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I first heard of Slade in early June of 2016. I never would’ve known it existed if I hadn’t seen it on my Goodreads news feed. I feel particularly indebted to that individual. Thank you.
As I eventually learned, Slade was originally published by the Maine Campus, in serial installments from June-August, 1970, while Steve King was still a student at the University of Maine. I also gleaned that it was one of his earlier writings, and that believing it to be “juvenile,” King pulled it (years later,) from publication. Obviously, one can still find it online, but apparently it’s kind of rare, and therefore hard to obtain. In fact, the original link provided via Goodreads is no longer active. The site’s expired. Thankfully, my good friend, Hans (a fierce collector,) found the latter link and send it my way. I really can’t thank you enough.
They came in huge beer steins and smelled like the wrath of God.
This tale (which is said to be thirty-one pages but read as though it was much shorter,) being a western parody, shouldn’t be mandatory King reading. Perhaps more accurately, it’s a completists dream. However, I don’t regret the hour or so it took me to finish it. There were several recurring themes, as well as tone and mood, that one sees in later books, like The Dark Tower and The Regulators, to name a few, and it’s always fun to discover those little Easter Eggs, although I’m not sure this qualifies as being connected to his magnum opus. Most telling of all, though, was King’s infectious sense of humor. This was hilarious in ways surpassing any of the humor in his other work, which obviously stemmed from this being a parody. It was, for me, so over-the-top that it was kind of difficult to take seriously. And there some serious elements at play, too.
Aside from a few details that were needlessly repeated throughout-to the point of minor irritation– and a seemingly abject lack of pathos (which may or might not have been intentional,) this was actually better than expected, and I can’t really complain.
My gosh, how I adore Jack Slade. The man. The gunslinger.