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Hello, and welcome back to Second Chances where I'm brave enough to give another look at the maligned and forgotten.
It's hard to believe that the foremost horror author of modern times Stephen King has been writing for over fifty years now. I first got into him thanks to the movie The Shining. I know he didn't like Kubrick's adaptation, but it did get me to read the book. And guess what? They're both awesome, just in different ways!
Since then, I have read and/or seen film adaptations of most of King's work, including the stuff he wrote as Richard Bachman. Despite a resume of 58 novels and over 200 short stories, I see only certain titles popping up when people talk about his writing. People bring up The Shining, Carrie, The Stand, and The Dark Tower Saga as well as the more famous film adaptations like Misery, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile. However, I want to start my month-long Halloween celebration by talking about my favorite three books that tend to get lost in the shuffle.
Leave it to Stephen King to find a fresh way to tell a story about vampires. A writer returns to the titular town where he had spent a good chunk of his childhood to research a long-abandoned house only to learn it was bought by a secretive man named Barlow. Soon, vampirism spreads throughout the town like the Black Plague. I've always loved subversive stories, those that take genre cliches and creatively skewers them. All the REAL vampire tropes (not that Twilight crap) are present and accounted for, and it becomes fun when the heroes gain some victories by exploiting them. King himself called this one his favorite, and I have to agree.
This one hits me on a personal level. I've had a deep fear of dogs since a very scary incident with Dobermans when I was four, and a story about an intelligent St. Bernard that gets rabies and becomes a blood-thirsty killer is just the thing to give me nightmares. Fortunately, while the titular dog is a VERY efficient killer who could give Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger a run for their money, the story doesn't leave you rooting for the carnage like the slashers of the time tended to. Donna and Tad, a mother and son who spend most of the book trapped in their broken-down car by Cujo, are likeable, and you actually feel sorry for Cujo himself even when he scares the crap out of you. The book is excellent, and the 1983 film with Dee Wallace is just as good.
This one is my personal favorite. An antique shop opens up in town, and it promises to have the very thing that any customer would want more than anything. All the kindly Leland Gaunt wants in return is a harmless prank performed on someone else in town. The town was already a powder keg ready to blow, and following the escalating chaos was outright addictive. This book has one of the best character ensembles I'd seen in King's work, including the delightfully devious Gaunt himself. The 1993 movie with Max von Sydow was okay, but the book is far superior.
Is there something I missed? What are you reading this Halloween? Let me know. Thanks for all the great stories, Mr. King!