One must wonder if Stephen King’s The Dark Half wasn’t originally planned to be his farewell novel to his other writing persona, Richard Bachman. For while the novel doesn’t bear the credit of Richard Bachman, it is indeed dedicated to Richard Bachman and if you compare the works of The Regulators and Desperation, written by Bachman and King respectively, you have to wonder if King wasn’t truly fighting his alter ego within the pages of The Dark Half.
The Dark Half is a brilliant piece of work on the part of Stephen King. The story of a writer, Thad Beaumont, who, after discovering a tumor within his brain, goes into surgery only to have surgeons find the remains of his cannibalized twin, reads like a psychotic memoir of King’s writing life. The story itself takes place in the town of Ludlow, a story already familiar to readers of King’s Pet Sematary.
While Thad enjoys limited success with the literary novels written under his real name, it’s the stories written by his alter ego, George Stark, that enjoy truly popular success. The novels written under Stark’s name are shocking, violent, and are eaten up by the masses. However, when the public discovers that Beaumont is the writer behind Stark, Beaumont and his wife perform a public, mock funeral for the seemingly unreal Stark. Unbeknownst to Thad, however, George Stark is very real and is ready to fight to survive.
Similar to King’s story Secret Window, Secret Garden in Four Past Midnight, Thad shares the same DNA and make-up with his writer alter ego, George Stark. So when Stark begins murdering those he thinks is responsible for his outing, it is Thad who is ultimately blamed. Unlike Mort Rainey of Secret Window, Secret Garden, however, Thad realizes that Stark threatens to undermine his writing and his life and takes it upon himself to put a stop to Stark for good.
The Dark Half is a true accomplishment for King. Undertaking his own fears of writing and injecting them into a suspenseful, dark novel pays off. Whether or not things end happily isn’t the issue here. There is a winner within the pages of The Dark Half, though the prize might not be what one would expect it to be.
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