THE DARK HALF
Book #1 (of four) of King's celebrated megabucks publishing contract--and it's King at his effusive near-best, with a long, ultra-violent, suspenseful story of a best-selling writer whose pseudonym comes to life and goes on a murderous rampage. As in Misery, King again fantasizes from his own writerly experience, creating as his hero Maine author Thad Beaumont--who, in addition to literary novels under his own name, has written four grisly best-sellers under the pen name of George Stark. Unlike King's own Richard Bachman pseudonym, though--to whom King claims "indebtedness" here, and who was laid to rest after exposure by a resourceful reporter--Stark takes on malignant flesh after Thad (staving off threatened exposure) kills him off by going public in People magazine. Rising from his mock grave pictured in the People spread, Stark beats to death a local Maine man--and draws the ire of subsidiary hero Sheriff Alan Pang-born. When Stark's fingerprints turn out to match Thad's, the writer becomes the law-man's prime suspect--until Stark's graphically detailed blood-riot in Manhattan, where he kills Thad's literary agent and everyone associated with his "death," convinces Pang-born that Thad is innocent. King enriches this mayhem with his usual psychological soundings (are the now telepathically linked Stark and Thad truly two halves of one whole?) and occult symbolism (in an effective borrowing from The Birds, millions of sparrows, "psychopomps," herald Stark's moves). But the strong accent here is on violent action, with matters reaching a ripping climax as Stark kidnaps Thad's family to force Thad to help him write one last novel--the writing of which will allow the crazed Stark, now decaying, to suck up Thad's life force. A potent, engrossing blend of occult and slasher horror, not as fully riveting or grandly ironic as Misery, but without the pomposities of much other recent King--It; The Tommy-knockers--and certainly slick and scary enough to make it the book to beat on the fall lists.