Tracing The Trails: A Constant Reader’s Reflections On The Work Of Stephen King – Chad A.Clark
Reviewed by D.K. Hundt
Author Chad A. Clark, born in the Midwest, has spent most of his life in Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan. He studied at the University of Iowa where he cultivated his passion for the written word, his focus being that of genre fiction, specifically horror and science fiction. Clark has numerous short stories, novella’s, and novels to his credit, beginning with his short stories: ‘Utopia,’ ‘Falling To Dark,’ ‘Tomorrow’s Memory,’ ‘Mist On The Highway,’ ‘Through The Slip,’ the novellas: Down The Beaten Path, Yesterday: When We Died, The Child At The End Of Time, Winter Holiday, Winward, From Across Their Walls, the short story collections: A Shade For Every Season, Two Bells At Dawn and his novels: Behind Our Walls (trilogy), Borrowed Time, and Tracing The Trails: A Constant Reader’s Reflections On The Work Of Stephen King featured in this review. This novel opens with an Introduction written by Richard Chizmar, an author I truly admire and respect as much as Stephen King, wherein he talks about his personal and business life and his friendship with King. Chizmar also quotes a bit of dialogue from one of his favorite movies, and mine, Tombstone, though I won’t spoil it for you by revealing it here, I will say it touched me deeply, like Chizmar’s life story, bringing me to tears.
Chizmar first met the King in 1981 when he was in high school, by way of one of his short stories. Fast forward five years later when Chizmar, in the middle of his junior year in college, sees King’s novel It in a book store. His thoughts after reading only a few pages may resonate with King fans who, perhaps, have also taken a break, like Clark and Chizmar, from reading his books or reading in general, later reigniting their passion with the discovery of a new Stephen King novel. For Chizmar, that book was It: ‘Pennywise was terrifying and grotesque, and he wanted me to float with him down there in the dark sewers of Derry. But I didn’t care. I was home again.’ After reading this, my fifteen-year-old self, the age I was when I first read It, screamed Yes! This!
After their re-immersion into King’s books later in life, Chizmar and Clark would rediscover their passion for reading and enthusiasm for writing. At the age of fifteen, Chizmar knew he wanted to spend his life doing to others what this author had done to him: ‘He’d [King] managed to make the real world around me disappear and replaced it with a fairy tale. A dark and frightening fairy, to be sure, that’s exactly what the whole experience felt like to me: it felt like magic’, which is precisely how my introduction to King’s writing felt to me. It was a time in my life that I wanted and needed the world around me to disappear, and King’s books were my escape. I was ten when I stumbled upon Carrie during one of my weekend visits to the Bookmobile, and I’ve been an avid fan of King’s writing ever since, the reason why Chad A. Clark’s novel, Tracing The Trails, appeals to me as both a reader and reviewer. Who better to reflect on the works of the King Of Horror than a fellow fan? I can’t think of anyone better.
In the year 2014, Clark embarked on what he calls ‘a long rewarding journey’ that stems from his passion for reading, ‘a desire to return to the kind of reading that hooked [him] in the first place.’ It was after listening to some of King’s audiobooks and reading a few of his new novels, when the idea came to Clark to ‘start at the beginning of [King’s] bibliography and take them down in order, reflecting on [his] thoughts along the way.’ Clark’s journey began with reading one of King’s books each month, and then posting his reviews on his blog, later compiling them into the novel featured in this review, Tracing The Trails: A Constant Reader’s Reflections On The Work Of Stephen King. Clark’s intent in writing this book is not to sway the reader to side with his way of thinking about a piece of writing; he’s merely expressing his opinions, which is the job of any reviewer. Do I agree with everything the author said within these pages? Of course not. Do I like every short story, novella, and novel written by the King of Horror? No, but the same can be said about all the authors whose writing lured me in over the years.
I have read or listened to the audiobooks of every short story, novella, and novel written by King mentioned in Clark’s book, save for The Dark Tower series and a couple of his new novels. I don’t feel the spoilers within Tracing The Trails, that Clark warns the reader about early on, ruins King’s writing for any potential reader. Personally, this novel served to reignite my passion for rereading the books I read so long ago, and the gentle push I need to complete my collection of The Dark Tower series, referenced in several of King’s stories. Stephen King is one of the two people in my life whose writing inspired me to follow my dream, and words cannot express how thankful I am to have met him by way of a book.
‘The most important things are the hardest to say… because words diminish them.’ – Stephen King, The Body
In closing, whether you’re a fellow fan of the King or Horror or a potential reader, I recommend taking the journey with Clark in Tracing The Trails: A Constant Reader’s Reflections On The Work Of Stephen King.
Tracing The Trails
For over forty years, Stephen King has been one of the biggest names in literature and popular culture.
In 2013, author and Constant Reader Chad A. Clark embarked on a journey, not of miles but of pages and words, reading all of Stephen King’s works. Every book and short story, in the order they were released.
What lies between these covers are his reflections along the way, the search for inspiration in a style of writing that has evolved over all this time. A trip from Castle Rock to the depths of Derry. From the Blasted Lands to the farthest reaches of Mid-World.
For all of us who have been lost in many a King book and pined for the chance to look him in the eyes and say, “We thank you.”
With an introduction by Richard Chizmar and tons of guest reviews, this book is over 400 pages of pure King fandom.
D. K. Hundt is an American writer with a BA degree in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. When she’s not writing contemporary fiction and horror/supernatural stories, she likes to spend her free time working as a volunteer in her community, being a minion for her cat Simon, warding off carnivorous spiders, and throwing herself into and around the dark alleyways of Stephen King novels in search of inspiration. D. K. resides in California with her husband, and she is currently working on a horror novel titled, Cheveyo–a story about a young boy who goes to live with his grandpa on a reservation, and soon discovers that the malevolent creatures that lurk in the Okanogan Forest aren’t the only deadly secret the locals are hiding.
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