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The Dark Half
Stephen King
Narrated by Grover Gardner, unabridged
Blackstone Audio, 15.4 hours

Stephen King
Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine, in 1947. He attended the grammar school in Durham, Maine, and then Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. King graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in 1970, with a B.S. in English and qualified to teach at the high school level. He met his wife, Tabitha, in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University of Maine of Orono, where they both worked as students. Unable to find a teaching job, the couple lived on his earnings as a labourer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines. In the fall of 1971, King began teaching high school English classes at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. In the spring of 1973, Doubleday & Co. accepted his novel Carrie for publication. A few months later, its paperback sale provided him with the means to leave teaching and write full-time.

Stephen King Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Tommyknockers
SF Site Review: Christine
SF Site Column: Climbing the Tower
SF Site Review: LT's Theory of Pets
SF Site Review: Dreamcatcher
SF Site Review: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
SF Site Review: Hearts in Atlantis
SF Site Review: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
SF Site Review: Bag of Bones
SF Site Review: Storm of the Century

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven Brandt

The Dark Half When promising young novelist Thaddeus Beaumont began to suffer from writer's block, he took the cue from one of his favorite writers and decided to try writing under a pen name, George Stark. Unlike Thad's earlier books, Stark's novels were darker and more violent, something the public seemed to crave since Stark's books were much more popular than Thad's had been.

After a while, Thad himself seemed to grow darker, as if Stark's forceful personality was somehow overpowering the mild-mannered persona of Thad Beaumont. When a crazed fan uncovers the link between Beaumont and Stark, and blackmails the writer, Thad decides it's the perfect time to bury his dark half once and for all. It never occurred to Thad that George Stark might not want to go away.

When Thad received the blackmail threat from his obsessed fan, Frederick Claussen, he wasn't sure if he was afraid, outraged, or just plain relieved. It was the latter emotion that eventually won out, however. Thad had been having more and more difficulty suppressing his darker side and was afraid that George Stark might one day overwhelm him completely.

People magazine quickly picked up the story, sending a small crew to the Beaumont's summer home near Castle Rock, Maine, for an interview and photo shoot. The centerpiece of the magazine article was a photo of Thad and his wife shaking hands over a phony gravestone bearing the epitaph, "George Stark -- Not a very nice guy," at the local cemetery.

A few days later, Castle Rock's groundskeeper found something very strange at that cemetery. At first it looked like some of the local kids had been playing pranks again, digging holes at the cemetery. Upon closer inspection, however, it didn't really look like someone had dug a hole, but more like someone had pushed their way out of the ground, with a single set of footprints leading away from the site. Then the old timer realized that this was the spot where the magazine had staged their publicity photo; he was present at the event and remembered it well.

And then the murders begin. Frederick Claussen is the first to die, then Thad's agent, the photographer and interviewer from the cemetery, and a girl from the publisher's accounting department who, as it turns out, is the one who leaked information to Claussen. In other words, everyone who had anything to do with Stark's "death." It doesn't take Thad long to figure out what's going on, as crazy as it sounds, but how will he ever convince the police that he and his family are in danger? Of course we all know now that Stephen King himself used to write books under the pen name Richard Bachman, to whom The Dark Half is dedicated. You can't help but wonder how much of Thad Beaumont's turmoil Stephen King experienced during this period of his career. Taking a slightly wider view, I think many of us have, at one time or another, felt the two halves of our personality vying for control. That's what makes Stephen King's work so universally appealing: he speaks to us in a language we can understand, about topics we have all experienced, albeit perhaps not to the extreme level that his characters have gone.

The climax of The Dark Half is one of Stephen King's best and most exciting, in my opinion. King sometimes struggles with his endings, but he nailed this one, and I love the way he wrote it. It is told from two different perspectives, and King keeps bouncing back and forth between them, giving an almost stereoscopic view of the exciting finish.

Narrator Grover Gardner began is career in audiobooks in 1981 with the Talking Book program for the Library of Congress. Since then he has recorded more than 650 audiobooks, and has done work for all of the major audiobook publishers at one time or another. During his career, he has won 20 Audiophile Earphone Awards. I only recently heard my first Grover Gardner audiobook, and he is really starting to grow on me. He reads very naturally, and doesn't begin to drone after a while like some narrators I have heard.

The Dark Half is an excellent audiobook from what I think of as Stephen King's classic period. I highly recommend it. By the way, if you want to find out how Thad Beaumont's life turned out after this story, read Bag of Bones.

Copyright © 2011 Steven Brandt

Steven Brandt spends most of his waking hours listening to audiobooks and reviewing them for his blog, Audiobook Heaven. When not reading or reviewing, Steven is usually playing the saxophone for the entertainment and amusement of his family.

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