, and a well executed action sequence that involves the navigation of a truck that has run out of gas. The backdrop for the experiences takes place in the San Fernando Valley, California, in 1973. Alana might be ten years Gary’s senior, but in many respects, he is further along in life than she is. He has ambition and direction, and has already accomplished some things of merit in his life. Conversely, she still lives at home, hasn’t as of the time she meets Gary aspired to any sort of profession; and except for a chance encounter inadvertently set up by Gary is devoid of romantic prospects. Through Gary, Alana will learn she has a good mind for business, and is also a competent actress, as she is told as she begins to go on auditions.  

While the film never loses it focus on Gary and Alana, the supporting cast is comprised of some well known actors. Two time Oscar winner Sean Penn (Milk), plays Jack Holden, a character styled after Oscar winner William Holden (Stalag 17). In 1973, William Holden starred in four time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood’s “Breezy” as Frank Harmon. Harmon’s character has a love affair with the much younger Breezy played by Emmy winner Kay Lenz (Midnight Caller). In “Licorice Pizza” when Alana is going on auditions, her interaction with Penn’s character is supposed to mirror that of Holden and Lenz, the way their relationship was on screen, not in real life. BAFTA winner Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born), brings a manic energy to the film as real-life Hollywood producer Jon Peters. He makes it a point to let Gary and his friends know that he is dating two time Oscar winner and nine time Grammy winner Barbara Streisand (The Broadway Album). Fans of Cooper might be disappointed that his cumulative screen time doesn’t amount to much, but he makes the most out of the scenes that he is in. Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems) plays Joel Wach, an ambitious politician, who is harboring a secret from his constituents. Furthermore, Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Tom Waits (One from the Heart), plays the part of Rex Blau, a friend of Jack Holden, who isn’t afraid to turn a slow evening, into a risky challenge. Four time Emmy winner Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live), has a very brief appearance; blink and you’ll miss her part as a casting agent in the film.

“Licorice Pizza” was written and directed by BAFTA winner  Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood).  The film premiered on November 20, 2021 in Westwood, California. Parts comedy, drama, and romance, the movie has a runtime of 133 minutes. The film features an eclectic score, composed by two time Oscar nominee Jonny Greenwood (The Phantom Thread). The selections for the film’s soundtrack synchs up perfectly with what is transpiring on screen. Additionally, excellent work was done by two time Oscar winner Mark Bridges (The Artist) for his authentic costume designs that captured the clothing styles of the early 1970s.     


Trivia buffs take note: “Licorice Pizza” was the name of a record store chain in California, it was eventually bought out by Sam Goody. Furthermore, “Licorice Pizza” is a slang term for a vinyl record.  Alana’s family is played by her real-life family members. George DiCaprio, the father of Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) plays a small role in the film. During the time period the movie takes place, DiCaprio was a known person in the California art scene, especially as it pertained to underground art. Councilman Joel Wach is not a fictional character written for the movie. Wach served for more than thirty years as a councilman in Los Angeles. During one portion of the movie, ads for Wach’s campaign are being filmed. The director of those ads, at the time, was a then unknown Jonathan Demme, who would go onto win the Oscar for Best Director for “Silence of the Lambs.”

From the outset of reading this review, for those of you who haven’t seen the film, you might have had the initial reaction that the relationship between Alana and Gary, despite it being platonic, sounded a bit suspect. If you watch the film, you’ll see that it is really not at all like that. Paul Thomas Anderson infuses the movie with a charm, and a nostalgic take on where he grew up, and still lives. Cooper and Haim display excellent on-screen chemistry, and I am interested to see what roles the two of them take on next.                                 

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“No Such Thing as a Vampire by Richard Matheson”

The 1954 novel “I am Legend,” sixteen episodes of the original “Twilight Zone,” (1959-1964), the screenplay for Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg’s (Saving Private Ryan), 1971 television film “Duel,” and the 1958 book “A Stir of Echoes,” which was subsequently made into the 1999 movie directed by David Koepp (Spider-Man), which starred  Golden Globe winner Kevin Bacon (Taking Chance). The foregoing is a small sample of the prolific output from author and screenwriter, Richard Matheson. During his lifetime, he wrote a wide array of excellent short stories, one of which was “No Such Thing as a Vampire.” (As an aside: Richard Matheson won the Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2013, from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. Sadly, he died before he was able to receive the award, so the ceremony was dedicated to him. For those of you who are reading this that are fans of the original “Star Trek” series (1966-1969), Matheson wrote the episode “The Enemy Within,” which aired on October 6, 1966. The episode was the first time that Mr. Spock ever used the Vulcan nerve pinch).    

