Recommend Reading for Aspiring Writers by Stephen King

Recommended Reading for Aspiring Writers by Stephen King

Richard Bausch, In the Night Season

Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain

Michael Chabon, Werewolves in Their Youth

Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors

Alex Garland, The Beach

Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow

Mary Karr, The Liar’s Club

Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Ian McEwan, The Cement Garden

Larry McMurtry, Dead Man’s Walk

Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie

Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods

Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Richard Russo, Mohawk

Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy

Anne Tyler, A Patchwork Planet.

Source: Open Culture


27 ~ Let’s Play Jeopardy

27 ~ Final Chapter

“Let’s play Jeopardy, Dill. You’ll be the contestant on the quiz show and I’ll play the host, Alex Trebek.”

“Hold on, Gills. You always get all the good parts. Why can’t I play Alex Trebek?” argued Pickle.

Gillis, ever sensitive to his partner’s fragile ego, said, “You can play Pat Sajak when we play Wheel of Fortune. Wendy will play Vanna White. And, I’ll play the contestant who wins Vanna.”

Pickle closed his eyes and tried to figure it out. He opened them after a minute, “Pat Sajak and me are about the same size. It’s a deal if you promise to let me spin the wheel.”

“Promise,” said Gillis. Gillis closed his eyes, vowed never to change careers and become a first grade teacher. He took a deep breath and channeled Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy, into his persona. When he was ready, he opened his eyes and said, “Detective Dill, it’s your turn to play Jeopardy, which category do you choose?”

Pickle slid right into his role, “I’ll take cagey criminals for $400.”

Gillis picked up an imaginary card and read imaginary printing from it, “Fandango.”

Pickle pressed an imaginary buzzer and said, “What cagey criminal convicted of senior scooter theft escaped from the state prison and vowed to open a restaurant?” 

“That’s right,” said Gillis.

“I’ll take Famous Children for $200,” said Pickle.

Gillis wondered when Pickle crossed the line into fantasy world and got lost trying to find his way back. Gillis played along. He picked up another imaginary card and read imaginary printing from it, “Do Re, Leon, and Buttercup.”

Pickle blurted out the answer, “What are the names of Fandango’s sons?”

“Right for $200. Time is about up, Dill. You have time for one last question,” said Gillis believing he crossed the line into fantasyland.

“I’ll take careers for $1000,’ shouted an excited Pickle.

From a table next to them, “They’re filming Jeopardy. There’s Alex Trebek. I’ve had a secret crush on him for forty years said an eighty-seven year old woman.

“I saw him first,” said her older sister.

“You can’t have him, he’s mine,” said the younger sister.

Nausea swept over Gillis as the two sisters started swinging their handbags at each other fighting to see who could have him for desert. He swiftly picked up an imaginary card and read the imaginary words, “The world renowned monkey entrails chef.”

Pickle thought for a moment, gave a smile and said, “Who is Fandango?”

Gillis said, “You are correct for $1000.”

The Golden Wok exploded into applause. Pickle stood up and took a bow. 

Gillis said, “That’s all for now, folks. We’ll be filming live same time next week.”

“That was fun, Gills. What does it all mean?” asked Pickle.

“The real murderer is Fandango, the father of Do Re, Leon, and Buttercup. His sons are co-conspirators. Fandango is the brains behind the Golden Wok,” said Gillis. 

Gillis pulled the gun out of his shoulder holster. He tapped Pickle with the barrel, “All four will be coming through the kitchen door with serrated knives to do to us what they did to the monkeys.” 

“Will we end up on the barbecue?” asked Pickle.

“Probably,” said Gillis.

“How do you figure … Here they come,” shouted Pickle pulling the gun out of his shoulder holster and randomly firing four rounds. One round shattered a large chandelier over the buffet spewing small pieces of crystalized glass over the fried chicken. A second round shattered the large aquarium sending the dead carp over the floor along with one-hundred gallons of water. A third round passed through two urine sacks pouring urine out over the dead carp. The fourth round ricocheted off a large brass bell, traveling across the dining room and entering a piece of sautéed ground squirrel.

A near sighted, hard of hearing senior, stabbed the piece of squirrel, dipped it into duck sauce, and put it in his mouth. Five seconds later, “Son of a bicks. I book my toot on the meat.”

Fandango tucked his serrated knife behind his back and rushed to the senior, “Don’t worry about a thing, sir. Here’s a coupon for a free buffet next week.”

“Thanx,” sputtered the senior.

