Black House

Black House

4.0 337
by Stephen King, Peter Straub, Frank Muller

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Twenty years ago, a boy named Jack Sawyer travelled to a parallel universe called The Territories to save his mother and her Territories "twinner" from a premature and 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, WI. He has no…  See more details below


Twenty years ago, a boy named Jack Sawyer travelled to a parallel universe called The Territories to save his mother and her Territories "twinner" from a premature and 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, WI. 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 earlier by a real-life madman named Albert Fish, the killer is dubbed "The Fisherman" and Jack's buddy, the local chief of police, begs Jack to help his inexperienced force find him. But is this 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 that 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 track of forest, there to encounter the obscene and ferocious evils sheltered within it.

Author Biography Stephen King is the author of more than thirty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Peter Straub is the author of fourteen novels which have been translated into more than twenty foreign languages. He lives in New York City.

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Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
The storytelling dream team behind the haunting 1984 bestseller The Talisman has returned with a haunting sequel that is more daring and much more twisted than its predecessor. In Black House, Jack Sawyer, the sensitive boy-hero who journeyed to an alternate reality in search of a magical talisman to save his dying mother, has grown up. Now in his 30s, Jack remembers nothing of his strange adventures in the Oz-like world known as the Territories, until a series of strange events forces him to confront the snarling horrors of the past.

Someone is murdering children and dismembering their bodies in the cold shadows of Tamarack, Wisconsin. Locals call the madman the Fisherman. Some believe he is the reincarnation of an early-20th-century serial killer named Albert Fish. Others believe he is just a crazed copycat. A burned-out L.A. homicide detective, Jack has retired to this once-quiet town to get away from such insanity. He wants absolutely nothing to do with the case. Even his friend, local police chief Dale Gilbertson, can't convince him to join the investigation. But soon after the first murder, bizarre waking dreams start scratching at Jack's mind like a murderer tapping at a kitchen window -- dreams of a dead man and of red feathers and robins' eggs. The dreams eventually grab Jack by the neck and lead him to an abandoned house on the outskirts of town -- a black house that holds unspeakable evil....

Like fine tailors, King and Straub weave their distinct voices together to create an almost seamless (there are some threads that need clipping, and the legs could be taken up an inch or two) tale of suspense. Though Black House takes some time to warm up, the narrative eventually builds with a slow, seductive momentum that explodes like firecrackers in a beer can when Jack finds himself back in the Territories. Rich in detail (sometimes to a fault), cinematic in its scope, and populated with a wide array of freaky and endearing characters, Black House, though perhaps not King and Straub's best work, is a wild, fantastical romp with the macabre. Just don't turn off the lights. (Stephen Bloom)

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Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 15 Cassettes, 23 hrs.
Product dimensions:
4.12(w) x 7.74(h) x 2.63(d)

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.....

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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

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Black House 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 337 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.
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.
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.
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 12 months ago
Almost 4 bucks for a book with less than 60 pages? Would have been nice to know before I wasted my money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept me reading it even as I could'nt keep my eyes open. Scared the bejeebas out of me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Only 3/4 through it, but I find myself skipping a lot. Good story, but long. Normally love all of King's stuff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Connection to dark tower. I likey
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty twisted!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a great read! But read The Talisman first or you will have no idea what is going on! Lots of dark tower tie ins too! Perfect blend of murder mystery, fantasy, & stephen kings dark tower mythos! \m/-_-\m/ a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with most the begining stinks but once yiu get past that wow did not put this one down well worth it
J-in-Florida More than 1 year ago
I love this book, it is like a step back in time...Stephen King and Peter Straub are a great team. I wish they did more books together. A scary read for just before bed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A bone chilling, classic dark tale- King style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really good book. The other reviews were right about the beginning being slow but it is well worth the read. It also makes you want to go back and re-read the Gunslinger series.