The Quest for the Dark Tower Pt. 3: Greenwich Village/Dunhill

***Spoiler warning! Though I've made every attempt to avoid giving away key plot points during this quest, it's still very possible that information discussed herein may spoil a new reader's experience, so consider yourself warned! ***

Wow. A lot of Dark Tower-y goodness to process this week!

That would be the sneak preview of the two-page Foreword and first five pages of story from The Wind Through the Keyhole, as well as samples of the book's artwork (both the interior art and limited edition cover by Jae Lee and the mass-market cover art by Rex Bonomelli).

I've already read over the text of those seven pages at least a dozen times this week, flipped through what I think are the most important related chapters and segments from the existing books and hope to throw together a quick study guide. Hopefully, it will help prepare both old and new readers wanting to learn as much about certain characters before diving in when the new book hits shelves on April 24, 2012. Until then though, all I can really say is "Thankya big-big, Sai King" for the best Christmas present a Tower junkie could ask for!

. . . and now back to our regularly scheduled Dark Tower subject matter:

For the second time in just minutes, Roland had quickly and violently subdued the two police officers that had been tracking him outside of Katz's Pharmacy and then robbed them of their prowl car. Having no knowledge of motor-vehicles or even a sense of direction in this strange city, Roland has to let Jack Mort operate it. He relaxes his control over Mort's body and directs him to drive toward "The Village."

Once Mort manages to navigate the stolen police cruiser south toward Greenwich Village, Roland instructs him to drive to the subway station where Mort had - many years earlier - pushed Odetta Holmes into an oncoming train severing both her legs right above the knee. Mort tries to resist, but ultimately, he's powerless to deny the gunslinger's command.

Outside of the IRT subway stairs, Roland is again accosted by two officers of the NYPD; one whose name changes from Norris Weaver on pages 380-1 of the original trade paperback of The Drawing of the Three to Norris Wheaton on pages 382 and 384 (perhaps an unconscious reference to Wil Wheaton, star of Stand By Me? The cover to the movie tie-in edition of Different Seasons would seem to support that theory); the other officer, named Andrew Staunton throughout, shoots to kill.

Fortunately, Jack Mort's predilection for luxury brand name products (Rolex watch, Gucci loafers, Arrow shirts, etc.) winds up saving Roland's life when the bullet intended for Mort's heart instead smashes into the $200 silver lighter he had purchased at Dunhill. Once again, Roland manipulates the chaos that ensues to his advantage. Playing possum while the ignited fluid in the lighter quickly catches fire to Mort's shirt, Roland waits until the police officers drop their guard before delivering a sucker-punch and running full-tilt - chest still on fire - down the stairs of Christopher Street Station.

It's here that Roland intends to end Jack Mort's murderous hobby of pushing before he can harm yet another member of his ka-tet by flinging his burnt and broken body before an oncoming train as he himself carries his precious parcels of medicine and ammunition through the mystic doorway leading back to the beach of the Western Sea.

Long days, pleasant nights!



Tombstone Tuesday!

Something about the perfect sphere of polished granite resting on the top of this marker in St. Catharines' Victoria Lawn Cemetery just called my attention to it. I'm not exactly sure why, though.

Maybe because it reminded me of a crystal ball, like the Palantíri of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings saga or Maerlyn's Rainbow in Stephen King's Dark Tower cycle. Or perhaps because the gravestone as a whole looks a bit like a life-sized pawn on a wizard's chessboard, like the one in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Stay Tombed!



The Quest for the Dark Tower Pt. 2: Katz's Pharmacy and Soda Fountain

***Spoiler warning! Though I've made every attempt to avoid giving away key plot points during this quest, it's still very possible that information discussed herein may spoil a new reader's experience, so consider yourself warned! ***

Finished with his business at Clements Guns and Sporting Goods, Roland then focuses his attention on the next hurdle to cross: acquiring the antibiotic Keflex for the infection poisoning his body in another world. He makes his way quickly down Forty-Ninth Street to the nearest drugstore. Fat Johnny had told him there was one around the corner and half a block down. In the following chapter ("Code 19, Code 19 . . ."), we learn the exact location: 395 49th St., Katz's Pharmacy and Soda Fountain (Sundries and Notions for Misses and Misters).

In the New York of our where and when, the address 395 West Forty-Ninth Street doesn't exist, but directly across Ninth Avenue from 393 W. 49th there is a drug store, not half a block but exactly two blocks from 7th and 49th (I like to think Fat Johnny gave inaccurate directions to throw Roland off, maybe give the cops a chance to catch up to him, but since Roland really has no concept of city blocks anyway, it's sort of a moot point).

