Stephen King is a literary phenomenon. He has sold more than 150 million books worldwide in a career that has spanned many genres, from horror and fantasy to psychological thrillers and science fiction. In all, he has written more than 500 original works. His short stories are recognised as being among the best ever written in the English language. In a thoughtful study of King's immense body of work, Heidi Strengell shows how King builds on the work of writers from Stoker and Shelley to Dickens and Melville. Ultimately, she demonstrates how King shatters our illusions of safety and control by placing decent and good characters at the mercy of indifferent forces. King himself is very self-deprecating about his own work. He has described himself as 'the literary equivalent of a Big Mac', but, as Strengell shows in this wide-ranging study, his work is informed by both the Gothic tradition and by the great naturalists. Without ever descending into idolatry, Strengell shows the deep sophistication that underpins King's popular success. There has never been a better explanation of the techniques that King uses to achieve his effects.