Happy Tuesday, readers, writers, and shark fans! We’re so excited—screaming, in fact—to share that Stephen King has announced his next book: a short story anthology entitled You Like It Darker, which includes a sequel to his 1981 novel, Cujo.
The sequel is called “Rattlesnakes,” and it follows a grieving widower who travels to Florida for respite and instead receives an unexpected inheritance—with major strings attached. Shudder.
Our Theory about the Sequel (Contains Spoilers)
After doing some digging, we’re guessing that Vic Trenton has become a widower after his wife, Donna, passes away from we-don’t-know-yet. To refresh your memory of Cujo for those who have read the novel, the main story was about Vic and Donna Trenton, and their son, Tad. With their relationship on the rocks because of an affair Donna was having and Vic’s business dwindling, Vic leaves for a business trip in Boston in an effort to save his business and turn their life around. While he’s gone, Donna attempts to take her failing car to the home of the Cambers’, which is also the home of Cujo, who has already been bitten by a rabid bat. With the husband (Joe) already killed by Cujo, and his wife and son (Charity and Brett) visiting family, there’s no one at the Camber house to help with Donna’s car, or little does she know, a rabid dog. After trying to stay alive by hiding in their car, despite the severe summer heat, Donna eventually has no choice but to leave the car to help Tad, who is dying in the car from heatstroke and dehydration. By the time she conquers Cujo, she has suffered from multiple rabid bites and Tad has died. The novel ends with Donna being treated for rabies, and she and Vic reconciling, attempting to move past the affair and the death of Tad.
So somewhere after that novel ended, with hundreds of thousands of readers asking for a sequel, Donna must have passed away, resulting in Vic being alone. But while his business ventures were in Boston and New York, he instead finds himself going south to Florida in search of quiet and healing, only to find himself cornered by this mysterious inheritance.
Read an Excerpt of “Rattlesnakes”
I wasn’t surprised when I saw the elderly woman pushing the double stroller with the empty seats; I had been forewarned. This was on Rattlesnake Road, which winds the four-mile length of Rattlesnake Key on the Florida Gulf Coast. Houses and condos to the south; a few McMansions at the north end.
There’s a blind curve half a mile from Greg Ackerman’s McMansion, where I was staying that summer, bouncing around like the last pea in an oversized can. Tangled undergrowth higher than my head (and I’m six-four) flanked the road, seeming to press in and make what was narrow to begin with even narrower. The curve was marked on either side by fluorescent green plastic kids, each bearing the warning SLOW! CHILDREN AT PLAY. I was walking, and at the age of seventy-two, in the simmering heat of a July morning, I was going plenty slow. My plan was to walk to the swing gate which divides the private part of the road from the part the county maintains, then go back to Greg’s house. I was already wondering if I’d bitten off more than I could chew.
I hadn’t been entirely sure Greg wasn’t putting me on about Mrs. Bell, but here she was, and pushing her oversized stroller toward me. One of the wheels had a squeak and could have used some oil. She was wearing baggy shorts, sandals with knee-length socks, and a big blue sunhat. She stopped, and I remembered Greg asking me if her problem—that’s what he called it—would give me a problem. I said it wouldn’t, but now I wondered.
“Hello. I think you must be Mrs. Bell. My name is Vic Trenton. I’m staying at Greg’s house for a while.”
“A friend of Greg’s? How nice! An old friend?”
“We worked in the same Boston ad agency. I was a copywriter and he—”
“Pictures and layout, I know. Before he made the big bucks.” She pushed the double pram closer, but not too close. “Any friend of Greg’s, so on and so forth. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Since we’re going to be neighbors for as long as you’ll be here, please call me Alita. Or Allie, if you like. Are you okay? No sign of this new flu?”
“I’m okay. No cough, no fever. I assume you are, too.”
“I am. Which is good, as old as I am, and with a few of the usual old-person medical issues. One of the few nice things about being here in the summer is how most people clear out. I saw on the news this morning that Dr. Fauci is saying there could be a hundred thousand new cases every day. Can you believe that?”
I told her I had seen the same thing.
“Did you come here to get away from it?”
“No. I needed some time off and the place was offered to me, so I took it.” That was far from the whole story.
“I think you’re a little crazy to be vacationing in this part of the world during the summer, Mr. Trenton.”
According to Greg, you’re the one who’s crazy, I thought. And judging by the stroller you’re wheeling around, he wasn’t wrong.
“Vic, please,” I said. “Since we’re neighbors.”
Excerpted from YOU LIKE IT DARKER by Stephen King. Copyright © 2024 by Stephen King. Reprinted with permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The Full List of Stories
A few other stories of note include “Two Talented Bastids,” which explores the long-hidden secret of how the eponymous gentlemen got their skills, and “Danny Coughlin’s Bad Dream,” about a brief and unprecedented psychic flash that upends dozens of lives. In “The Dreamers,” a taciturn Vietnam vet answers a job ad and learns that there are some corners of the universe best left unexplored while “The Answer Man” asks if prescience is good luck or bad and reminds us that a life marked by unbearable tragedy can still be meaningful.
Here’s the complete list of titles from You Like It Darker:
- “Two Talented Bastids”
- “The Fifth Step”
- “Willie the Weirdo”
- “Danny Coughlin’s Bad Dream”
- “On Slide Inn Road”
- “Red Screen”
- “The Turbulence Expert”
- “The Dreamers”
- “The Answer Man”
We’re so excited about this collection already. The title, You Like It Darker, echoes nicely with King’s earlier short story collections like Full Dark, No Stars and If It Bleeds, and we’re curious if there’s any connection here to the Leonard Cohen song, “You Want It Darker” (especially since King is a Cohen fan).
Regarding the stories in this collection, we’re of course interested to see where this Cujo sequel will go, what’s going to happen with the “crazy” Mrs. Bell, what that inheritance wll be, and of course, why it’s called “Rattlesnakes…” Speaking again of titles, we love the title “The Answer Man,” because every time Stephen King writes a story about a “______ Man,” it’s always incredibly eerie, if not deeply scary: The Man in the Black Suit, the Boogeyman, the Lawnmower Man, the Man Who Loved Flowers… and surely others. And “Danny Coughlin’s Bad Dreams,” of course takes us back to The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Doctor Sleep, The Shining… To say we’re full of anticipation would be an understatement.
And can we talk about this cover for a minute? It’s stunning. And creepy. And true to Florida. We can only imagine how that gold is going to shine on the hardcover edition.
The Scariest Part?
……….You Like It Darker will not be released until May 21, 2024.
In the meantime, we have reviews of Stephen King’s Holly coming, as well as a film review of The Boogeyman and a list of Stephen King’s comparable book titles. There’s also the TV series, Welcome to Derry, coming in 2024 that we’re eager to watch and talk about . . . Stay tuned!