Black House

Black House

by Stephen King, Peter Straub

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling authors of The Talisman, “an intelligent…suspenseful page-turner” (The Wall Street Journal) from “two master craftsmen, each at the top of his game” (The Washington Post).

Twenty years ago, a boy named Jack Sawyer traveled to a parallel universe called the Territories to save his mother and her Territories “Twinner” from an agonizing death that would have brought cataclysm to the other world. Now Jack is a retired Los Angeles homicide detective living in the nearly nonexistent hamlet of Tamarack, Wisconsin. He has no recollection of his adventures in the Territories, and was compelled to leave the police force when an odd, happenstance event threatened to awaken those memories.

When a series of gruesome murders occur in western Wisconsin that are reminiscent of those committed several decades ago by a madman named Albert Fish, the killer is dubbed “the Fishman,” and Jack’s buddy, the local chief of police, begs Jack to help the inexperienced force find him. But are these new killings merely the work of a disturbed individual, or has a mysterious and malignant force been unleashed in this quiet town? What causes Jack’s inexplicable waking dreams—if that is what they are—of robins’ eggs and red feathers? It’s almost as if someone is trying to tell him something. As this cryptic message becomes increasingly impossible to ignore, Jack is drawn back to the Territories and to his own hidden past, where he may find the soul-strength to enter a terrifying house at the end of a deserted tract of forest, there to encounter the obscene and ferocious evils sheltered within it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451698374
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 11/06/2012
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 848
Sales rank: 20,239
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than sixty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The Institute, Elevation, The OutsiderSleeping Beauties (cowritten with his son Owen King), and the Bill Hodges trilogy: End of WatchFinders Keepers, and Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel and an AT&T Audience Network original television series). His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic works The Dark Tower and It are the basis for major motion pictures, with It now the highest grossing horror film of all time. He is the recipient of the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award, the 2014 National Medal of Arts, and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Peter Straub is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including A Dark Matter. He has won the Bram Stoker Award for his novels Lost Boy Lost Girl and In the Night Room, as well as for his recent collection 5 Stories. Straub was the editor of the two-volume Library of American anthology The American Fantastic Tale. He lives in New York City.


Bangor, Maine

Date of Birth:

September 21, 1947

Place of Birth:

Portland, Maine


B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970

Read an Excerpt

Part 1: Welcome to Coulee Country

Right here and now, as an old friend used to say, we are in the fluid present, where clear-sightedness never guarantees perfect vision. Here: about two hundred feet, the height of a gliding eagle, above Wisconsin's far western edge, where the vagaries of the Mississippi River declare a natural border. Now: an early Friday morning in mid-July a few years into both a new century and a new millennium, their wayward courses so hidden that a blind man has a better chance of seeing what lies ahead than you or I. Right here and now, the hour is just past six a.m., and the sun stands low in the cloudless eastern sky, a fat, confident yellow-white ball advancing as ever for the first time toward the future and leaving in its wake the steadily accumulating past, which darkens as it recedes, making blind men of us all.

Below, the early sun touches the river's wide, soft ripples with molten highlights. Sunlight glints from the tracks of the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad running between the riverbank and the backs of the shabby two-story houses along County Road Oo, known as Nailhouse Row, the lowest point of the comfortable-looking little town extending uphill and eastward beneath us. At this moment in the Coulee Country, life seems to be holding its breath. The motionless air around us carries such remarkable purity and sweetness that you might imagine a man could smell a radish pulled out of the ground a mile away.

Moving toward the sun, we glide away from the river and over the shining tracks, the backyards and roofs of Nailhouse Row, then a line of Harley- Davidson motorcycles tilted on their kickstands. These unprepossessing little houses were built, early in the century recently vanished, for the metal pourers, mold makers, and crate men employed by the Pederson Nail factory. On the grounds that working stiffs would be unlikely to complain about the flaws in their subsidized accommodations, they were constructed as cheaply as possible. (Pederson Nail, which had suffered multiple hemorrhages during the fifties, finally bled to death in 1963.) The waiting Harleys suggest that the factory hands have been replaced by a motorcycle gang. The uniformly ferocious appearance of the Harleys' owners, wild-haired, bushy-bearded, swag-bellied men sporting earrings, black leather jackets, and less than the full complement of teeth, would seem to support this assumption. Like most assumptions, this one embodies an uneasy half-truth.