 Upon waking, Madame Alexis Gheria is understandably disturbed. Her nightgown has been lowered from her body and blood has been smeared across her chest. The only clue as to how the blood got there comes from two small puncture marks on her neck. Alexis believes her wound is the direct result of being bitten by a vampire. Dr. Petre Gheria, her husband, does not believe in the existence of such a creature, and assures his wife, that there has to be another explanation for what has taken place. Alexis is not alone in her feelings. The citizens of Solta, where the couple reside, also believe in the validity of vampires. They take to barricading their homes at night, and strewing garlic about to ward off entry by the undead. Furthermore, the Gheria’s household staff, all with the exception of Karel, the butler, have fled, in fear of becoming a victim of the vampire.

In an effort to prove to his wife that there is no such thing as a vampire, the following evening Dr. Gheria sits vigil at her bedside. He is keeping himself awake by drinking coffee, and has checked to make sure that all of the doors and windows have been bolted shut. In an effort to appease Alexis, he’s even made sure that garlic has been placed at every conceivable entrance into the house. Alexis is also wearing a crucifix. Much to the horror of Dr. Gheria and Alexis, at some point during the evening, when he drifted off, she was once again attacked, as evidenced by more blood on her body. Dr. Gheria is at wits end. He has done everything he can conceivably think of to find out the answer to the mystery as to who or what is draining blood from his wife. He feels his only recourse is to call upon a family friend, Dr. Michael Vares.     

Who or what is attacking Alexis at night? Is it a vampire? Could there be another explanation? Will the arrival of Dr. Vares help any? If it is a vampire, does Alexis fall victim to the creature, despite everyone’s efforts to save her? Matheson doesn’t leave anything to the reader’s imagination, in the end, everything will be revealed.     

“No Such Thing as a Vampire” was first published in the October 1959 edition of Playboy Magazine. Since then, it has been subsequently published in various magazines and anthology collections, including, but not limited to: “Christopher Lee’s New Chambers of Horror” published in 1974; “Stories That Go Bump in the Night,” a collection of short stories published by Random House, in 1977, that was edited by Alfred Hitchcock; and “The Box: Uncanny Stories,” a collection of some of Richard Matheson’s short stories published in April of 2010. “No Such Thing as a Vampire” was also featured as one of three segments, in the made for television movie “Dead of Night,”  which premiered on television on March 29, 1977. The movie was directed by Emmy winner Dan Curtis (War and Remembrance). The first segment “Second Chance” was written by Jack Finney (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) (1978).  The second segment “No Such Thing as a Vampire,” starred: Patrick Macnee (The Howling) as Dr. Gheria; Emmy nominee Anjanette Comer (Arrest & Trial) as Alexis; Elisha Cook Jr., a versatile character actor who appeared in over two hundred productions during his career, as Karel; and Horst Buchholz (The Magnificent Seven) as Dr. Vares. “Bobby” the third segment in the movie was also written by Matheson. Emmy nominee Bob Cobert (War and Remembrance) composed the music for the movie, and Emmy winner Ric Waite (Captain and the Kings) did a competent job in regard to the cinematography. Parts horror, mystery, thriller, and Sci-Fi, it has a runtime of 76 minutes.  


“No Such Thing as a Vampire,” is a cleverly written story, that should keep most readers guessing until the end. For those seeking a vampire story that has its roots in tradition, but are also interested in something that hasn’t been done many times before, this should make for an enjoyable, quick read. 


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“X (2022) – Ti West’s Unusual Slasher”

The film “X” takes place in 1979, in Texas. Law enforcement officers, headed by Sheriff Dentler (James Gaylyn), have been called to a grisly crime scene at a secluded farm. A discovery in the basement of the property, makes those who are investigating the crimes wonder just what mayhem took place. From that moment forward, the viewer will learn the events that proceeded the horrific discovery. Wayne, is an aspiring adult film producer, portrayed by Martin Henderson (Virgin River). He has assembled a small group of people, in the hopes that they will help bring his dream of making a great deal of money, in the emerging video tape market, a reality. His plan is to make, for as little money as possible,  “The Farmer’s Daughter,” an adult film he’s written. Aiding Wayne is RJ (Owen Campbell), a young, serious minded director, who wants to elevate the simple concept of people having sex on film, and make it more of an artistic movie. His timid girlfriend, Lorraine, played by Jenna Ortega (Scream), helps RJ by recording the sound for the film. The more she watches, however, the more interested she becomes in participating in what is taking place on screen. Wayne’s cast includes his fame seeking girlfriend, Maxine (Mia Goth), who works as a stripper at his club. She is joined by Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), also a stripper in Wayne’s employ, as well as her boyfriend Jackson, a role acted by Grammy winner Scott Mescudi, more commonly known as Kid Cudi. 

