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Hopper hunts a '70s serial killer in excerpt from new Stranger Things novel
The third season of Netflix' sci-fi horror sensation Stranger Things is creeping toward a July 4 premiere with its nostalgic '80s delights. To fill in gaps between last year's unsettling crisis, Del Rey Books is publishing three official tie-ins that expand the universe and provide motivations behind some of its most indelible characters.
It all began with last fall's Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down companion book, then followed up with February's Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds, which dealt with Eleven's true birth mother, Terry Ives.
This third canonical offering, titled Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town, concerns vital backstory details of Chief Jim Hopper's life as a New York City homicide detective in the strange summer of 1977 — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive excerpt, as well as insights from author Adam Christopher, to welcome the weirdness.
This illuminating origin story from the New York Times bestselling author of Empire State finds Hopper resurrecting buried secrets. It's framed around a heartwarming holiday in Hawkins circa 1984, and all the gruff Chief Jim Hopper wants from Santa is a quiet first Christmas with Eleven. However, his precocious adopted daughter pulls out a cardboard box marked “New York.”
Hopper can’t hide the truth and recounts life-changing events in the Big Apple after returning home from Vietnam. A young daughter, a loving wife, and new job as an NYPD detective let him slip back into civilian life. But after agents appear and seize files about a string of brutal murders, Hopper takes matters into his own hands to discover the truth as he goes undercover among New York’s street gangs and a historic blackout rolls across the boroughs.
Christopher, whose favorite character on the show is Hopper, has been a Stranger Things fan right from the start.
"New York was in a bad place in the 1970s," he tells SYFY WIRE. "The city was nearly bankrupt, the infrastructure was crumbling, it was in the middle of a crime wave as well as a heat wave, the Son of Sam was on the loose. In the middle of this I decided to drop Jim Hopper, who had moved to the city with his wife and daughter to start a new life."
He adds, "The book is also the first time we see Hopper and Eleven interacting post-Season 2, after their father-daughter relationship has been formalized. Writing their scenes together in the cabin at Christmas, 1984, was a real joy."
Check out this exclusive excerpt from Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher, out May 28 from Del Rey Books.
COFFEE AND CONTEMPLATION
JULY 8, 1977
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
Tom’s Diner had been a fixture of Prospect Heights since the 1930s and, Hopper thought, probably hadn’t changed much in all that time. Outside, the diner occupied the ground level of a squat, square building that had no memorable features whatsoever. Inside, the place stank of old grease and cigarettes, but the coffee was remarkably good and the mugs in which the beverage was served seemed clean enough. Hopper nursed his as he sat in a far corner of the place, watching the street through the grimy windows as the chatter of customers in front of the counter and music from the radio behind it blended around him into a pleasant wall of sound.
Delgado arrived about twenty minutes after Hopper—just as the trumpets of “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti blared across the diner. As she walked in, he saw her crane her neck to scan the booths and tables. Hopper looked up and gave her a nod, and she came right over, sliding into the booth and dumping her bag next to her.
“I hated that movie,” she said, frowning as she glanced in the direction of the offending music. She caught the attention of a server at the counter, then turned back around and leaned over the table. “So what the hell, Hop?” Then she immediately straightened and smiled as the server came over, her uniform as yellow as her hair.
“I get you a menu?” she asked, before she continued working on the gum in her mouth, her jaw so wide open that Hopper could smell the spearmint over his coffee.
“Just coffee,” said Delgado. The server nodded and went back to the counter.
Delgado gave Hopper one of those looks, but Hopper only lifted his finger slightly, his eyes following the server as she returned with the jug of coffee and a fresh mug, which she deposited in front of Delgado and filled, before topping off Hopper’s.
“Thanks,” he said, smiling. The server didn’t return the expression but left quick enough.
“Okay,” said Delgado. “Now, where was I? Oh yeah. What the hell, Hop? You want to tell me what this cloak-and-dagger is all about? And where have you been since yesterday? I put the captain off a couple times, but your absence isn’t making his mood any rosier.”
“I’ll explain everything,” said Hopper, placing his mug on the table in front of him. He cupped both hands around it. It had been another hot day in the city, but for some reason he felt cold. “But I want you to listen and let me finish. You have any questions, you save them for the end, okay?”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” said Hopper. “But you have to trust me, okay?”
Delgado just shook her head. “Cut the crap, Hop. You know I trust you. You know you shouldn’t even have to ask that.”
“So what’s got you so hot? And what’s with the getup?”
Hopper glanced down at his chest. The paint-stained image of Jim Croce looked out across the booth table.
“I’m working for Special Agent Gallup now.”
Delgado sipped her coffee and raised an eyebrow. Hopper watched it.
“What, no comment?”
Delgado shook her head. “Plenty. But you told me to wait until the end.”
Hopper blew out his cheeks. “Okay, so, that kid who came in, asking for protection . . .”
“Leroy Washington, yes. Only he was let out and vanished into the night.”
Hopper shook his head. “Gallup has him, too. In fact, we’re working together on this thing. Now, we’re going to be gone awhile, and soon enough you’re going to start hearing some . . . stuff about me.” Hopper held out his hand toward his partner, like he was preemptively working to calm her down. “Now, no matter what you hear, it’s not real, it’s just a cover. Gallup has something arranged that will let me and Leroy get on with the job. So whatever comes up at the precinct, whatever people start saying about me, it’s likely to all fall back on you because you’re my partner. They’ll think you know something about what’s going on and where I am, but I just need you to hold your own for a while. You’ll need to join in with them. I’ll be the enemy. People at the precinct are going to be pissed, believe me, but if this is going to work, I need you to be part of that.”
