The Gunslinger and the Man in Black are the ingredients for the best-selling non-horror novel by Stephen King.
Stephen King is known as one of the absolute best to ever pick up a pen and write novels. But most people associate his work with the countless horror books he has produced over the many years of his career. Instead, let’s look at a novel that is not based in the horror genre but is instead dipped in fantasy — The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, and why it is the best non-horror work in his vast arsenal.
One of Stephen King’s Few Non-Horror Top Selling Books
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger is a dark fantasy novel by the incredible Stephen King. It was originally the first in a mash-up of several short stories King wrote in 1978, and it took him four years to complete. It came out in 1982 but was one of those books that would grow in popularity over time. This is truer because King’s famous Pet Cemetery book was released the following year. Since that book became so popular, and The Gunslinger was noted in the books at the time, it drew attention to them. Pet Cemetery fans would transition to The Gunslinger because of those mentioned above. Thus, the book that was already out of print at the time would gear up for more copies to be sold.
So, if the book is not horror, then what is it? Well, it’s a mixture of fantasy, Old West, action, and adventure. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Stephen King novel without a little darkness seeping into the plot, but not to the degree that most people associate with his usual stories. The story is about the last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and his unrelenting pursuit of the man in black. This simple plot drove fans wild for the book and may be why it became so popular. The Gunslinger would go on to be a series of books called The Dark Tower series. Since its release back in 1982, The Gunslinger has sold over one million copies worldwide. It’s crazy to think that, as popular as The Gunslinger is, it still does not even break into King’s top ten most books sold. However, when talking about novels that are non-horror from King, it is absolutely one of the best he has ever done. In 2003, King even went back to revise a little bit of the book so that it would be able to tell a better story and explain certain aspects of it more clearly.
Now, here is something that usually solidifies if a book has become popular or not: seeing it get a movie or series adaptation. The Dark Tower was the name of the movie, and it was released back in 2017. At the time, it seemed like it would be a hit. It’s a movie based on King’s work, after all. It shouldn’t be too hard to adapt, but unfortunately, the movie did not do well at the box office and received mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. One of its weak points is that the movie tries to fit all the material from the entire Dark Tower series into a single film. That’s incredibly hard to do, even if it’s just one book being adapted. There was a series adaptation in the works with Amazon, but after shooting the pilot episode, they thought it best to pursue a different story.
With all that aside, however, it was still a fun film to watch, and seeing a film come from a book was still not as popular back then as it is today. The movie was filled with action and even had some famous lines from the book. King has had over 90 of his books turned into films, most of which are in the horror genre. The fact that The Gunslinger and the books that followed in the series were made into a movie significantly indicates how popular the book was and still is.
Why The Gunslinger Is So Loved
So, out of the many other non-horror novels by the ‘King of Horror,’ why is The Gunslinger so special? That’s a multiple-part question that someone could write a whole essay about, but let’s condense it a bit. For starters, it still gives that dark atmosphere that King is known for and explores the fantasy aspect of storytelling by introducing parallel worlds in the book. It brings an Old West feeling to it, with The Gunslinger naturally using his guns to defend himself and kill his enemies. It’s a new departure for King as he now has a big bad guy whom the wandering hero is chasing. This sort of theme is not something fans see a lot from the writer, and they are more used to characters either running away or towards horrific people and situations.
Another big reason for the popularity of The Gunslinger could also be its genre-bending storytelling. Avid fans of the fantasy genre know that fantasy writers take inspiration from many other types of storytelling, and The Gunslinger does so splendidly. The book is slow at times, but when things start to pick up, it’s almost hard to put it away, especially in shootout scenes. This could also be another selling point for the book: the action. Not many of King’s books have that sense of action deeply intertwined within the story. The Gunslinger, however, has this in spades, with the Old West-style of shootouts that happen. Mix that with fantasy-like powers, and the book is a deadly combination for any fantasy fanatic or die-hard Stephen King fan.
Stephen King has written some of the most sought-after books in recent history and undoubtedly will go down as one of the best to ever write in any genre, not just horror. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger novel is special because of its fantasy aspect. Though there are many other non-horror books by King, none have this deep fantasy world as The Gunslinger does. Fans can find the novel online or anywhere that books are sold. Go get a copy and have a fun time watching the movie, too!
The Dark Tower (2017) Sony Pictures Official Trailer