Stephen and Owen King, “Sleeping Beauties” horror, murder and stereotypes in Appalachia

In the coming weeks, I may have a guest blogger here on “Appalachian Chained” discussing their opinion and take away from Stephen King and his son Owen’s new collaboration, “Sleeping Beauties”.

You may ask, what does Stephen and Owen King and their new book “Sleeping Beauties” have to do with Appalachia? Plenty, if what I have seen from some of the excerpts from this novel.

According to the publisher, the book is “set in a future Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison. A disturbing phenomenon occurs (what else could happen in a King novel) when women in the town go to sleep. They become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. When awoken, “the women become feral and spectacularly violent.”

Now let me remind you. I haven’t read the book but a good friend who loves Stephen King and reading, is going through the book now and she has pulled out sections and excerpts from the book that have made me raise an eyebrow, get a little angry and also made my blood boil due to stereotypes as viewed by the New England based writer and his son, with the older King famous for such properties as “Salem’s Lot”, “Christine”, “The Stand” and of course, “It”.

Another brief description found online says the novel “follows Clint and Lila Norcross, a husband and wife who live in Dooling, West Virginia, a small, poor Appalachian town in the United States.”

The description goes on to say that “Clint works as a psychiatrist at the local women’s prison while Lila serves as the town’s sheriff. The two find themselves facing a strange epidemic that causes women to fall into a deep sleep where they are cocooned in a strange material. Attempts to open the cocoon and wake the women only result in the women reacting in a homicidal manner. As a result the remaining women try desperately to remain awake by any means necessary while some men react by trying to set fire to the cocoons or accusing women of bringing the sleeping sickness upon themselves. One woman, Eve, seems to be the key to the entire strange affair.”

Notice that I put in bold the first thing that bothers me, the stereotypical view of outsiders looking at Appalachia, a small, poor town. Poor in what? Money? Yes, that could be very much true. Most of Appalachia is struggling right now and some towns are having to borrow money to make payroll. It’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul or simply as the old mountain adage might be, we don’t have a pot to pee in.

But descriptions that both Kings use in their interpretation of Appalachia are stereotypical. The descriptions of run down shacks, poor emancipated people who appear to be starving in the book, but then with references to rusted out old Ford F-150 pickup trucks (why not a Chevrolet or Dodge?), the early explosion of a meth lab has me already shaking my head that King and his son may have thrown darts at a wall, with one landing in West Virginia.  My thoughts also wonder if King’s mind didn’t wander back to the 1960’s and stereotypes by the national media to Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy’s War on Poverty or perhaps a demand from his publisher that he come up with a decent story with enough murder and gore for increased sales may have prompted this book rather than doing research about the land where the story is set. Even respected author David Baldacci who wrote “Wish You Well” based upon stories and memories of Southwestern Virginia and primarily, Dickenson County.

Why King didn’t load up like Jed Clampett and move to the heart of West Virginia (OK, that’s stretching it a little) is beyond me. Wait, yes I know why. His politics doesn’t jibe with the Appalachian political scene or so he thinks so it’s better to stay away and misjudge a group of people rather than take the actual events in people’s lives here and make them more believable with a dose of horror and macabre thrown in and he probably fears he will come to Appalachia and come face to face with his deepest fears, gun-toting extreme right, gun toting zombies who voted for Trump rather than Hillary Clinton.

Maybe I am little sensitive. Perhaps my friend is also but when she messages excerpts of the book and says READ THIS you know you’ve hit a nerve with her.

I don’t like stereotypes. I like them even less from respected and highly regarded authors like Stephen King who it seems politically shoves ideology down our throat like bad medicine whether we need it or not.

If the first few chapters that my friend has read are any indication, we’re in for another “wonderful” slam on Appalachian people from someone who knows nothing about us.

When she finishes the book, she’s promised a breakdown of it and I promise I will share it with you. I’m not much into Stephen King books but I trust my friend enough to give you her opinion on what she has read.

While the rest of the world may read the book and say, “That’s typical for that part of the world,” some of us don’t take to the labeling and stereotypes too well.

The older I get, I get tired of it sort of like the dog that has been whipped over and over for too long. One day, as the old saying is, the dog is going to snap back.

One way I have snapped back is with this blog.

I’m not done snapping back yet. In fact, I’m just getting started.

Hopefully, her guest blog will be posted here in the near future and you can read her thoughts, maybe the book yourself, and compare and contrast.

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