Helen Peppe and Stephen King: What Waits in the Dark
“Stop reading so much Stephen King,” Helen Peppe‘s mother advised her. Luckily, young Helen didn’t listen to her mother, or she might not have gone on– inspired by King and others– to create her own gripping Maine-Gothic masterpiece in PIGS CAN’T SWIM.
Alternately hilarious and harrowing, Peppe’s debut memoir is forthcoming in February, 2014, from Da Capo Press and has been selected as an Indies Introduce Debut title. The book marks the arrival of a fearless and funny new author with King-sized storytelling chops.
In her boldly over-the-top account of life on the poverty line in rural Maine, Helen Peppe describes how she discovered Stephen King in battered paperbacks from her local libraries. She instantly felt a kinship with Maine’s darkly brilliant Bard.
He helped her see, she writes, what ‘waits in the dark.’
Stephen King becomes almost a character himself in Peppe’s tale of growing up poor– with “cavity-rich teeth”– in a family of nine children. Many of the deftly drawn characters in this saga go without names (ie, “My pretty hair-twirling sister”). But the name of Stephen King pops up again and again. Peppe perfectly captures the power of books to transport her from her hardscrabble life.
“Stephen King’s newest book, Christine, was in my lap, face down and open flat so as to hold my place. From this angle it looked like a seagull, the type I drew in one swoop of a line…’Isn’t it cool how books look like birds and they fly us away from the place we’re in?'”
Young Helen gropes her way from being a ‘Liar Liar Pants on Fire’ toward finding her calling. Peppe perfectly captures the teenage moment of transformation. “‘I want to be a writer,’ my mouth surprised me by saying.”
Whether she’s scheming to steal the last ‘fist-full of pink pie’ or galloping on her beloved horse or falling in pre-teen love with Shawn Cassidy or battling real and imagined demons or pedaling for miles to rendezvous with her High School boyfriend and ‘rocket man,’ Peppe puts the reader inside her skin for her whole wild ride.
Like the master of suspense whose books inspire her, Helen Peppe finds the horror and danger, as well as the skewed beauty, of everyday life. Evoking rural Maine and its people with a depth and dark comedy worthy of King himself, Peppe shows how she comes “unstuck” from her past and learns, like the animals she loves, to “act free and real.”
(Photos courtesy of Helen Peppe– pictured above)