The epilogue of The Dark Tower: Book VI: The Song of Susannah includes excerpts from "Stephen King's" journal between 1977 and 1999.

Clearly, some of it is fictional, or at least altered from truth

since the last entry discusses King being killed in the accident which only left him in the hospital in real life.

Most of the other entries seem plausible and line up with publication dates as far as I can tell.

Were these excerpts actual journal entries written by King over the years, and tweaked for to fit the narrative, or were they written entirely for this book?

  • I've answered the question to the best of my ability at present, but I am in touch with King's research assistant, and I will ask her for more input.
    – Wad Cheber
    Mar 31, 2016 at 23:52
  • I have a definitive answer. There were real journals.
    – Wad Cheber
    Apr 14, 2016 at 22:36

2 Answers 2


Is the journal itself pure fiction, or is it adapted from a real journal?

It is adapted from real journals.

I spoke to Robin Furth, who is King's research assistant, and the author of Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance, as well as the Marvel Dark Tower comics series. Here's what she said:

When Steve was writing the Coda, he actually pulled out his old journals to look through them. I remember that Marsha (his personal assistant) was really surprised. I'm not certain how much is straight from the journals and how much is made up, but some of it is real. Hope this helps!
- Personal correspondence with Robin Furth

Bev Vincent wrote a thorough analysis of the series, how it was written and published, the inspirations behind it, and critical reception of the work, called The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus. King approved of the book, and cooperated with Vincent as it was being written; Vincent never explicitly states whether the journal was entirely invented or simply adapted from a real journal. Here is how Vincent describes the journal throughout his book:

In the fictional journal at the end of Song of Susannah, King calls the book [Desperation] “a real tank-job, at least in the sales sense.”
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus


According to the quasifictional journal at the end of Song of Susannah.
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus


Since this comes from a fictionalized journal, these comments do not necessarily reflect King’s real views.1
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus

Aside from these references, in which Vincent calls the journal "fictional", "fictionalized", and (most interestingly) "quasifictional", Vincent refers to the journal as simply as "the coda [at the end of Song of Susannah]", without calling it "fictional" or anything along those lines; however, when he calls the journal "the coda", he always describes the Stephen King who is writing the journal as "the fictional King" or something similar:

In Song of Susannah’s coda, fictional King expresses his disappointment with falling sales figures for the Dark Tower books and hopes that they improve once the series is done.
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus


According to the coda of Song of Susannah, though, King’s fictional version of himself was under the Dark Tower’s influence when he wrote the book [Rose Madder].
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus


But in the coda to Song of Susannah, his fictional counterpart says, “Writing this story is the one that always feels like coming home.”
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus


In the coda at the end of Song of Susannah, the fictional King considers the possibility that he may retire, or at least ease up considerably, when he finishes the Dark Tower series.
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus

Word of god:

King has commented on this issue, at least in part and indirectly:

Readers will speculate on how “real” the Stephen King is who appears in these pages. The answer is “not very,” although the one Roland and Eddie meet in Bridgton (Song of Susannah) is very close to the Stephen King I remember being at that time. As for the Stephen King who shows up in this final volume... well, let’s put it this way: my wife asked me if I would kindly not give fans of the series very precise directions to where we live or who we really are. I agreed to do that. Not because I wanted to, exactly — part of what makes this story go, I think, is the sense of the fictional world bursting through into the real one — but because this happens to be my wife’s life as well as mine, and she should not be penalized for either loving me or living with me. So I have fictionalized the geography of western Maine to a great extent, trusting readers to grasp the intent of the fiction and to understand why I treated my own part in it as I did.
- The Dark Tower: Book VII: The Dark Tower, Afterword

So essentially, King in Book VII isn't very true to life, but King in Book VI (Song of Susannah) is much closer to the mark; most of the changes were made in an effort to protect the privacy of King's family.

Which parts are real, and which parts are fake?

