Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, May 01, 2017

Spending my readathon time in The Dead Zone and with Miss Treadway in The Field of Stars

This year's Spring Into Horror readathon(hosted by Michelle at Seasons of Reading) ended yesterday and my standard goal of completing two out of three books was met.

Part of that challenge for me was a Stephen King reread, with The Dead Zone being tapped for that dubious honor. For those unfamiliar with the book, the story is set during early to mid 1970s, when Johnny Smith, a happy go lucky schoolteacher, winds up in an auto accident that lands him in a coma for nearly five years.

Once he awakens from that deep sleep, Johnny finds that the world has changed quite a bit, as the woman he loved,Sarah, is now married to another man and is the mother of a little boy. In addition to that, Johnny's mother has gone full deep into her religious mania while waiting for her son to wake up, convinced that God has special plans for him.

Most troubling of all,however, is the minor psychic talent that Johnny had(starting from a childhood incident) which let him have a lucky streak at a carnival game the night of the car crash is now a full blown phenomenon. With one touch, he can see future events such as a house fire happening to one of the nurses taking care of him and past experiences, particular when a rude reporter questions his ability rather harshly.

All Johnny wants to do is recover from his injuries and live a regular life but time and again, that psychic gift(which is more of a curse, in his opinion) brings him into situations that he can help with but at a terrible cost. One of the more gruesome circumstances that Johnny is brought into is the hunt for a small town serial killer, who happens to be a lot closer than local law enforcement thinks:

While that episode is concluded in a sad yet brutal manner, it's a simple handshake that puts Johnny into what could be the most crucial decision in his life as well as the world.

 During a political rally, he makes contact with showboating candidate Greg Stillson and not only realizes that this man is destined to be a future President of the United States but the cause of WWIII to boot. Upon considering all of the options, Johnny takes the course of action that he knows will not go well for him yet to live with the consequences of not doing anything is unthinkable.

Mind you, Stephen King published this book in 1979, long before a certain reality show/real estate tycoon even considered taking that top spot but some of the similarities between him and Stillson are the scariest parts of this novel. Of course, there's no excuse for anyone to copy the actions of Johnny Smith in real life but I can imagine the chills that Stephen King got from watching last year's election.

Other than that eerie aspect, what really makes this book stand out from most of King's writing during this period is that it's a slow motion tragedy for Johnny Smith, a Job-like figure if there ever was one. He's such a likable guy, the kind of person who would make an excellent teacher, a good friend and a great husband/father.

To see those opportunities slip through his fingers, mainly through no fault of his own, really gets you there. It's a beautifully sad book and I'm not surprised that it was well adapted for a feature film in 1983 as well as became a TV series in the mid 2000s that ran for six seasons.

 Johnny Smith is the classic reluctant hero we all can relate to and hopefully, learn to be better people ourselves from without the need for psychic powers or drastic measures. In a weird way, The Dead Zone can make you more appreciative of what life has to offer:

After that, I tackled Miss Treadway and The Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson, a debut novel set in London during the 1960s. The plot sounds like your average mystery story yet there's much more going on beneath the surface.

As American actress Iolanthe "Lanny" Green remains missing from the world and newspaper headlines, her theatrical dresser Anna Treadway decides to take matters in her own hands and go about searching for Lanny on her own. Along the way, she picks up a few allies and finds herself in murkier waters than she expected.

 However basic that sounds, things are far from what they seem. Iolanthe's troubles come from hiding her true identity and family connections while the Irish police detective in charge of the investigation has changed his name from Brennan to Barnaby in order to fit with his British co-workers.

 Aloysius, a mild mannered accountant who joins in the search is a Jamaican immigrant who wishes to be the perfect English gentleman but a random encounter with the police viciously alters that goal in life.

 Anna herself is concealing a dark time in her past that Lanny's situation is strongly reminding her of and even her former coffee house boss and his Turkish family are caught up in the far from accepting social mores of the time that come into play here. While I do wish that the resolution of the story was a bit more concrete, Miranda Emmerson creates an engaging and realistic set of characters who you long to know more of and a story that resonates very well in our current times.

This book puts me in mind of the movie The Crying Game, with it's social commentary and heartfelt situations being brilliantly displayed on a standard genre background. While there are vast differences between the two, I do think that Miss Treadway's story would make for a wonderful film that would be extremely suitable as a double feature with that movie:

I did get a start on Louisa May Alcott's A Long Fatal Love Chase,the third book on my TBR here, and so far, it's pretty melodramatic. That's to be expected, given the Gothic flair that many of LMA's "blood and thunder" tales had, and I'll keep up with it.

Meanwhile, much thanks to Michelle for hosting yet another great Spring Into Horror and a warm hello to many of the newcomers who signed on for the frightful fun. I hope that many of you will join us in June when Seasons of Reading has it's  Sci-Fi Summer readathon, which already has me waiting with an-tic-a-pation!:

1 comment:

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

I'm running behind on wrap-up visits, but here I am and I wanted to thank you again for participating. I'm working on the giveaway now so keep an eye on your email inbox (and spam folder, just in case).

This is going to sound weird, but I honestly can't remember it I read The Dead Zone back in the day. lol I love the film with Christopher Walken (one of my fave actors), so I think it's a matter of getting the book/movie mixed up. I think I need to reread it (or read it for the first time...whichever it is. Such a great story and indeed very parallel to our current situation, i.e. the denouement of the book.

Love your mention of The Crying Game...another favorite of mine. I watch it almost every time it's on.