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Funny thing. I was think­ing just the other day I was over­due to hear El­ton John’s Satur­day Night’s Al­right For Fighting on a movie sound­track again.

Over the past cou­ple of months, via var­i­ous wannabe-cool film-mak­ers, I’ve heard a whole bunch of Bowie, T Rex and plenty of faux-ironic Amer­i­can hair metal thun­der­ing out of my lo­cal mul­ti­plex’s sound-sys­tems over the top of fight scenes and car chases from Atomic Blonde to Baby Driver and back again.

But of El­ton, there has been nary a whis­per. Which seems a shame. Be­cause al­though ev­ery­one knows Bowie, Bolan and co are eter­nally and for­ever cool, it seems to me that only a na­tive son of Pom­go­lia who can trace his roots back to the 1970s knows that El­ton John will al­ways be far, far more than the com­mer­cial-ra­dio friendly pap he is still best known for.

So step for­ward Matthew Vaughn, best mate of Guy Ritchie, pro­ducer of Lock, Stock and Two Smok­ing Bar­rels, di­rec­tor of Layer Cake, Kick Ass, X-men: First Class and – of course – Kings­man: The Se­cret Ser­vice, to not only re­ha­bil­i­tate El­ton’s cool fac­tor for an­other decade, but also to hand the be­spec­ta­cled old dear a cameo as the un­will­ing, in­house en­ter­tain­ment for Ju­lianne Moore’s psy­cho­pathic druglord, deep in her se­cret Cam­bo­dian lair.

And if that sounds to you like ex­actly the brand of deliri­ously silly old rub­bish you were hop­ing for from Vaughn’s own se­quel to Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle, then trust me. It is.

Golden Cir­cle, as the over-in­for­ma­tive trailer has prob­a­bly al­ready shown you, re-unites the sur­vivors of the orig­i­nal film – Taron Eger­ton, Mark Strong and, sur­pris­ingly, since we saw him ap­par­ently get his head blown off, Colin Firth – and sends them to the US – cue Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry and Chan­ning Ta­tum for rea­sons which make lit­tle nar­ra­tive sense, but which will no doubt pro­vide the boffo box-of­fice this fran­chise is go­ing to need to sur­vive.

The ac­tion and the sto­ry­telling bowls along in a way that at least fills that two-hour-and-20-minute run­ning time to burst­ing, stop­ping off at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions – Switzer­land, Swe­den, Ken­tucky and the bot­tom of a lake in a Lon­don park – to stage a suc­ces­sion of mostly pretty good set pieces.

The ref­er­ences to 1970s vin­tage Bond movies are many, the one-lin­ers are mostly funny and – im­por­tantly – the oc­ca­sional mis-steps into out­right sadism that marred the first film have been left out this time.

Golden Cir­cle is still a hel­la­ciously vi­o­lent out­ing, but Vaughn keeps the tone ap­pro­pri­ately car­toon­ish and light through­out.

tephen King was born in Maine and grew up poor in var­i­ous places as his mother tried to scrape enough money to support her two boys. “My mother was a sin­gle mum be­fore it was ac­cept­able to be a sin­gle mum,” he says. “She wore her wed­ding ring even though her hus­band had left her years ago.”

He walked out when Stephen was a tod­dler, say­ing that he was go­ing to get cig­a­rettes, never to re­turn.

His mother had five sis­ters. And his wife, Tabitha, whom he met in the li­brary of the Univer­sity of Maine, also had five sis­ters. Pub­lish­ing, as far as he is con­cerned, is more or less run by women too.

He does not think that Sleep­ing Beau­ties would have worked as a hor­ror story if it were the men who fell into a slum­ber. “Women fall asleep and the men are the more dan­ger­ous sex, the ones who are more apt to be con­fronta­tional, to hold on to ideas.”

Stephen’s first book was all about women too, which was a prob­lem at the time as he was mostly writ­ing for men’s mag­a­zines while liv­ing with Tabitha in a trailer and work­ing odd jobs, at a petrol sta­tion and as a jan­i­tor. By 1973 he had landed a teach­ing job and was strug­gling to crank out fic­tion in his spare time. “I saw my­self in 30 years’ time, wear­ing the same shabby tweed coats with patches on the el­bows, pot belly rolling over my Gap khakis from too much beer,” he re­called in his mem­oir, On Writ­ing.

He started a story about a bul­lied school­girl, hounded when she gets her first pe­riod in the school show­ers, who de­vel­ops the power to move ob­jects with her mind. Then, de­spair­ing at how hard it would be to sell to male mag­a­zine read­ers, he chucked it away. Tabitha found the pages in the bin, knocked off the cig­a­rette butts and told him: “You’ve got some­thing here.”

Car­rie even­tu­ally sold for $400,000 and Stephen King be­gan writ­ing like a man pos­sessed. Of­ten he was also a man drunk or coked up, and usu­ally both. “I was drink­ing a case of 16oz Tall Boys a night,” he wrote. “There’s one novel, Cujo, that I barely re­mem­ber writ­ing at all.” He sobered up in the late 80s and con­tin­ued to write in the same com­pul­sive fash­ion, turn­ing out best­sellers at a rate of knots.

Owen says that his child­hood was “re­mark­ably nor­mal” all things con­sid­ered – friends’ houses, his dad vol­un­teer­ing on the chil­dren’s base­ball team. He saw the toil that his par­ents ex­pended on their books. “The se­cret of suc­cess was clear to me. In a lot of ways that’s the best les­son that they ever gave me.” Stephen has now pub­lished nearly 60 books – in­clud­ing The Shin­ing, It, Mis­ery and Salem’s Lot – and wor­ries “ev­ery day” about the pos­si­bil­ity that a pub­lisher will im­me­di­ately put in print al­most any­thing that he writes. “The more suc­cess­ful you are, the more dan­ger­ous it is.”

Stephen writes fast, knock­ing off about 1500 words in three and a half hours ev­ery morn­ing. “I took a lit­tle while adapt­ing to his pace,” Owen says. “You don’t want the other per­son to lose their rhythm.”

Owen says that there was one char­ac­ter in the book who caused real prob­lems. “I thought, ‘This guy’s go­ing to f... up ev­ery­thing be­cause he’s way too smart,’“he says. “My dad was like, ‘No prob­lem, I know just how to kill this guy’ – in a way that would make you feel like it was al­ways the plan.”

Stephen smiles in his chair, then gri­maces think­ing about his lat­est book. “I got a prob­lem where some­one has to get on a bus in the mid­dle of the night. I’ll be f...ed if I know how that’s go­ing to work.”

I thought it was telling that even his chil­dren think that cer­tain sto­ries are quintessen­tially Stephen King sto­ries. He casts so large a shadow that it in­vades their brains, snatch­ing up ideas that they might oth­er­wise have con­sid­ered theirs. Which, in it­self, sounds like a story Stephen King would write.


Chan­ning Ta­tum and Halle Berry join the crew for Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle.

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