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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:

  • Big Bad:
    • The Langoliers: The titular monsters serve as this as they are consuming the past and threaten to consume the main characters with it who have flown through a time rift. Craig Toomey serves as The Heavy as the most direct threat while The Langoliers are approaching.
    • Secret Window, Secret Garden: John Shooter AKA Mort Rainey’s alternate personality who kick-started the plot by claiming Mort stole his story.
    • The Library Policeman: Ardelia Lortz aka The Library Policeman a creature similar to Pennywise the Dancing Clown who used to work at the library Sam Peebles works to feed on the children’s fear. It is responsible for the sexual assault of Sam Peebles as a young boy and wants to use him as its new face, replacing Ardelia Lortz.
    • The Sun Dog: The titular Sun Dog, a mysterious creature that inhabits and is trying to escape the camera it is trapped in in order to kill Kevin Delevan.
  • 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 its owner. Pop Merrill eventually winds up turned into its 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I Die Free: Dave in "The Library Policeman" dies sober and with Ardelia's influence lifted at last.
  • 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.
  • The Renfield: Dave Duncan served as this to Ardelia Lortz in “The Library Policeman” as a young man which contributed to his alcoholism in later life. He escaped when Lortz entered hibernation and helped Sam and Naomi defeat her when she returned.
  • 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".
  • Writing About Your Crime: Inverted in "Secret Window, Secret Garden''. A man accuses the protagonist of plagiarizing a story about a double murder and the subsequent disposing of the bodies. He ends up realizing the other man doesn't exist and attempting to commit the crimes and hiding the bodies exactly as described in the story. He does it in the movie version.