If you’re a Stephen King fan, there’s been a lot of news to absorb from the last seven days. It’s been reported that the IT prequel series Welcome To Derry won’t arrive until October 2025; Pet Sematary: Bloodlines put up record numbers for Paramount+ (and it’s getting a 4K UHD release next month); Karen Gillan announced that she has wrapped on Mike Flanagan’s The Life Of Chuck; Constant Readers got a preview of the upcoming Cujo sequel; and it’s been announced that the TV series Chapelwaite will not be back for a Season 2. That’s a substantial number of developments… and yet there are still more exciting developments to cover in this week’s installment of The King Beat.
This packed column has Stephen King’s reaction to his books being banned from a Florida school district, major details about the 2024 short story collection You Like It Darker, a celebration of The Dark Tower V: Wolves Of The Calla turning 20, and more – so let’s dig in!
16 Stephen King Books Have Been Banned From A Florida School District, And The Author Responds: “I Must Be Doing Something Right.”
Stephen King has never shied away from debates about book bans in schools. Back in 1992, he wrote a guest column in The Bangor Daily News titled “The Book-Banners: Adventure in Censorship is Stranger Than Fiction,” where he addressed two of his novels (The Dead Zone and The Tommyknockers) being pulled from a school library, and a few years later, he wrote an essay titled “I Want to Be Typhoid Stevie” that was included in the 1997 publication Reading Stephen King: Issues of Censorship, Student Choice, and Popular Literature. He has an established rebellious streak fighting against those who try and censor his work, and he waved that flag proudly this week in reaction to some new book banning news.
It was reported on Tuesday by NBC 2 in Collier County, Florida that 313 pieces of literature have been removed from libraries in the public school system, and 16 of those titles are authored by Stephen King. The seemingly arbitrary list of titles from the King canon includes Bag Of Bones, Carrie, Different Seasons, Four Past Midnight, IT, The Long Walk, Rose Madder, The Running Man, The Stand, The Tommyknockers, Under The Dome, and all of the books in the Dark Tower series with the exceptions of The Wastelands and The Dark Tower. Critic Janet Maslin responded to the news snarkily on Twitter, writing that the list of 300+ books “Looks like a required reading list to [her],” and King responded with his own pride-filled message:
The particular magic of Stephen King’s writing is his ability to craft characters who are deeply human, and an important part of that is exploring all aspects of life – including subject matter that is deemed taboo. He challenges his readers to open their minds and look at the world from different perspectives… and that’s something that book banners tend to not like.
In the aforementioned “I Want to Be Typhoid Stevie,” he explains what he sees as the ultimate objective of those who try to get his books removed from school, and he also delivers a powerful message about how to properly react to those efforts:
“The Book-Banners: Adventure in Censorship is Stranger Than Fiction” is available to read on Stephen King’s official website, and a scan of Reading Stephen King: Issues of Censorship, Student Choice, and Popular Literature is available from the Institute of Educational Sciences.
You Like It Darker Pre-Orders Are Open, And The Table Of Contents Has Been Revealed
It was only two months ago that Holly, the latest Stephen King novel, arrived in stores… but part of being a Constant Reader is being ever-amazed by how prolific the author is. While some of you may still be working your way through Holly Gibney’s latest case, we got news this week that we are only about half-a-year away from King’s new book: You Like It Darker.
News of the tome’s existence first broke back in August when the filmmaker discussed the collection during a podcast interview, and Scribner has announced that You Like It Darker will be released on May 21, 2024. The book will be the eleventh King omnibus that has been published and it will be arriving about four years after his last one (2020’s If It Bleeds). The full table of contents has been revealed on StephenKing.com, and you can see the full list below.
- “Two Talented Bastids”
- “The Fifth Step”
- “Willie the Weirdo”
- “Danny Coughlin’s Bad Dream”
- “On Slide Inn Road”
- “Red Screen”
- “The Turbulence Expert”
- “The Dreamers”
- “The Answer Man”
The majority of these stories will be published for the first time in You Like It Darker, but “The Turbulence Expert” was previously included in the 2018 collection Flight Or Fright; “Red Screen” was published individually as an eBook in September 2021, and “Finn” took the same route in May 2022. The big draw of the book is “Rattlesnakes,” the aforementioned Cujo sequel that will catch up with Vic Trenton as a 72-year-old retiree and widower living in Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You Like It Darker is available to pre-order now, and you can be sure that I’ll have more about this book in future editions of The King Beat as we learn more about the collection.
On Its 20th Anniversary, The Dark Tower V: Wolves Of The Calla Remains A Highlight Of The Dark Tower Series
Stephen King very nearly lost his life when he was struck by a van while out for a walk alongside a Maine highway in June 1999, and had that happened, his masterpiece would have gone unfinished. The Dark Tower series began in 1982 with the first publication of The Gunslinger, and King was aware that it was going to take seven books to complete the story he wanted to tell, but he only wrote four of those novels before his accident. Following his recovery, the author made finishing the legend of Roland Deschain and his ka-tet a priority, and 20 years ago this week, Constant Readers everywhere got their first chance to read what would be the antepenultimate installment of the genre-mashing adventure: The Dark Tower V: Wolves Of The Calla.
My personal ranking of the Dark Tower books tends to shift as I reflect on each of them, but Wolves Of The Calla is a title that is always in the Top 3. Bringing the focus back to Roland, Eddie Dean, Susannah Dean, Jake Chambers, and Oy after the flashback-heavy Wizard And Glass, the fifth chapter of the series is where Stephen King starts making some massive and fascinating narrative swings and reshapes the reader’s perspective on the story and the nature of Mid-World. Not only does it sweep together pop culture staples like Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven, Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and Star Wars, but it offers a whole new look at the Stephen King canon with the reintroduction of Father Donald Callahan from Salem’s Lot, and ends with the wild meta twist that sees King himself become a player in the adventure.
Being one of the best Dark Tower books means being one of the best Stephen King books period, and as such, the legacy of Wolves Of The Calla is impeccable as we celebrate it entering its third decade of existence. If you haven’t yet taken the dive into the series, it’s a sequel to look forward to, and like all fans, my fingers are crossed with dangerous levels of pressure hoping that Mike Flanagan will eventually get to it as part of his dream adaptation.
Recommendation Of The Week: “The Night Flier”
I will take any and every chance I get to write about “The Night Flier.” In fact, I just did so last month as part of writing about my personal horror movie marathon for Halloween season 2023. The Mark Pavia-directed adaptation, which I consider one of the best Stephen King films of all time, is celebrating its 26th anniversary this week – having first premiered on HBO on November 7, 1997 – so I’m taking advantage of the opportunity by highlighting the terrific short story as my Recommendation Of The Week.
Included in the 1993 collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes, “The Night Flier” is actually a spinoff from The Dead Zone that centers on Richard Dees – an unscrupulous tabloid reporter who lives by a unique journalistic creed: Never believe what you publish, and never publish what you believe. Always after the most gruesome and outrageous stories he can find, his attention is drawn to a potential serial killer who flies by night into small airports and ends up draining the blood of the people he encounters. Dees loves the idea of hunting down a psychotic who believes that he is a vampire, but the truth is more horrible than he can mentally grapple with.
That does it for this week’s edition of The King Beat, but be sure to return here to CinemaBlend every Thursday for the last installment of this column, and check out my Adapting Stephen King series to learn about the full history of King-based movies and TV shows.