Full Dark, No Stars
Greetings, ‘Full Dark, No Stars’ is a set of stories written by famed horror author Stephen King and was initially released in 2010. The four stories are unconnected to each other but share the same theme of retribution which gives the book a sense of cohesiveness. While he has written many collections of short stories in prior years, this was King’s third compilation of four sizeable works contained within the one book after he published ‘Different Seasons’ in 1982 and ‘Four Past Midnight’ in 1990. The stories in ‘Full Dark, No Stars’ are ‘1922’, ‘Big Driver’, ‘Fair Extension’ and ‘A Good Marriage’. Some editions that had been published in 2011 also include the additional short story of ‘Under the Weather’ which is about a married advertiser who’s fragile mind prevents him for accepting the awful truth of his situation and his attempts to hide from reality.
The plot of ‘1922’, which is probably the most well-known of the aforementioned stories, starts with the character of Wilfred James writing out a confession to a gruesome crime he committed in that same year. Wilfred introduces himself as a farmer who lived with his wife, Arlette, and their son, Henry, on their farmstead in Nebraska. 80 acres of the land belong to Wilfred while another 100 acres was inherited by Arlette. The discrepancy in the amount of land becomes a source of contention between the two especially when Arlette, using her position as the inheritor of the larger swathe of land, leverages this fact in her attempts to leave rural Nebraska and live as a city dweller in Omaha. After failing to convince Wilfred to move out in accordance with her dream, Arlette seeks to sell her land to a livestock firm that have plans to build a slaughterhouse on their turf. The outcome would result in Wilfred’s acreage becoming effectively useless, forcing him to sell his land and ensure Arlette would get her way in the end.
With no method of reigning Arlette in or dissuading her from her chosen path, Wilfred begins to poison the mind of his son against his mother for his own benefit. He carefully manipulates Henry into seeing things his way and plays on his son’s deepest fears with a great level of success. In particular, Wilfred stresses the very real possibility that Arlette’s decision would split up Henry and his youthful paramour. The neighbouring Shannon Cotterie had stolen the young Henry’s heart and the thought of being separated from her was torment for the boy. With the seeds firmly planted in his son’s mind, Wilfred slowly conspired with Henry and gets him to eventually accept a nefarious plan. The only way to prevent Arlette from destroying their idyllic lives was to remove her from the picture completely. Once Wilfred has convinced Henry that there was no other way to do this, he is eventually talked into the committing the act of matricide. Unfortunately for Wilfred, he discovers that sometimes the dead don’t always stay that way and sometimes they come back for revenge.
As with most of King’s projects, three of the four stories were adapted into films. ‘A Good Marriage’ and ‘Big Driver’ didn’t make much of an impression among audiences with the latter being debuted as a television movie but ‘1922’ made more of an impact when it was released as a Netflix original. The 2017 film was directed by Zak Hilditch and starred Thomas Jane as Wilfred, Molly Parker as Arlette, Dylan Schmid as Henry and Kaitlyn Bernard as Shannon. I found the movie to be quite an effective adaptation that stayed faithful to the written source material that inspired it. While the stories comprising ‘Full Dark, No Stars’ aren’t among Stephen King’s most compelling pieces they are still an entertaining and, at times, a rather grim read. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who gets a kick out of the celebrated author’s bibliography and is looking to get their fix.
Quote of the Day
Things are never so bad they can't be made worse.
The African Queen