Despite that The Stand is my favourite King novel, Needful Things comes a very close second.
In some ways it is a much more intriguing story in that it deals with a much more base issue: human greed and the things people will do for personal gain.
Leland Gaunt arrives in Castle Rock, the setting for a good handful of King’s novels, opening up a bric-a-brac shop. The thing is with this shop is that it always seems to have the customer’s most secret desire and Gaunt never seems to require much money for the sale. But there is always a second price, to perform a small prank on somebody else.
Needless to say, the pranks become increasingly malevolent and re-ignites old animosities between individuals. Soon the whole town has descended into chaos and murderous violence and it is down to Sheriff Pangborn to put it right. Long-term fans of King will know Pangborn from The Dark Half and The Sun Dog.
Because of the subject matter, the story required a bit more in-depth characterisation than we might be used to from Stephen King. This he does very well and the interactions, positive and negative flow well with the plot.
Despite the fantastical setting, the plot is believable because it criticises human greed and explores how it consumes, asking us all the way “how far would you go to obtain your inner-most secret desire?”