Three to go

Short takes on reprints and in-prints.

Suspense builds with each sweat-smudged page.

Stephen King’s first two novels, published in 1974 and 1975 respectively, are dressed to kill in these newly reissued softcover editions. The covers — with glossy pulp-fiction graphics and screaming block letters painted in pitch-black, ghostly white and bloodred — shamelessly lure potential readers to take a peek at the sensational tales that lie within.

The stories don’t disappoint, but at times they seem a little dated — there are too many references to hairdos, and many long drags on Pall Malls. Enlightened readers may also be held up by the frequent appearance of short skirts and heaving young breasts (in contrast, most female characters over 30 are either skittish spinsters or gossipy shrews).

Despite these annoying snags, the stories are well-plotted, and suspense builds with each sweat-smudged page as the characters are set up for their inevitable meeting with doom.

Carrie is told Blair Witch style — the story is revealed through a string of excerpts from “official” reports, newspaper stories and books, all of which try to explain the strange gift of tormented teenager Carrie White.

’Salem’s Lot is a modern vampire story in which most of the main characters eventually join the ranks of the undead.

King has written new introductions for both novels, revealing his inspiration for the stories and personal anecdotes from the time they were written.

These early novels carved the template for most of King’s body of work, where the setting is a small Maine town and a troubled hero attempts to fight an unstoppable diabolical force. The lurid artwork covering these new issues illustrates the basic elements of King’s continuing formula for success — the contrast between good and evil, the shock of the supernatural, and the ever-so-seductive nature of horror.

Karen Fisher is MT's information coordinator. E-mail her at [email protected].

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