Don’t fret over the title of A Brief Guide to Stephen King, or the idea of the writer’s gargantuan body of work being boiled down to a mere 265 pages. Paul Simpson’s career overview may be brief, but it is satisfying. He covers every one of King’s novels, novellas, short story collections, digital and other uncollected stories, screenplays, and comic book scripts to date, as well as a nuts-and-bolts biography and overview of select non-fiction work. Each entry includes a short synopsis before getting to the goods with a pretty lengthy look at the tales’ genesis, the reactions it provoked, and adaptations it inspired (yes, that does include the Shining porno spoof Naughty Little Nymphos 5). The structure and content reminded me quite a bit of Marc Scott Zicree’s essential Twilight Zone Companion right down to his refusal to hold back spoilers. Simpson is less critical though. Since he clearly knows his King, it would have been nice if he’d provided a bit more personal assessment for each title so that his book could also provide recommendations better. For the most part, he remains neutral, allowing quotes from the critics of the past—many of whom are most certainly not Stephen King fans— to give each work the “yay” or “nay.” So you may just have to make up your own mind about whether or not you should read about preteen sewer orgies and shit weasels.
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