The Essential Stephen King: A Ranking of the Greatest Novels, Short Stories, Movies, and Other Creations of the World's Most Popular Writer

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Stephen Spignesi, the world's leading expert on Stephen King (Enertainment Weekly) ranks 101 greatest creations of the man he calls "our greatest living author."

Working from a body of King's work numbering more than 550 individual creations, Spignesi lists all of King's writings in every genre and then determines the top 101. Each chosen work is synopsized and reviewed.

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Stephen Spignesi, the world's leading expert on Stephen King (Enertainment Weekly) ranks 101 greatest creations of the man he calls "our greatest living author."

Working from a body of King's work numbering more than 550 individual creations, Spignesi lists all of King's writings in every genre and then determines the top 101. Each chosen work is synopsized and reviewed.

The Essential Stephen King provides an unbiased, uncompromising review of King's work by an acknowledged King authority. As such, it is a must for all serious and casual Stephen King fans as well as all lovers of superb contemporary literature.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Wiater and his coauthors, all writers deeply involved in sf and horror writing or criticism, here aim to show that King's stories are interconnected by theme or character and that the "Dark Tower series is the core of the Stephen King universe." In their investigation of linked themes, the authors limit themselves to King's published titles, including his early work only if a specific title has been published in a collection. Appendixes include a chronology of Stephen King's life and works, a bibliography of King's writings, a list of recommended web sites, recommended reading, and an index. Taking a different tack on King's corpus, admitted King fan Spignesi (The Complete Stephen King Encyclopedia, The Lost Work of Stephen King, and two Stephen King quiz books) specifies King's 101 best works and also lists all 553 works with publication status at the end of the volume. (His index was unavailable for review.) Like Wiater, Spignesi discusses story lines and main characters, also including little-known tidbits and a comment from King regarding each title. Both books include information about film adaptations with Spignesi listing the movie's cast and Wiater presenting movie reviews. Wiater also indicates when a story has been released in other formats. Both titles will appeal to serious King fans, but Wiater's will be an especially useful addition to academic resources on contemporary authors. Recommended for those libraries with a need for in-depth information on King and his work. Laurie Selwyn, San Antonio P.L., TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Spignesi, an authority on writer Stephen King, determines King's top 101 works, encompassing novels, novellas, stories, poems, screenplays, nonfiction, and uncollected works. Each chosen work is synopsized and reviewed according to its outstanding elements, its characters, and film adaptations. There are also interesting facts on each work and quotes from interviews with King, plus five essays on King by collectors and fans. Spignesi has written more than 20 books on fiction and film, including several books about Stephen King. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564144850
  • Publisher: Career Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/1/2001
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 6.68 (w) x 10.68 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


The clown seized his arm.
And George saw the clown's face change.
What he saw then was terrible enough to make his worst imaginings of the
thing in the cellar look like sweet dreams; what he saw destroyed his sanity in
one clawing stroke.

Why It belongs in the number 1 spot:

    It is more than just a novel.

    I know, I know ... that sounds like fan hyperbole, but truth be told, It is undeniably a contemporary literature event.

    I remember finishing reading It and feeling the way I did when I turned the last page of Dickens's Great Expectations: unabashed awe at the storytelling talents of the author.

    It is not only one of King's longest works (only the uncut The Stand is longer and then only by a few thousand words), but It is the book I and many other King researchers and fans consider to be his magnum opus. It is the greatest manifestation of his many narrative gifts, and the book that may very well be the definitive, quintessential "Stephen King" novel—if we make the questionable leap that such a thing can even be defined.

    Pepperdine English professor and Stephen King authority Dr. Michael Collings feels that It and The Stand are interchangeable as holders of the number 1 spot on the list of King's top 100 works. He told me that he considers both novels "contemporary epics" (and, hespecified, "in the true, literary sense of the term, not the facile commercial sense") and admitted to now and then surrendering to this belief and stating that both novels are his "top pick."

    I decided to grant It the hallowed rank of number 1, however, because I believe wholeheartedly that the novel is a literary performance of the highest caliber; yes, even more accomplished than The Stand.