The current residents of Nailhouse Row, whom suspicious locals dubbed the Thunder Five soon after they took over the houses along the river, cannot so easily be categorized. They have skilled jobs in the Kingsland Brewing Company, located just out of town to the south and one block east of the Mississippi. If we look to our right, we can see "the world's largest six-pack," storage tanks painted over with gigantic Kingsland Old-Time Lager labels. The men who live on Nailhouse Row met one another on the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois, where all but one were undergraduates majoring in English or philosophy. (The exception was a resident in surgery at the UI-UC university hospital.) They get an ironic pleasure from being called the Thunder Five: the name strikes them as sweetly cartoonish. What they call themselves is "the Hegelian Scum." These gentlemen form an interesting crew, and we will make their acquaintance later on. For now, we have time only to note the hand-painted posters taped to the fronts of several houses, two lamp poles, and a couple of abandoned buildings. The posters say: fisherman, you better pray to your stinking god we don't catch you first! remember amy!

From Nailhouse Row, Chase Street runs steeply uphill between listing buildings with worn, unpainted facades the color of fog: the old Nelson Hotel, where a few impoverished residents lie sleeping, a blank-faced tavern, a tired shoe store displaying Red Wing workboots behind its filmy picture window, a few other dim buildings that bear no indication of their function and seem oddly dreamlike and vaporous. These structures have the air of failed resurrections, of having been rescued from the dark westward territory although they were still dead. In a way, that is precisely what happened to them. An ocher horizontal stripe, ten feet above the sidewalk on the facade of the Nelson Hotel and two feet from the rising ground on the opposed, ashen faces of the last two buildings, represents the high-water mark left behind by the flood of 1965, when the Mississippi rolled over its banks, drowned the railroad tracks and Nailhouse Row, and mounted nearly to the top of Chase Street.

Where Chase rises above the flood line and levels out, it widens and undergoes a transformation into the main street of French Landing, the town beneath us. The Agincourt Theater, the Taproom Bar & Grille, the First Farmer State Bank, the Samuel Stutz Photography Studio (which does a steady business in graduation photos, wedding pictures, and children's portraits) and shops, not the ghostly relics of shops, line its blunt sidewalks: Benton's Rexall drugstore, Reliable Hardware, Saturday Night Video, Regal Clothing, Schmitt's Allsorts Emporium, stores selling electronic equipment, magazines and greeting cards, toys, and athletic clothing featuring the logos of the Brewers, the Twins, the Packers, the Vikings, and the University of Wisconsin. After a few blocks, the name of the street changes to Lyall Road, and the buildings separate and shrink into one-story wooden structures fronted with signs advertising insurance offices and travel agencies; after that, the street becomes a highway that glides eastward past a 7-Eleven, the Reinhold T. Grauerhammer VFW Hall, a big farm-implement dealership known locally as Goltz's, and into a landscape of flat, unbroken fields. If we rise another hundred feet into the immaculate air and scan what lies beneath and ahead, we see kettle moraines, coulees, blunted hills furry with pines, loam-rich valleys invisible from ground level until you have come upon them, meandering rivers, miles-long patchwork fields, and little towns-one of them, Centralia, no more than a scattering of buildings around the intersection of two narrow highways, 35 and 93.

Directly below us, French Landing looks as though it had been evacuated in the middle of the night. No one moves along the sidewalks or bends to insert a key into one of the locks of the shop fronts along Chase Street. The angled spaces before the shops are empty of the cars and pickup trucks that will begin to appear, first by ones and twos, then in a mannerly little stream, an hour or two later. No lights burn behind the windows in the commercial buildings or the unpretentious houses lining the surrounding streets. A block north of Chase on Sumner Street, four matching red-brick buildings of two stories each house, in west- east order, the French Landing Public Library; the offices of Patrick J. Skarda, M.D., the local general practitioner, and Bell & Holland, a two- man law firm now run by Garland Bell and Julius Holland, the sons of its founders; the Heartfield & Son Funderal Home, now owned by a vast, funereal empire centered in St. Louis; and the French Landing Post Office.

Separated from these by a wide driveway into a good-sized parking lot at the rear, the building at the end of the block, where Sumner intersects with Third Street, is also of red brick and two stories high but longer than its immediate neighbors. Unpainted iron bars block the rear second- floor windows, and two of the four vehicles in the parking lot are patrol cars with light bars across their tops and the letters flpd on their sides. The presence of police cars and barred windows seem incongruous in this rural fastness-what sort of crime can happen here? Nothing serious, surely; surely nothing worse than a little shoplifting, drunken driving, and an occasional bar fight.

As if in testimony to the peacefulness and regularity of small-town life, a red van with the words la riviere herald on its side panels drifts slowly down Third Street, pausing at nearly all of the mailbox stands for its driver to insert copies of the day's newspaper, wrapped in a blue plastic bag, into gray metal cylinders bearing the same words. When the van turns onto Sumner, where the buildings have mail slots instead of boxes, the route man simply throws the wrapped papers at the front doors. Blue parcels thwack against the doors of the police station, the funeral home, and the office buildings. The post office does not get a paper.....

