September 14, 2009

Different Seasons

Title : Different Seasons
Author : Stephen King
Reading Dates : 13 Sep - 30 Sep 2009

Book Summary of Different Seasons.
Different Seasons is a collection of 4 short stories by the king of horror, Stephen King. The movies The Shawshank Redemption and Apt Pupil were each based on a short story from the book.

Hope Springs Eternal : Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
The first tale, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is a tale of hope. A man who is wrongfully convicted for a murder he didn't commit is determined to regain his freedom whatever the risk. Shawshank Redemption is Andrew Dufresne's tale, told from the point of view of Andy's fellow inmate in Shawshank State Prison. In 1948, Andy is sentenced to lifetime imprisonment for the murder of his wife, Linda and her golf pro lover Glenn Quentin. The narrator, himself a lifer and already in Shawshank for 10 years, first meets Andy when Andy comes to him for help in purchasing and smuggling in a rock hammer. Their friendship grows as they continue to do business together.
Andy's first few years in Shawshank is difficult as he is continually harassed by a group of other prisoners. It only stops in 1950 when Andy proofs his value to his prison guards as a financial adviser. Andy's only hope of proving his innocence comes unexpectedly in early 1963. A new prisoner, Thomas Williams who has grown to like and respect Andy hears of Andy's tale and reveals information his former cellmate in Rhode Island State Penitentiary told him. Tommy's former cellmate, Elwood Blatch had been arrested and convicted of burglary. During his time on Rhode Island he had bragged of having murdered Glenn Quentin during a robbery attempt, and having another man blamed for the crime. Andy passes on this information to the warden, Samuel Norton with the request that he help him but Norton denies all possibility of help to Andy. Andy has proven to be indispensable in helping Norton launder illegal money, and he is loathe to let Andy go.
It is only in 1967, that Andy resurfaces from his despair and unexpectedly reveals to the narrator how he created a false identity, Peter Stevens and saved some of his funds with the help of a close friend. Had his friend not died 6 years ago, he would have been able to hire lawyers to reopen his case. Andy further reveals that should he ever leave Shawshank, he intends to setup a hotel and live out the rest of his days in Zihuatenejo in Mexico. Andy finally escapes Shawshank in 1975. Thinking over the past, the narrator comes to believe that Andy's started to dig his route to escape around the same time he bought a poster of Rita Hayworth from the narrator. Inspired by words Andy leaves him, the narrator who is finally freed in 1977, violates his parole and goes in search of Andy.

Summer of Corruption : Apt Pupil
The second story is of Todd Bowden, whom his mother frequently proudly refers to as an apt pupil quoting from a remark written by one of his teachers on his school report card. Todd who has been fascinated by the Nazis since accidentally stumbling across old war magazines in a friend's home, chances upon an escaped war criminal, Kurt Dussander living under the alias of Arthur Denker. The 13-year old Todd blackmails Dussander in 1974 into telling him details of the atrocities he has carried out in exchange for Todd's silence. Todd's grades soon start to drop drastically due to his unhealthy fascination. In order to protect himself, Dussander offers to masquerade as Todd's grandfather and attend the meeting arranged by the guidance counselor, Edward French, with Todd's parents. It is this bit of subterfuge as well as Todd's months of silence which bounds Todd into a trap of his making. Neither would be able to escape punishment should the truth of Dussander's identity ever came out.
Justice when it comes is swift and unexpected. Dussander has a heart attack while trying to bury his latest murder victim in his cellar. He calls Todd, who covers up for him before calling in an ambulance. In a series of coincidences, a former victim of Dussander's, Morris Heisel winds up in the Santa Donato General in the bed next to him. When Dussander realizes his identity and location has been discovered, he kills himself. The police grows suspicious of Todd over the course of their investigations and suspects not only his complicity in keeping Dussander's identity secret but suspect him of being the perpetrator of a series of brutal murders. When Edward French recognizes Dussander's photo from the newspapers he confronts Todd. Todd who has been gradually coming to the realization that the police already suspects him, snaps and goes on a rampage ending with his own death.
The author links Apt Pupil to Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by having Andy Dufresne having advised Dussander on the purchase of some stocks 1 year prior to his being charged for murder.

