In anticipation of the third novel in Stephen King’s Detective Bill Hodges trilogy, due in June, let’s have a look at 5 of the master of horror’s best novels.
5 Misery (1987)
Paul Sheldon, a writer of Victorian-era romantic novels revolving around the character of Misery Chastain, is rescued by superfan Annie Wilkes when he crashes his car. Annie drags her hero through snow back to her house where she attempts to urge Sheldon to write another Misery novel. Rather than nursing Sheldon to health, Annie tortures the writer in order to motivate him to complete the novel. Perhaps King was dealing with his own resentment of fans but they didn’t seem to care, Misery is one of the author’s best-loved novels. The film adaptation with Kathy Bates as Wilkes ain’t too bad either.
4 The Long Walk (1979)
Written under his Richard Bachman pseudonym, this is the tale of a 100 teenage boys who are constantly walking down the East Coast of America at a rate of 4mph until there’s only one left standing in order to win the grand prize. The “Walkers” are given three warnings before being ticketed for slowing down. Ticketed means being shot by an advancing soldier in a jeep. Our central character Raymond Garraty has to contend with The Major’s evil plotting and scheming. One of King/Bachman’s most underrated works.
3 The Shining (1977)
This is King at his most autobiographical, writer attempts a break from booze and ends up nearly killing his own wife and son. The author’s third novel finds Jack Torrance holed up in the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies with his suffering wife and son. Written during King’s own battle with alcoholism which wouldn’t end until the early 90s, The Shining is a perfect portrayal of one person’s battle with their own worst enemy; themselves. Torrance may repulse the reader but his murderous antics, when read with the understanding of King’s own demons, do become rational in a sense. King never liked the Kubrick film adaptation.
2 It (1986)
Even the mention of Pennywise the Clown can send shivers down someone’s spine. This story of seven people haunted from childhood to adulthood by their own fears in the form of an evil clown is one of King’s longest novels. Rather than dragging it intrigues and builds towards an emotionally forced outcome rather than what could’ve easily veered towards archetypal shock and horror. Here King best displays his deftness for expanding rather than stretching his novels.
1 The Stand (1979)
This saga of good vs evil is King at his finest, the writer has yet to surpass this mass-infection induced post-apocalyptic tale of America and the attempt to rebuild and restructure the governing of a nation. Several characters including Stu Redman, Frances Goldsmith and Larry Underwood have to contend with their own personal strife while manoeuvring their way in this new world. The evil Randall Flagg shows up in other King novels but his appearance here is him at his worst. Later the novel was developed into a graphic novel and miniseries. Essential reading.