We celebrate the author known to many as the father of modern horror. For a generation of readers, Stephen King is the voice of the underbelly of small-town America, having made his name as the author of cult classics (with an equally strong legacy of film adaptations) including Carrie, The Shining, The Green Mile, The Stand, Pet Sematary, IT, Under the Dome and The Tommyknockers. If there's an author who knows how to mine the dark recesses of the human imagination, it's King.
The Dark Tower
Born in Portland, Maine in 1947, Stephen King’s first published story, I Was a Teenage Grave Robber, appeared in 1965 in a fan magazine called Comics Review but it wasn’t until 1967 that he made any money from his writing, selling a short story entitled The Glass Floor to Startling Mystery Stories.
Cruelty and Telekenesis
Stephen King says the credit for his first published novel and breakthrough success, Carrie, lies in part, with his wife Tabitha. King had been working on fiction in his spare time, in the meantime trying to make ends meet by working as a high school teacher and in an industrial laundry. King claims he was idly thinking about his own high-school experiences when: "POW! Two unrelated ideas, adolescent cruelty and telekinesis, came together, and I had an idea…" The idea became the first draft of Carrie, but not before his wife had fished the discarded early pages out of the bin, insisting to know the rest of the story.
King’s second story Salem’s Lot was written in his mother’s garage whilst he nursed her through the final stages of cancer. During the next ten years, King battled with alcoholism, writing about the experiences in his popular non-fiction guide On Writing.
The Father of Modern Horror
Over the next few years the King family lived variously in Boulder, Colarado even spent a short three-month stay in England before settling in Maine. During the seventies and eighties King wrote his best-known cult horror classics, many of them being adapted into films (some of which King stared in playing cameo roles), including The Shining, The Stand, The Dead Zone, Pet Sematary, IT and Misery.
King started writing novels in the late seventies under the name of Richard Bachman including The Running Man. During this time he also began to collaborate, working with authors including Peter Straub on the novels The Talisman and Black House. More recently King has collaborated with the author Richard Chizmar on Gwendy’s Button Box and worked with his sons, the authors Joe Hill and Owen King most recently on the 2017 novel Sleeping Beauties.
Dark Tower Rising
Begin in the late seventies, King’s series The Dark Tower tells the story of Roland Deschain, the world’s last gunslinger in the fantasy post-apocalyptic Mid-World. The series, which stretched over eight novels and took four decades to write, is widely regarded as amongst his best work.
The author of more than fifty novels and over 200 short-stories King is fast catching at the heels of even Agatha Christie’s fabled prolific output. Working across film and television (his credits include a series of the X-Files and the popular adaptation of his novel Under the Dome) as well as writing comic books and working across digital platforms.
Tackling everything from adolescent isolation to American race-relations King’s works have been recognised as changing the accepted stereotype of what horror is for. Amongst the legion of writers who claim King as a major influence, the writer James Smythe says of King: "He traps small groups of characters in single locations and lets the story play out how it will… Doesn’t matter if it’s forty thousand words or two hundred, King doesn’t waste a word."