Nov 18, 2008

A Look at Scary Books - Stephen King

During October's Scary Book Contest readers were invited to comment on the most frightening book they have ever read. I thought it would be interesting to give information on the novels or short stories that listed. The works of author Stephen King were mentioned more often than any other writer.

Here (according to PVN readers) are his scariest stories, in alphabetical order:

Bag of Bones: 10th Anniversary Edition
Scribner; Anv edition (October 21, 2008). Originally published in 1998.
From the publisher:

Set in the Maine territory King has made mythic, Bag of Bones recounts the plight of 40-year-old bestselling novelist Mike Noonan, who is unable to stop grieving even four years after the sudden death of his wife, Jo, and who can no longer bear to face the blank screen of his word processor.

Now his nights are plagued by vivid nightmares of the house by the lake. Despite these dreams, or perhaps because of them, Mike finally returns to Sara Laughs, the Noonans' isolated summer home.

He finds his beloved Yankee town familiar on its surface, but much changed underneath -- held in the grip of a powerful millionaire, Max Devore, who twists the very fabric of the community to his purpose: to take his three-year-old granddaughter away from her widowed young mother. As Mike is drawn into their struggle, as he falls in love with both of them, he is also drawn into the mystery of Sara Laughs, now the site of ghostly visitations, ever-escalating nightmares, and the sudden recovery of his writing ability. What are the forces that have been unleashed here -- and what do they want of Mike Noonan?

Carrie. Doubleday, 1974.
From the publisher: Carrie was the odd one at school; the one whose reflexes were always off in games, whose clothes never really fit, who never got the point of a joke. And so she became the joke, the brunt of teenaged cruelties that puzzled her as much as they wounded her.

There was hardly any comfort in playing her private game, because like so many things in Carrie's life, it was sinful. Or so her mother said. Carrie could make things move--by concentrating on them, by willing them to move. Small things, like marbles, would start dancing. Or a candle would fall. A door would lock. This was her game, her power, her sin, firmly repressed like everything else about Carrie.

One act of kindness, as spontaneous as the vicious jokes of her classmates, offered Carrie a new look at herself the fateful night of her senior prom. But another act--of furious cruelty--forever changed things and turned her clandestine game in to a weapon of horror and destruction.

She made a lighted candle fall, and she locked the doors...

Cell: A Novel. Scribner, 2006
From the publisher: On October 1, God is in His heaven, the stock market stands at 10,140, most of the planes are on time, and Clayton Riddell, an artist from Maine, is almost bouncing up Boylston Street in Boston. He's just landed a comic book deal that might finally enable him to support his family by making art instead of teaching it. He's already picked up a small (but expensive!) gift for his long-suffering wife, and he knows just what he'll get for his boy Johnny. Why not a little treat for himself? Clay's feeling good about the future.

That changes in a hurry. The cause of the devastation is a phenomenon that will come to be known as The Pulse, and the delivery method is a cell phone. Everyone's cell phone. Clay and the few desperate survivors who join him suddenly find themselves in the pitch-black night of civilization's darkest age, surrounded by chaos, carnage, and a human horde that has been reduced to its basest nature. . .and then begins to evolve.

There's really no escaping this nightmare. But for Clay, an arrow points home to Maine, and as he and his fellow refugees make their harrowing journey north they begin to see crude signs confirming their direction: KASHWAK=NO-FO. A promise, perhaps. Or a threat . . .

There are one hundred and ninety-three million cell phones in the United States alone. Who doesn't have one? Stephen King's utterly gripping, gory, and fascinating novel doesn't just ask the question "Can you hear me now?" It answers it with a vengeance.

Christine (Signet). Viking, 1983

From the publisher: Scene: a middle-class suburb of Pittsburgh.

Time: 1978.

Cast of characters: Arnie Cunningham, a bookish and bullied high school senior; Dennis Guilder, his friend and sometimes protector; Leigh Cabot, the new girl in school, won by Arnie...but wanted by Dennis as well.

Just another lovers' triangle, you say? Not quite. There's a fourth here, the second lady, the dark lady. "Cars are girls," Leigh Cabot says, and the dark force in Stephen King's new novel is a 1958 Plymouth named Christine.

She is no ordinary car, this white-over-red two-toned survivor of a time when high-test gasoline was priced at a quarter a gallon and speedometers were calibrated all the way up to a hundred and twenty miles an hour...a time when rock and roll in all its first crude power ruled America...a time when speed was king.

Arnie Cunningham is determined to have Christine at any price, and little by little, Dennis and Leigh begin to suspect that the price of his growing obsession may be terrifyingly high, its result blackly evil. As Arnie sets feverishly to work on the seemingly hopeless job of resorting Christine, Christine begins to develop a terrible life of her own. Or is that only imagination? Dennis continues to hope so...and then people begin to die on Libertyville's dark suburban streets and roads...and the time comes when Dennis can no longer deny the horrifying truth: Christine is alive.

