Sunday, October 4, 2009

[Cryptopopology] The House on Value Street by Stephen King

The House on Value Street

by Stephen King

In the late 1970s, in the wake of the Patty Hearst kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), horror novelist Stephen King attempted to write a fictionalized treatment of the incident.

In King's study of the horror genre, Danse Macabre, he wrote:
"It was going to be a roman a clef about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, her brainwashing (or her sociopolitical awakening, depending on your point of view, I guess), her participation in the bank robbery, the shootout at the SLA hideout in Los Angeles--in my book, the hideout was on Value Street, natch--the fugitives run across the country, the whole ball of wax. It seemed to me to be a highly potent subject, and while I was aware that lots of non-fiction books were surely to be written on the subject, it seemed to me that only a novel might really succeed in explaining all the contradictions. The novelist is, after all, God's liar, and if he does his job well, keeps his head and his courage, he can sometimes find the truth that lives at the center of the lie."
He gathered together as much research material as he could find, and then set out to write the novel. But no matter from which direction he attacked the work, he couldn't write it to his own satisfaction.

During the six weeks that he attempted writing the book, King's thoughts kept drifting to a news story he had heard about a dangerous spill by the Chemical and Biological Warfare Department.

He went on to state:
"We were living in Boulder, Colorado, at the time, and I used to listen to the Bible-thumping station which broadcast out of Arvada quite regularly. One day I heard a preacher dilating upon the text. 'Once in every generation, the plague will fall among them.' I liked the sound of that phrase..."
His thoughts on Patty Hearst and the SLA became infected with the news story about the chemical spill and the preacher's plague. Dwelling upon all this, he sat down at his typewriter and wrote:
"The world comes to an end but everybody in the SLA is somehow immune. Snake bit them...No more gas shortages...No more cold war. No more pollution. No more alligator handbags. No more crime. A season of rest...[SLA leader] Donald DeFreeze is a dark man...a dark man with no face."
This reference to DeFreeze being a dark man with no face was the impetus of King's recurring character Randal Flagg, AKA the Walking Dude. King quickly dropped all aspects of the Patty Hearst angle, essentially killing the original notion of The House on Value Street, and he spent the next two years writing The Stand.

I guess Captain Trips got a hold of both Hearst and DeFreeze, in the end.

--J/Metro

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