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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 17:47 GMT
Is Stephen King right to retire?
Stephen King
Horror writer Stephen King is planning to stop publishing novels after wrapping up his current projects at the end of this year.

He told the Los Angeles Times he wanted to bow out while he was "still on top of my game".

Since the early 1970s, he has captured the imagination of fans around the world with chilling novels such as The Shining, It, and Carrie.

The Running Man, Misery and The Shawshank Redemption were among the works turned into films or TV series.

But after nearly 30 years, has Stephen King lost his ability to chill - or should he go on to frighten a new generation of fans? Will you miss looking forward to his latest creations?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

It's the right time to stop. Some of his recent work hasn't been quite up to the old levels. Dreamcatcher was excellent, but I found Bag of Bones and Black House a chore to read. At least he'll be finishing the Dark Tower series - who needs Lord of the Rings. These books need to be made into a film so everyone can enjoy. He deserves the rest - thank you Stephen!
Owen Edwards, UK

Blistering pace, extraordinary imagination and chilling suspense are King's trademarks.

Chris B, England
King is arguably the king of his chosen genre. Few modern authors seem able to display the blistering pace, extraordinary imagination and chilling suspense that are King's trademarks. I know he has suffered a raft of personal difficulties and, by his own admission, he hasn't been the same man since a serious accident some years ago. To hear that SK is to retire from commercial writing is rather sad - but better to stop now than to risk disappointing his huge following of loyal readers with a drop in work quality.
Chris B, England

His decision to retire after completing some projects is of great loss to the literary world. So often dismissed as a pulp fiction writer by the upper-crust toffs who've never actually read King's work, he writes with such powerful, beautiful prose. His fear of recycling old material is obviously great enough to make this announcement [a forthcoming book From A Buick Eight, about a haunted car, may get people thinking of 1983's Christine], but I am convinced people will continue to buy the books so long as he serves up the cuisines. If in any doubt as to what will be missing should King retire from publishing his work, I urge you to read the forthcoming Everything's Eventual; King exceeds in short story writing. Long live the King.

Retire? No, not yet. He's give us vampires, werewolves, rabid dogs and maniacs with writer's block, but he still hasn't tackled the most frightening creatures of all - talk show hosts!
Robert del Valle, USA

It takes great courage to say you're past your best

Mick Ferris, UK
It takes great courage to say you're past your best and that it's time to stop. It's a pity a few other writers, entertainers and sportsmen aren't that honest with themselves.
Mick Ferris, UK

Moomintroll, Ireland

Stephen King is the best story teller of our time. His work will be missed. We will have to be satisfied with rereading his best novels over and over again. He will leave a huge gap that aspiring writers will no doubt do their best to try to fill. Good luck with your next stage of life, Mr. King.
Suzanne Church, Canada

King has been my favourite author ever since my mother thought I was old enough to start reading his works. Now, I can say that he deserves a long and enjoyable retirement just for writing "IT". I hope he finishes the Dark Tower series though. I'm not in the middle of it, but my uncle has been patiently awaiting the next in the series. I have yet to read anything that brought characters to life more than "IT".
Jarrad, USA

As sorry as I am to see him go, I can hardly say that it is a surprise. He telegraphed his intent and reasons quite clearly when he wrote "Bag of Bones". So kudos to Stephen for knowing what he wants, and I hope that he enjoys his retirement. He's earned it.
Nathan, USA

Ozzy Osbourne said "retirement sucks" after only a year or so of being out of the business. King might come back in a few months out of sheer boredom

Nick, USA
Looking at the fabulous career Stephen King has made for himself I am reminded of words spoken by a contemporary of his from a different field. I believe it was Ozzy Osbourne who said: "retirement sucks", after only a year or so of being out of the business. King might come back in a few months out of sheer boredom.
Nick, USA

Stephen King has every right to retire. Far better than carrying on when the ideas have dried up. Ronnie Barker retired and we all remember him at his peak.
Guy Chapman, UK

He should have done it before he wrote his first book.
Anton Smolyakov, Russia

Stephen can do what he likes as far as retirement goes However he needs to finish the Dark Tower series first. Being left hanging for years at a time while he finishes the series is bad enough, but having it go unfinished forever would probably drive me over the edge. He should either finish the series or look forward to starring in his own horror story authored by me.
Dave, USA

Stephen King has given me plenty of reading pleasure over the years as well as inspiring me to write, so it will be sad if he really does retire. However, provided he finishes The Dark Tower, I say good on him and I hope he enjoys his retirement.
Gary Kemble, UK

No one who has been as prolific as Stephen King will be able to just give up. Give it a few months and he will wake up one night in a cold sweat with a fantastic idea for a new book and he won't be able to resist the itch to write it down. Everyone deserves a good long break once in a while but after a sabbatical I'm sure Mr King will be scarring the willies out of us once again.
Rod Maxwell, Scotland

I've done some writing and know that at times, it can be taxing. I'm sure it is easier for Mr. King, but still, there is a price to pay. Perhaps a little time off to see if the emotional reward is worth the price? If he decides it was, well, no one HAS to stand by their words anymore. If not, then he simply stays retired.
Lonnie Nichols, US

It would be interesting if he switched to another genre.

