Monday 2 August 2010

Charing Cross Catch: The Dark Half by Stephen King

And so we continue with the books wot I bought during my recent books bonanza, moving on to the London segment of the splurge. I was going to blog about these ones in the order I bought them, but I want to save the Donald Westlake/Richard Stark ones – for lo, there were indeed Westlake/Stark purchases – for last, as I was rather chuffed with those, plus I've got some other things on a Westlake tip that have arrived since, so I'll have a torrent of Westlake scores to post one after the other. Our Westlake cup runneth over.

But before all that, here's a book I bought in Henry Pordes on Charing Cross Road (a solid, reasonably-priced bookshop, always worth a look) that, cunningly, still has a Westlake connection:

A UK hardback first edition of Stephen King's The Dark Half, published in 1989 by Hodder & Stoughton. I read this probably around the time it was published, as I did with all of King's books up until the mid-1990s, borrowed from Beckenham Library, and it's always been one of my favourites – not quite up there with The Stand and Salem's Lot, but not far off, certainly as good as the likes of Needful Things. It's about a literary author, Thad Beaumont, who's also written a series of violent crime novels (which are much more successful than his literary efforts) under the pseudonym George Stark. He decides to kill off his alter ego... but Stark won't stay dead, and becomes a physical entity.

There's more to it than that, but Westlake fans will have noted the surname of Thad's alter ego, and as Trent at Violent World of Parker has handily excerpted, there's a passage in the book where Beaumont explains his choice of the Stark surname and expounds on Westlake and the Parker novels. Not being aware of Westlake at the time I read The Dark Half, that's probably the first time I came across a reference to Richard Stark, although I can't say if it lodged in my brain at all. But in any case, that's why I decided to pick up this copy, as well as it being a damn fine book. I like that cover too, which is much stronger than the US one, and is by one Davies. Dunno if that's a first or last name.

Interestingly, Wikipedia reckons The Dark Half was the second best-selling book of 1989, behind Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger, which I've also read. And actually, glancing back at the best-sellers for the 1980s, it looks like I read the number one best-seller for the three years before that too, something I don't think has happened before or since. Curious.

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