The Gunslinger: (the Dark Tower #1)(revised Edition)

Mass Market Paperback | July 1, 2003

byStephen KingIntroduction byStephen King

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In 1978 Stephen King introduced the world to the last Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead.  Nothing has been the same since. Over twenty years later the quest for the Dark Tower continues to take readers on a wildly epic ride. Through parallel worlds and across time, Roland must brave desolate wastelands and endless deserts, drifting into the unimaginable and the familiar as the road to the Dark Tower extends beyond its own pages. A classic tale of colossal scope—crossing over terrain from The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, The Talisman, Black House, Hearts in Atlantis, ‘Salem’s Lot and other familiar King haunts—the adventure takes hold with the turn of each page.

And the tower awaits…  

The First Volume in the Epic DARK TOWER Series…

The Gunslinger


This heroic fantasy is set in a world of ominous landscape and macabre menace that is a dark mirror of our own. A spellbinding tale of good versus evil, it features one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations—The Gunslinger, a haunting figure who embodies the qualities of the lone hero through the ages, from ancient myth to frontier western legend.

The Gunslinger’s quest involves the pursuit of The Man in Black, a liaison with the sexually ravenous Alice, and a friendship with the kid from Earth called Jake. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, here is stunning proof of Stephen King’s storytelling sorcery.

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In 1978 Stephen King introduced the world to the last Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead.  Nothing has been the same since. Over twenty years later the quest for the Dark Tower continues to take readers on a wildly epic ride. Through parallel worlds and across time, Roland must brave desolate wastelands and endless deserts, drifting into the...

Stephen King lives in Maine and Florida with his wife, novelist Tabitha King. He has written more than forty books and two hundred short stories. He has won the World Fantasy Award, several Bram Stoker awards, and the O. Henry Award for his story “The Man in the Black Suit,” and is the 2003 recipient of The National Book Foundation Med...

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Format:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 6.88 × 4.18 × 0.93 inPublished:July 1, 2003Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0451210840

