If my last post acted as an introduction to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, then this serves as a guide and suggested reading order to provide a greater experience. While you can just read The Dark Tower novels themselves, the inclusion of some of King’s other novels introduce certain characters that are key to The Dark Tower.
The connections throughout the ‘Stephen King Multiverse’ are all tied to the evil throughout his stories, the character whose influences ripples throughout the multiverse is that of The Man in Black. The Man in Black has many names, but veteran Stephen King fans will know him better as Randall Flagg, the main antagonist in King’s 1978 novel, The Stand.
Flagg is an immortal wizard/sorcerer who ultimately serves The Crimson King and makes several appearances or is alluded to by name – it is strongly suggested that Flagg is the demonic entity behind the events of Children of the Corn (1977), appears in the medieval country of Delain, manipulating and causing havoc to the realm in The Eyes of the Dragon (1986). Flagg also gets referenced in Salem’s Lot (1975), which also features a member of Roland’s Ka-Tet (will return to that in a moment).
And of course there’s Flagg’s appearances in The Dark Tower as The Man in Black, Walter O’Dimm, Marten Broadcloak, Richard Fannin.
It’s also worth mentioning that while never confirmed by Stephen King, fans believe the character of Raymond Fiegler from the short story Blind Willie, included in Hearts In Atlantis (1999), is also Randall Flagg. Whether the case or not, Hearts in Atlantis does have its ties to The Dark Tower.
The Crimson King
The Crimson King is the primary antagonist of The Dark Tower and is first mentioned in the series during fourth book, Wizard & Glass. The scene where he’s mentioned introduces his sigil and the phrase:
He first appears in the novel, Insomnia (1994) where he seeks to murder a child named Patrick Danville, who is prophesied to bring an end to The Crimson King. As The Dark Tower series progresses it becomes clear that The Crimson King has worked behind the scenes using Randall Flagg, John Farson, vampires, low-men and other supernatural entities to bring the destruction of The Dark Tower.
The Crimson King is mentioned in the story, Low Men in Yellow Coats in the collection Hearts in Atlantis (1999) which also features Low Men or Can Toi, which also appear in Desperation (1996).
Finally we have Father Callahan, first introduced in Salem’s Lot (1975) and reintroduced in the fifth book in The Dark Tower series, Wolves of the Calla. I personally feel that having read Salem’s Lot before this book makes Callahan’s arc all the more enjoyable – we’re shown what happened to him after the events of Salem’s Lot, but being familiar with the story adds so much more to Callahan’s story of redemption.
The Dark Tower
As most people know, I’m a big fan of Stephen King. I find the stories and characters engaging, visualising myself in the shoes of the main character. My first Stephen King book was Salem’s Lot, followed by the first two Dark Tower books (The Gunslinger & The Drawing of the Three), after reading these I dipped into other King books in no order and took my time with The Dark Tower. Overall taking me almost five years to finish the series, but I feel my experience has been enhanced by all the Stephen King I read in between. I should also mention that the series connects to a lot more of King’s work such as IT, The Shining and more; but felt the material mentioned here to be the most important to the story.
There are lots of guides or suggested reading orders to the series, go with whatever you feel is best. Read the series in chronological order or break it up with other books, but do not forget the face of your father.
Below is a recommended reading order, it’s not the order I read them in but I feel it’s a good starting point for newcomers and demonstrates the craftsmanship behind Stephen King’s world building.
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three
The Dark Tower: The Waste Lands
The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass
*The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole
*Hearts in Atlantis
The Dark Tower: Wolves of the Calla
The Dark Tower: Song of Susannah
The Dark Tower: The Dark Tower