I do think that my selection of Stephen King is the most aggravating to my friend Medieval Otaku. I have empathy for the belief that King is merely a shock and vomit author who sells because people like watching horrible things happen to people. However, I contend that there are three distinct Stephen Kings. Stephen King (B) is every bad thing that M. Otaku thinks. King (B) is the author of books of nihilistic violence like Cujo and creepy horror stories that, though awesome horror stories, are in no way worthy of a top ten list (Pet Sematary comes to mind).
The next King I will mention is (C). King (C) comes last chronologically (I think). King (C) is the ‘literary elephantiasis’ that King admits he suffers from, but left unchecked. King (C) also has a high probability of being at least partially ghost written. King (C) is over-enthusiastic about supporting all the ‘right’ (politically correct) ideas rather than the brutal truth. The book that comes to my mind here is Insomnia. I only managed to read about 50 pages because it was a literal cure for the advertised illness.
However, there are a number of books and even more short stories by King where the words sing. The phrase I used above is generally apt: The Brutal Truth. These books and and novellas I believe are good enough to propel King (A) into the top ten. In fact some of these books have the truth, the long term appeal, and the humanness to acquire actual classic status. For instance James Fenemore Cooper is not on my list, despite the fact that I have read almost all of his novels, and found them enjoyable and good. He is not on my list because mostly they fall into a sort of light romance category (in an older definition of romance that includes adventure). However, ‘The Green Mile’ is the kind of story that is applicable to all times. Mankind will never cease to be racist, good men will never stop fighting the racists. Evil men will be evil, and good men will be blamed. If we read ‘N’ or we find a novella of going mad. Probably one of the best I have ever read.
Finally, I want to say a few words about ‘Salam’s Lot’ which I have as my model novel for King (A). Although Salam’s Lot is probably not the best novel King (A) ever wrote (The Green Mile, Lisey’s Story, The Shining and others may contend), Salam’s Lot is the only vampire story other than Dracula (and some vampire short stories also by King(A)) worth reading. Dracula is so good because the vampire is a specifically anti-Christian, specifically horrifying to the Christian mindset because the eternal un-life of the vampire is achieved through a satanic mockery of the Eucharist. Salam’s Lot has a lot of similar characteristics to Dracula, where ordinary people do extraordinary things. In a lot of ways I find that Salam’s Lot is the heir to Dracula, showing that even in the secular world, religious desecration elicits a visceral shudder, and that to slay a monster does not require superpowers, it requires perseverance, faith, fortitude and courage. There is also a fantastic scene where the Vampire taunts one of the characters as he relies on the mere symbolism of the crucifix and his own strength and it loses its potency.