Why Stephen King keeps me turning the page…
March 3, 2016
At the end of a school day I usually loitered in the horror section of Dudley Library. James Herbert and Clive Barker were some of my favourite writers but there was one who always stood out. The one I couldn’t get enough of. Stephen King.
I was 13 and I remember checking out battered hardbacks with lurid cover art, terrible typography, and a strapline ‘Words are his power’ (I’d hope so too! He’s an author). I’d hurry to the counter with a stack of books, hand over my library card and placate a concerned-looking Librarian with a parental permission slip. But if it was a Stephen King story, then mostly – I remember being scared.
People think of horror as something read by adolescents. We’re meant to grow out of it. We’re expected to move onto something a little more… ‘literary.’ ‘Put down the book about the Vampire-infested town, and plod through the one about the short, pudgy MI6 spy who looks like a retired bank manager.’
There’s an intellectual snobbery attached to reading genre fiction. This wasn’t helped when King referred to himself as ‘the literary equivalent to Big Mac and Fries.’ But while other genre writers I’d enjoyed in my teenage years fell by the wayside, King still dominates my bookshelves. It’s easy to see why. Too many horror writers focus on gore but the reader becomes immune to cheap shocks and if the story doesn’t have characters that you care about then no amount of blood and guts will have you cowering in the corner.
Whether he’s scaring the hell out of you in The Shining, or telling a story about hope in the darkest of places in his short story Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption (you didn’t realise that was a Stephen King story, did you?), King still does what he always has. He creates characters that you care about and spins a story that keeps you turning the pages long after you should’ve turned out the light. And that’s what makes him my favourite author.