Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

By his own admission, Stephen King conceived a taste for horror, and horror films in particular, at an early age. In his adulthood he has come to believe that the “horror industry” exists in its currently flourishing state because people actually need the release that it provides them. His early addiction to things frightening and unsettling also gave him the impetus to explore the elements of successful horror fiction, for he has been making his living producing it since the 1970’s. Among his novels are Carrie (1974), ’Salem’s Lot (1975), The Shining (1977), The Stand (1978), The Dead Zone (1979), Firestarter (1980), Cujo (1981), Christine (1983), Pet Sematary (1983), It (1986), The Eyes of the Dragon (1987), Misery (1987), and The Tommyknockers (1987). Until the publication of Danse Macabre in 1981, however, King had made no extensive public analysis of the reasons for the popularity of horror films and fiction. Prior to the publication of this analytical study, he had expressed some of his theories in interviews published in various magazines and in the introduction to his collection of short stories, Night Shift (1978). Danse Macabre is King’s analysis and review of the arena in which he writes, a look at how it works and why. The inspiration for Danse Macabre came from King’s former editor, Bill Thompson, who suggested that he consider the whole horror phenomenon as he saw it: books, magazines, films, radio, television, comics. King was intrigued and decided to undertake the project.

The form of the book takes the shape of a conversation...

(The entire section is 703 words.)