Stephen King Revealed His Approach To Writing A Mystery Novel, And It’s Way More Alfred Hitchcock Than It Is Agatha Christie

 Stephen King in IT Chapter 2
Stephen King in IT Chapter 2

Few names are as iconic as Stephen King when it comes the written word. Known for his spine-tingling tales of horror and suspense, which have been adapted into countless horror movies, King has enthralled readers for decades with his unique brand of storytelling. But in a recent interview, the master of the macabre revealed a surprising twist in his approach to writing mystery novels, and it takes a deliberate page (pun intended) straight out of Alfred Hitchock’s playbook of suspense as opposed to Agatha Christie's guide.

The renowned author of Salem’s Lot is currently promoting his latest novel, Holly, which reintroduces his beloved character from Mr. Mercedes. It's a gripping story about a mass murderer plowing a Mercedes-Benz through a crowd at a job fair. During an interview on The Book Review Podcast, the horror author shared his approach to crafting mysteries, emphasizing his preference for the suspenseful style of Alfred Hitchcock over the intricate whodunits often associated with Agatha Christie. In his own words, he explained:

I think it helps to have written books that are like ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley.’ I loved everything Patricia Highsmith did, and there was never a question of who did what in those books. With an Agatha Christie book, I don’t understand how Agatha Christie did what she did. I love the books. I was gobsmacked by the end of ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.’ I was gobsmacked by the end of ‘And Then There Were None,’ Also, what’s the one where everybody on the train did it… ‘Murder on the Orient Express!’ Fantastic idea, but I could never do that. But if you start with you know what’s going to happen, or you know who the bad person is… who’s the doer, to me, I’m not interested in the mystery so much as the suspense element of the story.

Stephen King's candid revelation shows his profound respect for Agatha Christie's work, which has seen numerous film adaptations, including Kenneth Branaugh's A Haunting in Venice, which heads to theaters just in time for Halloween. However, King's true passion lies in crafting suspenseful scenarios rather than weaving complex plots. In a homage to the cinematic master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, King drew a parallel between his narrative style and Hitchcock's famous quote:

Alfred Hitchcock said, ‘If a bomb explodes where people are having a meeting, you have five seconds of horror. But, if you know the bomb is under the table and they don't, then you have ten minutes of suspense.’ Hopefully, excruciating expense. And he was the master of that. I like that kind of story. But I will say that with ‘Holly,’ there were plot elements involved with that that drove me absolutely crazy, and I’m working on a novel now called ‘We Think Not’ that features Holly Gibney, not probably in a starring role, but she’s very much an important character, and that novel is so plotted that I just want to scream. I like situations, okay? I don’t necessarily like plot, and they’re very different.

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Clearly, the author finds inspiration in the idea of keeping readers on the edge of their seats, aware of a looming threat that the characters may not yet comprehend. This approach aligns with Alfred Hitchcock's philosophy of slowly building tension and anticipation, making the audience actively participate in the story's unfolding drama.

The writer's revelation offers a fresh perspective on his future mystery novels, such as his upcoming work, We Think Not, which he said will again feature the beloved character Holly Gibney, albeit in a slightly less starring role. While plot-heavy mysteries might not be his cup of tea, fans can anticipate gripping and suspenseful tales that keep them hooked from the first page to the last.

As fans eagerly await the release of We Think Not and the multitude of upcoming Stephen King movies, it's evident that, even at 75, the master of horror still has a treasure trove of thrilling surprises to captivate us, his loyal readers, and keep us perched on the edge of our seats for years to come.

For those looking to relish some of Stephen King's finest films on the big screen, know that John Carpenter's adaptation of Christine is returning to theaters this month. Additionally, suppose you're eager for more spine-tingling experiences at the cinema. In that case, our schedule of upcoming horror movies can help you plan your next suspenseful and thrilling trip to the cinema. Also, Kind's latest novel, Holly, is available now.