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Stephen (Edwin) King Biography

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Also writes as Richard Bachman. Nationality: American. Born: Portland, Maine, 1947. Education: University of Maine at Orono, B.Sc. 1970. Career: Worked as a janitor, a laborer in an industrial laundry, and in a knitting mill; English teacher, Hampden Academy (high school), Hampden, Maine, 1971-73; University of Maine, Orono, writer-in-residence, 1978-79; owner, Philtrum Press (publishing house), and WZON-AM (rock 'n' roll radio station), Bangor, Maine; actor in films, television, and commercials, 1981—; reviewer, New York Times Book Review. Awards: Balrog Awards, second place in best novel category and second place in best story collection category, 1979; American Library Association's list of best books for young adults, 1979, 1981; World Fantasy Award, 1980, 1982; Career Alumni Award (University of Maine at Orono), 1981; special British Fantasy Award (British Fantasy Society), 1982; Hugo Award (World Science Fiction Convention), 1982; Best Fiction Writer of the Year (Us Magazine), 1982; Locus Award for best collection (Locus Publications), 1986; World Fantasy award for short story, 1995; Tommy Award, 2000. Agent: Arthur Greene, 101 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10178, U.S.A.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels

Carrie: A Novel of a Girl with a Frightening Power. New York, Doubleday, 1974; with an introduction by Tabitha King, New York, Plume, 1991.

Salem's Lot. New York, Doubleday, 1975; with an introduction byClive Barker, New York, Plume, 1991.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger. Amereon Ltd., 1976; published asThe Gunslinger, illustrated by Michael Whelan. New York, New American Library, 1988.

The Shining. New York, Doubleday, 1977; with an introduction byKen Follett, New York, Plume, 1991.

Rage (as Richard Bachman). New York, New American Library/Signet, 1977.

The Stand. New York, Doubleday, 1978; enlarged and expanded edition published as The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. New York, Doubleday, 1990.

The Long Walk (as Richard Bachman). New York, New AmericanLibrary/Signet, 1979.

The Dead Zone. New York, Viking, 1979; movie edition published asThe Dead Zone: Movie Tie-In. New York, New American Library, 1980; The Dead Zone, introduction by Anne Rivers Siddons, New York, Plume, 1994.

Firestarter. New York, Viking, 1980.

Cujo. New York, Viking, 1981.

Roadwork: A Novel of the First Energy Crisis (as Richard Bachman). New York, New American Library/Signet, 1981.

The Running Man (as Richard Bachman). New York, New AmericanLibrary/Signet, 1982.

Different Seasons. (novellas; contains Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: Hope Springs Eternal, Apt Pupil: Summer of Corruption, The Body: Fall from Innocence, and The Breathing Method: A Winter's Tale). New York, Viking, 1982.

Pet Sematary. New York, Doubleday, 1983.

Christine. New York, Viking, 1983.

Cycle of the Werewolf (novella), illustrated by Berni Wrightson. Westland, Michigan, 1983.

The Talisman (with Peter Straub). New York, Viking Press/Putnam, 1984.

The Eyes of the Dragon (young adult), illustrated by Kenneth R. Linkhauser, Philtrum Press, 1984; illustrated by David Palladini, New York, Viking, 1987.

Thinner (as Richard Bachman). New York, New American Library, 1984.

It. New York, Viking, 1986.

Misery. New York, Viking, 1987.

The Tommyknockers. New York, Putnam, 1987.

The Dark Half. New York, Viking, 1989.

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three, illustrated by PhilHale. New York, New American Library, 1989.

Needful Things. New York, Viking, 1991.

The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands, illustrated by Ned Dameron. New York, New American Library, 1991.

Gerald's Game. New York, Viking, 1992.

Dolores Claiborne. New York, Viking, 1993.

Insomnia. New York, Viking, 1994.

Rose Madder. New York, Viking, 1995.

The Green Mile (serialized in six chapters). New York, Signet, 1996; published as The Green Mile: A Novel in Six Parts. New York, Plume, 1997.

Desperation. New York, Viking, 1996.

The Regulators (as Richard Bachman). New York, Dutton, 1996.