Fall From Innocence : The Body
The third story is recounted by 1 of the 4 main characters, Gordon Lachance who has achieved his ambition to be a writer. In it he tells of events which occured over 2 days, 14 years ago prior to his retelling. In 1960, a boy from Chamberlain goes missing. 3 days later, Vern Tessio overhears a conversation between his brother, Billy and Charlie Hogan. The 2 of them had stumbled over the body of the missing Ray Brower but decided not to report it in as they were driving a stolen car then. Vern then tells the narrator and 2 other friends, Chris Chambers and Teddy Duchamp. The 4 12-year olds quickly proposes to make a secret trip out to where the body was found to take a look at it, and then to claim the credit for finding the missing boy's body. Things however do not go entirely as planned. Unable to keep the discovery of the body to themselves, Billy and Charlie too have spilled the secret to their other friends. They in turn decide to make another trip out and pretend that they had only just stumbled over the body. Both parties arrive at the same time, and there is a confrontation over their 'claim'. The 4 boys manage to drive the older group off but realize in the end that they cannot speak of it, fearing the other group might falsely accuse them of wrongdoing. The older boys later get their own back at the 4 friends. Ray Brower's body is found but neither group is able to claim credit for the find. The 4 friends drift apart over the years. Vern dies of a housefire in 1966 while Teddy is killed in a car crash. Chris overcomes the Chambers family's bad reputation and is on the way to building a better life for himself when he is killed violently while trying to mediate an argument between strangers in 1968.
The author links The Body to Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by having Chris Chambers killed by a former prisoner of Shawshank.

A Winter's Tale : The Breathing Method
The final story in this collection is told by our narrator, David Adley in the 1970s. In it, he tells of how he was first invited to join a mysterious club as a guest of the head of his law firm, George Waterhouse. The many mysteries of the club includes its ageless majordomo, Stevens, its large collection of books by unheard of authors, its endless rooms and the unspoken rule which prevents its members from speaking of or asking about the club. The narrator has been a member of this club for nearly 10 years, and in this time has heard many tales told by its members. There is a long-standing tradition in the club where members tell stories every Thursdays. The most gruesome which is usually told on the Thursday before Christmas.
One particularly memorable story, The Breathing Method was told by fellow member Emlyn McCarron. The Breathing Method refers to what is now known as the Lamaze method. In it, Emelyn McCarron tells of 1 of his female patients in 1935. Sandra Stansfield, is a young unmarried pregnant woman whom McCarron grows to respect for her strength of will in the time that he attends her as her physician. On the Christmas eve when she was about to give birth, she was involved in an unfortunate car accident as the taxi she was in arrived at the Harriet White Memorial Hospital. McCarron who had arrived on foot at about the same time witnessed the accident but when he rushed to her aid he saw it was too late as her head had been decapitated. The most amazing though was that she was somehow still alive and employing The Breathing Method he had taught her to give birth. McCarron helps Sandra Stansfield to deliver her child and witnesses her death seconds after she expresses her gratitude to him.
The author links The Breathing Method to The Body by having its respective narrator of the story a member of a club.

Book Review of Different Seasons.
My favourite tale in this collection is Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Shawshank Redemption is compelling because its principal character, Andrew Dufresne's story is compelling. Although unjustly imprisoned, Andy not only does not give up hope but lives his life on his own terms in Shawshank. Justice might have been better served if the real murderer was brought to pay for his crime, but Andy's story would not have been as unforgettable. How Andy escapes from Shawshank is a testimony to both his determination and courage.

The longest tale in this collection belongs to Apt Pupil. It is perhaps the most "thought provoking" story in the collection but the one which I liked the least. The questions which I cannot answer when reading this tale is was Todd Bowden corrupted by Dussander or was he the corruptor ? Was it not he who blackmailed Dussander in telling him all the gory details of the Nazi's sick experiments and methods of torture ? Was that fascination truly born out of innocence or was he not evil in the first place ? It is a contrast to Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and too grim for my tastes.

I neither liked nor disliked The Body or The Breathing Method. The first a tale of growing up and the last, a traditional horror story. Neither story however provoked much reaction from me. I felt neither interest in the boys journey to find The Body or horror at the idea of a dead woman continuing to use The Breathing Method in her determination to give birth to her child.

Links of Interest.

September 11, 2009

When the Women Come Out to Dance

When the Women Come Out to Dance: StoriesTitle : When the Women Come Out to Dance
Author : Elmore Leonard
Reading Dates : 10 Sep - 12 Sep 2009

About the Author.
Elmore Leonard, born in 1925 in New Orleans is the author of a number of novels which have been transformed into films. Most notable of these includes Get Shorty starring John Travolta, Danny DeVito and Rene Russo and Out of Sight starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. American novelist and screenwriter, Elmore John Leonard, started by publishing westerns and went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers. Elmore Leonard's LaBrava was named Edgar Allan Poe Award's best mystery novel in 1983 and in 1992 he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.

Book Summary of When the Women Come Out to Dance.
When the Women Come Out to Dance is a collection of short stories from Elmore Leonard published in 2002. The story from which the book takes its title from tells of Mrs Mahmood who hires a personal maid Lourdes with the intention of getting her to help in disposing of her rich husband. Mrs Mahmood, a former stripper gets her wish and more besides. She gets to play house with her new Colombian friends.

The first story Sparks includes a twist in the ending when an insurance investigator advises a house owner to proceed with her claims rather than report her for arson and fraud after listening to her reasons for burning down her house.

