The Dark Tower or What To Do After Harry Potter

So, the final book of Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling has been released. Yes, I have it. No, I haven’t begun to read it yet but if it is as wonderful as the past 6 books, I know I won’t be disappointed.

There is another series circulating in town by a present day author that hasn’t made as much of a bang as the Potter series, yet it is equally as good, if not better. I’m talking about Stephen King’s Dark Tower series which, ironically, is also made up of seven volumes.

I’ve read quite a few of Stephen King’s books. I’ve read “The Stand”, “Jerusalem’s Lot”, “Hearts of Atlantis”, “The Regulators”, and some of the Bachman books, like “Thinner”, the latter of which were rejected by booksellers until they realized that Richard Bachman was Stephen King. Names sell books.

There is a book out now called “Crooked Little Vein” by Warren Ellis, who is well-known for his excellent graphic novels, published under the Harper-Collins imprint. I skimmed it, being an Ellis fan through his graphic novels, and the only disappointment I found was that my own novel Tales of the Troll: Junkies, Angels & Demons, hasn’t found a publisher yet and it is just as good as Ellis’s book. Of course, I’ve only sent it out to two places, which I won’t name, so maybe it is just sour grapes but people who have read it love it. Every chapter except for about five out of thirty-two chapters has been published somewhere and I’ve made a few chapbooks of it a number of times and sold out every time. Anyway, back to the main topic. Two of my favorite Stephen King novels were “The Stand”, and “Hearts of Atlantis”. I love the “low-men”. Sorry, you won’t find any spoilers here.

I blew off The Dark Tower series for a number of reasons. One being, Mr. King wrote the first four and then stopped working on the series, except for in his head. It was close to ten years before he decided to take book 5, The Wolves of the Calla, out of his head. Within the next three years he wrote book 6, The Song of Susannah, and completed the series with book 7, appropriately called The Dark Tower.

Then, in 2006, Marvel Comics started putting out a portion of The Dark Tower in comic book form. Besides reading regular literature, I also read comics. I read hungrily. I am a word junkie, which beats being a heroin junkie, which I was for over three decades. I never stopped reading or writing; I just lost everything I wrote, except for a book of poetry I wrote in prison called Poison Pen, which I released as a chapbook, made 500 copies and sold them all.

But before I picked up the opiates, my drug of choice was fantasy. I day-dreamed in school, in the playground and at home. I finished Moby Dick by the time I was 8 years old. Truth to tell, it took me close to four months to read, but hey, I was just a kid.

Some of my heroes growing up were Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, and Philip K. Dick. There were plenty of others. On the darker side was Junkie by William Lee or, as we later found out, William S. Burroughs, who became infamous because of his book called The Naked Lunch. I think his best two books were “Junkie” and “Queer”. There are those who might disagree, but so what!

But, back to The Dark Tower by Marvel Comics. I read the first three installments; there were seven called The Gunslinger Born, and said to myself, “hmm, this is pretty good. I think I’ll give the books a chance. Peter David, who graphically wrote them — Thank you. And I started the first of the 7, called “The Gunslinger.”

Now, Stephen King, sometime during the period between books 4 and 5, like I said — about ten years — had a lot to think about. When he almost got killed by a Plymouth van in the late 90′s, his thinking changed. I know this for a fact because getting whacked by a pick-up truck, which I wrote about in a short story called “Getting Fixed In South Carolina”, in 1991, did the same for me. Yes, my story got published and a jazz group called The Jeff Robinson Trio made a Spoken Word cd about it that got written up by The Boston Globe. We only had the cash to make a few thousand, but, “Cry your pardon”, it did sell out and the story was published in a few places, just no place really big.

Bam, it changed my life. I stopped using heroin for the first time and went into recovery. But back to the main story, which is Stephen King and The Dark Tower.

Stephen King went back to The Dark Tower. He did some re-writing of the first four books and he worked diligently, totally inspired and gifted by the Muse like never before. You can tell whether you have the re-write of the first four because each of the new ones begin with a preface called “On Being Nineteen.” If you have one of the first four of The Dark Tower Series and it doesn’t have “On Being Nineteen” in the beginning “I cry your pardon”, you don’t have the finished product in your hands.

Now — I don’t know yet how “Harry Potter” will end up yet because I haven’t read the final book yet. I also don’t know how The Dark Tower series will finish because I’ve only read the first 5 books of the series of 7.
“The Dark Tower” series is good, really good. Did you ever read a book and hope it will never end because it was so good? If you have, then you know what I’m talking about. I don’t want “Harry Potter” to end, but, even more so, I don’t want “The Dark Tower” series to end.

“The Dark Tower” series is by far, in my not-always-so-humble-opinion, the best series of books that Stephen King has ever written. Jack Spicer, who is a great poet, once said that “Writers are the dictation machines of the Gods.”

Well the Gods were sitting on Stephen King’s shoulders, creeping in his ears, spinning around in his fantastical mind, which I wouldn’t want to get lost in, when he wrote “The Dark Tower” series. If you’ve read anything by Stephen King and liked it, if you blow off “The Dark Tower” series because it looks too long, you are doing yourself a major disservice.

The truth, and I “cry your pardon if you deny this and have forgotten the face of your fathers”, is that “The Dark Tower” series is too short. But so is life. Now if you’re just nineteen, then you have no idea how short life is, unless you are in Iraq, but, in the preface to “The Gunslinger”, which is the first of the 7, and in the next 3 books in “The Dark Tower” series, Stephen King, will tell you about “The Bad Patrol Boy” and how He’s gunning for you and you don’t even have a clue yet.

But that’s all I should say. Just walk into a book store; I like the Harvard Book Store on 1256 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, and look for a copy of “The Dark Tower” series, any-one of the first four, and read the preface. It’s called, and I know I’m repeating myself, “On Being Nineteen”, and then you might have some idea on how good “The Dark Tower” series is. Please, and “I cry your pardon”, begin with book one called “The Gunslinger.”

You’ll also want to look over your shoulder and have one hand on your gun. “He’s coming for you.” Whatever you do, read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Now that you’ve finished “Harry Potter”, you owe it to yourself to have another adventure, ya might say equally as good. Me, I think it is better. It’s the best writing Stephen King has ever done and it is probably the series which will follow him beyond the grave.
But what do I know? I’m just 61 years old and never thought I’d see that day.

One important fact. “The Dark Tower” series is not for children. It’s for people who were 8 year old when the first “Harry Potter” book came out. Do the math, then read this unbelievable series.

All props to you, Stephen King, and may you live long and well. I wonder if the guy on death row ever got to finish the series. Mr. King, you know what I’m talking about. And, The Old Woman, may the miracle take place for her.

And you — Read this, slow down and enjoy it. It goes faster than you think.