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Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an Americanmarker writer of contemporary horror fiction, science fiction, fantasy literature, and screenplays. More than 350 million copies of King's novels and short story collections have been sold, and many of his stories have been adapted for film, television, and other media. King has written a number of books using the pen name Richard Bachman, and one short story, "The Fifth Quarter", as John Swithen.

In 2003 the National Book Foundation awarded King the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.


Early life

Stephen King was born in Portland, Mainemarker. When King was two years old, his father, who was a merchant seaman, left the family under the pretense of "going to buy a pack of cigarettes", leaving his mother to raise King and his adopted older brother David by herself, sometimes under great financial strain. The family moved to De Pere, Wisconsinmarker; Fort Wayne, Indianamarker; and Stratford, Connecticutmarker. When King was eleven years old, the family returned to Durham, Mainemarker, where Ruth King cared for her parents until their deaths. She then became a caterer in a local residential facility for the mentally challenged.

As a child, King apparently witnessed one of his friends being struck and killed by a train, though he has no memory of the event. His family told him that after leaving home to play with the boy, King returned, speechless and seemingly in shock. Only later did the family learn of the friend's death. Some commentators have suggested that this event may have psychologically inspired some of King's darker works, but King himself has dismissed the idea.

King's primary inspiration for writing horror fiction was related in detail in his 1981 non-fiction Danse Macabre, in a chapter titled "An Annoying Autobiographical Pause". King makes a comparison of his uncle successfully dowsing for water using the bough of an apple branch with the sudden realization of what he wanted to do for a living. While browsing through an attic with his elder brother, King uncovered a paperback version of an H. P. Lovecraft collection of short stories that had belonged to his father. The cover art—an illustration of a monster hiding within the recesses of a hell-like cavern beneath a tombstone—was, he writes,

“the moment of my life when the dowsing rod suddenly went down hard ... as far as I was concerned, I was on my way.”

Education and early creativity

King attended Durham Elementary School and graduated from Lisbon Falls High Schoolmarker in Lisbon Falls, Maine. He displayed an early interest in horror as an avid reader of EC's horror comics, including Tales from the Crypt (he later paid tribute to the comics in his screenplay for Creepshow). He began writing for fun while still in school, contributing articles to Dave's Rag, the newspaper that his brother published with a mimeograph machine and later began selling stories to his friends which were based on movies he had seen (though when discovered by his teachers, he was forced to return the profits). The first of his stories to be independently published was "I Was a Teenage Grave Robber", serialized over three published and one unpublished issue of a fanzine, Comics Review, in 1965. That story was published the following year in a revised form as "In a Half-World of Terror" in another fanzine, Stories of Suspense, edited by Marv Wolfman.

From 1966, King studied English at the University of Mainemarker, where he graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in English. He wrote a column for the student newspaper, The Maine Campus, titled "Steve King's Garbage Truck", took part in a writing workshop organized by Burton Hatlen, and took odd jobs to pay for his studies, including one at an industrial laundry. He sold his first professional short story, "The Glass Floor", to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. The Fogler Library at UMaine now holds many of King's papers.

After leaving the university, King gained a certificate to teach high school but, being unable to find a teaching post immediately, initially supplemented his laboring wage by selling short stories to men's magazines such as Cavalier. Many of these early stories have been published in the collection "Night Shift". In 1971, King married Tabitha Spruce, a fellow student at the University of Maine whom he had met at the University's Fogler Library after one of Professor Hatlen's workshops. That fall, King was hired as a teacher at Hampden Academymarker in Hampden, Mainemarker. He continued to contribute short stories to magazines and worked on ideas for novels. It was during this time that King developed a drinking problem, which stayed with him for more than a decade.

Success with Carrie

On Mother's Day, 1973, King's novel Carrie was accepted by publishing house Doubleday. King has written how he became so discouraged when trying to develop the idea of a girl with psychic powers into a novel that he threw an early draft in the trash because he thought it was childish, but his wife, Tabitha, rescued it and encouraged him to finish it. He received a $2,500 advance (not large for a novel, even at that time) but the paperback rights eventually earned $400,000, with half going to the publisher. King and his family relocated to southern Mainemarker because of his mother's failing health. At this time, he began writing a book titled Second Coming, later titled Jerusalem's Lot, before finally changing the title to 'Salem's Lot (published 1975). Soon after the release of Carrie in 1974, his mother died of uterine cancer. His Aunt Emrine read the novel to her before she died. King has written of his severe drinking problem at this time, stating that he was drunk the night before delivering the eulogy at his mother's funeral.