The Two Dead Girls (with a foreword by the author), New York, Signet, 1996.

The Bachman Books: Four Early Novels (all previously published, with a new introduction by the author). New York, Plume, 1996.

The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass. New York, Plume, 1997; published as Wizard and Glass, illustrated by Dave McKean. Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, D. H. Grant, 1997.

Bag of Bones. New York, Scribner, 1998.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. New York, Scribner, 1999.

Hearts in Atlantis. New York, Scribner, 1999.

Riding the Bullet (e-book novella). New York, Scribner, 2000.

Short Stories

The Star Invaders. Durham, Maine, Gaslight Books, 1964.

Night Shift New York, Doubleday, 1978; published as Night Shift: Excursions into Horror. New York, New American Library/Signet, 1979.

Stephen King's Skeleton Crew, illustrated by J. K. Potter. New York, Viking, 1985.

Dark Visions. London, Gollancz, 1989.

My Pretty Pony (with Barbara Kruger). New York, Knopf, 1989.

Four Past Midnight. New York, Viking, 1990.

Nightmares & Dreamscapes. New York, Viking, 1993.

Plays

Screenplays:

Creepshow. Warner Brothers, 1982; published as Stephen King's Creep Show: A George A. Romero Film, illustrated by Berni Wrightson and Michele Wrightson, New York, New American Library, 1982.; Cat's Eye, Metro Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1984; Silver Bullet, Paramount Pictures/Dino de Laurentiis's North Carolina Film Corp., 1985, illustrated by Berni Wrightson, New York, New American Library/Signet, 1985; Maximum Over-drive (and director), Dino de Laurentiis's North Carolina Film Corp., 1986, New York, New American Library, 1986; Pet Sematary, Paramount Pictures, 1989; Stephen King's Sleepwalkers. Columbia, 1992.

Television Plays:

Battleground, Martin Poll Productions/NBC-TV), 1987; Tales from the Dark Side (teleplay of episode, "Sorry, Right Number"), 1987; Stephen King's Golden Years, CBS-TV, 1991; Stephen King's The Stand (also executive producer), ABC-TV, 1994; The X-Files (teleplay of episode, "Chinga," with Chris Carter), Fox-TV, 1998; Storm of the Century, ABC-TV, 1999, New York, Pocket Books, 1999.

Poetry

Another Quarter Mile: Poetry. Dorrance, 1979.

Other

Stephen King's Danse Macabre (nonfiction). Everest House, 1981.

The Plant (privately published episodes of a comic horror novel in progress). Bangor, Maine, Philtrum Press, 1982.

Black Magic and Music: A Novelist's Perspective on Bangor (pamphlet). Bangor, Maine, Bangor Historical Society, 1983.

The Mist (sound recording). Fort Edward, New York, ZBS Foundation, 1984.

Nightmares in the Sky: Gargoyles and Grotesques, photographs by F. Stop FitzGerald. New York, Viking, 1988.

Dolan's Cadillac. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1989.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York, Scribner, 2000.

Contributor, The Year's Finest Fantasy, edited by Terry Carr. NewYork, Putnam, 1978.

Contributor, Shadows, Volume 1, edited by Charles L. Grant. New York, Doubleday, 1978.

Contributor, Shadows, Volume 4, edited by Charles L. Grant. New York, Doubleday, 1981.

Contributor, New Terrors, edited by Ramsey Campbell. New York, Pocket Books, 1982.

Contributor, World Fantasy Convention 1983, edited by Robert Weinberg. Weird Tales Ltd., 1983.

Contributor, The Writer's Handbook, edited by Sylvia K. Burack, Boston, Writer, Inc., 1984.

Contributor, The Dark Descent, edited by David G. Hartwell. Doherty Associates, 1987.

Contributor, Prime Evil: New Stories by the Masters of Modern Horror, edited by Douglas E. Winter. New York, New American Library, 1988.

Contributor, The Complete Masters of Darkness, edited by Dennis Etchison. Novato, California, Underwood-Miller, 1990.

Contributor, Shock Rock, edited by Jeff Gelb. New York, Pocket Books, 1992.

