Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Stephen King: Fairy Tale (2022)

Stephen King: Fairy Tale (2022)

With the appearance of his latest, Fairy Tale, Stephen King has published no fewer than sixty-six novels - by my reckoning, at least. That's a lot of novels. Mind you, Wikipedia gives the grand total as 64, but then I've counted in the novel-length screenplay Storm of the Century (1999) and the incomplete online novel The Plant (2000), whereas they included those in different sections of their listings.

These novels include seven written under the pseudonym 'Richard Bachman'; five in collaboration (two with Peter Straub, two with Richard Chizmar, and one with his son Owen King); eight in the 'Dark Tower" fantasy series; three 'Hard Case Crime' paperbacks; and three which have been substantially revised and reissued in new forms since their first appearance: The Stand, The Gunslinger, and 'Salem's Lot.

There's also one, The Green Mile, which was originally published in monthly parts, presumably as an hommage to an earlier fictional entertainer, 'Mr Popular Sentiment' himself (in Anthony Trollope's sarcastic phrase), Charles Dickens.

Most (though by no means all) are set in King's native state, Maine - many in the imaginary towns of Castle Rock and Derry. Others, however, are set in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and even the windy city, Chicago.

There are a couple of interesting cross-connected novel experiments in the King canon: Gerald's Game & Dolores Claiborne (1992), both of which centre around dark deeds done during a total eclipse of the sun in 1962; and Desperation & The Regulators (1996), which treat analogous acts performed by two sets of characters with the same names, but composed, respectively, in the manner of King and his alter ego Richard Bachman.

Stephen King (Sept 21, 1947- )

But why provide so much detail here on Stephen King's bibliography? Well, a year or so ago I was talking to a colleague of mine at Massey Uni, Erin Mercer, and she mentioned a plan she'd devised of rereading all of his novels over summer.

All? I asked.


Every single one? Including all the series and one-offs?

All of them.

I have to say that I had my doubts about the feasibility of this feat. I mean, it's taken me quite a long time to collect them, and it was hard to credit that anyone else could be quite so obsessive. It seems that she managed it, though, and that has inspired me to do the same. Hence the need for this post, to record some of my conclusions while they're still fresh in my mind.

First of all, though, a few listings to establish the precise parameters of the project:

Stephen King: Carrie (1974)


  1. Carrie (1974)
  2. Salem's Lot (1975 / 2004)
  3. The Shining (1977)
  4. [as Richard Bachman] Rage (1977)
  5. The Stand (1978 / 1990)
  6. [as Richard Bachman] The Long Walk (1979)
  7. The Dead Zone (1979)
  8. Firestarter (1980)
  9. [as Richard Bachman] Roadwork (1981)
  10. Cujo (1981)
  11. [as Richard Bachman] The Running Man (1982)
  12. The Gunslinger. The Dark Tower 1 (1982 / 2003)
  13. Christine (1983)
  14. Pet Sematary (1983)
  15. Cycle of the Werewolf (1983)
  16. [with Peter Straub] The Talisman (1984)
  17. The Eyes of the Dragon (1984)
  18. [as Richard Bachman] Thinner (1984)
  19. It (1986)
  20. The Drawing of the Three. The Dark Tower 2 (1987)
  21. Misery (1987)
  22. The Tommyknockers (1987)
  23. The Dark Half (1989)
  24. The Waste Lands. The Dark Tower 3 (1991)
  25. Needful Things (1991)
  26. Gerald's Game (1992)
  27. Dolores Claiborne (1992)
  28. Insomnia (1994)
  29. Rose Madder (1995)
  30. The Green Mile: A Novel in Six Parts (1996)
  31. Desperation (1996)
  32. [as Richard Bachman] The Regulators (1996)
  33. Wizard and Glass. The Dark Tower 4 (1997)
  34. Bag of Bones (1998)
  35. Storm of the Century (1999)
  36. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
  37. The Plant: parts one-to-six of a novel in progress (2000)
  38. Dreamcatcher (2001)
  39. [with Peter Straub] Black House (2001)
  40. From a Buick 8 (2002)
  41. Wolves of the Calla. The Dark Tower 5 (2003)
  42. Song of Susannah. The Dark Tower 6 (2004)
  43. The Dark Tower. The Dark Tower 7 (2004)
  44. The Colorado Kid (2005)
  45. Cell (2006)
  46. Lisey's Story (2006)
  47. [as Richard Bachman] Blaze (2007)
  48. Duma Key (2008)
  49. Under the Dome (2009)
  50. 11/22/63 (2011)
  51. The Wind through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel (2012)
  52. Joyland (2013)
  53. Doctor Sleep: A Novel (2013)
  54. Mr Mercedes: A Novel (2014)
  55. Revival (2014)
  56. Finders Keepers: A Novel (2015)
  57. End of Watch: A Novel (2016)
  58. [with Richard Chizmar] Gwendy's Button Box. Gwendy Trilogy 1 (2017)
  59. [with Owen King] Sleeping Beauties (2017)
  60. The Outsider: A Novel (2018)
  61. Elevation (2018)
  62. The Institute (2019)
  63. Later (2021)
  64. Billy Summers (2021)
  65. [with Richard Chizmar] Gwendy's Final Task. Gwendy Trilogy 3 (2022)
  66. Fairy Tale: A Novel (2022)
  67. Holly: A Novel (2023)

So there you have it: the nature of the crime. Just imagine them all lined up in one bookcase, and you have some idea of what's at stake. I haven't counted the exact number of pages they contain, but it must be in the mid-tens of thousands, at least. "How, given little over half a century of work, did one man become the creative equivalent of a people?" as a reviewer once remarked of J. R. R. Tolkien.

