"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."  This was the opening sentence of the first book in Dark Tower / Gunslinger series by Stephen King.  The books intensity and pace did not waver from start to finish.  I read it as a teenager, 1988'ish, and it really captured my imagination.

In short, the story is about one man's quest, the gunslinger, to catch the "man in black" and save the "Dark Tower."  The Dark Tower is some sort of nexus of power for all that exists.  The tower is falling and, with it, existence.  Roland Deschain is the last gunslinger, a kind of Arthurian knight, who has vowed to save the tower or die trying.  He has vowed to "..remember the face of his father well." 

His singular purpose makes him a ruthless and relentless enemy.  The gunslinger always reminded me of a more human Terminator and his confusingly anachronistic world always left me  wondering.  I hungrily read "The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three,"  but that was it for me and the gunslinger for a long while.  I started college in '91 and forgot about the quest.  This year, I picked up the series again, re-reading the first two books along with the five I hadn't read. 

In the books some of Kings other characters have made guest appearances - including those from the The Stand and Salem's Lot.  Stephen King even wrote himself into book 6 ("Song of Susannah").  Some may find that to be vain, but I found it rather charming and it gave the author a chance to draw a picture of his younger self.  I suspect there may have been some self-help therapy going on in those pages.

King started the series in 1970, but the gunslinger story sat collecting dust for many years.  He had intended the series to be HIS epic adventure - akin to Lord of the Rings.  He started the story when he was young and very ambitious - even before the likes of Carrie and The Stand.

Stephen King's final book in the series, "Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower," was released this week - Tuesday, Sept. 21.  I purchased it tonight and can't wait to start it. 

You can learn more about the books from The Official Dark Tower Site. You can learn even more about the stories and get into the world of Roland by visiting the Dark Tower fan site.

USA Today has covered the Dark Tower series a couple of times here and here.

"There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! In a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all.  And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew.  'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.'"
-Child Roland, Robert Browning, 1855