Creating George Stark was easy. Getting rid of him won’t be…
The sparrows are flying again. The idea – unbidden, inexplicable – haunts the edge of Thad Beaumont’s mind. Thad should be happy. For years now it is his secret persona ‘George Stark’, author of super-violent pulp thrillers, who has paid the family bills. But now, Thad is writing seriously again under his own name, and his menacing pseudonym has been buried forever. And yet… the sparrows are flying again, and something is terribly wrong in Thad Beaumont’s world.
This novel is another chiller from the expert mystery/horror writer Stephen King. In this novel inspired by King’s personal pen-name experience, novelist Thad Beaumont “kills” off his sick-minded alter-ego. Said alter-ego George Stark always brought out the worst in Thad. His works may have been more famous than those under Thad’s own name, but Thad and his wife were growing increasingly worried over his bizarre and, at times dangerous, behaviour. However, instead of George Stark ceasing to exist he becomes even more of a reality…
One day not long after Thad’s banishment of Stark, cops show up at the Beaumont’s home. A gruesome crime has been committed, and Thad’s fingerprints are everywhere. However, it was hundreds of miles away and Thad has a solid alibi. To Thad, there seems to be only one possible explanation. George Stark.
Stark seems to be resisting Thad’s insistence on his demise. Instead of ceasing to exist, he exerts his right to be by making it impossible for Thad to ignore him. One by one Stark seems to be picking off those who helped Thad orchestrate his “death.” With his friend’s and family’s lives at stake, Thad is the only one who can stop Stark before it’s too late.
I really enjoyed this book. It was spine-tingly creepy in King’s signature style. Not only is this book at once a mystery and a horror story, it also explores the existential questions of the writer: what does it mean to create, and who am I when I create? In King’s story, The Dark Half, when the protagonist creates, he becomes someone else entirely—to the extent that his other half, his writing half—his “dark half”—comes to life. Literally.
In this book, King once again establishes himself as a master of contemporary horror. His vivid and disturbing description paired with his expert characterization, make this a great, and spooky, read. Although not usually listed with King’s top novels, I think this one is underrated, and is up there with his best works. I think Stark is one of King’s best and most chilling villains… Not only is he one exceptionally evil bastard, he is part and parcel of Thad’s very self. He is very much Thad’s Dark Half—and Thad has to come to terms with that. Although he knows he has to get rid of him, he also knows that, although indefensible and cruel, George Stark is part of him and deep down he doesn’t want to let him go.
If you’re a fan of Stephen King, you’ll love this one. If you’re a fan of horror/mystery/thriller in general, you should definitely check this one out.
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.