Post Book Shelf - the Stephen King Story by George Beahm
The Stephen King Story by George Beahm 330 pages, Andrews and McMeel, $9.95
One night during the early 1950s, little Stephen King noticed a stack of used paperback books piled alongside the family TV set. When he asked his mother, a single woman raising two boys, why she had bought them, she replied that, for her, they were "a pile of cheap, sweet vacations" from the 45-50 hour workweeks she was forced to endure in various dead-end jobs.
Today, Stephen King's "vacations" are hardly sweet--nor are they cheap (his latest, Dolores Claiborne, lists at $23.50). Nevertheless, King has sold nearly 150 million copies of his published books (36 to date, including short story compilations, limited-edition novels, and one nonfiction tome, 1981's Danse Macabre) worldwide. Nearly all of his fiction has been made--or is about to be made--into movies for the big screen as well as the small.
In the process, as Ben Franklin had done centuries before with newspaper publishing, King has taken what for decades had been a specialized--and thus highly unprofitable--endeavor (horror fiction) and made it both palatable for the masses and profitable for himself. By focusing on the horrific and unusual among ordinary people in everyday circumstances (much as Shirley Jackson, one of King's admitted influences, had done with her 1948 short story "The Lottery"), King has made horror agreeable for the reader who might have been repulsed by the vulgarity of much 1950s horror--or bored stiff by the sticky 1920s work of H. …