Secret Window, Secret Garden (from Four Past Midnight) – Stephen King

Did you ever see that creepy Johnny Depp movie Secret Window? I’m pretty sure I actually saw it in the theater, and if not in the theater, then pretty soon after it came out on DVD. Either way, it was early enough that the words “Based on a story by Stephen King” didn’t mean all that much to me. I remember being pretty well creeped out by the movie, but I don’t think it crossed my mind all that much after I saw it.

Last year, Andrew and I went shopping in Charlotte, NC because that’s where all the good outlets are (Concord Mills, for anyone wondering). I had a gift card to spend at Loft, so Andrew decided to go across the way to Books-A-Million while I shopped. He was still browsing when I finished, so I wandered over to the Stephen King section to see if I could find a book or two that I didn’t own yet. I ended up walking out with three: Rose Madder, Different Seasons, and Four Past Midnight.

The cover of my edition of Four Past Midnight is emblazoned with Johnny Depp’s face, and shouts, “See the major motion picture SECRET WINDOW starring Johnny Depp!” As much as I hate tie-in covers and would have much preferred an edition that didn’t involve Johnny Depp staring at me, this was the only edition they had. And honestly, it did get me excited to read Secret Window, Secret Garden after having not thought about the movie for probably almost a decade.

In Secret Window, Secret Garden, Mort Rainey and his wife, Amy, have just finalized their divorce. Mort has retired to their summer home in southern Maine, while Amy remains at their house in Derry. One afternoon, Mort is awoken from his nap to find a man named John Shooter knocking on his door; this man, in a heavy Mississippi drawl, lays on Mort the worst accusation anyone can lay on a writer: “You stole my story.”

Mort, who knows—or believes he knows—that he has never plagiarized a thing in his life, writes Shooter off as one of the “Crazy Folks” and vehemently denies Shooter’s accusations. But Shooter isn’t satisfied; he leaves his manuscript on Mort’s porch before driving away, promising that Mort hasn’t seen the last of him. And as Mort will soon discover, Shooter keeps his promises.

Secret Window, Secret Garden is a fantastically creepy story, and one that actually lent itself surprisingly well to film if I’m remembering the movie correctly. The problem there, though, is that I couldn’t help but see Mort as Johnny Depp and Shooter as John Tuturro, which was a bit distracting.

Overall, though, it was a fun story and one that really gets inside you—I’m pretty certain I had a nightmare about it during the one night in between starting it and finishing it, but it was one of those nebulous affairs that you can only remember in feelings and impressions when you wake up—which, to me, is a mark of great writing. If you haven’t seen the movie, I absolutely recommend you read the story first. If you have seen the movie, be prepared for some differences, especially towards the end.

A

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