King Kong: The Island of the Skull
King Kong: The Island of the Skull is a 324-page novel written by Matthew Costello in 2005. It serves as an official prequel to the 2005 film King Kong, and documents the lives of the main characters of the film, as well as an original character named Sam Kelley, who eventually draws the map of Skull Island used by Carl Denham.
Entrepreneur and filmmaker Carl Denham struggles to make a name for himself in the entertainment industry - but all of his charisma and showmanship may have to take a back seat to the greatest adventure yet to come...
The story begins with first mate Braddock and the rest of an unnamed ship's crew dying of a horrible illness that makes eating impossible and ruins the skin. Braddock attempted to sway their captain, Luis Garcia, to change their course for nearer land, but Captain Garcia insisted that they would continue on to the Riau Islands, on the grounds that their cargo would get them killed at any other port.
Elsewhere, aspiring screen actress Ann Darrow was at a casting office looking for work, and was assigned a role at Steel Pier in Atlantic City riding their "Diving Horses". When she got to Steel Pier, she found that the position for "Horse Divers" had already been filled, but she was instead offered the role of tour guide in the world's only recreational diving bell. After she accepted the position, she was made to take a ride in the bell even though it had been closed due to adverse weather condition, which caused minor difficulties for Ann in the bell. After her trip in the Bell, Ann was moved in with two other girls from the pier. After weeks of working the diving bell, Ann struck a deal with one of her roommates's boyfriends in which he would talk to the pier owner about promoting Ann to horse diver of she would come to his club on Fridays. Ann agreed, and at the end of the day, Mr. Nadler, the pier owner came to give her her promotion. She quickly received dive training, as she already knew how to ride thanks to summers spent on her grandfather's farm. She then took a practice dive and prepared for her first show. That evening, she accompanied her roommates to the club, which quickly made Ann uncomfortable. She took one of her friends into the bathroom to discuss faking an illness to leave early, but the club was invaded by mobsters. From the cover of the ladies room, Ann noticed that one of her friends had gone down, and she traveled through the veil of gun smoke to help her out. After the escape, Ann went back to work, and quickly discovered that her horse was sick. Despite Ann insisting that a veterinarian take a look at it, Nadler still had the horse dive. Up on the diving platform, The horse urinated and slipped. the two fell through the air and into the water. Ann was unharmed, but the horse broke its leg, and had to be put down. She then quit the job, and received a telegraph from her friend Manny in New York that a new show had opened and that he had got them a job in it.
In San Francisco, Sam Kelley worked on a Navy shipyard that was due to close in three days time due to the economic depression. While staffing a dive off the coast, He discovered that the lifeline had been cut, and went down to find the diver in the practice wreck that had been placed in the bay for training purposes. When Sam entered the wreck, which had spent five years underwater and was growing more and more unsafe, he located the missing diver, but found him pinned in the sharp and rusty radio room by a shelf that had fallen off the wall. Upon closer examination, Sam noticed the diver was wounded before beginning the process of removing the shelf. After getting the diver to safety, Sam was informed that the Navy diving program was being shut down, which left him without a job days before he expected to be. He was later contacted by the diver he saved (named Tommy), who informed him of a job opportunity as a pearl diver. After reaching the Indian Ocean with the pearl diving crew of the Mia Susana, the captain revealed that the reason they had been heading for open water was because he wanted to get pearls from unexplored reefs. In the oceans far north of New Guinea, the crew of the Mia Susana came across the ship from the book's prologue. Sam, the captain, and one other crewman went aboard the abandoned pearl ship and found several dead crewmen who had bled through their patchy skin, which left some of their bones exposed. While on board, they came across a chest with three golf ball-sized pearls, which caused the captain to steal the boat's charts to follow their trail back to where they were found. On the way there, they stopped for a dive, on which Sam and Tommy encountered enormous, table-sized oysters. While attempting to search them for pearls, Sam was approached by a giant crab, that attacked him. While trying to back up, Sam's leg became caught in an oyster, but Tommy was able to stab the crab from behind enough times for it to leave them. The blood in the water quickly attracted the attention of a prehistoric carnivorous fish, which quickly ate Tommy's legs. Sam was able to free his leg from the oyster and signal the boat to bring him up. On board, Sam began to call for the captain to move the ship as the crew pulled up Tommy's severed head. As they began to move, the creature surfaced and attacked the ship. They began taking in water, and needed to stop for repairs. They quickly decided to travel toward a wall of fog, behind which they believed to lay land. After navigating the fog and reaching a rocky cliff, Captain Rosa chose Sam and two other sailors to carry guns into the jungle while the rest of the party brought saws and rope to cut down a tree for timber. In the jungle, Sam noticed a pair of eyes watching them. their owner, a native girl, quickly ran away from them, right into a monster that Sam dubbed V. rex. He grabbed the girl and ran with the party to a cave he had spotted in order to hide from the beast. They soon discovered that the walls were covered with drawings. Sam determined one of them to be a map of the island, and copied it down onto Captain Rosa's charts. On seeing this, the girl scrawled a gorilla's face in the corner. They stayed there for hours, and eventually two of the party went deeper into the cave, but were killed by giant insects. The bugs quickly made their way to the rest of the party, that fled the cave. On the run to the shore, Captain Rosa and all of the party but Sam, the girl, and the first mate, Bakali survived. At the cliff, Bakali was killed by a Vultursaurus. Sam killed the beast and clamored with the girl down the rocks to the boat. On the way out, the boat hit something underwater that sent the girl tumbling out of the cabin and on to the deck. Sam let go of the wheel to save her from the swooping Vultursaurus, and shot it three times, but it was too late to save her. She said a few words in her language before dying with the Vultursaurus's claw stuck in her torso. Sam retrieved it before setting himself adrift in the dinghy. He was eventually found extremely sunburnt and dehydrated by a Norwegian trade ship. He died shortly after, but gave his rescuers a final warning with the word "Kong".