Stephen King: Fairy Tale (2022)

In order of preference:
(... extremely subjective, mind you)

    [Title - date - setting - motifs - comments]:

  1. The Stand (1978 / 1990) - set in Maine, Colorado, Las Vegas, etc. - plague / good vs. evil / Randall Flagg
    A wonderfully compelling book, constructed on an epic scale - King's War and Peace. There's no getting past it, really.
  2. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999) - set near Castle Rock, Maine - survival / psychotic bear
    A wonderful return to form for the Maine battler: a good tale well told with a compelling heroine. It's more like an over-length novella than one of his characteristically bloated tomes, but then the novella has always been one of his best modes.
  3. [as Richard Bachman] The Long Walk (1979) - set in Maine - teen angst / endurance / survival
    My favourite of all the Bachman books, and actually - despite the confined and concentrated nature of the action - one of his very best novels (which is interesting, considering it was the first one he wrote, while he was still at High School!)
  4. The Outsider: A Novel (2018) - set in Oklahoma & Texas - Holly Gibney / shapeshifters / detectives
    Excellent in all ways: an elegant combination of his later detective thrillers and his earlier occult masterpieces.
  5. The Shining (1977) - set in Colorado - alcoholism / haunting / telepathy
    A quantum leap in King's work: still one of his best novels, well-constructed and haunting. I've often suspected that his dislike of Kubrick's epoch-making film comes down mostly to the story's immense autobiographical significance for King. There has to be hope for Jack Torrance, or else there's really none for his creator.
  6. [with Peter Straub] The Talisman (1984) - set in New Hampshire, California, & places between - twinners / battle of good against evil / parallel fantasy world
    A grand attempt at a Huckleberry Finn-like Odyssey across America: compulsively readable. It's hard to tell where King stops and Straub begins, but the latter does seem to have a rather more orotund way of putting things.
  7. Desperation (1996) - set in Nevada - possession / demonic creatures
    One of his strangest and most compelling novels: a kind of supernatural Western. Not to everyone's taste, but definitely to mine - very atmospheric. The washed-up, Mailer-like writer is well protrayed, also.
  8. The Institute (2019) - set in Maine & South Carolina - telepathy, sinister Government agencies
    One of his very best novels, I think: a definite improvement on Firestarter, albeit occupying much the same thematic territory. The escape scenes are particularly well managed, but then, so is the picture of the institute itself.
  9. It (1986) - set in Derry, Maine - aliens / killer clowns / childhood faith
    One of his longest and most ambitious works - perhaps not on the level of The Stand of The Shining, but certainly essential reading. Neither of its film treatments have really done it justice, but both have indisputable merits, too.
  10. Under the Dome (2009) - set in Chester's Mill, Maine - megalomania / climate crime / childhood faith
    One of King's very best books: in it he solves the problem of combining fabular with realistic action first adumbrated in Needful Things: as it turns out, in the process he created an essential book for our times.
  11. Lisey's Story (2006) - set in Maine & Boo'ya Moon - author's widow / parallel fantasy world
    A masterclass in the art of blending fantasy landscapes with a basic underlying realism: a very strong novel indeed. I haven't seen the adaptation, but if it has the effect of drawing attention to this largely unsung novel, then that's definitely a good thing.
  12. Joyland (2013) - set in North Carolina - serial killer / carny folk / coming-of-age
    The best of King's 'Hard Case Crime' novels: well-written, well-plotted, and unforgettable. At heart he's always longed to be a pulp writer, and this is the perfect combo of pulp and King's perfect pitch when it comes to creating empathetic characters.
  13. Mr Mercedes: A Novel (2014) - set in Ohio - serial killer / detectives / Bill Hodges / Holly Gibney
    Quite an amazing departure for King: a completely gripping Hitchcockian thriller, but written with heart. It certainly had the effect of bringing his career to life again - with a vengeance!
  14. Insomnia (1994) - set in Derry, Maine - world of auras / abortion issue / the crimson king
    Underrated - the idea of producing hyperreality through insomnia is a fascinating one, as is the inclusion of a version of the three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. He himself has described it as 'over-plotted' but I'd prefer to use the adjective 'rich'.
  15. Misery (1987) - set in Colorado - psychotic fan / power of fiction / resourceful villain
    The first of King's beleaguered author books: and perhaps the most powerful. Some scenes are almost too gruesome for me to read, but the power of the situation drives all before it.
  16. The Green Mile: A Novel in Six Parts (1996) - set in Cold Mountain, Georgia - prison / miracles
    A sentimentalised film treatment has handicapped this book: the original story is far better constructed, with a much harder edge. When you read it all the way through, and not in its monthly instalments, it works very well indeed as a connected novel.
  17. Rose Madder (1995) - set in Chicago - fantasy world / sexual abuse
    Again, I fell this is a severely underrated novel. The transition from Roses's everyday terror to the equally threatening world of the temple and the labyrinth is very well handled. The incidental details about recording talking books are also fascinating.
  18. From a Buick 8 (2002) - set in Western Pennsylvania - aliens / parallel worlds / mysterious artefact
    King channels Stanislaw Lem. It's clear proof of the skill of an author when they can make a compelling narrative with so little to hang it on: a real tour-de-force
  19. The Colorado Kid (2005) - set on Moose-Lookit Island, Maine - detection / mystery / reporters
    Another tour-de-force: a novella-length meditation on the nature of evidence, if not of truth itself. Hard to fault it, really.
  20. The Waste Lands. The Dark Tower 3 (1991) - set in Mid-World & our world - parallel fantasy world / good vs. evil / western
    One of the best volumes in the Dark Tower saga, I think: Blaine the Mono is a finely drawn character, and it ends on the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers.
  21. The Dark Half (1989) - set in Castle Rock, Maine - author protagonist / twinners / parallel fantasy world
    Continuing the author-in-crisis theme: again, this is almost too guesome to read in parts, but the underlying concept is frighteningly strong.
  22. Fairy Tale: A Novel (2022) - set in Illinois - small town / parallel fantasy world / good vs. evil
    I'm not sure that the fantasy world, Empis, when we finally reach it, is quite magical enough to justify the preamble, but certainly King does a wonderful job of painting the dark world created by his anti-hero.