ISBN - 13:9780451210845

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from This Man is a Genius! As a Stephen King fan, I have read most of his horror novels but the Dark Tower series alluded me. Well after reading 'The Gunslinger', I am kicking myself for not reading this series sooner. King inspired by Tolkien creates a future bleak fantasy world where cosmic forces do battle. The last chapter is mind-blowing when our hero, Roland, gets a glimpse of the universe. May not be for every reader but for me this ranks as one of King's best books. Looking forward to 'The Drawing of the Three'.
Date published: 2015-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling I re-purchased this book, because my old copy went missing. It is one of the best fantasy series I have ever read, and if you like Stephen King's work at all and haven't read this, then you have a major problem on your hands. This series is what he was made to write. It's the most beautiful and complex work of all his books, and even interweaves many of his other great horror stories into this series. You won't regret this book.
Date published: 2014-04-21
Rated out of 5 by from Pretty good book I thought, if you like horror, with a little bit of fantasy and mystery, this is your kind of book (or series). I have to say Stephen King has put some really neat concepts in this and you will have to read it to find out. Not bad for a 19 year old ;).
Date published: 2013-07-23
Rated out of 5 by from I loved this book! I'll admit, I didn't always (rarely) knew where the story was headed, but I was remarkably impressed. The landscape is beautiful, the character intriguing, and the story is very fast-paced. I am well on my way through the second in the series and I couldn't be happier with that one either. Definitely worth getting into!
Date published: 2013-04-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Meh, it was just "ok" - I hope the series gets better! This series has been on my TBR list since I was a teenager! I own multiple copies of the books in the series: Bound copies on my shelves, Kindle copies, and also audiobooks. Yet, I have never read them! I have finally taken the plunge into the series, and it was not at all what I expected! I was hoping for the "creep factor" that I have experienced in other King novels, but it was missing here. In the first installment of The Dark Tower series, we are introduced to Roland Deschain, a Gunslinger whose sole purpose is to meet up with The Man In Black. In his journey along the way, he meets up with a boy named Jake and takes him under his wing. Parts of the book really dragged for me and, even though I finished book, I still feel a bit lost! I will continue on with the series and hope that I get hooked with the next one. This is definitely my least favourite King book, and I much prefer his horror books to this fantasy series so far. However, I am trying to be optimistic that the series will pick up given its popularity. I like the whole good versus evil vibe, and I am hoping that I won't be disappointed! This is my first narration by George Guidall, and his voice was a nice choice for the book. However, his reading does tend to speed up during the more exciting scenes, and I actually had to put my iPod on ½ speed to follow along at a regular pace. MY RATING: 2 stars!! Meh, it was just "ok".
Date published: 2012-10-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not the Greatest from King I was fairly underwhelmed by this entry to the dark tower series. It is an okay introduction, but pales in comparison to it's sequels. If you read this and do not enjoy it I would recommend you go on to read The Drawing of the Three, as it is far superior. The plot was pretty flat in this one, not a lot going on...on the upside the atmosphere was great.
Date published: 2012-06-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Boring! I know that Stephen King can write a better story than what he created in this book! I had to force myself to finish this book because I made the mistake of purchasing it! For me, it was a slow paced boring story that could not grab my attention!
Date published: 2011-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An eerie and surreal landscape, featuring King's most enigmatic protagonist if ya kennit It's a post-apocalytptic sphaghetti western set across several worlds, dreamt up by the most popular writer of horror in the last few decades. In other words, this is far from Stephen King's usual macabre fair, even though there are traces in his tone and savoury details. The plot resembles more of a fantasy quest with a 'Good Bad and the Ugly' aesthetic and that's exactly what makes this first installment SO DAMNED COOL! (The series tends to dip in quality after book four, but there's still plenty of good stuff to be seen thoughout the entire seven book run) The first book is about ninety-percent plot and zero context. We know that the gunslinger, the series' stoic and seemingly emotionless protagonist has been pursuing a wizard in black for a very long time, but we have no idea why. We learn that the man in black is supposed to provide a clue to lead our hero in his quest for the Dark Tower, but we have no idea what that is or why he's looking for it either. The world we find this action in seems more than a little askew. We encounter sexually ravenous oracles without physical forms and cave-crawling 'slow mutants' attacking dilapidated rail cars, and in a dingy dust strewn tavern, a crazy old man plays "Hey Jude" on a honky tonk piano. It's all so marvelously dark and surreal that you can't help but read on and guess at what our gunslinger is searching for and whether this man in black is what he seems to be - assuming our hero ever catches him. Read this. It's among King's best.
Date published: 2011-01-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Lame First, I should start this review by qualifying it, my ranking system is tough, 4 for ‘would recommend it’, 5 for ‘would recommend and re-read’. Also I am not a King fan, I actually avoid him, but this series was recommended to me by two very different people so I thought I’d give it a try. Here’s the bad for me: The story is slow slow slow and I found it hard to follow and stay engaged. The writing is over stylized and it really felt like King was trying too hard to be deep and obtuse, for instance “a light that was soft yet hard”, what??? How can something be soft yet hard, if anyone can explain that to me feel free. This is only one example of where the writing tripped me up and I paused to contemplate its ridiculousness. The characters aren’t really likeable; I didn’t get invested at all The Good Stuff: Reading this book gets you to book 2, which I found much more engaging and well written, and book 3 is better than 2 There’s also a dialogue that goes on for a few pages at the end that was delightful. And finally I enjoyed the Jake storyline, probably because it’s the first believable character interaction. I’m torn, I disliked this book, and I’m not at a point where I would recommend the series, but I have enjoyed book 2 & 3, so was it worth suffering through 1 to get to those, probably.
Date published: 2010-07-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting A very interesting novel. Did not find it as slow as some people said it might be. Looking forward to reading part two now.
Date published: 2010-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Original, interesting, and awesome If you ever wondered what lord of the rings would be like if: A) it was a old western B) Instead of a short guy with big feet the main character was Clint Eastwood Than this is the answer, and it's a damn good answer
Date published: 2010-03-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good book I read the book in hard cover. Josehf Lloyd Murchison Author of “Tails of a Gay Incubus” sold at chapters.
