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The Stephen King Story.

The Stephen King Story

by George Beahm 330 pages, Andrews and McMeel, $9.95

The Maestro of the Macabre

One night during the early 1950s, little Stephen King noticed a stack of used paperback books piled alongside the family TV set. When he asked his mother, a single woman raising two boys, why she had bought them, she replied that, for her, they were "a pile of cheap, sweet vacations" from the 45-50 hour workweeks she was forced to endure in various dead-end jobs.

Today, Stephen King's "vacations" are hardly sweet--nor are they cheap (his latest, Dolores Claiborne, lists at $23.50). Nevertheless, King has sold nearly 150 million copies of his published books (36 to date, including short story compilations, limited-edition novels, and one nonfiction tome, 1981's Danse Macabre) worldwide. Nearly all of his fiction has been made--or is about to be made--into movies for the big screen as well as the small.

In the process, as Ben Franklin had done centuries before with newspaper publishing, King has taken what for decades had been a specialized--and thus highly unprofitable--endeavor (horror fiction) and made it both palatable for the masses and profitable for himself. By focusing on the horrific and unusual among ordinary people in everyday circumstances (much as Shirley Jackson, one of King's admitted influences, had done with her 1948 short story "The Lottery"), King has made horror agreeable for the reader who might have been repulsed by the vulgarity of much 1950s horror--or bored stiff by the sticky 1920s work of H.P. Lovecraft.

Freelance writer George Beahm originally published The Stephen King Story in 1991 as a worshipful overview of the man whom The New York Times once called "the maestro of the macabre." Although the book was not the first of its kind, Beahm's hardback version did contain, in addition to a listing of King projects both past and forthcoming, a bibliography of books about Stephen King (30 to date, including Beahm's own 1989 Stephen King Companion) and a listing of all audio adaptations.

Fortunately, Beahm has made his listings even more current for this more up-to-date large paperback edition. The true Stephen King fan (as Beahm purports to be in his book) should therefore find enough information to satisfy his or her curiosity about the man who, jokingly, refers to himself as a "Bestsellasaurus Rex."
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Author:Gramling, Jack
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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