Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Full Dark, No Stars

Go To

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of novellas written by Stephen King that all deal with the themes of vengeance and retribution.

As of 2020, three of them have been adapted into tv movies: 1922 (in 2017, starring Thomas Jane); Big Driver (in 2014, starring Maria Bello), and A Good Marriage (2014, starring Joan Allen and Anthony LaPaglia).

The novellas in chronological order:


A man convinces his son to help him in murdering his wife after she proposes moving off the family homestead.

  • Abusive Parents: Arlette might have lived longer if she hadn't been so cruel to her son. And of course, manipulating your son into acting as your accomplice in killing his mother is hardly good parenting either.
  • Anti-Villain: Henry and possibly Wilfred by the end.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The entire story is the written confession of its protagonist.
  • Darker and Edgier: Probably one of King's bleakest works. It starts off grim and only gets worse (King even discusses this in his afterword, rather ruefully noting that all the stories in the collection are incredibly bleak).
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Everything that can go wrong does.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Henry doesn't want to leave the farm anyway, and Wilfred does everything he can to increase his fear. The thing that frightens Henry the most? If they move to Omaha, he might end up going to high school with "black niggers".
    • The sheriff has no interest in investigating Arlette's disappearance, and is frustrated that his job requires him to make even a token effort. He believes that matters between husband and wife are no one else's business, and twenty years before, the law had agreed. Back then, if a husband said his wife had run off, that was the end of it.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Wilfred thinks he has the plan to murder his wife and dispose of her all thought out, but when things start to go wrong he realizes how many factors he didn't take into account and how half-assed his plan actually was.
  • Disposing of a Body: Arlette is dumped in a well.
  • Dramatic Irony: Wilfred talks his son into helping him kill Arlette because she wants to sell the farm to a livestock company and move to Omaha. By the end of the story, Wilfred has been forced to sell the farm to the livestock company and move to Omaha.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Henry kills himself after Shannon dies.
    • The manuscript Wilfred writes concludes as he is attacked by the rats that have followed him and proceed to bite and tear at his body before he can finish himself off. When the police investigate his room later on, they find Wilfred dead of apparently self-inflicted bite wounds, suggesting a Through the Eyes of Madness account.
  • Finagle's Law
  • From Bad to Worse: Oh yes.
  • Glasgow Grin: Wilfred accidentally gives this to his wife when he kills her.
  • The Great Depression: Wilfred states that for the farmers it started in 1923.
  • Insane Troll Logic / Protagonist-Centered Morality: Wilfred uses this to explain how murdering someone is an act of good. To elaborate, they're murdering the wife because, in his eyes, she's a terrible person and a sinner. Thus, by killing her before she can redeem herself, it gets her into Heaven automatically because she was never given the chance.
  • Outlaw Couple: Henry and Shannon become this.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Wilfred manipulates Henry into helping him murder Arlette so that he can keep his land from being sold. He gets to keep the land, but it comes at a heavy cost when Henry knocks up Shannon and runs off, eventually resulting in both their deaths. Soon, nature seems to throw onto his misfortune, with a rat that attacks one of his cows, his livestock gradually being killed by the bad weather, and Wilfred losing one hand to amputation to prevent gangrene from a savage rat bite. In the end, he even questions if it was really worth it.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Henry was on the way to becoming this.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: No matter how bitterly they fight, Wilfred and Arlette never stop having sex with each other, though it becomes more like "the rutting of animals" as the bitterness grows.
  • Swarm of Rats: And how.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog
  • Shout-Out: To H. P. Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls".
  • Teen Pregnancy:
    • Wilfred's son gets the neighbor's daughter pregnant. It doesn't go well. For anyone.
    • Arlette implies that Henry himself (and thus her unhappy marriage to Wilfred) is the result of this.
  • Together in Death: Henry and Shannon.
  • Trauma Conga Line
  • Unreliable Narrator: Perhaps, given some hints that portions of the narrative could be Through the Eyes of Madness.
  • Villain Protagonist

Big Driver

After being horribly violated and left for dead, crime novelist Tess uses her detective skills to plot her revenge.