Wayne, and his cast and crew, take a road trip to an isolated farm in Houston, Texas. There they will shoot the film, unbeknownst to the cantankerous owner, Howard (Stephen Ure). Howard at first greets Wayne, toting a shotgun in his hand. Even after its established that Wayne and company are renting a cabin from him, and not trespassing, (something Howard seems to have momentarily forgotten), he issues a warning that his wife Pearl is not to be disturbed.

After filming commences, Pearl becomes obsessed with the carnality that she is witnessing. She sneaks around, and hides while watching the production being made. She is especially taken for some unknown reason with Maxine. Pearl’s body may be in a state of decline, and her age, as alluded to, has hampered her sex life for many years, but her desire remains intact. She has become so stimulated by what she has witnessed, to the point where she asks Howard to be intimate with her. He outright refuses her request, letting her know that is heart wouldn’t be able to take it. As if Pearl’s actions weren’t strange enough, a television show, which features a televangelist (Simon Prast), is shown during various times throughout the film. The televangelist is preaching to a small, but fervent congregation, who seem mesmerized by his every spoken word.  A viewer may wonder, as did I, what is the reason behind showing that particular preacher?   

Not long after filming begins, bad things start to happen to everyone involved with the adult film. I won’t go into detail as to the who or why, in order to not spoil it for those of you who would like to see the film. The filmmakers do an excellent job of utilizing the atmosphere of the farm property. In the back of the property, there is a lake in which an alligator resides. The presence of the gator leads to one of the more edge of the seat moments of the film, and should make a viewer wonder: Will this character die or escape with not a moment to spare? The emphasis during the majority of the film is placed on suspense as opposed to jump scares. For those viewers, however, who like their gore, there should be enough included to satiate. 

Unlike many of the films that have preceded it with a similar setting, Wayne’s cast and crew, as a collective whole, are not stupid and helpless. For example, Jackson is a veteran who knows how to handle himself. The rest have their wits about them, and are capable, however, the proverbial monster or bad guy that they are dealing with, has the upper hand from the outset.   

 “X” was written and directed by Ti West (V/H/S). The film premiered on March 13, 2022, at the South by Southwest Film Festival. Parts horror, and thriller, it has a runtime of 115 minutes. “Pearl,” a prequel film, was shot right after “X.”  As of the writing of this post, no release date has been given.

Will anyone survive? Is a reason given for the mayhem, other than senseless violence? And the question I asked earlier: Why is the televangelist shown on screen? What purpose does he serve? All of those questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion.

In closing, Ti West made some bold choices in this film. When I sat down to watch it, I hadn’t read anything about it. All I did know, is that I had seen a number of West’s other films. I am glad I didn’t read anything that gave any of the reveals away, because that would have hampered my surprise at what was taking place. While I did find the film entertaining, the movie was a bit predictable at times; had it not been, it would’ve taken the film to the next level. Overall, I give the filmmakers a good deal of credit, because they show, with their finished product, that they respect their audience, which they had to have known was going to be comprised primarily of horror fans.                                                                                                                                                                

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“The Holcroft Covenant” (1985)

April 1945, and Nazi Germany is on the verge of collapse. Three high ranking officers: General Heinrich Clausen (Alexander Kerst), General Wilhelm von Tiebolt (Hugo Bower), and General Erich Kessler (Michael Wolf), sign a covenant, and commit suicide, before they can be captured.  The agreement the three men put forth, is that in forty years time, their heirs will inherit a large sum of money, apparently in the hopes that their children will use it for altruistic purposes. General Clausen’s son Noel Holcroft, a foreign born, American architect, working in New York City, portrayed by two time Oscar winner Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules), is to be put in charge of the money. Holcroft, was taken from Germany, to the United States, by his mother Althene, played by two time Golden Globe nominee Lilli Palmer (But Not for Me), less than two years after World War II ended. He was adopted by his step-father, who had his name changed from Clausen. Holcroft knows the truth about his father, the memory of whom, he has distanced himself from.

