(“The Dark Man”)
You’re not alone if you don’t know what The Dark Man is. It was on my list in between Joyland and Doctor Sleep, so I of course decided to read it. I couldn’t find it in ebook form, but I did find an itty bitty hardcover by Cemetary Dance on Amazon that I expect is some type of collectible, because I paid entirely too much for it (though not as much as it’s currently listed for, ouch). I’ve mostly been skipping expensive collectible things as I work my way through my list of King’s works, because, for the most part, everything published in some super-expensive limited edition anthology or collection is also available someplace else — in one of his short story collections, usually.
But this one didn’t seem to be anyplace else. And The Dark Man (aka Randall Flagg, aka a bunch of other aliases) is a villain I’m interested in anyway. So I bought it.
As it turns out, The Dark Man is a poem, and the book that I bought was that poem set to a bunch of illustrations. Really good illustrations that have a lot of callbacks to King’s works in them. I’m not an art reviewer here and I’m not going to try to critique illustrations, but I liked them and enjoyed looking at them, and I kind of think anyone who’s interested enough in King content to read my random ramblings on the subject would probably like them too. The artist is Glenn Chadbourne.
The poem itself is… something. Since I knew nothing about it, I had to look it up, and the information I found says that King wrote the poem in college (on the back of a restaurant placemat) and ended up building the character of Randall Flagg around it. It is very dark. The dark man is basically riding the rails, which makes sense — he’s a wandering man. But in the end, he winds up raping a girl. If I squint, I can almost see the Flagg/Nadine scene here. It’s short, there’s not a lot to it, but it still manages to be a bit upsetting. I’m glad I read it and I’ll keep my copy, but I don’t see myself revisiting this one a lot.