Imagine, if you will, a young twelve year old chubby native american girl wandering through the twisting, maze-like aisles of the largest used book store in Oklahoma. The smell of old paper hangs heavy in the air. She is allowed to roam freely, unsupervised, in this eden-like paradise for bibliophiles. The girl finds herself lost within the deepest bowels of the warehouse like shop, bookshelves looming over her like watch towers, and she begins to wonder if wandering off alone was a good idea.
‘Nonsense!’ She tells herself with a huff, poofing her chest out defiantly as she continues on, encouraged as she seems to have reached the back wall, the end of the maze. ‘You’re practically an adult!’ The girl muses, looking around for some clue as to her location in the store in order to get her bearings. Finally, after a few tense, silent moments of fervent searching, she sees a sign.
HORROR BOOKS. HARDCOVER 3.00 AND UP. PAPERBACK 1.00 AND UP.
The girl gulps audibly. She’s read mystery books, thrillers, crime novels, sure. But this section of the store had been very clearly labeled as ‘forbidden and off limits’ by her parents. This was uncharted territory.
But, girls will be girls, and those children’s scary stories weren’t going to sustain her forever. In fact, she had already begun to get weird looks from parents of toddlers as she scoured the kid’s section of the story for books about ghosts.
So, mustering her courage, she explored.
Something caught her eye, and she stood on her tip toes to tug it out of it’s place on the dusty shelf. The gargoyle on the cover made her shiver and without even reading the back of it, she ran back through the maze to the front of the store to buy it.
It must have been Fall 2006 or 2007 when I first read this book, on that fateful day when I wandered away from my parents at Gardner’s book store in Tulsa. I still remember those first moments of icy terror that gripped my tiny little heart, and the strange fascination I had with the sexuality of the book. (I had just begun to question my own sexual orientation at the time). This book has been incredibly important to me, and I keep it amongst some of my oldest book-friends. The book is written like it could be true, in fact the actual author’s name is no where to be found in the book itself, so unless you had access to the internet (which, as a 12 year old who lived out in the country and didn’t even own a gameboy yet, I most certainly did not), you had no real way of knowing that this book was actually part of the wonderful marketing plan for Stephen King’s TV miniseries Rose Red, which came out in 2002. The book’s author is Ridley Pearson and it was published in 2001, as the account of real events from the perspective of Ellen Rimbauer, an oil tycoon’s young wife.
Ellen is a strong character. She is, for the most part, frightened and repulsed by her husband. In the early sections of the book she does genuinely love him and is aroused by him, but there are also definite moments where she lusts after other women, and upon meeting Sukeena, her black maid, she very clearly admits to herself that she is bisexual (not using that term, of course), having both a romantic and sexual interest in both men and women. The story is centered around the creation of her grand palace in Seattle, Washington, which she names Rose Red, and the paranormal happenings that occur within the walls of the house. Between the haunting of her home and her romantic and sexual encounters with both her husband and her lover, Sukeena, the book is just full of bewildering situations, especially to the eyes of a twelve year old sheltered christian girl.
I think its safe to say that the book kind of changed my life. I kept it hidden under my bed away from my parents, for sure that if they found it and read its contents that they would throw it away. The scary parts terrified me, and the sexual parts aroused a curiosity in me that later in my life would slowly manifest itself into a full blown identity revelation (I still remember the exact moment I was laying in bed with one of my childhood friends about two years later, and I found myself wanting to kiss her and I realized, well, hell, I must be gay).
The book is very well written and at the very least, entertaining. My rose colored glasses can’t keep me from scrutinizing it’s grammar and writing style as an adult, so I can say without hesitation that it is, as a whole, a phenomenal piece of literature and is highly underrated and little known. It deserves a lot more attention than it got, not only as a fantastic book but also as an incredible marketing tactic. Well done, Stephen King. Well done.