On board the S.S. Venture, Carl Denham was returning to New York empty-handed after going after a mythical giant orca named "Killer" around the Baffin islands. With the Venture unable to travel on in the adverse weather conditions, they laid anchor at a rock outcropping near some spirals of smoke rising from just beyond some rocks. Wanting to get Inuit footage, Carl gathered his film crew and headed out. Before they got to the fires, they encountered a field of leopard seals. Wanting to get footage of the pups at the other end, Denham sent his cameraman into their midst. This proved to be an enormous error in judgement, as the seals attacked the intruder and left him badly wounded. They were able to get him to a hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but his leg had to be amputated. The damage caused to his friend made Carl seek to get him back to New York by changing the film to reflect locations on the journey there. After arriving in New York, Denham arranged to meet with his friend Jack Driscoll. When they met, Carl revealed to him that his backers were pushing for a rewrite of his film so that it was set in the jungle, and asked the writer to provide a script for his film because he had footage, but no story. Driscoll agreed to write, despite not having much time to do so. He was quickly summoned by his financial backers, who insisted that he start filming on a set, rather than on location. Carl demanded a 15% increase in funds to procure animals for the set, but settled for 10%, which he planned to use to pay Captain Englehorn for another voyage to shoot on location. After a day of shooting on the set, Carl went down to the docks to hear from seafarers about unexplored locations to film his movie. In one of the port bars he found a Norwegian captain with a map to an uncharted island given to him by a castaway who died before he could explain it, along with the claw of an unknown creature. Carl bought the map, but the claw was not for sale.
In an interesting look into the native culture, the book spent some chapters from the view of a Skull Island native who was sacrificed to the god Kong.
After feeling tremors in the earth, all the women on the island lined up while an elder selected a sacrifice. The girl who was chosen was then tied to a palette and force-fed a liquid that made her too drowsy to continue fighting back. The palette was then lowered on the other side of the giant stone wall that separated the islanders from the monsters on the island. The ritual elder then banged a gong to summon the god. Not long after, the girl could hear its roars as it approached. Having prepared for this moment, the girl began to squeeze grease she had collected in pieces of cloth from her meals since her being chosen. The grease ran down her arms and lubricated her bonds, which allowed her to slip free and to run away from certain death at the hands of Kong. While running through the dense jungles of Skull Island, the girl came to a clearing that had been made by fire, but she quickly left it behind as it left her in the open. She then found shelter in a hollow beneath a tree, but awoke to the sounds of approaching Venatosaurus. They nearly broke through the tree, but a Vastatosaurus rex attacked and ate them before leaving the girl behind. She then resumed her run, and eventually came across a party of men in in the jungle below her. she quickly backed away, but not before being spotted by one of the party. She quickly ran back into the jungle, but was faced with another V-rex. She stood motionless until she was grabbed by the party member and taken into a cove to take shelter from the monster. They then began to notice the cave drawings on the walls, and one began to draw a map of the island. The girl then drew Kong's face in the corner. Soon, the cave began to fill with gargantuan insects. As they fled the cave, the girl heard Kong's distinctive roar in the distance, and ran with two of the men to the cliffs. They got in a boat after losing one of the men on the climb down and began to sail away, but due to hitting something in the water, the girl was thrown from the cabin and attacked by a Vultursaurus. Its claws tore her body beyond repair, and she whispered to her last rescuer before dying.
In the basement of the Museum of Natural History, Dr. Leonard Mlodinow, a scientist from Europe, who had been flying over Skull Island at the time of Kelley's meeting the native girl in the Graf Zeppelin met with a man named Robertson, a representative for the President of the Museum. He informed Mlodinow that nothing would be done about his discovery of a plesiosaur skeleton that had died only five years prior, as the Depression had taken all of the government's attention, and funds making it impractical to fund an expedition to find prehistoric creatures. The skeleton remained in the museum's basement, with neither party knowing when, if ever, it might be unveiled to the public.
- King Kong
- Vastatosaurus rex
- Giant manta ray
- Giant clam
- Giant crab
- Unidentified plesiosaur
- Alatusaurus cinnabaris (cover only)
- Carl Denham
- Ann Darrow
- Sam Kelley
- Captain Englehorn
- Jack Driscoll
- Ben Hayes
- Bruce Baxter (mentioned)
Weapons, vehicles, and races
- Main article: Interview:Matthew Costello.
Interview with Matthew Costello by The Boy Who Cried Godzilla, conducted via email from August 27 to September 22, 2017.
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