Last week, we ended Wizard and Glass in a makeshift Emerald City before Maerlyn's Rainbow trainsported them back onto The Path of the Beam. This week, we begin The Wind Through the Keyhole with a major storm and the beginning of another of Roland's stories!
In Wizard and Glass, we discovered that Roland had accidentally killed his mother and returned a crystal ball from Maerlyn’s Rainbow to his father. His newest ka-tet—Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy—are following The Path of the Beam when they encounter Marten, now calling himself Randall Flagg, in a twisted version of Emerald City. Roland just misses killing Flagg but managed to gun down Andrew Quick, aka Tick-Tock Man, who was working for Flagg.
The Wind Through The Keyhole was written to chronologically follow Wizard and Glass even though it was released in 2012, long after the 7th novel, The Dark Tower (2004). For that reason, we have decided to continue Roland’s adventures in sequential order since Stephen King calls it The Dark Tower 4.5.
Come join us … before the world moves on.
*Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!
This is a shorter book with only five sections, so the plan is to split the book into three parts (about 100 pages each) and meet here at our usual time (Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET) to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions. Make sure to bookmark the HQ page for the schedule and links to all of the chapter discussions as they go live! This week, we begin The Wind Through the Keyhole with a major storm and the beginning of another of Roland's stories. Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part I of The Wind Through the Keyhole: Starkblast – The Skin-Man (Part 1)!
Starkblast – The Skin Man (Part 1)
On the way to the Outer Baronies, Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy are seeking shelter in an abandoned town hall from an approaching storm. A destructive, natural occurrence known as a starkblast that instantly freezes everything in its path is bearing down on them—Roland and Jake along with Oy nearly get leveled when the billy-bumbler becomes transfixed by the imminent force. But they make it to the safety of the hall, and—with a toasty fire blazing in the hearth and the old structure maintaining its integrity in the face of raging winds outside—Roland begins to palaver, telling the events immediately after he killed his mother. There’s been a Gilead coverup of sorts:
“Gabrielle Deschain, she of Arten, died while possessed of a demon which troubled her spirit.” It was always put so when someone of high blood committed suicide, and so the story of her death was given. It was accepted without question, even by those who had, either secretly or not so secretly, cast their lot with Farson.
Roland’s father Stephen seems to have accepted the events leading to his wife’s death but doesn’t find it suitable that Roland cares for his old teacher Cort, now an invalid, by physically cleaning him. Roland does it as a penance not just for Cort, but also his mother—a guilty conscience searching for a way to cope. Maybe to snap him out of his malaise, Stephen sends Roland with a ka-mate, Jamie DeCurry, to Debaria. Mission: to investigate a skin-man—a shapeshifter that has the locals horrorstruck.
The monster has killed 23 people by tearing them to pieces, and in one sickening account a young boy’s head had been “stuck on a fencepole with his skull smashed in and his brains scooped out.” Various witnesses say it’s either a tiger, lion, or wolf running away upright like a man. No one seems to agree, other than it was terrifying and cruel.
At a house of all women, a young lady named Fortuna, who’s missing part of her nose because of an encounter with the skin-man, tells them of her brush with death:
Fortuna said that she saw it well, for the Peddler’s Moon had just risen full in the sky. Taller than a man it was, with scales instead of skin and a long tail that dragged behind it on the ground. Yellow eyes with slitted dark pupils glowed in its flat head. Its mouth was a trap filled with teeth, each as long as a man’s hand. They dripped with Dolores’s blood as it dropped her still-twitching body on the cobbles of the courtyard and ran on its stubby legs toward the well where Fortuna stood.
In an enigmatic aside, Everlynne, the ringleader of the amazons, tells Roland that when their business with the skin-man is complete she has something for him. Everlynne knows he is the son of Gabrielle. What could that be concerning?
Roland and Jamie meet with Sheriff Hugh Peavy, who once fought alongside Stephen Deschain, and Roland gets a rare opportunity to hear tales of his father’s exploits since his old man is a closed-off hero. Like father, like son.
Within 24 hours, the “creature” strikes again at a farm, the lone survivor an 11-year-old boy named Bill Streeter. The gunslingers believe there’s a good chance the skin-man is a salt miner because they follow the killer’s tracks—which went from bear-like to man, then onto horseback—toward the mines. Since most miner’s don’t have the luxury of owning a horse, the number of suspects will be easy to narrow down—or so they are hoping.
To probe for more information, Roland hypnotizes the boy with his spinning-bullet magic. Under the spell, the boy recounts the gruesome scene he witnessed but can only recall seeing a blue ring tattoo around the skin-man’s ankle. That tat indicates the skin-man was a former convict at Belie Stockade, now part of a ghost town, an area that had been taken over by Harriers or possibly John Farson, the Good Man.
Roland locks Bill in a cell for his protection as Jaimie goes to bring back possible suspects for Bill to identify. Our week’s read closes with the gunslinger beginning to tell Bill a story to pass the time.
What makes Keyhole such a refreshing departure from the other books (though, make no mistake, it accompanies the series seamlessly) is it puts the gunslingers in their natural element. The world is beginning to move on, but we glimpse Gilead sending out their finest to solve a crime. Yet, it's not just any mystery Western, but one written by the modern master of horror.
What did you think of the beginning of The Wind Through the Keyhole? Head to the comments and start/join the conversation!
*Remember: Be careful with your comments—NO SPOILERS! We will be moderating the comments and deleting anything we feel is a spoiler, so pause before you post and make sure you're not ruining it for someone else.
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David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.