    In his gargantuan epic, King juggles multiple characters, parallel and overlapping timelines, a ghoul's parade of monsters, plus several complex sociocultural themes. These include childhood and coming of age, child abuse, spousal abuse, homophobia, bigotry, the nature of existence, the eternal nature of good and evil, and the power of faith, trust, and love.

    Longtime King fans (King calls them his "Constant Readers") can intuitively sense when Stephen King was in "the zone" (not the Dead Zone!) while writing a specific work. The story seems to emanate a narrative confidence and flow that seems to transcend the mere words with which it is being told. I have often described this experience as being pulled through the book; being dragged through the story at breakneck speed; the tale being absorbed by the brain almost by osmosis, seemingly without actually reading the words. This is a feeble way of describing a transcendent experience, but I think you Constant Readers have an understanding of this phenomenon. It happens with The Stand, The Shining, 'Salem's Lot, Misery, The Green Mile, Pet Sematary, and many other works, but never more so than with It.

    King was in the aforementioned zone when he wrote It (as I am sure J. R. R. Tolkien was likewise inspired when he wrote his The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and he has never been better. You want proof? In lieu of rereading the entire novel (which King fans have been known to do on a regular basis ... likewise, The Stand), open It anywhere, and read an excerpt for a taste of just how good Stephen King can be.

    The story told in It is truly epic. The haunted town of Derry, Maine has a dark soul. In 1958, seven friends—dubbed The Losers Club—fight an apocalyptic battle with It, a monster from "outside" who has been feeding on Derry's children in 27-year cycles for centuries. It is gravely wounded in the 1958 battle and returns to its subterranean pit beneath the town to heal. The Losers promise to return to Derry if It ever resurfaces and, in 1985, they must come together to honor their vow and try and defeat and destroy It for the final time.

    King confidently interweaves the dual stories of all seven Losers, plus the stories of an array of myriad secondary characters, using only italic typeface to indicate flashbacks to 1958, all the while managing to keep everyone's story clear in the reader's mind at all times. It—It—is truly a virtuoso performance.

    I do not recommend It to first-time King readers. The novel is daunting and may scare off readers who are not used to novels over 50,000 words, let alone 550,000 or so words. It requires effort and concentration, yet it pays off in amazing ways, and thus, It should be "prepared for," for lack of a better term. I usually suggest newcomers to King begin with something more accessible like The Dead Zone or 'Salem's Lot; then move on to The Shining and The Stand; then to the stories in Skeleton Crew; and then, finally, to It. They can then go back and fill in the holes in their Stephen King reading list, but by that time they will have experienced a healthy, heaping dose of Stephen King's imaginative powers and storytelling genius.

    Both scholars and fans now perceive It alike as the completion of the "monster" phase of King's career as a novelist. From It on, for the most part, King has focused on the "monster within" (as opposed to from the outside). Such works include Misery, The Dark Half, Gerald's Game, Dolores Claiborne, Rose Madder, and other diverse works; in addition to novels that ponder the existence of God and his involvement (or lack thereof) in human events, as in Desperation, The Green Mile, and others. The Mummy, the Werewolf, and the other classic denizens of the horror genre are of less interest to King in his post-It works. It may be his final word on childhood and its mythic hold on the adult. There will be child characters in later works, but It marks a turning point in King's treatment of childhood: We get the sense that the underlying message at the conclusion of It is that childhood can once again be remembered with nostalgia, rather than fear.

    So there you have it: I consider It the best thing Stephen King has ever written. "So far."

[skull] C. V. [skull]


Bill Denbrough, Ben Hanscom, Eddie Kaspbrak, Beverly Marsh, Mike Hanlon, Richie Tozier, Stanley Uris, Pennywise the Clown.


