Full Dark, No Stars
is a collection of short horror stories by Stephen Edwin King. First published in 2010, the stories center around redemption, revenge, and vengeance. The book won numerous awards including the 2010 Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection, and the 2011 British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. King is a global bestselling author of horror and thriller stories. Many of his stories have been adapted into television shows and major motion pictures, including The Shining
, and Salem’s Lot
. Before writing full-time, King taught English at Hampden Academy in Maine.
There are four stories in Full Dark, No Stars
: “1922,” “Big Driver,” “Fair Extension,” and “A Good Marriage.” The characters are different in each story, but they are linked by their dark storylines and their morally ambiguous personalities. Retribution is a major theme in every story, although it reveals itself in very different ways.
The first story is “1922.” The protagonist is Wilfred James. He lives with his wife, Arlette, on a farm in rural Nebraska. Wilfred loves farm life, but Arlette wants to move to the city. She plans on selling her own patch of farmland to a livestock company and divorcing Wilfred so she can be free.
When Wilfred discovers her plan, he conspires with their son, Henry, to kill her. They get her drunk and murder her, and they hide her body behind her barn. Rats soon infest her body and creep into the house. The rats attack the livestock and make Wilfred’s life miserable. He believes that Arlette haunts him from beyond the grave.
Henry and his girlfriend die in suspicious circumstances. The townsfolk turn against Wilfred and he’s forced to sell the farm to the livestock company. He meanders around Omaha thinking about Arlette until, one day, rats attack him in a hotel room. He tries to shoot himself before they eat him, but he dies before he gets the chance. No one can find any traces of rats around Wilfred’s body.
Story two, “Big Driver,” centers around a writer called Tess. She lives in a small town, and she writes mystery novels for a living. She’s very successful and has a loyal following. One day, when she speaks at a public library, the librarian warns her about traveling home the same way she came. She tells her to take a road called Stagg Road instead.
Tess thinks this is strange, but she follows the librarian’s recommendations anyway. Her car gets a flat tire and she goes to a gas station for help. The station is abandoned but, as luck has it, a pickup driver stops and offers her a ride. Tess doesn’t want his help because she finds the whole scenario suspicious, but she doesn’t have a choice.
The driver knocks Tess out before raping and beating her. She eventually escapes and heads home. She debates whether to tell anyone about her ordeal because she’s worried that no one will believe her. After some time, Tess returns to the gas station and kills the driver. She doesn’t plan on thinking about him again.
“Fair Extension” is about a man called David Streeter. He has terminal lung cancer and he will do anything to live longer. He makes a pact with a man called Elvid who offers him 15 more years if he pays Elvid a certain amount of money every year. Streeter must also pass his bad luck onto someone else.
Streeter chooses a man called Tom. He hates Tom, although he pretends to be his best friend. As Streeter’s cancer shrinks and his children find fame and fortune, Tom’s world is turned upside down. He loses his wife to breast cancer, his son dies in a coma, and Tom loses his business. Streeter doesn’t feel bad because Tom took advantage of him for so many years.
In “A Good Marriage,” story four, a woman called Darcy suspects that her husband of 27 years, Bob, is a serial killer. She finds violent pornographic material in his shed and ID cards that belonged to murder victims. When Bob goes away on a business trip, she investigates further. She realizes that Bob is often away on business trips when young women go missing, and he’s always near the scene of the crime.
Bob comes home and she confronts him about her suspicions. He says that the ID cards belong to his now-dead friend, Duvall. Duvall was a serial killer and Bob protected his secret. Darcy is skeptical, but she doesn’t want to think her husband is capable of murder, and so she goes along with the explanation.
After some time, Darcy grows suspicious once again. She decides to stop Bob from killing again by throwing him down the stairs. She lures him into the bedroom on the pretense of sex, and she pushes him down the stairs before strangling him. She convinces the police it was an accident and Bob fell over drunk. The detective, Ramsay, isn’t convinced, but he knows that Bob was the real serial killer. He knows that Darcy killed him, and he doesn’t blame her.