I like Stephen King.
There was a time when it wasn’t cool to admit that, but the guy has always known how to spin a yarn. Admittedly I found the Dark Tower sequence a bit… self-indulgent, especially since after wading through about a million words it all ended up where it started (hopefully I shouldn’t have needed to tag that “spoiler alert”). He’s not my favorite author, but he is a fine craftsman with a distinctive voice, and I admire his inventiveness and imagination. Most of his books I’ve enjoyed reading once, but not kept… a few, though, are still on my shelf.
These are all of them smaller, less sprawly narratives, focusing on one person: The Dark Half (writer with murderous alter ego); Hearts in Atlantis (yes, I know it has links to the Dark Tower, but it’s the smaller human story which takes up most of the book that I find most compelling); Duma Key (guy loses arm, moves to remote island, starts painting evil pictures); and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
This is a very short novel for King, who rarely does anything in moderation, but it’s one I’ve re-read quite a few times. It’s a little gem, taut and quite lacking in any of the sprawliness of his other work, and nine-year-old Trisha is a feisty and beautifully realized heroine.
Has King influenced me? I don’t think so. Yes, he does the ensemble piece, as I do with the Da Silva Tales (it came about rather by accident, to be honest)— but he takes, say, six characters and gives them each a book-length story all in one big chunky doorstep. But, if I’m allowed to nit-pick, his characters a mostly drawn from a small spectrum; and I’ve never been drawn to emulate his voice. It is almost too unique, and I mean that as a compliment.