In 1974, Stephen King started his literary career with a slim novel called Carrie. Today, Revival, his 68th book, hits stands. Set primarily in Maine and Colorado — familiar turf for the writer’s “constant readers” — it’s a horror story about religion, fanaticism, and rock & roll. (King pulls liberally from his experience in the authors-only cover band the Rock Bottom Remainders, which disbanded in 2012.)
“Evil is inside us,” King recently said in the Rolling Stone Interview. “The older I get, the less I think there’s some sort of outside devilish influence; it comes from people.” Revival features a villain who’s not a from-the-depths-of-hell monster or multi-tentacled beastie; he’s just a Methodist minister who’s left traumatized by a tragedy and starts to descend into a fine madness. And like many fine tales of suspense, Revival elaborately tightens the noose of tension for a few hundred pages before kicking the trapdoor loose with a laugh. It’s a major work for the prolific author, and to celebrate it, we’ve got an A to Z breakdown of the Master of Horror’s mammoth body of work — 26 places, faces, and nightmares that rule King’s kingdom.
A: Annie Wilkes
The 1980s were an incredible, brutal era for King. He put out 19 books in nine years, with most of that span plagued/assisted by daily cocaine use. (See also T.) In 1987, after scaring readers with a small town full of vampires, a killer car, a rabid St. Bernard, a reanimated cat, and a pack of ghosts, King published Misery, starring an unspeakably demonic…human being. Her name was Annie Wilkes, and she kidnapped a successful writer named Paul Sheldon, forcing him to write a novel for her as he recovered from a car accident and the subsequent painkiller addiction. “Misery is a book about cocaine. Annie Wilkes is cocaine,” King says in the RS Interview. “She was my number-one fan.” Wilkes’ detached, pleasant folksiness, paired with her flair for violence and cruelty, won her a place in the Major King Villains pantheon. (Wilkes also won Kathy Bates an Oscar in 1991, when she starred opposite James Caan in Rob Reiner’s adaptation.)
B: Bachman, Richard
Between 1977 and 1982, a writer named Richard Bachman published a pair of dark, dystopian novels and two pulpy, modern-day novels. Shortly after Thinner hit in 1984, the (undead) cat was out of the bag: Bachman was King’s pen name. “I think I did it to turn down the heat a little bit; to do something as someone other than Stephen King,” he wrote in “Why I Was Bachman,” an intro to the collected Bachman Books. “I think that all novelists are inveterate role-players and it was fun to be someone else for a while — in this case, Richard Bachman.” King makes it sound fun, too, admitting that he wrote The Running Man over the course of three days and saw it “published with virtually no changes.” (Before being outed with Thinner, King was eyeballing Misery as the next Bachman book.) In 1989, he published The Dark Half, about a writer whose edgy pseudonym comes alive as flesh-and-blood psychopath. “I’m indebted to the late Richard Bachman,” read King’s prefatory author’s note, “for his help and inspiration. This novel could not have been written without him.”
C: Captain Trips
To jumpstart The Stand, one of his most epic and beloved books, King had to murder 99.4 percent of the world’s population. He did this with Captain Trips, a code-named superflu engineered by the U.S. military. Once the virus escaped a contamination lockdown, it wasn’t long before humanity melted into a phlegmy mass dying of grisly, cancer-like symptoms. The characters who turned out to be immune to the disease — Stu Redman, Franny Goldsmith, Larry Underwood, Nadine Cross, the Trashcan Man, and dozens more — are the ones we follow through The Stand.
Scariest town of all time? It’s a contender, at least, thanks largely to 1986’s It. King spent 1,138 pages painting Derry, a fictional Maine city based on Bangor, as the birthplace of one of his most ancient evils: a shape-shifting entity that resurfaced every 27 years since time immemorial. King returned to Derry a decade later for Insomnia, and for a memorable, It-related scene in 11/22/63. The troubled town has appeared in more than 20 other King stories and novels, either with small mentions or spooky little detours. The only other town so frequently seen in the King-verse is Castle Rock, the backdrop for Needful Things, “The Body,” Cujo, and many more.