After his mother's death, King and his family had moved to Boulder, Coloradomarker, where King wrote The Shining (published 1977). The family returned to western Mainemarker in 1975, where King completed his fourth novel, The Stand (published 1978). In 1977, the family traveled briefly to Englandmarker, returning to Mainemarker that fall where King began teaching creative writing at the University of Maine. King has kept his primary residence in Maine ever since.

The Dark Tower books

In the late 1970s, King began a series of interconnected stories about a lone gunslinger, Roland, who pursues the "Man in Black" in an alternate-reality universe that is a cross between J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth and the American wild west as depicted by Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone in their "spaghetti westerns". They were first published in five installments by The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under the editorship of Edward L. Ferman, beginning in 1977 and the last in 1981. It would be continued as a large 7-book epic called The Dark Tower which would be written and published infrequently over four decades, from the 1970s to the 2000s.

In 1982, the fantasy small-press Donald M. Grant (known for publishing the entire canon of Robert E. Howard) printed these stories for the first time together in hardcover form with color and black-and-white illustrations by then up-and-coming fantasy artist Michael Whelan, as The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger. Each chapter was named for the story previously published in magazine form. King dedicated the hardcover edition to his editor at F&SF, Ed Ferman, who "took a chance on these stories." The original print-run was only 10,000 copies, which was, even by this time, a comparatively low run for a first printing of a King novel in hardcover. His 1980 novel, Firestarter, had an initial print-run in trade hardcover at 100,000 copies, and his 1983 novel, Christine, had a trade hardcover print-run of 250,000 copies, both by the much larger publisher Viking. The Gunslinger's initial release was not highly publicized, and only specialty science-fiction and related bookstores carried it on their shelves. The book was generally not available in the larger chain stores, except by special order. Rumors spread among avid fans that there was a King book out that few readers knew about, let alone had actually read. When the initial 10,000 copies sold out, Grant printed another 10,000 copies in 1984, but these runs were still far short of the growing demand among fans for this book. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger was the beginning of his magnum opus fantasy epic. Both the first and second printings of The Gunslinger garner premium prices on the collectible book market, notably among avid readers and collectors of Stephen King, horror literature, fantasy literature, and even American western literature. And it is also desirable among avid fans of the artwork of Michael Whelan.

In 1987, King released the second installment, The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three, in which Roland draws three people from 20th-century United States into his world through magical doors. Grant published The Drawing of the Three with illustrations by Phil Hale in a slightly larger run of 30,000 copies, which was still well below King's typical initial hardcover print-run of a new book. (It, published in 1986, had an initial print-run of 1,000,000 copies, King's largest to date.) King had believed that the Dark Tower books would only be of interest to a select group of his fans, and he had resisted releasing it on a larger scale. Finally, in the late 1980s, bowing to pressure from his publishers and fans who were hungry for the books (at this point fewer than 50,000 of his millions of readers would have been able to own any of the Dark Tower books), King agreed to release The Gunslinger and all subsequent Dark Tower books in trade paperback and mass market formats. The series reached seven books, with the final installment called The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower, in 2004.

In the early 2000s King revised the original book, The Gunslinger, because he felt the voice and imagery of the original stories of the late 1970s did not seem to fit the voice of the final installment of 2004. King felt the style of the work had markedly changed during the intervening 27 years. The revised version was published in 2003 by his former hardcover publisher Viking. Grant published its hardcover limited edition of the revised version of The Gunslinger along with a prequel story set in the Dark Tower world called "The Little Sisters of Eluria" (from King's short story collection Everything's Eventual) in 2009.


In October 2005, King signed a deal with Marvel Comics to publish a seven-issue, miniseries spin-off of The Dark Tower series called The Gunslinger Born. The series, which focuses on a young Roland Deschain, is plotted by Robin Furth, with dialogue by Peter David, and illustrated by Eisner Award-winning artist Jae Lee. The first issue was published on February 7, 2007, and King, David, Lee and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada appeared at a midnight signing at a Times Square, New Yorkmarker comic book store to promote it. The work had sold over 200,000 copies by March 2007.

The Hollywood Reporter announced in February 2007 that plans were underway for Lost co-creator J. J. Abrams to do an adaptation of King's epic Dark Tower series. More recently, Abrams has stated that he would not be taking on the "Tower" project.

Richard Bachman

In the late 1970s-early 1980s, King published a handful of short novels—Rage (1977), The Long Walk (1979), Roadwork (1981), The Running Man (1982) and Thinner (1984)—under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. The idea behind this was largely an experiment to measure for himself whether or not he could replicate his own success again, and allay at least part of the notion inside his own head that popularity might all be just an accident of fate. An alternate (or additional) explanation was because of publishing standards at the time allowing only a single book a year.

