Sunday, October 11, 2009

[Cryptopopology] Sword in the Darkness by Stephen King

Sword in the Darkness by Stephen King

In late April 1970, horror author Stephen King, then an English student at the University of Maine at Orono, completed work on a novel inspired by the Harrison High books of John Farris and (according to Dissecting Stephen King by Heidi Strengel) Don Robertson's The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread and Paradise Falls.

Entitled Sword in the Darkness, it involved a character coping with the suicide of his pregnant sister and the death of his mother. Another character, an activist lawyer, inadvertently sparked a race riot after delivering a speech at a local high school.

Even while writing it, King was weary of its merits, and refused to show it to his instructors. In his book On Writing, he wrote:
"Sword in the Darkness seemed very tawdry to me when compared to what my fellow students were trying to achieve; which is why, I suppose, I never brought any of it to class for a critique. The fact that it was also better and somehow truer than all my poems about sexual yearning and post-adolescent angst only made things worse."
George W. Beahm, in Stephen King From A to Z, calls The Sword in the Darkness a "downer tale", and says that the manuscript was represented by Patricia Shartle Myrer of McIntosh and Otis. She advised King that submitting the work
"would do no harm, but it wouldn't do any good. I thought the book was potentially marketable, but not something in 1969 that a publisher would give him an advance on. So I told him they'd read it, tell him it showed great promise...but they wouldn't give an unknown either an advance or a contract."
At least a dozen publishers viewed the manuscript, and each one turned it down. These days, King doesn't seem fit to argue with them, either. He considers it unpublishable, and has no plans for it to ever be released to the public.

The most that we can probably ever hope to see of this novel is the single chapter printed in Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished by Rocky Wood, which gives the back-story of a teacher at the high school named Edie Rowsmith. Unfortunately, both the hardcover edition by Cemetery Dance and the paperback edition by Kanrock Publishing are both out-of-print and currently going for a pretty penny, meaning that even this lonely excerpt could be hard to find.


1 comment:

  1. I would love to be able to read this just because I really enjoying seeing how writers evolve over time, especially when looking at their pre-best seller days. At the same time as a writer I can understand why he would never want people to see this in print. I have stories from my early days that I would love to take a match too, ones that I'm embarrassed to have sent to magazine editors when first starting out on my writing journey.


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