Some time ago, I reviewed an audio book version of Stephen King?s ?LT?s Theory of Pets?, which was, at the time, an unpublished story read by the author himself live at the Royal Festival Hall. At the time I was disappointed that the introduction to the tape suggested there would be questions at the end but that these weren?t included on the reading. However, there was then, and is now, a tape in existence called ?Stephen King ?Live!? and the information from Amazon on this release suggested that it may be a recording of the whole show. Unfortunately, tracking this version down in offline book retailers proved nigh on impossible. Having searched the audio book collections of nearly every high street book seller, when I remembered, over a few years, I was still without a copy. And with the retail price of nearly £8.00, I didn?t really want it enough to buy, knowing that I hadn?t particularly enjoyed the reading that would form half the cassette. Until a birthday came around, and a friend in search of ideas was persuaded to invest. Not just a long awaited King purchase, but King for free. You can?t go wrong, right? Er?wrong! Consisting of two cassettes, the first half was always likely to be a minor disappointment, as it?s the reading of ?LT?s Theory of Pets?. As I mentioned in my earlier review of the reading on its own, it?s not a bad tale, and it?s quite engagingly told. However, King?s voice isn?t the most interesting to listen to, and he does seem to overdo the humour in it, as if he?s trying to entertain the audience, rather than just telling them a story. The pieces of that tape that disappointed are still present, with the introduction and Stephen King?s words before he goes into the story both hamming up his ?King of Horror? reputation. However, the go
od things from that story are also still present on the tape and it is one of the most out and out fun stories that King has written. Largely because of this, King doesn?t seem as draining to listen to as on a previous collection ?Blood and Smoke?, where his attempts to voice characters and add gravitas to a more serious reading does end with you getting quite bored of his voice after a while. It?s not a story that?s good enough to justify spending £6.29 on hearing King read, especially if you already have ?Everything?s Eventual?, which contains a written version. However, the main problem with the single cassette version of ?LT?s Theory of Pets? for me was that the introduction promised questions later in the recording, which didn?t appear on that version. It is that which made me want ?Stephen King Live!? most of all ? the chance to hear King answering questions and talking about (hopefully) his life and his work. With the story been and gone, this time the end of the tape is not the end of the end. Instead, the second can go in, and we get Stephen King, with questions being put to him by Muriel Gray, who is a Scottish writer and broadcaster. This is going to be so good! Well, no, not quite. Admittedly, there are a lot of very good question put to King, and the tone he keeps up is very light hearted. It seems as if the tone of the evening was set by the story, which was filled with humorous moments and that has been continued for the questioning. King never takes himself too seriously, although he doesn?t try to crack as many jokes when talking about sensitive subjects, such as an eye disease he may be genetically predisposed to. There are a couple of points where his humour could be guilty of bad taste, though ? there?s a line he does about Alzheimer?s that really is a little too nasty to be funny.
Some of the questions are well asked, concerning his potential eye problem, and about the future of his writing. Some of those relating to his past, his influences and how he sees himself and his opinions on how others see him are pretty interesting. Some of the questions concerning the way he has written certain things are illuminating, as there are points where you feel you?re actually getting inside the mind of a great writer, which is almost essential for a fan. Some of the questions on these subjects may be the ones you would ask if you had the chance. For fans of King?s film work, his answers to questions on that subject and particularly concerning the original version of ?The Shining? are particularly interesting. There are problems with this tape, though. The first of these is Muriel Gray. It?s always likely to be an interesting conversation ? held at London?s Royal Festival Hall, it conversation between an American with a fairly dull voice which has been compared, not unfairly, to Elmer Fudd (by, I believe, Jill Murphy) and a Scottish lady with a fairly strong accent and a very loud, very high pitched laugh. It is this laugh that gets in the way, as she is highly amused, almost to the point of it seeming fawning at points, by more or less anything King says. Admittedly, most of the audience are laughing at some of the things he says, but she laughs louder and longer than anyone else. Considering that she?s closest to the microphone than anyone else, it does get pretty grating after a while. She doesn?t seem to be the greatest on interviewers, either. There are occasions when she tries to interject things, and she seems a little too amused by things she herself has said at points, as if forgetting that she isn?t the main attraction there. There?s one point where King seems to be getting a little upset with her
and ends up talking over her, and he does have to raise the volume of his voice in a couple of parts to avoid stopping talking as she laughs. To her credit, she does deal with the issue of King?s eye disorder quite well and her tone is suitably concerned and sympathetic. Most of the time, though, she seems to get in the way. Although the answers are actually quite funny, there?s a fair bit of the time that King spends talking about the cricket game he had been to see during his visit to the UK. Whilst it?s funny to hear what he has to say, it?s not really what a fan would want to hear Stephen King talking about; particularly after spending out £9 on a tape that promises questions on ?his life and work?. Given that it?s only a 45 minute session, taking some of that time away, and it does take up a fair chunk of that time, almost seems like a waste. It?s a good thing its funny, is all I can say. The other major problem with this tape is that it has dated quite badly since it was released. The show in question was recorded in August 1998 and some of the questions refer to his ?latest? novel which at the time was ?Bag of Bones?. Since then he has published all of the works he lists in an answer to one of the questions, as well as a couple that it?s possible weren?t even conceived at the time, apart from completing the ?Dark Tower? series, and even that will be completely published by the end of this year. There?s even a slightly sad moment where he says he feels he stayed settled as a writer largely because ?I stayed married and I stayed healthy?. Of course, only half of this has been true for some of the intervening years. So, the question is, should you buy? Simple answer, no. But let me justify that a little more. If you?re not a King fan, or if you?re someone who would say they liked King, but wasn?t crazy about him,
then the answer remains in the negative. For the little or no enjoyment you?ll get from this tape, it really isn?t worth the £10 Amazon says is the normal price, or even the £7 they say is the current price. But if you?re a massive King fan, as I am, merely learning of this tape?s existence is going to make you want it. After all, it?s a rare chance to own an interview, however poorly executed, with a man who could well be one of your favourite writers. If this is how you feel about King, and it?s exactly the way I feel about him, I?m not likely to put you off by telling you it isn?t very good. So I?m not going to tell you not to buy it, as you?ll probably ignore me anyway. For you, however, I leave the following warning. It?s going to disappoint you, largely because it?s almost certain that the question you want to hear the answer to wasn?t asked. It?s also going to be appalling value for money as all it has is novelty value - there is no shelf life to it at all. Once you know the questions and you?ve heard the answers, there?s no reason for you to play the tape again. But if you?re that determined to own it, pick it up on the cheap. The current offer price of £6.99 on Amazon at present is still over the odds, even at 30% off, and especially once you?ve added postage. However, the Amazon Marketplace might have copies available for less (it?s at just over £4.00 at the time of writing), or try eBay, although there?s nothing on there at present. My best advice is to do what I did ? ask someone else to buy it for you.