The art of horror

A coffee table book that might scare you awake
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  January 13, 2010

Roger Stine, “Carrie,” from Cinefantastique, Fall 1976.

Searching for Stephen King. By Deirdre Fulton.

Photos: Stephen King-inspired artwork.

While Lisa Rogak's Stephen King biography might be labeled "for fans only," it's unclear whether Knowing Darkness: Artists Inspired by Stephen King should carry the same marker. Certainly, the price tag on this collector's edition tome, which filmmaker Frank Darabont calls a "magnificent, hernia-inducing book" (the book weighs 13 pounds and costs $295) suggests that the casual fan isn't the chief marketing target. No, Centipede Press, which produced this 448-page anthology of original art, knows that hardcore King fans are the primary demographic.

However, the book has broader appeal. Not only are the 600-plus works of art beautifully reproduced in this oversized volume, they are unique and demonstrate the wide range that horror, fantasy, and illustration art both encourages and accommodates. These are lush paintings, intricate pen-and-ink drawings, comic strips, airbrushing, and digitized art. They are graphic and frightening, quiet and eerie, and exaggeratedly absurd — all words that have been, and will continue to be, used to describe King's work.

The book also portrays the master of horror as a thoughtful art lover. We get the sense that he is so excited by the pictures he paints with words that he can't wait to see them interpreted by visually creative people. In the pages about artist Bernie Wrightson, who drew interior art for several King books, including a limited edition of The Stand, and The Dark Tower V: Wolves of Calla, it's revealed that when Wrightson gets an assignment, he reads the manuscript and immediately tries to identify scenes that would make sense for artistic representation.

"During that time Steve sent me a letter," Wrightson tells George Beahm, a King scholar who penned the essays for Knowing Darkness, "saying he was glad I was on board. King told me: if you don't mind, I have a list of suggestions for scenes. I'm not art directing by any means, but these are scenes that I would like to see illustrated. If you agree, that's fine; if not, just illustrate the scenes you want.

"As it turned out, King's list of 12 scenes were exactly the ones I picked."

In his introduction, Darabont (who directed three King movie adaptations: The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist) explains how the idea for Knowing Darkness was conceived (emphasis his): "I'm certain that in the years since Carrie, with his publishing schedule seldom slowing for a moment, Steve has singlehandedly generated more damn artwork than any other writer since the dawn of time. That's not hype. It doubt there's even a close second." On this page, you'll find some of our favorite selections.

Related: Crossword: ''Just a bunch of words'', 1408, Crossword: 'nerdful things', More more >
  Topics: Books , Visual Arts, Stephen King, Frank Darabont
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