Four past Midnight

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Four past Midnight
First edition cover
Author Stephen King
Cover artist Rob Wood-Stansbury
Country United States
Language English
Genre Supernatural fiction
Publisher Viking
Publication date
September 24, 1990
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 763
ISBN 978-0-670-83538-6

Four past Midnight is a collection of novellas by Stephen King. It is his second book of this type, the first one being Different Seasons. The collection won the Bram Stoker Award in 1990 for best collection[1] and was nominated for a Locus Award in 1991.[2] In the introduction, Stephen King says that, while a collection of four novellas like Different Seasons, this book is more strictly horror with elements of the supernatural.[this quote needs a citation]


The four novellas contained in the collection are described here:

The Langoliers[edit]

This article is about the novel. For the television miniseries, see The Langoliers (miniseries).
"The Langoliers"
Author Stephen King
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) dark fantasy


On a cross-country red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Boston, ten passengers awaken to find that the crew and most of their fellow passengers have disappeared, leaving the airliner under the control of the autopilot. They realize that only those who were sleeping are now left on the plane. Off-duty airline pilot Brian Engle takes control from the autopilot and lands the plane in Bangor, Maine despite protests from irritable Craig Toomy.

Upon arrival, they find the airport abandoned with no signs of life. Hearing an approaching sound like radio static, the group agrees to leave before it arrives. Based on the belief that they have flown through a "time rip" into the past and that flying back into the rip will return them to their own time, the passengers work together to refuel the plane as the noise gets louder. Having lost touch with reality, Craig believes the others to be manifestations of the Langoliers, monsters he feared as a child that go after those who are lazy and waste time. He stabs Dinah, a young blind girl with psychic powers, and kills Don Gaffey, before being subdued. Dinah insists that Craig must not be killed as the group needs him alive.

While the plane is in its final preparations to depart Bangor, Dinah telepathically communicates with Craig and persuades him that an important board meeting is being held on the runway. Craig hallucinates arriving at the meeting and even confronts his fear of disappointing his father. Then hundreds of monsters arrive, floating spheres with chainsaw-like teeth, which leave trails of black nothingness in their wake. They initially head for the plane, but Craig's presence on the runway distracts them long enough to allow Engle to start the plane. As they turn to the west, the passengers watch the rest of the land below falling into a formless, black void.

Bob proposes the idea that the Langoliers' purpose is to clean up what's left of the past by eating it. Dinah succumbs to her injuries and the other characters realize that the trip through the rip has allowed them to come to terms with their regrets. Because they need to be asleep to survive the rip again, another passenger, Nick Hopewell, volunteers to fly the plane through, knowing that this will cost him his life. The cabin pressure is decreased and all but Nick, breathing through an emergency oxygen mask, fall into a deep sleep.

The survivors awaken, unharmed except for nosebleeds caused by the drop in air pressure. Seemingly, nothing has changed. The plane lands in a deserted Los Angeles. Concluding that now the time rift has brought them a short distance into the future, the group takes shelter against a wall to avoid the airport's human traffic. A flash hits them and they find themselves in the present again.

Television film adaptation[edit]

The Langoliers was adapted for a two-part TV movie in 1995. The TV movie starred Kate Maberly, Kimber Riddle, Patricia Wettig, Mark Lindsay Chapman, Frankie Faison, Baxter Harris, Dean Stockwell, David Morse, Christopher Collet, and Bronson Pinchot.

The movie version of The Langoliers, produced for broadcast on ABC-TV, was filmed almost exclusively in and around the Bangor International Airport in Bangor, Maine (where author Stephen King attended college [3]) during the summer of 1995. King himself, echoing Alfred Hitchcock's famous numerous cameos, made a cameo appearance in the film as Craig Toomey's boss during Toomey's hallucination.[4]

Secret Window, Secret Garden[edit]

"Secret Window, Secret Garden"
Author Stephen King
Genre(s) Horror,

Secret Window, Secret Garden is similar to King's earlier novel The Dark Half. Both are about authors who are thinly veiled analogues of King himself—Thad Beaumont in The Dark Half and Mort Rainey in Secret Window, Secret Garden.


Mort Rainey is a successful novelist in Maine. One day, he is confronted by a man from Mississippi named John Shooter, who claims Mort plagiarized a story he wrote. Mort vehemently denies ever plagiarizing anything. Shooter leaves, but not before leaving his manuscript, "Secret Window, Secret Garden". Mort notices that Shooter left without his story; he drops it in the trash can. When Mort's housemaid recovers the manuscript—thinking it belongs to Mort—he finally reads Shooter's story, discovering that it is almost identical to his short story "Sowing Season". The two differ, but very slightly; they share the same plot elements. The only differences are the title, the character's name, the diction, and the ending. Mort becomes disturbed by these findings.

