As a younger man, I absolutely loved Stephen King and read everything of his I could get my hands on. At some point, however, he managed to write faster than I could read, and I sort of lost track of what he has put out. As it stands today, there are many of his works that I’ve yet to read.
It also didn’t help that, like so many in the entertainment business, he has become actively involved with partisan politics. He was a public backer of Barack Obama’s presidency and, more recently, has been a vocal anti-gun advocate. It’s much harder to turn over your money to someone when you know they’re going to be using it against you, even when you enjoy their product.
He may be cranking out the novels multiple times each year but King’s writing remains engrossing. Many consider his works a guilty pleasure but, despite being lacking the wherewithal to do a proper analysis, I assert that his writing is of a better literary quality than most give him credit for. My enjoyment of Dr. Sleep aside, there are two aspects of this particular story shown (heh) through the narrative. One of them impresses and the other bugs me to no end.
Like The Shining before it, Dr. Sleep has alcoholism as a major theme. Among the scant inheritance Danny Torrence received from Jack, he has his father’s affinity for the drink. The opening chapters of the novel establishes the grip that liquor has on the main character and follows him to the “rock bottom” that, in some cases, represents the beginning of redemption for the alcoholic. King manages to capture the feeling of being a drunk in an utterly visceral way. King had his own fight with substance abuse, so I suppose the reader may assume that he knows of what he speaks.
That knowledge does not extend to firearms.
One would think that a best-selling author such as King would have the support of top-notch editors as he cranks out the novels. Furthermore, one would think that the job of said editors would be to do a little research when encountering topics of which they know nothing about. Apparently this is not true when it comes to King’s hated firearms, a phobia he likely shares with the staff at his New York City -based publisher. The mistakes aren’t horrible, as far as errors go, but being as obvious as they are to someone who knows better, they can really stand out.
The first error smacked me when one of the heroes of the novel brings along his firearms while coming to the aid of the good and the righteous. The novel takes place mostly in New Hampshire, where the “good guy with the gun” is woven deeply into the rural fabric. The problem comes when it is explained that his weapon of choice will be a 1911 pistol which, by virtue of it having been his service piece, is “fully automatic.” Despite such a thing having actually existed, it is unlikely that an elderly New Hampshire man would actually bring it to a gunfight. It is impossible that an elderly New Hampshire man would call it a “one-nine-one-one,” as King writes. May John Browning forgive his mortal soul.
Simply converting a 1911 to a full-auto trigger mechanism wouldn’t have been done, except by someone who might enjoy wrecking a decent pistol just to see if he can. The result would entirely uncontrollable and likely unreliable. Despite the wide range of magazine sizes available today, older 1911s prefer to run with a 7-round magazine, which would seem pretty pointless to use in an automatic weapon. While John Dillinger famously had a automatic 1911, the version that he used was modified with special barrel to help prevent the gun from leaping out of the hand of the shooter. It also had a foregrip, so it could be used two-handed. I’ve also seen some pictures with a buttstock attached, which also would seem to be a smart way to try to control such a contraption. These production models used 18-round magazines, which were probably themselves custom-built and also likely had to undergo some reliability testing to make sure they worked with the converted pistol. I don’t know if any of these survive to this day but, if they did, they would probably be worth a fortune. This isn’t something you’d want to stuff into a glove box.
The book identifies another “full auto” pistol, likely a Glock, in the hands of the protagonists. While a little bit more feasible (conversions of Glocks into subguns do seem to be somewhat popular), should someone own a legal version, it would still be a collectors item rather than a fighting gun. Of course, there are illegally-owned machine guns out there. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are examples of Glocks converted to machine pistols circulating in the ‘hood, but remember we’re talking about a law-abiding former soldier here. A more likely explanation is that King confused “semi-automatic” and “automatic” terminology, a confusion propagated by his political fellow-travelers.
Perhaps primed to be offended by this earlier mix-up, I got hung up on King’s description of a particularly fierce firearm as a Glock .22. Again, for most this would be considered a fairly minor error. Nevertheless, it jumped off of the page at me. To people for whom the very mention of the word “Glock” is a little scary and dwelling on any form ammunition, no matter the type, is even more so, a Glock .22 might sound pretty formidable. Problem is, a pistol in .22 Long Rifle is going to be particularly underpowered for the context in which the reference was used. In fact, Glock doesn’t even make a production .22 handgun, although they are easy to come by as conversions of larger-caliber models. More likely, it was an attempt to reference a Glock 22, a .40 S&W caliber firearm, which would be quite appropriate to bring to a gunfight. Does that misplaced period really matter so much? Maybe not, but isn’t that what editors are for?
Catching mistakes like this on a subject that I know a little bit about makes me wonder how much I take on face value, but is at least an inaccurate.
P.S. An additional comment about the title of this entry. The novel uses the phrase “Shine On” which immediately brings to mind the Twister soundtrack. I thought this might be unique to me, but I see the New York Times review of the book is itself titled “Shine On.” I think Twister has got into all of our heads.