4.5 out of 5 stars.
Roadside salesman Mr. Elvid makes an offer to terminally ill Dave Streeter: Streeter can have an extension on his life if he chooses another to take the negative consequences. Streeter picks the man he hates most: his best friend.
“Fair Extension” is a wicked, modern twist on Twilight Zone tropes. And at 31 pages, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
It’s a nasty story that takes delights in its nastiness. And I love it for that (I’m not proud).
The Juniper Hill asylum for the criminally insane in Augusta.
Juniper Hill is a Stephen King creation, used in several of his works (see the Stephen King Wiki for the list, though it doesn’t include this story).
 A Rosemary’s Baby-ish touch:
Streeter, who had played his share of Scrabble in his time, had already imagined the letters of Elvid’s name on tiles and rearranged them.
With another character named Goodhugh, this story isn’t hiding any of its cards.
If not from Juniper Hill, then from Acadia Mental Health in Bangor.
Acadia Hospital in Bangor has Mental Health services.
“I think jail’s way too good for the evil bastards who blew up the USS Cole.”
The USS Cole bombing was a terrorist attack on October 12, 2000 against the United States Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole while it was being refueled in Yemen’s Aden harbor. Seventeen American sailors were killed and 39 injured. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack.
(Why don’t I remember this?)
“If I may misquote the late Dino Martino, Mr. Streeter, everybody hates somebody sometime.”
Dino Martino is a nickname for Dean Martin and the song is “Everybody Loves Somebody,” which he popularized in 1964.
“So let’s recap (…) Tom Goodhugh was better looking than you, even when you were children. He was gifted with athletic skills you could only dream of. The girl who kept her smooth white thighs closed in the backseat of your car opened them for Tom. He married her. They are still in love. Children okay, I suppose?”
“Healthy and beautiful!” Streeter spat.
“The Bible says ‘who can find a good woman? For her price is above rubies.’ Something like that, anyway.”
Proverbs 31: 10
A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The Atenolol bottle was half full. Streeter took one of the tablets, tucked it into the watch-pocket of his jeans, and flushed the toilet. Then he left the bathroom, feeling like a man who has just snuck across the border of a strange country.
“This isn’t some half-assed morality tale. I’m a businessman, not a character out of ‘The Devil and Daniel Webster.’ ”
 Kind of like Beaumont linking his “Howling Man” to Hitler (note ), “Fair Exchange” treads into poor taste by implying connections between Streeter’s agreement and real-world events:
“What if I want to take it back,” Streeter whispered.
Elvid favored him with a stony smile that revealed a jutting ring of cannibal teeth. “You can’t,” he said.
That was in August of 2001, less than a month before the fall of the Towers.
A plane carrying two members of the rock band Blink-182 crashed. Bad news, four people died. Good news, the rockers actually survived for a change… although one of them would die not much later.
Along with being shitty to include in this story, the above paragraph has a mistake. DJ AM, who was in the plane crash with Blink-182’s Travis Barker, was not a member of the band.
Streeter did not begrudge [Tom] a little happiness. He supposed that even in hell, people got an occasional sip of water, if only so they could appreciate the full horror of unrequited thirst when it set in again.
Gracie fell victim to pyorrhea and lost all her teeth. She also lost her sense of smell.
Periodontitis, also known as pyorrhea, is a set of inflammatory diseases affecting the periodontium (the tissues that surround and support the teeth). It can lead to the loosening and loss of teeth.
It doesn’t appear to link to a loss of smell, but since the Goodhugh family is having the worst luck in existence, I’ll believe that Gracie lost both teeth and smell.
Gracie’s baby came at the height of a February snowstorm in 2008. The good news was that it wasn’t deformed. The bad news was that it was born dead.
“One of the women killed in the Mumbai attacks was pregnant, did you know that? Her two-year-old lived, but the kid was beaten within an inch of his life.”
In the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka Holtzberg, who was five/six months pregnant, were murdered in the Nariman House.
