The Sun Dog is of course one of the novellas contained in Four Past Midnight and I read just this one as a bit of a prelude to my next King read, Needful Things. And this I have to say was awesome, it is the physically the size of a great deal of horror fiction these days but in the realms of the man himself, it's a tiddler at a shade over 200 pages. And the second in the Castle Rock trilogy.
The Sun Dog is a story about cameras and photographs, chilling in its entirety of impending doom, that's supernatural Polaroid cameras for you.
Kevin Delevan, for his fifteenth birthday receives a Sun 660, a Polaroid camera and his first picture is one of the family. Catastrophe follows as the picture doesn't show its intended target and the camera gets knocked off the table to be smothered by a rather large cake. Not a good start, both for his birthday and for the camera. The camera it seems has a mind of its own, no matter where you point the bloody thing it takes a picture of a dog and a white picket fence. The funny thing, time lapses in the picture, almost like a flick book the dog moves slowly along the fence until it notices the person with the camera.
Kevin takes the camera to one Reginald ‘Pop’ Merrill who runs the Emporium Galorium, the Uncle of Ace Merril from The Body and a character definitely worth reading about. Pop takes advantage of those in desperate need, high interest loans and always on the lookout to make a buck. Pop is intrigued by the camera, he wants it, sees a profit in it and he's going to get it.
'Pop’s lips skinned back from his teeth – crooked, eroded, pipe-yellow, but his own, by the bald-headed Christ – and if Kevin had seen him in that moment he would have done more than wonder if maybe Pop Merrill was something other than the Castle Rock version of the Kindly Old Sage of the Crackerbarrel: he would have known.'
I did enjoy The Sun Dog, the effect the camera has on both Kevin and Pop is enthralling, nightmares, infatuation and finally control. Pop is deployed almost like a drone and the people he runs into, in his strange robotic trance all have a little story of their own. The mind can play tricks and what he thinks he's doing and what he's actually doing are miles apart, cleverly done.
And finally the dog from hell, as it's demeanour changes, it looks ferocious and about to pounce, terrifying.
'That roar, full of frustration and purpose and frantic hunger, ripped through his brain again and again, threatening to split it and let in madness.'