Table of Contents

1. Welcome to Coulee Country
2. The Taking of Tyler Marshall
3. Night’s Plutonian Shore
4. Black House and Beyond
5. Once Upon a Time in the Territories
6. Epilouge

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

People (Page-Turner of the Week)

“AN INTELLIGENT . . . SUSPENSEFUL PAGE-TURNER . . . It’s a relief to find popular fiction that is as unpretentious yet rich in literary allusion and human detail as Black House.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“JACK’S SAGA OVERFLOWS WITH DARK WIT, SLY LITERARY REFERENCES, SUSPENSE, AND HEARTACHE. What elevates Black House beyond ordinary horror novels is the richness of its cast.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“HUGELY PLEASURABLE . . . Black House allows us to see two master craftsmen, each at the top of his game.”
—The Washington Post Book World

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Black House 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 372 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you're a fan of The Talisman and The Dark Tower series, this is the book for you. I agree with most of the people on here, it does start a little slow in the beginning, but if you continue past that then you are most definitely in for a treat. The plot is dense and gruesome, each twist and turn completely unexpected. By the time I finished I was unable to sleep with some terribly gruesome images spinning in my head. A great tale, possibly even better than The Talisman (which I absolutely adored).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wait til it is cheaper. Not worth 12 bucks. Not at all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can understand other people's thoughts (it's moving too slow and the jargon), but actually after the first chapter, which I had to urge myself to get through, it starts to pick up a litte. A lot of it is truly gruesome and this is the first book to hit me on such an emotional level. The Marshall wife's torment and the sinister Charles Burnside only start it off. Four stars only because of the extremely slow beginning.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You're never going to go completely wrong when buying a book written by Stephen King, but this one isn't one of his better efforts. His collaboration with Peter Straub worked much better with The Talisman. Here, the voice of the narrator is so odd, it's off-putting.  I just couldn't lose myself in the story. It also takes quite awhile to get going, taking a very leisurely time setting up the characters and town. If you want to try King at his best, go with something like It, 'Salem's Lot, or The Stand instead.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is very slow at first and dare I say a tad boring but if you can get bast the first 100–150 pages it is well worth it.
greenjab More than 1 year ago
Well kind readers I'de just like to say that this Stephen King book is sub-par as far as I'm concerned....You start reading and you get to abut page 100 and you find yourself saying "WHERE IS HE GOING WITH THIS"....THE STYLE OF WRITING SEEMS TO BE IN THE 3RD PERSON ABOUT HALF THE TIME WHICH SEEMS A LITTLE MIXED UP TO ME....And I'm telling you by the time you get to around page 200 you may just put the book down for good....King and Straub may have had an idea where they were going but to me they were just writing plain old filler....I read a lot fokes and flat out this is not an easy read, you almost haft to write down on a piece of paper all the people they have in this book, just try to keep track of 25 people in this book and you will see what I mean....Oh well to each there own I guess.
DogsitterKA More than 1 year ago
I've told a few of my friends to get this book as it keeps you on the edge of your seat. I hated to put it down as I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Excellent reading!
Anonymous 3 months ago
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kw50197 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My only complaint about the book is the opening chapter and the occassional parts where the story is written as if we are hitching a ride on a crow. I feel that these parts have been made unnecessarily wordy and are a distraction from the flow of the story. The best parts are when Mr King and Mr Straub is simply telling a story about wonderful characters such as Jack Sawyer and his best friend Henry Leyden. Honourable, dependable Jack and wise Henry.
leslie.holm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sometimes I like King, and sometimes I like Straub, but together they make pretty good reading. Straubs poetic imagery mixed with King's blatant in-your-face punches really compliment each other. Black House started very slowly and didn't really pick up until the middle - I much preferred The Talisman, but this wasn't bad. Not as good as I remembered it the first reading, but not bad.The story picks up Jack Sawyer's life after forgetting his experiences in the Territories, and after a successful career as an LA cop. He retires to a small town, where he is once more required to save the world through his specialized knowledge of the Territories. There is a visit from Speedy/Parkus from The Talisman, and of course, many references to The Gunslinger series. If you like either The Talisman or The Gunslinger, this should appeal. Not nearly as horrific as many of King's other novels . . .
vashlock524 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although the book starts out just a bit slow, the story drew me in quite soon. If you are unfamiliar with Stephen King's other novels involving his "otherworldly" characters and settings, then this book may not make a whole lot of sense to you. I recommend that at the very least you read "The Talisman" prior to reading this book as well as "The Black Tower" series as "Black House" makes several references to topics and characters introduced in the series. My favorite character in "Black House" was Henry Leyden. King and Straub describe him so richly and make him such a unique character from his "personalities" to his multi-faceted intelligence, to his manner of garb, it made me sad that I could not know the man in person. In fact, the entire book is written this way-drawing you in and making you feel as though you are experiencing everything along with the characters being described. All in all, a great read.