The real story is sadder than King presented:
The Holtzberg’s firstborn died of Tay-Sachs disease at 3 years old. Their second son, DovBer, was born with the same ailment and was institutionalized in a pediatric long-term care facility in Israel under the care of his grandparents. He died at the age of 4 in December 2008, one month after his parents’ murder. Their third son, Moshe, was born healthy and lived with them in Mumbai. Moshe’s nanny, Sandra Samuel saved the boy during the attacks, taking him from the house after his parents were killed. Samuel is still the boy’s caretaker.
 Great last lines:
Janet laughed and shook her head. “What would I wish for? I have everything I want.”
“Me, too,” Streeter said, and then, with his eyes fixed firmly on Venus, he wished for more.
A GOOD MARRIAGE
5 out of 5 stars.
Darcy unwittingly discovers her husband’s terrible secret: he’s a serial killer.
Gets a perfect score because I simply have no complaints.
 Important events from each of the stories in Full Dark occur in October:
“1922”: Arlette (and rats) visit James; his hand is bitten.
“Big Driver”: Tess’s rape and revenge killings.
“Fair Exchange”: Streeter’s initial meeting with Elvid.
“A Good Marriage”: Darcy finds box in garage, setting off the entire story.
She had been born Darcellen Madsen.
Does anyone know of any other uses of this name? Only “A Good Marriage” shows up in search results.
She went to Freeport High School, and then to Addison Business School.
Freeport High School is a public high school in Freeport, Maine, established in 1961.
Addison Business School is a creation of King’s.
But all of that was just history, the stuff of obituaries.
 “A Good Marriage” has a continuity mistake similar to ones found in “1922” (Post 1, notes  and ):
She’d taken a few trips herself (the saddest to be with her parents in Minneapolis after her kid sister Brandolyn had died in a freak accident).
This implies that Darcy traveled to her parents’ house after learning of Brandolyn’s death. But when Darcy thinks of the death again, it seems she was already at the house before anyone even knew Brandolyn had been killed:
Brandolyn Madsen had been struck and killed by a drunk snowmobiler while she was out cross-country skiing. He fled, leaving her body in the woods half a mile from the Madsen house. (…) It was Darcy’s father who had found her body and carried it home through half a mile of pine woods. Darcy – stationed in the living room, monitoring the phone and trying to keep her mother calm – had been the first to see him. He came walking up the lawn under the harsh glare of a full winter moon.
Search parties had only started to look for Brandolyn a few hours before. No one suspected anything worse than missing yet.
“It’s just as easy to pull it in,” he had said on more than one occasion (when you were married twenty-seven years, original comments tended to be thin on the ground).
There was a Brookstone catalog she had misplaced just underneath. And beneath that Paula Young… Talbots… Forzieri… Bloomingdale’s (…) Danskin, Express, Computer Outlet… Macworld… Monkey Ward… Layla Grace [sic].
(p.291 – 292)
Paula Young sells wigs and hair products aimed toward women.
Forzieri sells bags, shoes, jewelry, accessories, clothing, etc.
Express sells men and women’s clothing.
Computer Outlet is a semi-common name for companies; it doesn’t appear to be a single company which would send out catalogs.
Monkey Ward was referenced in “1922” (Post 1, note ).
Layla Grayce sells “Luxury Furniture and Stylish Home Décor”.
The idea that such sympathy could be nothing but sweet icing on a poison cake was insane. The fact that she was at this moment lying to him was even more insane. If, that was, there were degrees to insanity. Or maybe insanity was like unique, and there was no comparative or superlative form.
You could not turn off love – even the rather absent, sometimes taken for granted love of twenty-seven years – the way you’d turn off a faucet. Love ran from the heart, and the heart had its own imperatives.
A copy of a book called The Shack. You ought to read this, Darce, it’s a life-changer, he’d said.
The Shack is a Christian novel by Canadian author William P. Young, published in 2007. The novel was self-published but became a bestseller (it was the No. 1 paperback trade fiction seller on The New York Times Best Seller list from June 2008 to early 2010). The story follows a father of five who loses his young daughter to a serial killer.
He cocked his head to one side, Bob’s body language for I find you dense, but amusingly so.
Old habits died hard. Often, she thought, they don’t die until we do.
