Ask Dayton 84 – Favorite Stephen King Stories
It’s October, so here’s a season-appropriate thought I had for you: what are your favorite Stephen King novels and why? How about adaptations of his books?
This is the part of the show where I totally dash your hopes and dreams, and confess to you that I’m not really the biggest Stephen King fan.
This isn’t to say I dislike him or his writing, at all. I’ve read more than a few King stories, and the dude’s definitely got some mad skillz. It’s just that King’s books aren’t the first things I go looking for whenever I wander into a bookstore.
That said, listen up, you writer hopefuls: Go and get yourself a copy of King’s On Writing. Get it, and read it, then go back and read it again. No, seriously. I’ll wait.
Done yet? Okay, then. Moving on….
I’m not usually one for “horror fiction,” to begin with, so that takes care of a sizable portion of Mr. King’s backlist. Still, I’ve read a few of the ones everybody knows—The Shining and The Stand—the former because I found it in the duty desk one night when I was bored and desperate for anything to fill the hours, and the latter because everybody and their uncle was reading the damned thing at the time. I swear, if that fucking book had been published today, it would have been titled Fifty Shades of Airborne Death. Anyway, both of those books were pretty damned good.
I guess you could say my taste in King books tends to move toward his more “atypical” fare.
In the 80s, I read a couple of the short novels he wrote under the pen name “Richard Bachman,” The Long Walk and The Running Man. They were two of four stories included in a paperback collection I grabbed at the time of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Running Man movie, and after enduring that steaming pile of shit I wanted to see if they’d just dicked up a perfectly good story.
My suspicions were correct, as the original novel is darker, larger in scope, and pretty much nothing like the film it inspired. It’s also reminiscent of one of my very favorite short stories, “The Most Dangerous Game,” which has been the target of homage, parody, and flat-out ripping off in every medium ever since about five minutes after it was first published in 1924. If you’re only exposure to The Running Man is Arnold, then flush it from your brain and go check out this, instead. Reading it after seeing the movie was my introduction to the harsh reality that most adaptations of Stephen King’s stories tend to suck some flavor of donkey balls.
As for The Long Walk, that’s just a damned scary tale, because of its brutal, twisted simplicity. Given today’s penchant for reality competition shows on TV with ever-increasing levels of “what the fuckery,” The Long Walk’s premise is even more plausible than that of The Running Man.
The first King book I remember picking up at a bookstore and saying, “Holy fuck! I need to read this!” was The Gunslinger, the first book in his Dark Tower series, which had been reprinted alongside the just-released second book, The Drawing of the Three. I’ll be honest: I ate that shit up, and I think light may have bent and stretched as I hauled ass back to the store to get the second book.
Other stuff I’ve read and enjoyed over the years includes The Body, a novella which was adapted into a little flick you may have heard of called Stand by Me. I also got a kick out of reading The Green Mile when it was released in installments back in 1996. Do you know that the success of this novel and its popular serial publication approach inspired Pocket Books to release the first four books of the Star Trek: New Frontier novel series in a similar format? I also enjoyed The Colorado Kid, one of the first entries in the Hard Case Crime line of mystery/noir novels, which has since served as a springboard for the Syfy series Haven. I haven’t had a chance to check out a few of his more recent releases, such as 11/22/63, Joyland, or Doctor Sleep, though I plan to as soon as I get some free time.
(Stop laughing. SHUT UP.)
However, my hands-down, no argument all-time favorite Stephen King story is Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. I read it only after seeing the film from which it’s adapted (which is also one of my very favorite movies, period), and its every last word is as compelling as the film. And yes to answer the obvious question, I hear Morgan Freeman’s voice the whole time I’m reading it. Titty sprinkles.
Oh, and one last thing? I know it’s not a novel, but Creepshow? Kick ass movie.
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He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.
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