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The Wind Through the Keyhole

The Wind Through the Keyhole" – a "Dark Tower"-related novel set in the fictional Mid-World – is unlikely to be ranked among Stephen King’s top works, but it's still plenty entertaining.

By Erik Spanberg / May 16, 2012

The Wind Through the Keyhole By Stephen King Scribner 309 pp.

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First, the background. In between "Christine" and "Misery" and countless other best-sellers, Stephen King wrote seven increasingly lengthy novels known as "The Dark Tower" epic, ending with the final volume published in 2004.

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But, for King’s legions of Constant Readers, it should come as no surprise that the frighteningly prolific author of "Dark Tower" has found inspiration for The Wind Through the Keyhole, yet another tale set in the fictional Mid-World. King’s website describes this novel – set in harsh, post-apocalyptic terrain and focused on the peoples living there – as a combination of Tolkien’s "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and Sergio Leone’s shoot-em-up spaghetti Westerns.

"The Dark Tower" novels often intersect with stand-alone King works, but for those who find such fanboy jaunts of metafiction tedious, fear not. A brief scene-setting foreword serves as primer and, with that, King sends his troubled hero Roland Deschain back into action. Or, rather, inaction, as Roland and his motley crew, known as a ka-tet, find themselves battening down the hatches during a monstrous storm. (For those steeped in "Dark Tower" lore, "The Wind Through the Keyhole" fits between the fourth and fifth books.)

Whether these characters and their world are familiar or foreign, the new novel is, more than anything, an accessible and entertaining love letter to storytelling.

Roland, often brooding and cryptic in other "Dark Tower" tales, turns raconteur in this one. Three companions, drawn from the overlapping, contemporary world, accompany Roland. Despite or because of their shared adventures, they want to know more about Roland’s past. King describes Roland and his fellow gunslingers as “a strange combination of knights errant and territorial marshals in the Old West.”

Shelter from the storm inspires Roland to share two stories: one catalogs a harrowing boyhood adventure and the other, a story within that story, is a tale Roland’s mother read him as a child.

“Mayhap I’ll tell you two, since it’s long until dawn and we can sleep tomorrow away, if we like,” Roland says. “Yet the wind blows through both, which is a good thing. There’s nothing like stories on a windy night when folks have found a warm place in a cold world.”

And who better than the Bard of Bangor to relate the value of escaping wintry weather with a story or two?

King, of course, can’t resist telling stories. "The Wind Through the Keyhole" arrives just a few months after "11/22/63," a tidy 849-page alternate history about love and loss and the JFK assassination that won kudos from The New York Times, among others. "The Wind Through the Keyhole" carries less heft and is unlikely to be ranked among King’s top works, but it is a fun way to while away a weekend. At minimum, longtime fans will be happy to find themselves back in the (dis)comfort of King’s addictive narrative.

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