Stephen King is pretty damned impish for a guy whose been the puppet master behind the world’s nightmares for a half-century. With that Down East drawl and ready if slightly unsettling downturned smile, the Maine horror icon is nothing if not eager to stick the grinning needle in when interviewers like The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert ask him about having come up with the eerily prescient roadmaps to so many of the present days’ evils. Donald Trump? King confessed with mock humility in his Tuesday remote interview that his 1979 foray into (admittedly supernatural) political thriller The Dead Zone’s vision of “a TV comedian-type guy who appealed to the common people” with yahoo-baiting, nonsensically gung-ho-idiotic solutions to terrible problems (shooting garbage into space vs., say, introducing bleach into the human body) was just King taking the country’s dangerously gullible measure.
Then there’s The Stand. King told Colbert that, on his infrequent, responsibly masked forays to the local (presumably haunted) Maine grocery store, he’s strill recognizable enough that people regularly approach him to ask just what the deal was. You know, with him coming up with an apocalyptic tale of a perniciously contagious, world-threatening virus, and the inevitable, uniquely American tide of hucksters, opportunists, greed-heads, and assorted violent nutjobs rising in its wake, to which the ever-folksy King says he can only offer up an apology. Noting that, in preparation for the mid-70s dystopian epic about a disease killing off most of the world’s population, he’d called upon a somehow even more-ghoulish doctor pal whose “eyes lit up” as he joined King in speculating about the “nightmare scenario.” Claiming that epidemiologists just love that sort of ghoulish exercise, King conceded to Colbert that such horrific, occasionally prescient narratives are “just where my mind goes.” He then apologized once again, for all the good that does us now, Steve.
Attempting to get his guest to lighten things up a little, Colbert played the “Which of your characters would you least like to be quarantined with?” game. King chose Misery’s Annie Wilkes like a true writer, noting that such a “number one fan” would inevitably terrorize him into writing her a book. (The Shining’s Jack Torrance wouldn’t be any canned food picnic either, mainly due to fears that maniacal writer’s block is as contagious as COVID-19.) As to an ideal lockdown partner, King—again, as only a real writer does—plugged his much-revisited detective character Holly Gibney, most recently featured in King’s anthology If It Bleeds (for sale now), and the HBO adaptation of King’s The Outsider. King pronounced the recurring, OCD-battling sleuth his favorite of all his many fictional creations, and the one most likely to prove a capable and companionable quarantine buddy. (King, to be fair, did steer his horror-hungry fans to to their local booksellers, touting the down home ingenuity of indie bookstores’ curbside pickup and mail-order coronavirus policies.) Softening up even further, King them happily played along with Lord Of The Rings superfan Colbert in gushing about Samwise Gamgee, whose homely, unlikely heroism in the face of the unthinkable found them quoting everyone’s favorite hobbit with the feeling of true fans. And guys looking to literature for a little inspiration in dark days. At least there aren’t any vampires. Yet.