The highly regarded, Swiss banker, Ernst Manfredi, a role acted by BAFTA nominee Michael Lonsdale (The Day of the Jackal), asks Holcroft to meet him in Geneva to discuss an important business matter. There Holcroft receives from Manfredi, a letter written to him from his father, as well as the news that he has become the executor of the money, which amounts to 4.5 billion dollars. Holcroft’s father, as it turned out, in addition to being a general, was also one of Hitler’s financial advisors, who diverted millions of dollars in funds to a secret Swiss bank account; an account that has been accruing interest for forty years. Althene is against Holcroft taking part in anything to do with his father. She doesn’t believe that Clausen, and the sort of men he planned the covenant with, would want to do any good, or that they would have felt any shame or responsibility for their actions during the war. According to Althene, Holcroft’s father was a fanatic.   

Perhaps Holcroft’s mother was right. From the moment Holcroft’s meeting concludes with Manfredi, there are nefarious individuals who will stop at nothing to keep him from being in charge of the money. Holcroft is approached by British intelligence officer, Commander Leighton, played by BAFTA nominee Bernard Hepton (Get Carter). Commander Leighton arranges it so that Holcroft meets the other heirs of the generals. Helden von Tiebolt is portrayed by Golden Globe nominee Victoria Tennant (The Winds of War), and Helden’s brother Johann is played by BAFTA winner Anthony Andrews (Brideshead Revisited). As the film advances, Holcroft will also meet Erich (Mario Adorf), the son of General Kessler. Do the children of the other generals want to do good with the money, or do they have other ideas as to how it should be used? Not only does Holcroft have to keep his wits about himself and figure out who he can trust, but he has another problem. Oberst (Richard Munch) leads an anti-Nazi group, and he has his suspicions about Holcroft. He is not entirely convinced that Holcroft hasn’t know about his father and the generals’ plan since an early age, and been waiting for the release of the money, so he can become a Hitler for the modern age. Are Oberst’s suspicions correct? The aforementioned questions, and a good deal more will be answered by the film’s conclusion.

“The Holcroft Covenant” was directed by four time Emmy winner John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate).  The screenplay was written by Oscar nominee George Axelrod (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), two time Oscar winner Edward Anhalt (Beckett), and John Hopkins (Thunderball), based on the novel of the same name written by Robert Ludlum. Harper Collins published the book on July 27, 1978. The film premiered on July 6, 1985 at the Mystfest festival in Cattolica, Italy. Parts action, crime, mystery, and thriller, the movie has a runtime of 112 minutes.   



Trivia buffs take note: Oscar nominee James Caan (The Godfather), quit the film the day before filming started. Caan’s departure caused the filmmakers to have to shoot scenes that didn’t involve Noel Holcroft, until Michael Caine, was finished filming the movie “Water,” and could arrive on set. The scenes in the film that are supposed to take place in New York City were all filmed in London, England. “The Holcroft Covenant” was actress Lilli Palmer’s last film. There is a part in the movie where Noel Holcroft is asked to drive a car and he refuses. The part was written for Caine, who in real life does not drive. During one scene Holcroft is listening to the voice of someone named Bernie Sussman on his answering machine, the voice belongs to John Frankenheimer.   

I never read the book the film is based on, so I can’t offer a comparison as to which is better. This seems to be a polarizing film: on the one side are the viewers who either find the positives about it, and consider it was worth at least watching once; on the other side, are those who didn’t like it at all, and their reviews seem to overly critique what they feel the film is lacking. I wanted to see which side would triumph in the end. Furthermore, for myself, I wanted to know if there were ulterior motives behind the creation of the covenant. If there were, what were they? How were those who created it attempting to do harm forty years later? While certainly not as action packed, or as much of a thrill ride as the Bourne movies, also based on Ludlum’s work, the film held my interest from the start until its conclusion.                                                                                            

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“Gwendy’s Final Task by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

“Gwendy” Final Task” is the third book of a trilogy that began with “Gwendy’s Button Box” written by world-renowned author, Stephen King, and co-authored by Richard Chizmar. The novella was published on May 16, 2017 by Cemetery Dance Publications, and takes place in the fictional setting of Castle Rock, Maine, which King has used in a number of his other works. On August 22, 1974, twelve-year-old, Gwendy Peterson meets the mysterious, Richard Farris, a man of an undetermined age, at the Castle View Recreational Park. The meeting was more than a polite exchange of pleasantries, it became the start of a relationship that would go on to span over fifty years of Gwendy’s life. The catalyst for the relationship takes place, when Farris gives Gwendy a ‘button box,’ which he assures the young girl is not as benign as it seems.  