Though technically located at 721 9th Ave., it's amazing that a Duane Reade pharmacy actually stands on the spot where Katz's would be (or is it? 7+2+1+9=?). As Roland enters the pharmacy wondering what to expect, he thinks about all the magicians, enchanters and alchemists he has encountered in his long travels. Of the most dangerous, three names come to mind specifically: his father's advisor (and mother's seducer), Marten Broadcloak; the man in black, known only as Walter 'O Dim; and Flagg, who Roland believes may really have been a demon dressed up as a man. Roland had seen Flagg only briefly, as he was hunted down and confronted by two desperately grim young men named Dennis and Thomas, just before The Affiliation's final collapse.

The memory of Dennis, Thomas and Flagg during this chapter of The Drawing of the Three is a reference to an earlier novel of King's: The Eyes of the Dragon. Dennis and Thomas are also mentioned in passing in the Afterword to the fourth Dark Tower novel, Wizard and Glass, but the adventures involving Roland and these characters still has yet to be told.

When the Marvel Comics series approached this era in Roland's life, I was disappointed when it wasn't included, but not very surprised. Robin Furth explains her hesitation to include this chapter of Roland's past in Appendix IV of Stephen King's The Dark Tower: A Concordance Vol. 2). However, there is a gap in the narrative between The Fall of Gilead and The Battle of Jericho Hill of close to nine years, and with the upcoming release of The Wind Through the Keyhole, I'm hoping that this loose end in the DT-cycle will finally be tied up by none other than the King himself.

Once again, this time in Katz's Pharmacy, Roland creates havoc and mayhem as he relentlessly pursues his goals. Even so, he always pays for the items he needs. Having spent the last of Jack Mort's cash "buying" ammunition at Clements Guns, he offers the pharmacist (the long-suffering Mr. Katz himself) a Rolex watch in exchange. A watch worth over one hundred times the value of the antibiotics Roland takes. After a brief scuffle with the same two police officers he had enlisted in his earlier ruse involving Fat Johnny, Roland commandeers their horseless carriage (or cartomobile, as he will later think of these vehicles) and heads to the next stop of his first adventure through New York in the spring of 1977 . . .

Long days, pleasant nights!



Tombstone Tuesday!

Though spelled slightly different, this gravestone in St. Catharines' Victoria Lawn Cemetery instantly reminded me of the Marvel Comics character Daimon Hellstrom (aka: The Son of Satan, Hellstorm). He was first introduced in the pages of the original Ghost Rider comic back in the '70s, but is probably best remembered as a member of The Defenders and husband to teammate Patsy Walker (aka: Hellcat).

Stay Tombed!



The Quest for the Dark Tower Pt. 1: Clements Guns and Sporting Goods

***Spoiler warning! Though I've made every attempt to avoid giving away key plot points during this quest, it's still very possible that information discussed herein may spoil a new reader's experience, so consider yourself warned! ***

I've been a die-hard fan of Stephen King's Dark Tower series since I first read books 1 and 2 waaay back in the summer of 1989. I've read each new book as they've become available (rereading the series as a whole each time over), as well as the current Marvel Comics series. That coupled with years of research into so many of the literary, cinematic, musical, and other various cultural and political references made in the series (also thanks in no small part to both Robin Furth's The Dark Tower: A Concordance and Bev Vincent's The Road to the Dark Tower) has resulted in my having an absurdly vast knowledge of most things Dark Tower.

Even though the story was said to have been completed in 2004, like so many other Dark Tower fans, I'm eagerly anticipating the latest chapter in the story (The Wind Through the Keyhole, scheduled for release April 24, 2012). So while we're all counting down the days for the new book, I figured I'd share some Dark Tower-related photos and memorabilia I've collected over the years.

Now let's travel todash to a place somewhere between New York City 1977 and Mid-World: Clements Guns and Sporting Goods!

Near the end of the second book, The Drawing of the Three, Roland Deschain of Gilead finds himself more or less on his own in New York City, racing against time to restock ammunition for his ancestral guns and find medication strong enough to kill the infection raging in his veins from a lobstrosity's bite, while also simultaneously trying to save the lives, minds and souls of his three traveling companions.

After consulting the mind of the monstrous Jack Mort, whose body he hijacked byway of a mystical door, Roland hops into a cab and tells the driver to take him to Seventh Avenue and Forty-ninth Street where, as we soon learn, Clements Guns and Sporting Goods is located.

In the New York of our where and when, Seventh Ave and Forty-ninth St. is home to The Playwright Tavern & Restaurant where Niki and I decided to grab a bite. The second story windows offered a great view looking out over the intersection, but the food ended up not treating us so well.

Roland had his own problems at this address. Shortly after he enters the shop he asks the clerk, "Fat Johnny" Holden, if he has a caliber chart he can look at. Fat Johnny offers up a dog-eared Shooter's Bible.

