Terror Incognita

A Review of Stephen King Country,
by George Beahm


Stephen King has long been known for his portrayals of small town life gone horribly wrong. Near the start of his career, with 1976’s ‘Salem’s Lot, King worked with the idea of an isolated Maine town beset upon by evil outsiders. Throughout his long career, he has revisited this basic plot many tames, putting a new spin on each. Derry, Maine became prey to shape-shifting creatures in both It and Insomnia. The Tommyknockers’ reclusive Haven turned into ground-zero for radioactive alien ghosts. Desperation, Nevada turned into the ghostly battleground between God and the devil. And poor Castle Rock, Maine was doomed from the start.

King has often been asked “Where do you get your ideas?” All the answer are here, in George Beahm’s newest, Stephen King Country. A different sort of book about King, this photo-essay guide takes the reader on a visual journey of the real (and sometimes unreal) world of Stephen King. Beginning with a brief overview of King’s career through 1998’s Bag of Bones, Beahm shifts gears and delves into the geography of King’s real Maine. Interweaving biography and history, Country takes us through the towns of Durham, Orrington, Hermon, and more, giving the reader some insight as to where King’s fictional towns originated. Chapter Two, focusing principally on King’s hometown of Bangor (the real-world counterpart of Derry) is a fascinating look at where Stephen King lives and writes, complete with a stunning aerial photograph of King’s immense house. Touching on Stephen and his wife Tabitha King’s philanthropy, Beahm then drives us down the dark path into King’s fictional towns.

In this section, we are finally able to see the “real” Marsten House of ‘Salem’s Lot (actually the Shiloh Church in Durham, Maine), the train tracks the boys traveled in “The Body,” the Standpipe and the Barrens, major landmarks in the novel It, and the hotel in Colorado that inspired The Shining. This inspired blending of fact and fiction is at once surreal and fascinating – it’s like looking through the words of a Stephen King novel and finding a dark reality in the foreground of the man’s imagination.

In the dedication to It, King calls fiction “the truth inside the lie.” In Stephen King Country, you can find that truth, the reality inside the story, and journey through the real and unreal worlds of Stephen King’s country without ever leaving your house. Enjoy the trip!