Stephen King: A Complete Exploration of His Life, Work, and Influences by Bev Vincent – Review

Stephen King A Complete Exploration of His Work, Life, and Influences book review logo

By Sarah Morgan

I love horror, so you might think I was well-versed in Stephen King lore. But you’d be wrong.

I know him best from the many movie adaptations of his stories. The only works I’ve read of his are the short stories contained in the book Nightmares & Dreamscapes and his factual tomes Danse Macabre and On Writing. But perhaps that’s about to change…

I think the sheer length of King’s weighty novels has put me off them in the past. However, reading Bev Vincent’s book has made me think I should pull myself together and get on with it – especially as I have a perfectly good copy of Christine sitting on a shelf behind me as I type.

Vincent has managed to compile a book about King that is accessible to novices like myself, but which is also a must for the millions of dyed-in-the-wool fans out there who lap up anything associated with their hero.

As the title suggests, it explores King’s literary legacy, as well as his life and influences, revealing how they’re all inextricably linked. It seems that everything that’s ever happened to King since his birth in Portland, Maine, in 1947 has become fuel for his stories, from events in his peripatetic childhood to his battle with addiction and the near-fatal accident he suffered in 1999.

“A lot of ground to cover”

Stephen King A Complete Exploration of His Work, Life, and Influences book reviewWhat is particularly skilful about the way in which Vincent has gone about his work is that he’s managed not to include any spoilers, so that the casual observer like myself can go on to read the books without already knowing how they’re going to turn out. He’s also been given permission by King’s archives to include two previously unpublished gems – a partial page from a story called ‘Gulch’ and the poem ‘Imaginary Places’.

Also featured are numerous quotes from little-seen interviews with the writer, as well as Vincent’s explorations of two places fans will instantly recognise from King’s tales – Derry and Castle Rock.

You probably didn’t realise you needed to know every person who ever came from the latter, or just how many of King’s protagonists have been fellow authors, but both are also included here, alongside an exhaustive list of big and small screen adaptations.

It’s almost 50 years since King’s first published novel, Carrie, was released, so there’s a lot of ground to cover, and Vincent manages to do it without making it seem laboured or off-puttingly academic, which is to be applauded. This book is certainly not a horror show, it’s a labour of love.

‘Stephen King: A Complete Exploration of His Life, Work, and Influences’ by Bev Vincent is published by Becker&Mayer, £21 hardback


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