  23. The Tommyknockers (1987) - set in Ludlow, Maine - flying saucer / alien invasion / telepathy
    This, I think, is a very underrated book: it's good SF and another fine portrait of a weird small town in crisis. The passages about alcoholism are among the most powerful King has ever written on the subject - which is saying something. It was filmed here in New Zealand - pretty well, I think.
  24. Gerald's Game (1992) - set partly in Dark Score Lake, Maine - sexual abuse / imprisonment
    Some parts of this novel are so gruesome that I found myself almost physically unable to reread them. it's thematically as well as stylistically strong, though, and displays his genius for exploring the unthinkably horrible situation in all its gruesome details.
  25. Billy Summers (2021) - set in 'Midwood' & in Colorado - crime / sexual abuse / revenge
    The life of a hitman is well portrayed, and there's a nice tip of the cap to the Overlook Hotel, too. It's not in the very front rank of his work, but there's little to fault in it, either.
  26. Doctor Sleep: A Novel (2013) - set in Florida, Maine & Colorado - alcoholism / haunting / telepathy
    This sequel to The Shining may not be up to its predecessor, but it's still a good novel in its own right. It made a pretty good movie, too.
  27. The Dead Zone (1979) - set in Castle Rock, Maine - haunting / telepathy / carny folk
    The first of the Castle Rock books: well-written and intriguing, even if not up to some of his subsequent works in this genre. The portrait it contains of a kind of proto-Trump has given King a possibly undeserved reputation for prophecy. American fascism was always bound to hit the mainstream sooner or later.
  28. Salem's Lot (1975 / 2004) - set in Jerusalem's Lot, Maine - vampires / writer protagonist
    This is the first of King's microcosm stories: a well-portrayed small town in the grip of supernatural horrors beyond their comprehension. It's only in comparison with his later triumphs in this genre that it looks a bit limited now.
  29. The Drawing of the Three. The Dark Tower 2 (1987) - set in Mid-World & our world - parallel fantasy world / good vs. evil / western
    The clash of styles is one of the oddest features of the Dark Tower series as a whole: here it begins to switch from the Sergio Leone-style portentousness it began with into the frenetic melodrama it would become. It's a very readable book, though - perhaps the most immediately enjoyable of the whole series.
  30. Dolores Claiborne (1992) - set in Little Tall Island, Maine - sexual abuse / murder
    This is, I think, his first use of a female protagonist speaking throughout in the first person - a device more familiar from his short fiction. To my ear, it's accomplished well - and the moment of the eclipse is captured perfectly.
  31. The Wind through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel (2012) - set in Mid-World - parallel fantasy world / good vs. evil / western
    A good fantasy novel, shoehorned very satisfactorily (in my view) into the Dark Tower series
  32. Firestarter (1980) - set in New York & Longmont, Virginia - child in peril / telepathy / government agencies
    A pretty powerful novel - not one of his very best, but definitely well worth reading. I'm not quite sure why it's faded from readers' minds - perhaps because the competition is so stiff.
  33. The Gunslinger. The Dark Tower 1 (1982 / 2003) - set in Mid-World - parallel fantasy world / good vs. evil / western
    This is probably better in its original than in its rewritten form - it has little in common with the later books in the series, but that's in its favour, if anything. It does read more like a collection of linked stories than a bona-fide novel, though.
  34. Carrie (1974) - set in Maine - teen angst / telepathy
    Not one of my favourites, but definitely a well-constructed thriller, strong on characterisation: the little snowball that started an avalanche ...
  35. Dreamcatcher (2001) - set near Derry, Maine - aliens / Downs' Syndrome hero
    There's some great material here, but I'm not sure it succeeds as a whole - it's worth it for some of the incidental scenes, though. King is particularly keen on intellectually challenged characters: Tom Cullen in The Stand, Clayton Blaisdell in Blaze, and 'Duddits' Cavell in this novel
  36. Wolves of the Calla. The Dark Tower 5 (2003) - set in Mid-World & our world - parallel fantasy world / good vs. evil / western
    One of the best volumes in the series: mad, but interesting. I like his faux-Western flourishes here.
  37. The Dark Tower. The Dark Tower 7 (2004) - set in Mid-World & our world - parallel fantasy world / good vs. evil / western
    So much was left to the last volume, that the action can't help but feel a bit rushed at times - a very odd conclusion to a very odd series. I defy anyone who's read as far as this to put it down, though.
  38. Later (2021) - set in Maine - telepathy / necromancy / the ritual of Chud
    This may be more of an occult thriller than a hard-boiled crime novel, but it's very well written.
  39. Cujo (1981) - set in Castle Rock, Maine - feral animal / small town paranoia / child in peril
    Here King introduces one of his most powerful themes: what one might call the revolt of the Americana - in this case a beloved pet dog.
  40. Elevation (2018) - set in Castle Rock - small-town paranoia / escape / death fantasies
    This is more of a novella than a novel, really, but it's very readable and quite intriguing. It's hard to know what to make of it, but need one really say more than that it's a good story, well told?
  41. Cell (2006) - set in Maine & Massachusetts - terrorism / human flocks / zombie apocalypse
    I didn't really enjoy it much on first reading, but it has definitely improved on acquaintance: a good action thriller
  42. Christine (1983) - set in Western Pennsylvania - evil car / haunting / Americana
    Another Americana meditation: this time constructed around the revolt of a cherished classic car. It's rather more melodramatic than Cujo, but very much in the same mode.
  43. End of Watch: A Novel (2016) - set in Ohio - serial killer / detectives / Bill Hodges / Holly Gibney
    This is certainly a powerful piece of storytelling: it may not quite up to the first book in the series, but then what is? The omnipotent killer trope perhaps reaches its apotheosis here.
  44. Pet Sematary (1983) - set in Ludlow, Maine - child in peril / necromancy / Americana
    If you could bring your beloved pet back to life, would you? And how far would you go before you stopped? Another grim piece of Americana. Too grim for me, but certainly a powerful concept.
  45. [with Peter Straub] Black House (2001) - set in French Landing, Wisconsin - parallel fantasy world / serial killer / radio days
    This may not on the level of The Talisman (and with far too much about the so-called Sheikh of Shake, Uncle Henry), but it's a good solid thriller nevertheless. There may be a bit too much Dark Tower fallout here for those unacquainted with that series, but then that's true of much of King's mid-career output.