Date published: 2009-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read I got interested in the series after reading Hearts in Atlantis, and I wasn't disappointed. May seem like a slow read to start, but once you get into it, you will find it hard to put it down. Thinking of re-reading the series again :)
Date published: 2009-03-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Hard to get into My dad got me this book for Christmas one year ago and I'm just getting around to writing the review :) this book was good but hard to get into i found my mind wandered periodically while i read this book because it was bored. i mean for the first couple of chapters absolutely nothing happens he walks through a dessert the climax is meeting the kid and basically sentencing him to death. although this read is worth it only because the rest of the series is fantabulous
Date published: 2009-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Surprisingly Good I am not a fan of Stephen King's writing (though I am a fan of the man), so I have purposefully stayed away from The Dark Tower series. King's books always seem to follow a simple pattern with me. The first third of the book I find myself excited, joyfully surfing the book on the wave of King's pure inventiveness (no matter how I feel about his books in the end, it is hard to deny that his crazy mind is full of interesting ideas). In the second third of the book, the wave invariably begins to lose its power, and I find myself growing annoyed. By the final third I am just angry, and the wave is spent while I'm still yards from shore. The Gunslinger didn't do this to me. I was in that pleasurable first third of King experience for the entire book (I expect, however, that I will continue to feel this way until somewhere in the third book, where the true first third of King's story finally gives way to the second third. The Dark Tower is seven books, after all). The Gunslinger and Roland himself were completely unexpected joys for me. I loved King's bleak prose (and his prose is rarely something I would praise) because it matched Roland's bleak soul and the books bleak landscape. I loved the fractured narrative that took us to multiple points in Roland's past, while dropping us smack in the middle of his quest for the Man in Black and thus The Dark Tower. I loved Roland's gray ethics, his ability to shoot a woman he'd slept with only hours before, his willingness to sacrifice a boy he loves to fulfill his obsession, his cold, calculating, hardness, and most of all his tenacity. I am not a fan of good vs. evil stories (and, sadly, I understand The Dark Tower series becomes one). I don't even believe in good and evil (certainly not in the way most people do), so to see a character whose behavior is decisive action motivated by what he perceives as necessity, and action that is (for now) presented outside the values of good and evil, is a refreshing change. I am sure "theory of thirds" decline will happen as I continue the series, and I doubt that the story will live up to the promise of this, its first chapter, but I think it will be difficult for the rest of the series to taint the beauty of this one book. And I never thought I would say that about any Stephen King story that wasn't a short one.
Date published: 2008-11-17
Rated out of 5 by from Not a bad start to a series..... I have been a big King fan for many years but the only books of his I have never attempted are the Dark Tower series. So I've decided to finally read all of them, seeing as they are so popular. The Gunslinger is a good start to convincing me the series is worth it. There's so much to describe and I'm sure the series will only get more complicated but I'm glad to say that it is interesting and unique. The book is probably the most different from any other King book I have read, which I think will prove to be a good thing. Roland is the last gunslinger, living in a world that is unclear to us as to whether it's the past, future, or another universe all together. He is travelling across a dying world, searching for The Man in Black, which will aid him in his quest to find "The Dark Tower" something that is as of yet never defined. I am about to start the second in the series The Drawing of Three......
Date published: 2008-05-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Hmm...Disappointing I can't say I really enjoyed this book, but it kept my interest enough to keep reading. The book is a bit confusing with many unanswered questions (which I presume will be answered later). There is not a lot of action or things that "happen." There are also many things that I feel that are minor details in this book, but will become important later (Read the next ones now before you forget!). I can see how this book will set up some great stroytelling, but the book by itself is slow and boring. Although I didn't overly enjoy this book, I am still going to try the next ones... I have already started The Drawing of the Three and already it is MUCH better!!
Date published: 2008-04-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Other Worlds The first time I read The Gunslinger, I was in high school. I loved it. I fell for Stephen King and developed a taste for fantasy and other forms of fantastic fiction. The Gunslinger showed me that I could (and would) enjoy novels beyond the standard realm of fiction and literature.
Date published: 2008-01-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from YAWN i feel like MY world "moved on" while I was reading this. And I wish I had those 24 hours back.
Date published: 2006-11-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from over-rated This book is over-rated and not very good. But I loved it.
Date published: 2006-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! If you're a King fan, this is something new and completely unexpected that will throw you completely off-balance... but in a very good way. Talk about an original, off-beat and weird story! I was simply unable to close the book, it was extraordinary from the first page to the very last.
Date published: 2006-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesomely Great! This is the one book in along time that kept me interested from front to back, I had a hard time putting the book down. All I could think about was the book and wondering what was going to happen next. A great starting book for a series, you keep wanting more. I look forward to reading more of his books.
Date published: 2006-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best ever says it all! Always a skeptic, I could not bring myself to belive how hooked I could become on this series. You can read it cover to cover and still there are simple comments and timy details that upon a second read beg you to notice them and add them to the stock of information and wonder already gleened from this novel. To sum up, it was really good.
Date published: 2006-06-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Didn't know what would lie ahead Had no idea when starting this book that I would get completely hooked into the series I'm glad I didnt discover the series before it was complete, because I was able to immediately transition from one volume to the next. A very enjoyable read...fantasy not horror...a true escape from the everyday.
Date published: 2006-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best Book I've Ever Read After I finished this book I was just aching to continue on with the series (unfortunately I haven't found the next book at any of the stores i've visited) and there was suspense and I was happy with the quality of the writing. It didn't wander or just drone on and on. This is the first Steven King book i've read and I will surely continue on with the series after I find the next books!
Date published: 2003-10-14

