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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

Black House

By Stephen King and Peter Straub
Random House, 565 pp, 2001

How do King and Straub do it? This book is not only equal to its predecessor, The Talisman, but surpasses it in quality and suspense. They also tie it with The Dark Tower series, which is even more exciting.

The story is fairly simple. Jack Sawyer is a thirty-something retired police detective. He has settled in a small town in Wisconsin, has one good friend, and generally doesn't wish to be bothered.

But a killer stalks the town's children. Two or three have disappeared, and some bodies have been discovered. The grisly remains have been, ah, snacked upon, by the killer, who is dubbed The Fisherman by the local reporter (and all-around troublemaker).

The local police chief has no leads, and begs Jack for help. He finally gives in, then realizes they're not dealing with a normal killer. This guy knows about The Territories, may even have a Twinner there.

Jack has blotted from his memory all the events that happened when he was twelve, his journey across America, his battles with Morgan Bloat, and The Talisman. But he is soon forced to remember, and remember he must, because another child has disappeared. But this one is special, he is a Breaker, and The Fisherman and his master have plans for the boy. But can Jack and his friends get to him in time?

That's for you to find out.

King and Straub don't miss a beat. It doesn't read like it's over 500 pages long. Roland the gunslinger is mentioned by name. Speedy Parker - Parkus - is back. And we may see Jack Sawyer again, in a future Dark Tower book. At least, I hope so.

One last feature makes this book stand out. King and Straub employ an interesting narrative device, in which the authors impose themselves into the story, telling the story from the first person perspective. Here's an excerpt, to give you a flavor for the device:

Oh, forget about that. We know where Jack Sawyer went when he disappeared  from the edge of the cornfield, and we know who he is likely to meet when he gets there. Enough of that stuff. We want fun, we want excitement! Luckily for us, that charming old party, Charles Burnside, who can always be depended upon to slip a whoopee cushion under the governor's seat during a banquet, to pour a little hot sauce into the stew, to fart at the prayer meeting, is at this moment emerging from a toilet bowl and into a stall in the men's room on Daisy wing. We note that...

You get the idea. It's engaging and fun, and makes the reader feel that King and Straub are right there with you, leading you on a guided tour through the events of the book. Just brilliant.

As if you couldn't tell, I recommend the book to everyone.

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