Richard Bachman was exposed as being King's pseudonym after a persistent Washington D.C. bookstore clerk, Steve Brown, noticed similarities between the two's works and later located publisher's records at the Library of Congressmarker naming King as the author of one of Bachman's novels. This led to a press release heralding Bachman's "death" — supposedly from "cancer of the pseudonym". King dedicated his 1989 book The Dark Half, about a pseudonym turning on a writer, to "the deceased Richard Bachman", and in 1996, when the Stephen King novel Desperation was released, the companion novel The Regulators carried the "Bachman" byline.

In 2006, during a press conference in London, King declared that he had discovered another Bachman novel, titled Blaze. It was published on June 12, 2007. In fact, the manuscript had been held at King's alma mater, the University of Maine in Orono, for many years and had been covered by numerous King experts. King completely rewrote the 1973 manuscript for its publication.

Confronting addiction

Shortly after The Tommyknockers publication in 1987, King's family and friends staged an intervention, dumping evidence of his addiction taken from the trash including beer cans, cigarette butts, grams of cocaine, Xanax, Valium, NyQuil, dextromethorphan (cough medicine) and marijuana, on the rug in front of him. As King related in his memoir, he then sought help and quit all forms of drugs and alcohol in the late 1980s, and has remained sober since.

Car accident and thoughts of retirement

In the summer of 1999, King had finished the memoir section of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, but had abandoned the book for nearly eighteen months, unsure of how or whether to proceed.

On June 19, at about 4:30 p.m., he was reading a book and walking on the shoulder of Route 5, in Center Lovell, Maine. Driver Bryan Smith, distracted by an unrestrained dog moving in the back of his minivan, struck King, who landed in a depression in the ground about 14 feet from the pavement of Route 5.According to Oxford County Sheriff deputy Matt Baker, King was struck from behind and some witnesses said the driver was not speeding or reckless. King's website, however, says King was walking facing traffic.

King was conscious enough to give the deputy phone numbers to contact his family but was in considerable pain. The author was first transported to Northern Cumberland Hospital in Bridgton and then flown by helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center, in Lewistonmarker. His injuries—a collapsed right lung, multiple fractures of his right leg, scalp laceration and a broken hip—kept him at CMMC until July 9, almost three weeks.

Earlier that year, King had finished most of From a Buick 8, a novel in which a character dies after getting struck by a car. Of the similarities, King says that he tries "not to make too much of it."

After five operations in ten days and physical therapy, King resumed work on On Writing in July, though his hip was still shattered and he could only sit for about forty minutes before the pain became worse. Soon it became nearly unbearable.

King's lawyer and two others purchased Smith's van for $1,500, reportedly to prevent it from appearing on eBay. The van was later crushed at a junkyard after King had severely beaten it with a baseball bat. King later mentioned during an interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he wanted to completely destroy the vehicle himself with a sledgehammer.

A fictionalized account of the accident was written into the last novel of the "Dark Tower" series. Parts of the conversation between Smith and King, as he awaited medical attention, were used in the book, as well as an accurate description of the injuries sustained.

Two years later, King suffered severe pneumonia as a direct result of his lung being punctured in the accident. During this time, Tabitha King was inspired to redesign his studio. King visited the space while his books and belongings were packed away. What he saw was an image of what his studio would look like if he died, providing a seed for his novel Lisey's Story.

In 2002, King announced he would stop writing, apparently motivated in part by frustration with his injuries, which had made sitting uncomfortable and reduced his stamina. He has since resumed writing, but states on his website that:
"I'm writing but I'm writing at a much slower pace than previously and I think that if I come up with something really, really good, I would be perfectly willing to publish it because that still feels like the final act of the creative process, publishing it so people can read it and you can get feedback and people can talk about it with each other and with you, the writer, but the force of my invention has slowed down a lot over the years and that's as it should be."

Later works

In 2000, King published a serialized novel, The Plant, over the Internet, bypassing print publication. At first it was presumed by the public that King had abandoned the project because sales were unsuccessful, but he later stated that he had simply run out of stories.

In 2006, King published an apocalyptic novel entitled Cell.

On August 15, 2007, King was accused of "vandalism" in a bookstore in Alice Springsmarker, Australia, when he was seen signing books he had authored. A customer reported there was a vandal scribbling in volumes in the fiction section.

In 2008, King released both a novel, Duma Key, and his 8th short stories collection, titled Just After Sunset. The latter featured 13 short stories, including a novella, N., which was later released as a serialized animated series that can be seen for free, or, for a small payment, can be downloaded in a higher quality.