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Carrie ’Salem’s Lot The Shining The Stand The Dead Zone Firestarter Cujo Christine Pet Sematary Cycle of the Werewolf The Talisman (with Peter Straub) It The Eyes of the Dragon Misery The Tommyknockers THE DARK TOWER II: The Drawing of the Three THE DARK TOWER III:The Waste Lands The Dark Half Needful Things Gerald’s Game Dolores Claiborne Insomnia Rose Madder Desperation The Green Mile THE DARK TOWER IV:Wizard and Glass Bag of Bones The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Dreamcatcher Black House (with Peter Straub) From a Buick 8 Rage The Long Walk Roadwork The Running Man Thinner The Regulators Night Shift Different Seasons Skeleton Crew Four Past Midnight Nightmares and Dreamscapes Hearts in Atlantis Everything’s Eventual Creepshow Cat’s Eye Silver Bullet Maximum Overdrive Pet Sematary Golden Years Sleepwalkers The Stand The Shining Rose Red The Storm of the Century Danse Macabre On Writing ILLUSTRATIONS SILENCE CAME BACK IN, FILLING JAGGED SPACES(THE GUNSLINGER) facing page ref-1, ref-2 THEY PAUSED . . . LOOKING UP AT THE DANGLING,TWISTING BODY (THE WAY STATION) facing page ref-3 HE COULD SEE HIS OWN REFLECTION . . . (THE ORACLE AND THE MOUNTAINS) following page ref-4 THE BOY SHRIEKED ALOUD . . . (THE SLOW MUTANTS) facing page ref-5 THERE THE GUNSLINGER SAT, HIS FACE TURNED UP INTO THE FADING LIGHT(THE GUNSLINGER AND THE MAN IN BLACK) facing page ref-6 INTRODUCTION On Being Nineteen(and a Few Other Things) I Hobbits were big when I was nineteen (a number of some import in the stories you are about to read). There were probably half a dozen Merrys and Pippins slogging through the mud at Max Yasgur’s farm during the Great Woodstock Music Festival, twice as many Frodos, and hippie Gandalfs without number. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was madly popular in those days, and while I never made it to Woodstock (say sorry), I suppose I was at least a halfling-hippie. Enough of one, at any rate, to have read the books and fallen in love with them. The Dark Tower books, like most long fantasy tales written by men and women of my generation (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, by Stephen Donaldson, and The Sword of Shannara, by Terry Brooks, are just two of many), were born out of Tolkien’s. But although I read the books in 1966 and 1967, I held off writing. I responded (and with rather touching wholeheartedness) to the sweep of Tolkien’s imagination—to the ambition of his story—but I wanted to write my own kind of story, and had I started then, I would have written his. That, as the late Tricky Dick Nixon was fond of saying, would have been wrong. Thanks to Mr. Tolkien, the twentieth century had all the elves and wizards it needed. In 1967, I didn’t have any idea what my kind of story might be, but that didn’t matter; I felt positive I’d know it when it passed me on the street. I was nineteen and arrogant. Certainly arrogant enough to feel I could wait a little while on my muse and my masterpiece (as I was sure it would be). At nineteen, it seems to me, one has a right to be arrogant; time has usually not begun its stealthy and rotten subtractions. It takes away your hair and your jump-shot, according to a popular country song, but in truth it takes away a lot more than that. I didn’t know it in 1966 and ’67, and if I had, I wouldn’t have cared. I could imagine—barely—being forty, but fifty? No. Sixty? Never! Sixty was out of the question. And at nineteen, that’s just the way to be. Nineteen is the age where you say Look out, world, I’m smokin’ TNT and I’m drinkin’ dynamite, so if you know what’s good for ya, get out of my way—here comes Stevie. Nineteen’s a selfish age and finds one’s cares tightly circumscribed. I had a lot of reach, and I cared about that. I had a lot of ambition, and I cared about that. I had a typewriter that I carried from one shithole apartment to the next, always with a deck of smokes in my pocket and a smile on my face. The compromises of middle age were distant, the insults of old age over the horizon. Like the protagonist in that Bob Seger song they now use to sell the trucks, I felt endlessly powerful and endlessly optimistic; my pockets were empty, but my head was full of things I wanted to say and my heart was full of stories I wanted to tell. Sounds corny now; felt wonderful then. Felt very cool. More than anything else I wanted to get inside my readers’ defenses, wanted to rip them and ravish them and change them forever with nothing but story. And I felt I could do those things. I felt I had been made to do those things. How conceited does that sound? A lot or a little? Either way, I don’t apologize. I was nineteen. There was not so much as a strand of gray in my beard. I had three pairs of jeans, one pair of boots, the idea that the world was my oyster, and nothing that happened in the next twenty years proved me wrong. Then, around the age of thirty-nine, my troubles set in: drink, drugs, a road accident that changed the way I walked (among other things). I’ve written about them at length and need not write about them here. Besides, it’s the same for you, right? The world eventually sends out a mean-ass Patrol Boy to slow your progress and show you who’s boss. You reading this have undoubtedly met yours (or will); I met mine, and I’m sure he’ll be back. He’s got my address. He’s a mean guy, a Bad Lieutenant, the sworn enemy of goofery, fuckery, pride, ambition, loud music, and all things nineteen. But I still think that’s a pretty fine age. Maybe the best age. You can rock and roll all night, but when the music dies out and the beer wears off, you’re able to think. And dream big dreams. The mean Patrol Boy cuts you down to size eventually, and if you start out small, why, there’s almost nothing left but the cuffs of your pants when he’s done with you. “Got another one!” he shouts, and strides on with his citation book in his hand. So a little arrogance (or even a lot) isn’t such a bad thing, although your mother undoubtedly told you different. Mine did. Pride goeth before a fall, Stephen, she said . . . and then I found out—right around the age that is 19 x 2—that eventually you fall down, anyway. Or get pushed into the ditch. At nineteen they can card you in the bars and tell you to get the fuck out, put your sorry act (and sorrier ass) back on the street, but they can’t card you when you sit down to paint a picture, write a poem, or tell a story, by God, and if you reading this happen to be very young, don’t let your elders and supposed betters tell you any different. Sure, you’ve never been to Paris. No, you never ran with the bulls at Pamplona. Yes, you’re a pissant who had no hair in your armpits until three years ago—but so what? If you don’t start out too big for your britches, how are you gonna fill ’em when you grow up? Let it rip regardless of what anybody tells you, that’s my idea; sit down and smoke that baby. II I think novelists come in two types, and that includes the sort of fledgling novelist I was by 1970. Those who are bound for the more literary or “serious” side