Stephen King’s Can of Worms
STEPHEN KING — THE OUTSIDER — 2018
This is the fourth volume of a trilogy that we all know, the trilogy of Bill Hodges, the private investigator. Bill Hodges is now dead (pancreatic cancer) and it is his associate Holly Gibney who assumes this new episode, though she only gets into the picture in the second half of the novel. The tone then is rather relaxed and it is essentially a murder case, an odious murder case.
I will not enter too many details in order not to destroy your pleasure and discovery. I will only insist on some aspects of this novel, aspects that make it original, maybe unique in a way and yet in perfect continuation with many other novels by Stephen King. It is also quite obvious Stephen King is strongly under the influence of the TV series Supernatural and the brothers Sam and Dean Winchester who fight against all kinds of supernatural beings mostly coming from folklore and old traditional stories and myths, not to speak of all types of gods, including the Christian one who is on vacation, and has been for a long time, leaving the world in the hands of Lucifer and the King of Hell, along with a couple of angels who do not necessarily do much good.
The very first trait of this novel is a massive police miscarriage of justice, decency, protocol, and procedure. No matter how strong the evidence they have, the police is not supposed to arrest someone without questioning him or her first, without checking the basics of this person. What’s more, they have to be discreet about this arrest and not do it as some kind of public show as if the police where a carnival organizer or a showbiz enterprise. Good police work is supposed to respect the book of equal treatment, of innocent till proved guilty, of equal protection.
What is the police supposed to do when the suspect is proved to be in two places at exactly the same time, in one place committing a crime and in the other attending a public conference with TV coverage? They are supposed to walk on eggs and be careful and check these things before arresting and arraigning the person. That sure is not what they did in this case and the consequences are dramatic all along the book with the District Attorney, a certain William Samuels, having to lie in public at the end to cover up their mistakes and at the same time repair some of the damage done to the suspect who is no longer here to be cleared up. In other words, this Samuels is badly named since Samuel is a prophet and here he is a fool. Samuel is a figure in the Hebrew Bible who plays a key role in the narrative, in the transition from the period of the Biblical judges to the institution of a kingdom under Saul, and again in the transition from Saul to David. He is venerated as a prophet by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This William Samuels is more the prophet of Trumpism than the prophet of David, and beyond of Jesus.
The worst part in this situation is that the suspect is shot and his lawyer is shot too and his lawyer’s assistant is shot on top of it. In other words, the suspect is no longer alive to be cleared up but the two people who were supposed to defend him are also eliminated. That’s what we can call a clean plate for sure and that reflects the horrible situation in the USA where so many young black males are shot dead, and at times overshot dead, by some policeman who thinks he is endangered by someone who is running away, and he shoots him in the back at least three times to make sure he will not survive.
A crazy cop is the tool of such horror at the end, but a decent cop and a DA are the tools of such horror at the beginning and it is the latter two who are supposed to clear the case at the end and they will lie all along not to say the truth that is not palatable enough for their convictions. And that leaves three families in total disarray, with children and all, and the only challenge of surviving in a community where they used to be respected and in which it will not even be released how and why the three men are now dead. In this novel, it is not so much Black Lives that Matter, but it is plain Innocent Lives that Should Matter and apparently, they do not so much.
The second remark is the role Holly Gibney plays in the second part of the novel. They are confronted with a shapeshifter from some old Mexican tradition that goes back to old Indian traditions connected with Aztec and Mayan mythology re-invented by the Christianization of these territories after a complete male genocide. That is in a way the revenge of La Malinche, though Stephen King does not allude to her at all, and that’s a shortcoming. To lock up the supernatural element in the simple Winchester brothers’ approach makes the depth of the story a lot less pregnant.
