By STEPHEN KING, JAMES HANNAH (PS Publishing; 2010)
You Stephen King buffs may recall the story “One for the Road,” first published in MAINE magazine in 1977, as one of the more memorable entries in King’s collection NIGHT SHIFT. It’s a sequel of sorts to SALEM’S LOT, taking place a few years after the vampire-infested Jerusalem’s Lot has been burned to the ground--the area, however, is still haunted by bloodsuckers.
This 38-page hardcover presents the story in a lavish edition with 17 gaudy illustrations by the prolific cover artist James Hannah. His art has a colorful simplicity (even though it doesn’t always match King’s descriptions), particularly in the haunting depictions of a spindly vampire woman emerging spread-armed from a snowy woodland and a creepy red-eyed child staring menacingly up at us. In its design and layout this volume feels like the scariest children’s picture book ever, and is a terrific companion-piece to King’s 1983 Berni Wrightson illustrated triumph THE CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF.
As for “One for the Road” itself, it’s a fine, shivery example of old fashioned horror. The setting is suitably chilly: Maine during an early January blizzard, in which “the snow comes flying so thick and fine that it looks like sand and sounds like that,” while “there’s death in the throat of a snowstorm wind, white death--and maybe something beyond death.”
The time is a quarter past ten. A clueless city man bursts into a remote public house/bar, babbling about leaving his wife and young daughter in a broken-down car in Jerusalem’s lot. Knowing full well the horrific history of the town but feeling charitable, the bar’s owner Tookey and his pal Booth decide to head out in Tookey’s truck to rescue the city man’s wife and child.
Reaching the accursed lot, they find the man’s stranded car, but its inhabitants are gone. Spotting a set of footprints, the man follows them and Tookey and Booth give chase. I won’t reveal any more except to say that our intrepid protagonists succeed in finding the man’s wife and daughter--though maybe it would be better if they didn’t!