  46. Duma Key (2008) - set in Minnesota & Florida - painting / haunting
    This has virtually the same plot as Bag of Bones, with the same problems as that novel: the Florida setting and the gallery descriptions are perhaps its best features, accordingly.
  47. 11/22/63 (2011) - set in Lisbon Falls & Derry, Maine, as well as Dallas, Texas - time travel / alternate worlds / Americana
    I certainly enjoyed it, but I wouldn't see it in the front rank of his work: a good solid piece of classical SF, though. It makes an interesting - if not particularly novel - point.
  48. [as Richard Bachman] Blaze (2007) - set in New England - kidnapping / abusive children's home / Americana
    Depressing, and not as poignant as perhaps it's meant to be, it seems in retrospect like a kind of trial run for Billy Summers. It's only because the other books are so good that this one can be relegated to the Bush Leagues like this, though.
  49. [as Richard Bachman] Thinner (1984) - Maine Coast - carny folk / gypsy curse / weight loss
    Bachman takes on more of the trappings of King in this late novel, just before the pseudonym was discovered. It's almost as if he wanted to be found out ...
  50. Finders Keepers: A Novel (2015) - set in Ohio - author's manuscripts / detectives / Bill Hodges / Holly Gibney
    I found the eventual destruction of the dead, Salinger-like writer's notebooks depressingly predictable (could not the boy have xeroxed them in his spare time?) Again, King's villains do have a way of seeming unstoppable against all odds. The weakest link in a very strong series.
  51. Needful Things (1991) - set in Castle Rock, Maine - good vs. evil / materialist fable
    It's never been quite clear to me if this was intended as a purely fabular narrative or a piece of Kingian realism: it doesn't quite work for me, but it's certainly very readable.
  52. [as Richard Bachman] The Regulators (1996) - set in Wentworth, Ohio - parallel fantasy world / good vs. evil / childhood faith
    The Bachman version is more of a curiosity than a real rival to its plot-double, Desperation: it's certainly very readable, though. Hard to know what to make of it, really.
  53. The Eyes of the Dragon (1984) - set in Delain, In-World - good vs. evil / Randall Flagg / fantasy world
    This is more of a pure fantasy novel than anything that preceded it in King's work: it's not especially remarkable beyond that except that it shows his first attempts to find the right tone for his work in that genre.
  54. Bag of Bones (1998) - Derry & Dark Score Lake, Maine - writer's block / haunting
    This is an exceptionally grim tale, with a sting in the tail: I think at this point some readers may have felt that King had shot his bolt as a writer. Little did they know!
  55. Holly (2023) - Bridgton, Ohio - cannibalism / detection
    This is another grim tale, with a hugely loathsome pair of well-heeled cannibal killers. Holly Gibney is indeed a great character, and any power the story has certainly stems from her involvement. It's possible that she may have reached her limits as a plot catalyst now, however. The jury will have to remain out on that one.
  56. [with Richard Chizmar] Gwendy's Final Task (2022) - set in space - averting global catastrophe / dementia
    Here the twin authors try to crank up their 'Gwendy' plot to reach a climax in outer space. the result is definitely impressive, even if not in the front rank of King's other work.
  57. Storm of the Century (1999) - set in Little Tall Island, Maine - vampires / small town paranoia
    I've never read a screenplay-novel before, and I did enjoy it: the mini-series itself (when I finally got to see it) was actually less interesting, I thought.
  58. [as Richard Bachman] Rage (1977) - set in Maine - teen angst / gun violence
    A nicely paced thriller, subsequently repudiated by its author in the wake of claims that it inspired a slew of other school shooters. The raw talent of its youthful author is immediately apparent, though.
  59. [as Richard Bachman] The Running Man (1982) - Co-Op City, Boston, New Hampshire - game shows / Americana / dystopian future
    This is very much in the mode of SF writers such as A. E. Van Vogt and other action-addicted storytellers. It's not really on the level of most of the other 'Bachman' work, though it did make a good vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  60. Song of Susannah. The Dark Tower 6 (2004) - set in Mid-World & our world - parallel fantasy world / good vs. evil / western
    This is a very strange novel: perhaps the least 'standalone' narrative in the entire Dark Tower series. It's certainly readable, though.
  61. Revival (2014) - set in Maine - necromancy / child in peril / dead wife
    One of my least favourite books by King. The powerful episodes he creates do not really cohere, and the idea of 'fifth business' is a bit too dominant, but his speculations on 'the secret electricity' are certainly interesting.
  62. [with Richard Chizmar] Gwendy's Button Box (2017) - set in Castle Rock, Maine - materialist fable / childhood faith
    This is rather a slight premise, but well carried out by the two authors: a novella rather than a novel, really.
  63. Cycle of the Werewolf (1983) - set in Tarker's Mills, Maine - werewolves / good vs. evil / calendar
    This is a strangely circumscribed work which seems to exist more for the illustrations that the plot: once again, a novella rather than a novel.
  64. The Plant: parts one-to-six of a novel in progress (2000) - set in New York - magical curse / nature's revenge
    This was fun to track down: I can see why King has never been in much of a hurry to finish it, but it is entertaining to read the parts of it he managed to complete. Perhaps one day ...
  65. Wizard and Glass. The Dark Tower 4 (1997) - set in Mid-World & our world - parallel fantasy world / good vs. evil / western
    For me, this is the lowest point of the Dark Tower series. The romance is drawn out to inordinate length, and I found myself actually counting the pages remaining to be read: the direct opposite of my usual experience with King's long books.
  66. [with Owen King] Sleeping Beauties (2017) - set in Dooling, Appalachia - parallel fantasy world / men vs. women
    This is interesting in some ways, extremely problematic in others. Overall, I think that it illustrates the difficulty of maintaining a clear balance between the real and the fantastic. Why Dooling? Who is Eve? Why does she get herself locked up at the beginning of the book and sit behind bars the whole time? The characters lack the usual precision of King people, too.
  67. [as Richard Bachman] Roadwork (1981) - set in the Midwest - governmental interference / marital instability / morbid psychology
    This is probably my least favourite King novel pf all: his protagonist is far too self-indulgent and irrational for me, and the action drags as a result. Something had to come in last, and this one represents a path which I'm very pleased that he didn't pursue further.

