The most haunted of houses is the human mind.
When you read that quote, what does it make you think? Well, it makes me think of one thing. It makes me think of all of the terrifying stories Ive read by the master of the macabre himself, Stephen Edwin King. His mind has conjured up countless novels and short stories to do none other than to scare you out of your mind. His style and vivid detail meticulously planted in every work he does is the reason for such reactions to his horrific books. I invite you to come and discover the man behind the horror and learn what inspires him to write such imaginative novels and short stories.
Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland Maine in the year of 1947(Beahm 1). He has led a very interesting life, and as you will soon see, he has also had his high and low points. The following documentation on Kings life has changed my mind about King. I now think of him as a normal human being instead of someone higher than me.
One of the interesting things of his life is that at the young age of twelve King had begun his writing career. King and his older brother owned their very own newspaper. The paper sold for five cents a copy and was full of local news and fictional works by King (Beahm 2). I found this to be quite humorous. I can see two kids sitting at the mimeograph machine printing out their very own five cent newspaper.
When King was at the impressionable age of four, something occurred that King would hold with him for a very long time. Kings family life was typical, for the fifties. Kings mother stayed at home and took care of the home while the father worked. Stephens mother and father loved both Stephen and his brother Danny very much. Although one night his father stepped out to buy a pack of cigarettes and he was never seen or heard from again after that night. This, as you can imagine, had a very profound effect on the young Stephen King. He recalled in his autobiographical work Danse Macabre that he hardly remembers seeing his mother for the next nine years after his fathers disappearance. His mother worked as hard as she could just to make ends meet (Beahm 1) . When I learned about this particular struggle in Kings life I couldnt help but to empathize with him. I couldnt picture growing up without my father. I cant imagine how much emptiness he must have felt.
Stephen Said that he was first introduced to horror when he was a meager seven years of age. He sat, one night, in the hallway next to his mothers room and he was eavesdropping on a radio show that his mother faithfully listened to every week. The show was a radio adaptation of Ray Bradburys story Mars is Heaven. He said that he was terrified (King 116). He said I slept in the doorway where the real and rational light of the bathroom could shine on my face. He also said that the radio show was worded in such ways that you actually saw what was happening (King 117). He says that he strives for that and from all of the works Ive read I can say he has done exactly that.
If you talk to most people they would say that Kings first novel was Carrie. I had originally thought this too. But it is definitely wrong. King had wrote and submitted four other novels before Carrie, in 1974 (Winter 12). The four novels were written while King attended the University of Maine. The titles for the novels were, Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork, and The Running Man. You might recognize these four books. They were the works written by the late Richard Bachman. Richard Bachman was actually just a pseudonym for Stephen King. King was settled in to multiple deals with publishers and had had three other novels in addition to the four mentioned above (Winter 12). The way he saw it those other books would not see print for at least five more years. So he came up with the idea of releasing them under a different name. He did this as an experiment. To see just how much of his best-selling books were because of his name. The Bachman Books as they were later called, sold alright on the bookshelves. When the information came out that Richard Bachman was actually Stephen King the books couldnt stay on the shelves for very long at all (Winter 12-13).
One of Kings most famous books, however, was Carrie. There is a pretty interesting story behind this first of many more published novels. King started the novel in 1975. When he started writing he liked the idea for the novel. As he progressed he grew tired of the ideas he had. He became frustrated and threw the work he had done right into the garbage can. Later that day while his wife, Tabitha, was cleaning she found the manuscript in the trash-can. She started to read it and she absolutely loved it. She persuaded him to submit it to the publisher. He did and to his surprise he received a book deal. His first contract was for Four-Hundred thousand dollars (Beahm 28-33).
Perhaps the most inspirational thing that King has is the good old state of Maine. If you notice, most of Kings works take place in Maine. He once said, I write about Maine because its what I know best, but I also write about Maine because its the place I love best……You have to spend a lot of time in a place before you start to catch the beat of the peoples voices, their dialects, and the way they live. From this quote you can see how much love he does have for the place in which he lives (King 97). It is this love gives King the drive to give back to the place he calls home. King has given over two point five million dollars to the Bangor Public Library. He is constantly contributing towards new things for the library. The library was dedicated in his honor (Beahm 81). In addition to the library, King found a way to give back to the community by using his other two loves, baseball, and classic rock music. Ever since King was little he enjoyed baseball. He played little league. So what better to do than build a stadium. He forked over one point two million dollars for the stadium that measures a whopping three-hundred and thirty feet down the foul lines. The park has the attributes of a major league ballpark (Beahm 69-70). The next way to give back was by using his love for classic rock. King was driving in his car one day and he found out that the only classic rock radio station was going bankrupt. He was appalled. So he drove down to the radio station and he bought it right then and there. The station is WZON and is still on the air right this very minute. King is also in a hard rock band where he sings and plays the guitar. The band, called The Rock Bottom Remainders, puts on many concerts to benefit different charities (Beahm 72-73).
