Remember that new Castle Rock story Stephen King was preparing to announce? Here's all the info you need.
The book is called Gwendy's Button Box and it's being published in a limited first edition by Cemetery Dance Publications, a horror specialty press that has published numerous King novels in deluxe editions, as well as short stories by him and nonfiction writing about his work in its Cemetery Dance magazine.
In fact, Cemetery Dance founder Richard Chizmar, a novelist himself, collaborated with King on Gwendy's Button Box, which at 175 pages is being marketed as a novella (although one could technically call it a short novel).
As previously reported, the story finds King and Chizmar returning to the town of Castle Rock, the haunted Maine village that was the full or partial setting for many of King's seminal works, including The Dead Zone, The Body, Cujo and Needful Things, the latter of which saw the town left in ruins. Gwendy’s Button Box takes place in 1974, before the events of many of those stories, and from the synopsis below see if you can spot a possible connection to another, larger part of King's canon ...
The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told ... until now.
There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.
At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.
One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: "Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me."
On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat ...
The use of the word "palaver" and the description of the man in the black clothes ... I don't know about you, but they certainly ring a few Dark Tower bells for me.
In an interview with EW (where the cover for the book also debuted), King said:
“I had a story I couldn’t finish, and (Chizmar) showed me the way home with style and panache. It was a good time, and I think readers will have a good time reading it. If they are left with questions, and maybe have a few arguments, all the better."
Chizmar chimed in with a few remarks on how the two writers collaborated (we're guessing that this is one bucket list item Chizmar couldn't believe he got to cross off):
"Steve sent me the first chunk of a short story. I added quite a bit and sent it back to him. He did a pass, then bounced it back to me for another pass. Then, we did the same thing all over again – one more draft each. Next thing you know, we had a full-length novella on our hands. We took a free hand in rewriting each other and adding new ideas and characters. The whole process took about a month."
As for whether Gwendy’s Button Box will have any connection to previous Castle Rock stories -- or the upcoming Castle Rock TV series from Hulu and J.J. Abrams -- that remains unknown. But Abrams himself said about the novella, "The whole thing just races and feels so right-sized and so scarily and sadly relevant. Loved the characters … and the sense of one little girl’s connection to the whole world through this weird device."
You can pre-order the book, which comes out in May, directly from Cemetery Dance here.