This is the most controversial (and subjective) part of my project. I have my strong preferences among King's novels - many of them, it seems, at odds with other readers - but the great thing about his oeuvre is that it seems to be able to accommodate virtually all tastes. I've shuffled and reshuffled quite a lot to achieve this list, and I suspect that it's only in a temporary state of equilibrium even so.

Stephen King: Fairy Tale. Signed Limited UK Edition (2022)

(Very) Partial Motif index:

  • Art as haunting (rather than stressing any aesthetic functions it might have):
    • Examples: the novelist in Bag of Bones (1998) / the painter in Duma Key (2008).
      Query: Is this an actual belief of King's, or simply sleight-of-hand to put us off the trail of his own addiction to his art?

  • Omnipotent killers (particularly effective against unwary policemen):
    • Examples: George Stark in The Dark Half (1989) / Norman Daniels in Rose Madder (1995) / The Mercedes Killer in the Bill Hodges trilogy (2014-16).
      One can see how dramatically effective this is in context, but it's a very striking trope. King's books certainly celebrate the 'divinity that shapes our ends', but he allows rather more than equal play to its adversary.

  • Parallel fantasy worlds (with a symbolic link to your own circumstances):
    • Examples: The temple of the Bull in Rose Madder (1995) / Boo'ya Moon in Lisey's Story (2006) / Eslin in Fairy Tale (2022) / Midworld in the Dark Tower series (1982-2012).
      For the most part, this is one of the richest veins in King's fiction. At times, as in Needful Things (1991), the fabular can intrude too far on his basically realistic vision. Doubling the focus enables him to avoid this.

