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First line :
Sure you have. Sure. I never forget a face.

Notes :
Needful Things marks a watershed in King's career, as he bids farewell to the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, a city he visited in The Dead Zone, Cujo, and The Dark Half.

Places :
Castle Rock, Maine
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  • Written : October 24, 1988 – January 28, 1991
  • Needful Things takes place in Castle Rock, Maine...
  • Editing here is supreme. King braids perhaps a dozen storylines--with hardly a drop of blood spilled for the first 250 or so pages...
  • Synopsis :
    Leland Gaunt opens a new shop in Castle Rock called Needful Things. Anyone who enters his store finds the object of his or her lifelong dreams and desires: a prized baseball card, a healing amulet. In addition to a token payment, Gaunt requests that each person perform a little "deed," usually a seemingly innocent prank played on someone else from town. These practical jokes cascade out of control and soon the entire town is doing battle with itself. Only Sheriff Alan Pangborn suspects that Gaunt is behind the population's increasingly violent behavior.

    I guess I was one of the few people in the United States who thought the eighties were really funny. It was a decade in which people decided, for awhile, at least, that greed was good and that hypocrisy was simply another tool for getting along. It was the last hurrah for cigarettes, unsafe sex, and all sorts of drugs. It was the final corruption of the Love and Peace Generation-The Big Cop-out-and I thought it was a case of having to laugh. It was either that, or cry. I was thinking about all this one night while driving home from a basketball game, and my thoughts centered on Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, of the PTL Club. It occurred to me that in the eighties, everything had come with a price tag, that the decade quite literally was the sale of the century. The final items up on the block had been honor, integrity, self-respect, and innocence. By the time I got home that night, I had decided to turn the eighties into a small-town curio shop called Needful Things and see what happened. I told myself to keep it light and surreal; that if I just kept in mind the Bakkers' doghouse, which had been equipped with heaters and running water, I would be okay. And that's what I did. The book didn't review well. Either a lot of critics didn't get the joke or didn't appreciate it. The readers liked it, though, and that's what matters to me.

    The old horrormaster in top form, this time with a demonic dealer in magic and spells selling his wares to the folks of Castle Rock, scene of several King novels including The Dead Zone, Cujo--and how many others? King locates his hokey Our Town in Maine, but as ever it's really Consumerville, USA, with everyone's life festooned with brand names. The cast is huge and largely grotesque, since King--wearing a tremendous cat's-smile--means to close the book on Castle Rock and blow it off the map in one of his best climaxes since Salem's Lot. Editing here is supreme. King braids perhaps a dozen storylines--with hardly a drop of blood spilled for the first 250 or so pages--into ever briefer takes that climax in a hurtling, storm-ripped holocaust whose symphonic energies fill the novel's last third. Perhaps only five characters stand out: Leland Gaunt, a gentlemanly stranger who opens the Needful Things curiosity shop; his first customer, Brian Rusk, 11, who sells his soul for a rare Sandy Koufax baseball card; practical Polly Chalmers, who runs the You Sew `n' Sew shop, welcomes Gaunt with a devil's-food cake, and buys an amulet to relieve her arthritis; her lover, Sheriff Alan Pangborn, who buys nothing but is haunted by the driving deaths of his wife and son; and Ace Merrill, coke dealer in a bind, who becomes Gaunt's handydevil and gets to drive Gaunt's Tucker, a car that's faster than radar and uses no gas. As he has for hundreds of years, Gaunt sells citizens whatever pricks and satisfies their inmost desires. But the price dehumanizes them, and soon all the townsfolk vent their barest aggressions on each other with cleaver, knife, and gun: Gaunt even opens a sideline of automatic weapons. By novel's end, the whole town is on a hysterical, psychotic mass rampage that floods morgue and hospital with the delimbed and obliterated. Then comes the big bang. Mmmmmmmmmmmm! Leland King's glee, or Steven Gaunt's, or rather--well, the author's--as he rubs his palms over his let's-blow-'em-away superclimax is wonderfully catching.


    Viking 1991.

    "First published in 1991 by Viking Penguin"
    on copyright page.
    "1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2" on copyright page.

    Dust Jacket price : $24.95


    Hodder & Stoughton 1992.
    698 pages.
    ISBN 0 340 54673 5.
    Author photograph: Tabitha King.

    Copyright © Stephen King, 1991.

    Fiction: Horror


    This is for Chris Lavin,
    who doesn't have all the answers -
    just the ones that matter


    You´ve Been Here Before

    Part One
    Grand Opening Celebration

    Part Two
    The Sale of the Century

    Part Three
    Everything Must Go

    You´ve Been Here Before


    Castle Rock, Maine, where Polly Chalmers runs You Sew and Sew and Sheriff Alan Pangborn is in charge of keeping the peace. It´s a small town, and Stephen King fans might think they know its secrets pretty well: they´ve been here before.
    Leland Gaunt is a stranger - and he calls his shop Needful Things. Eleven-year-old Brian Rusk is his first customer, and Brian finds just what he wants: a 1956 Sandy Koufax baseball card. By the end of the week, Mr. Gaunt´s business is fairly booming. At Needful Things there´s something for everyone.
    And, of course, for everyone there is a price. For Leland Gaunt, the pleasure of doing business lies chiefly in seeing how much people will pay for their most secret dreams and desires. And at Needful Things, the prices are high indeed.
    For Alan and Polly, this autumn week will be an awful test - a test of will, desire, and pain. Above all, it will be a test of their ability to grasp the true nature of their enemy. They may have a chance...
    But maybe not, because, as Mr Gaunt knows, almost everything is for sale: love, hope - even the human soul.

    With a demonic blend of malice and affection Stephen King says farewell to the town he put on the map - and delivers another spellbinding testament to his dark genius.

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