They had not just one bottle of very pricey Moet et Chandon but two.
Moet & Chandon, or Moet, is a French fine winery. It was established in 1743 by Claude Moet and today produces approximately 28,000,000 bottles of champagne. A bottle begins at around $40 dollars.
She saw the knowledge leap into his eyes at the very last second, something old and yellow and ancient. It was more than surprise; it was shocked fury. In that moment her understanding of him was complete. He loved nothing, least of all her. Every kindness, caress, boyish grin and thoughtful gesture – all were nothing but camouflage. He was a shell. There was nothing inside but howling emptiness.
It would be like the last chapter of an Elizabeth George.
Elizabeth George (b.1949) is an American writer of mystery novels set in Great Britain. She is best known for a series of novels featuring inspector Thomas Lynley.
“Way up in The County, this was. (…) He ran, and I chased him right into the Hainesville [sic] Woods, where the song says there’s a tombstone every mile. And there we both crashed on Wickett’s Curve.”
Haynesville is a town in Aroostook County, Maine. The population was 121 at the 2010 census.
The area of Haynesville is referenced in country music performer Dick Curless’s song “A Tombstone Every Mile” (1965). The song refers to the “Haynesville Woods”, an area with a stretch of road noted for many motor vehicle accidents. Truck drivers used to ship potatoes to market in Boston and a dangerous hairpin turn in the route through Haynesville was the inspiration for the song.
I can’t find reference to Wickett’s Curve in Haynesville.
“Can you imagine someone low enough to steal a Bible?”
“Yes,” Darcy said.
“You’re quite the hound of heaven, aren’t you?”
“The Hound of Heaven” is a Christian poem written by English poet Francis Thompson (1859 – 1907). Thompson’s work was praised by G. K. Chesterton and it was also an influence on J. R. R. Tokien.
The full text can be found here.
“I used to know ‘The Death of the Hired Man.’ ”
“The Death of the Hired Man” is a poem by Robert Frost, written in 1905 or 1906.
The full text can be found here.
“You must’ve been just a child yourself, given how young and pretty you are now.”
She gave him a chilly spare-me smile, then got up to pour herself a fresh cup of coffee.
“Well, you know what the song says, time takes it all in the end – your eyes, the spring in your step, even your friggin jump shot.”
(p.357 – 358)
King seems to be quoting himself (from The Green Mile), not a song.
She said nothing. Only looked at him. Looked into him, the way you looked into people you knew well. Only you had to be careful when you did that, because you weren’t always seeing what you thought you were seeing. She knew that now.
“Maybe even helping him, like Myra Hindley helped Ian Brady.”
The Moors murders were carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between July 1963 and October 1965, in and around what is now Greater Manchester, England. The victims were five children aged between 10 and 17.
Characterized by the press as “the most evil woman in Britain”, Hindley made several appeals against her life sentence, claiming she was a reformed woman and no longer a danger to society, but she was never released. She died in 2002, aged 60. Brady was declared criminally insane in 1985 and confined to the high-security Ashworth Hospital. The murders supposedly began when Brady told Hindley that he wanted to “commit his perfect murder” and told her to drive her van while he followed on motorcycle until they spotted a likely victim.
When people ask about my work, I have developed a habit of skirting the subject with jokes and humorous personal anecdotes (which you can’t quite trust; never trust anything a fiction writer says about himself).
I have no quarrels with literary fiction, which usually concerns itself with extraordinary people in ordinary situations, but as both a reader and a writer, I’m much more interested by ordinary people in extraordinary situations.
The great naturalist writer Frank Norris has always been one of my literary idols.
Frank Norris (1870 – 1902) was an American journalist and sometime novelist during the Progressive Era, whose fiction was predominantly in the naturalist genre. His notable works include McTeague (1899), The Octopus: A Story of California (1901), and The Pit (1903). He died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix.
Bad writing is more than a matter of shit syntax and faulty observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do – to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.
Full Dark, No Stars is recommended to anyone who is interested in darkness, finds being unsettled entertaining, wants some great reading, loves King, knows little about King, knows nothing about King.
Next week, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.