Moments later Gillis and Pickle handcuffed Fandango, Do Re, Leon, and Butter and led them out of the Golden Wok. The seniors rushed to the buffet to grab all the food left on the buffet bar before the health department arrived and shut the Golden Wok. 

Two hours later, Gillis and Pickle sat in Courageous’ office. Courageous sat behind his desk, his phone to ear. “Yes, mayor. I will, mayor. Consider it done, mayor. They’re right here in front of me. I’ll tell them, mayor. You want to see them this afternoon? Certainly. The police commissioner will be there? Thank you, mayor.”

Courageous set the phone down and looked at Gillis and Pickle, “That was the mayor.”

“Figured as much Cap,” said Gillis.

“He sends his congratulations. Folsom Sampson forgives all the damage you caused. You nailed the monkey murderers. The mayor and commissioner want you at the mayor’s office this afternoon, you’ll both receive commendations. How’d you figure it out?”

“Easy as baking bread on Tuesday, Cap. Almost as easy as taking a crap first thing in the morning, know what I mean? About as easy as cleaning earwax from your ears with your baby finger,” said Pickle working the wax with the pinky on this left hand.

Gillis burped, whacked his chest with his fist, “Had a taco on the way over from No Mas Taco. Here’s the thing, Cap. The whole case smelled like a bad enchilada from the start. Fandango made his mistake by trying the old switch and dip ruse on us. You know, the bob and weave, the old soft shoe, the I can’t dance routine. None of them worked. When Leon pushed pizza on us I smelled something fishy and it wasn’t carp.”

“What was it?” asked Courageous.

“I’ll tell you it wasn’t catfish or tuna. It was barbecued monkey. Because my pay is so low in the department, I moonlight for the newspaper as their secret diner. I’ve sampled their barbecued monkey before and gave them five stars.”

“They’ve been serving barbecued monkey?” asked Courageous reaching for angina pills. The animal rights organizations will be all over us if this gets out.”

 “For months, Cap. The problem was, the Feds cut off the supply. The seniors refused to eat barbecued dog or cat. They developed an unusual craving for monkey entrails. The only option left to Fandango and his sons was to go after domesticated monkeys.”

“Domesticated?” asked Courageous wiping sweat off his brow with his handkerchief. 

“Big difference in taste between wild and domesticated monkey. Once you go wild, you never go back. It’s what’s going to happen to Wendy after she tries me on for size. No offense intended, Cap. Your son, Pat didn’t have the goods to sexually satisfy the woman. Wendy has a libido that is in overdrive and on overtime.”

“Wendy and Pat broke up? This is first I’ve heard of it. It’ll kill Pat’s mother.”

“You know your wife is the mayor’s lover, right? This is common knowledge, Cap. Hell, she’s had half the department. Not Dill and me. She offered herself to me, but I told her I needed your permission first.”

“I woulda had her at the Christmas party, but your guest room was being used. Clara was doing the rodeo with Santiago if you know what I mean,” said Pickle.

Captain Courageous slumped to his desk. He began beating the sides of head with his fists. Pickle interjected, “Cap, you ought to be checked by medics for head lice Cap. Chalk up a W for Gillis and Pickle,” said Gillis fist bumping Pickle.

Courageous lifted his head slightly and stared blankly at Gillis and Pickle, the only thought running through his mind, “Life’s not fair. It’s just not fair. 

26 ~ Gillis Informs Pickle Politically Correct Police are Not Allowed in The Golden Wok


Gillis pointed  to the baldheaded black guy behind the buffet line. He said, “He’s the killer.”

“Who, Do Re? Impossible. He likes you. He doesn’t hold any grudges about you sending him up,” said Pickle.

“That’s not Do Re,” said Gillis.

“That’s not Do Re? You sure?” Pickle tried squinting hoping he’d have a better view. He stopped squinting and leaned toward Gillis. He spoke softly, “It’s not politically correct, but I have a hard time telling blacks apart, they all look alike to me.”

“Not to worry, Dill. They don’t allow politically correct police inside the Golden Wok. Do Re told me he has the same problem with white people. As for me, I don’t have a problem telling people apart. I was born with the gift of an inner eye. See the guy in the corner running the craps game? That’s Do Re,” said Gillis pointing to a baldheaded black man reaching for the dice.

“Do Re? What’s he doing over there?” asked Pickle.

“That’s not Do Re. I was testing you. He looks like Do Re, but he’s not Do Re,” said Gillis.

“I can’t tell them apart,” said Pickle.