  • Animate Inanimate Object: Tess imagines many of her appliances helping her and giving her advice. She also imagines her cat talking to her.
  • Eye Scream: Betsy Neal's stepfather would hold a butterknife to her face while raping her. The knife slipped.
  • Hates Being Touched: Betsy Neal, likely due to her past sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Par for the course with a Stephen King story.
  • Murder by Mistake
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Tess initially has one of these after accidentally killing her rapist's brother and believing him to be innocent. It turns out he was in on it with his brother, so she stops feeling guilty.
  • Rape and Revenge: The entire plot of the story. Tess is brutally raped and left for dead, and murders those responsible, including the rapist's mother and brother.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Tess goes on one.
  • Scary Librarian: Ramona Norville, who deliberately sent Tess off the beaten path so she would get raped and murdered by her son.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Tess

Fair Extension

Cancer patient Dave Streeter makes a Deal with the Devil to exchange his misery with his friend's good luck.

  • Affably Evil: George Elvid is generally quite friendly, but he displays flashes of anger and impatience when Dave annoys him.
  • Asshole Victim: Played with. Dave sees Tom Goodhugh as one (he stole Dave's girlfriend, got rich off an idea that Dave helped implement, etc), but the reader never actually sees Tom acting like an asshole. Dave is something of an Unreliable Narrator, and tends to spin all of Tom's courtesy and friendliness as smarmy douchebaggery.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Dave Streeter enjoys watching the horrible things that happen to Tom Goodhugh's family, delighting in Tom's suffering while telling him it will get better. Meanwhile, Dave becomes more and more prosperous and happy. At the end of the story, looking at Venus, he makes a wish - for more.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Of the darkest sort.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Tom Goodhugh steals Dave Streeter's girlfriend and gets rich off of an idea that Dave helped him implement...and Dave decides to get revenge by more or less making a Deal with the Devil to cause a massive Trauma Conga Line in Tom's life while Dave's life improves immensely and takes great pleasure in his best friend's suffering.
  • Driven to Suicide: Almost. After his life goes to shit, Tom tells Dave that if he could kill himself and make it look like an accident, he would. Dave, delighting in Tom's suffering, tells him it will get better. (It won't.)
  • Equivalent Exchange: Dave Streeter's life finally turns around at the expense of his friend's.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The actual reason for Dave Streeter's hatred toward Tom Goodhugh.
  • Happily Married: Although Dave is angry about losing Norma to Tom Goodhugh, he nonetheless is genuinely in love with his wife, Janet. At the end of the story, he states their marriage is as "strong as an oak door."
  • Karma Houdini: Dave Streeter is cured of his cancer and lives a happy life. He ends the story wishing for more.
  • Louis Cypher: George Elvid. Dave realizes this early on.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Tom Goodhugh's life after Dave's deal.
  • Villain Protagonist: By the end of the story Streeter has become one.
  • With Friends Like These...: Dave acts like Tom is this but it becomes clear that the roles are reversed early on, especially since Dave thinks that Tom deserves losing family members and his fortune.

A Good Marriage

A middle-aged wife discovers that her husband is hiding a dark secret.