Contributor, Death Walks Tonight: Horrifying Stories, edited by Anthony Horowitz. New York, Puffin, 1996.

Contributor, Twists of the Tale: Cat Horror Stories, edited by Ellen Datlow. New York, Dell, 1996.

Contributor, Screamplays, edited by Richard Chizmar. New York, Ballantine, 1997.

Contributor, The Best of the Best: 18 New Stories by America's Leading Authors, edited by Elaine Koster and Joseph Pittman. New York, Signet, 1998.

Foreword, Tales from the Nightside: Dark Fantasy by Charles L. Grant. Sauk City, Wisconsin, Arkham House, 1981.

Foreword, Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks by Richard Christian Matheson. Los Angeles, Scream/Press, 1987.

Foreword, Archie Americana Series: Best of the Forties, created by John L. Goldwater. Mamaroneck, New York, Archie Comic Publications, 1991.

Foreword, Fear Itself: The Early Works of Stephen King, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller. San Francisco, Underwood-Miller, 1993.

Introduction, The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural, edited by Bill Pronzini, Barry M. Malzberg, and Martin H. Greenberg. New York, Arbor House, 1981.

Introduction, Grande Illusions: A Learn-by-Example Guide to the Art and Technique of Special Make-up Effects from the Films of Tom Savini by Tom Savini. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Imagine, 1983.

Introduction, The Blackboard Jungle by Evan Hunter. New York, Arbor House, 1984.

Introduction, Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction of Stephen King, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller. New York, New American Library, 1984.

Introduction, Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In by Joe Bob Briggs. New York, Delacorte Press, 1987.

Introduction, Classic Tales of Horror and the Supernatural, edited by Bill Pronzini, Barry N. Malzberg, and Martin H. Greenberg. New York, Quill, 1991.

Introduction, Graven Images: The Best of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction Film Art from the Collection of Ronald V. Borst, edited by Ronald V. Borst and Margaret A. Borst. New York, Grove Press, 1992.

Introduction, The Fugitive Recaptured: The 30th Anniversary Companion to a Television Classic by Ed Robertson. Los Angeles, Pomegranate Press, 1993.

Introduction, Heading Home: Growing Up in Baseball, photographs by Harry Connolly. New York, Rizzoli, 1995.

Introduction, Horripilations: The Art of J. K. Potter, text by Nigel Suckling. Woodstock, New York, Overlook Press, 1995.

Introduction, The Shawshank Redemption: The Shooting Script by Frank Darabont. New York, Newmarket Press, 1996.

Introduction, Saturday Night at Moody's Diner: Even More Stories by Tim Sample. Camden, Maine, Down East Books, 1996.

Introduction, The Green Mile: The Screenplay by Frank Darabont. New York, Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1999.

*

Manuscript Collection:

Folger Library, University of Maine at Orono.

Critical Studies:

Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction of Stephen King, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller, San Francisco, Underwood-Miller, 1982, new edition, with introduction by King and afterword by George Romero, New York, New American Library, 1984; Stephen King by Douglas E. Winter, Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House, 1982; Dream Makers: The Uncommon Men and Women Who Write Science Fiction by Charles Platt, New York, Berkley, 1983; Stephen King: The Art of Darkness by Douglas E. Winter, New York, New American Library, 1984; Stephen King as Richard Bachman by Michael R. Collings, Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House, 1985; The Many Facets of Stephen King by Michael R. Collings, Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House, 1985; The Shorter Works of Stephen King by Michael R. Collings and David Engebretson, Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House, 1985; Discovering Stephen King, edited by Darrell Schweitzer, Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House, 1985; The Annotated Guide to Stephen King: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography of the Works of America's Premier Horror Writer by Michael R. Collings, Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House, 1986; The Films of Stephen King by Michael R. Collings, Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House, 1986; Kingdom of Fear: The World of Stephen King, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller, San Francisco, Underwood-Miller, 1986; The Stephen King Phenomenon by Michael R. Collings, Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House, 1987; Stephen King Goes to Hollywood: A Lavishly Illustrated Guide to All the Films Based on Stephen King's Fiction by Jeff Conner, New York, New American Library, 1987; The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares, edited by Gary Hoppenstand and Ray B. Browne, Bowling Green, Ohio, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987; The Author Talks by Stephen King (sound recording), Charlotte Hall, Maryland, Recorded Books, 1987; Reign of Fear: Fiction and Film of Stephen King, edited by Don Herron, Los Angeles, Underwood-Miller, 1988; Landscape of Fear: Stephen King's American Gothic by Tony Magistrale, Bowling Green, Ohio, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988; Stephen King: The First Decade, Carrie to Pet Sematary by Joseph Reino, Boston, Twayne, 1988; Bare Bones: Conversations on Terror with Stephen King, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller, New York, McGraw-Hill, Warner Books, 1988; The Stephen King Companion, edited by George W. Beahm, Kansas City, Missouri, Andrews & McMeel, 1989; The Moral Voyages of Stephen King by Anthony Magistrale, Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House, 1989; American Horror Fiction: From Brockden Brown to Stephen King, edited by Brian Docherty, New York, St. Martin's Press, 1990; The Shape Under the Sheet: The Compete Stephen King Encyclopedia, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Popular Culture, 1991; The Stephen King Story by George W. Beahm, Kansas City, Missouri, Andrews & McMeel, 1991, revised and updated edition, 1992; The Dark Descent: Essays Defining Stephen King's Horrorscape, edited by Tony Magistrale, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1992; A Casebook on "The Stand", edited by Tony Magistrale, Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House, 1992; Stephen King: The Second Decade—"Danse Macabre" to "The Dark Half" by Tony Magistrale, New York, Twayne, 1992; Stephen King, Master of Horror by Anne Saidman, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Lerner Publications, 1992; Feast of Fear: Conversations with Stephen King, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller, New York, Carroll & Graf, 1992; The Works of Stephen King: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide by Michael R. Collings and edited by Boden Clarke, San Bernardino, California, Borgo Press, 1993; The Films of Stephen King by Ann Lloyd, New York, St. Martin's Press, 1993; Fear Itself: The Early Works of Stephen King, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller (foreword by King, introduction by Peter Straub, afterword by George A. Romero), San Francisco, Underwood-Miller, 1993; Stephen King's America by Jonathan P. Davis, Bowling Green, Ohio, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1994; More Things That Are Dreamt Of: Masterpieces of Supernatural Horror, from Mary Shelley to Stephen King, in Literature and Film by James Ursini and Alain Silver, New York, Limelight Editions, 1994; Observations from the Terminator: Thoughts on Stephen King and Other Modern Masters of Horror Fiction by Tyson Blue, San Bernardino, California, Borgo Press, 1995; Susie Bright's Sexwise: America's Favorite X-Rated Intellectual Does Dan Quayle, Catherine MacKinnon, Stephen King, Camille Paglia, Nicholson Baker, Madonna, the Black Panthers, and the GOP— by Susie Bright, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cleis Press, 1995; Scaring Us to Death: The Impact of Stephen King on Popular Culture by Michael R. Collings, San Bernardino, California, Borgo Press, 1995; Stephen King by Amy Keyishian and Marjorie Keyishian, New York, Chelsea House, 1995; Writing Horror and the Body: The Fiction of Stephen King, Clive Barker and Anne Rice. by Linda Badley, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1996; The Work of Stephen King: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide by Michael R. Collings and edited by Boden Clarke, San Bernardino, California, Borgo Press, 1996; Maps of Heaven, Maps of Hell: Religious Terror as Memory from the Puritans to Stephen King by Edward J. Ingebretsen, Armonk, New York, M. E. Sharpe, 1996; Stephen King: A Critical Companion by Sharon A. Russell. Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1996; Reading Stephen King: Issues of Censorship, Student Choice, and Popular Literature, edited by Brenda Miller Power, Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, and Kelly Chandler, Urbana, Illinois, National Council of Teachers of English, 1997; Fangoria Masters of the Dark, edited by Anthony Timpone, New York, HarperPrism, 1997; Stephen King: America's Best-Loved Boogeyman by George Beahm, Kansas City, Missouri, Andrews & McMeel, 1998; Stephen King from A to Z: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Work by George Beahm, Kansas City, Missouri, Andrews & McMeel, 1998; Stephen King, edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom, Philadelphia, Chelsea House, 1998; Treks Not Taken: What If Stephen King, Anne Rice, Kurt Vonnegut, and Other Literary Greats Had Written Episodes of Star Trek, The Next Generation?, New York, HarperPerennial, 1998; Imagining the Worst: Stephen King and the Representation of Women, edited by Kathleen Margaret Lant and Theresa Thompson, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1998; The Lost Work of Stephen King: A Guide to Unpublished Manuscripts, Story Fragments, Alternative Versions, and Oddities, Secaucus, New Jersey, Birch Lane Press, 1998; Stephen King Country: The Illustrated Guide to the Sites and Sights That Inspired the Modern Master of Horror by George Beahm, Philadelphia, Running Press, 1999; Stephen King by John F. Wukovits, San Diego, Lucent Books, 1999; On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, New York, Scribner, 2000; American Horror Writers by Bob Madison, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, Enslow Publishers, 2000; Stephen King: King of Thrillers and Horror by Suzan Wilson, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, Enslow Publishers, 2000.