“It’s a common mistake. There’s only two people in the world who can tell Do Re, Leon, and Buttercup apart. Their mother and me. They are identical triplets. The guy behind the buffet is Buttercup. Buttercup is our killer. The guy running the craps game is Leon. Do Re is our waiter,” said Gillis.

“Follow me,” said Gillis picking up both boxes of pizza and carrying them over to the large aquarium. Five large carp swam contentedly around a large plastic coral reef. Gillis opened the pizza boxes and dumped the pizza into the aquarium. Gillis and Pickle watched the pizza sink to the bottom as it were loaded with lead. The five carp attacked the pizza in a feeding frenzy, creating a cloud of swirling water sending pizza pieces and crumbs ricocheting off the aquarium walls.  

Pickle taped Gillis on the shoulder and said, “The carp look like they’re playing jai alai. What’d you do that for Gills? The pizza smelled great. I’m starving.”

“Take a look now, Dill. One bite of the pizza and you’d end up like the carp in the aquarium. They put arsenic in the sauce. Sure, it will enhance the flavor, but the after effects are terrible. Take a look,” Gillis pointed to eight huge orange and white Asian carp floating sideways on the surface of the aquarium.

“Do Re tried to kill us, Gills. What’d we ever do to him? I was going to ask him if he had a sister I could date,” said Pickle.

“Do Re, Leon, and Buttercup are all guilty. It wasn’t Do Re who waited on us. I pretended he was Do Re and went along with the ruse,” said Gillis.

“I’m totally confused. You just said Do Re was our waiter, Buttercup’s behind the buffet, and Leon’s running the craps game.”

“That’s what I said. I said it loud enough so Leon could hear me,” said Gillis.

“Who’s behind the buffet?”


“I thought Leon was running the craps game.”

“That’s Do Re.”

“But, Do Re waited on us?

“That was Leon, the first time. But Do Re brought the pizzas to our table.

“Who killed the monkeys?” begged Pickle. “Do you mind if I get some barbecue off the buffet? The smell is driving me crazy.”

“Be my guest. I’ll warn you, you’ll be eating monkey entrails.”

“Let me put this another way to you, Gills. Are you saying I will be eating Tells’ guts?” 

“The good news is that they’re grilled and covered with barbecue sauce.”

“What’s the bad news?”

“There isn’t any. Anything smothered in barbecue sauce tastes great. Ignore the barbecue. It’s go time.”

“It is?”

 “Do Re, Buttercup, and Leon all went into the kitchen,” said Gillis.

“I like teamwork, Gills. They’re all helping Leon on the buffet,” said Pickle.

“Leon’s not working the buffet. I only said that because the senior with the beehive hairdo behind us turned up her hearing aid so she could hear every word I’m saying,” said Gillis.

“Slow down, Gills. Who was behind the buffet? Was it Leon, Do Re, or Buttercup?” asked a confused Pickle.

“None of the above,” said Gillis.

“None of the above? I don’t get it,” said Pickle wiping the beads of sweat off his brow.

“The final piece to the puzzle fell into place, Dill. Play along with me for a moment and you’ll understand.”

“I’m game,” said Pickle.



25 ~Pickle Discovers a Clue to the Case in the Men’s Restroom


Gillis played with sugar packets arranging and rearranging them. Pickle test tasted packets of soy sauce, duck sauce, barbecue sauce, and spicy mustard. Pickle was on his third round of packets and began slurping the entire packet. Gillis said, “You’re hungry.”

“I didn’t say anything, Gills. How’d you know?”

“Wild guess. Let’s nose around, Dill. We’ll walk up to the buffet bar. Remember what Do Re said about the food. Look but don’t touch. You remember what we’re looking for?”

Pickle’s eyes sparkled. He was back in third grade and he knew the answer, “I sure do, Gills. I looking for senior trying to sneak extra food off the buffet to take home.”

Gillis, always sensitive to Pickle’s desire to be right, said, “Right on target, Dill. While you’re at it, if you notice anyone with only one cufflink, let me know. Take your time at the buffet bar. We’ll talk after Do Re brings us our pizzas.”

Pickle puffed up more brightly than a peacock. “I’m on it. Do you mind if I go to the restroom first?”

Gillis shrugged, “I’ll wait.” He continued rearranging sugar and sugar substitute packets.

Five minutes later Pickle returned. He slid into his chair. He bent toward Gillis and whispered, “I found some unexpected information that may help us with this case.”

Gillis nodded and signaled Pickle to continue.