In 2009, King published a new novella titled "Ur", written exclusively for the launch of the second-generation Amazon Kindle and available only on, and an audiobook titled Road Rage, including both Richard Matheson's short story Duel and also King's homage to this story, Throttle, co-written by his son Joe Hill.

King's newest novel is titled Under the Dome, a reworking of an unfinished novel he tried writing twice in the late 1970s and early 1980s; it was published on November 10, 2009. It is the largest novel he has written since 1986's It, coming in at 1074 pages. It debuted at No 2 in The New York Times Bestseller list, and No 3 in UK Book Charts. King hinted that Under The Dome will be made into a mini-series.

During an interview session at a book signing in Maryland, King stated he will be writing an eighth Dark Tower novel. The working title is The Wind Through The Keyhole and it will be set during the period between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla.

Jump into comics

As announced on Sunday October 25, 2009 on the 'DC comics Vertigo Blog' that King will help start a new monthly series with short story writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque called American Vampire in March of 2010. This is King's long waited first original work on comics. His son Joe Hill narrated a story in comic form first, with the release of his Locke & Key IDW series in February 20, 2008, beating his father by two years. King however learned first hand on comic production by being over-seer to his Marvel Comics adaptations.

The American Vampire series’ first story arc is planned to be told over the course of five issues. These five issues feature two different stories, one written by Snyder and the other by King. King is given the task to provide the origin of the very first American vampire: Skinner Sweet, a bank robbing, murdering cowboy of the 1880s. Snyder’s storyline focuses on 'Pearl' an ambitious modern woman with starlet dreams, in search of that elusive big break. After the conclusion of the first story arc, no mention as of yet if King is part of the project.

Family life

King and his wife own and occupy three different houses, one in Bangormarker, one in Center, Lovell, Mainemarker, and they regularly winter in their waterfront mansion located off the Gulf of Mexicomarker, in Sarasota, Floridamarker. He and Tabitha have three children and three grandchildren. Tabitha King has published nine of her own novels. Both King's sons are published authors: Owen King published his first collection of stories, We're All in This Together: A Novella and Stories, in 2005; Joseph Hillstrom published an award-winning collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts, in 2005, and his first novel, Heart-Shaped Box will be adapted by Irish director Neil Jordan for a 2010 Warner Bros. release. King's daughter Naomi spent two years as a minister in the Unitarian Universalist Church, in Utica, New Yorkmarker. Naomi now ministers for the Unitarian Universalist Church of River of Grass, in Plantation, Floridamarker with her same-sex partner, Rev. Dr. Thandeka.



Since becoming commercially successful, King and his wife have donated large amounts of money to causes around their home state of Maine and elsewhere, notably to literacy projects.

The Kings' early '90s donation to the University of Mainemarker Swim Team saved the program from elimination from the school's athletics department. Donations to local YMCA and YWCA programs have allowed renovations and improvements that would otherwise have been impossible. Additionally, King annually sponsors a number of scholarships for high school and college students.

The Kings do not desire recognition for their funding of Bangor-area facilities: they named the Shawn T. Mansfield Stadium for a prominent local little league coach's son who had cerebral palsy, while the Beth Pancoe Aquatic Park memorializes an accomplished area swimmer who died of cancer.

On November 6, 2008, King appeared with friend and fellow author Richard Russo to raise money for the Western Massachusetts food bank. The event held by the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley at Mount Holyoke College raised over $18,000 and helped to promote his new collection, Just After Sunset, and Russo's Bridge of Sighs.

Stephen and Tabitha King also donate thousands each year to politically progressive organizations, such as the Maine People's Alliance.


Stephen King is a fan of baseball, and of the Boston Red Sox in particular; he frequently attends the team's home and away games, and occasionally mentions the team in his novels and stories. He helped coach his son Owen's Bangor West team to the Maine Little League Championship in 1989. He recounts this experience in the New Yorker essay "Head Down," which also appears in the collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes. In 1999, King wrote The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which featured former Red Sox pitcher Tom Gordon as the protagonist's imaginary companion. King recently co-wrote a book titled Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season with Stewart O'Nan, recounting the authors' roller coaster reaction to the Red Sox's 2004 season, a season culminating in the Sox winning the 2004 American League Championship Series and World Series. In the 2005 film Fever Pitch, about an obsessive Boston Red Sox fan, King tosses out the first pitch of the Sox's opening day game. He has also devoted one of his recent columns for Entertainment Weekly on the subject of commercialism in Major League Baseball. More recently, King has starred in an ESPN SportsCenter advertisement referencing both his allegiance to the Red Sox and his preferred writing genre (horror fiction).

