One of the most successful novelists to ever live, Stephen Edwin King has written over fifty novels (each of them an instant bestseller) and has made more money than any other writer ever, probably. Not bad, considering his first book, Carrie, was published just forty years ago. What’s even more impressive: that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of rare and unpublished works by the master of horror. What follows is a list of ten in no particular order.
As a young father, Stephen King would sometimes write stories for his children’s entertainment, usually utilizing them as main characters and other members of the family as costars. One of these, a fairytale he wrote for his daughter, Naomi, who didn’t like horror, was published in 1986 as “Eyes of the Dragon.”
Three years before that, however, King began writing a story for his son, Owen. Like with most of King’s “lost” works, not much is known about The Leprechaun, except that Owen was the protagonist and, somewhere along the line, rescues a leprechaun from the Kings’ cat, Springsteen.
King started the story in a notebook, and got about forty pages in before he lost it. All that survives today is the last five pages and a cover letter.
I Was a Teenaged Graverobber:
The first story our man ever published, “I Was a Teenaged Graverobber” (AKA, In a Half-World of Terror) has never been included in any of his subsequent short story collections.
Originally appearing in a little indie rag called Comics Review in 1965, I Was A Teenaged Graverobber concerns itself with Danny Gerad, a teenager who is hired by a mad scientist type to plunder graves for his insidious experiments (involving maggots and radioactivity). Eventually, Danny falls in love with the niece of the guy who had the job before him and the mad scientist is eaten by his mutant maggots. Don’t you just love a happy ending?
Appearing in King’s high school magazine in 1965, Codename: Mousetrap tells the story of Kelley, a teenaged hoodlum who breaks into a supermarket. While perusing the store, he’s confronted by (in)animate objects such as a soup can display (I know, I know, cheesy), beefsteaks, and a mousetrap. Rightfully terrified, poor Kelley throws himself out the plate-glass window…
…and right into the arms of a waiting parking meter.
The Sword in the Darkness
An honest-to-God novel written while Steve-O was in college, The Sword in the Darkness is the longest of King’s unpublished works, standing, since completion in 1970, at 485 pages.
Again, not much is known about the plot, only that it takes place in the fictional town of Harding (a stand-in for Detroit) and is about a group of young white boys trying to start a race riot to cover up some kind of heist. King shopped the book around for a while, but quietly retired it after a dozen publishers turned it down. An excerpt was published in 2006.
Since I was in the area, I guess I’ll go ahead and profile King’s second longest unpublished work, The Cannibals, which sits at a healthy 450 pages. Oh, and did I mention each and every page is handwritten?
King started the book in 1982 while filming Creepshow. You know what it was originally called? Under the Dome.
See, the novel is, per King, about “All of these people who are trapped in an apartment building.” He then goes onto say: “And I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if they all ended up eating each other?”
Yeah, Steve, real funny.
An excerpt was posted on King’s website in 2009. Two months later, King published a different novel utilizing the same title and concept. Known for its titanic size, the new and improved Under the Dome has sold millions of copies and was recently made into a CBS miniseries.
The Dark Man:
Though King is best known for his prose, he does dabble in poetry from time to time. One of his earliest poems, written while he was a “Junior or senior in college” was The Dark Man. Fans of King’s work will recognize this dastardly “man” as Randal Flagg, an ancient antichrist like figure who appeared in The Stand (1978, revised 1990) and The Dark Tower series. King says that the poem came to him while he was sitting in the college restaurant. “It came to me out of nowhere, this guy in cowboy boots who moved around on the roads, mostly hitchhiking at night, always wore jeans and a denim jacket.” King jotted the poem down on the back of a placemat, and published it in the fall, 1969 issue of “Ubris” the University of Maine’s literary magazine. It remained an ultra-rarity until 2013, when Cemetery Dance (premier publisher of horror fiction) released an illustrated edition.
Even so, ten bucks says you won’t find a copy at Borders.
Because Borders is closed. Ha!
The Old Dude’s Ticker:
Here’s a question to all you writers out there: have you ever shamelessly plagiarized a piece of classic literature, and then proudly published it? Well, Stephen King did in 2001 with “The Old Dude’s Ticker,” a flagrant rip-off of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Telltale Heart,” in which a guy kills an old man and then buries him under the floorboards, only to begin hearing the damning “tick, tick, tick,” of his heartbeat. That synopsis actually covers King’s story as well.
The House on Value Street:
One of the biggest and most sensational news stories of the early 1970s was the kidnapping of heiress Patty Herst by the so-called Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a left-wing terrorist group operative between 1973 and 1975. King, who taught English at the time (1974), was fascinated by the case, and at once set about writing a fictional version. Unfortunately, after many false starts, he decided that he couldn’t get it quite right and abandoned it. Something good did come of King’s obsession with the SLA: the epic novel The Stand, which many feel is his masterpiece.
Any struggling writer you talk to will tell you that rejection hurts. Many will also tell you that rejection is something that you don’t have to worry about after a bestseller or two. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case at all.
In 1978, with three bestselling novels under his belt, King wrote a story for a Harlan Ellison edited anthology called “Squad D.” The story revolved around a Vietnam vet and the sole surviving member of Squad D, Josh Bortman. After returning home from the war, he sends a photo he snapped of the other guys to their families. Several years later, the father of one of the stiffs notices that Bortman is suddenly in the picture as well. Come to find out, Bortman recently committed suicide, thus joining his friends in eternity. Ellison flatly rejected the story, saying that it “needed work.” King, however, had the last laugh, as the anthology was never published.
In fact, that anthology (The Last Dangerous Visions) has become something of a legend in the literary community, mainly for Ellison’s stubborn refusal to give the contributors’ their stories back. In-between frivolous lawsuits and condescending interviews, Ellison, to this day, promises that TLDV will still pub, though he stopped telling his authors it was “off to the publisher” back in the eighties.
You’re a lucky man, Stevie.
People, Places, and Things:
A collection of short stories written by King and a buddy in 1960, People, Places, and Things contains eighteen tales, eight of them by King and one a collaboration. King and his friend made copies of the book and sold them on the schoolyard for a quarter a pop, thus proving the Stevester was in it for the money all along. Though one would imagine that the stories aren’t exactly the best (I mean, they were written by two 13-year-old nerdboys), the anthology is nonetheless priceless as a chronicle of King’s earliest days.
Sadly, there is only one copy of People, Places, and Things still in existence. The proud owner? Stephen King.