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'Cujo' (1981) is a psychological horror novel by Stephen King about a dog named Cujo. The novel won the British Fantasy Award in 1982, and was made into a film in 1983.
The story takes place in the author's recurrent fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, and revolves around two local families. The narrative is interspersed with vignettes from the seemingly mundane lives of various other residents. There are no official chapters, but rather breaks in between passages, which indicate when the author is alternating to a different point of view.
'Cujo' also references King's previous novel, 'The Dead Zone', on several occasions. For instance, serial killer Frank Dodd has now achieved a kind of bogeyman status in Castle Rock.
Cujo's name was based on the 'nom de guerre' of Willie Wolfe, one of the men responsible for orchestrating Patty Hearst's kidnapping and indoctrination into the Symbionese Liberation Army.March 1, 1976. 'Patty's Long Ordeal on the Stand' [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,918106-1,00.html] Time.comAugust 14, 1981. 'Cujo: New York Times Book Review' [http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/09/lifetimes/king-r-cujo.html] New York Times.com
Stephen King discusses 'Cujo' in 'On Writing', referring to it as a novel he "barely remembers writing at all". The book was written during a period when King was drinking heavily. Somewhat wistfully, King goes on to say that he likes the book and that he wishes he could remember enjoying the good parts as he put them down on the page.King, Stephen. 'On Writing', page 110, Hodder & Stoughton, 2000, ISBN 978-0-340-82046-9
We first meet the middle-class Trentons, who are recent arrivals in town: Vic, an advertisement designer, his wife, Donna, and their four-year-old son Tad. Vic has discovered that his wife had been involved in an affair. In the midst of this household tension, Vic's fledgling advertising agency is failing, and he is forced to leave on a business trip to Boston and New York.
We are then introduced to the blue-collar Cambers, longtime town residents: Joe, a shade-tree mechanic, Charity, his wife, and their ten-year-old son Brett. Charity is frustrated with her domineering and occasionally abusive husband, and is worried about Joe's negative influence on Brett. Charity wins the state lottery, and uses the proceeds to inveigle Joe into allowing her to take Brett on a trip to visit Charity's sister, Holly, in Connecticut. Joe secretly plans to use the time to take a pleasure trip to Boston with his neighbor, Gary Pervier.
Cujo, a St. Bernard, belongs to Joe Camber and his family. Although Joe is fond of Cujo, he never bothers to get the dog vaccinated against rabies. While chasing a rabbit in the fields around the Cambers' house, Cujo gets his head temporarily stuck in the entrance to a small limestone cave and is bitten on the nose by a bat and infected with rabies.
Soon after Charity and Brett leave, Cujo attacks and kills Gary Pervier. Joe goes to the Pervier home to check on Gary, only to find him dead. Before Joe is able to call authorities for help, Cujo attacks and kills him as well.
Donna, home alone with Tad, takes their failing Ford Pinto to the Cambers' for repairs. The car breaks down in Camber's dooryard and as Donna attempts to find Joe, Cujo appears and is ready to pounce. She climbs back in the car and Cujo starts to attack.
Donna and Tad become trapped in their vehicle, whose interior is becoming increasingly hot in the glaring sunlight. During one escape attempt, Donna is bitten in the stomach and leg, but manages to survive and escape back into the car. She considers running for the Cambers' home but is afraid the door will be locked and she will be subsequently killed by Cujo, leaving her son all alone, and abandons the idea.
Vic returns to Castle Rock after several failed attempts to contact her. He also learns from the police that Steve Kemp, the man with whom Donna was having an affair, is suspected of ransacking his home and possibly kidnapping Donna and Tad. However, in an effort to explore all leads, the state police send local Castle Rock Sheriff George Bannerman out to the Cambers' house. When George gets there, Cujo attacks and kills him. Following this, Donna realizes that Tad is dying and she must act. She faces Cujo down with a bat, breaking it over his head and fatally stabbing him in the eye with the broken end. Vic arrives immediately afterwards only to discover Tad died of dehydration. The book ends with both the Trentons and the Cambers trying to go on with their lives Donna is cured for Rabies and Cujo is cremated. The book ends by saying that Charity gave Brett a new, vaccinated puppy named Willie.
Mentions in other works by King
Cujo is mentioned in many other works by Stephen King, including 'Pet Sematary' and most of the other novels and short stories which take place in Castle Rock. These include 'The Dark Half,' 'The Body' and 'Needful Things.' In the film adaption of 'The Tommyknockers', when the Sheriff is almost attacked by Bobbi's dog, she tells Bobbi that she'd better "put Cujo on a leash."
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