I read "The Talisman" 20 years ago. That was vintage King trying his hand at fantasy, and it worked. Not having read King in quite a few years (I was coming to feel he'd lost his edge when editors no longer dared to edit him), I nonetheless picked up "Black House" to revisit the "Territories" that 12 year-old Jack Sawyer adventured in.
But "Black House" isn't a fantasy novel. It's an attempt to be a horror novel, with Jack Sawyer grown up, a retired LAPD detective, and now hunting a cannibalistic child-killer in rural Wisconsin. Unfortunately, all the magic and myth of the first novel has been leached out of the sequel along with Jack Sawyer's childhood innocence, and we're left with a gruesome piecemeal tale that has the feeling of a spin-off from King's "Dark Tower" series. Lately King seems to be tying all his novels into that universe. The ending of Black House practically screams "Read the Gunslinger novels to find out what happens next!"
This story is wordy, but not clever as King's writing sometimes is, and even the characterization seemed relatively weak. The villains are practically caricatures, relationships are established by fiat without a foundation, and it's easy to predict who will live and who will die. I never really emphathized with this new, grown up Jack Sawyer. While reading "Black House" was a guilty pleasure, it also reminded me why I'm not such a big King fan anymore. At his best, King's characters are often the best elements in his stories, but this collaboration with Straub seems to have turned his characters flat, and the story itself has lost its impact, despite the frequent gratuitous gore.