Roland thinks to himself that the book's title is very noble sounding before flipping through and finding the Fottergraff of the ammunition he requires: Winchester .45 pistol shells. But Fat Johnny tells Roland that without a handgun permit, there's no way he can sell the ammo to him legally.

It takes a little guile, finesse and the involvement of two of "New York's Finest" before Roland can lay his hands on those precious gun shells, but - true gunslinger that he is - he eventually wins through and before long he's striding down the street towards his next objective . . .

Long days, pleasant nights!



Tombstone Tuesday!

This is one of my favorite gravestones and it was the very first that Niki and I stopped and admired while in Los Angeles' Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Responsible for voicing nearly every Looney Tunes character (including such unforgettable cartoon titans as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig) Mel Blanc truly was "The Man of a Thousand Voices." He was also the voice of other memorable cartoon characters like Woody Woodpecker, Mister Magoo, Dino and Barney Rubble on The Flintstones, Mister Spacely on The Jetsons and one of my all-time favorites, The Do-Do from the 1938 Warner Bros. cartoon short Porky in Wackyland (which was remade in color for the 1949 Merrie Melodies' Dough For The Do-Do).

Stay Tombed!



Humble beginnings . . .

Here's a flawed little jewel from the vaults: Darryl and the Magic Potion. The lone survivor of at least 5 or 6 storybooks that I "published" in Grade 3. Every student had to write and publish only one book, but apparently I had a talkative muse whispering in my ear, because I ended up churning these things out faster than Stephen King.

The cover art is a little sketchy (I'm pretty sure the back cover is a "house ad" for another of my storytelling masterpieces), proudly Made In Canada with obviously absolutely no planning put into the placement of that title.

When you're 7 going on 8 years old, Etheridge is a very difficult name to spell, even when it's your own. So I opted to write under the pseudonym Darryl E. Why is there a Blue Fairy hovering around the cauldron? No idea.

Dedicated to my Mum. That's right, because every great author dedicates their first work to their mother.

More blue fairies, a bad Broom Hilda knock-off and a rhyme-scheme torn directly from William Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Apparently, I got stumped when it came to illustrating a monster turning into a human so I just stuck with not-Broom Hilda mixing up the strange brew. I'm assuming her wig fell in the cauldron.

A little better. Hair's back and at least I've got a man turning into a beast, that or some naked guy peeling off a Godzilla costume.

And we wrap it all up with the critics' praise for the author!



Tombstone Tuesday!

Like the "Fear" gravestone from last month, this grave marker in St. Catharines' Victoria Lawn Cemetery with the name "Lament" struck me as being eerily appropriate for the setting.

Stay tombed!



Gruβ vom Krampus!

Have yourself a Kreepy Krampusnacht!

If you have no idea what this is all about, go here.

-The DE/VLs (or Der Teufels if you prefer . . .)


I Triple Dog-Dare You!

It's the first of December! And now that the late November hiatus is over, Thursday will now be the regular day for DE/VL Design's weekly blog. So without further ado, let's get started with something sure to get everyone into the holiday spirit!

A few weeks ago, Niki shared a bit of information with me that she had picked up from a longtime St. Catharines resident about how a few exterior scenes from the classic holiday movie A Christmas Story had been filmed outside of a school not very far from where we now live.

FUDGE! (Only I didn't say "Fudge" . . .)

How awesome is that? Pretty awesome. We looked into it and discovered that the school in question, Victoria Public School (though now no longer operating as a school, but as a women's shelter) is just around the corner from the end of our street! We grabbed the camera and set out on one of our shortest, but most fulfilling movie location adventures yet.

While the building that had doubled as Warren G. Harding Elementary School is actually located on Niagara Street, most of the playground scenes were filmed around behind the school, in an area that has now been converted into the shelter's parking area and a recent townhouse complex known as Victoria Estates.

Because of the new housing development, many of the original landmarks are now gone, but it was still easy to find the famous spot where poor Flick was triple dog-dared into sticking his tongue to the frozen flagpole by Schwartz and Ralphie.

The pole at the corner of Gibson Place and Fitzgerald St. is long gone (though sharp-eyed Niki was quick to point out the new flagpole in the backyard of the house that now stands where the infamous dare went down), but a nearby telephone pole substitutes nicely for recreating the iconic scene.

Incredibly, the houses directly across the intersection look exactly as they did in the background of the shots where Flick is trapped by his own tongue as the rest of the kids run back to the school after the recess bell rings.

Of course, if you want to learn more about all the shoot locations from A Christmas Story, there's really only one place to go: A Christmas Story House.

Want to see the Triple Dog-Dare in it's entirety? You can watch it on Youtube.

Happy Holidays everyone!