Stephen King's middle name is "Edwin," and in It, there is character named "Eddie King," described as "a bearded wan whose spectacles were almost as fat as his gut." Eddie King was one of the guys who were playing poker in the Sleepy Silver Dollar the day Claude Heroux went nuts and killed everyone in the game. Eddie King's demise was particularly grisly. When Claude began his rampage, Eddie tried to flee but ended up falling out of his chair and landing flat on his back on the floor. Claude straddled King (who was screaming to Claude that he had just gotten married a month ago) and buried an axe in Eddie King's ample belly. Claude then wiggled the axe out, and swung again, this time putting an end to Eddie's screaming, and to Eddie. "Claude Heroux wasn't done with him, however; he began to chop King up like kindling-wood."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] What I Really Liked About It

The flawless evocation of childhood summers, plus a slew of too-many-to-mention elements of the novel that I greatly enjoyed. There really isn't anything I did not like about It. In fact, like The Lord of the Rings, I actually wished it were longer! Perhaps we can hope for It: The Second Millennium one of these years?


Stephen King's It (TV-miniseries, 1990); starring Tim Curry, Richard Thomas, Annette O'Toole, John Ritter, Tim Reid, Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, Olivia Hussey, Seth Green; directed by Tommy Lee Wallace; screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen (Part 1) and Lawrence D. Cohen and Tommy Lee Wallace (Part 2). (Grade: B+.)


    "Sometime in the summer of 1981 I realized that I had to write about the troll under the bridge or leave him—IT—forever. Part of me cried to let it go. But part of me cried for the chance; did more than cry; it demanded. I remember sitting on the porch, smoking, asking myself if I had really gotten old enough to be afraid to try, to just jump in and drive fast.

    I got up off the porch, went into my study, cranked up some rock `n' roll, and started to write the book. I knew it would be long, but I didn't know how long. I found myself remembering that part of The Hobbit where Bilbo Baggins marvels at how way may lead on to way; you may leave your front door and think you are only strolling down your front walk, but at the end of your walk is the street, and you may turn left or you may turn right, but either way there will be another street, another avenue, and roads, and highways, and a whole world." [Note: King was 34 when he started writing It; he was 38 when he finished it.]

—From "How IT Happened" (1986)