Radio stations

Stephen and his wife Tabitha own The Zone Corporation, a central Mainemarker radio station group consisting of WZONmarker, WZON-FMmarker, and WKITmarker. The last of the three stations features a Frankenstein-esque character named "Doug E. Graves" as part of the logo and the tagline "Stephen King's Rock 'n' Roll Station."


Since August 2003, King has written a column on pop culture appearing in Entertainment Weekly, usually every third week. The column is called "The Pop of King", a play on the nickname "The King of Pop" commonly given to Michael Jackson.

Political views

In April 2008, King spoke out against HB 1423, a bill pending in the Massachusetts state legislature that would restrict or ban the sale of violent video games to anyone under the age of 18. Although King stated that he had no personal interest in video games as a hobby, he criticized the proposed law, which he sees as an attempt by politicians to scapegoat pop culture, and to act as surrogate parents to others' children, which he asserted is usually "disastrous" and "undemocratic". He also saw the law as inconsistent, as it would forbid a 17-year-old, legally able to see Hostel: Part II, from buying or renting Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which is violent but less graphic. While conceding that he saw no artistic merit in some violent video games, King also opined that such games reflect the violence that already exists in society, which would not be lessened by such a law, and would be redundant in light of the ratings system that already exists for video games. King argued that such laws allow legislators to ignore the economic divide between the rich and poor, and the easy availability of guns, which he felt were the more legitimate causes of violence.

A controversy emerged on May 5, 2008, when a conservative blogger posted a clip of King at a Library of Congressmarker reading event. King, talking to high-school students, had said: "If you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don't, then you've got the Army, Iraq, I don't know, something like that." The comment was described by the blog as "another in a long line of liberal media members bashing the military," and likened to John Kerry's similar remark from 2006. King responded later that day, saying, "That a right-wing-blog would impugn my patriotism because I said children should learn to read, and could get better jobs by doing so, is beneath contempt...I live in a national guard town, and I support our troops, but I don’t support either the war or educational policies that limit the options of young men and women to any one career—military or otherwise." King again defended his comment in an interview with the Bangor Daily News on May 8, saying, "I’m not going to apologize for promoting that kids get better education in high school, so they have more options. Those that don’t agree with what I’m saying, I’m not going to change their minds."

King's website states that he is a supporter of the Democratic Party. During the 2008 presidential election, King voiced his support for Democratic candidate Barack Obama.


Writing style

Stephen King is known for his great eye for detail, for continuity and for inside references; many stories that may seem unrelated are often linked by secondary characters, fictional towns, or off-hand references to events in previous books. Many of the settings for King's books are in Mainemarker, though often fictional locations, especially the town of Castle Rock. (Castle Rock was the setting for The Body; when the novella was adapted for the screen by Rob Reiner, Reiner formed a production company, Castle Rock Entertainment, which has since gone on to produce other King adaptations including Dolores Claiborne, Hearts in Atlantis, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.)

King's books are filled with references to American history and American culture, particularly the darker, more fearful side of these. These references are generally spun into the stories of characters, often explaining their fears. Recurrent references include crime, war (especially the Vietnam War), violence, the supernatural and racism.

King is also known for his folksy, informal narration, often referring to his fans as "Constant Readers" or "friends and neighbors." This familiar style contrasts with the horrific content of many of his stories.

King has a very simple formula for learning to write well: "Read and write four to six hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can't expect to become a good writer." He sets out each day with a quota of 2000 words and will not stop writing until it is met. He also has a simple definition for talent in writing: "If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented."

Shortly after his accident, King wrote the first draft of the book Dreamcatcher with a notebook and a Waterman fountain pen, which he called "the world's finest word processor."

King's writing style throughout his novels alternates from future to past, character development (including character illumination, dynamics and revelation), and setting in each chapter—leaving a cliffhanger at the end. He then continues this process until the novel is finished.

When asked why he writes, King responds: "The answer to that is fairly simple—there was nothing else I was made to do. I was made to write stories and I love to write stories. That's why I do it. I really can't imagine doing anything else and I can't imagine not doing what I do." He is also often asked why he writes such terrifying stories and he answers with another question "Why do you assume I have a choice?"

King often uses authors as characters, or includes mention of fictional books in his stories, novellas and novels, such as Paul Sheldon who is the main character in Misery and Jack Torrance in The Shining. See also List of fictional books in the works of Stephen King for a complete list. On 21 September 2009 was announced he will be started as author for Fangoria.