Perhaps the most inspiration comes from the numerous towns that King has lived in over his lifetime. For example, the town of Orrington, Maine is the town that King and his wife lived in when they were first married. The town inspired him to write his smash novel Pet Sematary. There was a road, called Route 15, that runs straight past Kings old house. Every day there was a different household animal lying dead on the road. King one day noticed a dead tabby cat dead next to the local Hartford Cemetary. He made the connection between the two and his spectacular imagination took over from there (Beahm 44). Then you have the birth of truly a classic novel.
The next town that had influenced King was that of Lisbon Falls in Maine. King went to high school in this town. He graduated from Lisbon High. While he attended that school he knew a troubled girl by the name of Carietta White. He knew she wasnt the sharpest knife in the drawer and then his imagination kicked in and he thought of her maybe having powers normal people couldnt understand. Then the people she didnt like would pay for what they had done. This was, obviously, the model for his first published novel, Carrie (Beahm 40-41).
Derry, Maine. To say this to any King fan is like bringing up the holy land to a religious person. Derry is the town that King spent a lot of time in. The town is fictitious but based on Bangor. The most famous of the Derry books is IT. One of the main places in IT is the Derry Public Library. This place serves as a safe house for the characters in the book. This is significant because King said that he chose the library because he always felt safe and sound in his public library when he was young. George Denbrough is the main character in the book. King came up with the name because he saw it on a headstone from 1845. He saw the name and liked it (Beahm 104-107).
The town of Castle Rock, Maine is the setting for any of the books King writes that has to do with direct evil. The name was taken from William Goldings The Lord of the Flies. King picked Castle Rock because The Lord of the Flies is directly involved with the evil located within living things. His Castle Rock stories directly reflect evil located in a town and people in that town. The town is home to, at this time, seven of Kings works. Those works are The Dead Zone, Cujo, The Body, The Dark Half, The Sun Dog, and Needful Things. The last of which is the one that I will focus on. Needful Things, is a story about a new shopowner in town that is different than any other. Everything in his store has a price. It just depends on how much it is worth to you. For some it is worth their very own soul. Before the shop owner moves into town, everyday life is ordinary and good. As soon as Mr. Leland Gaunt comes to town all hell breaks loose. The small ordinary town turns chaotic. A dog gets skinned and hung in the doorway of the owners house. The kids are throwing fecal matter on virtually everything in sight. The Baptists are in constant fights with the Catholics. The Priest slashes the tires of the Reverends tires and the Reverend defaces the Catholic Church Building. This whole bickering between the two religions is put in a very humorous manner. I think it is needed to keep the reader in a sane state of mind. Just as Shakespeare had to keep the audience sane by adding a little comic relief , I think King did it for this same reason. Mr. Gaunt has a hold on virtually everyone in the town. I think King was trying to say something about society. I think he was trying to say that the devil does have some sort of pull in everyones life. I think Michael A. Morrison, a known literary critic, said it perfectly. He said, Evil is presented in Needful Things} as an evil that resides in every human heart and mind in Castle Rock (DISCovering authors). I agree totally and couldnt have said it better myself.
Now let us talk about Mr. King, stylistically speaking. The first stylistic quality is that of the vivid detail in which he describes everything. He goes as far as to describe the certain smells of things in Bag of Bones. It is truly amazing to the fine points that he has in his writings. Speaking of Bag of Bones, I would just like to say that I wouldve never guessed that King would write a love story. He really has broken his own boundaries that he set for himself in the past. As Gloria Taylor, a literary critic, said, For years, Ive been saying that Stephen King is much more than just a horror writer. And I believe he has not been given credit for taking American Literature and stretching its wings. Bag of Bones, proves me right ( Website for King Fans).
The next stylistic quality is that of the bizarre twists and turns the plot makes throughout the course of any novel of his. I think Bag of Bones is another perfect example. Just as you think everything will turn out good and the hero gets the girl and everything ends happily ever after a man with a shotgun kills everyone at a party except for the hero and a little girl. If that is not taking sharp turns than I dont know what is. Tom de Haven is a literary critic for the Detroit Daily news. He says, Whenever youre positivejust positive!– you know where this ghost story is heading, thats exactly when it gallops off in some jaw-dropping new direction (Detroit Daily News).
The last bit of style has to do with the actual structure of how King writes his works. This is a quality found in all of his works. At the beginning of every new section of writing he does not ever indent the first paragraph of his writing. I found this to be interesting and unusual. Yet how can we not expect it from the master of horror.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I find Stephen King to be the best writer I have ever read and he tells excellent stories.He truly is the coolest guy in the world to me.