Few names are as iconic as Stephen King when it comes to the written word. Known for his spine-tingling tales of horror and suspense, which have been adapted into countless horror movies, King has enthralled readers for decades with his unique brand of storytelling.
But in a recent interview, the master of the macabre revealed a surprising twist in his approach to writing mystery novels, and it takes a deliberate page (pun intended) straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s playbook of suspense as opposed to Agatha Christie’s guide.
The renowned author of Salem’s Lot is currently promoting his latest novel, Holly, which reintroduces his beloved character from Mr. Mercedes. It’s a gripping story about a mass murderer plowing a Mercedes-Benz through a crowd at a job fair. During an interview on The Book Review Podcast, the horror author shared his approach to crafting mysteries, emphasizing his preference for the suspenseful style of Alfred Hitchcock over the intricate whodunits often associated with Agatha Christie.
The horror writer talks Holly and why he chose not to erase Covid from the detective’s world
By Brenna Ehrlich, September 5, 2023
THIS POST CONTAINS spoilers for Stephen King’s new book Holly, which comes out today.
Stephen King is readying himself for a flood of hate when his next book, Holly, drops on Sept. 5. “I think that a lot of people are not going to like it,” he says. “I think that a lot of people — particularly people on the other side of the Covid issue and the Trump issue — are going to give it one-star reviews on Amazon.
But all I can say to those people is, ‘Knock yourself out.’”
While inviting bad reviews before publication may seem like an odd sentiment from one of the most prolific, acclaimed horror writers of all time, well… a lot of things are topsy-turvy these days.
And unlike many writers who have released books over these past few years, King — as is his custom — doesn’t shy away from that discomfort in Holly, which follows the PI he introduced in the Mr. Mercedes series, as she attempts to solve a string of disappearances during the height of Covid.
There are few authors, if any at all, that can match the influence of Stephen King, an ingenious creative who has given a tremendous amount of stories to cinema and television. From low-key dramas like Stand By Me, Misery and The Shawshank Redemption to blockbuster thrillers such as It, The Shining and Carrie, King has done it all.
Continuing to inspire both the big and small screen to this very day, King has recently seen his novel Firestarter adapted into a new movie starring Zac Efron, as well as his 2006 book Lisey’s Story that has recently been serialised by Apple TV.
Despite writing many of his most iconic stories in the late 20th century, King’s influence in the world of literature and visual entertainment is truly impressive.
Stephen King has written a lot of books – at 56 novels, he’s closing in on Agatha Christie – some of which have been great, some of which less so. Still, he says, when people say, “Steve, your books are uneven”, he’s confident “there’s good stuff in all of ’em”. Now and then, a story lingers in his mind long after it’s published. When fans ask what happened to Charlie McGee in Firestarter, for example, King isn’t interested. But when they ask what happened to Danny Torrance, the boy from The Shining, he always found himself wondering. Specifically: what the story would have looked like if Danny’s father – mad “white-knuckle alcoholic” Jack Torrance – had “found AA. And I thought, well, let’s find out.”
Stephen King , I’ve come to think, is at his most adept when writing in the midlength range. His big novels — “The Stand,” “It,” “11/22/63” — have always felt a little baggy to me, while his shortest work (he has published more than 200 stories, gathered in a number of collections) can feel sketchy, more idea than nuanced narrative.