  • Alone with the Psycho: Played with. Darcy spends time alone with Bob after discovering his secret, and he only acts gentle to her. But this is even creepier, and Darcy spends a lot of time wondering if he'd murder her if she acted against him.
  • Axes at School: Bob planned a school shooting when he was younger with his friend Brian Delahanty, several decades before Columbine.
  • Beneath the Mask: The one of the major points of the story is how loved ones can hide secrets. The fury on Bob's face strips the mask away further, showing that he never loved Darcy.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Bob is a doting husband and a pillar of the community. He's also the serial killer known as Beadie.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: A major reason Darcy is reluctant to go to the police: everyone would presume she knew about the murders.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Bob is prepared to the point of paranoia, which is why he lasted decades without being caught. He always places his box of trophies in exactly the same place, and uses a sliver of almost invisible tape to see if its been opened.
  • Criminal Mind Games: Beadie sends taunting messages to the police, which Bob deliberately misspells to hide his intelligence.
  • Dark Secret: First Bob's - then Darcy's in the end, which Holt Ramsey figures out.
  • Dead TV Remote Gag: When Darcy's looking for batteries for hers, she finds a lot more than she intended...
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Darcy avenges Beadie's victims and finds a sense of closure when Holt Ramsey assures her she did the right thing.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Bob is a vicious serial killer, but he was nothing but nice to his wife and children. The look in his eye before Darcy pushes him implies that even this love is faked though.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Bob is rather charming and a pillar of the community but is secretly a revolting Serial Killer who enjoys killing people.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: Bob states that Brian Delahanty infected him with misogynistic and violent ideas, and that Brian's voice drives him to kill. Darcy believes this is simply a self-justification.
  • Justified Criminal: Both in-universe with Ramsey and the story itself seems to agree that Darcy was right to kill Bob, both to protect herself, and to stop his evil for good.
  • Karmic Death: Bob dies a horrific death, smothered after having his neck, arms and back broken.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Darcy gets Bob drunk, then pushes him down the stairs so it looks like a drunken fall. After ringing for an ambulance as a delay would look suspicious, she smothers him.
  • Man Bites Man: Bob enjoys biting his victims.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Darcy discovers that her husband has a collection of extremely dark sadomasochistic magazines. And then it gets worse.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: When Darcy discovers Bob's secret, he often acts like a teenager with severe personality issues.
  • Retired Badass: 74 year old Holt Ramsey has a reputation for solving difficult crimes with his hunches, is the one cop who came close to catching Beadie, and visits Darcy to confirm his suspicions. He retires to Florida to enjoy his last few months after the story.
  • Retired Monster: Downplayed; Bob was a normal, loving husband, but he kept trophies from his days as Beadie, was still sending taunting letters to the authorities about his crimes, and his true, evil nature was always simmering just below the surface the whole time. When Darcy discovers his secret, he begins to backslide into his original personality.
  • The Reveal: Aside from Darcy's discovery that Bob is Beadie, two later moments greatly undermine most of what Bob says to Darcy in his confession: his look of hate after she tries to kill him, and Holt revealing that BD bit off his boy victim's penis.
  • Serial Killer: Bob Anderson, a.k.a Beadie.
  • Significant Monogram: Bob's serial killer alias 'Beadie' was derived from his childhood friend Brian Delahanty's initials. Bob believes that Brian 'infected' him.
  • Smug Snake: Bob believed that he was so careful and smart that the police were nowhere near catching him, but Holt Ramsey's hunch might have led to an arrest eventually.
  • Straw Misogynist: How Bob justifies his crime to himself. He has a delusion that many women he meet are sluts (he uses the term "snoot") who are trying to tempt him, when in fact they are doing normal things or even acting creeped out, such as waitress Stacey Moore. He then believes that they are sexually teasing him, so in his view they deserve to die. He claims that his former accomplice Delahanty "infected" him with his violent, misogynist ideas, but Darcy thinks Bob is just trying to avoid responsibility for his own actions.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: King was in part inspired by the BTK killer, particularly after the killer's wife received backlash for claiming to have no knowledge of her husband's crimes.
  • Would Hurt a Child: While Bob usually just killed women, he also at one point killed one of their children. He later tells his wife that it was an accident, saying that he had to do it once the child witnessed him murdering his mother. Although that's put into doubt when it's revealed that he had bitten off the boy's penis.

Under the Weather.

This is an additional short story included in some editions of the book, after the Afterword note . A man named Brad Franklin goes through his day while his wife Ellen stays in bed because she has bronchitis. Or so we are led to believe.

  • Five Stages of Grief: Brad is firmly in Stage 1, Denial, and it doesnít look like he will get out of it soon.
  • Foreshadowing: In a flashback we learn that, while they were on a plane to The Bahamas, Brad thought for a moment that Ellen had died while in fact she was just sleeping. When he told her about this later, he promised he would never accept her death, but just use his imagination to keep her alive. By the end of the story, we find out that Ellen has died and Brad is doing exactly what he promised.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Ellen learned some years ago that she cannot conceive a child, which is one of the darkest pages in her and Brad's marriage.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: Brad is keeping everybody in the dark about what happened to Ellen, and is most of all fooling himself.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Brad just canít accept that his wife has died at least a week prior to the start of the story. He keeps her corpse in their apartment, and goes out of his way to convince himself that she is just sleeping a lot because she has a bout of bronchitis, and that the foul smell everybody complains about (and which he pretends not to notice) must be from a dead rat in the neighboring apartment