The box is adorned with eight buttons, all different colors, six of them represent continents, Antarctica is excluded. There is also a black button, which must never be touched. Gwendy will come to refer to it as the cancer button. While Farris refrains from specifics as to what would happen if pushed, he intimates that it would culminate in destruction. The other button on the box, the red one, will grant the user anything their heart’s desire, but there is a cost associated to using it for good fortune. Furthermore, there is a slot in the middle, and two small levers on each end of the box. The one on the left produces chocolate which contains wonderful benefits to the person who eats them, while the one on the right dispenses mint condition, Morgan silver dollars. Farris offers a few words of warning, gets up and leaves. In so doing, it begins Gwendy’s first time as the guardian of the box, which will alter the rest of her life.  


The next time Gwendy is entrusted with the box, is in “Gwendy’s Magic Feather.” The second book in the series was a solo effort by Richard Chizmar, and was published by Cemetery Dance Publications on November 19, 2019. Gwendy’s life has moved forward twenty-five years. She’s married to her husband Ryan, a foreign correspondent. Additionally, she has become a successful author, and is serving as a member of Congress representing the people of Castle Rock, Maine. Before Congress is set to go on a holiday break, the box is returned to Gwendy. This time it is not Farris who gives it to her, it is merely left for her, with no explanation as to what to do with it, or why she has been entrusted, once again, to be its guardian. Making matters worse for Gwendy, when she returns home to her district, she learns that two girls have been abducted, the only evidence that has been recovered are teeth, which prompts the media to call the person responsible ‘The Tooth Fairy.’ What role, if any, will the box play, to help capture ‘The Tooth Fairy?’  


In the third book “Gwendy’s Final Task,” the box is given to Gwendy, once more, this time by Farris, who, from his appearance, looks as if his own death is imminent. Published by Cemetery Dance Publications on February 15, 2022, Stephen King returns to co-author the conclusion to the Gwendy trilogy. Farris, this time delineates an exact reason why he wants Gwendy to take the box. The sixty-four year old, now serving as the  junior Senator from Maine, is not the person she once was. For one thing, while she doesn’t show signs of outward ill health like Farris, she’s dealing with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. Her condition is one of the obstacles that could stand in the way of her completing the mission Farris gives her. 

The story in “Gwendy’s Final Task” takes place between the years 2019 and 2026. In the intervening years prior to 2019, the button box had owners, but none that were as good with it as Gwendy was.  According to Farris, there is only one person who he trusts to take care of it, and do what must be done, and that’s Gwendy. She is tasked with destroying it. Farris lets Gwendy know that those who seek the box, can’t be allowed to possess it, because they’d be interested in the complete destruction of everything. The only place that the powerful beings won’t be able to reach it, is in outer space. The novel seamlessly shifts between Gwendy’s journey into space, as well as a number of flashbacks, which impart to the reader, how everything in Gwendy’s life has coalesced to the current moment, as she’s getting ready to blast off into space, in an attempt to complete her mission.

 Even in space, the button box might not be safe. Gareth Winston, a billionaire, who has paid for passage on the rocket ship, she is on, (its destination a space station shared by many nations), is someone who Gwendy absolutely doesn’t trust. She is suspicious of him from the outset. Is her distrust of Gareth her mind playing tricks on her, or is he a genuine threat to her mission? Gwendy has a vision of Winston, while on the space station, which places him in the car, that killed her husband in a hit and run, which is brought up earlier in the story. The supposed accident, and lack of answers, as well as anyone being held accountable, has haunted Gwendy, to the point where she has her friend, who works for government intelligence investigate the matter. Could Winston and her husband’s death be linked? Even Gwendy can’t fathom how there could be a connection. Will she get help in finding out who killed her husband? Can she stay in her right mind long enough to complete her task for Farris, which in essence, will save the world?  


Fans of King’s work will more than likely enjoy the inclusion of the town of Derry, which plays a role in the plot. Pennywise, while not in any way central to the story is mentioned, and does lurk on the periphery. There is also the inclusion of Sheriff Norris Ridgewick, who has appeared in several of King’s works. In addition, there are direct connections to the “Dark Tower” books, which will be immediately recognized by those who King affectionately refers to as his ‘constant readers.’ 

 I wouldn’t recommend starting with this book, if you haven’t read “Gwendy’s Button Box,” and “Gwendy’s Magic Feather,” you’d be doing yourself a disservice; there are references that won’t be known to you. The story amongst the three books was well connected. Certain readers will likely be turned off by a number of derogatory political remarks, depending on how a person typically votes, and what party they identify with. Overall, a well paced and fitting end to the trilogy, that King and Chizmar fans will likely embrace.                                                                                                   

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