The 10 best not-horror, not-scary books by Stephen King. (Plus two you should read even though they are scary.)Posted: April 2, 2014 | |
Against all odds, several of my regular readers are NOT horror fans. (And I live with another horror avoider too.) I think it’s a shame that these folks have been deprived of the experience of reading Stephen (the) King just because of his scary reputation for writing only in the horror genre.
For my contribution to this week’s fourth (and final?) King’s March link-up (a Stephen King-themed blog hop) I’ve decided to reach out to such people with a list of 10 great reads for fans of good writing, as long as it’s not considered to be in the horror genre. These books will neither gross anyone out, nor cause nightmares (probably.)
The author here is Stephen King, though, so be prepared for the stories to bring up some strong emotions. The surprise – for non-King readers – will be that those emotions may include wonder, amusement, tenderness, admiration, hope, nostalgia, awe, wistfulness, and joy.
10 not-horror, not-scary books by Stephen King
The Green Mile
They call death row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary “The Green Mile.” John Coffey, sentenced to die for the rape and murder of two young girls, is the latest addition to the Mile. Paul Edgecomb, the ward superintendent, discovers that there is more to John Coffey than meets the eye, for this friendly giant has the power to heal.
Suspected of killing Vera Donovan, her wealthy employer, Dolores Claiborne tells police the story of her life, harkening back to her disintegrating marriage and the suspicious death of her violent husband, Joe St. George, thirty years earlier. Dolores also tells of Vera’s physical and mental decline and of her loyalty to an employer who has become emotionally demanding in recent years.
After realizing his romantic life is not going in the direction he’d hoped, Devin Jones decides to take a summer job at an amusement park. There he makes friends with Tom Kennedy and Erin Cook, also summer hires at Joyland, which years before had been the scene of the murder of a young woman named Linda Gray whose ghost is said to be seen at the Horror House. He also befriends a young boy, named Mike Ross and his mother, Annie. Their lives all become entwined when Devin decides to investigate the mystery of Linda Gray’s unsolved murder by the “Carny Killer.”
Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.
Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.
The Colorado Kid
Vince Teague and Dave Bowie are the sole operators of The Weekly Islander, a small Maine newspaper. Stephanie McCann has been working for them as an intern. When Stephanie asks if they’ve ever come across a real unexplained mystery in the fifty years they’d been publishing the paper, they tell her the story of The Colorado Kid.
The Eyes of the Dragon
Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Delain, King Roland is murdered and his son and heir, Peter, is framed for the crime. Peter and his loyal friends must battle an evil wizard and Peter’s usurper brother, Thomas, for the throne. Imprisoned in a tower, Peter conceives an escape plan that will take him years to execute before taking on Flagg, the powerful sorcerer who has masterminded this coup.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
Nine-year-old Trisha McFarland strays from the path while she and her recently divorced mother and brother take a hike along a branch of the Appalachian Trail. Lost for days, wandering farther and farther astray, Trisha has only her portable radio for comfort. A huge fan of Tom Gordon, a Boston Red Sox relief pitcher, she listens to baseball games and fantasizes that her hero will save her. Nature isn’t her only adversary, though – something dangerous may be tracking Trisha through the dark woods.
The Department of Scientific Intelligence (aka “The Shop”) never anticipated that two participants in their research program would marry and have a child. Charlie McGee inherited pyrokinetic powers from her parents, who had been given a low-grade hallucinogen called “Lot Six” while at college. Now the government is trying to capture young Charlie and harness her powerful firestarting skills as a weapon.
Different Seasons (four novellas in one volume)
— IF you read only ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘The Body’.
I’ll skip the synopses here, because we pretty much all know the basic stories, thanks to the movies Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption.
On Writing is both a textbook for writers and a memoir of Stephen’s life and will, thus, appeal even to those who are not aspiring writers. If you’ve always wondered what led Steve to become a writer and how he came to be the success he is today, this will answer those questions.
ALL THAT SAID, FANS OF GREAT STORIES – HORROR OR NOT – MUST READ IT AND THE STAND, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE SCARY.
A promise made twenty-eight years ago calls seven adults to reunite in Derry, Maine, where as teenagers they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Unsure that their Losers Club had vanquished the creature all those years ago, the seven had vowed to return to Derry if IT should ever reappear. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that summer return as they prepare to do battle with the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers once more.
One man escapes from a biological weapon facility after an accident, carrying with him the deadly virus known as Captain Tripps, a rapidly mutating flu that – in the ensuing weeks – wipes out most of the world’s population. In the aftermath, survivors choose between following an elderly black woman to Boulder or the dark man, Randall Flagg, who has set up his command post in Las Vegas. The two factions prepare for a confrontation between the forces of good and evil.
NOTE: All the synopses and book jacket images above were obtained directly from stephenking.com.
ON THE TOPIC OF THIS BLOG HOP / LINKY:
I’ve really learned a lot from participating in this blog hop / linky, and I feel like I understand how such things work MUCH better now.
Just click either of those links you just saw to see what other bloggers have been writing about recently. (Interestingly, some of the participants are not horror fan and do not enjoy a scary read. I did not expect that when I signed up, but it’s been interesting how they handle the Stephen King theme.)
My own previous entries include:
wrimoprog 04/02/2014: 6 + 4 = 10/182
Luckily, I’ve been completely immersed in King for the entire month.
1) I’m continuing to re-read Christine. On this pass, I’m learning a great deal about how to do a first person narrative elegantly, which is going to come in handy because my planned writing project for April is in first person.
2) I enjoyed reading all the blogs posted by the other King’s March participants, but my favorite was this one:
I might chose different songs (and I might actually do it, some hot night this summer, while sitting on the patio with my iPod speaker-stand-thingie and a beer) but I can’t fault the creativity that went into Rory’s selections.
3) What I didn’t expect was that I would be watching The Shawshank Redemption this week. My son “had” to watch it so that he can participate in a group project for his communications class. The assignment is to study the relationships between characters in the film, then write about the dynamics of said relationships.
I’ve never been so pleased with a professor before.
Ogre and I happily settled in with The Boy one blustery evening last week. Of course, we’d both seen the movie, but this was the first viewing for our son. He is not familiar with King, because he’s not interested in horror. (He’s a fantasy guy.) No matter how I often I tell him that King isn’t JUST about horror, and that even the all-out horror novels aren’t the kind of horror he thinks they are, I’ve not been able to persuade him to give Constant Writer a fair shake.
I’m sure it will surprise no one that he loved the movie.
I was rather hoping that seeing the film would make him want to read the book immediately, but I’d forgotten how even formerly voracious child-readers resist reading anything they don’t have to in these high school / college years. I’ll just have to wait until summer, when perhaps he’ll be willing to read for fun again. (Believe me, I’ll be leaving tempting stacks of King books around, just in case.) In the meantime, I can’t wait to see which relationship he chooses to write about.
There is something to be said for going into a movie with such a specific agenda. (At least upon a second or third viewing.) It focuses you on one aspect of the film, which helps you notice details that are otherwise missed.
My menfolk seemed to think that the relationship most worthy of deeper examination is the one between Andy and Red. I disagree. If I were going to write the paper, I’d explore the relationship between the warden and Andy. Or maybe, if I wanted a challenge, the one between the main guard and Andy … or between the main guard and the warden.
I guess my point is that ALL the relationships in this story are worth a second, deeper look. And that’s just one of the things that makes King a master.
So, if you had to write the paper, who would you pick?