Stephen King is admired as a writer as much for his realism, for the acuity and accuracy of his observation of the details and textures of American life in our time, as he is for his fantasy and unhinged imagination.
You would never find King erroneously making an inaccurate reference to a 1960s television show or comic book, or having one of his juvenile characters consume an incorrectly described popular snack or candy bar, but to Stephen King guns just don’t seem to matter.
King’s latest, Doctor Sleep, is a sequel to one of his major hits, 1977’s The Shining, famous both in the book and in the film version directed by Stanley Kubrick. Dan Torrance, the little kid in The Shining, has grown up into an adult haunted by his visions, and driven by them to drink and personal ruin. He has become a recovering alcoholic, working in a New Hampshire hospice using his unique talents to comfort the dying, and faithfully going to AA meetings and performing his 12 steps, when he is drawn back into conflict with unnatural evil. A local young girl, even more gifted than Dan with psychic abilities, gets in touch with him. She has been targeted by an ancient company of psychic vampires, who unnaturally prolong their own lives by feeding on the essences of members of the tiny minority born with such gifts.
Dan drafts a couple of his local friends to help guard her from an imminent attack, including Billy Freeman, an older municipal handyman who helped Dan get his first local job.
Dave Stone, the girl’s father is skeptical of the old man’s capabilities.
All respect to you, Mr. Freeman,” Dave said, “but you’re a little old for bodyguard duty, and this is my daughter we’re talking about.”
Billy raised his shirttails and revealed an automatic pistol in a battered black holster. “One-nine-one-one Colt,” he said. “Full auto. World War II vintage This is old, too, but it’ll do the job.”
And the gun literate reader goes right up the wall.
Stephen King is so clueless that he thinks that you refer to John Browning’s Model of 1911 as the “One-nine-one-one Colt.” Worse, he does not understand that automatic pistols are typically only semi-automatic. The 1911 Colt was never officially produced in a full-auto version.
Stephen King is at least as ignorant about firearms as the late Ian Fleming, but the difference was that, after committing some howlers, Fleming began consulting with Major Geoffrey Boothroyd, who did know about guns, before mentioning any more of them in his books. Stephen King badly needs a Major Boothroyd.
In Doctor Sleep, the firearm misidentifications keep on coming. As our heroes prepare to ambush the villains, we find Dan equipped with one of two Glock .22s owned by the same Billy Freeman.
The problem is that there are no .22 caliber Glock pistols. Stephen King was confused by the existence of the Glock Model 22, chambered in .40 S&W.
The reader winds up actually uncertain if King means to have Dan shooting baddies with a Glock chambered in the potent man-stopping .40 S&W round, or making do with an imaginary .22 Long Rifle Glock which does not actually exist. From the effect on the villains, I’d guess that Dan was using a powerful center-fire cartridge, and that Stephen King just screwed up by referring to the Model number with a period in front of it.
This sort of thing isn’t the end of the world, but it seems to me that it signifies a very peculiar expression of contempt for accuracy which must be related to a deeply ingrained hoplophobic attitude.
Stephen King would never willingly put the wrong engine in one of his old-time American automobiles or talk about a “Ford Corvette.” He would never mess up on a point of technological nomenclature or misidentify a piece of popular culture. But where firearms are concerned, he just cannot be bothered to check his details.
Obviously, he thinks guns aren’t terribly important and expertise in the area of firearms is not important at all. Nobody who matters will notice. Only rubes and bitter clingers pay attention to that kind of thing anyway.
You can tell that, despite living in the city of Bangor in the state of Maine, where an awful lot of hunting and shooting goes on, the great author lives in an elite community of fashion bubble, the kind of lifestyle which caused Pauline Kael to marvel that Richard Nixon won re-election by a landslide when she herself had never met anyone who would consider voting for Nixon.