His characters are normal people and their actions are almost always believeable and real. He makes realistic characters that you grow to care about and THEN puts them in harm’s way.
♦ Different Seasons ♦
The movie adaptations of King’s books have been a mixed lot. Too often the movies center on the “monster” or the “dark” part of the story and fail to make the characters even close to being as appealing as they are on the page.
Different Seasons is a collection of Novella’s. Since there is less “story” but the same characterization the two very best Steven King movies came out of this book. All of these stories are King’s first real departure from horror (written in 1982). They may be some of his best work too. “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” was the original version of the movie by a very similar name. The story, characterizations and monologue follow almost note for note. It was a wonderful story. “Apt Pupil” was the darkest of the bunch and likely the third best. It tells the story of a disturbed boy who discovers his neighbor is a disguised Nazi War Criminal. It also had a movie released under the same name. “The Body” though the title sounds like a King “Horror” story really is not. It battles Shawshank for what may be some of Kings finest work. It is a simple story of four young boys taking a trip to see a dead body. In typical King fashion, there is soooo much more going on. You may have seen the movie adaptation of this great story in the classic, “Stand By Me”. The last story in the book is, “the breathing method”. Honestly this one was forgettable. Hey, they can’t all be home runs.
♦ IT ♦
“IT” is a horror story. “IT” is also a story of growing up. It also deals with coming back to your home years later, when it is no longer home. It shows the hope of youth and the responsibility of adulthood. It has all of that and the most evil clown you can imagine. It wraps a tale of the transition from youth to adulthood into a truly incredible story. A truly amazing story. If the last ¼ of the book was not a little bit of a letdown from the amazing first ¾ it would certainly rank as one of the best books of all time, horror or not.
♦ The Stand ♦
The Stand is a massive book. It tells of a battle between good and evil. The premise is simple. The world is nearly wiped out by plague run amok. –admittedly King spends too long on the spreading plague early on- When it is all over many people get a call. Many people go and join a “devil” like figure. A Motley crew of “good” guys get together and in the end try to battle the oppression of “bad” group. A simple tale, but it digs deep and it is amazingly easy to read once the plague has run it’s course. (As I mentioned…it starts slow)
♦ The Skeleton Crew ♦
Some of Stephen King’s Best writing comes when he limits himself. Often in the form of short stories and Novellas. I had to include one of his short story anthologies on the list. You could make an argument for any one of them making the list. It was a tight race, but I thought Skeleton crew was the best, It has some scary and classic stories. A good read if you like his scary stuff!
♦ Salem’s Lot ♦
Forget Dracula. Throw away any idea of Anne Rices elegant vampires. Even forget the cruel and common mix of vampires from the Sookie Stackhouse stories. These are Vampires at their Chilling worst. Utterly scary and utterly inhuman.