of the job examine every possible subject in light of this question: What would writing this sort of story mean to me? Those whose destiny (or ka, if you like) is to include the writing of popular novels are apt to ask a very different one: What would writing this sort of story mean to others? The “serious” novelist is looking for answers and keys to the self; the “popular” novelist is looking for an audience. Both kinds of writer are equally selfish. I’ve known a good many, and will set my watch and warrant upon it. Anyway, I believe that even at the age of nineteen, I recognized the story of Frodo and his efforts to rid himself of the One Great Ring as one belonging to the second group. They were the adventures of an essentially British band of pilgrims set against a backdrop of vaguely Norse mythology. I liked the idea of the quest—loved it, in fact—but I had no interest in either Tolkien’s sturdy peasant characters (that’s not to say I didn’t like them, because I did) or his bosky Scandinavian settings. If I tried going in that direction, I’d get it all wrong. So I waited. By 1970 I was twenty-two, the first strands of gray had showed up in my beard (I think smoking two and a half packs of Pall Malls a day probably had something to do with that), but even at twenty-two, one can afford to wait. At twenty-two, time is still on one’s side, although even then that bad old Patrol Boy’s in the neighborhood and asking questions. Then, in an almost completely empty movie theater (the Bijou, in Bangor, Maine, if it matters), I saw a film directed by Sergio Leone. It was called The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and before the film was even half over, I realized that what I wanted to write was a novel that contained Tolkien’s sense of quest and magic but set against Leone’s almost absurdly majestic Western backdrop. If you’ve only seen this gonzo Western on your television screen, you don’t understand what I’m talking about—cry your pardon, but it’s true. On a movie screen, projected through the correct Panavision lenses, TG, TB, & TU is an epic to rival Ben-Hur. Clint Eastwood appears roughly eighteen feet tall, with each wiry jut of stubble on his cheeks looking roughly the size of a young redwood tree. The grooves bracketing Lee Van Cleef’s mouth are as deep as canyons, and there could be a thinny (see Wizard and Glass) at the bottom of each one. The desert settings appear to stretch at least out as far as the orbit of the planet Neptune. And the barrel of each gun looks to be roughly as large as the Holland Tunnel. What I wanted even more than the setting was that feeling of epic, apocalyptic size. The fact that Leone knew jack shit about American geography (according to one of the characters, Chicago is somewhere in the vicinity of Phoenix, Arizona) added to the film’s sense of magnificent dislocation. And in my enthusiasm—the sort only a young person can muster, I think—I wanted to write not just a long book, but the longest popular novel in history. I did not succeed in doing that, but I feel I had a decent rip; The Dark Tower, volumes one through seven, really comprise a single tale, and the first four volumes run to just over two thousand pages in paperback. The final three volumes run another twenty-five hundred in manuscript. I’m not trying to imply here that length has anything whatsoever to do with quality; I’m just saying that I wanted to write an epic, and in some ways, I succeeded. If you were to ask me why I wanted to do that, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it’s a part of growing up American: build the tallest, dig the deepest, write the longest. And that head-scratching puzzlement when the question of motivation comes up? Seems to me that that is also part of being an American. In the end we are reduced to saying It seemed like a good idea at the time. III Another thing about being nineteen, do it please ya: it is the age, I think, where a lot of us somehow get stuck (mentally and emotionally, if not physically). The years slide by and one day you find yourself looking into the mirror with real puzzlement. Why are those lines on my face? you wonder. Where did that stupid potbelly come from? Hell, I’m only nineteen! This is hardly an original concept, but that in no way subtracts from one’s amazement. Time puts gray in your beard, time takes away your jump-shot, and all the while you’re thinking—silly you—that it’s still on your side. The logical side of you knows better, but your heart refuses to believe it. If you’re lucky, the Patrol Boy who cited you for going too fast and having too much fun also gives you a dose of smelling salts. That was more or less what happened to me near the end of the twentieth century. It came in the form of a Plymouth van that knocked me into the ditch beside a road in my hometown. About three years after that accident I did a book signing for From a Buick 8 at a Borders store in Dearborn, Michigan. When one guy got to the head of the line, he said he was really, really glad that I was still alive. (I get this a lot, and it beats the shit out of “Why the hell didn’t you die?”) “I was with this good friend of mine when we heard you got popped,” he said. “Man, we just started shaking our heads and saying ‘There goes the Tower, it’s tilting, it’s falling, ahhh, shit, he’ll never finish it now.’ ” A version of the same idea had occurred to me—the troubling idea that, having built the Dark Tower in the collective imagination of a million readers, I might have a responsibility to make it safe for as long as people wanted to read about it. That might be for only five years; for all I know, it might be five hundred. Fantasy stories, the bad as well as the good (even now, someone out there is probably reading Varney the Vampire or The Monk), seem to have long shelf lives. Roland’s way of protecting the Tower is to try to remove the threat to the Beams that hold the Tower up. I would have to do it, I realized after my accident, by finishing the gunslinger’s story. During the long pauses between the writing and publication of the first four Dark Tower tales, I received hundreds of “pack your bags, we’re going on a guilt trip” letters. In 1998 (when I was laboring under the mistaken impression that I was still basically nineteen, in other words), I got one from an “82-yr-old Gramma, don’t mean to Bother You w/My Troubles BUT!! very Sick These Days.” The Gramma told me she probably had only a year to live (“14 Mo’s at Outside, Cancer all thru Me”), and while she didn’t expect me to finish Roland’s tale in that time just for her, she wanted to know if I couldn’t please (please) just tell her how it came out. The line that wrenched my heart (although not quite enough to start writing again) was her promise to “not tell a Single Soul.” A year later—probably after the accident that landed me in the hospital—one of my assistants, Marsha DiFilippo, got a letter from a fellow on death row in either Texas or Florida, wanting to know essentially the same thing: how does it come out? (He promised to take the secret to the grave with him, which gave me the