Saturday, September 5, 2009

Needful Things by Stephen King

Needful Things

by Stephen King

Some of King’s best works took place in the fictional New England town of Castle Rock, including The Dead Zone, Cujo, The Dark Half, and the short story The Body (all of which were made into films, incidentally.) In 1991, King decided he needed a fresh start to breathe new life into his work, and so he wrote Needful Things, in which he not only said goodbye to the town, he brought the apocalypse down upon it.

A new store opens up, much to the delight of the Castle Rock citizens. It has a brilliant green awning above the front door, declares itself “A NEW KIND OF STORE,” and is run by a classy old gentleman by the name of Leland Gaunt. He seems like a nice enough fellow, but when he touches you, you know that something is not right with him. That doesn’t matter one bit, however. What matters is that he’s got something for everyone, that one thing you’ve been longing for all your life, and he’s willing to cut you a hell of a deal.

The problem is this: He’ll take your cash but that’s not what he’s after. Along with your money, you’re contractually obligated to perform a “deed” or two, nothing serious, just a “harmless prank.” But Mr. Gaunt, centuries experienced in these matters, knows how to turn such a prank into a family feud, and he does just that with explosive results.

Young Brian Rusk is gets things started for us, all for an autographed Sandy Koufax baseball card, costing him a handful of pocket change and a promise to soil someone’s bed sheets as they hang on the line to dry. Soon, everybody is wheeling-and-dealing with Mr. Gaunt, although he’s always the one pulling the strings. And fireworks are going off everywhere. Old arguments are reinstated as new threats and we learn that although everybody in this small town is innocent, they’re all guilty as well.

When the proverbial shit hits the fan, we’re treated so some truly great action that makes us think the author may have let good old Richard Bachman out of his cage, even if just for a little while, and more quick cuts than a Freddy Kruger film.

The final showdown between Sheriff Alan Pangborn and Leland Gaunt is a blend of slight of hand parlor tricks and genuine white magic. Pangborn, you may recall, was the same sheriff heading the Thad Beaumont/George Stark investigation in The Dark Half, but more significantly in my opinion is the unexpected return of Ace-Fuckin’-Merill from The Body, immortalized by Kiefer Sutherland in the movie Stand By Me.

All said and done, this was a hell of a read, and although hefty (weighing in at 736 pages), once you get started you won’t even notice. A must read for Stephen King fans of all dedication, although I suggest reading the other Castle Rock novels first.

I have only two qualms with the book, and minor ones at that. First, the ammunition distributed by Gaunt to the warring townsfolk when things begin to really heat up is tainted with a mysterious deadly virus, presumably because a gunshot to the face isn’t deadly enough. It seems a trifle silly and is definitely unneeded, seeing as how although the threat is there it never comes into fruition.

The second is the lame “notable quotable” with which Pangborn’s girlfriend Polly essentially ends the book (which I think I can repeat here without giving anything away): “There was a sale. The biggest going-out-of-business sale you ever saw…but in the end, some of us decided not to buy.”


BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR: the spirits of Cujo and the sparrows from The Dark Half; Graceland sex with the King; an unnatural obsession with so-called ‘carnival glass’;

Needful Things is currently ranked #81,162 in Books at Visit the author's official website, or buy it today!


1 comment:

  1. I looooved this book, was kinda sad about the movie version - -it wasn't the worst thing EVER, but it was obvious from the get-go that the depth and scope of the book and its many relationships would never have translated well into one short flick.


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