Obviously fake:

  • The newspaper article about King being killed when he was hit by a van in 1999. Obviously, King didn't die, so the overall point of the article is incorrect. However, the journalist to whom the piece was attributed is indeed a real journalist from Maine.

The article’s byline is that of Ray Routhier, a real-life journalist for the Portland Press Herald, who gave King permission to use his name in the book.
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus

  • The stories about "Walk-ins" - people from other realities - showing up in rural Maine.

  • Everything that hints that elements of the Dark Tower series' fictional world and characters are real.

Sort of true:

King 'foreseeing' his accident. Although he obviously didn't expect to be hit by a van and nearly killed on June 19, 1999, he had planned to make an appearance in the Dark Tower series as early as 1994, and had considered adding a fictional brush with death as part of the plot.

King remarked in 1994 that he knew the general layout of the rest of the series; he said in a personal communication that he had an accident in mind for his fictional counterpart, but nothing as dramatic as what would befall him five years later.
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus, citing personal correspondence with King in August, 2003.

Mostly true:

  • King receiving angry letters from fans regarding The Dark Tower.

I liked the high-wire aspect of [the serial publication process], too: fall down on the job, fail to carry through, and all at once about a million readers are howling for your blood. No one knows this any better than me, unless it’s my secretary, Juliann Eugley; we get dozens of angry letters each week, demanding the next book in the Dark Tower cycle (patience, followers of Roland; another year or so and your wait will end, I promise). One of these contained a Polaroid of a teddy-bear in chains, with a message cut out of newspaper headlines and magazine covers: RELEASE THE NEXT DARK TOWER BOOK AT ONCE OR THE BEAR DIES, it said. I put it up in my office to remind myself both of my responsibility and of how wonderful it is to have people actually care— a little— about the creatures of one’s imagination.
- The Green Mile: The Two Dead Girls, introduction


King told an interviewer, “I have three women who work in this office that answer the fan mail, and a lot of times they don’t tell me what’s going on with fan mail except for the stuff I pick up myself. But they put every Dark Tower letter on my desk. This is like a silent protest saying, ‘get these people off our backs.’”
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus

In fact, the journal from The Song of Susannah makes includes a fictionalized version of a real letter. The fictionalized version is attributed to a Mrs. Coretta Vele, of Stowe, Vermont; we don't know who wrote the real one, but it was indeed written:

King continued to get letters asking for more Dark Tower, including one from an elderly woman with cancer begging him to tell her the ending before she died.
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus

  • Most of what the journal says about the writing and publication history of the series is accurate, including the names of King's agents, publishers, editors, etc, and even the story about his manuscript of The Gunslinger sitting in a file box in his basement and suffering water damage, and him losing the manuscript of what would become The Drawing of the Three.

The manuscript of that first volume, wet and barely readable, was rescued from a mildewy cellar. The first forty handwritten pages of a second volume (titled, as I remember, Roland Draws Three) were missing. God knows where they wound up.
- Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance, Revised and Updated

  • The journal's account of King's process for writing the series - for example, the fact that he views himself as "receiving" the Dark Tower story from unknown sources outside of himself - echoes what he had said about the issue in the forewords of the books and in interviews over the years.

  • Most of the journal's autobioraphical elements are close to the truth - from milestones in his kids' lives to his struggle with alcoholism, and some bits about where he's living. However, some of the details of where he's living are changed to protect his privacy in the real world. For instance, he lives off of Route 5 in Lovell, Maine (the road where his real life accident occurred), but calls it Route 7 in the books. He says his house is on Turtleback Lane; no such road exists in that area, and from what I have been able to find, he probably lives on a fire road with no name, only a numerical designation.