Pickle reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. He read it, “Call Sara at 555-6767 if you want a good time.”

“How’s this going to help us?” asked Gillis.

“Sara might have seen something. Do you mind if I call her and question her alone tonight?”

“Go for it. Let me know if you had a good time. Let’s head to the buffet bar,” said Gillis.

Gillis and Pickle stood in the buffet line behind fifteen seniors. Eight of the seniors were  pushing walkers. Each of the eight walkers had a built in tray device. The seniors with walkers placed two large plates on their tray device. The remaining seven seniors had baby pouches strapped to their chests and carried a single plate. 

“Question, Gills.”

“What is it, Dill?”

“Are the seniors afraid the Golden Wok is going to run out of food? Why are they stuffing food into the baby pouches? Why do they need two plates? Watch out, one of the seniors is trying to pull his walker out of line and take a cut near the front of the line. Another senior with a walker is swearing at him. They’re swinging their walkers at each other. Should we step in?”

“Ignore it, Dill. When seniors fight over food, the early bird special, coupons, you need backup. We’re not wearing our Kevlar vests. If they take hostages, we’ll call in the SWAT team. You see that? Beautiful move, He faked swinging his walker, and squirted the guy in face with his urine sack.”

The guy who got squirted, “I’m going to sue. I just had my cataracts removed.”

The guy who did the squirting, “You sue and I’ll ban you from playing bingo.”



Gillis said, “I saw something on Unsolved Mysterious on cable about seniors at buffets, Dill. The world’s greatest scientists can’t figure it out. The scientists point out for every ten seniors who head to buffets only seven survive.”

“They got a seven in ten chance, Gills. Those are good odds given the price. Five ninety-nine for all you can eat. I heard a senior say he eats enough so he doesn’t have to eat for two days.”

Twenty minutes later Gillis and Pickle made it through the buffet and back to their table. Two pizzas boxes were on the table. “See anything unusual, Dill?”

 I saw a senior stuffing her handbag with chicken wings. Then she started packing food in her cheeks like a squirrel as she went through the buffet.”

“That’s normal according to the scientists. Once you pass a certain age, all you think about is food, how to interfere in your kids lives, and what the neighbors are doing. I meant about our case,” said Gillis.

“Can’t say I did. How about you?” asked Pickle picking out a slice of greasy pepperoni pizza.

“Don’t eat the pizza,” said Gillis.

“Why?” asked Pickle holding a grease laden piece of pepperoni pizza inches from his mouth.

“I’ll tell you in a minute. Put the pizza down carefully and wipe your hands on your shirt. I think I solved the case,” said Gillis watching the grease drip off of Pickle’s slice and slide down his chin and dripping onto his shirt.

“Something bothering you, Gills? What are you thinking about? You buried your face in your hands. What am I missing Gills? Who’s the killer? What tipped you off?”

24 ~ Gillis & Pickle Do Group Therapy With Senior Citizens


Gillis and Pickle cuffed the seniors to each other in a circle surrounding the SUV. 

Gillis said, “Heads up. You’re going to miss the senior special at the Golden Wok. I’ll let you go, if the pimp steps forward.”

“George, for once take one for the team,” said Margie an octogenarian sputtered without her set of lower teeth in her mouth.

“I’m not a pimp. I can’t even get it up,” whined George.

“Haven’t you heard of Viagra?” complained Ellen. “I’ve had to carry on affair with Jimmy the janitor because you’re too cheap to make the copay.”

“Let it all out. I can tell this group is stuffing the anger,” said Pickle.

“Damn right!” said a bent over bald headed male. “Ethel’s more concerned about eating chocolates than she is about doing my laundry. I’m wearing the same underpants for three weeks. Hell, her tits sag down to her belly button.”

Ethel said, “I’m not going to sleep nude with you anymore.”

The bald headed guy responded, “”Good. I won’t have nightmares.”

Gillis waved Pickle off. He said, “Keep it going. You’re making progress. Consider this group therapy. My partner and I can’t waste any more time with you. We’re hungry. We’re heading into the buffet. We’ll release you when we’re finished if you’ve all worked out your anger. I’ll make sure the manager will honor your discount.”

A matronly, late seventies woman with too much makeup and enough lipstick to paint a house said, “I go to bed early. If you come by at six, you’ll get lucky.”

Gillis pulled Pickle away from seniors, he whispered, “I never figured senior women to be so sexually aggressive.”

“If you don’t take her offer, do you mind if sub for you?” asked Pickle.

