Is Stephen King A Great Writer? Or An Insufferable Gasbag?

It’s a question that comes to mind every time a read a Steven King novel.

Edward Thomas
2 min readAug 17, 2022

The first Steven King story I came across was through the movie “The Dead Zone,” a 1983 thriller about Johnny Smith, a teacher with psychic powers. Whenever Johnny comes into physical contact with someone, Johnny sees a flash of that person’s entire future.

One day, he shakes hands with a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and sees a vision of the politician being elected President and then becoming the next Hitler. Now the question is, what should Johnny do about it?

The Dead Zone story made me an immediate Stephen King fan. I was fascinated by the story’s premise, so I bought the book. To be honest, I don’t remember anything about the book, but the movie remains a vivid memory.

Three red skulls on a black background

That seems to be the case for me with all of King’s work: a fascination with his basic premise followed by disappointment with his books.

Over the years, I continued to watch movies based on Stephen King’s stories, but I no longer read any of his books. In the past, I would pick up a new King release now and again.

Still, it always ended up being the same type of experience: amazement at the story’s basic premise as presented in a movie but inevitably becoming bored to tears by the mind-numbing filler King inserts between nuggets of action.

Even after getting through King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” I came away empty, wondering, “Why did I waste so much time reading this?”

Every time I read a King book, I get the impression that he once again came up with a dynamite basic concept, probably blasted out a great story in a hundred pages or two, and then went, “Shit… Now I need to come up with 2,000 more pages….”

I guess I should, at this time admit that numerically I have not a leg to stand on when criticizing the King of horror fiction.

Stephen King has sold more than 350 million books to my zero. I also am in no way qualified to be a literary critic.

But I do know how I feel when I read Stephen King stories.



Edward Thomas

Chicago native, resident of Japan since 1969. Japanese>English translator, copywriter, editor. Teaches English at a Japanese University.