Eight Books that Inspire Me #8: Misery by Stephen King

I'm looking at the books and authors that inspire me as both a writer and a reader. I've chosen eight of my favourite novels and they're presented in no particular order.


"Please, God, please - let me out of this or kill me..."

Stephen King needs no introduction from me, nor does his brilliant novel, Misery. There were a number of his books I was thinking of to fill the final spot on my list, but this 1987 release about author Paul Sheldon held captive by his 'number one fan' Annie Wilkes takes the honour for its outright craziness and sense of fun.

Severely injured in a car wreck during a snow storm, Sheldon is rescued by Wilkes, who, instead of taking him to a hospital, decides to nurse him to recovery in her own home. Paul soon learns that his rescuer is a passionate fan of his romantic novel series featuring the character Misery Chastain. When Annie discovers that he has killed off Misery in his newly released novel, Paul also learns that she is completely insane.

Holding Paul captive, Annie forces him to write a new novel in which Misery Chastain returns. He has little choice - if he doesn't do it, she'll kill him.

Annie Wilkes is one of King's most monstrous creations: she's a serial killer, a murderer of children, and a deranged fan who doesn't think twice about cutting off Sheldon's foot with an axe, or his thumb with an electric knife. And yet, we also see her desperately sad, lonely, and isolated from the world. There are moments when you almost feel sorry for Annie Wilkes. Almost.

The King of Horror

The King of Horror

Misery is essentially a game of cat and mouse, made all the more tense by setting most of the story within the confines of Annie's house. Sheldon is injured, then later mutilated. He cannot physically overpower his captor and so must try to outwit her. The interplay between the two is smart and funny, intricate and terrifying, culminating in a hyper-violent and insane climax, which calls for much cheering aloud.

Stephen King has said that Misery is about his own struggle with trying to move away from writing horror and his fans subsequent rejection. Since then he has successfully gone on to write fantasy (the Dark Tower series), as well as more drama-based efforts such as Dolores Claiborne.

What do you think of Misery? Do you prefer the book or the film? Leave your answer in the comments section.