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"Is horror all you write?" is the second most frequent question Stephen King encounters,* he tells us in the Afterword to this superlative quartet of novels. Although he is by now a world-class grand master of the horrific, he resists entombment in that genre. That he can transcend horror is proved triumphantly in these four works. At the same time, nobody in search of the utterly distinctive King brand of driving narrative, graphically rendered scene and character, and stamp-on-the-clinging-fingers cliffhanger plot will go away unsatisfied. Consider the four:
- Hope Springs Eternal
- Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption – the most satisfying tale of unjust imprisonment and offbeat escape since The Count of Monte Cristo.
Summer of Corruption
- Apt Pupil – a golden California schoolboy and an old man whose hideous past he uncovers enter into a fateful and chilling mutual parasitism.
Fall from Innocence
- The Body – four rambunctious young boys venture into the Maine woods and in sunlight and thunder find life, death, and intimations of their own mortality.
A Winter's Tale
- The Breathing Method – a tale told in a strange club about a woman determined to give birth no matter what.
If these tales turn out to have an interlacing of nightmarish elements
after all, the reason is not the occult, but twentieth-century
humanity's apparent determination to return to the Dark Ages, a time for
which Stephen King is obviously the ideal bard.
*Most frequent question: "Where do you get your ideas?"