cover image Four Past Midnight

Four Past Midnight

Stephen King, Gowen. Viking, $29.95 (804pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83538-6

The self-described ``America's literary boogeyman'' here serves up four horror novellas; none is wildly scary, and only one offers King's typical, colloquial, hard-driving conversational style with its compulsive readability. A jumbo jet flies through a time-slip in The Langoliers . Marooned a few minutes in the past, a few surviving passengers try to get home . . . while off in the distance the langoliers, creatures (``sort of like beachballs'') who eat up time after it's been used, close in. In Misery -esque Secret Window, Secret Garden , a writer accused of plagiarism by a psychopath has an awful time trying to prove his innocence. The Library Policeman , the collection's standout, pits a middle-aged businessman with some overdue books against a demonic, life-sucking monster of a librarian. The Sun Dog features a boy's Polaroid camera, which, no matter where it is focused, takes pictures of a huge, mean and ugly dog. In each successive photo, the dog, slobbering and slavering, approaches the edge of the picture plane. There is an inappropriate abundance of heartwarming sentimentality here; where King used to slaughter the innocents with gleeful impunity, he now apologizes for the deed, and love will out. 1,500,000 first printing; $750,000 joint ad/promo with NAL's publication of The Dark Half; BOMC main selection. (Sept.)