Alan, UK
I think he's making the right decision as far as his "horror" work is concerned. His best books were produced early in his career and, while his writing style is as entertaining as ever, the quality of his storylines has been tailing off in recent years.

However, it would be interesting if, instead of retiring completely, he switched to another genre. He has already produced quite a bit of non-horror fiction (e.g. The Shawshank Redemption, Dolores Claiborne, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon) which is as good as anything else he's written. If he feels his horror writing is in danger of becoming stale, perhaps a change of subject matter might help him recover his enthusiasm.
Alan, UK

I've been hooked on Stephen King's novels ever since one of my friends suggested that I read one. I am very sorry to hear the news, and I wish that it was not so. I would like to think that he would continue to write for many years to come, but the choice is entirely his to make. I would simply say thanks for the many hours of entertainment that he provided from his fertile imagination! It was great fun while it lasted!
Ben Barrett, England

Of course he has the right to retire whenever he wishes; it's just difficult to imagine that a writer as prolific as Stephen King will actually stick to his promise. I can imagine in a few years time, the story ideas will have bubbled up within him to such a point that he will have to write again for his own sanity. Then again, he has in the past written under a pseudonym - perhaps he will do the same this time. I certainly hope so, because there are few enough good writers of dark fantasy in the world. Rest happy in your retirement, Steve - I hope you come back soon, though.
Rob Frampton, UK

Obviously, anyone who wants to should be able to retire whenever they choose. Nevertheless, I cannot understand how any creative individual can simply set it all aside and go fishing or play golf for the rest of their lives. To me, the idea of any "artist" retiring smacks of dilitantism. It's the same with Garth Brooks. Is it that they've made enough money and their "art" really isn't that important to them? Paul McCartney is one of the wealthiest people in the business but I can't imagine him ever retiring. Artists don't retire; they create until they die.
Michael, USA/UK

There are many new and vastly superior horror writers

TJ, England
This is fantastic news for horror fiction. King is a deeply unoriginal writer, both in plot, supernatural logic and character (even he admits that his plots are weak, or at best derivative) and many critics, such as the Lovecraft scholar S T Joshi believes King has given weird fiction a bad name. There are many new and vastly superior horror writers than King who should be read, yet are still relatively unknown - Britain's Simon Clark and Tim Lebbon for instance, and in the States, Tom Piccirilli. In fifty years time, King I'm sure will be a minor footnote in the history of horror fiction.
TJ, England

Of course he should retire. We need new and inspiring writers, we need readers to take the plunge and try different authors. It can only be a good thing. I note that he says he will stop publishing, does this mean he plans to make yet more money on the web?
Jones, UK

Stephen King has scared me more times than I would like to remember. His career is exceptional and had brought pleasure to many a reader. I know that his eye sight is failing and I thing if he feels it's time to bow out gracefully then why not. Enjoy your retirement Stephen.
Gerry Cunningham, UK

I don't blame him at all for wanting to stop while he's still a popular writer and enjoying his work. I heard his eyesight is deteriorating quite badly, maybe that has something to do with it.
Suzanne, UK

The essential question is simply "can he retire"? Can a man for whom writing is intimately joined to his soul, his sanity, his reason for getting out of bed each morning, actually stop writing? I doubt it, but it seems all "retiring" writers who were born to write must discover that for themselves. Perhaps, like Grisham, he will return in a new genre. I, for one, hope so. He's a gifted writer, no matter what genre.
E. D. Lister, Mojave USA

It is rare that an author is a literary legend in their own day.

Angela, USA
Stephen King. The name and the man have become an icon of modern fiction. It is hard to imagine a bestseller list without one his new books on it. I will miss seeing what new macabre inventions he cooks up, but he has given the public a massive body of work to read and re-read. It is rare that an author is a literary legend in their own day. I hope he enjoys his retirement.
Angela, USA

Stephen King is a great writer and has produced some fine works over the decades. If he now wants to hang up his pen I wish him the very best of luck. I only ask that he completes the long running Dark Tower series which ranks among his best work

Good riddance, that man has given me an unnatural fear of clowns!
Kristy, Scotland

As King himself has said, he's not mining a limitless resource. He is already the Dickens of the twentieth century (in terms of prolific popularity and, one could argue, in terms of his very real talent), and he certainly has no financial need to write any more. With dozens of books, many of them astonishingly good, he has been his own industry, and I think he senses it's time to give a younger writer (or dozens, given that his typical advances could support the careers of many, many full-time writers) a chance. Thank you, Mr. King, for giving us the best years of your life, and for knowing when to bow out gracefully.
Jamie Blackman, USA

What do we curl up with on a dark winter's night now?