creeps.) I would have given both of these folks what they wanted—a summary of Roland’s further adventures—if I could have done, but alas, I couldn’t. I had no idea of how things were going to turn out with the gunslinger and his friends. To know, I have to write. I once had an outline, but I lost it along the way. (It probably wasn’t worth a tin shit, anyway.) All I had was a few notes (“Chussit, chissit, chassit, something-something-basket” reads one lying on the desk as I write this). Eventually, starting in July of 2001, I began to write again. I knew by then I was no longer nineteen, nor exempt from any of the ills to which the flesh is heir. I knew I was going to be sixty, maybe even seventy. And I wanted to finish my story before the bad Patrol Boy came for the last time. I had no urge to be filed away with The Canterbury Tales and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The result—for better or worse—lies before you, Constant Reader, whether you reading this are starting with Volume One or are preparing for Volume Five. Like it or hate it, the story of Roland is now done. I hope you enjoy it. As for me, I had the time of my life. Stephen King January 25, 2003 Foreword       Most of what writers write about their work is ill-informed bullshit.* That is why you have never seen a book entitled One Hundred Great Introductions of Western Civilization or Best-Loved Forewords of the American People. This is a judgment call on my part, of course, but after writing at least fifty introductions and forewords—not to mention an entire book about the craft of fiction—I think it’s one I have a right to make. And I think you can take me seriously when I tell you this might be one of those rare occasions upon which I actually have something worth saying. A few years ago, I created some furor among my readers by offering a revised and expanded version of my novel The Stand. I was justifiably nervous about that book, because The Stand has always been the novel my readers have loved the best (as far as the most passionate of the “Stand-fans” are concerned, I could have died in 1980 without making the world a noticeably poorer place). If there is a story that rivals The Stand in the imagination of King readers, it’s probably the tale of Roland Deschain and his search for the Dark Tower. And now—goddamn!—I’ve gone and done the same thing again. Except I haven’t, not really, and I want you to know it. I also want you to know what I have done, and why. It may not be important to you, but it’s very important to me, and thus this foreword is exempt (I hope) from King’s Bullshit Rule. First, please be reminded that The Stand sustained deep cuts in manuscript not for editorial reasons but for financial ones. (There were binding limitations, too, but I don’t even want to go there.) What I reinstated in the late eighties were revised sections of preexisting manuscript. I also revised the work as a whole, mostly to acknowledge the AIDS epidemic, which blossomed (if that is the word) between the first issue of The Stand and the publication of the revised version eight or nine years later. The result was a volume about 100,000 words longer than the original. In the case of The Gunslinger, the original volume was slim, and the added material in this version amounts to a mere thirty-five pages, or about nine thousand words. If you have read The Gunslinger before, you’ll only find two or three totally new scenes here. Dark Tower purists (of which there are a surprising number—just check the Web) will want to read the book again, of course, and most of them are apt to do so with a mixture of curiosity and irritation. I sympathize, but must say I’m less concerned with them than with readers who have never encountered Roland and his ka-tet.* In spite of its fervent followers, the tale of the Tower is far less known by my readers than is The Stand. Sometimes, when I do readings, I’ll ask those present to raise their hands if they’ve read one or more of my novels. Since they’ve bothered to come at all—sometimes going to the added inconvenience of hiring a baby-sitter and incurring the added expense of gassing up the old sedan—it comes as no surprise that most of them raise their hands. Then I’ll ask them to keep their hands up if they’ve read one or more of the Dark Tower stories. When I do that, at least half the hands in the hall invariably go down. The conclusion is clear enough: although I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time writing these books in the thirty-three years between 1970 and 2003, comparatively few people have read them. Yet those who have are passionate about them, and I’m fairly passionate myself—enough so, in any case, that I was never able to let Roland creep away into that exile which is the unhappy home of unfulfilled characters (think of Chaucer’s pilgrims on the way to Canterbury, or the people who populate Charles Dickens’s unfinished final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood). I think that I’d always assumed (somewhere in the back of my mind, for I cannot ever remember thinking about this consciously) that there would be time to finish, that perhaps God would even send me a singing telegram at the appointed hour: “Deedle-dum, deedle-dower/Get back to work, Stephen,/Finish the Tower.” And in a way, something like that really did happen, although it wasn’t a singing telegram but a close encounter with a Plymouth minivan that got me going again. If the vehicle that struck me that day had been a little bigger, or if the hit had been just a little squarer, it would have been a case of mourners please omit flowers, the King family thanks you for your sympathy. And Roland’s quest would have remained forever unfinished, at least by me. In any case, in 2001—by which time I’d begun to feel more myself again—I decided the time had come to finish Roland’s story. I pushed everything else aside and set to work on the final three books. As always, I did this not so much for the readers who demanded it as for myself. Although the revisions of the last two volumes still remain to be done as I write this in the winter of 2003, the books themselves were finished last summer. And, in the hiatus between the editorial work on Volume Five (Wolves of the Calla) and Volume Six (Song of Susannah), I decided the time had come to go back to the beginning and start the final overall revisions. Why? Because these seven volumes were never really separate stories at all, but sections of a single long novel called The Dark Tower, and the beginning was out of sync with the ending. My approach to revision hasn’t changed much over the years. I know there are writers who do it as they go along, but my method of attack has always been to plunge in and go as fast as I can, keeping the edge of my narrative blade as sharp as possible by constant use, and trying to outrun the novelist’s most insidious enemy, which is doubt. Looking back prompts too many questions: How believable are my characters? How interesting is my story? How good is this, really? Will anyone care? Do I care myself? When my first draft of a novel is done, I put it away, warts and all, to mellow. Some period of time later—six months, a year, two years, it doesn’t really matter—I can come back to it with a cooler (but still loving) eye, and begin the task of revising. And although each book of the Tower series was revised as a separate entity, I never really looked at the work as a whole until I’d finished Volume Seven, The Dark Tower. When I looked back at the first volume, which you now hold in your hands, three obvious truths presented themselves. The first was that The Gunslinger had been written by a very young man, and had all the problems of a very young man’s book. The second was that it contained a great many errors and false starts, particularly in light of the volumes that followed.