The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
The opening line of Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series is a powerful and very descriptive line, without going into huge detail.
The Gunslinger is Roland of Gilead, who is based off of the poem by Robert Browning called Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. Make no mistake, this series and this first book has very fantasy elements to it; talk of mages and sorcerers, dark magic, portals between planes of existence, and even demons and devils that manifest into reality. But while it has it’s Arthurian aspects to it with the grand and epic quest, Roland of Gilead’s world is also the world of the wild west. Whereas knights of old would have codes and honours with the blade and sword, in Roland’s world those codes and honours exist but it’s with the way of the gun.
And Roland is an expert gunslinger.
We find this out when Roland has an encounter in the town of Tull, which ends horribly (for the citizens of Tull, and in a way, for Roland too).
While Roland is seeking out the man in black, it is ultimately the Dark Tower he pursues. Some undescribed place that holds ominous power that is felt merely in the whispers of it’s mention. Something is there, and we want to find out as Roland goes on his quest.
This first book in the entire series was one I read years ago, but read again just to re-familiarize myself with it. Originally, I’d only read the first three books in the series, of which there is seven (plus the Marvel Comics compilations should one seek to read those as well). For those that like the epic adventure that fantasy often brings to the plate, but want to read something that is not in the same sort of backdrop as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (which King himself admits is something he drew on for the Dark Tower Series), then this series is one you should pick up.
This book series is far and away very different from King’s previous works that he is best known for. But there is something familiar within these books as you read them. His style is still there and still prevalent throughout the series. It may not be horror, but there are moments that are horrific. And that is just one of the things that makes this series worthwhile.
As a side note: it was King’s Dark Tower Series that helped with the inspiration for my own Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider, mixing the backdrop of the wild west with a pair of elven gunslingers who were adept at magic.