Bonnie’s Booke Bytes: King of Horror

Bonnie Godas

Stephen King is a household name all over the world, whether in literature or in film. If you have never read one of his books, novels, or short stories, you probably saw a movie or two, or more that were adapted from one of his forty-seven books, which to me is mind boggling in itself. He is the master of his craft, and can’t get the books out fast enough to his anxious fans of which he has sold over 300 million.

I found it quite interesting to get a background on King and find out what makes this guy tick. What compels an author to write in this genre? When I looked into his childhood history, I sort of got an idea.

Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine in 1947. One day his father told his mother that he was going out for a pack of cigarettes and he never came back. She found herself raising Stephen and his older brother, moving from place to place overcome by incredible financial strains. Finally at age eleven, King moved back with his mother to Durham, Maine where she took care of his grandparents until they died. She then took a job at a mental institute where maybe King got some of his story line ideas (Jack Nicholson going insane in The Shining?)

During King’s childhood, an incident occurred that might have inspired him to write and describe images that are grotesque and shocking. When he was just a small boy, he saw his friend get hit by a train, sending King into a state of shock. King denies that this has affected him, but some say that his writing preferences may stem from this experience.

But his real inspiration came when he wrote Danse Macabre in 1981. He wrote a chapter called An Annoying Autobiographical Pause in which he tells a story of how his grandfather, while dousing for water using an apple branch, made him realize what he wanted to do with his life. The event that sealed the prolific writer’s fate was when a young King discovers a book that was owned by his father: a collection of stories by H.P. Lovecraft. The cover was a monster like creature that was hiding in a cave under a gravestone. King writes:

“The moment of my life when the dowsing rod suddenly went down hard….as far as I was concerned, I was on my way.”

The rest is history. Misery, a short story turned into a novel, could also be in a sense autobiographical, as it is about a writer that is held prisoner by a nurse and slowly tortured because she didn’t like that he was going to kill off one of her favorite characters in the book. Maybe it’s a secret fear of King’s that an obsessed fan could come after him because they didn’t quite like the ending?

He is the master of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and drama, and though you will find some of his books disturbing, you won’t be able to put them down. He is engaging and describes everything to perfection without being too wordy. King makes the reader feel like they “living” the experience firsthand, keeping their undivided attention to the end.

Just after Sunset is the fifth in a collection of thirteen short stories, all published previously except N, which is a story about an amateur photographer who finds a circle of rocks in Maine (where else? – although these places are fictional), that may lead to a monster who is trying to escape into the real world. All of his other stories have been published before, so with his addition of N, which has already been adapted to a series, fans will enjoy the other stories all over again.

In the Gingerbread Girl, the loss of a child is explained in a context that makes you believe that King has actually experienced it or knew someone that has. His characters emanate intense emotion, which is incredibly believable, and makes the reader incredibly sympathetic.

“Emily had always been able to bluff Henry. Even after Amy died. We can have another one, she had said, sitting beside him n the bed as he lay there with his ankles crossed and tears streaming down his face.”

But then, in an instant, the plot can change, taking the reader from being sympathetic to scared and cautiously apprehensive about what will come next. And that is why Stephen King is an amazing writer who can go from the humane to the insane in just an instant, twisting and turning every step of the way and keeping the reader obsessed to the final page.