It goes without saying that Stephen King is the master of the macabre, and quite possibly the most famous horror scribe in history, with apologies to the likes of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.
However, what about the “softer side” of the legendary scribe? Though horror may be his chosen field and his first love, but over the years he has branched out into fantasy, hardboiled crime, prison drama, straight up drama, non-fiction, mystery and suspense, and all sorts of mixed genre fare.
Never one to limit himself, King – thanks to a massive fan following and the fact that everything he writes becomes a best seller – has pretty much been able to write, well, whatever he wants.
Surprisingly for many (save no doubt his “constant readers”), some of these excursions into non-horror territory have actually turned out better than his horror work, winning multiple awards and nominations for even more. And some of his best film adaptations are based not on his horror work but on tales anchored in the “real” world.
Looking back at it, in the twilight of his career, King is no longer just “that horror guy” but rather one of the most decorated, cherished, and prolific authors of our time. Now let’s recount ten not-so-scary tales penned by Stephen King.
10. On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
At the turn of the millennium Stephen King published this Bram Stoker Award winning non-fiction volume, much to the delight of amateur and struggling authors everywhere. On Writing is less a memoir than it is a how-to, from King’s perspective, on constructing a good story, and it is a very good, very accessible read.
It also included an exercise for fans to create the outline of their own tale, which they could submit via King’s website (they no longer accept said submissions, though people still seem to them in from time to time).
As a demonstration, King himself also cobbled together the outline of a short story set in a haunted hotel. After much fan feedback, he opted to finish it as 1408, collected in the short story compilation Everything’s Eventual, and adapted to the big screen in a great little film starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson.
How effective was On Writing? Author Jeannie Ruesch has stated that it drove her to write, though she was slow to apply its lessons. WWE legend Mick Foley, who has two published novels, was also inspired and listed the book when asked about what encouraged him to take the plunge.
In short, if you’re starting out as a writer, it’s a must-read.
9. The Colorado Kid
The Colorado Kid marked Stephen King’s first trip into hardboiled crime territory. Writing for Hard Case Crime, a publisher dealing exclusively in the genre, King really branched out with this short novel, which centered around the mystery of an unidentified body found along the coast of Maine. When the investigation goes nowhere, a local grad student and newspaper reporter work to crack the case.
The book was a complete departure from previous King work. Published in 2005, it was a late career curve ball that few saw coming – and proved that he had a knack for storytelling that transcended genre. It would also open the door for him to publish a second novel for Hard Case Crime, Joyland.
While The Colorado Kid will never be in the discussion as King’s “Best” work, or even in the top five, it was good enough to warrant more, and was also picked up as a television adaptation, becoming the Syfy series Haven.