The Gunslinger is an Old West Fantasy book written by Stephen King that tells the story of Roland of Gilead, and his quest to catch the man in black, the first of many steps toward Roland’s ultimate destination, The Dark Tower.
The main story takes place in a world somewhat similar to the Old West but in an alternate timeframe or parallel universe. Roland exists in a world that has “moved on.” This world has a few things in common with our own, however, including memories of the old song “Hey Jude” and the child’s rhyme that begins “Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit”, as well as the existence of hamburgers and beer. Vestiges of forgotten or skewed versions of real-world technology also appear, such as a reference to a gas pump that is worshipped as a god named “Amoco” and an abandoned way station with a water pump powered by an “atomic slug.”
Inspired in part by the Robert Browning narrative poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” The Gunslinger is “a compelling whirlpool of a story that draws one irretrievable to its center” (Milwaukee Sentinel). It is “brilliant and fresh…and will leave you panting for more” (Booklist).
The Gunslinger was first published in 1982 as a fix-up novel, joining five short stories that had been published between 1978 and 1981. King substantially revised the novel in 2003; this version has remained in print ever since, with the subtitle RESUMPTION.
The Old West fantasy centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, who has been chasing his adversary, “the man in black,” for many years. The novel fuses Western fiction with fantasy, science fiction, and horror, following Roland’s trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. Roland meets several people along his journey, including a boy named Jake Chambers, who travels with him part of the way.