(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Stephen King has produced numerous horror classics, including CARRIE (1974), MISERY (1987), and INSOMNIA (1994). In 1996, he boldly published three novels. The first one to be published during the year was the serial novel THE GREEN MILE. In September, both DESPERATION and THE REGULATORS were published, THE REGULATORS being published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. THINNER (1984) was the last novel where King had employed this pseudonym. Some of the same characters appear in both DESPERATION and THE REGULATORS. The same evil force also appears in both. The novels cannot be considered unified, though. Characters who die in one novel may live on in the other novel and die at a different time and place.

DESPERATION is set in a Nevada mining town of the same name. It is the bad luck of the people who happen to be driving through Desperation that they are stopped by the policeman, Collie Entragian. Unfortunately, Entragian has been taken over by the evil force known as Tak. King understands the fear that all travelers have of running into a rogue cop who thinks that he is God. In addition to the cop, the town is patrolled by such creatures as coyotes, scorpions, buzzards, spiders, and rattlesnakes.

One of the vehicles stopped by Entragian contains the Carver family. It turns out that eleven-year-old David Carver is to be the hero of the novel. Although his sister is murdered and his parents seem to self-destruct under the pressure of the situation, young David is up to the task of doing God’s work.

There is a definite religious theme to DESPERATION. The demonic force can be successfully fought only with God’s guidance. King has once again taken the reader on a spine-tingling roller-coaster ride, where carnage abounds and evil is eventually defeated.

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Danse Macabre (1981), King suggests that twentieth-century horror fiction puts the ordinary and the horrible "cheek-by-jowl."...

(The entire section is 217 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Discussion groups will wish to explore the parallels between Desperation and its companion, The Regulators. Since the two are...

(The entire section is 874 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Stephen King's Desperation appeared simultaneously with The Regulators (see separate entry). The latter was published under the...

(The entire section is 1132 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

By far the most theologically oriented of King's books, Desperation might fruitfully be compared with the recent work of another...

(The entire section is 226 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

King's first novel, Carrie (1974), and his short story "Children of the Corn" (Night Shift, 1978), resemble Desperation...

(The entire section is 582 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

There are two audiobook versions of Desperation. An abridged version (New York: Penguin Audiobooks, 1996), read by Kathy Bates,...

(The entire section is 132 words.)