Last week, we ran into Stephen King in his own story. This week, Jake and Callahan load up on weapons and storm into the Dixie Pig as we close out Song of Susannah.
On September 6th of last year, we began our journey on a reread of Stephen King’s epic series—soon to be a motion picture starring Idris Elba as Roland, the gunslinger. Faithfully each week, we’ve come closer to that looming Dark Tower in the distance that holds our world and Roland’s Gilead together, and that nexus is in danger of being destroyed by the Crimson King. Okay, let’s dig into Song of Susannah, which follows the obliteration of the Wolves, as our ka-tet is weighing the options…
*Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!
Song of Susannah sets up nicely, splitting up the break-neck pace into digestible “stanzas.” So the plan is to read a few stanzas a week (about 130 pages) 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, Jake and Callahan storm the Dixie Pig as we close out the sixth Dark Tower book! Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part IV of Song of Susannah: 12th Stanza: “Jake and Callahan” – Coda: “Pages from a Writer's Journal”!
12th Stanza: “Jake and Callahan” – Coda: “Pages from a Writer's Journal”
Jake and Callahan land violently hard in NYC. Upon arrival, a taxi cab nearly plows over Oy, flipping Jake the hell out. He pulls his Ruger and demands an apology while Father Callahan and quirky street preacher Reverend Harrigan diffuse the situation. Harrigan then tells them that Susannah wants her friends to go to the hotel before rescuing her at The Dixie Pig.
At the hotel, they retrieve an envelope at the front desk that Stephen King has left. Inside are a hotel MagCard and a note reading, “Dad-a-chum, dad-a-chee, not to worry, you’ve got the key. Dad-a-chud, dad-a-ched, see it, Jake! The key is red! Dad-a-chum, dad-a-chee, give this boy a plastic key.”
At the 1919 address, they go to the 19th floor, knowing instinctively they have to dispose of Black Thirteen, aware the crystal ball has the power to disorient their minds. It tries by directing the priest to kill Jake and jump off the building afterward. A brief but tense struggle of wills ensues until 13 goes back sleep. Callahan takes the orb to the World Trade Center where he rents a public locker until June 2002.
Why did King choose the WTC when September 11, 2001, happened before this date? Does it signify anything beyond the entertaining trappings of a plot point that our ka-tet will be rid of Black Thirteen once and for all, as in perhaps the malicious/despicable attack that killed thousands of innocent lives was drawn like a magnet to the evil that Callahan stored within the skyscraper?
From the start of their mission, Callahan has had the impending fear of death, and he performs the last rites for Jake. A sliver of hope comes in the form of the sköldpadda that Susannah had left behind for them to find. With the turtle figurine in hand, orizas that they took from the hotel, and the trusty Ruger, Jake, Callahan, and Oy storm The Dixie Pig. Think Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid:
Callahan lifted the Ruger and held the barrel beside his right cheek like a duelist. Then he touched his breast pocket, which bulged and drooped with shells.
Jake nodded, satisfied. “Once we’re in, we stay together. Always together, with Oy between. On three. And once we start, we don’t stop until we’re dead.”
“Right. Are you ready?”
“Yes. God’s love on you, boy.”
“And on you, Pere. One … two … three.” Jake opened the door and together they went into dim light and the sweet tangy smell of roasting pork.
And … another cliffhanger. Their fate is leftover until our next read, The Dark Tower. Meanwhile, inside the Pig, there’s a ghoulish assemblage of creatures that would put the waiting room in Beetlejuice to shame. Mia realizes that she has made a huge mistake and begs Sayre to give her some time with her baby, going so far as to lick his boots.
Sayre leaned down to her, close enough so she could smell his cologne. Susannah thought it was English Leather.
“To accomplish the final labor and actually push the baby out, we need this physical link,” he said. “Bringing you here to Fedic was absolutely vital.” He patted her shoulder. “Good luck. It won’t be long now.” He smiled at her winsomely. The mask he wore wrinkled upward, revealing some of the red horror which lay beneath. “Then we can kill you.”
The smile broadened.
“And eat you, of course. Nothing goes to waste at the Dixie Pig, not even such an arrogant bitch as yourself.”
The narrative ends with Mordred Deschain entering the world, but Song of Susannah doesn’t end there. The coda, “Pages from a Writer’s Journal,” chronicles character Stephen King’s 1977 to 1999 journal entries about writing the series of adventures that make up the search for the Tower. It concludes with a headline and story from the Portland Sunday Telegram declaring Stephen King has died—apparently, that van that struck him while he was walking really did him in.
While an interesting read, the pseudo-reality caters to those who are partial to the King character and probably places Song of Susannah as one of the top books in the series for them. For those like me, we are left with a fantastic Roland & Eddie shootout and an engaging buildup of Jake, Father Callahan, and Oy—possibly on their way to their deaths—and though I didn’t dislike the book, it lands softly in the last spot in this magnum opus.
What did you think of the ending of Song of Susannah? 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.