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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 15:21 GMT
King of horror
Stephen King
King has been writing since the early 1970s
Author Stephen King, famed for his chilling horror tales, is planning to retire later this year after nearly 30 years. BBC News Online looks back at his career.

In terms of sales, Stephen King is one of the world's most successful living authors.

He has written more than 30 novels and countless short stories, yet he lives modestly in the town of Bangor, Maine, and refuses the trappings of celebrity.

King was born in 1947 and raised by his mother after his parents separated. At the University of Maine, he became involved in student politics, supporting the anti-Vietnam war movement.

But after graduating with an English degree in 1970, and qualifying to teach at high school, a medical examination found he was suffering from high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet and punctured ear drums.

Stephen King
King has taught creative writing at his old university
He married Tabitha Spruce in 1971 - the couple met at the university library - and with King unable to find work as a teacher, he started work as a labourer, while selling short stories to magazines.

He managed to take a teaching job that autumn, and carried on writing in the evenings. In 1973, Carrie was accepted by publishing house Doubleday - who told him that if it was a hit, he would be able to leave teaching and write full-time.

The book was a huge success, but King revealed in his book On Writing he had thrown the original manuscipt in the bin at first, and had only continued when his wife has rescued the pages and persuaded him to continue.

Within three years Carrie had also become a successful feature film, with Sissy Spacek in the title role as a schoolgirl with strange mental powers.

Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson starred in the film version of The Shining
Since then, films have been made of The Shining - starring Jack Nicholson - Creepshow, The Running Man, Pet Sematary, and several of his short stories.

Stand By Me was adapted from his story The Body, and he directed the 1986 film Maximum Overdrive.

His books have been translated into 33 different languages and have been published in more than 35 different countries. There are more than 300 million copies of his novels in publication.

But King's career was temporarily brought to an abrupt halt in 1999 when he was out walking near his home, and was hit by a motorhome.

He suffered a collapsed lung and multiple fractures of the right leg and hip. He was also treated during surgery for a scalp laceration.

The motorist - Bryan Smith - lost control of his vehicle when his dog broke loose inside.

'Nearly killed'

King said later that on hearing about Smith's record for driving offences - and how he was only driving to buy sweets - it occurred to him that I he was nearly killed "by a character right out of one of my own novels".

Stephen King
King was writing five weeks after the accident (pic: AP)
A doctor told him part of his right leg had been reduced to "marbles in a sock".

But King recovered from his injuries, and was writing again five weeks after the accident.

The following year, King found himself mourning Smith, who was found dead in bed, at his home in Maine.

Police said foul play was not suspected, and the horror writer expressed his sadness at Smith's death, calling it "untimely".

'Grasshoppers'

In 2000, he started an internet publishing project, The Plant, which readers could download for $1 (70p) per instalment from his website.

But the e-novel was put on hold a few months later, with King describing most internet users as having the "attention span of grasshoppers".

But in November 2000, he predicted the novel would eventually eventually "end up grossing at least $600,000 (424,000), and may end up over a million".


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Stephen King is planning to retire this yearStephen King
Is the horror writer right to retire?
See also:

31 Jan 02 | Arts
Stephen King 'to retire'
26 Sep 00 | Entertainment
King mourns crash driver
15 Mar 00 | Entertainment
King's e-book crashes
01 Oct 99 | Entertainment
King crash driver faces charges
14 Feb 01 | Entertainment
King sues over injury money
06 May 00 | Entertainment
Author King feeling better
04 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Author King to chill again
22 Jun 99 | Entertainment
'Months of rehab' for author King
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