King actually writes more than one kind of book. As with Heinlein’s twin modes of pulp sci-fi (Have Space Suit, Will Travel) vs. sci-fi political philosophy (Moon is a Harsh Mistress), including crossovers like Friday and Starship Troopers, I’m fond of most kinds of King work. You can’t argue with Hearts in Atlantis as serious fiction, or The Long Walk or The Stand as emotional horror – the horror of how we are as people. And then there’s King’s just plain horrible horror, and his gross horror, and probably a number of other distinctions. He’s the master of exploring the labyrinthine corridors of discomfort, to the point that the sense of adventure is contagious. He gets at the soul, or at least kicks you in the crotch and asks how it feels. Curiosity is a driver. Right now, I’m reading one of his pseudonymous Bachmann books – The Regulators, because I mislaid the edition I had been reading, and something drew me back to continue.
The one thing I’m appalled by is the film adaptations in most cases. Those fall into multiple categories, too. You’ve got the amazing cinema, like Hearts in Atlantis (thought it only tells one of the 4 stories in that book, and not the one it’s named for), The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Shining (needs its own category, probably). You’ve got the less well-crafted but still iconic classics of horror cinema like Carrie (the original), The Mist (the new version), and Stand By Me. I even have a fondness for Needful Things. Some people would throw Misery and Dolores Claiborne in there, or The Night Flyer – but again, that’s another type – respectable cinema. The bad stuff – the stuff that if we thought it represented King, we wouldn’t read his books at all, happens when they’re just not faithful to literature in terms of production values, scripting, and acting. Something like Silver Bullet isn’t worth watching – ever. And “The Stand” will just put you off of the book, which is stellar. The film makes it seem like a work of religious zealotry. I’m cautious and skeptical about a film with King’s name attached; it’s a crapshoot. The books pay off better.
The books I continue to dig into, because King isn’t just writing spook fiction. He’s digging out the way things are if, for instance, our going to Iraq were a shotgun pointed out of a van window. I feel relief when I read King, because it feels like finally the truth is told, and I don’t have to live in actual fear – which is the acceptance of the unnamed as our daily companion.