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Stephen King

Stephen King (born September 21, 1947) is a prolific American author best known for his horror novels.

King's stories often involve an unremarkable middle-class family being submerged into increasingly horrifying circumstances. He also produces more typically literary work, as can be seen in the novellas The Body and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (later adapted as the movies Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption, respectively), as well as in The Green Mile. King evinces a thorough knowledge of the horror genre, as shown in his nonfiction book Danse Macabre, which chronicles several decades of notable works in both literature and cinema.

Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine to Donald and Ruth Pillsbury King. When Stephen was very young, his father left and Ruth raised Stephen and his older brother David by herself, sometimes under great financial strain.

Stephen King has been writing since an early age. When in school, he wrote stories (plagiarized from what he'd been reading at the time) and sold them to his friends. This was not popular among his teachers, and he was forced to return his profits when this was discovered.

The stories were copied using a mimeo machine that his brother David used to copy his magazine called "Dave's Rag" that he published himself. "Dave's Rag" was about local events, and Stephen would often contribute. At around the age of thirteen, Stephen discovered a box of his father's old books at his aunt's house, mainly horror and science fiction. He was immediately hooked on the genre.

From 1966 to 1970, King studied English at the University of Maine at Orono[?]. There, King wrote a column in the school magazine called "King's Garbage Truck". At the university he also met Tabitha Spruce to whom he was married in 1971. To pay for his studies, King took on odd jobs. One of them was at an industrial laundry, on which he drew material for the short story "The Mangler[?]". This period in his life shows through in the second part of Hearts in Atlantis.

After finishing his university studies with a B.S. in English, King took a job as an English teacher at Hampden Academy[?] in Hampden, Maine[?]. He lived with Tabitha and at least one child in a trailer. Making ends meet was sometimes difficult, and the money that came from short stories, published mainly in men's magazines, was very useful. King also developed a drinking problem which stayed with him for over a decade.

During this period, King began a number of novels. One of them told the story of a young girl with psychic powers. Frustrated with it, he threw it into the trash. Later, he discovered that Tabitha had rescued it; she encouraged him to finish it as Carrie. He sent it to a friend at Doubleday[?] and more or less forgot about it. Some time later, he received an offer to buy it with a $2,500 advance (not a large advance for a novel, even at that time). Years later, the paperback rights sold for $400,000. King's mother died of uterine cancer[?] in February 1974, shortly after King started receiving money from the sale of Carrie.

In On Writing, King admits that at this time he was consistently drunk and that he was an alcoholic for well over a decade (he states that he'd based the alcoholic father in The Shining on himself, though he didn't admit it for several years).

Shortly after the publication of The Tommyknockers, King's family and friends finally intervened, dumping his trash on the rug in front of him to show him the evidence of his own addictions: beer cans, cigarette butts, grams of cocaine, Xanax, Valium, NyQuil[?]. He sought help, and quit drinking in the late 1980s.

King fans will note that the relative wealth of King's characters has risen through the decades, but not as precipitously as King's wealth itself: his earliest works (Carrie, The Shining, as well as much of the work in Night Shift) dealt with working-class families struggling from paycheck to paycheck in minimum-wage jobs; his late-80s work involved middle-class people like teachers and authors; his late 90s work, airplane pilots and others who can frequently afford a second home. Nevertheless, his work has remained immensely popular.

In the summer of 1999 King was in the middle of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft; he'd finished the memoir section and abandoned the book for nearly for eighteen months, unsure of how to proceed or whether to bother. King reports that it was the first book he'd abandoned since writing The Stand decades earlier. He had just decided to continue the book--on June 17 he had written up a list of questions he was frequently asked about writing, as well as some he wished he would be asked about it; on June 18 he had written four pages of the section on writing. On June 19, he was taking a walk after driving his son to the airport, intending to return home to go see The General's Daughter[?] with his family he was walking up a hill when a Dodge van crested the top on the shoulder of the road and hit him, throwing him about 14 feet in the air. King barely missed the driver's side support post in the van, and also barely missed a spread of rocks on the ground near where he landed--either of which could have killed him or put him in a permanent coma. Unable to get up, King was rushed to a local hospital, which reported that they could not treat him. He was then flown to another hospital; in the helicopter he suffered a collapsed lung[?]. In addition to the collapsed lung, King suffered a leg broken in at least nine places, a split knee, a broken right hip, four broken ribs, and a spine chipped in eight places. Bryan Smith, the driver of the van, was brought before a grand jury and indicted on two counts: driving to endanger and aggravated assault. He plead to driving to endanger, the lesser charge, was sentence to six months' jail time (sentence suspended) and had his drivers' license suspended for a year (he had nearly a dozen previous infractions on record). In September 2000 Smith was discovered dead in his trailer, cause of death unknown.

King was released from the hospital after three weeks, then went through half a dozen surgeries on his leg and the accompanying physical therapy. In July 1999 he continued On Writing, though his hip was still shattered and he could sit for barely forty minutes at a stretch before the pain became intolerable.

In January 2002 he announced that he would retire from writing and would publish no more works after completing the projects then underway.

Stephen King has also written many books under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. King staged a mock funeral for Bachman after the pseudonym was made public, which in turn inspired the book The Dark Half[?], in which a novelist stages the burial of his horror author pseudonym after having a "serious" novel published, only to find that his alter ego does not want to leave quite so easily. Stephen King lives in the Bangor, Maine area with his wife Tabitha King, who is also a novelist. Their three children, Naomi Rachel, Joe Hill, and Owen Phillip, are now grown and living on their own.


See also: Castle Rock, Derry, Philtrum Press

Films and TV

King optioned his films to student filmmakers for one dollar; yet, disgusted with the treatment most of his work had gotten in film, in 1986 he decided to direct Maximum Overdrive[?] himself, using a screenplay he had written based on his short story "Trucks." The experience seems to have sated his desire to direct.

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