Dawn, UK
One word: Gutted! Although his style evolved from the gruesome horror genre to something infinitely more frightening - good old-fashioned psychological thrillers - he consistently came up with the goods, a marvellous read with a few chills thrown in. Thanks to Desperation Iżll never look at spiders in quite the same, unaffected way! At least he'll finish the Dark Tower story first. The problem is what do we curl up with on a dark winter's night now?
Dawn, UK

I'm not a big fan or horror novels but Stephen King is a highly talented writer. Not a word is wasted. My teenage son and daughter devour his books. His non-fiction work, "On Writing", is as good a guide as I've read on how to be a writer, as well as being a fascinating fragment of autobiography. The decision's his, of course, but if he does retire, it'll be a genuine loss.
Alan Wilson, Australia

I really don't think he'll ever completely retire. Real artists never do. I think he needs a long break, where he can let his creative juices pool. Maybe he can even slow his pace and concentrate more on fully realising the potential of his subject. Then we can see the truly gifted artist, as opposed to the commercial craftsman, providing entertainment to an audience.
Geoffrey, USA

From what I understand Stephen King has not been in the best of health since the accident that almost claimed his life a few years ago. If he feels it is time for him to sit back and relax now then that is up to him. I have enjoyed his books and future readers will too. Good Luck Mr King and thank you.
June Simpson, USA/UK

I was surprised to hear that one of the most prolific and interesting writers working today is finally to put an end to a phenomenally successful career. I was brought up on the dark tales of Stephen King, to me his books are like family in so much as I had always expected them to be around. He will be sorely missed. I usually rely on at least 2 or 3 new King tales to be published every couple of years. Alas that will no longer happen but in whatever he chooses to do with his life here on in, I wholeheartedly thank him for the pleasure that he has brought to me and countless others. Somehow, though, I do not believe we have truly seen the last of Mr King. Writers do not write for money or fame, that write because it is what they do. If Mr King does not write another book or story ever again, it won't just be a tragedy - it will be an out and out lie.
David Watts, UK

Hanging up his word processor is long overdue

Allan Crowley, England
King has been losing his touch for some years now, so I reckon that hanging up his word processor is long overdue. Gunslinger was always his best work, but Wizard and Glass were a real disappointment. His retirement should now allow younger writers, all heavily influenced by him, greater access to the market. Mind you I reckon he'll be another Sinatra, with multiple retirements.
Allan Crowley, England

Stephen King is right to quit. No doubt his recent serious accident has prompted him to enjoy life and take a long break. Maybe after a while Stephen King may return to what he does best, but in the mean time I have to thank him for the fabulous books that take pride of place in my bookcase.
Daniel, UK

Stephen King retire? That's one of his best horrors yet! Well, there have been some poor shows, but Dreamcatcher is my current read and have barely put it down. In recent books I have enjoyed the one liners linking characters from past stories, rather like his own cameo appearances in films. Long live the King for he shall be sorely missed !
Dominic Holyoak, UK

Yes - he should retire as and when he wants. Fans seem to think they own famous people. As I writer, I know, you come to a stage, when you are all wrote-out and you are not producing your best. Perhaps Mr. King has reached this stage and decided to put the pen away.
David Lloyd-Jones, Isle of Man UK

Long live the 'KING'!

Andrew, UK
Well he helped me pass my English Lit GCSE as I studied his books for 3 years at school. I am sure he will get bored in retirement and come back with more fantastic novels! Long live the 'KING'!
Andrew, UK

I was a big fan of his early works, but then after Rose Madder, his work became less horror and more psychological suspense. I just hope he finishes the gunslinger series! If he wants to retire, then he should!
John Charlton, England

I am sorry that Stephen King has decided to retire but support his decision. I don't think he has dried up but only he can make that decision. Thank you for the frights from previous years and enjoy your retirement!
Julian Lewis-Booth, UK

On balance perhaps the time is right for him to retire. Although his most recent work does give a hint of the creative genius of his early 80s output I do feel he's past his sell by date. Sad but true.
Richard, UK

I wonder why he should when he is at the peak of his stories?