Before Gillis could answer, an old man hollered, “I can’t post bail, my retirement check doesn’t come in until next week.”

Pickle turned back and answered, “Do I look like your rabbi?”

Fist bump.

Gillis and Pickle headed into the Golden Wok. Gillis spotted several tables with reserved signs on them. He grabbed two menus off the counter and motioned to Pickle to head into the seating area. 

“The seniors won’t be needing reserved seating, Dill. Let’s take this table,” said Gillis.

Pickle picked up the reserved sign and put it in his pocket. “Never know when this can come in handy, Gills.”

Gillis nodded and motioned Pickle to take a seat. Gillis held a novel sized menu in front of him. He was on page two of the twenty-page menu. 

Pickle glanced over at the Golden Wok’s super buffet. He said, “I think everything on the menu is on the buffet, Gills. To bad the seniors can’t be here. By the time they finish fighting with each other, they’ll be too tired to eat.”

“Take a look, Dill. The place is overrun with seniors crowded. We’re lucky to have a seat. Must be a senior’s convention in town. I’m thinking Cap might give us a commendation. This is way I’ll write it up. I’ll say I cited the driver for driving to endanger and wrongful parking in a parking place designated for police emergencies. I’ll describe how we had to cuff the bunch for assault and battery with dangerous weapons namely, canes, walkers, and urine sacks. Shameful they way they fought over their teeth. The good part will be when I tell Cap, we released them after they promised to practice safe sex.”

Pickle glanced around at the seniors and the staff. He said, “Do you think anyone will know we’re cops?”

“Not a chance. Keep your eyes open for anyone named Sonata Vowel and for anyone with only one cuff link. Don’t say anything, here comes the waiter,” cautioned Gillis.

A six foot three inch bald black male dressed in black pants, black shirt, and white tie stopped at the table. “I know you’re cops. You working undercover?”

Gillis glanced up from the menu, “I’ve seen you in the lineup, Do Re. When did you get out? Remember me, I busted you and saved you from a life of crime.”

“Gillis, I didn’t recognize you. Nice piece you’re wearing. I can get you a piece made out of human hair and not horse hair if you want. All I ask is a little quid pro quo. You know what I mean?”

Gillis nodded. 

“I get you the piece. You overlook all the illegals working here and pretend that my brothers Leon and Buttercup are Chinese.”

“Not so fast, Do Re. Here’s my counter. I want two of your most romantic meals put into to go boxes. I want four fortune cookies. Two cookies read It is your good fortune to sleep with Gillis tonight. The other two read, It is your good fortune to sleep with Wendy tonight in the bed she shared with Pat. If you can do this, we got ourselves a deal.”

“I’ll have to send out for the fortune cookies. You want a romantic meal, I’ll have to send out for that too. My brothers and I never eat here. The food’s terrible. The odds are 7 to 1 in favor of getting salmonella poisoning. We’ll have a deal if you ignore the dice game going on over in the corner, the pimp at the bar, and drug dealer in the last booth.”

Gillis checked out the scene, “Not a problem, Do Re. You deserve a citation for moving crime inside and off the streets.”

“Appreciate the compliment, Gillis. I am familiar with the foxy medical examiner you are trying to bed. I’m here to help you score,” said Do Re extending his hand to fist bump Gillis cementing the deal. Do Re added, “You ready to order?”

Gillis said, “Two buffets, charge it to the police department. Add a one-hundred percent tip for yourself. Everybody does it,” said Gillis.

Do Re said, “I heard of the one-hundred percent tip when it’s on the expense account. Okay. I come back with your beers and your check. Here’s a tip, we don’t serve Chinese food. We serve barbecue, black eyed peas, grits, potatoes and gravy, okra, fried chicken, and any other food that raises bad cholesterol.”

“I thought this was a Chinese restaurant,” said Pickle.

“The name’s only a front for the illegal offenses we’re running inside here. You don’t want to eat our food. The kitchen help doesn’t wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, we got roaches so big you can put a saddle on them, and you don’t want to ask me about the meat.”

“What do you recommend?” asked Pickle feeling queasy.

“Do what I do and send out for pizza. I’ll order a couple of pizza’s, it’s on the house.”

“Mind if we walk around. My partner lost a cuff link last week and we’re trying to find it,” said Gillis.

“He lost it here?” asked Do Re.

“No, he lost it at the donut shop on 21st Street. We thought the wind might have blown it this way,” said Gillis.

“Good luck,” said Do Re turning around mumbling to himself.