  • Recovering alcoholics (generally self-deluded but basically sympathetic):
    • Examples: Jack Torrance in The Shining (1977); Gardiner in The Tommyknockers (1987); Danny Torrance in Doctor Sleep (2013).
      This is perhaps the most avowedly autobiographical aspect of King's fiction. What larger significance it has beyond this I leave others to speculate on. I suspect, myself, that it's a bit like his obsession with reenacting his near-fatal automotive accident in his work around the turn of the millennium. 'When will you stop talking about it?" his wife is quoted as asking. 'When I can," he replied.

  • A complex web of recurring characters (from other novels or stories):
    • Examples: the punk girl in Rose Madder (1995) reappears in Desperation (1996) with a quick update on events at the women's shelter devastated in the previous novel / Bag of Bones (1998) perhaps sets a record for the number of allusions to characters and locations from other books: Ralph Roberts and Joe Wyzer from Insomnia (1994), Thad Beaumont from The Dark Half (1989), Bill Denbrough from It (1986), and so on.
      This motif (of course) includes the protagonists of such formal series as the Dark Tower books or the Bill Hodges trilogy, but it goes far beyond them. I imagine it's a nod to such pioneers of the regional novel as Thomas Hardy or William Faulkner. At a certain point, your imaginary world begins to become realer than the real one to your readers as well as yourself.

  • Small Town microcosms (as metaphors of larger vehicles of destruction):
    • Examples: 'Salem's Lot (1975) / Castle Rock in Needful Things (1991) / Derry in It (1986) / Under the Dome (2009).
      This he does beautifully, and with the authority of long experience. Se non è vero, è ben trovato, to (mis)quote Giordano Bruno - if it's not really true in all cases, it certainly sounds true.

  • Telepathy: (definitely King's pyschic ability of choice)
    • Examples: Carrie (1974) / The Dead Zone (1979) / Firestarter (1980) / The Institute (2019).
      I guess when it comes to writing in the field of the occult and fantastic, authors have to concentrate on those aspects of it they're actually able to believe in without too much difficulty. For King, this is clearly telepathy and psychokinesis and the whole battery of Rhine-tested skills from Duke University. He manages to extend it to almost unprecedented lengths, however.

I've tried to be concise rather than comprehensive here. In the course of my reading, certain motifs have leapt out at me as particularly revealing. Another reader would make a quite different list. I'd hate anyone to conclude that I think that any King novel can be reduced to a mere assemblage of familiar motifs, however.

Stephen King: Billy Summers (2021)

(By Category)

    [Editions owned by me are marked in bold]:

    Stand-alone Novels:

  1. Carrie (1974)
    • Carrie. London: New English Library, 1974.
    • Carrie. 1974. New York: Doubleday, 1974.
  2. Salem's Lot (1975 / 2004)
    • Salem's Lot. 1975. London: New English Library, 1976.
    • Salem's Lot: Illustrated Edition. 1975. Photographs by Jerry N. Uelsmann. 2004. Introduction by the Author. 2005. Hodder & Stoughton. London: Hodder Headline, 2008.
  3. The Shining (1977)
    • The Shining. 1977. London: New English Library, 1982.
  4. The Stand (1978 / 1990)
    • The Stand. 1978. London: New English Library, 1979.
    • The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1990.
  5. The Dead Zone (1979)
    • The Dead Zone. 1979. London: Futura, 1986.
  6. Firestarter (1980)
    • Firestarter. 1980. London: Futura, 1981.
  7. Cujo (1981)
    • Cujo. 1981. London: Futura, 1982.
  8. Christine (1983)
    • Christine. 1983. London: New English Library, 1984.
  9. Pet Sematary (1983)
    • Pet Sematary. 1983. London: New English Library, 1985.
  10. Cycle of the Werewolf (1983)
    • Cycle of the Werewolf. Illustrated by Berni Wrightson. 1983. London: New English Library, 1985.
  11. The Eyes of the Dragon (1984)
    • The Eyes of the Dragon. Illustrated by David Palladini. 1984. London: Guild Publishing, 1987.
  12. It (1986)
    • It. 1986. London: New English Library, 1987.
  13. Misery (1987)
    • Misery. 1987. London: New English Library, 1988.
  14. The Tommyknockers (1987)
    • The Tommyknockers. 1987. London: Guild Publishing, 1988.
  15. The Dark Half (1989)
    • The Dark Half. 1989. London: New English Library, 1990.
  16. Needful Things (1991)
    • Needful Things. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1991.
  17. Gerald's Game (1992)
    • Gerald's Game. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1992.
  18. Dolores Claiborne (1992)
    • Dolores Claiborne. London: BCA, 1992.
  19. Insomnia (1994)
    • Insomnia. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1994.
  20. Rose Madder (1995)
    • Rose Madder. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1995.
  21. The Green Mile: A Novel in Six Parts (1996)
    • The Green Mile.
      • The Two Dead Girls. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996.
      • The Mouse on the Mile. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996.
      • Coffey's Hands. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996.
      • The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996.
      • Night Journey. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996.
      • Coffey on the Mile. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996.
    • The Green Mile. 6 vols. A Signet Giftpack:
      • The Two Dead Girls. New York: Dutton Signet, 1996.
      • The Mouse on the Mile. New York: Dutton Signet, 1996.
      • Coffey's Hands. New York: Dutton Signet, 1996.
      • The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix. New York: Dutton Signet, 1996.
      • Night Journey. New York: Dutton Signet, 1996.
      • Coffey on the Mile. New York: Dutton Signet, 1996.
    • The Green Mile: A Novel in Six Parts. 1996. A Plume Book. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1997.
  22. Desperation (1996)
    • Desperation. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1996.
  23. Bag of Bones (1998)
    • Bag of Bones. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1998.
  24. Storm of the Century (1999)
    • Storm of the Century. [Screenplay]. New York: Pocket Books, 1999.
  25. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
    • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1999.
  26. The Plant: parts one-to-six of a novel in progress (2000)
    • [The Plant: parts one-to-six of a novel in progress. Bangor, Maine: Philtrum Press, 2000.]
  27. Dreamcatcher (2001)
    • Dreamcatcher. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2001.
  28. From a Buick 8 (2002)
    • From a Buick 8. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002.
  29. Cell (2006)
    • Cell. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2006.
  30. Lisey's Story (2006)
    • Lisey's Story. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2006.
  31. Duma Key (2008)
    • Duma Key. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2008.
  32. Under the Dome (2009)
    • Under the Dome. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2009.
  33. 11/22/63 (2011)
    • 11/22/63. Scribner. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2011.
  34. Doctor Sleep (2013)
    • Doctor Sleep: A Novel. [Sequel to 'The Shining', 1977]. Scribner. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2013.
  35. Revival (2014)
    • Revival. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2014.
  36. Elevation (2018)
    • Elevation. Illustrated by Mark Edward Geyer. Scribner. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2018.
  37. The Institute (2019)
    • The Institute. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2019.
  38. Billy Summers (2021)
    • Billy Summers. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2021.
  39. Fairy Tale (2022)
    • Fairy Tale: A Novel. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2022.