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Table of Contents

Prelude: How Stephen King's Fans Feel About His Work 8
What You'll Find in Each Chapter 13
1. It (1986) (novel) 15
2. The Stand (1978, 1990) (novel) 19
3. The Shining (1977) (novel) 22
4. The Dead Zone (1979) (novel) 26
5. The Green Mile (1996) (novel) 29
6. Bag of Bones (1998) (novel) 33
7. Misery (1987) (novel) 37
8. `Salem's Lot (1975) (novel) 41
9. Pet Sematary (1983) (novel) 44
11. Insomnia (1994) (novel) 54
12. The Talisman (1984) (novel) 57
13. Desperation (1996) (novel) 60
14. Hearts in Atlantis (1999) (novel) 63
15. Dolores Claiborne (1993) (novel) 67
16. Cujo (1981) (novel) 70
17. Rose Madder (1995) (novel) 73
18. The Eyes of the Dragon (1984, 1987) (novel) 76
19. Firestarter (1980) (novel) 79
20. Carrie (1974) (novel) 82
21. Danse Macabre (1981) (nonfiction book) 85
22. TheDark Half (1989) (novel) 88
23. On Writing (2000) (nonfiction book) 91
24. Needful Things (1991) (novel) 94
25. Gerald's Game (1992) (novel) 97
26. Dreamcatcher (2001) (novel) 100
27. The Body (1982) (novella) 106
28. The Long Walk (1979) (novel) 109
29. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (1982) (novella) 112
30. Apt Pupil (1982) (novella) 115
31. Rage (1977) (novel) 118
32. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999) (novel) 121
33. The Mist (1980, 1985) (novella) 124
34. The Library Policeman (1990) (novella) 127
35. "The Reach" (1981, 1985) (short story) 130
36. "The Man in the Black Suit" (1994) (short story) 133
37. The Sun Dog (1990) (novella) 136
38. Secret Window, Secret Garden (1990) (novella) 139
39. Christine (1983) (novel) 141
40. "My Pretty Pony" (1988, 1993) (short story) 144
41. The Running Man (1982) (novel) 147
42. "Dolan's Cadillac" (1985, 1989) (short story) 150
43. The Little Sisters of Eluria (1998) (novella) 152
44. "Survivor Type" (1982) (short story) 155
45. Thinner (1984) (novel) 158
46. "The Woman in the Room" (1978) (short story) 161
47. "Strawberry Spring" (1968, 1975) (short story) 164
48. "Nona" (1978) (short story) 167
49. "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" (2001)
(short story) 170
50. "Autopsy Room Four" (1997) (short story) 173
51. The Plant (1982, 1983, 1985, 2000, 200?) (novel) 176
52. The Regulators (1996) (novel) 180
53. "The Neighborhood of the Beast" (1994)
(nonfiction essay) 183
54. "In the Deathroom" (2000) (short story) 186
55. "Leaf-Peepers" (1998) (nonfiction essay) 189
56. "Gray Matter" (1973) (short story) 191
57. Stephen King's Golden Years (1991) (screenplay) 194
58. "The Jaunt" (1981) (short story) 198
59. Stephen King's Storm of the Century (1999) (screenplay) 201
60. "The Man Who Loved Flowers" (1977) (short story) 205
61. Cycle of the Werewolf (1983, 1985) (novella) 207
62. "The End of the Whole Mess" (1986) (short story) 210
63. "One For the Road" (1977) (short story) 213
64. "The Road Virus Heads North" (1999) (short
story) 215
65. "The Last Rung on the Ladder" (1978) (short
story) 218
66. "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" (1984) (short story) 221
67. "Umney's Last Case" (1993) (short story) 224
68. "The Doctor's Case" (1987) (short story) 227
69. "Gramma" (1984) (short story) 230
70. "The Raft" (1982) (short story) 234
71. "The Boogeyman" (1973) (short story) 236
72. The Tommyknockers (1987) (novel) 239
73. The Langoliers (1990) (novella) 242
74. Everything's Eventual (1997) (novella) 245
75. The Breathing Method (1982) (novella) 248
76. "That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In
French" (1998) (short story) 251
77. Riding the Bullet (2000) (novella) 254
78. "Graveyard Shift" (1970) (short story) 257
79. "The Mangler" (1972) (short story) 260
80. "Uncle Otto's Truck" (1983) (short story) 263
81. "Head Down" (1990) (nonfiction essay) 266
82. "My Little Serrated Security Blanket" (1995)
(nonfiction essay) 269
83. "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band" (1992)
(short story) 271
84. "The Bogeyboys" (1999) (nonfiction essay) 274
85. "I Am the Doorway" (1971) (short story) 277
86. "Cain Rose Up" (1968, 1985) (short story) 280
87. "I Know What You Need" (1976) (short story) 283
88. "The Monkey" (1980) (short story) 286
89. "Rainy Season" (1989) (short story) 289
90. "Sneakers" (1988, 1993) (short story) 292
91. "Myth, Belief, Faith and Ripley's Believe It or
Not!" 295
(1993) (nonfiction essay)
92. "Nightmares in the Sky: Gargoyles and
Grotesques" 298
(1988) (nonfiction essay)
93. "The Ten O'Clock People" (1993) (short story) 301
94. "1984: A Bad Year If You Fear Friday the 13th"
(1984) (nonfiction essay) 304
95. "What Stephen King Does for Love" (1990)
(nonfiction essay) 307
96. "Introduction for The Shapes of Midnight"
(1980) (nonfiction essay) 311
97. Foreword to Night Shift (1978) (nonfiction essay) 314
98. Foreword to Stalking the Nightmare (1982) (nonfiction
essay) 317
99. "Paranoid: A Chant" (1985) (poem) 320
100. "The Subject This Week Is Cops." (nonfiction
essay) 323
101. "The Thing at the Bottom of the Well" (1960)
(short story) 326
In a Class By Itself: "Remembering John" (1980)
(eulogy) 328
Mick Garris on Stephen King: "Stephen King is " 332
James Cole on Stephen King: "Stephen King is " 334
Jay Holben on Stephen King: "Stephen King is " 337
10 Questions with Stephen King Supercollector Charlie Fried 339
The Final Word: "Stephen King: Survivor Type" by
George Beahm 345
Index 353
About the Author 360
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