"America is a kingdom of toy-loving idiots." 

"Guns have evil hearts." 

"A person's never too old for stories."  

Of course, then he'll turn around and write about mud men pulling spiders from open sores on their chests, scooping out the loathsome eggs. But you can't have everything!

Still, gross as it can get, it's still life King's writing about. C.S. Lewis used the term "quiddity," the earthy "thingness" of life. Of course, Lewis wouldn't have rubbed his readers' noses in it as King does (Two days after closing the book, I can still smell the feet of his poor miners as they peel off their boots), but the human condition is what it is, even in King's fantasies.

And, as King shows, life encompasses the crude and the noble, gore and glory. Roland Deschain's religion is something like an eastern fatalism (though "the man Jesus" is known in his world; even John 3:16 receives honorable mention), but he knows he is an agent of the White, a paladin of honor in a savage land. He knows that Something More, something from beyond, blows into our lives like wind through a keyhole. 

Aside from theological considerations, plainly, King is having fun with his latest. Someone once said, "Great artists steal." Here he pilfers so lightly, so cheerfully. There are subtle references to movie westerns and The Wizard of Oz. Even the lion Aslan is mentioned as one of the Guardians of the Beams (roads to other worlds). King blows where the wind takes him—fire-breathing dragons jostle with spouse-abuse, alcoholism flows from one bottle, magic cordial from another. You name it, it's in here. As if by magic, it all fits together.

In short, what we find in Keyhole is a wildly successful writer who hasn't let any notion of personal "importance" spoil him. He writes for the joy of it.  (He wrote this one, I suspect, to read to his grandchildren, as Roland's mother read him the tale of Tim Stoutheart.) He writes to tell a story. Long after authors and their aspirations are dust, story remains. King doesn't mind reminding us of what he's all about, fairly highlighting his own quest in yellow marker: "Stories take a person away. If they're good ones."   

Hile, Stephen of Maine, once again thee tells a good one!   

Gary D. Robinson is a preacher, writer, actor, and aspiring gunslinger in Xenia, OH.  He blogs at www.garydrobinson.com

*This Review First Published 5/7/2012