StephenBarkley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having just finished The Talisman, I decided to jump into the sequel. This book surpasses its predecessor in every way possible. The writing style is mature and polished. The horror is truly horrifying. The plot is captivating. The character development is rich, without slowing the pace of the narrative.To make things even better, there are no subtle allusions to the world of the Dark Tower: it¿s explicitly part of the plot. Hearing about the beams, the Crimson King, the Gunslinger, and the breakers all over again brought me right back into that world.If that last sentence made no sense, you should really read the Dark Tower books followed by The Talisman before opening up this one. It¿s worth the time.Now we wait for the anticipated third book of the trilogy.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this novel, King returns to his classic style of storytelling: an epic tale, a band of great heroes, a powerful child, parallel worlds and enormous stakes. The added bonus is that it returns us to the world of the The Dark Tower saga, adding another important piece to that super-epic tale. In fact, I find it hard to believe that Straub wrote more than the first 20 pages or so, since the style is so clearly vintage King.Billed as a sequel to The Talisman, Black House doesn¿t really continue that story so much as pick up the thread of its main character¿s (Jack Sawyer) life as an adult. King aficionados will relish this novel as a full-force return to the type of story King tells best.
barpurple on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting read. It might have been useful to have read Talisman first, which I haven't.
Sativa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this book is supposedly the sequel to the talisman - sure if you say so...i was expecting to be riveted, horrified, swept away. instead i was just expectant.and ultimately disappointed.a dull read considering the powerhouse authors involved. peter straub obviously penned the lion's share of this tale. he should have let stephen take the wheel a bit more. talisman was a five star read. this one, sadly, a three.
ashley21 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
** spoiler alert ** I was really looking forward to reading this book since I loved The Talisman so much. But I was kind of disappointed. The Talisman was written in King's voice which is part of the reason I loved it so much. But King's voice is somewhat absent at the beginning of Black House. It steadily grows stronger throughout the book though and it made the ending great although sad. I've never read anything else by Straub and I don't think I will. His writing just sounds so.... fake. And forced. And the beginning doesn't flow like it did in The Talisman.Black House is also mostly horror unlike The Talisman, which was sci-fi. It's incredibly gory.The storyline was amazing. I felt all the feelings I'm sure the authors wanted the reader to. I could have cried when Henry died and at the end when Jack couldn't go back to his home world. And every time they mentioned Black House or Burnside eating all those kids, I got chills up my spine.If it wasn't for Straub this book would have gotten five stars. That said, everything else earned it four.
katjabeen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Started out very, very slow. I was afraid I would not be able to get into it, but it turned out to be an engaging story. I cared about the characters and I would love to read more about them.
skinglist on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dark Tower, without being Dark Tower. Held the space between books well.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You can feel the hands of both Straub and King on this work, and it's the stronger for the combination. From the beginning, this is a creepy and engaging exploration of believable characters in the horrifying and beautiful world King and Straub created with The Talisman. You CAN read this without reading their earlier collaboration (and I did), but I think you might as well start with The Talisman since I'll be venturing their next. The book might be a bit longer than it needs to be since there are moments when it drags, but on the whole, this is a graceful and perfectly executed horror novel with engaging characters, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Enjoy.
Anagarika on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An alright sequel. The novel makes a good connection with The Dark Tower. King's novel's are all intertwined.
kd9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some of Stephen King's books are interesting. None of Peter Straub's books are the least bit interesting. The problem is that neither of them can use one word when 400 will do. Every boulder, stone, rock, pebble, and grain of sand is described in excruiating detail. You just wish they would get on with the story, but then again, probably not, when the story involves implacable evil doing the most gross and disgusting things (especially to children) that they both could think of. I have no problem with graphic detail, but it seems that graphic detail is all that the book is about. If you are interested in the mythos of The Dark Tower, read the Stephen King books about the Gunslinger, but skip this book.
mbertsch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading this book, which I loved, I wished I had read the Talisman first. The characters are great; a blind deejay, genius bikers? The bikers were my favorite and I would definitely want them on my side.
lesleydawn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't realize when I started this book that it was a sequel to The Talisman. I kind of figured that out part way through reading it, but kept on reading because it really didn't seem to matter that I hadn't read the first book. Overall, I thought it was a good read, and there are several scenes that still stick out in my head, even though it has been more than a year since I read the book.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For a Stephen King novel, this took me forever to get through. Mostly because it started out so slowly. 100+ pages into it and still nothing had happened. Then when things finally did get going, they got bogged down again in trivialities. I found the ending to be very hurried and kind of unbelievable.