* * *

Stephen King is a prolific, best-selling, internationally famous author who is known primarily as a writer of horror fiction but who has also worked extensively in other genres, particularly fantasy. In his horror stories, King draws on a range of classic motifs, such as vampirism and evil spirits, and masterfully employs a variety of techniques drawn from popular fiction, for example in the way he creates narrative suspense by skilful concealment and timely revelation. But he is not only interested in sensational effects; his novels also provide him with canvases—usually large ones—on which he can explore communities, especially those of small New England towns, and evoke the workings of the human mind, particularly when it is subject to terror and fear.

King's first novel, Carrie, was a powerful debut that introduced a number of his key themes. Carrie, bullied by her fanatically religious mother and shunned by her schoolfriends, finds the psychokinetic power she possessed as an infant reviving with her first period. Humiliated at the high school prom night, she takes a terrible revenge, unleashing her psychic wrath to set the town ablaze and bring about many deaths. Carrie combines King's skills as a horror writer with his insights into the feelings of the vulnerable and the abused, and the combination of these two elements recurs in many subsequent novels, giving them a human interest that deepens their horrific aspects. But Carrie is an uncharacteristically short novel; its success allowed King to work on a larger scale with his next book, Salem's Lot. This novel deals with a vampire takeover of a small New England town, and a significant element of its strength comes from the way in which King carefully, almost affectionately, builds up his portrayal of the life of the community. Most of King's later books are long, and while he has been criticized for this, it does enable him to enrich the complexity of his characterization and narrative. Salem's Lot is also significant in that the key protagonist is a writer—and writers, though rather less successful ones than King himself, will feature in a number of his later novels. Indeed his third book, The Shining, is a powerful story of an unsuccessful author spending the winter as a caretaker with his wife and child in an isolated, haunted hotel; he is prone to drunkenness and violence in a way that terrifies his precognitive son, through whose mind some of the most disturbing scenes of the novel are evoked.

A batch of novels followed that moved away from horror and employed more of a mixture of popular genres. The Stand shows the human beings who have survived the ravages of an escaped germ warfare virus setting out to rebuild civilization. Starting as science fiction, it develops into a powerful fantasy that dramatizes the contest between good and evil. The Dead Zone focuses on a young man with precognitive and telepathic powers who determines to kill a politician whom he foresees will begin a nuclear war if he becomes President. Firestarter echoes Carrie in that its protagonist, a little girl called Charlie, has the power to set off fires and is hunted by a mysterious government agency that wants to use her for malign ends, while Cujo features a monstrously transformed St. Bernard dog that menaces a small New England town.

In 1982 King brought out four suspense novellas under the title Different Seasons, the best-known of which is The Shawshank Redemption, where a prisoner unjustly convicted of his wife's murder spends years digging his way out of his cell. 1982 also saw the first novel of the still unfinished "Dark Tower" series, The Gunslinger. Subsequent novels in the series are The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, and Wizard and Glass, and there are perhaps three more novels to come. The series takes its title and some of its symbolism from Robert Browning's complex, sinister Victorian poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" (1855). Its central character, Roland of Gilead, a gunslinger in a strange, bleak fantasy future with some echoes of our own civilization, is engaged on a quest for the Dark Tower, where he hopes to arrest and possibly to reverse the accelerating destruction of Mid-World. King himself regards this series as a very important work that encompasses the elements of all the other fictional worlds that he has created.

