Stephen King is a writer whose reputation precedes him. He is not only known for his writing, but also for his writing on writing. He is oft quoted, much admired, and beloved of legions of fans.

I, like many writers, have taken this bit of advice about bad writing to heart: ‘I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.’

J.K. Rowling, a writer whose reputation precedes her (and is oft quoted, much admired, beloved of legions of fans) obviously didn’t get the memo because she cannot see a verb without sticking an adverb next to it. Try reading all her books aloud to your kids (or yourself) and they stick out dramatically. This didn’t hold Harry Potter and his gang back.

Don’t you love it with mum and dad bicker?

I confess, I had until this week, never read a Stephen King novel. It didn’t seem necessary with all the movie adaptations coming out. ‘Carrie’ (1976), ‘The Shining’ (1980), and ‘Misery’ (1990) all creeped me out, as they were designed to. The novels are fat, I wasn’t that into horror really, so I read a lot of other authors instead.

I can now tick Stephen King off my list. ‘The Gunslinger’ (1982) is one of his shorter works (though it is the first in an ‘opus’ of eight books so he hasn’t really been uncharacteristically succinct). In my 1997 copy, King talks about writing the five linked stories collected here, and the ream of cheap coloured paper he wrote on. I totally understand ‘how fraught with possibility’ (p. 208) blank paper can be.

Perhaps that is where my understanding ends. Are the stories he wrote on the bright green paper horror or fantasy or both? And what is it all about?

I was going to talk about Jesus, and Tarot cards, the physicist Brian Cox’s description of the Universe, Beatle’s songs, murdering defenceless women, and the necessity of empathy.

But Stephen King’s legions of fans don’t need to hear another synopsis, analysis, or review. And beside, some much older advice springs to mind: least said, soonest mended.

Because, as my mother always said, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.





The image of the crown fit for a king is of the Polish crown jewels, consisting of the crown of Bolesław I the Brave, and the orb and sceptre used by Stanislaus II. Thanks to Gryffindor on Wikimedia Commons.


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