Needful Things, Stephen King
The Summer of Stevie is continuing well into fall because what had happened was, I put a bunch of his audiobooks on hold through the library, and the titles are just now becoming available. And that’s totally fine with me for two reasons: I love Uncle Stevie all year and I am a cheap queen.
Needful Things is a big one, so let’s get into it, shall we?
Castle Rock, Maine is a quaint little town full of lovely people where nothing bad ever happens. It is basically the town from Gilmore Girls. I’m kidding. Though it has a Stars Hollow vibe, Castle Rock has a level of creepy that SH just never achieved, no matter how many episodes they cram Kirk in to. Castle Rock is small enough that when the townsfolk notice the sign for a new shop on Main Street, they get on the horn and call their pals about it.
Little Bryan is the first citizen to actually set foot into Needful Things. It’s a weird little shop, with a little bit of everything. The store clerk, Mr. Gaunt, seems nice, but I imagine he is very pasty and has an Olivander way about him. I immediately didn’t trust him. But I read a lot of SK, so I kind of don’t trust anyone. Bryan’s looking through the inventory and chatting it up with Gaunt. Bryan reveals to Mr. Gaunt that he collects 1956 baseball cards and would do just about anything for a Sandy Koufax card. Wouldn’t you know it? Mr. Gaunt has one. In mint condition. And, to top off this insanely coincidental coincidence, it is autographed to a Bryan. How could little B be so lucky? Gaunt, a world-class negotiator, makes Bryan one heck of a bargain. He’ll sell him the card for the change in his pocket, a little word-of-mouth advertising, and the promise to pull a harmless prank on another townsperson. No biggie. Bryan takes his card and scrams.
Curiosity spreads, and more Castle Rock residents file in to check out Needful Things. Turns out, Gaunt has just what everyone is looking for. They leave there with their prized possessions and a vague memory of promising to pull a prank. Everything is peachy until Gaunt comes to collect. Bryan slings a little mud on a neighbor’s sheets and, before you know it, people are dead. Like, an alarming number of people. Will the town survive? Well, thank the gods Sheriff Pangborn has his wits about him and also hates shopping. He is one of the few residents left not involved in Mr. Gaunt’s web of destruction.
Okay, now for the fun stuff. I love hunting for the threads connecting each book to his other works is fun. Needful Things mentions Cujo a handful of times without even trying to hide it. I liked the Cujo mention because it’s my second favorite King book. He also says the phrase “four past midnight”, which is the title of an SK short story collection. Four Past Midnight contains Secret Window, Secret Garden, which also comes into play in Needful Things. If you aren’t familiar, in SWSG, a writer goes coo-coo bananagrams and kills basically everyone. It is also a movie starring Johnny Depp and the much more talented John Turturro. Do not come for John Turturro.
I got excited when the story briefly took us to Colorado. I was hoping for an Annie Wilkes mention or maybe even an Overlook Hotel. But, alas, no. At one point, I was actually hoping a baby who had died was a victim of Annie Wilkes’. That’s how obsessed I am with looking for connections.
Despite all the destruction, death, lies, and general chaos, Needful Things was a great book and it sounds exactly like the kind of store I would be drawn to. 100%. I’d have been the first one in the stupid door selling my soul to the devil for a bowling ball.