Stephen King turning seventy

Master of horror Stephen King, who has written over fifty novels and roughly two hundred short stories, turns seventy next month. The influence of his work is as strong as ever, with film adaptations of “The Dark Tower” and “It” due for cinema release in the coming weeks and a series based on one of his most popular settings, Castle Rock, also imminent. King is still writing, with a book that he has co-written with son Owen due for release next month.

King had his first novel, “Carrie”, published in 1974, though he had several short stories published prior to this, usually in men’s magazines. Many of these stories were later republished in “Night Shift”, the first of his short story anthologies.

Here at the National Library of Scotland we hold a lot of Stephen King’s published work, including a number of interesting items. King released four novellas under his pseudonym Richard Bachman, which were compiled for “The Bachman Books”. The earliest of these, which is called “Rage”, starred a main protagonist who was responsible for a high-school shooting. Due to the large number of such events in America, King has not reprinted this story in later editions of the book, but the Library still holds an early copy which contains this controversial story.

In 1996 Stephen King experimented with a different method of releasing a novel. Harking back to the days of Charles Dickens, he published a novel in serial format, with volumes released on a monthly basis. The Library holds the original serial volumes as well as the novelised version of this work, “The Green Mile”. This, as with a substantial number of King’s works, was adapted for the screen, and received multiple Oscar nominations.

In the year 2000, King published the world’s first mass-market e-book in the shape of the novella “Riding The Bullet”. According to the New York Times the author modestly predicted to his publishers that he would sell a mere 16,000 copies. However within 24 hours of its release, over 400,000 orders for the item had been made, causing servers to jam. This underlined, for the first time, the viability of electronic publishing, and now the National Library of Scotland receives an ever increasing amount of its Legal Deposit intake electronically.

While primarily known for his horror fiction, King has proved that he is a versatile writer. The Oscar-nominated film “Stand By Me” and Oscar-winning film “The Shawshank Redemption” were based on novellas that appeared in King’s collection “Different Seasons”. He has also published a non-fiction book about horror fiction (“Danse Macabre”), a book about the craft of writing (“On Writing”) and a non-fiction essay titled “Guns”, which was published in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.

In September, to commemorate his seventieth birthday, there will be a small display on the mezzanine level of our general reading room, consisting of some of the material referred to in this blog. Plus, keep your eyes peeled for a couple of very special guests…

Should you have any further queries about this or any other subject, please contact us at Ask a librarian or simply speak to staff at our Enquiry Desk.