Shooter returns a few days later. Having learned that "Sowing Season" was published two years before Shooter claimed to have written "Secret Window, Secret Garden", Mort confronts Shooter with this information. An enraged Shooter accuses Mort of lying and demands proof, giving Mort three days to show him his published story. Overnight, he kills Mort's cat and burns down the house of Mort's ex-wife, which contained the magazine issue in which "Sowing Season" was published. Mort orders a new copy of the magazine; he also asks his caretaker Greg Carstairs to tail Shooter and to talk to a man named Tom Greenleaf, who drove past Mort and Shooter. Shooter, angry that Mort has involved other people in their business, kills both men and plants evidence framing Mort for the murders. Upon receiving the magazine and returning home, Mort finds that "Sowing Season" has been removed.

Mort realizes that John Shooter is really his own split personality. Tom had not seen Shooter while driving by—he saw Mort, by himself. Mort realizes he burned down his own home, killed his own cat, and murdered two people. He blacks out; fifteen minutes later he awakens, only to hear who he believes to be Shooter pulling into his driveway, at the time they'd arranged to meet. Desperate for any sign of his own sanity, he rushes outside only to find his ex-wife, Amy. Devastated, he loses control of his body and mind to Shooter. Amy discovers that Mort has gone insane, having written the word "Shooter" all over the house. She goes to Mort's study, where "Shooter" attempts to kill her in an ambush; she manages to escape. "Shooter", chasing Amy outside, is shot by her insurance agent. Mort becomes himself again, addresses Amy, and dies.

Later, Amy and Ted Milner—a man she had an affair with before divorcing Mort—discuss her ex-husband's motives; she insists that Mort had become two people, one of them a character so vivid it became real. She then recalls something Tom witnessed; when he drove past Mort alone, he took a look in his rear view mirror...and saw Shooter with Mort, although transparent. Amy then reveals that while digging through Mort's house, she found Shooter's trademark hat; she took it out to the trash, and planted it right-side up on a trash bag. When she returned, she found a note from Shooter inside the overturned hat, revealing that he has travelled back to Mississippi. Amy remarks that Mort had created a character so vivid, he actually came to life.


A film adaptation called Secret Window was made, starring Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello and Timothy Hutton. The storyline of the movie differs from that of the novel, most notably in their respective endings. In the movie Mort kills his wife and her lover, while in the novel he is killed before he has a chance to do so. In the movie, after months it is shown that Mort grew corn in his wife's garden, where it is implied that he buried her and her lover. Another difference is the titles of the short stories: in the movie, Mort Rainey wrote a story called "Secret Window" and John Shooter wrote "Sowing Season". The story in the movie version is set in upstate New York instead of Maine. [5]

A radio adaptation was broadcast in 2003 on BBC Radio 4 starring Lee Montague and Kerry Shale. [6]


King has been the subject of unfounded accusations of plagiarism. A woman claimed that King stole several of her story ideas and based characters from his books on her. All of her cases have been dismissed.[7] In another incident a deranged man broke into King's home, and when discovered by King's wife, claimed that King stole the plot of Misery from the intruder's aunt and that he had a bomb in the shoebox he was holding and was going to blow up the house. The dud bomb was made of erasers and straightened paperclips.[8]

The Library Policeman[edit]

"The Library Policeman"
Author Stephen King
Genre(s) Horror

Plot summary[edit]

The Library Policeman tells of Sam Peebles and his battle against an age-old fear.

Peebles is asked to give a speech to the Rotary Club. An office assistant (Naomi Higgins) directs him to the public library to check out two books that might help with speechwriting. In doing so he meets Ardelia Lortz, the librarian. He converses with her about the bad selections she has put in the children's library, such as scary posters of flinching and screaming children, music such as Ozzy Osbourne and Guns 'n' Roses, and books like Flowers in the Attic and Peyton Place. He checks out two books with the warning that they must be returned or he should beware of the Library Policeman.

Naomi eventually informs us that Ardelia Lortz is not living and is not spoken of any more. Through a series of events we are introduced to Dave "Dirty Dave" Duncan, a former lover of Ardelia's. Sam finds that Ardelia is not a person but a being which feeds on fear, and that Duncan was a sometimes unwilling companion/conspirator in helping her feed from the fear of children. He also finds that Ardelia had "died" in 1960 after killing two children and a local deputy sheriff, John Power. She is now back, and Duncan believes she seeks revenge and a new host.

The Library Policeman turns out to be a recreation by Ardelia of a man Peebles had run into as a child at his local library, who had raped and threatened him. The Library Policeman, however, is not just a recreation but also an embodiment of Ardelia, who sought access to Sam as her new host.

Dave dies defending Sam and Naomi from Ardelia. Sam and Naomi eventually manage to defeat the Library Policeman/Ardelia, only to discover at the end that Ardelia has already attached to Naomi. Sam removes Ardelia from Naomi's neck and destroys her under the wheels of a passing train.