My favourite story however is Tenkiller, the last in the book. It is about Ben Webster, former world champion bull rider and stuntman who returns to his hometown after the recent death of his live-in girlfriend. Upon returning home, Ben finds himself in a confrontation with a family of thugs who have taken over his home. Ben who calls himself Tenkiller in his movies also finally realizes that the girl he has always loved is Denise, a former schoolmate.

Other stories of interest are Karen Makes Out, Hurrah for Capt. Early and The Tonto Woman. Karen Makes Out's protagonist is Karen Sisco, whom some may recognize as the female lead in the movie Out of Sight and the television series, Karen Sisco. Hurrah for Capt. Early tells a tale of racial prejudice with 2 soldiers, Captain Early and Sergeant Major Bo Catlett, just returned from the war in Cuba in 1898. In The Tonto Woman, a would-be cattle thief teaches the abandoned wife of the man he is going to steal from how to live life on her own terms.

Book Review of When the Women Come Out to Dance.
The only story I truly enjoyed in this collection is Tenkiller. It isn't that the other stories were uninteresting or boring, just that the style of writing was not to my personal taste. Often I found the telling rather puzzling or abrupt. Perhaps the fault lies in the difference of culture with my not having a grasp on the American Southern or Western culture ? In most of the stories, I found the characters behaviour, attitudes or conversation with each other simply strange. Take the second tale of Hanging Out at the Buena Vista for instance. A man and a woman who have just met, only needs 1 conversation to decide they like each other and move in together. While both protagonists are dying, I still cannot help but wonder at the decision. What was the attraction between them ? Tenkiller on the other hand I understand. Its almost similar in tone to some of the American Wild West movies I used to watch as a child. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Related Links.

September 5, 2009


Title : Desperation
Author : Stephen King
Reading Dates : 5 Sep - 9 Sep 2009

Book Summary of Desperation.
The book starts off with relating how most of the main characters end up being captured by Collier Entragian, 1 of Desperation's Town Police who has somehow gone mad and murdered almost everyone in Desperation. One of the survivors' of Entragian's rampage in Desperation is veterinarian Tom Billingsley whom he imprisons. The Carver family on vacation from Ohio is tricked by Entragian pretending to be protecting them from another cop gone bad. By the time they realize they've been tricked, its too late and 7-year old Kirsten has been killed. Ralph, Ellen and David Carver all end up in the town jail as well. Next, Peter and Mary Jackson of New York are arrested by Entragian. It is only when Peter is shot and killed that Mary realizes that her life is now in the hands of a madman. Next, has-been writer John Marinville is arrested on trump up charges as well by Entragian. Johnny, who quickly realizes that something is wrong manages to call Steve Ames who has been hired to follow Johnny at a discreet distance and provide him with any required assistance. Though the reception is bad, Steve is able to discern that something bad may have happened and with hitchhiker Cynthia Smith in tow rushes off to find Johnny. Steve and Cynthia quickly realize that something worse than an accident may have occured and head off to the nearest town, Desperation to seek assistance.

Shortly after Entragian's capture of Johnny, he drags Ellen Carver off leaving the rest of his prisoners behind. 11-year old David manages to escape from his prison cell and free the other prisoners. David and the other escapees decide to hide out in an abandoned cinema, The American West. Steve and Cynthia who arrived in Desperation around that time, soon realizes that there are supernatural forces at work. They join David's group with another Desperation survivor, Audrey Wyler.

Meanwhile, unknown to the group of survivors, the being which was in Entragian has now taken over Ellen's body and is back in Desperation hunting its escaped prisoners. The creature known as Tak sends a cougar in after their group in the cinema. Billingsley is killed by the cougar while Audrey who has actually been under Tak's control attempts to kill David. They manage to save David while Audrey dies instead. Mary who had stayed behind alone with the dying Billingsley is recaptured by Tak while the others were battling Audrey.

After much persuasion, David convinces the rest that they must close the entrance of the mine, the China Pit from which Tak escaped. Although they succeed and save Mary, it is at the cost of Ralph and Johnny's lives.

Book Review of Desperation.
Finishing Desperation, I was not quite sure what to think of it. It could hardly have been a happy ending with David Carver losing his entire family because he had tried to do what was necessary, what his God demanded of him. And yet his life was spared and he still kept his faith in the end. Then, there's Johnny Marinville's character. Right from the start, I couldn't like his character. He seemed pretentious, vain and cowardly. But in the end he was given a chance at redemption and he did take it. In the end, he chose to sacrifice himself to save the others. I supposed I can only say that the book is interesting, but I can't rightly decide whether I liked it or not.

Links to other Stephen King books.
  • The character of Cynthia Smith has appeared before in Rose Madder.
  • Cynthia has a discount card for Tower Records and Video, a link to the Dark Tower series.
  • Collie Entragian refers to himself as a wolf at one point, a link to The Talisman and the Dark Tower series.
  • There is a mention of The Tommyknockers.

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Links of Interest.
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