In Christine, Stephen King has returned to the full-fledged novel of supernatural horror for the first time since The Shining. It will keep readers up late...and will have them looking both ways as they cross the street after dark.

The Dark Half (Signet). Viking, 1989
From the publisher: For years, Thad Beaumont has been writing books under the pseudonym George Stark. When a journalist threatens to expose Beaumont's pen name, the author decides to go public first, killing off his pseudonym. Stark isn't content to be dispatched that easily, though. Beaumont's alter ego comes to life and begins to stalk those responsible for his demise. The police suspect Beaumont is responsible for these violent crimes.

Everything's Eventual : 14 Dark Tales. Scribner, 2002.
From the publisher: The first collection of stories Stephen King has published since Nightmares & Dreamscapes nine years ago, Everything's Eventual includes one O. Henry Prize winner, two other award winners, four stories published by The New Yorker, and "Riding the Bullet," King's original e-book, which attracted over half a million online readers and became the most famous short story of the decade. "Riding the Bullet," published here on paper for the first time, is the story of Alan Parker, who's hitchhiking to see his dying mother but takes the wrong ride, farther than he ever intended.

In "Lunch at the Gotham Cafe," a sparring couple's contentious lunch turns very, very bloody when the maitre d' gets out of sorts. "1408," the audio story in print for the first time, is about a successful writer whose specialty is "Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Graveyards" or "Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Houses," and though Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel doesn't kill him, he won't be writing about ghosts anymore. And in "That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French," terror is deja vu at 16,000 feet.

Whether writing about encounters with the dead, the near dead, or about the mundane dreads of life, from quitting smoking to yard sales, Stephen King is at the top of his form in the fourteen dark tales assembled in Everything's Eventual. Intense, eerie, and instantly compelling, they announce the stunningly fertile imagination of perhaps the greatest storyteller of our time.

The Green Mile : The Complete Serial Novel.
From the publisher: Set in the 1930s at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary's death-row facility, The Green Mile is the riveting and tragic story of John Coffey, a giant, preternaturally gentle inmate condemned to death for the rape and murder of twin nine-year-old girls. It is a story narrated years later by Paul Edgecomb, the ward superintendent compelled to help every prisoner spend his last days peacefully and every man walk the green mile to execution with his humanity intact.

Edgecomb has sent seventy-eight inmates to their date with "old sparky," but he's never encountered one like Coffey--a man who wants to die, yet has the power to heal. And in this place of ultimate retribution, Edgecomb discovers the terrible truth about Coffey's gift, a truth that challenges his most cherished beliefs--and ours.

Originally published in 1996 in six self-contained monthly installments, The Green Mile is an astonishingly rich and complex novel that delivers over and over again. Each individual volume became a huge success when first published, and all six were on the New York Times bestseller list simultaneously. Three years later, when Frank Darabont made The Green Mile into an award-winning movie starring Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan, the book returned to the bestseller list--and stayed there for months.

It. Viking, 1986.
From the publisher: It began for the Losers on a day in June of 1958, the day school let out for the summer. That was the day Henry Bowers carved the first letter of his name on Ben Hanscom's belly and chased him into the Barrens, the day Henry and his Neanderthal friends beat up on Stuttering Bill Denbrough and Eddie Kaspbrak, the day Stuttering Bill had to save Eddie from his worst asthma attack ever by riding his bike to beat the devil. It ended in August, with seven desperate children in search of a creature of unspeakable evil in the drains beneath Derry. In search of It. And somehow it ended.

Or so they thought. Then.

On a spring night in 1985 Mike Hanlon, once one of those children, makes six calls. Stan Uris, accountant. Richie "Records" Tozier, L.A. disc jockey. Ben Hanscom, renowned architect. Beverly Rogan, dress designer. Eddie Kaspbrak, owner of a successful New York limousine company. And Bill Denbrough, bestselling writer of horror novels. Bill Denbrough who now only stutters in his dreams.

These six men and one woman have forgotten their childhoods, have forgotten the time when they were Losers . . . but an unremembered promise draws them back, the present begins to rhyme dreadfully with the past, and when the Losers reunite, the wheels of fate lock together and roll them toward the ultimate terror.

The Mist (Previously Published as a Novella in 'Skeleton Crew') Signet, 2007.
From the publisher: The storm rolled across Long Lake in Maine with a fury, leaving David Drayton and his family with fallen trees, downed power lines, and no electricity. At his wife's request, David heads to the local supermarket to stock up on supplies, taking his young son and neighbor along for the ride. But the strange white mist that lingered on the lake has followed them to town, stranding them all in the store. Because something in the fog is taking people--and you can hear their screams...

PET SEMATARY. Doubleday, 1983
From the publisher: Set in a small town in Maine to which a young doctor, Louis Creed, and his family have moved from Chicago, Pet Sematary begins with a visit to a graveyard where generations of children have buried their beloved pets. But behind the "pet sematary," there is another burial ground, one that lures people to it with seductive promises . . . and ungodly temptations.

