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Literature / Four Past Midnight

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Four Past Midnight is a 1990 collection of four horror novellas by Speculative Fiction writer Stephen King. The stories include:

  • The Langoliers: A group of people on a cross-country red-eye flight awaken to find their fellow passengers (and the plane's crew) have completely disappeared.
  • Secret Window, Secret Garden: A writer has to deal with accusations of plagiarism from a particularly unhinged man.
  • The Library Policeman: A man who is struggling to write a speech checks out two books on the subject, and becomes stalked by a strange man, and an equally strange librarian.
  • The Sun Dog: A sort of prequel to Needful Things about a Magical Camera.

The Langoliers was made into a two-apart 1995 Mini Series from the director of Child's Play. Secret Window, Secret Garden was made into the 2004 film Secret Window, starring Johnny Depp.


A Description of Tropes appearing in Four Past Midnight:

  • Animalistic Abomination: The titular being in "The Sun Dog" is more than likely one of these.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Pop Merrill has a case of this, in spite of specializing in selling supernatural artifacts and having sold some that drive their buyer insane.
  • Asshole Victim: Pop Merrill.
  • Ax-Crazy: Craig Toomy in "The Langoliers."
  • Big Good: Whoever it is in "The Sun Dog" who sends Kevin helpful psychic dreams.
  • Brainwashed: The longer one possesses the Magical Camera in "The Sun Dog", the more influence it exerts over it’s owner. Pop Merrill eventually winds up turned into it’s slave.
  • The Cameo: Recurring Castle Rock characters Sheriff Alan Pangborn and Deputy Norris Ridgewick make brief cameos in "The Sun Dog".
  • Canon Welding: "The Sun Dog," like many King stories, takes place in Castle Rock, Maine.
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  • Clock Roaches: The Langoliers.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: The Deere sisters from "The Sun Dog" are quite eccentric (and pretentious), but their claim that the camera is evil is spot on and their begging Pop to destroy it is justified.
  • Dead Animal Warning: In the short story Secret Window, Secret Garden Mort's cat is killed with a screwdriver and left as a warning by his Stalker Without a Crush. John Shooter is revealed to be in Mort's head the whole time. Mort killed his own cat.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Sam and Naomi from "The Library Policeman" go through hell and back, but their fate looks rosier than almost any other King characters' by the end.
  • Emotion Eater: Ardelia Lortz in "The Library Policeman."
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: The titular dog in "The Sun Dog" seems to radiate extreme heat.
  • Evil Librarians: Ardelia Lortz again.
  • The Ghost: Tansy from "The Library Policeman", an intended victim of Ardelia (who instead ended up killing her father), who attends the same AA group as some of the story's main characters but never physically appears in the present.
  • Haunted Technology / Magical Camera: How the monster in "The Sun Dog" enters reality. At first.
  • Hot Librarian: How Ardelia appears to some people.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Ardelia Lortz.
  • I Die Free: Dave in "The Library Policeman" dies sober and with Ardelia's influence lifted at last.
  • Jerkass: Pop Merrill in "The Sun Dog".
  • Lovecraft Country
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Mort Rainey and John Shooter in "Secret Window, Secret Garden."
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Getting Pop Merrill involved with the camera proves to be a bad, bad idea.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted in "Secret Window, Secret Garden." Mort poops.
  • Non-Protagonist Resolver: In "Secret Window, Secret Garden" the day is saved by the arrival of a previously unmentioned insurance investigator looking into the arson of Mort's home.
  • Not Quite Dead: 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.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: It’s never made clear what the dog is, how it got trapped in the camera, or who took the photos of it that caused the whole mess. Kevin theorizes it to be some sort of being that inhabits a realm that exists within photos, but there’s enough evidence to suggest he might be wrong.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Ardelia Lortz in "The Library Policeman" is a different kind of vampire indeed. Instead of sucking blood, she feeds on her victim's fear, which manifests itself as bloody looking tears oozing from the corners of their eyes. Ardelia's face transforms into a cornucopia-like snout which sucks up the tears as they are expelled.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Library Policeman in the short story of the same name takes the form of a man who did this once to the protagonist during his childhood.
  • Sanity Slippage: In "The Sun Dog" the dog causes Pop Merrill to suffer this, so that it can brainwash him into releasing it.
  • Scary Librarian: Ardelia Lortz in "The Library Policeman."
  • Show Within a Show: The short stories "Secret Window" and "Sowing Season" in "Secret Window, Secret Garden."
  • Television Portal: The dog in "The Sun Dog" seems to be able to enter through the real world in any form of technology.
  • Went to the Great X in the Sky: In "The Library Policeman", the town's resident drunk, Dirty Dave, is said to have gone to the "great ginmill in the sky".


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