The Fifth Quarter (short story)

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"The Fifth Quarter"
Author Stephen King
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Short story
Published in Cavalier (1st release),
Nightmares & Dreamscapes
Publication type Magazine
Publisher DuGent Publishing Corp
Media type Print (Paperback)

"The Fifth Quarter" is a short story by American author Stephen King, originally published in the April 1972 issue of Cavalier (under the pen name John Swithen) and later collected in King's 1993 collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes. It was filmed as an episode of the TNT miniseries Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King.

In the notes for this story, King remarks "Bachman again or maybe George Stark", a reference to his pseudonym Richard Bachman whose "relationship" with him was the basis of the character George Stark for the novel The Dark Half.

Plot summary[edit]

The story follows "Jerry Tarkanian", a crook looking to avenge the death of his friend Barney, who died at the hands of his own accomplices after taking part in an armored car heist. Unknown to them, Barney managed to get to Tarkanian before he died and told him of the heist and of the map divided amongst his killers that reveals the location of the stolen money.

At the start of the story, Tarkanian has tracked down two of the men, Keenan and Sarge, who are about to make a deal between themselves. He manages to hold them at gun-point and forces them to give him their sections of the map. However, things go wrong when the third man, Jagger, appears during the confrontation and attacks them both. In the firefight that follows, Sarge is killed but contributes to Jagger's downfall when his body obstructs Jagger' path; this gives Tarkanian the advantage necessary to kill Jagger.

Despite not having Jagger's part of the map, Tarkanian now knows enough to recover the money. The story ends as Tarkanian leaves the scene. Tarkanian knows that his debt to his friend has been paid and he himself now has a lot to be grateful for.

The plot is similar to a novel the character George Stark is writing in The Dark Half.[original research?] This is the only work of short fiction that King ever wrote under a pen name.[1]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[edit]

In the hour-long film version for the TNT miniseries, the story evolves slightly differently. Barney manages to tell Tarkanian (named Willie in the episode) about the heist and the four map segments, giving Tarkanian his segment before his death. Tarkanian proceeds to Keenan's, and then Sarge's, homes and injures both, taking their maps. Jagger appears at Keenan's house shortly after Tarkanian's departure. Jagger then arrives at the Sarge's home and finishes off Sarge. The body, like in the story, tripped the aggressive Jagger. After Willie was picked by the police, Lisa, his wife, is left with the map. After some troubles, she succeeds at "decoding" the mysterious map and recovers the money.

The hour-long film version stars Jeremy Sisto as Willie, and his wife, Samantha Mathis, as Karen.

Bryan Pope of DVD Verdict rated the film A- and called it "intimate and compelling."[2] Christopher Noseck of DVD Talk said it is "excellently paced and very well acted."[3] Jon Condit of Dread Central rated the episode 3/5 stars and criticized the ending as ridiculous.[4]


  1. ^ Beahm, George (1998). Stephen King from A to Z: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Work. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 75. ISBN 9780836269147. 
  2. ^ Pope, Bryan (2006-11-14). "Nightmares And Dreamscapes". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
  3. ^ Noseck, Christopher (2006-10-24). "Nightmares & Dreamscapes - From the Stories of Stephen King". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
  4. ^ Condit, Jon (2006-07-28). "Nightmares & Dreamscapes: The Fifth Quarter (TV)". Dread Central. Retrieved 2013-11-29. 

See also[edit]