Textual notes[edit]

In Sam's final dream about his rape, the following Latin inscription appears above the door to the library: "Fuimus, non sumus". This appears to be part of a larger quotation: "Non fuimus, non sumus, atque numquam obliti erimus." The source of this cannot be found, but the translation appears to be: "We are not, we have never been, and we will never be forgotten." Perhaps this a reference to the distortions of memory upon which this entire story is based.

References to King's other works[edit]

It (1986)

  • The "Deadlights" creature (the titular "It") is a creature much like Ardelia, who feeds on fear and only reveals its true form when it is feeding.

Misery (1987)

  • Naomi likes novels by Paul Sheldon, who was a character in this novel.

Needful Things (1991)

  • In the novel's end, the villain Leland Gaunt has moved on to Junction City, having taken up shop in Sam's old office. It is mentioned that Sam and Naomi have since married and moved away.

The Sun Dog[edit]

"The Sun Dog"
Author Stephen King
Genre(s) Horror

Kevin Delevan receives a Sun 660 Polaroid camera for his fifteenth birthday. He soon notices that there is something strange about the camera: the only photographs it produces are of a malicious, feral black dog that seems to move closer with each shot as though to attack the person who is taking the pictures. On a recommendation, Kevin seeks help from Reginald "Pop" Merrill, the wealthy and unscrupulous owner of a junk shop in the town of Castle Rock, Maine. While just as unsettled by the phenomenon as Kevin, Merrill sees an opportunity to further his own interests; namely, selling the camera to a paranormal enthusiast for a great deal of money. He manages to switch out the camera for another of the same model, which Kevin destroys. Much to his dismay, however, Merrill cannot rid himself of the Sun as prospective buyers either dismiss it outright as a fake or decline to purchase it due to the discomfort and unease they feel upon viewing the photographs. Furthermore, Merrill finds himself increasingly compelled to use the Sun – the dog slowly advancing as it transforms into something more savage and monstrous with every picture he takes.

In the meantime, Kevin is plagued by recurring nightmares about the dog. Realizing that Merrill tricked him and the Sun was not destroyed, he sets out to prevent Merrill from taking any more pictures for fear that the dog will "break through" into the real world. By this point, the camera's influence over Merrill has caused him to lose his grip on sanity. After waking up in the middle of the night to find himself holding the Sun and repeatedly pressing its trigger, he resolves to smash it in the morning. However, he hallucinates that one of the cuckoo clocks hanging on the wall of his store is really the camera and smashes it instead. Guided by the illusion that he is repairing a clock at his workbench, Merrill starts taking pictures again. At this moment, Kevin and his father arrive to confront Merrill, but they are too late to stop him. The dog begins to tear its way out of the final photograph, killing Merrill in the process. Inspired by a scene from one of his nightmares, Kevin has brought another Sun along with him, and just as the dog is about to release itself, he takes its picture, trapping it once more in the "Polaroid world".

In the epilogue, Kevin gets a computer for his following birthday. In order to test its word processor function, he types "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." Rather than a printout of this text, the page reads, "The dog is loose again. It is not sleeping. It is not lazy. It's coming for you, Kevin. It's very hungry. And it's very angry."


Josh Rubins in Entertainment Weekly graded the anthology a "C+" and considered it formulaic with "enthusiasm" and contemporary setting. Rubins compared a novella "The Langoliers" to—quoting characters of the novella—a "stupid disaster [movie]" and a "bad [television] movie." He found "Secret Window, Secret Garden" bearably suspenseful with a "gimmicky, least convincing [finale]." He called "The Sun Dog" the "simplest, most distinctive story" and praised it as mostly "a delicious black comedy."[9] Andy Solomon in The New York Times commented that most readers might not understand the anthology's rarely explained references to popular culture, like "Dirty Harry" Callahan, Bazooka bubblegum, and The Little Rascals.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bram Stoker Awards 1991". Retrieved November 19, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Locus Awards 1991". Retrieved November 19, 2015. 
  3. ^ King, Tabitha; Marsha DeFilippo. "Stephen Biography". Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  4. ^ Stephen King (1995). Stephen King's The Langoliers (DVD). Artisan. 
  5. ^ Koep, David (Director) (Audio Commentary) (2004). "Secret Window" (DVD) (Motion Picture). Columbia Pictures. 
  6. ^ "Stephen King Radio Drama's". Talk Stephen King, February 13, 2010
  7. ^ "Stephen King - King Sued By 'The Real' Annie Wilkes". 8 June 2005. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Rogak, Lisa; "Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King", macmillan
  9. ^ Rubins, Josh (September 21, 1990). "Four past Midnight". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 2, 2015. 
  10. ^ Solomon, Andy (September 2, 1990). "Scared but Safe". The New York Times. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 

External links[edit]