Coauthors King and Straub, together again (The Talisman, 1984), take a Wisconsin Death Trip into parallel universes.
The Fisherman, who copycats long-dead serial killer Albert Fish, has been chopping up little kids in French Landing, Wisconsin, and sending letters to the children’s parents identical to those Fish sent parents 67 years ago—letters never made public, so how does The Fisherman do this? The local police chief asks for help from Jack Sawyer (hero of The Talisman), a Los Angeles homicide detective now in retirement. As a child, Jack flipped into the Territories, the parallel world in The Talisman, but has since forgotten his trip. What about the all-black Black House in the woods? Well, only Charles Burnside (Alzheimer’s) and Tinky Winky Judy Marshall (just plain crazy) know the Black House is the doorway to Abbalah, the entrance to hell—and Judy’s son Tyler is apparently the killer’s fourth victim. Jack’s new buddy, blind Henry Leyden, a radio deejay with four discrete identities no one knows are his, can’t talk Jack into taking the case. But when little Irma Freneau’s gnawed foot arrives in a shoebox on Jack’s welcome mat, Jack flips and lands in the Territories. The Territories confer a sacred magic and, in Jack’s case, absolute luck that lets him win his every bet or endeavor. Tyler, it happens, is telekinetic, and has been abducted by the Crimson King. All universes are held in place by the Dark Tower, the great interdimensional axle the Crimson King wants to destroy. Jack must save Tyler from the furnace-lands below Black House—and here the novel strives for depth, though interest dwindles.
Those not knowing King’s Dark Tower series or The Talisman will follow all this easily enough. Many admiring King’s recent, subtler work, though, may find these blood-spattered pages a step backward into dreamslash & gutspill.