As the story unfolds, so does a nightmare of the supernatural, one so relentless you won't want . . . at moments . . . to continue reading . . . but will be unable to stop

You do it because it gets hold of you, says the nice old man with the secret. You make up reasons . . . they seem like good reasons . . . but mostly you do it because once you've been up there, it's your place, and you belong to it . . .up in the Pet Sematary--and beyond.

Rose Red (2pc) - TV Miniseries 2002
From the website of Stephen King: Professor Joyce Reardon (Nancy Travis) and her boyfriend, Steve Rimbauer (Matt Keeslar) lead a group of psychics in an attempt to prove the existence of paranormal phenomena in a house owned by Rimbauer’s family, known as Rose Red, before it is to be sold to developers. The group is chosen for their individual talents in the paranormal and each has their own reasons for agreeing to the experiment. Annie Wheaton (Kimberly Brown), an autistic teen who has telekinetic abilities, is accompanied by her sister, Rachel (Melanie Lynskey). Emery Waterman (Matt Ross), Nick Hardaway (Julian Sands), Victor Kandinsky (Kevin Tighe), Pam Asbury (Emily Deschanel), and Cathy Kramer (Judith Ivey) round out the group. They are joined, although not by invitation, by Professor Carl Miller (David Dukes) who is attempting to discredit Reardon and Kay Waterman (Laura Kenny), Emery’s controlling mother. They find the house is still inhabited by the malevolent spirits of Rimbauer’s grandmother, Ellen (Julia Campbell) and her servant, Sukeena (Tsidii Leloka) and a former guest, actress Deanna Petrie (Yvonne Scio).

'Salem's Lot. Doubleday, 1975
From the publisher: Salem's Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in 'salem's Lot was a summer of homecoming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot. Late that summer, Ben Mears returned to 'salem's Lot hoping to cast out his own devils and found instead a new, unspeakable horror.

A stranger had also come to the Lot, a stranger with a secret as old as evil, a secret that would wreak irreparable harm on those he touched and in turn on those they loved.

All would be changed forever--Susan, whose love for Ben could not protect her; Father Callahan, the bad priest who put his eroded faith to one last test; and Mark, a young boy who sees his fantasy world become reality and ironically proves the best equipped to handle the relentless nightmare of 'Salem's Lot.

This is a rare novel, almost hypnotic in its unyielding suspense, which builds to a climax of classic terror. You will not forget the town of 'salem's Lot nor any of the people who used to live there.

The Shining. Doubleday, 1977.
From the publisher: The Overlook Hotel claimed the most beautfiul physical setting of any resort in the world; but Jack Torrance, the new winter caretaker, with his wife, Wendy and their five-year-old son Danny, saw much more than its splendor.

Jack saw the Overlook as an opportunity, a desperate way back from failure and despair; Wendy saw this lonely sanctuary as a frail chance to preserve their family; and Danny?....Danny, who was blessed or cursed with a shining, precognitive gift, saw visions hideously beyond the comprehension of a small boy. He sensed the evil coiled within the Overlook's one hundred and ten empty rooms; an evil that was waiting just for them.

The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut (Signet). Doubleday, 1990
From the publisher: This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death. And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides-or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail-and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.

In 1978 Stephen King published The Stand, the novel that is now considered one of his finest works. But as it was first published, The Stand was incomplete, since more than 150,000 words had been cut from the original manuscript. Now Stephen King's apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil has been restored to its entirety.

The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition includes more than 500 pages of material deleted, along with new material that King added as he reworked the manuscript for a new generation. It gives us new characters and endows familiar ones with new depths. It has a new beginning and a new ending. What emerges is a gripping work with the scope and moral complexity of a true epic. For the hundreds of thousands of fans who read The Stand in its original version and wanted more, this new edition is Stephen King's gift.. And those who are reading The Stand for the first time will discover a triumphant and eerily plausible work of the imagination that takes on the issues that will determine our survival.


ownerfinancedloans said...

“The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Masque of the Red Death”.The first one was about a haunted house while the second was about a Halloween party in a house where one imagines and one is trapped, with other people.

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SciFiGuy said...

I've read 9 of these and admit some were pretty scary (but good). It;s too late but I think Dreamcatcher was pretty creepy too.

PatriciaAltner said...

Masque of the Read Death was my first Poe story. Will never forget it. I found it shocking! Of course I was rather young when I read it.

PatriciaAltner said...

Hi Doug

I kept a list of all the books from commenters. I'll add this to the general list and give info about it next time I list more scary book titles.
So it's never too late!

Ladytink_534 said...

I'd like to re-read Stephen King's books one day. I started to a few years ago in chronological order and got to Different Seasons before I gave up.

The very bottom and the very top shelves of my main bookcase are devoted to my King books

PatriciaAltner said...


I have only read a few King books and none recently. My standout favorite though is The Shining. That one captured me completely and scared me to death!

So why did you give up?