(Charlie the Choo-Choo)
Charlie the Choo-Choo is a children’s book written by Beryl Evans, also sometimes known by what I believe is her pen name, Claudia y Inez Bachman. Why am I writing about a children’s book by some woman in my Stephen King blog? Well, if you know the Dark Tower, you know that both Beryl Evans and Claudia y Inez Bachman are inventions of Stephen King, as is Charlie the Choo-Choo. (And even if you don’t know the Dark Tower, the name “Bachman”, particularly as a pen name, might give you a clue that this is still a Stephen King thing.) But Charlie the Choo-Choo doesn’t only exist in the pages of the Dark Tower books. It was published on its own in 2017 as a children’s picture book — although Charlie himself looks sort of scary, as do some of the children riding in him, and I’m unsure if I would read this to an actual child if I had any small ones. Maybe Stephen King went ahead and made one for real because Jake can’t buy it if it doesn’t exist somewhere, right? On the cover, the author is listed as Beryl Evans.
If you’ve read the Dark Tower series, you’ve read everything in this book. I’m pretty sure it’s word for word the story that was read out loud by one of the characters. Engineer Bob is the Engineer for Charlie the Choo-Choo train; he discovers that Charlie is actually alive and can fuel himself; Charlie is retired in favor of a new, shiny, supposedly faster train, and Engineer Bob quits and becomes a custodian, basically, because he refuses to drive any train but Charlie. He keeps Charlie in running shape. Eventually, the new shiny thing breaks down when a bigwig really needs a ride to get to his daughter, so Engineer Bob offers up Charlie. The bigwig is impressed by Charlie’s speed and Engineer Bob’s skills at making him go fast (which are really Charlie’s self-fueling skills), and the daughter is delighted, so Charlie is brought out of retirement to pull children around as an amusement. Some of the children appear to be screaming, however. And Charlie himself is kind of a grumpy dude, refusing to “answer simple questions” or “play silly games” in response to pretty much anything.
The illustrations by artist Ned Dameron really sell you the idea that this is the Charlie the Choo-Choo book that Jake bought early in the series. Charlie looks kinda creepy — not, like, outright demon train evil, but like he’s just waiting for his chance to be really evil — and the children are a mix. Some appear happy, and some really do look scared… as if a few of them caught on that this is not just an innocent, enjoyable train ride. The story itself is just words Dark Tower junkies have already read; nothing groundbreaking there, but it’s a neat piece of the Dark Tower anyway.