Those of you who have followed this blog will most likely remember many of the articles I’ve written about my most favorite of authors, Stephen King. I was first introduced to King in 1979 when a fellow work mate of mine loaned me a copy of Night Shift, King’s first ever compilation of short stories. And I’ll have to admit that that ragged paperback book is still in my library. But hey! He never asked for it back before he got transferred to an out-of-state work site and I never saw or heard from him again.
One thing I’ve been terribly guilty of over the years is saving and rereading the books of my favorite authors, over and over, again and again. That’s why I have a hard time of cleaning out my library and making room for more books. The most books I have are those by the famous contemporary historian William Manchester and those of Stephen King.
And just today, for the third time, I finished reading King’s The Dark Tower, a massive undertaking since it’s an over 4000 page seven-book series. The Dark Tower is truly his magnum opus, and was almost his last piece of work. He considered retirement after his traumatic accident of being hit by a van while out on his daily walk. That was in 1999 and fortunately, for those of us who he considers his constant readers, he picked up his pen again in 2001, finishing The Dark Tower by 2003, and he since then has continued his word journey.
It’s amazing to think that it took over 30-years for King to write The Dark Tower. He began it in 1970 after having been inspired by Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. But instead of a “man with no name” which Clint Eastwood portrayed, King’s protagonist was a gunslinger named Roland, Roland Deschain of the land Gilead, a Camelot-like place, making Roland a knight-errant on a quest, wandering parallel lands to our own time and when, not totally unlike our lands, yet a world filled with characters and events totally unlike any we’ve ever seen, characters you would come to love just as I did.
Another inspiration was the Robert Browning poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. Ironically, in all the years after he wrote the first lines of this series, many of his later works, in some way or the other, tied into The Dark Tower, which one would discover in reading it if they were also familiar with his other works.
After reading this tale for the third time, I couldn’t help but wonder about the opening line of any work. Just what is the most famous of opening lines to a novel? The one I’ve always been fond of is Herman Melville’s opening to Moby Dick: “Call me Ishmael.” In the case of The Dark Tower, it has a catchy first line setting the mood for the entire story, setting the reader up for the final line and conclusion of the 7th and final book in the series, a final line that will totally blow your mind if you’ve read the entire series one-by-one to get to the end, something I hope many of you will do after hearing about this masterpiece.