Hopper paused and they drank their coffee in silence, neither one looking away. Delgado’s mouth was twisted into an unhappy grimace between mouthfuls.
“It’ll get straightened out when I get back,” Hopper continued. “Just remember it’s all just a nonsense cover and there is nothing to worry about. When the job is done, I’ll be back, we can come clean on the whole thing, to everyone.”
Delgado gulped the last of her coffee. Hopper waited until she was finished.
Delgado nodded. “Why does the coffee in this place taste like tarmac and why do I want a top-off?”
With that, she lifted her mug and, half rising on the booth’s bench seat, she caught the attention of the gum-chewing server. A moment later her coffee was replenished. Delgado took a hot mouthful. Hopper watched as she gasped when she was done, steam puffing out of her mouth.
“Okay,” said Delgado. “Why Leroy? Why not me?”
“Leroy is my way in,” said Hopper. “And I have another job for you while I’m gone.”
Delgado tilted her head. “Way in? You’re going to the Vipers, aren’t you?”
Hopper drank his coffee and said nothing. Delgado turned to look out of the window. “Shit, Hop. How long will you be gone for?”
“I don’t know. Just a couple of days, I hope. But as long as it takes. Once we’re in, we’re in, and there’s no way out until it’s over.”
Delgado continued to stare out the window. “And what’s this job you want me to do, apart from being a homicide detective looking for a new partner?”
Hopper pursed his lips. When he didn’t answer immediately, Delgado turned to look at him. Her eyes roved over his face, and then she nodded.
Hopper nodded. “And Sara.”
“And Sara. I’ll keep an eye on them.”
Hopper sighed and stared down into his coffee mug. “What comes next will be hard for them. Sara’s lucky, she’s too young to understand or even remember. But it’s Diane.” Hopper paused. He felt hot behind his eyes, his chest felt tight, his heart hammering at a million miles an hour.
Hopper rolled his neck. He closed his eyes, but all he could see was the family photo on the dresser, the three of them, smiling until their faces ached. He opened his eyes.
“Diane is going to hear all the same stuff about me as you will. I need you to be there. I need you to look after them. You got me?”
Delgado nodded. “Don’t worry, partner. You can count on me. I’ll be there for them.”
Hopper sighed. It was weird, but it really did feel like a weight had been lifted from him.
“Oh, hey, now I know things are bad,” said his partner, a grin cracking across her face. “You start calling me Rosario and I know we’re really in trouble.”
Hopper smiled, and drank his coffee.
“But before you go all secret agent on me,” said Delgado, “I should fill you in on my own adventures in Crazytown.”
Hopper spread his hands. “Anything is useful.”
“You remember the list of addresses I found in Jacob Hoeler’s apartment?”
“Sure,” said Hopper. “One of them was for an AA meeting.”
“Right. And another is for a rehabilitation group, a kind of community outreach run by a charity organization. They have a counselor come in twice a week and work with recently released felons, try to help them reintegrate back into civilian life. It’s a support group, not big, just like the AA actually. They all help each other, guided by the counselor.”
Hopper frowned. “Okay . . . ?”
“And the counselor in question is Lisa Sargeson.”
Hopper paused, his coffee halfway to his mouth. He set it back down on the table, and listened as Delgado filled him in on her visit to Lisa’s apartment, where she learned about the Zener cards and Lisa’s work, past and present.
Hopper stroked his stubbled chin as he listened. “And the other addresses?”
Delgado counted them off on her fingers. “Two church halls, a boxing club, one community center. Each of them used for a variety of groups and clubs—AA, Vietnam vets support groups, some chronic illness support groups, night classes for the unemployed. You name it. A whole bunch of organizations. Lisa’s group is just one of several. But . . .”
“When you add in the Zener cards . . .”
Delgado nodded. “There’s a link there, Hop. Somewhere, anyway.”
Hopper sucked the air through his teeth. “Okay, I think we need—” He stopped, catching himself. “I think you need to go talk to Lisa again. Find out more about what she’s doing at her community outreach, find out if she knows any of the victims, or the other support groups.”
His partner lifted an eyebrow. “So . . . we are still working the case?”
At this, Hopper shrugged. “The whole situation has changed. I’m helping Gallup. You’re helping me.”
Delgado finished her coffee. “Leave it to me.”
“Thanks,” said Hopper. His coffee mug was getting cold. He checked his watch. “Okay, time’s up. You go first. I’ll give you time to get clear.”
Delgado stood. “Good luck, Hop. Stay safe.”
Hopper smiled at her and watched as she left the diner; then, looking through the window, as she crossed the street and vanished from sight.
Hopper waited a few minutes. The server in yellow came by, brandishing her coffeepot.
“You want a refill, hon?”
Hopper shook his head. “No,” he said. The server turned, then Hopper changed his mind. “Actually, wait. Yes I do. And you got any apple pie?”
“Great. Fresh coffee and apple pie. Actually, make it two slices.”
“You want it hot?”
“You want cream?”
“Do I ever.”
The server only raised an eyebrow, then retreated to the counter to prep Hopper’s order. It was a small thing, a simple thing, but he was going to savor this.
He only hoped it wasn’t going to be his last meal.
From STRANGER THINGS: DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN. Copyright © 2019 by Netflix, Inc. Reprinted by arrangement with Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.