  40. as Richard Bachman:

  41. Rage (1977)
  42. The Long Walk (1979)
  43. Roadwork (1981)
  44. The Running Man (1982)
    • The Bachman Books: Rage; The Long Walk; Roadwork; The Running Man. 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985. London: Guild Publishing, 1986.
    • The Bachman Books: Rage; The Long Walk; Roadwork; The Running Man. 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985. London: New English Library, 1987.
  45. Thinner (1984)
    • Thinner. 1984. London: New English Library, 1986.
  46. The Regulators (1996)
    • The Regulators. 1996. London: New English Library, 1997.
  47. Blaze (2007)
    • Blaze. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2007.

  48. The Dark Tower:

  49. The Gunslinger. The Dark Tower 1 (1982 / 2003)
    • The Gunslinger. The Dark Tower, 1. 1982. Illustrated by Michael Whelan. London: Sphere Books, 1988.
    • The Gunslinger. The Dark Tower, 1. 1982. Rev. ed. New English Library. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2003.
  50. The Drawing of the Three. The Dark Tower 2 (1987)
    • The Drawing of the Three. The Dark Tower, 2. 1987. Illustrated by Phil Hale. London: Sphere Books, 1989.
  51. The Waste Lands. The Dark Tower 3 (1991)
    • The Waste Lands. The Dark Tower, 3. Illustrated by Ned Dameron. London: Sphere Books, 1991.
  52. Wizard and Glass. The Dark Tower 4 (1997)
    • Wizard and Glass. The Dark Tower, 4. Illustrated by Dave McKean. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1997.
  53. Wolves of the Calla. The Dark Tower 5 (2003)
    • Wolves of the Calla. The Dark Tower, 5. Illustrated by Bernie Wrightson. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2003.
  54. Song of Susannah. The Dark Tower 6 (2004)
    • Song of Susannah. The Dark Tower, 6. Illustrated by Darrel Anderson. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2004.
  55. The Dark Tower. The Dark Tower 7 (2004)
    • The Dark Tower. The Dark Tower, 7. Illustrated by Michael Whelan. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2004.
  56. The Wind through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel (2012)
    • The Wind through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel. Illustrated by Jae Lee. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2012.

  57. Hard Case Crime:

  58. The Colorado Kid (2005)
    • The Colorado Kid. A Hard Case Crime Book. New York: Dorchester Publishing Co., 2005.
  59. Joyland (2013)
    • Joyland. A Hard Case Crime Book. London: Titan Books, 2013.
  60. Later (2021)
    • Later. A Hard Case Crime Book. London: Titan Books, 2021.

  61. Bill Hodges / Holly Gibney books:

  62. Mr Mercedes: A Novel (2014)
    • Mr Mercedes: A Novel. Bill Hodges Trilogy, 1. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2014.
  63. Finders Keepers: A Novel (2015)
    • Finders Keepers: A Novel. Bill Hodges Trilogy, 2. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2015.
  64. End of Watch: A Novel (2016)
    • End of Watch: A Novel. Bill Hodges Trilogy, 3. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2016.
  65. The Outsider: A Novel (2018)
    • The Outsider: A Novel. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2018.
  66. Holly (2023)
    • Holly: A Novel. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2023.

