From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American author best known for his enormously popular horror novels. King was the 2003 recipient of The National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
King evinces a thorough knowledge of the horror genre, as shown in his nonfiction book Danse Macabre, which chronicles several decades of notable works in both literature and cinema.
King has called Richard Matheson "the author who influenced me most as a writer." Both authors casually integrate characters' thoughts into the third person narration, just one of several parallels between their writing styles. In a current edition of Matheson's The Incredible Shrinking Man, King is quoted: "A horror story if there ever was one…a great adventure story—it is certainly one of that select handful that I have given to people, envying them the experience of the first reading."
King is a fan of H. P. Lovecraft and refers to him several times in Danse Macabre. Lovecraft's influence shows in King's invention of bizarre, ancient deities, subtle connections among all of his tales and the integration of fabricated newspaper clippings, trial transcripts and documents as narrative devices. King's invented trio of afflicted New England towns—Jerusalem's Lot, Castle Rock and Derry—are reminiscent of Lovecraft's Arkham, Dunwich and Innsmouth. King's short story "Crouch End" is an explicit homage to, and part of, Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos story cycle. "Gramma", a short story made into a film in the 1980s anthology horror show The New Twilight Zone, mentions Lovecraft's notorious fictional creation Necronomicon, also borrowing the names of a number of the fictional monsters mentioned therein. "I Know What You Need" from 1976's anthology collection Night Shift, and 'Salem's Lot also mention the tome. Another tribute to Lovecraft is in King's short story "Jerusalem's Lot", which opens Night Shift. King differs markedly from Lovecraft in his focus on extensive characterization and naturalistic dialogue, both notably absent in Lovecraft's writing. In On Writing, King is critical of Lovecraft's dialogue-writing skills, using passages from The Colour Out of Space as particularly poor examples. There are also several examples of King referring to Lovecraftian characters in his work, such as Nyarlathotep and Yog-Sothoth.
Edgar Allan Poe exerts a noticeable influence over King's writing as well. In The Shining, the phrase "And the red death held sway over all" hearkens back to Poe's "And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all" from "The Masque of the Red Death." The short story "Dolan's Cadillac" has a theme almost identical to Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," including a paraphrase of Fortunato's famous plea, "For the love of God, Montresor!" In The Shining, King refers to Poe as "The Great American Hack".
King acknowledges the influence of Bram Stoker, particularly on his novel ’Salem's Lot, which he envisioned as a retelling of Dracula Its related short story "Jerusalem's Lot", is reminiscent of Stoker's The Lair of the White Worm.
King has also openly declared his admiration for another, less prolific author: Shirley Jackson. 'Salem's Lot opens with a quotation from Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Tony, an imaginary playmate from The Shining, bears a striking resemblance to another imaginary playmate with the same name from Jackson's Hangsaman. A pivotal scene in Storm of the Century is based on Jackson's The Lottery. A character in Wolves of the Calla references the Jackson book We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
King is a big fan of John D. MacDonald and dedicated the novella Sun Dog to MacDonald, saying "I miss you, old friend." For his part, MacDonald wrote an admiring preface to Night Shift, and even had his famous character, Travis McGee, reading Cujo in one of the last McGee novels.
In 1987 King's Philtrum Press published Don Robertson's novel, The Ideal, Genuine Man. In his forenote to the novel, King wrote, "Don Robertson was and is one of the three writers who influenced me as a young man who was trying to 'become' a novelist (the other two being Richard Matheson and John D. MacDonald)."