So, have I set myself up for a challenge or haven’t I? Since reading a paperback copy of Salem’s Lot, I have been hooked. No word of a lie. If you were to ask me to this very day who my favorite author was I would say it was Stephen King. Sure, I may waffle a little bit more these days, claiming that an unsung novel titled Not Only Am I With the Band… was my favorite title of all time. When push comes to shove my magnetic north, figuratively speaking, always points to Stephen King.
For those of you who care here, in no particular order, are my top ten Stephen King novels.
10. Under the Dome – Claustrophobic in the extreme, this is one of the masters later day masterpieces. I’m even enjoying the TV series, even though it diverges from it’s source material in many fundamental ways. What would happen if the small town you lived in was suddenly and irrevocably cut off from the rest of the world. No way in; no way out. How well might you manage.
You know, ever since I started reading Stephen King I have often wondered how the hell it is he come up with these “what ifs” that seem to make him money hand over fist. My conclusion? Simple. I don’t really care, so long as he continues to come up with new ideas and tread the ground few care to go.
Long live the King, baby!
9. Carrie – If it hadn’t been for ‘Salem’s Lot I may well never have discovered this gem. As I have always done when I discover a new author / artist I immediately look for examples of their earlier works. If there are some then I devour them voraciously. If there aren’t, then I pat myself on the back for having come across and fallen in love with their works before the mainstream has had a chance to sink their teeth into them.
Just in case you have been living under a rock all these years, Carrie tells the tale of a young women coming of age. Thing is, this young woman is a wall flower in the truest sense of the word. Yet, with the onset of her first period a preternatural talent is revealed.
Watch the original to the end and let me know if you don’t or didn’t jump the first time you see the final scene.
8. Different Seasons – I think that this, more than Salem’s Lot, convinced me that King was a power to be reckoned with on the literary front. And while pretty much everything that King has ever committed to paper (save the odd grocery list or three), of this novel’s four tales, it has spawned three movies, two of which actually matter. Those would be The Shawshank Redemption (taken from his novella Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption) and the Stand By Me (taken from his novella The Body). The third entry is a take on the novella Apt Pupil, a novella that holds up a hell of alot better than the movie could ever hope to. But there in lies the rub; there are far more bad adaptations of King’s novels than there are good. All the more reason to appreciate the good.
Yet, reading these tales for the first time spoke to me of all the things of which all great authors are made.
7. The Dead Zone – An incredible work of fiction from a young author still working to find his wings, The Dead Zone pushed and pulled on my heart strings in a way that a run of the mill horror novelist could never hope to. The movie adaptation was one of the good ones and re-introduced me to Christopher Walken, a brilliant actor I had first discovered in the Viet Nam coming of age movie The Deer Hunter.
This tale tells the story of Johnny Smith, an average everyday Joe who is in a severe car accident and is left comatose for the better part of five years. Tragic enough, I know, but when he wakes he can for see the future when he touches a person or an object.
Thing is, what would you do if you came in contact with a modern day Hitler after shaking their hand at a political rally.
A wonderful book turned into a more than adequate movie.
6. Danse Macabre – Not fiction, I know, but this book still had a profound influence on me. Everything that I had been feeling about horror movies/novels that I had never been able to say. If you are just starting to get into the genre or, even if you aren’t, you owe it to yourself to read this brilliant tale of a young man growing up and discovering the genre for the first time.
A little dated these days I know, but it still fucking rocks. Read this in tandem with King’s more unabashedly autobiographical On Writing.
A classic no matter how you slice it.
5. The Green Mile (Serial Story) – After reading the first installment, I could barely wait to read the next. You see, when originally published, this story came out in six monthly parts, putting even the most rabid fans through the ringer.
After reading the first part I knew this was going to be brilliant. That’s how strong the story was.
Odds are those of you who have never read the story have seen it. You see The Green Mile is, in fact, that Green Mile. I can’t even begin to tell you how many folks have confided to me they never imagined Stephen Kin ever writing anything other than the “grisly shit he normally writes.”
To them I always say a brief short words. The Green Mile is most defiantly included in those few brief words.
4. It – Stephen King had frequently threatened to say goodbye to his bread and butter, completely fictional town of Derry. One of my favorite novels of his marks that exact time and place when he decided to cast Derry adrift i literary terms. It tackled the whole coming of age thing. Even though the ending left me somewhat cold, everything else leading up to it is so brilliant, and rings so true, this will always resonate with me on one level or another. The TV mini series based on this novel had the same effect. While necessarily skipping over huge chunks of the story, the tale still managed to pull me in. That is, right up until the end which was every bit as unsatisfying as the novel was.
And if the physical representation of the clown didn’t add up to Tim Currey for you then, I have no fucking idea what your problem is…
3. The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition – So, end of the world anyone? While the original story took me to places that I had never even dreamed of, this “complete and uncut” version of the story helped fill in any lingering doubts I had visa vie the characters I had come to know and love.
If someone says “end of the world story” my thoughts naturally and gladly turn to this, the uncut version of King’s epic end of the world story.
Even if the network mini series hadn’t so accurately cast his diverse characters, I will always LOVE this story.
Captain Tripps anyone?
2. ‘Salem’s Lot – My first Stephen King story and still, it holds a soft spot in my heart. A more modern day retelling of the Dracula tale, ‘Salem’s Lot begs the question “If an ancient vampire suddenly took up residence in a small back water community, would anyone actually notice”.
Truth be told, if it wasn’t for that little drop of blood dripping from the face on the cover’s mouth I may never have taken notice. There was just something about that drop of blood that called to me. Upon reading the blurb on the back I was well and truly hooked.
A modern (well…) day classic if ever there was one.
1. The Dark Tower Series – I know, I know, claiming that an entire seven novel series as being my favorite Stephen King novel is cheating, but I say this to you right here and now. Who, out there that have read the series, can honestly say that one separated for the other. While, on the surface, this comes across as Stephen Kings Lord of the Rings it is well and truly so much more. Rhonda bought the first Dark Tower book, The Gunslinger, along with a number of my Stephen King hardcovers. I was hooked from the get go.
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
One of those understated opening lines of a novel that manages to drag you in.
Who was the man in black? Why was the gunslinger following him? All would become revealed over the course of the first novel and, more importantly, over the next six novels. I know, I know, you count eight covers above. Thing is, King released The Wind Through the Keyhole in 2012 a story that falls between Wizards and Glass and Wolves of the Calla.
Do yourself a huge favour, if you read only one Stephen King novel, make it The Gunslinger. I all but guarantee it won’t be your last visit to his world.