Bag of Bones (Sep 1998)

Several years after his wife's death, novelist Mike Noonan still suffers writer's block. A dream inspires him to return to the couple's summer retreat in western Maine, a lakeside house called Sara Laughs. Shortly after arriving, Noonan is caught in the middle of a custody battle involving the daughter of an attractive young widow and the child's enormously wealthy grandfather. He also discovers that Sara Laughs is haunted and that his late wife, Joanna, still has something to tell him. The title of the book comes from the (allegedly attributed to Tom Hardy, but possibly invented) quote: "Compared to the dullest human being actually walking about on the face of the earth and casting his shadow there, the most brilliantly drawn character in a novel is but a bag of bones." King has said that, of all his books, Mike Noonan is the character most similar to him.

Common King themes:

  • Main character is a writer (Mike Noonan is an author and former reporter who suffers from writers' block after his wife's death.)
  • Main character has a dead spouse (Mike Noonan's wife Johanna dies suddenly from a brain aneurysm. )
  • The number 19 (Used in the clues given to Mike.)

Bag of Bones has connections to the following books:

Chapter 1 : Dark Score Lake

Mike Noonan's vacation home (Sara Laughs) is on Dark Score Lake.

Johanna once said that if I was drowning at Dark Score Lake, where we have a summer home, I would die silently fifty feet out from the public beach rather than yell for help.

Chapter 1 : Derry, ME

Mike and Joanna live in Derry.

On a very hot day in August of 1994, my wife told me she was going down to the Derry Rite Aid to pick up a refill on her sinus medicine prescription — this is stuff you can buy over the counter these days, I believe.

Chapter 16 : Ray Garraty

A character named Raymond (Ray) Garraty appears in Mike Noonan's novel My Childhood Friend.

Things happened during that week, but until I met Max Devore on The Street the following Friday — the seventeenth of July, it would have been — the most important thing was that I continued to work on a novel which would, if finished, be called My Childhood Friend. Perhaps we always think what was lost was the best . . . or would have been the best. I don't know for sure. What I do know is that my real life that week had mostly to do with Andy Drake, John Shackleford, and a shadowy figure standing in the deep background. Raymond Garraty, John Shackle-ford's childhood friend. A man who sometimes wore a baseball cap.

Chapter 16 : Micmac Indians

Brenda Meserve says that the Micmac Indians still haunt the land around Dark Score Lake.

'No ghosts, huh?' I said, as if disappointed. 'Not that I've ever seen,' she said, matter-of-fact as an accountant, 'but my ma said there's plenty down here. She said this whole lake is haunted. By the Micmacs that lived here until they was driven out by General Wing, by all the men who went away to the Civil War and died there — over six hundred went from this part of the world, Mr. Noonan, and less than a hundred and fifty came back . . . at least in their bodies. Ma said this side of Dark Score's also haunted by the ghost of that Negro boy who died here, poor tyke. He belonged to one of the Red-Tops, you know.'

Chapter 2 : Bill Denbrough

Jo is a fan of Bill Denbrough's novels.

Johanna was deep in her ratty old easy chair, reading a book (not Maugham that night but William Denbrough, one of her contemporary favorites). 'Ooo,' she said, looking up and marking her place. 'Champagne, what's the occasion?' As if, you understand, she didn't know.

Chapter 29 : Alan Pangborn

Mike asks Sheriff Ridgewick whatever happened to Alan Pangborn, the last sheriff of Castle Rock.

When Sheriff Ridgewick hammered on the door, I thought it wise to answer with my hands up. He looked wired. What seemed to ease the situation was a simple, uncalculated question. 'Where's Alan Pangborn these days, Sheriff?' 'Over New Hampshire,' Ridgewick said, lowering his pistol a little (a minute or two later he holstered it without even seeming to be aware he had done so). 'He and Polly are doing real well. Except for her arthritis. That's nasty, I guess, but she still has her good days. A person can go along quite awhile if they get a good day every once and again, that's what I think. Mr. Noonan, I have a lot of questions for you. You know that, don't you?'

Chapter 5 : Ralph Roberts

Ralph gives Mike Noonan the advice to go on vacation, which leads Mike to his destiny at Sara Laughs on Dark Score Lake.

I looked up and saw an old man that I knew but couldn't quite place. 'Ralph Roberts,' he said. 'I volunteer down at the Red Cross. Me and my wife, Lois.' 'Oh, okay, sure,' I said. I give blood at the Red Cross every six weeks or so. Ralph Roberts was one of the old parties who passed out juice and cookies afterward, telling you not to get up or make any sudden movements if you felt woozy.

Epilogue : Shawshank Prison

George Randolph Footman, the former Castle County deputy sheriff who shot and killed Mattie Devore, now resides in Shawshank Prison.

'What did you tell the police?' 'I didn't have to tell them much of anything. Footman talked enough to suit them — too much to suit Norris Ridgewick. Footman said that he and Osgood — it was Osgood driving the car, Devore's pet broker — did the drive-by because Devore had made threats about what would happen to them if they didn't. The State cops also found a copy of a wire-transfer among Devore's effects at Warrington's. Two million dollars to an account in the Grand Caymans. The name scribbled on the copy is Randolph Footman. Randolph is George's middle name. Mr. Footman is now residing in Shawshank State Prison.'

References will be here!