King's horror fiction continued in the 1980s with Pet Sematary, in which pets and people buried in an old Indian burial ground return to life in distorted, savage form, and in which a doctor's attempt to resurrect his dead son has horrific consequences. Christine is about a possessed car, a 1958 Plymouth Fury, that takes over its owners. King collaborated with Peter Straub on the novel The Talisman, which follows a twelve-year old boy on a quest for the Talisman that will save his dying mother, but the styles and narrative techniques of the two writers did not quite gel. In 1986 King returned to his own work with It, which deals once more with a New England town under threat, this time by an evil spirit that lives in its storm-drains and sewers and that a band of children finally destroy. This was followed by the highly praised Misery, in which a writer, badly injured in a car crash, is brought back to life by a woman who insists that he write another book about her favorite character, whom he has previously killed off. A longer, more diffuse novel, The Tommyknockers concerns the finding of a spaceship that sends out vibrations that change the behavior of the citizens of a small town in destructive ways. The Dark Half, like Misery, features a writer who is unable to dispose of a character he has created; Thad Beaumont has written a number of best-selling thrillers under the pseudonym of George Stark, and endowed Stark with a sinister character. But when he tries to kill Stark off, Stark, the "dark half" of his imagination, enters his actual life and starts to murder his friends.

King's books in the 1990s included Four Past Midnight, a collection of novels, of which the most chilling is The Library Policeman, in which a monster that takes the shape of a librarian needs to regenerate itself by feeding off the fears of children and incarnating itself in adult bodies. In Needful Things, a devilish shopkeeper creates conflict among the townsfolk of Castle Rock by offering to gratify their most private desires. Gerald's Game is a tormented, claustrophobic novel in which a wife left handcuffed to a bed in a bondage game, after her husband has died of a heart attack, has to relive an experience of being abused by her father in order to survive. In Dolores Claiborne, a companion housekeeper tells the story of her troubled relationship with an almost insane crippled widow whom she looked after, while Rose Madder follows the trail of a woman who flees from a murderous husband, enters a picture to discover her own powers of resistance, and later persuades her husband to get into the picture, where he effectively murders himself—a remarkable combination of thriller and fantasy elements. Desperation, like The Stand, dramatizes the battle between good and evil, this time in a desolate Nevada town. The protagonist of Bag of Bones is again an author, suffering from writer's block after his wife's death, who returns to their lakeside retreat and starts to uncover dark secrets, while The Green Mile focuses on a strange prisoner awaiting execution for two brutal murders. Hearts in Atlantis comprises five interlinked stories that run from 1960 to 1999 and explore the continuing impact of the 1960s and the Vietnam War. King's greatest achievement of the 1990s, however, is Insomnia, with its harrowing descriptions of an acute form of sleeplessness that produces the power of transcendent vision in an elderly man who, in a town riven by battles over abortion, has to restore the balance between the "Purpose," which ends human lives at the appropriate time, and the "Random," which can cut the thread of life at whim.

King was struck by a car and seriously injured in June 1999, and for a time it seemed that he might be unable to go on writing. However, he has recently enjoyed success with the publication, in electronic form, of the novella Riding the Bullet. Many of his books have been filmed, though the results have rarely met with his approval. His huge output and immense popularity have proved barriers to sustained critical consideration of his work in the past, but now that literary and cultural criticism has broadened its scope to take in popular writing, there is a growing volume of analysis of King as a cultural phenomenon and of the structural and stylistic qualities of his fiction. While the standard of his work is variable, and he can sometimes fall back on the stock devices and images of the horror or fantasy writer, his writing at its best demonstrates a vivid style and a capacity for imaginative penetration into dark and disturbing areas of human psychology that place him in a tradition of American novelists that includes Charles Brockden Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.

—Nicolas Tredell

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