In the same way the second part of the novel essentially taking place in Texas in a community, Marysville, so Christian by name, and yet with some mystic, fantastic and frightening site that was exploited by some American Indians, and yet the American Indian folklore and mythology is not exploited either and that is a shame. Death, human sacrifice, and other morbid elements — morbid for us of course — were basic among Mexican Indians, Aztecs, Mayans, and others, but they were also essential among American Indians in Texas like Apaches and some others. Stephen King did such a good job with such old Indian mythology in some other books and here he falls in the trap of the B movie tradition, or should I say inferior miserable B movie tradition that only targets young teenagers to make them develop some nightmares. El Cuco deserved a far better and deeper exploration than a flitting allusion to the cheapo films of the 1950s for Saturday afternoon matinees for libidinous male teenagers.
So what’s left at the end is a supernatural pedophile criminal of Mexican descent (you see Mexican immigrants are criminals) and he is nothing but a can full of worms that are spilled all over the place at the end. That is certainly not a dream catching situation and not even a real nightmare catching situation. Everyone knows that when you have some worms in a fruit, you get the worms out, rinse the fruit and then eat it. Throwing the fruit away because of the worm in it is just plain absurd especially since the worm is protein, it was raised in the fruit itself, etc. That’s really weak. Though the suspense, including the supernatural part of it, is quite interesting and captivating, the destruction of the monster is not that great, and we all know monsters are never fully destroyed and their end is always a new beginning. It is also true that a shapeshifter might be spectacular on TV due to special effects but it is a lot less spectacular in a book, and there is nothing really frightening in a person having one black eye and one blue eye. That is even possible in real life.
And yet Stephen King deserves to be read today as much as he used to deserve it twenty years ago. If you really want to know more about him and his work you can always get to my own book, Stephen King, The Maverick Rapscallion, Kindle edition B07DMYT1VG, and you will be able to delve, dive and even sink in this horror literature that is the conscience of our modern times.
When passionate ardent zealous readers have spent fifty years with Stephen King and his books, his videos, his films, his comic strips, either they become berserk or they become truth diggers, fear miners, horror finders-keepers, like the three chaps in the tub, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker, all of them with truth, fear and horror as the three maids, all rub-a-dub-dubbing with energy and intensity one another and each other and even themselves with rags, brushes and other hairy cilices.
Stephen King makes them obsessive-compulsive like most traumatized people surviving with PTSS. But their enjoyment is greater than anything you may imagine, and their pleasure can be cut up and minced with the butcher’s cleaver, and then wrapped up in the dough of a meatloaf before being pushed into the oven of the baker, and it all ends up with a candle-stick burning from both ends and being rub-a-dub-dubbed by the feverish shivering shuddering quivering-quavering hands of the addicted mortified reader.
You will find in this maze of reviews and studies I propose in this book references to practically half the books and titles by Stephen King and half a dozen titles of books by his sons and a few other people, including a musical, and of course numerous films, series (mini or not) and videos. You have to enter the forest of these more than one hundred trees by assessing the table of contents and then letting you glide, slip and slide into the rich deep brewing witches’ midnight banquet with the devil on a sacred Black Sabbath celebrating the immolation of Isaac by Isaac’s father, the kicking away to the desert of Ismail and his mother by Ismail’s father, the two fathers being the same man in some sacred books revered by more than half humanity.
Accept your fate and enjoy it. Feel the knife of the executioner ripping your chest open and then his hand dipping into it and uprooting your heart out of your body. Feel your blood seeping out and curdling on the ground. You deserve that cathartic experience to simply survive your humdrum routine-like everyday life. This catharsis might liberate your imagination from all death wish and death instinct, but it may also neutralize all your desire to forgive, pardon and tolerate all your libidinal charitable and generous altruistic desires to be good.
Let’s hope after that experience you will be able to step out of Stephen King’s universe and live up to the demands of society and regain some humane love for others. Be sure you will encounter in these books, videos, and films many monsters who will brutalize you in all possible ways, but be sure too it is your deeper desire to be brutalized by these monsters over and over again in the middle of the night. Stephen King is your most enjoyable everlasting nightmare.
But in this book about The Outsider, it is the exposure — archaic form exposal — of police work, justice work and all Miranda and fourteenth amendment hypocrisy that is at stake and I guess it is going to leave a few readers in undecided limbos.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU