If the afterword is to be believed, the real star of The Wife and the Widow, Christian White’s second novel, is White’s own wife. At a time when White had an ensemble, a location, and a murder scene, it was his wife who told him who the murderer and victim should be. Quite how The Wife and the Widow would have worked without this information is mysterious. After the initial success of the continent hopping The Nowhere Child, White returns with a mystery set entirely within Australia. It hinges on a piece of narrative trickery that may not quite work, but at least it’s different.
It is true that cars used to be more aesthetically pleasing than they are now, but equally true that they would kill you for even so much as thinking about getting behind the wheel. Ford v Ferrari, known internationally as Le Mans ’66, hearkens back to a golden age of engineering, when the most important thing an American man could do was make a car that could go for 24 hours without exploding to stick it to the Italians. It’s a simple concept and a simple film, but Ford v Ferrari brings such talent to bear that it’s never far off exhilaration.
The Shining is one of the most iconic films of all time, in horror or any other genre. It is also iconic for how much Stephen King hates it, to the extent that he eventually had to sign a document to the effect that he would no longer publicly excoriate it. But The Shining was only King’s third novel; Doctor Sleep, which would come thirty-six years later, was his 52nd. In 2019, nearly every movie and TV show is based on a Stephen King property, and it is safe to say that he has more clout than he did in 1980. The main thing about King’s The Shining versus Kubrick’s is that they had completely different priorities and, despite their commonalities, they told different stories.
Along comes writer/director/editor Mike Flanagan’s (The Haunting of Hill House) Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, which acts to bridge the gap: it is a sequel to both the book and the film of The Shining. It does well when it sticks to King and flounders a little bit when it comes to Kubrick, but it is a daring film, and more striking than almost any other recent King project this side of TV’s Castle Rock.
It has been only four years since the Terminator series tried a new direction with the under-appreciated but terribly named Terminator: Genisys. 2019 brings Terminator: Dark Fate, a film that fashions itself as the new third Terminator film. In a series that is so heavily predicated on time travel and timelines, production can create any continuity that they want and get away with it. The main point of difference for Terminator: Dark Fate is that Linda Hamilton (Curvature) and producer James Cameron (Alita: Battle Angel) are back in harness for the first time since 1991, but it is never more ambitious than that.
The current vogue in many films, and not just horror, is how evil the super rich are. Despite the numbers these movies do, the super rich still haven’t got the memo. Ready or Not is your classic girl falls in love with a rich boy, rich boy’s family attempts to murder girl story. Timeless. Ready or Not is well executed, tense but with a sense of humour, and blood. Gallons of blood. All over the camera lens.
Chris Hammer brings us back to the world of Martin Scarsden, and this time he provides fewer crimes, more flashbacks, and burdens his lead character with a lot more flaws. It’s a good time for an Australian journalist to go back to his hometown, and a good time for readers to check in with Doug Thunkleton.
Misery was originally going to be a Bachman Book. Misery originally had a different ending. Misery is a deeply personal novel that crystallises many of the demons that Stephen King was fighting at the time of its inception. Misery is a single location novel that is never inert even when it’s confined to a bed. Misery is a towering work even if it ends five inches shorter than it started.
Another Australian crime debut, The Nowhere Child sees Christian White spreading his intrigue across two continents: Australia and North America. The small town this time around is in Kentucky, which is already a point of difference; Nowhere Child is a mildly intriguing piece that makes up in craft what it lacks in event.
By 2013, it was well and truly clear that Stephen King was his own genre, and that he competes largely with himself. This is likely why, outside of The Dark Tower series and Black House, that he had never really dabbled with sequels until Doctor Sleep. That King chose to make his first major sequel to the book that became one of the most iconic horror films of all time — a film that, coincidentally, he famously really did not like — was daring. Doctor Sleep is the thirty six years on sequel to The Shining, through which King follows up on what happened to Danny after the Overlook Hotel was neutralised. And it works: Doctor Sleep is excellent latter day King, a successor to The Dark Tower, a pre-cursor to Mr. Mercedes, and a novel that doesn’t try to shamelessly ape its predecessor.
If Australian publishing is having a moment, it’s largely thanks to Australian crime. Scrublands is another rural Australian crime novel about a depressed town reeling from the after effects of a multiple murder. Former SBS journalist Chris Hammer has taken advantage of a thirsty market with a remarkably greedy novel of his own: between the pages of Scrublands, no crime goes uncommitted.