Namara, Canada
As a reader and a fan of Stephen King, I think he has thrilled millions of readers and he continues so. Retiring from writing will give him a break to re-think and bounce back with new plots and more scare novels than now. But I wonder why he should when he is at the peak of his stories?
Namara, Canada

You can't blame him for wanting to quit while he's still ahead and still at his best. There must be a great pressure on him to keep on writing, all the eager fans wanting to be fed new books. But who wants to do a job forever? Everyone has got to stop sometime... big shame though.
Jamie Jordan, Essex - UK

Everyone has the right to retire, maybe Mr King would like to sit back and enjoy reading a few novels like the rest of us. As for no longer having a Stephen King novel to look forward to, what about all the new young horror writers such as Poppy Z. Brite and Nancy Collins. Times move on and we as consumers have to move along with them.
Dawn, England

One of the greatest, and most prolific horror/suspense writers of our time...a true genius, and he'll be sorely missed if he retires. What about the Dark Tower series......he can't stop in the middle!
Chris, Sussex, England

I have been an avid King reader since the age of 12 (I am now 21) and I have seen over the years some peaks in his writing, and some very bad drops. He has published a great number of decent books, but I do believe that averaging 2 books a year can take it out of you and he should retire if he thinks it is the right thing, and I think the fans will stick by him.
AJ Perkins, UK

I think the news that he is to retire can hardly come as a shock

Rich Beadnall, UK
Being of the opinion that King hasn't released anything worthy of his classic work since 'Desperation', I think the news that he is to retire can hardly come as a shock. As he says he would like to retire 'at the top of his game', it strikes me that he should have retired a couple of years ago to truly accomplish this. Nothing can detract from his body of work however, the vast majority of which is carefully-crafted and impeccably presented.
Rich Beadnall, UK

As a lover of his books I am obviously sad at the news. However, it is probably a very sensible decision as too many writers carry on when ideas are starting to run out. However, I rate some of his latest books as his best i.e. Hearts in Atlantis, the Dark Tower series and feel he is leaving writing on his peak. I am very glad that he plans to finish to Dark Tower series before he quits - can't wait!
Lara Joiner, United Kingdom

As long as he gets me to that damn Dark Tower, maybe then I can finally be at peace.
Roland of Gilead, UK

I have grown up with Stephen King and greet the news of his retirement with great sadness. In my opinion - and that of many critics - his recent work ("The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon" and "Hearts in Atlantis" especially) signalled a return to the gripping form of his earlier novels and it seems a shame to cut short a career on such a note. I'm sure he has good reasons for his decision, but there are many writers who have gone on to publish fantastic work well into their sixties, seventies, even eighties. I don't buy the quit-while-you're-ahead justification at all.
Tim Gulson, UK

I think he has the right to retire whenever he pleases, he is the only one who knows if his creative "vein" has dried up or not...and perhaps if he leaves the scenes for a while next time around we'll all enjoy his new books even more!
Clara, Italy

There's plenty there already to thrill and engage future generations.

Ewen, Scotland
I think he's as compelling and enjoyable to read as ever, but it's really up to him to decide when he wants to retire! We'll miss new books coming out but there's not an awful lot we can do about that, is there? There's plenty there already to thrill and engage future generations.
Ewen, Scotland

Stephen Kings books have brought me more hours of pleasure than I care to think about. Every book is purchased as soon as it's released. But I'm a fan. That's all - I have no more right to keep him than I have to question 'the subaudible'. We'll get to the tower, and maybe we'll go our separate ways, but my eternal thanks are due for the journey. There's an inscription on one of his fireplaces - "It is the tale, not he who tells it". Maybe. But without him, there would be no tale. An Avid Fan.
Jonathan Herron, N. Ireland

My sentiments are the same as Jonathans. I've been lost in the world of Stephen King since I was a young teen and am now having the great pleasure of rereading many of the books again. I can't wait for a new book to come out and buy it as soon as it hits the shelves. I can get lost for hours in my own Stephen King world as I'm doing now with the Black House. I will miss his stories if he decides to retire as I think theres so much more he can bring us, but he's the only one that knows when he's ready to go and if thats his decision then so be it!! But there will be that something very special missing that no other author can even come close too... and the bookstores will be just a little duller without him on the shelves! But until he finishes the DT series he can't go anywhere!!
Louise, Brit in the USA

No. He should not retire. Maybe he should get another job that scares ordinary folk - like a politician, or even better, Minister for Transport in the UK.
Fraser, Essex, England

The BBC's Razia Iqbal
"The most successful writer no longer wants to write"
See also:

31 Jan 02 | Arts
Stephen King 'to retire'
31 Jan 02 | Arts
King of horror

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