Friday Five: Stephen King

By Peter SM RSS Fri, September 27, 2013

In Stephen King's short story, Sometimes They Come Back, ghosts and demons haunt a man who is forced to confront his traumatic past. It would seem Stephen King is living out one of his own stories in a truth is stranger than fiction scenario with his new book Doctor Sleep, a sequel to one of his most popular and best-selling novels, The Shinning.

When King finally decided to write a sequel to the 1977 horror novel about a haunted hotel, a boy with psychic abilities, and a father who descends into madness (slightly based on King's own struggles with drugs and alcohol at the time), the story of The Shining itself had since taken on a life of its own. First, there was the film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick, lauded by critics as one of the greatest horror movies of all time. King would go on record though as being less than enthused about what he saw on screen (later going on to write and produce a television mini-series adaptation of The Shining that more closely followed the events that took place in the book). And if you have lots of free time on your hands, you can read the theories, criticisms, allusions, and interpretations of Kubrick's film (most recent and outlandish the documentary Room 237), but be careful falling down that internet rabbit hole!

Doctor Sleep picks up a few years after the events in The Shining and focuses on an adult Danny Torrance, still haunted by the spirits of the Overlook Hotel. He meets up with a special twelve-year old girl named Abra who has familiar psychic powers, and the two must fight of a tribe of murderous paranormals called "The True Knot".

Check out the creepy book trailer for Doctor Sleep!

It's near impossible to pick only five favorites or five "must reads" in Stephen King's bibliography. Instead, here's a "Friday Five" of some of Uncle Stevie's somewhat lesser known and read works, all available from our collections.

Cell Cell (available in book and audiobook formats)

Technology runs amok in this dark vision of a world in which our mobile devices emit a "pulse" that turns humanity into hordes of bloodthirtsy zombies. One can only imagine how this novel may have turned out a few years later with the advent of texting, sexting, Siri, and Google Glass! Nonetheless, Cell is a straight-up cinematic horror thriller with gruesome scenes that leave blood splatter all over the pages. King's homage to zombie films (the book is dedicated in part to the godfather of modern zombies, George A. Romero) was a welcome return to horror form for his sometimes zombie-like fans when this book was released in 2006. The book, begging for a film adaptation and stuck in development hell for a number of years, may finally be made with John Cusack in the lead role.

The Running Man The Running Man (available in book, audiobook, ebook, and dvd formats)

Before the dystopian sci-fi world of The Hunger Games, there was King's The Running Man. The novel was written under his pseudonym Richard Bachman, but that didn't stop people from making it a bestseller in 1982. The story is set in 2025 where in a violent and economically devastated nation, the main form of entertainment is now derived from a game show of death where contestants are hunted and killed for sport. Social commentary, violence, and humor ooze out of all 101 chapters as the class war in the story is a mirror into Ronald Reagan "trickle-down" economics of the 1980s. The 1987 movie adaptation starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and real-life game show host Richard Dawson is a cult classic in its own right.

The Dark Half The Dark Half (available in book, audiobook, ebook, and dvd formats)

Speaking of Richard Bachman, King only used the pseudonym from 1977 - 1982 before being exposed in 1985 by a Washington, D.C. bookstore clerk. He used that experience a few years later for the basis of his 1989 novel The Dark Half, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-esque story concerning a writer whose stories under a pen name create a real life literary killer. The Dark Half  turns into a mashup of two genre stories at once: a mystery-detective story about the crime spree of George Stark (or is it Alexis Machine?) and a horror story about the struggle to stop the doppelganger from killing again. Doesn't get much more meta than that! Legendary horror director George A. Romero was behind the camera in 1993 for one of the better, albeit seldom mentioned, adaptations of King's work.

The Skeleton Crew Skeleton Crew (available in book, audiobook, and ebook formats)

Skeleton Crew is one of many collections of short stories, novellas, poems, and other ephemera that King has published over his many years of writing. This collection is one of his finest with 22 entries in total including the gross-out cannibalistic Survivor Type, in which a man marooned on a desert isle has to eat himself to stay alive, The Monkey, about a cymbal-banging toy monkey with supernatural powers, and probably the best and most memorable story in the bunch, The Mist, in which a small town is engulfed in a strange mist that conceals otherworldly creatures. The Mist was adapted in 2007 by Frank Darabont, who also adapted King's biggest box office triumphs to date with The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption.

Stephen King On Writing On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (available in book and audiobook formats)

And lastly, a book that I have turned too for inspiration and instruction many, many times, On Writing is part memoir, part personal writing class, and a must read for casual and rabid fans alike. The autobiographical sections have King detailing his earliest exposure to reading, putting pen to paper and writing, attempts at getting published, his family life, and even his battles with drug and alcohol abuse. The second section is a writing manual with practical advice on everything from grammar tips (King was a high school teacher at one time, ya know!) and story development, to fleshing out characters and writing compelling and interesting dialogue. King himself describes the book as a guide for how "a competent writer can become a good one."

What are some of your favorite Stephen King titles or works by other favorite genre authors?

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Have read all except 'On Writing...', but I would add THE STAND, my first exposure to Stephen King, and this remains my favorite. I would also add, IT, ROSE MADDER (awesome), THINNER, BAG OF BONES (SK really stumped me with that one), THE DARK HALF (OMG). I have to stop now because I have not picked up a King novel yet I did not like.
Sha - Philly
Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thanks for your comment Sha! And it's true, it's hard to pick just one or a few Stephen King favorites ; )
Peter SM - Philadelphia
Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Great post, thanks for sharing 
John - Madrid
Tuesday, May 6, 2014