  • King's feelings about the Dark Tower series:

More and more my work feels like a slanted trough where everything eventually drains into Mid-World and End-World. The Dark Tower is my uberstory, no question about that. When it’s done, I plan to ease back.
- The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah


I have written enough novels and short stories to fill a solar system of the imagination, but Roland's story is my Jupiter - a planet that dwarfs all the others... a place of strange atmosphere, crazy landscape, and savage gravitational pull. Dwarfs the others, did I say? I think there's more to it than that, actually. I am coming to understand that Roland's world (or worlds) actually contains all the others of my making...
- The Dark Tower: Book IV: Wizard and Glass, Afterword


Recent reports of King’s impending retirement underlined this schism by highlighting the difference between writing and publishing. When asked to confirm these rumors, King usually responds that he might retire from publishing, but couldn’t imagine not writing.
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus

  • The inspirations King mentions in the journal are some of his real-world inspirations. For example:

Watched Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai last nite, and wonder if that might not be the right direction for Vol. #6, The Werewolves of End-World (or some such). I probably ought to see if any of the little side-o’-the-road video rental places around here have got The Magnificent Seven, which is the Americanized version of the Kurosawa film.
- The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah

Although book VI (which ended up being titled Wolves of the Calla) doesn't bear many obvious, direct similarities to Seven Samurai, it is full of echoes of The Magnificent Seven:

  • In The Magnificent Seven, the town seeks help in resisting villainous raiders who come at regular intervals to steal food and other resources, leaving behind only enough for the town to eke by and survive. In Wolves, the raiders steal one out of every two children (roughly speaking) and leave enough behind for the next generation to surive and produce more children to be stolen.

  • In The Magnificent Seven, the townspeople ask an old man who lives on the outskirts of the village for advice; in Wolves, Callahan (aka "The Old Fella") comes to offer them his advice without being asked.

  • In The Magnificent Seven, the old man tells the townspeople to go north, and when they do, they find men who "deal in lead" (Steve McQueen speaks this line in the movie) and are willing to help; in Wolves, Callahan tells the townspeople to go north, and when they do, they find Roland's ka-tet, who "deal in lead" (Roland speaks this line in the book) and are willing to help.

  • The Magnificent Seven was directed by John Sturges, and two of the stars were Yul Brynner and Robert Vaughn. The town in Wolves is called Calla Bryn Sturgis, and one of the most prominent residents is Vaughn Eisenhart.

However, King realized that he had misspelled the director’s last name after the prologue had been posted — published, in a sense — on his official Web site.
- The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus

  • In the final showdown with the Wolves, there are seven people fighting against them (Roland, Susannah, Eddie, Jake, Rosita, Margaret Eisenhart, and Zalia Jaffords)

1 This quote is from a footnote, and refers to the following portion of the journal:

“On the other hand, God and the Man Jesus, people are so fucking spoiled! They just assume that if there’s a book anywhere in the world they want, then they have a perfect right to that book. This would be news indeed to those folks in the Middle Ages who might have heard rumors of books but never actually saw one.”


Stephen King is also a fictional character in the Dark Tower series and he intentionally obscured the details to try and preserve some of his privacy in Maine.
So there's really no way to tell how much is true. However, in the epilogue of the Dark Tower (VII) he did state that the fictional King in Susannah was very close to how he was at the time while the fictional King in the later books is not the the real Stephen King at all. You can read about it here: link

When he meets Roland it's shortly after he wrote Salem's Lot and the Gunslinger. So I assume the journal was probably written just for the Song of Susannah as King said he couldn't write much after the car accident (link).

The fictional King was also alluded too as early as The Drawing of the Three when Eddie said he saw the Shining at the movies.

  • Is the reference to the Shining movie in the re-released version of The Drawing of the Three? I don't remember reading it in the original version. May 23, 2013 at 14:23
  • I read the drawing of the three a long time ago and I want to say I vaguely remember the reference. I'll have to check my version when I get home
    – djm
    May 23, 2013 at 14:31
  • Ok, I just remembered that most of my Stephen King books were stolen back in 1998 :( but I did find the Shining references (2 of them) online for the drawing of the three; page 198 and 223.
    – djm
    May 24, 2013 at 1:02
  • My King books are in storage thousands of miles away, so I'll take your word for it. Thanks! May 24, 2013 at 2:41

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