Filler content with a king

Two reviews that originally appeared in Black Static #34:-

STEPHEN KING: IN TRIVIAL PURSUIT

From Cemetery Dance we have two new books targeted at fans of the world’s most successful horror writer, but before I get into reviewing them let’s post a caveat emptor. When I read the words ‘Trivia Book’ I anticipate something along the lines of The Book of Lists: Horror, a volume stuffed to the gunwales with obscure and little known but interesting facts, something I can dip into at my leisure then regurgitate the information to fellow horror aficionados and impress them with how knowledgeable I am about all things ghostly and ghoulish. These books certainly contain a wealth of King trivia, but it’s set out in the form of multiple choice questions so that a more appropriate comparison might be with the game of Trivial Pursuit.

For example:-

Where was Stephen King born?

  1. Bangor
  2. Lewiston
  3. Portland
  4. Castle Rock

 A gold star to anyone who answered ‘c. Portland’, and can the rest of you please stay after class?

In practical terms, this means that you’ll probably get a lot less King trivia than you might have been expecting, with three red herrings to every cold fact, but it also means that there’s a lot more potential for sharing with friends and having fun, adding a social dimension to the reading experience. You could even organise your very own King themed Quiz Nights, perhaps with an all-expenses paid stay at the Overlook for the winner. The possibilities are endless.

Yes, I am getting silly.

Compiled by Brian James Freeman and Bev Vincent, THE ILLUSTRATED STEPHEN KING TRIVIA BOOK (Cemetery Dance pb, 480pp, $19.95) is a revised and updated edition of a volume that originally appeared in 2004. And, for those who have this book’s predecessor and wish to know if the new iteration is worth getting, by way of additional material it contains over a hundred new questions plus ten brand new illustration-based questions from artist Glenn Chadbourne (over seventy illustrations in all), and also plus an afterword by Kevin Quigley, the founder of one of the oldest King fan sites on the web.

The material is organised into nine themed sections, taking in such subject matter as King’s biography, his novels, his short stories, The Dark Tower series of books, his non-fiction etc. Some of the questions seemed quite obscure to me, but then there wouldn’t be much point to including them if they were the kind of queries everybody knows the answer to, or perhaps I’m just not as clued up on King as I should be. For those who find themselves unusually challenged, the authors have been considerate enough to include thirty pages of hints (the hint for the sample question above is ‘Maybe that’s why they filmed Stand By Me in Oregon’), though the uncharitable might classify these as cryptic clues and find them not helpful at all. And it’s here that the book touches on one of my pet peeves, in that the hints and answers are all stuck at the back of the book rather than alongside or beneath the questions, so that you have to keep turning back and forth, something I really, really don’t like. Still, your mileage may differ and it’s a minor point, one which certainly doesn’t seriously detract from the entertainment value of this book.

Companion volume THE ILLUSTRATED STEPHEN KING MOVIE TRIVIA BOOK (Cemetery Dance pb/hb, 442pp, $19.95/$40) contains over a thousand questions compiled by Brian James Freeman, Hans-Åke Lilja and Kevin Quigley, with fifty plus illustration-based questions posed by Glenn Chadbourne. This is a new book rather than a reissue, and perhaps that conferred on the authors the freedom to provide more reader friendly formatting, or at least organise the material in a format this reader found more agreeable.

With the previous volume, all questions relating to King’s novels were thrown in together in the section titled ‘Novels’, but here each film based on King’s work gets its own section, beginning with Carrie from 1976 and going through right up to 2011’s Bag of Bones, and the answers are conveniently grouped at the end of the relevant section so that I can find out how right or wrong I am without the risk of repetitive strain injury. Post Bag of Bones we get specialist sections on such things as ‘Stephen King, the Actor’ and the numerous sequels to King’s work by other hands, with the Children of the Corn franchise getting a section all to itself. Along the way we learn about the various actors who have been repeat offenders in King inspired movies and discover the ‘Dollar Babies’, which are short films King has allowed amateurs to make from his stories. As with the previous volume, there’s a lot to be learned here, and I was surprised to discover that there are King films that not only have I not seen, but didn’t actually know had been made.

Whatever quibbles I may have, it’s glaringly obvious that both books are sincere acts of King love, produced by people who adore the man’s work and targeted at the many who share that infatuation, with particular kudos to artist Chadbourne whose fine line black and white drawings, whatever their value as visual clues, are one of the true pleasures of these volumes. At bottom what we have here are fun books that should appeal to the King completists and more casual fans alike, and as I suggested earlier, with the potential to stimulate some interesting discussions and social exchanges, and of course, given the wealth of trivia they contain, even Stephen King’s #1 fan will probably learn something new.

 

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