PW Daily Book of the Day: When the Characters Were King’s

PW Daily for Booksellers January 22, 2002

Geared toward Stephen King fans and science fiction buffs alike, the January 9 release of The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red (Hyperion, $22.95) [reviewed here], edited by the fictional Joyce Reardon, Ph.D., will soon be accompanied by King’s made-for-television miniseries, Rose Red. Both the fictional diary and the miniseries center on a haunted mansion in Seattle—a place that seems to have a mind and spirit of its own. The book, set in the early 20th century, tracks the haunting experiences of Ellen Rimbauer, wife of a wealthy industrialist. Ellen takes the reader through eerie encounters at the mansion, and page by page, her character transforms from innocent and submissive to frighteningly powerful and obsessive. Ellen’s diary entries are accompanied by a handful of explanatory notes by the “editor,” supposed professor of paranormal studies Joyce Reardon.

The people mentioned in the diary, as well as Reardon, are all characters in King’s miniseries, which was created for television and will air January 27, 28 and 31 on ABC. In addition to commercials and billboards in Times Square promoting the movie, fans can find information on production here [Web site since updated] for the luxurious inn where the movie was filmed. Another site to check out is [Beaumont University link no longer available] which markets the “diary” and brings to life Professor Reardon’s character. While the university Web site offers real links to paranormal sites, many links are mysteriously (and conveniently for the Web site creators) “under construction.”

Since both Rimbauer and Reardon are fictional, the lingering question is: who wrote the actual text of the diary? Could it really be King? While the bestselling author has never been published by Hyperion, he always has a number of projects in the works and fans may still wonder if penning this mysterious diary isn’t right up his alley. The name of the university, Beaumont, mentioned in the miniseries and in the editor’s notes to the diary, is of particular interest. Fans will recall King’s partially autobiographical writer-character from The Dark Half, Thad Beaumont, who—like King—wrote under a pseudonym (Richard Bachman), whom he then attempted to kill off. Could Beaumont University’s Professor Reardon be following in the footsteps of her pseudonymous predecessor?

Readers, of course, will have to make their own conclusions. Be not surprised that many of the themes in Ellen’s diary are reminiscent of King’s works. After all, the diary is a tie-in—almost a prop—to the Rose Red miniseries. It is important to note that although the King movie tie-in and the mystery behind the book’s author certainly add to the allure of the whole production, the diary stands alone as an intriguing and well-written work of suspense, science fiction and black magic. – Dena Croog