* The third was that The Gunslinger did not even sound like the later books—it was, frankly, rather difficult to read. All too often I heard myself apologizing for it, and telling people that if they persevered, they would find the story really found its voice in The Drawing of the Three. At one point in The Gunslinger, Roland is described as the sort of man who would straighten pictures in strange hotel rooms. I’m that sort of guy myself, and to some extent, that is all that rewriting amounts to: straightening the pictures, vacuuming the floors, scrubbing the toilets. I did a great deal of housework in the course of this revision, and have had a chance to do what any writer wants to do with a work that is finished but still needs a final polish and tune-up: just make it right. Once you know how things come out, you owe it to the potential reader—and to yourself—to go back and put things in order. That is what I have tried to do here, always being careful that no addition or change should give away the secrets hidden in the last three books of the cycle, secrets I have been patiently keeping for as long as thirty years in some cases. Before I close, I should say a word about the younger man who dared to write this book. That young man had been exposed to far too many writing seminars, and had grown far too used to the ideas those seminars promulgate: that one is writing for other people rather than one’s self; that language is more important than story; that ambiguity is to be preferred over clarity and simplicity, which are usually signs of a thick and literal mind. As a result, I was not surprised to find a high degree of pretension in Roland’s debut appearance (not to mention what seemed like thousands of unnecessary adverbs). I removed as much of this hollow blather as I could, and do not regret a single cut made in that regard. In other places—invariably those where I’d been seduced into forgetting the writing seminar ideas by some particularly entrancing piece of story—I was able to let the writing almost entirely alone, save for the usual bits of revision any writer needs to do. As I have pointed out in another context, only God gets it right the first time. In any case, I didn’t want to muzzle or even really change the way this story is told; for all its faults, it has its own special charms, it seems to me. To change it too completely would have been to repudiate the person who first wrote of the gunslinger in the late spring and early summer of 1970, and that I did not want to do. What I did want to do—and before the final volumes of the series came out, if possible—was to give newcomers to the tale of the Tower (and old readers who want to refresh their memories) a clearer start and a slightly easier entry into Roland’s world. I also wanted them to have a volume that more effectively foreshadowed coming events. I hope I have done that. And if you are one of those who have never visited the strange world through which Roland and his friends move, I hope you will enjoy the marvels you find there. More than anything else, I wanted to tell a tale of wonder. If you find yourself falling under the spell of the Dark Tower, even a little bit, I reckon I will have done my job, which was begun in 1970 and largely finished in 2003. Yet Roland would be the first to point out that such a span of time means very little. In fact, when one quests for the Dark Tower, time is a matter of no concern at all.   —February 6, 2003 . . .  a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a leaf, a stone, a door. And of all the forgotten faces. Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb, we did not know our mother’s face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth. Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father’s heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?   . . .  O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again. Thomas Wolfe Look Homeward, Angel 19 RESUMPTION The GUNSLINGER   CHAPTER ONE The Gunslinger I The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what looked like eternity in all directions. It was white and blinding and waterless and without feature save for the faint, cloudy haze of the mountains which sketched themselves on the horizon and the devil-grass which brought sweet dreams, nightmares, death. An occasional tombstone sign pointed the way, for once the drifted track that cut its way through the thick crust of alkali had been a highway. Coaches and buckas had followed it. The world had moved on since then. The world had emptied. The gunslinger had been struck by a momentary dizziness, a kind of yawing sensation that made the entire world seem ephemeral, almost a thing that could be looked through. It passed and, like the world upon whose hide he walked, he moved on. He passed the miles stolidly, not hurrying, not loafing. A hide waterbag was slung around his middle like a bloated sausage. It was almost full. He had progressed through the khef over many years, and had reached perhaps the fifth level. Had he been a Manni holy man, he might not have even been thirsty; he could have watched his own body dehydrate with clinical, detached attention, watering its crevices and dark inner hollows only when his logic told him it must be done. He was not a Manni, however, nor a follower of the Man Jesus, and considered himself in no way holy. He was just an ordinary pilgrim, in other words, and all he could say with real certainty was that he was thirsty. And even so, he had no particular urge to drink. In a vague way, all this pleased him. It was what the country required, it was a thirsty country, and he had in his long life been nothing if not adaptable. Below the waterbag were his guns, carefully weighted to his hands; a plate had been added to each when they had come to him from his father, who had been lighter and not so tall. The two belts crisscrossed above his crotch. The holsters were oiled too deeply for even this Philistine sun to crack. The stocks of the guns were sandalwood, yellow and finely grained. Rawhide tie-downs held the holsters loosely to his thighs, and they swung a bit with his step; they had rubbed away the bluing of his jeans (and thinned the cloth) in a pair of arcs that looked almost like smiles. The brass casings of the cartridges looped into the gunbelts heliographed in the sun. There