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  • Writer's pictureDouglas James Troxell

My love/hate relationship with Stephen King

Stephen King is one of the most famous living authors in the world. He's published over 50 novels, many of them iconic in the world of modern literature. Ask anyone to name a famous author and King's name will undoubtedly be mentioned.

And I hate him.

In high school and college I loved King. I read all his early stuff. The Shining, Carrie, Pet Cemetery, Skeleton Crew. But my favorite was The Stand. I loved that book. It's still probably in my top twenty. The post-apocalyptic battle between Good and Evil intrigued me and nothing intrigued me more than Randall Flagg, The Walkin' Dude. What a great bad guy!

I kept reading King, but the more I read the more I realized something: The further I got from the beginning of King's career, the worse the books got. The page counts increased. The characters all blended together into cardboard cutouts of Good and Evil. The stories were poorly constructed and the writing devolved into Patterson territory.

As a long-term reader, I felt like King betrayed me. I expected greatness in every novel and all I got was mediocrity. I couldn't understand how someone I admired so much could let me down (like it was a personal affront or something). So I dropped him. I stopped reading his work.

As a writer, it's easy to see what happened. King got famous. He wasn't hungry anymore. He had nothing left to prove. He was no longer writing with a chip on his shoulder. No one would edit him anymore. He was allowed to ramble on and on and since the books sold thousands of copies no one cared about literary quality. He got what every writer dreams of achieving: Literary immortality.

Recently I gave King another chance. I loved the concept behind Under the Dome and I'd been hearing good things about King's more recent work so I figured, why not? I found that the writing had improved, but many of his mid-work flaws still lingered: cardboard characters and sloppy editing. Still, there was something there that wasn't before: Respect. For what the man has accomplished, there can be nothing but respect. So many of us struggle to find readers for our work. King brings people into bookstores. He promotes other writers' work. He's good for business.

And that's why I will always love and hate Stephen King.

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