In considering the most seminal of authors, Chloë Moloney pays tribute to the master of horror: Stephen King.
Stephen King is much more than simply a household name. A New York Times bestselling novelist with titles such as The Shining, Misery and IT, King is the pinnacle of horror writing in all its glory. King has written over 50 novels and counting, writing his books faster than his avid readers can devour them. A master of monsters, ghosts and all things horrifying, Stephen King has become one of the most terrifying and exhilarating voices to date.
Stephen Edwin King was born on September 21, 1947 in Maine. Remaining in Maine for college, he wrote a column called Steve King’s Garbage Truck for the college newspaper and participated in the University of Maine’s student government. Both during and after graduating King worked a number of jobs which included: as a janitor, in an industrial laundry, and as a gas pump attendant. Finally, he found permanent work as an English teacher at Hampden Academy.
King’s first novel, Carrie, was published in 1973. It was his wife Tabitha who encouraged King to stick with his original draft, after he initially held doubt over its worth and threw his draft in the bin. Picked up by Doubleday, King’s initial advance for Carrie was $2500 — yet his paperback rights later earned him $400,000. The publication of Carrie allowed King to commit to his writing full time, which led to him leaving his teaching job and pursuing one of the most successful careers in the literary world.
Following on from his debut novel, King has sold over 350 million copies in the horror, supernatural fiction, suspense and fantasy genres. Seven of his works were written under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman, including Rage, The Running Man and Thinner. It has been reported that a bookstore employee discovered the similarities between King and Bachman’s works, and it thus became common knowledge that Stephen King was the man behind Bachman’s words. King decided to discontinue Bachman’s name, claiming that the latter had died from a ‘cancer of the pseudonym’. Despite being most notably recognised for his lengthy novels of epic proportions, King has also written six non-fiction books and over 200 short stories. His collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015) proves that King’s talent is not solely confined to hefty novels. It’s clear that his ability to contain his vivaciously dark imagination into a limited number of words is truly compelling.
Many of King’s works have been adapted for film and television, the most famous of which include Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Surprisingly, it may be the case that some are only aware of King’s screen adaptations rather than his literary works, yet his gift and intellect continue to remain at the crux of his content.
A recurring theme in Stephen King’s oeuvre is childhood. Many of his texts have children at their core, with the fear of ageing and adults prominent in a heady world of irreconcilable confusion at how the adult world operates. One particular novel which stands out as pivotal in this context is IT. With a recent remake of the original 1990 film being released earlier this year, IT is an impeccable example of young comradery in the face of terror.
Behind the words however, Stephen King was afflicted by unquestionable hardship. Suffering from a severe addiction to narcotics and grating alcoholism, King was plagued by his vices. His problem with alcohol was so harsh in fact, that he has little memory of writing one of his best-loved books, Cujo. King spent the majority of the eighties on a binge, his best-selling work fuelled by drugs and alcohol. Despite this, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine King speaks more candidly about his addictions:
Stephen King is not the only wordsmith in his family circle. His latest book, Sleeping Beauties, was written alongside his son Owen King — author of We’re All in This Together: A Novella and Stories and Double Feature. King’s son Joe Hill reached the number one bestseller spot with The Fireman and was nominated for the 2010 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel for Horns, which was adapted into a film starring Daniel Radcliffe. Stephen King’s wife, Tabitha King, is the author of books such as One on One and The Book of Reuben.
Stephen King’s authorial voice is one of the most electrifying and gripping in contemporary literature. Arguably, without King’s personal struggles his work may not be as profoundly lucrative and gritty as it has so wonderfully come to be. King’s writing has caused a delightful storm of cultural appreciation for the horror genre, and his work is both cherished and feared by millions.
For more information on Stephen King, visit his website: http://stephenking.com