King has called Richard Matheson "the author who influenced me most as a writer." Both authors casually integrate characters' thoughts into the third person narration, just one of several parallels between their writing styles. In a current edition of Matheson's The Shrinking Man, King is quoted: "A horror story if there ever was one...a great adventure story—it is certainly one of that select handful that I have given to people, envying them the experience of the first reading."

King is a fan of H. P. Lovecraft and refers to him several times in Danse Macabre. Lovecraft's influence shows in King's invention of bizarre, ancient deities, subtle connections among all of his tales and the integration of fabricated newspaper clippings, trial transcripts and documents as narrative devices. King's invented trio of afflicted New England towns—Jerusalem's Lot, Castle Rock and Derry—are reminiscent of Lovecraft's Arkham, Dunwich and Innsmouth. King's short story "Crouch End" is an explicit homage to, and part of, Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos story cycle. "Gramma," a short story made into a film in the 1980s anthology horror show The New Twilight Zone, mentions Lovecraft's notorious fictional creation Necronomicon, also borrowing the names of a number of the fictional monsters mentioned therein. "I Know What You Need" from the 1976 collection Night Shift, and 'Salem's Lot also mention the tome. Another tribute to Lovecraft is in King's short story "Jerusalem's Lot," which opens Night Shift. King differs markedly from Lovecraft in his focus on extensive characterization and naturalistic dialogue, both notably absent in Lovecraft's writing. In On Writing, King is critical of Lovecraft's dialogue-writing skills, using passages from The Colour Out of Space as particularly poor examples. There are also several examples of King referring to Lovecraftian characters in his work, such as Nyarlathotep and Yog-Sothoth.

Edgar Allan Poe exerts a noticeable influence over King's writing as well. In The Shining, the phrase "And the red death held sway over all" hearkens back to Poe's "And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all" from "The Masque of the Red Death." The novella "Dolan's Cadillac" has a theme almost identical to Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," including a paraphrase of Fortunato's famous plea, "For the love of God, Montresor!" In The Shining, King refers to Poe as "The Great American Hack".

King acknowledges the influence of Bram Stoker, particularly on his novel Salem's Lot, which he envisioned as a retelling of Dracula. Its related short story "Jerusalem's Lot", is reminiscent of Stoker's The Lair of the White Worm.

King has also openly declared his admiration for another, less prolific author: Shirley Jackson. Salem's Lot opens with a quotation from Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Tony, an imaginary playmate from The Shining, bears a striking resemblance to another imaginary playmate with the same name from Jackson's Hangsaman. A pivotal scene in Storm of the Century is based on Jackson's The Lottery. A character in Wolves of the Calla references the Jackson book We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

King is a big fan of John D. MacDonald and dedicated the novella "Sun Dog" to MacDonald, saying "I miss you, old friend." For his part, MacDonald wrote an admiring preface to Night Shift, and even had his famous character, Travis McGee, reading Cujo in one of the last McGee novels and Pet Sematary in the last McGee novel, The Lonely Silver Rain.

In 1987 King's Philtrum Press published Don Robertson's novel, The Ideal, Genuine Man. In his forenote to the novel, King wrote, "Don Robertson was and is one of the three writers who influenced me as a young man who was trying to 'become' a novelist (the other two being Richard Matheson and John D. MacDonald)."

In an interview, King said the one book he wishes he'd written is William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

King makes references in several of his books to characters and events in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Robert A. Heinlein's book The Door into Summer is repeatedly mentioned in King's Wolves of the Calla.

In an interview with King, Published in the USA Weekend in March, 2009, the author stated, "People look on writers that they like as an irreplaceable resource. I do. Elmore Leonard, every day I wake up and – not to be morbid or anything, although morbid is my life to a degree – don't see his obituary in the paper, I think to myself, "Great! He's probably working somewhere. He's gonna produce another book, and I'll have another book to read." Because when he's gone, there's nobody else."


King has written two novels with acclaimed horror novelist Peter Straub: The Talisman and a sequel, Black House. King has indicated that he and Straub will likely write the third and concluding book in this series, the tale of Jack Sawyer, but has set no time line for its completion.

King also wrote the nonfiction book, Faithful with novelist and fellow Red Sox fanatic Stewart O'Nan.

In 1996 King collaborated with Michael Jackson to create Ghosts, a long and expensive musical video.

"Throttle", a novella written in collaboration with his son Joe Hill, appears in the anthology He Is Legend: Celebrating Richard Matheson, (Gauntlet Press, 2009).

