After finishing “Doctor Sleep” a few days ago, I’m just now getting out of my King fog. This fog is one that descends as I complete a Stephen King book that particularly moves me. No other writer can do so like he can. Despite some issues I had with the ending (which I will not spoil for anyone who may read it), “Doctor Sleep” officially completes my King Trifecta — I’ve had a No. 1 and 2 favorite of his for years (“It” and “Hearts in Atlantis,” respectively), but this is the novel I’ve been waiting for to place in that No. 3 spot. It sealed its fate with a short page and a half chapter describing a minor character’s death. The prose was poetic and perfect. I read it twice and sobbed both times.
Due in part to “Doctor Sleep,” I’ve been thinking about King even more than normal for me. For one, I’m going to see his musical “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” tomorrow. No, I don’t know what it’s about. No, I don’t want to know — I love going into things with a completely open mind with zero preconceptions. Yes, I am giddily excited. Yes, I have wondered what it’d be like to sit down and find Stephen King sitting next to me. (In every imagination, I am unable to form complete words, I cry a little, and I shake his hand. And then, during the musical, I miss it all because I keep trying not to be noticed as I stare as my neighbor. I’m pathetic.)
For another, my friend Tim, who I worked with at my first big-girl job, out of college, recently asked me to create a list of my top six favorite King books and my top six scariest King books (totally different lists, yo). He used me as a guest lister on his weekly Six Pack column (check it out here).
Since Tim went with our favorite six (for the record, you can nix the tie on my list and add “Doctor Sleep” in place of those other two), I bring you this: King’s scariest books. No, I have not read every single King work out there. Yes, I will, I’m working on it, and yes, I’ve read a really giant chunk of them. That being said, I have to give this disclaimer: “Pet Sematary” is one of those I’ve not read, and many consider it one of his scariest.
1) “The Dark Half” — This is hands down the scariest book I’ve ever read in my life. It’s one of King’s more gruesome tales — contrary to what many non-readers think, he’s really not that gross of a writer — and something about the idea of a writer’s creation coming to life and then trying to kill said writer when the author decides he’s not going to write any more of his stories anymore (follow that?) terrified the bejeezus out of me.
2) “Everything’s Eventual” — This is a short story compilation, and most of the stories are not terrifying, just awesome in King’s signature creepy way. However, “L.T.’s Theory of Pets” terrified me. I remember reading it on a roommate’s papazon chair one summer afternoon. A friend was coming to visit, and I read as I waited. I was toward the end of this story, mesmerized, terrified, when my friend rang the doorbell. I jumped so hard I fell out of the chair. Even though I knew he was at the door, I was legit scared to open it. The major detail I remember is a missing woman. Her empty and running car was found on a deserted highway, doors still open. Her purse was found a few yards away. Mystery never solved. TERROR.
After those first two, the remaining four are in no particular order:
* “Duma Key” has an amazing, eerie ambiance. (Check it, even the cover’s eerie.)
* “Under the Dome” has one of the worst, most evil villains in all of literature. He’s not supernatural — he’s just a dick, a small-town politician with too much power who uses it to lord over others. And that’s the worst kind of evil, because it’s actually possible.
* In the opening scenes of “Gerald’s Game,” a woman is handcuffed to her bed and having sex with her husband when he has a heart attack and dies. They are in a cabin in the woods, no one around to hear her. She can’t get to the key to the handcuffs. Cue panic.
* “The Waste Lands” is the third book in The Dark Tower series. All of the main characters are on a train with artificial intelligence (except, in King’s where and when, how artificial is it really?), and he has gone crazy. They play a game of riddles to see if they’ll hurl to their deaths when the track runs out, or if Blaine the Train (is a pain) will let them off unharmed. This is suspense writing at its finest.
What King books did you find scariest? What ANY books do you find scariest?