Why Stephen King is ‘king’

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Stephen King was born on September 21, 1947, in Portland, Maine. He graduated from the University of Maine and later worked as a teacher while establishing himself as a writer.

Having also published work under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, King’s first horror novel, Carrie, was a huge success. Over the years, King has become known for titles that are both commercially successful and sometimes critically acclaimed.

His books have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide and been adapted into numerous successful films.

“Under the dome” is one of the most recent of his adaptations.

Stephen King has had an uncanny ability to hit the commercial bull’s-eye from the beginning of his career. In the 40 years since his first novel, Carrie, he has published more than 50 books, all of them international best sellers. Shortly after its release, Carrie was turned into a blood-drenched film by Brian De Palma. And in 1977 King’s novel The Shining, set in a wintry ski resort and featuring a paranormal child and a maniacal father, further showcased his unparalleled gift for psychological terror. When Stanley Kubrick turned that novel into a film in 1980, the Stephen King industry was born. There are now more than 100 films and TV programmes based on his work, and he shows no signs of slowing down – not with his legions of fans, hungry for more.

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From the beginning, King was dismissed as a ‘genre writer’. But really, he is polymorphous. In addition to horror, science fiction and fantasy novels, he has written historical fiction (his recent 11/22/63, in which a man travels back in time to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, won a Los Angeles Times book award and was a New York Times ‘top ten of the year’ pick), Westerns and literary short stories, which he describes as “the way I affirm, at least to myself, the fact that I haven’t sold out”.

King has a talent for putting his readers into the world he creates – whether it be 1960s backwoods Maine, a 1930s Louisiana prison, or a fantasy world entirely of his own imagining. He creates engaging characters who you want to root for and puts them in situations where they have to fight to stay alive. And what’s more: he is not afraid to kill off the good guys, because he knows that in real life, sometimes evil wins. King writes great, snappy dialogue, amazing inner dialogue, and descriptions that range from poignant to chilling.

Stephen King is the only writer who has made me care so much about characters that I have thrown the book across the room when they’ve died – and then ran across to pick it up and keep reading because just like a slave to drugs, I can’t stop.  I have re-read The Stand eighteen times and some of the deaths in there never fail to move me.

Some of his books just keep you up late at night – not just reading them, but lying awake afterward, wondering what lurks in the dark shadows beyond the edge of my doorway. Even though the rational mind knows there is nothing there, he sets the brain working. He is a masterful storyteller indeed.

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Stephen King is the Big Mac of writers (his words, not ours). Unavoidable – an institution. However, unlike the fast food restaurant, King is actually good for your soul and four days ago was his 68th birthday. Which means that he’s been publishing excellent pieces of horror-tinged prose for 42 years and is still going.

Which is pretty incredible. King’s writing is witty, profound and, depending on what age you read his books, a master of suspense/bone chillingly scary.

 

There is no living American writer like Stephen King. Arguably there’s no living American like Stephen King full stop, so unique and idiosyncratic as the writer is. He’s the man behind any number of best-selling novels, horror and otherwise, that generations of readers all across the globe have been perusing under the covers for decades. King has a huge fan following, thanks to both his books and their numerous film adaptations.

King taps into a particular vein of horror. Much of the time the supernatural beasties behind all the scares are particularly fantastical or classically gothic, but almost as often they’re simply symbolic of a much more real and relatable anxiety: fear of death, of abandonment, of addiction, of losing ones family.

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And then there are the ones that are just about scary clowns that coax kids into drains, before turning into a giant spider and devouring them. Having earned a place in the hearts and minds of horror fans worldwide, King has barely stopped for a breather.

€“A new film of ‘It’ is in the works; crime thriller sequel Finders Keepers is out this June; and it was announced this week The Dark Tower would finally see light as a film/TV series combo.

King is one of the most popular €“ if not the most €“widely-read writers in living memory. He’s a household name. For a man who writes such terrifying books, he has a lot of people who love him.

I am certainly one of them.

 

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