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Saturday, 13 November 2010


Stephen King has had some gear praise in his time - one critic even called him the American Dickens and whilst I don't know about that, I do know that he writes some damn good stuff. American Dickens maybe not but he's definitely the American King

I used to devour King books and whilst these days I wouldn't call myself one of those constant readers King always talks to in the introductions to his books, I have in recent months rediscovered my love for King's work. I first read him when I was in my late teens and the kind of stuff he was writing then appealed to the teenage mindset. A lot of King's horror had the 1950's creature feature vibe but with a modern twist. He also used pop culture references and brand names in such a way that the worlds depicted in novels  like Salem's Lot, It, The Stand and short stories like Word processor of the Gods seem very real. He also had a way with the gross out and of course that always appeals to the teenage mindset - you know I still think King's story, Survivor Type is the ultimate in gross out but in a humorous kind of way.

 Another cool thing about King was that in the 80's he seemed more like a rock star than a staid old writer and indeed his fame during that time could be compared to that of a rock star. Of course there had been other superstar writers but King's audience were different. King's audience were in the demographic that TV and Film producers reach out for. It was inevitable then that eventually King's face would start appearing in horror films - sometimes straight extended cameos such as in Pet Sematary or larger roles such as in Creepshow. And I still think King's turn as Jordy Verill in Creepshow was brilliant. He would often pop up on TV too and not only on talk shows but with his own series examining the horror genre. Of course the author did overstep himself when he directed Maximum Overdrive but even though it's a poor movie it's no worse than scores of other 80's horror flicks. King was even involved briefly with working out ideas for the movie that became Star Trek the Motion Picture only to be told by Gene Rodenberry that his idea, about the Enterprise meeting God at the end of the universe, wasn't big enough. I wonder how King felt when the Supreme Being idea turned up as Star Trek V?

Yep for awhile King was everywhere.

Of course in King's early years he was helped by perfect timing - like The Beatles he was in the right place at the right (should that be "write time") time and his fiction caught the zeitgeist perfectly. Horror was booming and pretty much anything put out there sold to a certain degree but King's books were, as well as providing horror in abundance, well written and the stories brilliantly told. With King's best work the reader can almost hear the writer reading the story over their shoulder. Back in the day King had a lot of kids reading and many of these have stayed with him over the years. Yep, he's still one of the world's biggest writers and one of the most recognisable. Whilst most famous writers would only ever be recognised by their most ardent readers King's face has graced T-shirts, mugs and posters.
Art by Ken Meyer Jr

Now one day after one too many bad novels I found that I had read too much horror and cast the genre aside, even ignoring the works of such luminaries as Clive Barker, James Herbert, Peter Straub and yep old King himself.

And then maybe a year ago I happened to pick up Cell and enjoyed it immensely, it took me back. And since then I've been reading King again. And his book On Writing is one of the best books I've ever read on the craft. His latest Under the Done was cool and I've been enjoying some of his earlier short stories.

My favourite King novel?
Well I think Misery is the perfect book, lean, mean and powerful. There's not a word wasted and the story wrenches the readers guts out. And I've fond memories of IT and Salem's Lot which I read one glorious summer years ago. The Dark Tower series I've not been able to finish yet, though I've done the first three. The Stand was another favourite - I've read the original and the extended cut. I remember being disappointed by Christine though I'm not sure why and Tommyknockers also felt like a let down.

King's House
But most of King's books hit home and I guess they still do.

And so, unable to resist a bad pun, the Archive says, - fangs for all the fun.

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