Riding the Bullet by Stephen King
Screenplay by Mick Garris
Dust Jacket by Alan M. Clark
Art Gallery by Bernie Wrightson
Lonely Road Books, 2010, $75.00, 224 pages
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
Riding the Bullet is an exquisite Limited and Gift Edition that’s published in a somewhat larger book format. On the front side of the book you have Stephen King’s 48 page novella. When you turn the book over to the back side and then upside down, you now have the screenplay of Riding the Bullet by Mick Garris, who also directed the film. It’s reminiscent of the double-novel paperbacks of years past. Between the novella and the screenplay are an art gallery of Bernie Wrightson’s ink drawings and still shots from the movie of Riding the Bullet with notes by Mick Garris.
For those of you who haven’t read King’s novella or seen the movie, the story deals with college student, Alan Parker, and his attempt to hitchhike home one night to see his mother, who’s just been hospitalized with a stroke. Good rides, of course, are sometimes hard to find for a hitchhiker. Alan had hoped to be in Lewiston by night fall, but instead finds himself out on a lonely highway at night with his thumb stuck up in the air. When a muscle car happens along and the driver offers him a ride, Alan gladly hops in. Of course, this being a Stephen King story, the driver of the car turns out to be the spirit of a dead man from the past who’d lost his head in a car accident. Alan immediately wants to climb out of the car, but the driver won’t allow him to leave. You see the ghost has something in store for the college student. He’s going to offer Alan a choice. Either Alan can choose to take the long journey with the driver, or he can offer his dying mother up for the ride. It’s a tough decision to make for a young man, but, hey, life isn’t always fair, is it?
Stephen King’s novella is a fine piece of writing that displays his craftsmanship with the written word, while at the same time exploring the themes of one’s morality and the guilt that comes to a person when he/she knowingly makes the wrong decision. We all have a strong instinct for survival, but what would we do if we had to make a choice about who lives and dies. Would you be willing to surrender your life for another’s? I don’t know what I would do in a similar situation. It’s always easy to think you would take the high ground, until you find yourself with having to make a life or death decision.
The screenplay by Mick Garris is longer than the novella. Mick had to increase the length of the story with more information about Alan Parker, some new characters, and with a changed ending. Even with this, Mick manages to stay true to King’s story, following it as closely as possible with much of the dialogue that was used in the novella. If you’re interested in writing for the movies, then you’ll certainly learn a lot from the finished shooting script of Riding the Bullet. Script writing is different from writing a short story, novella, or novel. You have to see everything from the camera’s point of view, or what viewers see on the screen when they go to the movies. Also, when writing a screenplay, one will usually have to add or delete material to it from the original source. In this case, new material had to be added to make an almost two-hour movie. I enjoyed the screenplay and Mick Garris’s style of writing. In many ways, he’s just as good as Stephen King in his ability to create a story and to see it with his mind’s eye on up a big movie screen.
Add to this some really beautiful ink drawings by the great Bernie Wrightson of some wicked looking night crawlers and scantily-clad women, plus some behind-the-scenes shots of the movie, Riding the Bullet, stretch boards, and notes on production schedules, and you have a one-of-a-kind edition of a Stephen King novella. This is definitely a must-buy for collectors of Stephen King’s fiction. Lonely Road Books has done a fabulous job on this very special edition with hot wrap-around dust jacket by Alan Clark. Highly recommended!