The following is in response to Stephen King’s Cujo.
Stephen King famously wrote this book while addicted to alcohol and doesn’t remember writing it at all. Miraculously you couldn’t tell by the book which is written amazingly well; at least I couldn’t tell. I guess he was as good at drinking as he was at writing, picking up bottles like pencils and putting them to his lips like graphite on paper. Practice makes perfect.
This is a good book to reference for characterization. We get to know the characters so well, even the dog’s (pre and post the rabies), and it makes the penultimate stand off between Cujo and Donna that more meaningful. And the more we get to see the characters the more a dichotomy of relationships bears its ugly head. On one hand you have Donna and Vic (and their son, affectionately nicknamed The Tadder). Donna has cheated on her husband and their problems are spread across miles of the country because Vic has to leave the state for his job. Joe and Charity (and their son Brett, who is Cujo’s owner) are on the other hand. Charity hasn’t cheated on Joe, at least not in the same sense. She has been looking for a way to get some time away from her overbearing, country, and often abusive husband and when she wins five thousand dollars from the lottery that opportunity to get away presents itself. Charity and Brett board a greyhound for her sisters and the miles roam steadily by. The characters are different—Joe is country man who drinks too much and Vic is a respected ad-man who nearly cried when he finds out his wife was cheating—but they end up in similar situations.
But which of the ones left behind will survive the rabid, mutant-minded canine? To find out you have to read the book. The funny thing is that when I read this book I was sitting in my car, not trapped but in my car nonetheless like Donna and her doomed son. I read a lot on lunch breaks in hot parking lots, sometimes in Castle Rock (Colorado not Maine as in the book, but eerily the same name). The immersion was real.
The final thing I want to talk about is the connection between this book and The Dead Zone. In The Dead Zone, the future-seeing-hero John Smith encounters a serial rapist and murderer Frank Dodd (It’s a good book-the killer turns out to be a cop and that’s not even the main antagonist). Frank Dodd, who kills himself in The Dead Zone, seems to be haunting the Tadder. Tad’s bedroom door mysteriously opens by itself during the night and Tad swears he can see someone inside; he depicts this man as Dodd. However when Tad falls asleep one afternoon he wakes to see the real face of the monster haunting him: “He saw it only for a second, loing enough to tell it wasn’t the man in the shiny black raincoat, Frank Dodd, the who had killed the ladies. Not him. Something else. Something with red eyes like bloody sunsets (P. 223).”