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

The Talisman

By Stephen King and Peter Straub
Berkley Books, 769 pp, 1985

This is my second time through The Talisman. I read it several years ago, and hardly remembered anything, except for the general plot. Then King and Straub released the sequel, Black House, so I figured I should reread this one to enjoy the new one that much more. Since I remembered so little, it was like reading it for the first time. 

It's called a horror novel, or as the cover says, "the ultimate experience in terror," but I think it's more of a fantasy/adventure novel. There are certainly some terrifying scenes, but they're more action-related. And the alternate world of The Territories is certainly an element of fantasy.

But who cares, because regardless of what you call it, it's a great book. 

Jack Sawyer is twelve years old and his mother, a retired "B" actress named Lily Cavanaugh, is dying. With the help of a wise black man named Speedy Parker, Jack realizes he must journey across the country to save his mother's life. Somewhere on the Pacific coast is a powerful magical weapon called The Talisman, and this will heal any sickness. 

So Jack sets out, traveling through America and The Territories, and running into all sorts of wonderful and despicable people. There's loyal Wolf, best friend Richard, Speedy Parker, Sloat, Sunlight Gardener/Osmond, and all kinds of terrible and fearsome monsters. But, as you would expect, Jack does find the Talisman, smites his enemies, and heals his mom. All live happily ever after.

Like I said, it's a great book, a real keeper, a true classic, but there is one aspect of it that bugged the heck out of me. 

What problem does Stephen King have with Christians?

In this book, Sunlight Gardener runs a home in Indiana for wayward boys. He's a preacher, a real Bible-thumpin', halleluiah-and-amen type. So naturally he's also an evil, vile villain, a raging hypocrite who allows older boys to beat up smaller ones, locks disobedient boys in a box, and kills any boy who dare escape. Jack and Wolf fall into Gardener's clutches and spend a couple months at this home before Wolf dies helping Jack escape.

I realized that in several novels, King portrays his villains as Christians. There's Kurtz, the sneaky and corrupt clandestine operative in Dreamcatcher, the infamous Annie Wilkes in Misery, and Insomnia demonizes pro-life Christians. I can think of only one King novel which casts a positive light on Christianity - Desperation.

I know from On Writing that King is a lapsed Baptist, and decidedly left of center in his politics. That must have something to do with it. I also remember him saying he believe in God but not organized religion, which is like saying you believe in baseball but not Major League Baseball.

As a Christian and a King reader, this really bugs me. Perhaps someone could enlighten me. I'd appreciate it.

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