And now for part two of my list of my favorite Stephen King books. Again, this does not cover his numerous short stories, novellas and screenplays. Perhaps those will be listed at a future date and time. Until then . . . here are the top five (for me at least).
5) Cujo – Cujo was not only the first Stephen King novel I ever read it was also the first “adult” novel I ever read and it definitely left its mark. I devoured the book in three days and went on to read it half a dozen more times over the next decade or so. It’s an easy read for me, plus the intensity of the situation demands one sits down and continues to read. The ending was one at the time that I not only did not know was allowed to be done but that it even could be done. Still haunting and every time I reread it I keep hoping the outcome will be different. And each time left with the shock that it never will be. Plus I have to 100% agree with King’s assessment that Dee Wallace was phenomenal in the movie adaptation.
4) The Shining – I’ve of a mixed mind when it comes to this story, particularly the movies and mini-series adaption. I love the novel and while I get that the movie isn’t 100% faithful in its adaption—Jack starts out appearing off the edge and Wendy is never as strong as I’d like her to be—it’s not meant to be as it was supposed to be more of a Kubrick film than a King adaption. The film has its various scenes that hit the mark and the imagery can be at times jarring and intense. I think Kubrick set out to achieve what he does with it and hits his mark. Faithful adaption or not. Whereas the mini-series was a more faithful adaption, it can unfortunately run a little long at times and never quite hits the creep factor. That being said, if one stays with it through the first five hours the final one is a doozey and worth the wait. Plus, Rebecca De Mornay is great in everything she does. Regardless of whichever adaption you prefer there is always the superior novel, one of King’s greatest, and one of his greatest about writers (Misery may hit that better but that’s one that I LOVE the film far more than the novel to the point that I’ve not reread it since the first time—Probably should by now).
3) ‘Salem’s Lot – The book the (original) miniseries, you name it I love it. The is definitely one of my favorites and probably my favorite original small town as a character, as I had become familiar with Jerusalem’s Lot years before Castle Rock. (Regardless, growing up I wanted nothing more than to live in a small Stephen King-created New England, Maine town). This dense novel is spread out over the numerous townsfolk who are affected by the virus running through town and King does a marvelous job and fleshing them, and their issues, out into full-blooded humans that you feel really do exist. You almost what to know what their lives would have been like had they not been interrupted by bloodsuckers. Will battered wives leave their abusive husbands? Will the picked on kids in school eventually get their comeuppance. Will the dashing author win the heart of a local girl and live happily ever after? You get the point. The villains are also all terrifying and creepy and a sense of foreboding claustrophobia sets in to the reader as one hopes that those caught up in the vampire s wake will make it out alive. Some do. Most do not. Despite knowing where this novel is going I still pick it up and re-read it every couple of years.
2) The Stand – I’ve only read The Stand once (and I’ve been itching to re-read it again this past year and will most likely get to it in 2017) but I still can recall that time in 1994 when I read it. That was in early ’94 before the mini-series came out on TV which I made into a national event at my (parents’) home! I HAD to watch that one and my mother was more than aware of it and made sure I didn’t miss a moment of it. While I highly enjoyed the mini-series, and thought it about as perfect an adaption as TV could get (at the time) I still remember the journey I took when reading that massive thousand page-plus novel. I was thought to be crazy to tackle such a doorstopper but I was totally immersed in the world and the loneliness that was projected onto the survivors as they tried to find connections to other survivors. I felt their longings, conflictions, drives and desires in what I feel was one of King’s most fleshed out (character wise) novels with hundreds of characters. The book took me a full month to finish and I still recall that month with great glee.
1) IT – Out of all of King’s books the one that I have re-read the most and is closest to my heart would be IT. Almost divided evenly into two “parts”, one half follows the kids battling the shape-shifting entity while the other half follows them as adults. The book is not as evenly divided into these two parts as was done with the mini-series as it spreads the flashbacks throughout the many present day scenes, but I actually rather prefer the spreading out of the flashback scenes as opposed to doing them all at once in the beginning, although that does help introduce the characters and get us to fully known them quicker. I knew the kids of the Losers Club when I first read this book (somewhere in the early to mid-90s) and even wanted to be a part of their group. Friends with each of them. Even at the cost of confronting an evil clown. The book is massive, one of King’s longest, at over a thousand pages and it is one of his quickest reads as far as I am concerned. Not only are the characters fully developed and alive, so is the evil child preying clown Pennywise and all of the various forms he takes throughout the novel. I thought that the mini-series in the 90s was well done (for the time) and the casting was pitch perfect, with the biggest flaw being the amount of stuff from King’s novel that didn’t make it into the rather brief 4-hour running time. Had they added another four hours I feel there would be no need for a remake. But alas, Hollywood has come a knocking once again. Unfortunately, it is not as an 8-hour (or so) mini-series (as it should be) but rather as two two-hour movies. Sure they will be more R rated in their gore and intensity, and possibly will feature difference scenes that were originally left out of the miniseries (being deemed too intense for the times), but there will still be chunks of the novel left on the cutting room floor. Perhaps, some day, twenty-eight years or so from now, Hollywood will once again tackle this project and maybe get it 100% right that time. Until that time, we still have King’s glorious magnum opus of a novel that no amount of Hollywood tinkering can begin to alter.