Stephen King's Needful Things was first published in 1991 and is set in Castle Rock, a small town in Maine, USA. Although his books have no particular sequential order to them, King wrote 'Needful Things' as his last Castle Rock story and so there are a number of spoilers in it for anyone who reads it before any of his previous Castle Rock books such as' The Dark Half 'and' Cujo '.
Many people who are not familiar with King's books wrongly assume that his horror stories are filled with supernatural entities, ghost and monsters and although this can be said about some of his work, many of his more compelling stories find their horror through human behavior. The most famous of these books has been 'Misery' however Needful Things is not too far behind.
The book actually made it onto the big screen in 1993 and although it was a huge success, the quality of the storyline and screenplay attracted headline actors, including Ed Harris and Max von Sydow.
There have been many famous books based on the fundamental premise of the battle of good versus evil. The impressive thing about Stephen King's Needful Things is that evil is portrayed in a very oblique way initially, using just an elderly man and a small shop that curiously seems to have in stock exactly what the Castle Rock inhabitants are looking for as soon as they step inside. The notion of someone selling their soul to the devil is extremely well-known and has also been portrayed countless times and in countless ways, but it is here where King shows his literary ability by combining this premise with his commentary on how far people will not only go, but also hurt others to attain that which they crave.
Leland Gaunt is the newcomer to Castle Rock who opens up a curious little shop named 'Needful Things' and it is here where he tempts the townsfolk with items that they want and in return all he asks of them is that they play a prank or practical joke on someone in the town. It doesn't take long for the pranks to escalate into violence, madness and retribution.
Doing battle against the evil Leland Gaunt is Alan Pangborn, who happens to be Castle Rock's sheriff. As the storyline picks up pace, Pangborn is seemingly the only character who is aware of Gaunt's malevolent behavior but time after time he turns up to witness the horror and aftermath of Gaunt's misdeeds as the inhabitants of Castle Rock turn on each other.
One of the most pleasurable things about Stephen King's Needful things is throughout the journey the reader thinks that they have everything figured out only to be misled as the storyline takes unexpected twists and turns. Part of what makes this book a 'must read' if you are a fan of horror fiction is how little it takes for seemingly normal people to carry out horrible acts of violence against one another. Yes there is an evil character that is central to the book but he is merely the provocateur, the tempter and the person who manages to reach the levels of humanity capable of bringing out the worst in people.
An ideal book for someone who likes a strong dose of realism with their fictional horror.