Stephen King is probably the only famous person in the world who could render me speechless; I have been reading his books since the age of roughly thirteen when I read Cujo and was immediately hooked. Thirty four years on and he is still an author whose books I buy without ever looking at the blurb, the one person on Twitter and Facebook whose posts I never miss and the one celebrity whose dog’s name I know (Molly (AKA The Thing of Evil) a rather cute Corgi).
He has written over 50 novels and almost 200 short stories to date and fortunately for we Constant Readers is showing no signs of slowing down (Just watch this brilliant video where he shows G.R.R Martin how to do it properly) and despite a scare in June of 1999 when he was run over and almost killed, he has never failed to publish at least two books every year. With such a vast bibliography you would think it would be difficult to choose my top 5 Stephen King novels but it really wasn’t, just don’t go expecting them to be the same five books you would have chosen.
The first book that truly scared me; Pennywise the Clown has to be one of the most brilliantly written baddies ever and his horrifying antics would have me skittering across the landing in panic if ever I needed a nighttime toilet trip. The Losers Club were the perfect antidote to all the perfect people that I was drowning in at the time and made me realise that perhaps I wasn’t a complete weirdo and there were other people like me. The bullies and their terrorising of the Losers Club, the beauty of Ben’s adoration of Beverley, Bill Denbrough’s stuttering love of his brother and his loneliness, Richie Tozier’s mouth, Stan Uris, Eddie Kaspbrak, and Mike Hanlon; all of the characters were so perfectly imperfect that I couldn’t help but love them all. Even the final battle between the Losers and IT wasn’t a let down which is so often the case in a book that has you constantly on the edge of your seats. All in all this book is probably the reason I love Horror, and adore Stephen King.
A huge tome, this book gave my arms such a workout but oh how I loved it. Constant Readers will know how King has always weaved a single connecting storyline throughout all of his books and how in his reality there are thousands of universes, all floating along through the same bit of time and space, parallel but unseen. For the most time. Occasionally there will be a ‘thinny’ and then The Low Men in Yellow Coats will appear and that is when all Hell breaks loose. Ralph Roberts cannot sleep, no matter what he tries, no matter what he does, he is getting less and less sleep each night until, desperately tired his mind breaks through the thinny and he begins to see things, Low Men, Cars that breathe and eat, and a future that only Ralph can prevent. I love it and hate it when King tells us that a much loved character is going to die but he does it so well, and no matter how you harden your heart you are broken when the inevitable happens. I may just have to re read this.
The Green Mile
I bought this book when it was being released in monthly novellas; it was sweet torture as it would take me about 3 hours to read the entire thing and then I’d have to wait 4 weeks for my next fix. John Coffee is one of the most endearing and sweet characters I’ve ever read and his inevitable demise is a threat held over us for the entire book, his calm acceptance of his lot, his need to help no matter what the cost to him and his simple belief in right and wrong is a beautiful thing to read. However Green Mile also has one of the most harrowing deaths I’ve ever read in the execution of Eduard Delacroix, one of the funniest scenes in the entire Death Row staff nighttime escapade and will have you blubbing at the cruelties of a world that doesn’t give a damn even when miracles are thrust into their faces. This is King at his finest and a book I have read over and over.
The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon
This barely qualifies as a Stephen King novel, at a mere 213 pages long (Hardcover UK Edition) he must have put this together in a single afternoon but it is such a brilliant story I couldn’t not include it in my top 5. On a family hiking trip designed to be a bonding session for Trisha, her older brother and their mother after the breakup of their parents marriage nine year old Trisha falls behind the other two who are arguing as per usual and after getting no reply to her requests for a bathroom break decides to step off the trail alone. Becoming disorientated Trisha tumbles down an embankment and is hopelessly lost. What follows is an amazing tale of a little girl’s resourcefulness, her reliance on her Walkman and the radio broadcasts of her favourite baseball team and the strange things that happen to her on her journey through the forests both real and imagined. I have no idea how King could make a tale of a little girl walking through a wood into one of the most suspenseful and intriguing tales I’ve ever read, but he did.
The Long Walk
This is one of King’s very very long ‘short stories’. Published in 1979 under the pseudonym Richard Bachman The Long Walk is set in a dystopian future where the world is low on resources and high on pollution and dissatisfied young men. The totalitarian government rules the masses with fear and hope; fear that they will be one of the disappeared for being overheard disagreeing with the way the world is ruled. Hope come from the annual Long Walk, 100 teenage boys who must out walk their opponents to win The Prize which is anything they want provided for them for the rest of their lives. The rules are simple, carry what you can, never dip below four miles an hour and no leaving the road. Three strikes and you’re out. The first time I read this book and the realisation of the cost of dropping below the allowed speed finally dawned on me was I can remember having to put the book down, knowing I was not going to be happy with the outcome of the story. I was right I wasn’t and I can remember sobbing through the last chapters even now.
Of course this is King, there were plenty of close runners for this list, Shawshank, The Dark Tower (only excluded because it’s 7 books and not 1), Desperation and The Regulators, Pet Sematary… They are all amazing but when it comes to my favourites, and my most read King books, these are the five that top the pile.