The article below was previously published in The Taco Times on Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Stephen King has been my friend since 1974 when he published his first novel, “Carrie.” Our friendship is one-sided. He doesn’t have a clue who I am, but when I read one of his novels, or stories, it feels like I am sitting down to chat with an old friend.
There was a time or two in our friendship when Steve and I broke up. Our spats were caused by a few books that were just...awful. During this period of time it seemed that he had lost his knack to capture the reader. The characters were bland, the plots confusing. Later, I learned that my friend Steve was battling drug and alcohol abuse when these books were being written. That explains a lot.
However, he soon got his groove back with sobriety and came back big in the 21st century with great reads like “Cell” and “Under the Dome.” King’s new book, “11/22/63” is, in my opinion, one of the best books he has written since the days of “The Stand” and “The Shining.” It is perhaps his most complex work and his only book, so far, that is based on extensive historical research.
“11/22/63” is not a horror novel, but a book about that alluring fantasy, time travel. It is also, unexpectedly, a love story.
Jake Epping, a thirty-five year old divorced English teacher in Maine, discovers a portal to the past in the back room of the local diner. The portal only enters into a particular day in 1958. Al, the owner of the diner, enlists Jake to go on a mission back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination. Since he has no close family ties, he accepts the mission to change history.
So begins Jake's new life in the different world of 1958. It is a world where Elvis is alive and there is cigarette smoke everywhere. His first stop is in the dank little city of Derry, Maine, which is one of King’s fictional cities and a familiar setting to fans.
Eventually, Jake makes his way to the small town of Jodie, Texas. He has nearly five years to kill waiting on the infamous day and spends his time teaching, directing high school plays and falling in love. At the same time, his every turn is leading eventually to Dallas and a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald.
Since “11/22/63” was released in early November, many folks have asked me, “What happens? Does he stop Oswald, and if so, is everything ‘puppies and roses’ when JFK survives? Is it a better world?” And I answer, “I’m sorry, I can’t tell you that. But my friend Steve can.”