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Stephen King

The Shining, It, Pet Sematery, Cujo, The Stand...no other writer has preyed upon the horrors of late-twentieth-century life quite like Stephen King. For over thirty years, the astonishingly prolific King has been crafting dozens of uniquely American nightmares from his ghostly manse in Bangor, Maine. And, while he often seems to have trouble penning fully satisfying endings to his scariest works, King nevertheless has a panoply of dark, twisted, and compulsively readable tales to his credit.

Any horror writer could - and do - invoke the same menagerie of beastly beasties as King: vampires (Salem's Lot), ghosts (The Shining, Christine, Bag of Bones), zombies (Pet Sematery, Creepshow), witches (Carrie, Firestarter, Thinner), demons (It, The Stand), and aliens (Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher.) But the genius of Stephen King is that he envelops these fantastical horrors within the hidden anxieties of daily living - a spousal infidelity, a teenage rejection, a cough that won't go away, a trusted pet acting strange, a child out of sight, a drink too many. In sum, all of King's best works and scariest passages feast upon fears both mundane and macabre.

Although I was probably most scared by It (it's a clown thing) and The Shining (moving hedge animals...brr), I'd say arguably my favorite King story is one of his earliest - The Long Walk. Auspiciously for King's purposes, I first read The Long Walk while trying out for the varsity soccer team my freshman year of high school, with pain and cramps shooting through my thighs and calves almost nightly. The novella tells the story of 100 young men (two from each state) who win a lottery to take part in the premier sporting/reality-tv event of the near-future. Everyone starts the Walk at the northern tip of Maine and heads south at a pace no slower than four miles an hour...Fall behind the pace and you get a warning. Amass three warnings in an hour and you are shot. If you're the last man walking, you win the Prize, anything and everything you've ever wanted. Remember, the fellows you're walking with may seem like your friends - in fact, they may even become your friends - but in the end only one of you is going to live through this. So on your mark, get set...

Hail to the King.

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