"The Dark Half" by Stephen King Book Review

"The Dark Half" by Stephen King is a paranormal horror novel about a writer and the dark part of him that writes crime fiction. In this novel, the dark half of Thad Beaumont's imagination comes to life and terrorizes Thad and everyone involved in Thad's attempt to write the novels that he wants to write -- not the crime novels of his dark half's choosing. The story is filled with Stephen King's signature gross outs and small town personalities. Overall, the effect is memorable. Though "The Dark Half" is not King's best novel, it is far from being a flop.

At the start of the novel, the reader is introduced to the 11-year-old version of Thad Beaumont. He is a nice boy who aspires to be a writer. However, soon after he begins writing, he hears the phantom sound of a huge flock of sparrows. He also has headaches and, eventually, a seizure. His concerned mother takes him to a doctor while his distant and crude father wonders what healing his son is going to do to his wallet. A neurologist tells them that Thad has a brain tumor. When he operates, he finds what the reader later learns are the physical remnants of Thad's dark half -- an eyeball, some teeth and other scraps of a twin that Thad fused with in utero.

Thad Beaumont does grow up to be a writer and completely overcomes his neurological health issues. He marries, writes a string of successful novels and has two children -- twins. Everything is going okay until Thad decides to do an interview during which he declares his pen name -- George Stark -- dead. He no longer wants to write novels under that name as he and his wife find George's writing process unhealthy and far removed from Thad's own writing process. As "The Dark Half" develops, a string of murders, all connected to that magazine interview begins. The Beaumonts and their associates are terrorized by what Thad is convinced is the supernatural incarnation of his pseudonym.

As most Stephen King fans know, King once wrote under a pseudonym of his own -- Richard Bachmann. This was in the early years of King's career, but he certainly wrote some of his best novels under his pen name. He also killed off his pseudonym so he could "come out" as a writer. Therefore, in a way, "The Dark Half" is semi autobiographical. The connection Thad feels to his Stark novels, among other things, clearly come from King's experience. However, the truck stops there. As far as we know, King didn't cannibalize his twin in his mother's uterus and he was never haunted by the ghost of his pen name, as Thad was in "The Dark Half," at least not in the literal sense. Nonetheless, his own experiences as a career author give him a great perspective on the life of a writer, so we cannot help but see a bit of King in Beaumont. Of course, you cannot help but see a bit of King in George Stark, either.

As far as recommending "The Dark Half" by Stephen King, I would only recommend it to someone who has already read and enjoyed another King novel. It is a not a starter Stephen King, so to speak. You have to have an appreciation for Stephen King to have an appreciation for "The Dark Half." For those who are just wandering into the horror genre, I would recommend starting with a commercially successful King work, such as "The Green Mile," "Shawshank Redemption," or "The Body." Those readers who enjoy their spooks and icks, I would recommend, "It," "Salem's Lot," "The Stand" or "Pet Sematary." If you want to get the crap scared out of you, go with the latter. Then, work your way to "The Dark Half."

Shelly Barclay

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