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red, was a paperback tie-in for the King-penned miniseries Rose Red. The book was published under anonymous authorship, and written by Ridley Pearson. This spin-off is a rare occasion of another author being granted permission to write commercial work using characters and story elements invented by King.

Speculation that King wrote the novel Bad Twin, a tie-in to the series Lost, under the pseudonym Gary Troup has been discredited. This theory was fueled by King being an avid and self-declared Lost fan, having mentioned it and praised it several times in his Entertainment Weekly articles.

King has written a musical play with John Mellencamp titled Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.

King played guitar for the rock band Rock-Bottom Remainders, several of whose members are authors. Other members include Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, James McBride, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount, Jr., Matt Groening, Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Greg Iles. None of them claim to have any musical talent. King is a fan of the rock band AC/DC, who did the soundtrack for his 1986 film, Maximum Overdrive. He is also a fan of The Ramones, who wrote the title song for Pet Sematary and appeared in the music video. King referred to the band several times in various novels and stories and The Ramones referenced King on the song "It's Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)", which is on 1981's Pleasant Dreams. In addition he wrote the liner notes for their tribute album We're a Happy Family. In 1988, the band Blue Öyster Cult recorded an updated version of their 1974 song "Astronomy". The single released for radio play featured a narrative intro spoken by King.

On Sunday, October 25, 2009 the DC comics Vertigo blog news fed was released that King will team up with short story writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque in a new monthly comic book series from Vertigo in March 2010 called American Vampire King is to write the background history of the very first American vampire: Skinner Sweet in the five issues of the first arc. Scott Snyder will write the story of Pearl. Both stories are to weave together to form the first story arc.

Films and TV

Many of King's novels and short stories have been made into major motion pictures or TV movies and miniseries. Unlike some authors, King is untroubled by movies based on his works differing from the original work. He has contrasted his books and its film adaptations as "apples and oranges; both delicious, but very different." The exception to this is The Shining, which King criticized when it was released in 1980; and The Lawnmower Man (he sued to have his name removed from the credits). King seems to have gained greater appreciation for Kubrick's The Shining over the years. Kubrick had described the original novel in an interview as not "literary," having its merits exclusively in the plot. This understandably may have upset King. As a film, The Lawnmower Man bore no resemblance whatsoever to King's original short story. King's name was used solely as a faux-brand.

King has stated that his favorite book-to-film adaptations are Stand by Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Mist.

King's first film appearance was in George Romero's "Knightriders" as a buffoonish audience member. His first featured role was in Creepshow, playing Jordy Verrill, a backwoods redneck who, after touching a fallen meteor in hopes of selling it, grows moss all over his body.He has since made cameos in several adaptations of his works. He appeared in Pet Sematary as a minister at a funeral, in Rose Red as a pizza deliveryman, as a news reporter in The Storm of the Century, in The Stand as "Teddy Wieszack," in the Shining miniseries as a band member, in The Langoliers as Tom Holby and in Sleepwalkers as the cemetery caretaker. He has also appeared in The Golden Years, in Chappelle's Show and, along with fellow author Amy Tan, on The Simpsons as himself. In addition to acting, King tried his hand at directing with Maximum Overdrive, in which he also made a cameo appearance as a man using an ATM that is on the fritz.

King produced and acted in a miniseries, Kingdom Hospital, which is based on the Danish miniseries Riget by Lars von Trier. He also co-wrote The X-Files season 5 episode "Chinga" with the creator of the series Chris Carter.

King is friends with film director George Romero, to whom he partly dedicated his book Cell, and wrote a tribute about the filmmaker in Entertainment Weekly for his pop culture column, as well as an essay for the Elite DVD version of Night of the Living Dead.

King has also made an appearance as a contestant on Celebrity Jeopardy! in 1995.

King provided the voice of Abraham Lincoln in the audiobook version of Assassination Vacation.

In a 2009 episode of Family Guy, "Three Kings", three of King's novels' film adaptations, Stand By Me, Misery, and The Shawshank Redemption, were parodied.


Critical response

Although critical reaction to King's work has been mostly very positive, he has come under fire from several academic writers.

In his analysis of post-World War II horror fiction, The Modern Weird Tale (2001), critic S. T. Joshi devotes a chapter to King's work. Joshi argues that King's best-known works (his supernatural novels), are his worst, describing them as mostly bloated, illogical, maudlin and prone to deus ex machina endings. Despite these criticisms, Joshi argues that since Gerald's Game (1993), King has been tempering the worst of his writing faults, producing books that are leaner, more believable and generally better written. Joshi also stresses that, despite his flaws, King almost unfailingly writes insightfully about the pains and joys of adolescence, and has produced a few outstanding books and stories. Joshi cites two early non-supernatural novels—Rage (1977) and The Running Man (1982)—as King's best, suggesting both are riveting and well-constructed suspense thrillers, with believable characters.