were fewer now. The leather made subtle creaking noises. His shirt, the no-color of rain or dust, was open at the throat, with a rawhide thong dangling loosely in hand-punched eyelets. His hat was gone. So was the horn he had once carried; gone for years, that horn, spilled from the hand of a dying friend, and he missed them both. He breasted a gently rising dune (although there was no sand here; the desert was hardpan, and even the harsh winds that blew when dark came raised only an aggravating harsh dust like scouring powder) and saw the kicked remains of a tiny campfire on the lee side, the side the sun would quit earliest. Small signs like this, once more affirming the man in black’s possible humanity, never failed to please him. His lips stretched in the pitted, flaked remains of his face. The grin was gruesome, painful. He squatted. His quarry had burned the devil-grass, of course. It was the only thing out here that would burn. It burned with a greasy, flat light, and it burned slow. Border dwellers had told him that devils lived even in the flames. They burned it but would not look into the light. They said the devils hypnotized, beckoned, would eventually draw the one who looked into the fires. And the next man foolish enough to look into the fire might see you. The burned grass was crisscrossed in the now familiar ideographic pattern, and crumbled to gray senselessness before the gunslinger’s prodding hand. There was nothing in the remains but a charred scrap of bacon, which he ate thoughtfully. It had always been this way. The gunslinger had followed the man in black across the desert for two months now, across the endless, screamingly monotonous purgatorial wastes, and had yet to find spoor other than the hygienic sterile ideographs of the man in black’s campfires. He had not found a can, a bottle, or a waterbag (the gunslinger had left four of those behind, like dead snakeskins). He hadn’t found any dung. He assumed the man in black buried it. Perhaps the campfires were a message, spelled out one Great Letter at a time. Keep your distance, partner, it might say. Or, The end draweth nigh. Or maybe even, Come and get me. It didn’t matter what they said or didn’t say. He had no interest in messages, if messages they were. What mattered was that these remains were as cold as all the others. Yet he had gained. He knew he was closer, but did not know how he knew. A kind of smell, perhaps. That didn’t matter, either. He would keep going until something changed, and if nothing changed, he would keep going, anyway. There would be water if God willed it, the oldtimers said. Water if God willed it, even in the desert. The gunslinger stood up, brushing his hands. No other trace; the wind, razor-sharp, had of course filed away even what scant tracks the hardpan might once have held. No man-scat, no cast-off trash, never a sign of where those things might have been buried. Nothing. Only these cold campfires along the ancient highway moving southeast and the relentless range-finder in his own head. Although of course it was more than that; the pull southeast was more than just a sense of direction, was even more than magnetism. He sat down and allowed himself a short pull from the waterbag. He thought of that momentary dizziness earlier in the day, that sense of being almost untethered from the world, and wondered what it might have meant. Why should that dizziness make him think of his horn and the last of his old friends, both lost so long ago at Jericho Hill? He still had the guns—his father’s guns—and surely they were more important than horns . . . or even friends. Weren’t they? The question was oddly troubling, but since there seemed to be no answer but the obvious one, he put it aside, possibly for later consideration. He scanned the desert and then looked up at the sun, which was now sliding into a far quadrant of the sky that was, disturbingly, not quite true west. He got up, removed his threadbare gloves from his belt, and began to pull devil-grass for his own fire, which he laid over the ashes the man in black had left. He found the irony, like his thirst, bitterly appealing. He did not take the flint and steel from his purse until the remains of the day were only fugitive heat in the ground beneath him and a sardonic orange line on the monochrome horizon. He sat with his gunna drawn across his lap and watched the southeast patiently, looking toward the mountains, not hoping to see the thin straight line of smoke from a new campfire, not expecting to see an orange spark of flame, but watching anyway because watching was a part of it, and had its own bitter satisfaction. You will not see what you do not look for, maggot, Cort would have said. Open the gobs the gods gave ya, will ya not? But there was nothing. He was close, but only relatively so. Not close enough to see smoke at dusk, or the orange wink of a campfire. He laid the flint down the steel rod and struck his spark to the dry, shredded grass, muttering the old and powerful nonsense words as he did: “Spark-a-dark, where’s my sire? Will I lay me? Will I stay me? Bless this camp with fire.” It was strange how some of childhood’s words and ways fell at the wayside and were left behind, while others clamped tight and rode for life, growing the heavier to carry as time passed. He lay down upwind of his little blazon, letting the dream-smoke blow out toward the waste. The wind, except for occasional gyrating dust-devils, was constant. Above, the stars were unwinking, also constant. Suns and worlds by the million. Dizzying constellations, cold fire in every primary hue. As he watched, the sky washed from violet to ebony. A meteor etched a brief, spectacular arc below Old Mother and winked out. The fire threw strange shadows as the devil-grass burned its slow way down into new patterns—not ideograms but a straightforward crisscross vaguely frightening in its own no-nonsense surety. He had laid his fuel in a pattern that was not artful but only workable. It spoke of blacks and whites. It spoke of a man who might straighten bad pictures in strange hotel rooms. The fire burned its steady, slow flame, and phantoms danced in its incandescent core. The gunslinger did not see. The two patterns, art and craft, were welded together as he slept. The wind moaned, a witch with cancer in her belly. Every now and then a perverse downdraft would make the smoke whirl and puff toward him and he breathed some of it in. It built dreams in the same way that a small irritant may build a pearl in an oyster. The gunslinger occasionally moaned with the wind. The stars were as indifferent to this as they were to wars, crucifixions, resurrections. This also would have pleased him. II

Editorial Reviews

“A compelling whirlpool of a story that draws one irretrievably to its center.”—Milwaukee Sentinel

“Brilliant, fresh and compelling…will leave you panting for more.”—Booklist

“An impressive work of mythic magnitude. May turn out to be Stephen King’s greatest literary achievement.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Finely imagined…well crafted.”—Wichita Eagle-Beacon