Searching for Stephen King

A new biography presents facts but not a full story
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  January 13, 2010

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TIMELINE + TRIVIA: Rogak’s comprehensive bio lacks heart.

Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King | by Lisa Rogak | Thomas Dunne Books | 310 pages | $15.99

Photos: Stephen King-inspired artwork.

A coffee table book that might scare you awake. By Deirdre Fulton.

In 1983, Doubleday published yet another book from the increasingly renowned Stephen King, whose Carrie and The Shining (to name just two) were already popular books and movies. Fans greedily gobbled up Pet Sematary — a story that King hated (and called "so awful"). In her new "unauthorized" biography of King, Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King, Lisa Rogak writes this about King's experience: "Steve learned an important lesson about fans who were so adamant about reading every word he'd ever written that he could indeed publish his grocery list and haul in millions."

Such literary fandom simultaneously pleased, scared, and befuddled King. "I'm a little bit amazed by the whole thing, and I don't really understand it," he said in the mid-'80s, according to Haunted Heart. "Writers are not stars, they're not supposed to be stars. It's a thing that will play itself out in time. It'll pass."

Nope.

In fact, Haunted Heart is another example of how little that fascination has faded. Rogak's book is a straightforward, chronological presentation of King's life-thus-far (though the book is billed as "unauthorized," King did know about it, and gave friends permission to talk with Rogak, who herself is the author of 20 books — including several celebrity biographies). King has been written about rather extensively; Rogak's work is just the latest proof if you tell good stories, everyone will want to tell (or read) yours. And while everyone knows that King spins great yarns (the 62-year-old is the author of more than 50 books, many of them best-sellers, and several of which have spawned famous movies and television series), fewer may be aware that he has several interesting tales of his own (some of which he shares, to both entertaining and heartbreaking ends, in On Writing, his 2000 book about his own, and the writer's, life).

Trouble is, even with Rogak's deep and impressive research, which seems to have covered every word ever uttered by or about King, few of those stories are fully explored in Haunted Heart. Rogak's investigation, which cites primary and secondary sources ranging from interviews with King's friends, to magazine and newspaper archives, to books, films, and genealogical history, dug up some fascinating trivia. Did you know that King is a big fan of the television series Lost, or that on the day he found out how much money he would get from his publishing contract for Carrie ($200,000) he bought his wife Tabitha a hair-dryer, or that his and Tabby's wedding rings cost $15.95 (for the pair) from a Day's Jewelers in Bangor? Fun stuff to share over beers (did you know that King is a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict?), or next time you're waiting in line at the bookstore.

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