The master of horror
I wanted to write to you with a recommendation today and I wanted that to be a book. Naturally, my mind wondered to one of my favourite horror authors, Stephen King, and that is when I hit a brick wall.
I cannot choose just one.
I genuinely cannot choose my favourite King book. I have multiple favourites, hell even the books that are not my favourite ones I can still find things I really like about them. So, today I have decided to talk about my top five most re-readable King books. These are the books I go back to again and again and again. The ones I must replace because the spines give up or the covers fall off.
Probably no one will be surprised to see this one on my list. It was the first King book I read myself, as opposed to watching the films or listening to an audiobook. It holds a special place in my heart.
The story focuses on Louis and his family, who have moved into a house near an extremely dangerous road. The story in its simplest form is about Louis brining his son, killed on the road, back from the dead via cursed ground. But really there is so much more than that to this story. It explores death in an in-depth way that I had not seen before. We explore different attitudes to death from the clinical mind of Louis, to the terrified mind of Rachel (Louis wife) who is badly traumatised by death at a young age to the point she won’t even acknowledge it as a thing, from the calm acceptance of Judd and the childish curiosity of Ellie. It is an amazing book with a fantastic atmosphere, moving characters and high stakes.
I read this book on a holiday to Cornwall, I had been writing my own stories for years by this point and was deeply interested in what King would say about the craft. I spent mornings, evenings and the occasional lazy afternoon in the small Cornish cottage devouring this book. It is more than just an emotionless ‘how to’ guide though there is a ton of practical advice included. It is also an emotional look into King’s early life and career, and it taught me that no one does things alone, reaching our goals does not automatically guarantee happiness and to always hope and work towards something better.
I read this book after watching the Kubrick version with my family. So, I automatically picked Jack Torrance as Jack Nicolson which obviously flavoured the book a bit for me.
I immediately found the book to be better, though this is not necessarily a criticism of the film. Obviously, it is the same basic story, but the book explores so much more than the film ever could. The hotel itself is a character with autonomy and drives rather than a spooky location. Jack is more sympathetic in my view, certainly more fleshed out and well rounded. But this is true of all the character’s and as I said even the ‘location’.
Who does not love a story about a doggo! Like Pet Sematary this story can be summed up simply as big dog does the murder. But there is so much more to it than that.
This story starts out with one of the best boys, Cujo is a great dog … until he gets rabies and goes mental. But in my view, that’s what makes this book so great is that King takes the time to show what a sweet natured good boy Cujo is which makes his downfall into rabid murder boy all the more tragic.
The Green Mile
Easily the best King novel of the 1990s. I remember being a little kid when this came out and it was released as teeny novellas rather than a novel. It felt episodic. I remember going into the next town (I grew up in a really, really tiny English town, we had to go to the next town for books) on the bus with my mum, a fifteen minute bus ride at most, and buying these books. Mum would then start the book on the bus ride home and it would be mostly devoured by the time we reached home.
I did not read it myself for many years after that, but this is one of the strongest memories I have from my early childhood, my mum reading Stephen King on the bus home.
The story of Paul, the supervisor of the Cold Mountain penitentiary death row, and the gentle wrongly convicted murderer John, who is also a healer and empath. This book explores controversial topics such as race and the death penalty as well as the petty cruelties and kindnesses of man. It is not a horror story because of ghosts or goblins, its terrifying because it is reality for a lot of people.
I loved the John’s power was empathy, as his character triggers empathy in readers, putting them in a position they never would have to deal with otherwise.