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Creep-master King shows slightly softer side

Couple's connection, till death and after, drives 'Lisey's Story'
by: ©2006 AMY GUIP, Stephen King, whose best-sellers range from horror classics such as “The Shining” to the author’s memoir “On Writing,” makes a post-Halloween visit to Portland.

Nearly 30 years ago I read Stephen King's 'The Shining' and found myself too terrified to sleep at night. So I paid my youngest brother 5 bucks an evening to crash on my bedroom floor.

A year later, I stupidly watched the movie. This time I grabbed the sleeping bag and sacked out in Harry's room. I was old enough to vote and drink but not, apparently, old enough to keep King's boogeyman away.

King's latest book is 'Lisey's Story,' and, yes, it has its very own set of things that go bump in the night. These include the 'long boy,' the 'thing with the piebald side' and a daddy who makes the fellow from 'The Shining' look like the father on '7th Heaven.' That being said, this is a kinder, gentler version of some of King's earlier work.

It is also the portrait of a marriage, two years after the husband has died. Scott Landon was a best-selling author who bears more than a slight resemblance to his creator. Like King, he has a devoted spouse, Lisey, who is struggling to finally go through her husband's study, the place where he wrote his books and stored mementos from his past.

Within the first few pages of the book she finds herself reliving a harrowing experience from the couple's past, when a deranged fan shot and almost killed Scott. Plus, Lisey is getting frightening phone calls from someone determined to acquire some of the dead author's unfinished stories, and she's trying to cope with a mentally unstable sister.

Soon Lisey realizes she must visit the land of Boo'ya Moon, a place that both terrified and strengthened her talented but tormented husband. In this magical place reside the creepy, horrifying creatures that designate a King novel.

But getting to this point requires a bit of stamina as portions of the book, particularly the beginning, are filled with silly chatter and annoying coded language the author uses to show us how joined at the hip Scott and Lisey were. For one thing, the couples smugly uses the word 'smucking' instead of the vulgarity it rhymes with. By the end of the book, more than one reader may be muttering the original utterance.

'Lisey's Story' will not keep me from sleeping at night. Instead, despite its unevenness, it has me hungering for more information about its creator. King has always spoken of both his wife and his love of writing with a passion and a gratitude that is endearing and fascinating. His latest novel gives his readers a deeper glimpse into both relationships.

Also reading this week

At age 19, Wendy Werris took a temporary job at a Hollywood bookstore. Today she has more than 35 years in book culture and a memoir with the exuberant subtitle 'Living It Up in the World of Books.' Werris will discuss the memoir, 'An Alphabetical Life,' at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Powell's City of Books (1005 W. Burnside St., 503-228-4651).

In 2005, at 28, San Francisco activist Marla Ruzicka was killed by an Iraqi suicide bomber. An 'all-American girl,' at the time of her death she was working to raise awareness of the civilian victims in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her friend Jennifer Abrahamson has written a book about her mission, 'Sweet Relief: The Marla Ruzicka Story.' Abrahamson will appear at 7 p.m. Thursday at the downtown Borders (708 S.W. Third Ave., 503-221-9814).

There are no sweeter words to a bibliomaniac's ears than 'surplus book sale.' Portland State University's Millar Library will host its quarterly event starting Thursday and running until Sunday. Hours of operation will be from noon to 7 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. The sale will take place on the ground floor of the library (1875 S.W. Park Ave.). Admission is free. For information, call Josh Hancock at 503-725-4579.

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Stephen King

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2

Where: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, 503-227-2583, www.literary-arts.org

Cost: $30, $40 and $60, benefit event for Literary Arts