Today’s best thriller writers on one hundred classics of the genre…
My goal is to eventually make my way through all of these must-read titles. These books have been around for so long and read by so many that another generic review from your average reader seems unnecessary. Instead, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some of the experts have to say about the stories that paved the way for their own success… and how their perspective compares to my own reading experience. Today, I’m looking at Stephen King’s Misery.
After an automobile accident, novelist Paul Sheldon meets his biggest fan. Annie Wilkes is his nurse — and captor. Now, she wants Paul to write his greatest work — just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an ax. And if they don’t work, she can get really nasty…
Chris Mooney was the writer tasked with covering the essay on Stephen King. King is easily one of the most talented and prolific writers publishing today; there are many who are one or the other, but precious few who are both. So choosing one book to represent his work was, I’m sure, not a simple decision, but Mooney and the other folks at ITW decided that Misery was the “must-read”-iest of them all.
Unlike many of King’s well-known works, this time the horror is 100% real. There’s nothing paranormal at play here, just a guy in a bad situation, at the mercy of a genuinely crazy woman. “In Annie Wilkes, King develops one of the most complex and terrifying villains in popular culture. He doles out the depths of her psychosis — and the ensuing terror — in slow, maddening increments.”
This is what I absolutely love about King. The first book of his that I read was Under the Dome, and I wasn’t that impressed. Next I tried The Stand… better, but I was still too overwhelmed by the massive scope of it to really appreciate him. But in Misery, for about 95% of the book, there are only two characters, and King paints them in such a way that you almost feel you are right there in the room with them, just as much a victim of Annie as Paul is. And, just like Paul, you’re helpless to stop her. All he can do is keep writing, and all you can do is keep reading.
Mooney goes on to discuss the other key aspect of the book, one that’s common to many of King’s stories — the experience of a writer. Not only is it fascinating for book lovers to read about, but obviously King enjoys writing about writers or he wouldn’t keep doing it. It’s nice to get a peek into the creative process, even if it’s in the middle of a horrific situation such as this.
This was really the book that got me hooked on Stephen King; though I still haven’t read much of his work, that’s something that I’m slowly working on.
Is it a must-read thriller, though? I think, at the very least, King is a must-read author, one whom everyone should try at least once. He writes such a wide variety that even those who don’t like horror should be able to find something that interests them. As long as you don’t have an aversion to reading about terror and violence — and, if you’re a fan of the books I discuss here, you probably don’t — Misery is as good as any (and better than many) to start with.
Five down, ninety-five to go…