Stephen King

updated 10/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Did you feel uncomfortably warm this morning when your daughter glared at you? Don't get the kid mad anymore; she may torch the house. Did the Plymouth lurch when you eased out of the driveway? Junk it before it starts mowing people down. Was your doggie a little off his feed? Kill him before he runs rabid through the neighborhood. You think you're living in suburbia, but you're really mired in the malignant world of novelist Stephen King, a place where the terrors found in Firestarter, Christine and Cujo hunker down inside the things you love.

King writes fiction but portrays an all-too-believable world where anything can turn on you and usually does: gurgling drains, malevolent Coke machines, razor-edged hockey sticks. He turns the quotidian into the creepy. Headlights twinkling "like insignificant yellow sparks in the night" signal the approach of Christine, an unholy Plymouth. Nothing is as unstoppable as one of King's furies, except perhaps King's word processor. In this decade alone he has spewed out 15 novels that have sold close to 15 million copies. And what of the unliftable? At 1,138 pages, It weighed in at 3½ pounds.

King's popularity reflects his uncanny ability to exploit the anxieties that swirl around the modern American family. His audience—and his victims—are baby boomers, a generation that has had to reconcile the buoyant fantasies of the '60s with the dismaying realities of the '80s. In King's novels, ordinary people suffer appallingly contemporary fates. A mind is blown out by a Walkman, a head julienned by a lawn mower.

No other best-selling novelist has obliterated so many innocents, but never has disaster seemed such a part of everyday life. At least, in our last gasp of optimism, all of us can wish better fates for ourselves. But wait a minute. Wasn't your wife due home from the K Mart hours agot?

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