Secret Window, Secret Garden Art
Works / Novellas

Secret Window, Secret Garden

Secret Window, Secret Garden Art


September 24th, 1990

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A man accuses author Mort Rainey of stealing one of his story ideas. Rainey, who is going through an ugly divorce, attempts to prove to his accuser that his own story was published first, but all evidence to support his argument begins to disappear, along with the people who might confirm his case.

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Story Collection
September 1990


... I published a novel called Misery, which tried, at least in part, to illustrate the powerful hold fiction can achieve over the reader. I published The Dark Half, where I tried to explore the converse: the powerful hold fiction can achieve over the writer. While that book was between drafts, I started to think that there might be a way to tell both stories at the same time by approaching some of the plot elements of The Dark Half from a totally different angle. Writing, it seems to me, is a secret act--as secret as dreaming--and that was one aspect of this strange and dangerous craft I had never thought about much.

I knew that writers have from time to time revised old works--John Fowles did it with The Magus, and I have done it myself with The Stand--but revision was not what I had in mind. What I wanted to do was to take familar elements and put them together in an entirely new way. This I had tried to to at least once before, restructuring and updating the basic elements of Bram Stoker's Dracula to create 'Salem's Lot, and I was fairly comfortable with the idea.

One day in the late fall of 1987, while these things were tumbling around in my head, I stopped in the laundry room of our house to drop a dirty shirt in the washing machine. Our laundry room is a small, narrow alcove on the second floor. I disposed of the shirt and then stepped over to one of the room's two windows. It was casual curiosity, no more. We'd been living in the same house for eleven or twelve years, but I had never taken a good hard look out this particular window before. The reason is perfectly simple; set at floor level, mostly hidden behind the drier, half blocked by baskets of mending, it's a hard window to look out of.

I squeezed in, nevertheless, and looked out. That window looks down on a little brick-paved alcove between the house and the attached sunporch. It's an area I see just about every day . . . but the angle was new. My wife had set half a dozen pots out there, so the plants could take a little of the early-November sun, I suppose, and the result was a charming little garden which only I could see. The phrase which occurred to me was, of course, the title of this story. It seemed to me as good a metaphor as any for what writers--especially writers of fantasy--do with their days and nights. Sitting down at the typewriter or picking up a pencil is a physical act; the spiritual analogue is looking out of an almost forgotten window, a window which offers a common view from an entirely different angle . . . an angle which renders the common extraordinary. The writer's job is to gaze through that window and report on what he sees.

But sometimes windows break. I think that, more than anything else, is the concern of this story: what happens to the wide-eyed observer when the window between reality and unreality breaks and the glass begins to fly?


Hide List Show List
Patty Champion's dog
Morton Rainey's cat.
In a nursery rhyme thought of by Morton Rainey.
Mentioned in passing
Mentioned in passing
?, Abby
Woman in Morton Rainey's latest book. She was cheating on her husband George
?, Delores
Lady friend of Herb Creekmore
?, George
Name in Morton Rainey's latest book.
Ames, Ed
Singer mentioned in passing
Baez, Joan
Mentioned in passing
Bassinger, Don
Owned a house on the Tashmore Lake. An alcoholic
Block, Lawrence
Name in June 1980's Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
Bowie, Gerda
Works at "Bowie's" take-out on Tashmore Lake
Bradley, ?
Police detective Investigating the fire at the Rainey's house in Derry, Maine.
Caldwell, Erskine
Author mentioned in passing
Carstairs, ?
Son of Greg Carstairs
Carstairs, Greg
Caretaker at Morton Rainey's house on Tashmore Lake.
Carstairs, Megan
Daughter of Greg Carstairs.
Carstairs, Mrs.
Wife of Greg Carstairs & Mother of Megan Carstairs
Champion, Patricia (Patty)
Neighbor & friend of Amy Rainey in Derry, Maine.
Clapton, Eric
Musician listened to by Morton Rainey
Creekmore, Herb
Friend and literary agent of Morton Rainey.
Dillard, Annie
Author mentioned in passing
Dowd, Amy
Maiden name of Amy Rainey & later Amy Milner
Dowd, Mrs.
Mother of Amy Dowd
Downey, Mrs.
Character from "Secret Windows, Secret Gardens"
Downey, Todd
Character in the book "Secret Window, Secret Garden".
Evans, Fred
Investigator for Consolidated Assurance Company
Faulkner, William
John Shooter looked like a character from one of his novels
Fortin, Isabelle
Lived across the street from Amy Rainey in Derry, Maine
Gavin, Mrs.
Cleaner at Morton Rainey's house on Tashmore Lake.
Grape, Moby
Mentioned in passing
Greenleaf, Mrs.
Wife of Tom Greenleaf.
Greenleaf, Tom
70-year-old caretaker at Lake Tashmore.
Hardy, Thomas
Author mentioned in passing
Havelock, Mrs.
Character in Morton Rainey's short story "Sowing Season".
Havelock, Tommy
Character in Morton Rainey's short story "Sowing Season".
Hemmingway, Ernest
Author thought of by Morton Rainey
Highsmith, Patricia
Name in June 1980's Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
Hoch, Edward D.
Name in June 1980's Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
Hoffa, Jimmy
Mentioned in passing
Jaffery, Marianne
Works at Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.
Johnson, Lyndon
President mentioned in passing
Jones, Tom
Singer mentioned in passing
Kennedy, John F.
President killed in 1963
Kintner, John
He went to Bates College with Morton Rainey.
Landers, Ann
Mentioned in passing
Lennon, John
Mentioned in passing
McBain, Ed
Name in June 1980's Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
Milner, Amy
Married name of Amy Rainey (Nee Amy Dowd). Wife of Ted Milner
Milner, Ted
Real estate agent who was having an affair with Amy Rainey, and later married her.
Newsome, Dave
Tashmore Lake Constable.
Oswald, Lee Harvey
Mentioned in passing
Palmer, Charles
Assistant editor of Aspen Quarterly.
Perkins, Richard Jr.
Teacher of Morton Rainey at Bates College.
Proust, Marcel
Author mentioned in passing
Rainey, Amy
Ex-wife of Morton. Married name of Amy Dowd. She later married Ted Milner
Rainey, Morton
Writer who has a bad case of split personality.
Rendell, Ruth
Name in June 1980's Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
Savalas, Telly
Bald actor
Shooter, John
Man who accused Morton Rainey of stealing his story "Secret Window, Secret Garden".
Shooter, Mr.
Father of John Shooter
Stoker, Juliet
Worked at the post office at Tashmore Glen
Strick, Don
Consolidated Assurance Company agent
Trotts, Sonny
Painted the Methodist Parish Hall with Tom Greenleaf
Wayne, John
Actor impersonated by Herb Creekmore
Whittaker, Roger
Singer listened to by Sonny Trotts
Wickersham, Mr.
Fire chief who investigated the fire in the Rainey house in Derry, Maine
Wyeth, N.C.
Young, Henry
Told Morton Rainey about seeing a man with his wife.
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