Travel times are here again. And travel — particularly airplane travel — means reading. Call me anachronistic, out of it, behind the times: I prefer a low-tech paperback to high-tech alternatives any time I travel. Batteries expire just at the exciting part. Earphone buds and charging cables run off and elope with essential plot devices, fascinating characters and narratives. And they don’t return my calls to their cellphones. Assuming I can even get reliable service. No. Give me a book. Give me a big paperback book. I’ve yet to have a paperback crash on me even when I’ve dropped one in the ocean. The data are still recoverable. The story goes on.

To this point, my book is the collaborative novel Black House written by Stephen King and Peter Straub. Black House is a follow-up novel to their first collaboration, The Talisman. Whenever asked what my favorite King novel is, I answer The Talisman. Whirl suggested I read it shortly after we’d met. It was on the strength of The Talisman that I went on to voraciously consume a large section of King’s prodigious library.

Whirl and I have been enjoying the TV series Fringe and remarking on the similarities between Fringe and the parallel-world structure that King and Straub have used in The Talisman. King has fleshed out something similar with his Dark Tower series. I’m one of many fans who believe that Midworld and the Territories are the same place. — And with Fringe now completed for the season, picking up Black House accomplished three goals at once: I have an appropriate potboiler for plane travel; I get to pick up one of my favorite stories with the sequel to The Talisman; I get to analyze the links between King and Straub’s “Territories” and J.J. Abrams’ “Other Side”.

And of course the various literary references throughout Black House are tantalizing to me to try and catch: the obvious references to Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe are easy. Others are more subtle. In further good news, Straub has announced that he and Stephen King are planning to begin work on a third novel later this year.

Jack Sawyer is a retired Los Angeles homicide detective living in the small hamlet of Tamarak, Wisconsin. He has no recollection of the events twenty years ago that led him to a parallel universe called the Territories to save his mother from certain death. When a series of gruesome murders occur in western Wisconsin, Jack’s buddy, the local chief of police, begs Jack to help the inexperienced force find the killer. As cryptic messages in Jack’s waking dreams become increasingly impossible to ignore, he is drawn back to the Territories and to his own hidden past, where he must find the soul-strength to enter a terrifying house at the end of a deserted tract of forest–and to encounter the obscene and ferocious evils sheltered within it.

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