I am awake, and I must write. Seriously, pushing 5 AM here. Ridiculous.
So I’ve been going through some boxes lately and I came across a copy of Dean Koontz’s Phantoms. And I figure hey, I like to punish my body with those cranberry-orange scones from the supermarket occasionally, why not punish my mind with this literary masterpiece?
Note: I have great respect for Dean Koontz. The man has sold more books than there are people living in this country. Clearly, he knows how to appeal to his target audience.
There’s a moment fairly early in the novel where the protagonist comes across the corpse of the town deputy, mysteriously murdered by some unknown horror, and she makes the discovery that he’s fired his sidearm and somehow hit nothing (shock, horror).
She discovers this by checking the revolver cylinder and finding three chambers empty, with the empty casings lying on the ground near the body.
Consider that for a second.
Now, if you know absolutely nothing about firearms, this may seem like a logical situation to you. If you know even a tiny amount, something might seem a bit off with that scenario. I’m consoling myself with the fact that I haven’t read this book in over twenty years, even though I know mid-teens-Me would still have stopped, looked at this scene, and just stared at it. I assume I did, I probably just cared a lot less in those days.
For the woefully ignorant among you, the only way for it to play out the way it was written would be for the deputy to fire his revolver three times, attempt to eject the cartridges, and subsequently reinsert the unfired cartridges before closing the cylinder again, only to die his horrible death at the hands of a sentient oil slick.
(Yes, that is the villain in Phantoms. Deal with it.)
While I suppose it could have unfolded that way, assuming you’re willing to suspend your disbelief from the ceiling and swing on it like a chandelier, it’s a lot more likely that, in the early 80s, Dean Koontz simply thought that revolvers eject spent casings when they fire. I mean, that’s what guns do, right?
This book has sold over six million copies.
I will give him credit though, he did manage to horrify me in the first fifty pages. Not with the mysteriously mangled corpses, or creepy abandoned town, the slow boil of suspense building to an as-yet-unrevealed crescendo.
He horrified me because I was forced to come the realization that not only did Dean not know how guns worked at that point in his illustrious career, neither did his editor, nor any of the people I assume must have read the book and given feedback to him.
I wasn’t exactly raised on a gun range, but I at least know how a damned revolver works. The notion that there are that many people out there who don’t is downright frightening, given how contentious the debate surrounding firearms ownership is in this country.
Because in my experience, those are the people who are most willing to speak out against the rights of others to own a gun. The people who don’t really know what a gun is, or how it works, and while one could argue that you don’t need to know how an automobile functions in order to set a speed limit on the highway, that knowledge would certainly help you figure out just how fast someone can drive and still be safe.
The same principle applies. If you’re going to tell me that I don’t need an assault rifle (for the record, the only gun I own is an Winchester Model 1887 10-gauge shotgun, which would explode if you tried to feed modern rounds through it), you at least owe the due diligence to tell me why I don’t need it in terms beyond “it looks scary and holds lots of bullets”.
And now, bedtime, wherein you can rest assured my sleep will be more disturbed by real people than hypothetical horrors.
PS: For the record, not including this postscript, this article came to exactly 666 words, or so WordPress tells me. I blame Mr. Koontz.