In 1996, King won an O. Henry Award for his short story "The Man in the Black Suit."

In 2003, King was honored by the National Book Awards with a lifetime achievement award, the Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, with his work being described thus:

Stephen King’s writing is securely rooted in the great American tradition that glorifies spirit-of-place and the abiding power of narrative.
He crafts stylish, mind-bending page-turners that contain profound moral truths–some beautiful, some harrowing–about our inner lives.
This Award commemorates Mr. King’s well-earned place of distinction in the wide world of readers and book lovers of all ages.

Some in the literary community expressed disapproval of the award: Richard Snyder, the former CEO of Simon & Schuster, described King's work as "non-literature", and critic Harold Bloom denounced the choice:
The decision to give the National Book Foundation's annual award for "distinguished contribution" to Stephen King is extraordinary, another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life.
I've described King in the past as a writer of penny dreadfuls, but perhaps even that is too kind.
He shares nothing with Edgar Allan Poe.
What he is is an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis.

However, others came to King's defense, such as writer Orson Scott Card, who responded:

Let me assure you that King's work most definitely is literature, because it was written to be published and is read with admiration.
What Snyder really means is that it is not the literature preferred by the academic-literary elite."

In Roger Ebert's review of the 2004 movie Secret Window, he states "A lot of people were outraged that [King] was honored at the National Book Awards, as if a popular writer could not be taken seriously. But after finding that his book On Writing had more useful and observant things to say about the craft than any book since Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, I have gotten over my own snobbery."

In 2008, King's book On Writing was selected by Entertainment Weekly as one of the "The New Classics: The 100 Best Reads from 1983 to 2008". On Writing was ranked 21st..

Influence on popular culture

Since the publication of Carrie, public awareness of King and his works has saturated at a high level, and his works have become as popular as The Twilight Zone or the films of Alfred Hitchcock. As one of the best-selling novelists in the world, and the most financially successful horror writer in history, King is an American horror icon of the highest order. King's books and characters encompass primary fears in such an iconic manner that his works have become synonymous with certain key genre ideas.


  • Spokane Public Library Golden Pen Award 1986: Golden Pen Award

  • Us Magazine 1982: Best Fiction Writer of the Year

See also


King's fictional topography




Additional reading

  • The Many Facets of Stephen King, Michael R. Collings, Starmont House, 1985, ISBN 0930261143
  • The Shorter Works of Stephen King, Michael R. Collings with David A. Engebretson, Starmont House, 1985, ISBN 093026102X
  • Stephen King as Richard Bachman, Michael R. Collings, Starmont House, 1985, ISBN 0930261003
  • The Annotated Guide to Stephen King: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography of the Works of America’s Premier Horror Writer, Michael R. Collings, Starmont House, 1986, ISBN 0930261801
  • The Films of Stephen King, Michael R. Collings, Starmont House, 1986, ISBN 0930261100
  • The Stephen King Phenomenon, Michael R. Collings, Starmont House, 1987, ISBN 0930261127
  • Horror Plum'd: An International Stephen King Bibliography and Guide 1960-2000, Michael R. Collings, Overlook Connection Press, 2003, ISBN 1-892950-45-6
  • The Complete Stephen King Encyclopedia, Stephen Spignesi, Contemporary Books, 1991, ISBN 9780809238187
  • The Lost Work of Stephen King, Stephen Spignesi, Birch Lane Press, 1998, ISBN 9781559724692
  • The Essential Stephen King, Stephen Spignesi, Career Press, 2001, ISBN 9781564147103
  • The Complete Guide to the Works of Stephen King, Rocky Wood, David Rawsthorne and Norma Blackburn, Kanrock Partners, ISBN 0975059335
  • Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished, Rocky Wood, Cemetery Dance, 2006, ISBN 1587671301
  • The Stephen King Collector's Guide, Rocky Wood and Justin Brooks, Kanrock Partners, ISBN 978-0-9750593-5-7
  • Stephen King: A Primary Bibliography of the World's Most Popular Author, Justin Brooks, Cemetery Dance, 2008, ISBN 1587671530
  • Stephen King: The Non-Fiction, Rocky Wood and Justin Brooks, Cemetery Dance, 2008, ISBN 1-58767-160-3
  • Stephen King Is Richard Bachman, Michael R. Collings, Overlook Connection Press, March 2008, ISBN 1-892950-74-X

See also Books about Stephen King

External links

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