- The Dark Half
The Dark Half
First edition cover
Author(s) Stephen King Country United States Language English Genre(s) Horror novel Publisher Viking Publication date November 1, 1989 Media type Print (Hardcover) Pages 431 ISBN 978-0670829828 Preceded by The Tommyknockers Followed by Needful Things
The Dark Half is a horror novel by Stephen King, published in 1989. Publishers Weekly listed The Dark Half as the second best-selling book of 1989 behind Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger. It was adapted into a feature film of the same name in 1993.
Stephen King wrote several books under a pseudonym, Richard Bachman, during the seventies and eighties. Most of the Bachman novels were darker and more cynical in nature, featuring a far more visceral sense of horror than the psychological, gothic style common to many of King's most famous works. When King was discovered to be Bachman, he wrote The Dark Half in response to his outing.
Thad Beaumont is an author and recovering alcoholic who lives in the town of Ludlow, Maine. Thad's own books – cerebral literary fiction – are not very successful. However, under the pen name "George Stark", he writes highly successful crime novels about a violent killer named Alexis Machine. When Thad's authorship of Stark's novels becomes public knowledge, Thad and his wife, Elizabeth, decide to stage a mock funeral for his alter ego during a People magazine photo shoot. His epitaph at the local cemetery says it all: "Not A Very Nice Guy".
Stark, however, emerges as a physical entity and goes on a killing spree, gruesomely murdering everyone he perceives responsible for his "death" – Thad's editor, agent, and the People photographer, among others. Thad, meanwhile, is plagued by surreal nightmares. Stark's murders are investigated by Alan Pangborn, the sheriff of the neighboring town of Castle Rock, who finds Thad's voice and fingerprints at the crime scenes. This evidence, and Thad's unwillingness to answer his questions, causes Pangborn to believe that Thad – despite having alibis – is responsible for the murders.
Thad eventually discovers that he and Stark share a mental bond, and begins to find notes from Stark written in his own handwriting. The notes tell Thad what activity Stark has been engaging in. Observing his son and daughter, Thad notes that twins share a unique bond. They can feel each other's pain and at times appear to read the other's mind. Using this as a keystone to his own situation, he begins to discover the even deeper meaning behind himself and Stark.
Pangborn eventually learns that Thad had a twin. The unborn brother was absorbed into Thad in utero and later removed from his skull when the author was a child. He had suffered from severe headaches and it was originally thought to be a tumor causing them. The doctor who removed it found the following inside: part of a nostril, some fingernails, some teeth, and a malformed human eye. This leads to questions about the true nature of Stark, whether he is a malevolent spirit or Thad manifesting a multiple personality. Thad eventually vanquishes Stark, but the book ends on an unhappy note with Thad's wife having serious doubts about the future of their relationship: she is appalled that Thad not only created Stark (if unintentionally), but that a part of him liked Stark.
After the events of The Dark Half
Sheriff Alan Pangborn goes on to appear two times more in the Castle Rock series. It is revealed that ever since the events of The Dark Half, he is plagued by nightmares and the memory of Thad Beaumont. We are also told of the subsequent death of Pangborn's wife and son, and his own depression, in Needful Things. It is revealed in Bag of Bones that Thad committed suicide. This ties up the novel's ambiguous ending regarding Thad's relationship with Liz.
Stark is also mentioned in the "Notes" section of King's collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes under the story "The Fifth Quarter". It states only "Bachman again. Or maybe George Stark."
The novel was adapted as a film, The Dark Half, by George A. Romero in 1990, and was released in 1993. It was filmed in part at Washington and Jefferson College and other locations in southwestern Pennsylvania. It starred Timothy Hutton as Thad/Stark, Michael Rooker as Alan Pangborn, and featured Julie Harris as an eccentric colleague of Thad's who provides some vital information about the supernatural.
The computer game The Dark Half, based on the novel, was designed by Symtus and published by Capstone in 1992. Another game titled The Dark Half: Endsville was announced at E3 in 1997, but the game was apparently not released.
An unusual feature of the novel was the appearance of characters Rawlie and Billie DeLesseps, who had previously appeared only in a rarely printed short story which is far better known on film, "The Crate". Thad's co-worker Rawlie was the main character in the Creepshow segment, and in The Dark Half, they are described to look exactly like actors Hal Holbrook and Adrienne Barbeau, the actors who portrayed the characters in that segment. Oddly, the events of The Dark Half's late 1980s setting clearly postdate the events in "The Crate"'s late 1970s setting.
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