  67. Collaborations:

  68. [with Peter Straub] The Talisman (1984)
    • The Talisman. Talisman, 1. Viking. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984.
    • The Talisman. Talisman, 1. 1984. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985.
  69. [with Peter Straub] Black House (2001)
    • Black House. Talisman, 2. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2001.
  70. [with Richard Chizmar] Gwendy's Button Box (2017)
    • Gwendy's Button Box. Gwendy's Button Box Trilogy, 1. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2017.
  71. [Richard Chizmar: Gwendy's Magic Feather (2019)]
    • 'Foreword: How Gwendy Escaped Oblivion.' In Richard Chizmar: Gwendy's Magic Feather. 2019. Gwendy's Button Box Trilogy, 2. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2021.
  72. [with Richard Chizmar] Gwendy's Final Task (2022)
    • [with Richard Chizmar] Gwendy's Final Task. Gwendy's Button Box Trilogy, 3. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2022.
  73. Sleeping Beauties (2017)
    • [with Owen King] Sleeping Beauties. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2017.

I thought it might be useful to provide this third list of King's novels sorted by categories, with details of the actual copies I've read - for fellow King-maniacs, that is, and it's hard to imagine that anyone else would have read this far in my post ...

Stephen King: If It Bleeds: Four Novellas (2020)

Other Works
(By Category)

    [Editions owned by me are marked in bold]:

    Stories & Novellas:

  1. Night Shift (1978)
    • Night Shift. Introduction by John D. MacDonald. 1978. London: New English Library, 1979.
    • Night Shift. Introduction by John D. MacDonald. 1978. London: BCA, 1991.
  2. Different Seasons (1982)
    • Different Seasons. 1982. London: Book Club Associates, 1983.
    • Different Seasons. 1982. London: Futura, 1984.
  3. Skeleton Crew (1986)
    • Skeleton Crew. 1985. London: Futura, 1986.
  4. Four Past Midnight (1990)
    • Four Past Midnight. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1990.
  5. Nightmares and Dreamscapes (1993)
    • Nightmares and Dreamscapes. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1993.
  6. Hearts in Atlantis (1999)
    • Hearts in Atlantis. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1999.
  7. Everything's Eventual (2002)
    • Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002.
  8. Just After Sunset (2008)
    • Just After Sunset. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2008.
  9. Stephen King Goes to the Movies (2009)
    • Stephen King Goes to the Movies. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2009.
  10. Full Dark, No Stars (2010)
    • Full Dark, No Stars. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2010.
  11. Blockade Billy / Morality (2010)
    • Blockade Billy / Morality. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2010.
  12. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015)
    • The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2015.
  13. If It Bleeds (2020)
    • If It Bleeds. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2020.
  14. You Like it Darker (2024)
    • You Like it Darker. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2024.

  15. Non-fiction:

  16. Danse Macabre (1981)
    • Danse Macabre. London: Macdonald Futura Publishers, 1981.
    • Danse Macabre. 1981. New York: Berkley Books, 1984.
  17. Nightmares in the Sky (1988)
    • Nightmares in the Sky: Gargoyles and Grotesques. Photographs by F-stop Fitzgerald. Viking Studio Books. New York: Viking Penguin Inc., 1988.
  18. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000)
    • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2000.
  19. Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing (2000)
    • Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing. Introduction by Peter Straub. New York: Book-of-the-Month Club, 2000.
  20. [with Stewart O'Nan] Faithful (2004)
    • Faithful: Two Die-Hard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season. 2004. Scribner. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.
  21. Hearts in Suspension, ed. Jim Bishop (2016)
    • Hearts in Suspension: Essay and Novella by Stephen King; Personal Narratives by Michael Alpert, Jim Bishop, David Bright, Keith Carreiro, Harold Crosby, Sherry Dec, Bruce Holsapple, Frank Kadi, Daina McPherson, Lary Moscowitz, Jim H. Smith & Philip Thompson. Ed. Jim Bishop. Orono, Maine: University of Maine Press, 2016.

  22. Edited:

  23. [with Bev Vincent] Flight or Fright. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., 2018.

I've concluded with a list of King's other works - those in my possession, that is. There's an immense penumbra of ephemera: chapbooks, web publications, and special limited editions which are not precisely my bag but which constitute the main locus of interest for booktraders and the more or less specialised investors who are their principal audience.

There's also a huge amount of secondary material which I haven't (yet) started seriously collecting - though I do wonder at times if I should invest in some of the secondary works surrounding The Dark Tower, in particular [cf. my post on the comics adaptations of this work scripted by Robin Furth, author of The Dark Tower Concordance (2003-12)].

In any case, this is where I am at present, and I hope that at least some of these thoughts (and listings) may be of use to other readers.

George Beahm: The Stephen King Companion (1989)


  • Tim Underwood & Chuck Miller. Bare Bones: Conversations on Terror with Stephen King. 1988. London: New English Library, 1990.
  • George Beahm, ed. The Stephen King Companion. 1989. London: Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd., 1990.
  • Lisa Rogak. Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King. London: JR Books, 2009.

Lisa Rogak: Haunted Heart (2009)


stephen said...

Just thinking about your comment that The Dark Tower reads more like a collection of short stories: I have a dim memory of reading Dark Tower stories as a teenager in the old Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and half-suspect that is indeed how the book began life...

Dr Jack Ross said...

Yes, the other volumes are all composed as novel-length narratives - but that first one is definitely a set of linked stories. Which is its strength, really, I think. Was it illustrated in its original form, do you remember?

stephen said...

Memory of this period is poor, I confess. But I seem to remember that at least at that time, MF&SF was not illustrated. Cool covers but just plain text interior. I don't remember any illustrations... I found this which sheds some light on it all: