cover image The Dark Half

The Dark Half

Stephen King, Robertson Cooper. Viking Books, $27.95 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-670-82982-8

The protagonist of King's top-notch new novel is literary novelist Thad Beaumont, whose greatest success has come with three gory thrillers written under the pseudonym George Stark. (King himself wrote five novels under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.) When a blackmailer threatens to reveal Stark's identity (planning his scheme, he finds a new use for PW 's ``People'' page), Beaumont and his literary agent decide to foil the plan and capitalize on Stark's ``demise.'' But Stark, who of course was never alive, will not stay dead either. Beaumont's alter ego (for Stark is obviously more than just a pen name) seeks revenge against all those involved in killing him off, and his murderous rampage, gory and gripping, systematically reduces the ranks of his enemies to Thad, his wife and two children. Stark's aim--to force Beaumont to write another Stark novel--is basically a variation on King's Misery , in which a deranged fan held a writer captive until he wrote another novel featuring the heroine whose life he had terminated in his previous book. But this new King thriller is so wondrously frightening that mesmerized readers won't be able fault the master for reusing a premise that puts both Misery and The Dark Half among the best of his voluminous work. 1,500,000 first printing; $500,000 ad/promo; BOMC main selection. (Nov)