My Life In Books: It
When I was 14, my sister and I spent the summer holiday in England with our dad (we were living in Canada with my mother). I’d already discovered Stephen King and my step-mother, herself a big reader, had this one on the shelf. So I read it that summer, and once I started, I found I could not put it down.
The book runs along two separate time lines. A group of five children, all considered freaks and weirdos by their classmates, become firm friends and form what they call “The Losers’ Club”. But in their little town of Derry, Maine, a brooding evil lurks – a supernatural creature that can take on the form of whatever scares you the most. It lives in the drains and it’s preying on the townspeople. The five children are the only ones who discover how to stop it, and they undertake a terrifying ordeal to banish the monster.
Thirty years later, the children are grown up and have all dispersed. Four of them have left Derry and become financially successful. They all get married, but notably none of them have children. The one who remains in Derry, Mike, remains single, and brings in a modest income as a librarian. He has appointed himself Derry’s guardian, looking out for the return of the monster, which as children they defeated but did not kill. Having made a pact to return and go after it again should the creature return, Mike has kept track of his friends’ movements since they left Derry, and when the monster does return, he calls them all, and reminds them of their pact.
The book then follows the two timelines – the original journey the characters made as children, to defeat the creature, and the one they make in the present day, as adults. But the monster still knows their childhood fears, and they are forced to face up to some unpleasant long-hidden truths about themselves, as well as dealing with the creature.
Anyone who’s read SUFFER THE CHILDREN will probably have noticed that IT was an influence. To me, IT is the perfect horror novel. It has characters who are dealing with inner demons as well as an actual one, and a monster that has the ability to appear in the form of whatever scares you the most. My only criticism is that at the very end of the novel, when the monster finally reveals its true form, it was something of a disappointment, as it turns out not to be scary at all. But apparently this plays on Stephen King’s own phobia, so I guess to him the true form was pretty damn scary.
I would also have liked there to have been more than one girl amongst the five main characters. It’s not as if Stephen King can’t write female characters. Beverley is the lone female in the “losers’ club”, a girl suffering physical abuse at the hands of her father. She grows up and becomes a successful fashion designer, in partnership with her handsome and wealthy husband, but she’s been unable to break the pattern of her damaged childhood because her husband beats her up, too.
I also empathised with Eddie, the hypochrondriac weakling who lived with his obese and overbearing mother. He grows up to run a chauffeur service to the stars, along with his wife, who physically bears a striking resemblance to his mother.
There was a mini-series made of IT about 20 years ago, but it really wasn’t very good. I don’t think any visual representation of IT will ever do the book justice. Some books should just remain as books and this one, for me, will always be up there on the list of books that had the most influence on my writing. If people describe my writing as being like Stephen King’s, then I take that as an incredible compliment. Much as aspire to that, I don’t think I will ever write anything that can hold a candle to IT.