Undoubtedly the reason Stephen King was so loudly vociferous against Donald Trump last year is that he actually predicted him.
In THE DEAD ZONE, King conjured up Greg Stillson, a maverick politician who doesn’t play by the rules, and who – with his poking the establishment in the eye stance – wins himself a huge following. He’s dangerous, divorced from normal mores and basically a psychopath in a sheep suit. And, just like Trump, Stillson is initially dismissed as an amusing distraction:
“The reporters should have had a field day with Stillson. His colourful, controversial personality seemed to stir only amused admiration from the national press, and he seemed to make no one – except maybe Johnny Smith – nervous.”
Johnny Smith is of course the hero of THE DEAD ZONE. A man who gains psychic abilities that enable him to see the future of those around him if he touches them. Once he shakes Stillson’s hands, it becomes his mission to stop him getting anywhere near The White House.
In real life, we’re not so lucky.
THE DEAD ZONE comes from Stephen King’s imperial phase. That period at the start of his career where he was more than just a horror writer, instead a populist juggernaut who bulldozed everything from his path.
This book however isn’t a big, grandiose story. Instead what we really have here is King’s ability to make the ordinary epic.
You could almost describe it as a chamber piece. There aren’t many characters and more often than not they’re just hanging around in New England rooms talking,
Yet it feels so much more.
It’s not just that the stakes are so high, it’s that in this small locale King brings together pain, hope, faith and anger to give us a hero whose journey is huge even though he doesn’t travel far.
Wonderfully written to boot (King is such a visual author, striking images abound), this is an incredible work which is over-shadowed somewhat by other books of its vintage – SALEM’S LOT, THE SHINING, THE STAND – but deserves to be regarded as their equal.