Author spotlight: the modern masters – Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, Dr Seuss, Hunter S. Thompson

Each generation has its own crop of captivating storytellers.  Here are some contemporary authors whose works, we believe, will still be enjoyed for generations to come:

Carrie by Stephen King

It’s hard to believe that Carrie, Stephen King’s first published novel, is over 40 years old.  Carrie is a bullied teenager, wanting to fit in, and ultimately using her telekinetic powers to take revenge on her tormentors.  Her ordeal has continued to resonate with readers, including some who have gone onto become horror writers themselves.  Carrie also broke literary new ground, both with its inventive structure – with the story told from multiple first- and third-person viewpoints – and its contemporary, naturalistic setting, unusual for the horror genre at the time.


American Vampire by Stephen King and Scott Snyder

Stephen King may be best-known for horror novels, but he has excelled across a range of genres and storytelling formats.  American Vampire is Stephen King’s first foray into comics; it contains two interconnected stories introducing Skinner Sweet, a violent outlaw turned into the first American Vampire – a new breed immune to sunlight and with unusual strengths and weaknesses.  The first story, set in the 1920s, concerns aspiring actress Pearl, who was (uncharacteristically) saved by Skinner from death when he turned her into a vampire.  The second story, set in the Wild West in the 1880s, traces Skinner’s history.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling

Excitement is already building about the big-screen adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which will be released later this year.  With J.K. Rowling writing the screenplay herself, and the casting of Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne in the lead role, Potterheads should be in for a treat.  Fantastic Beasts is first mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, as a textbook that Harry and his friends use at Hogwarts. It is supposedly written by Newt Scamander, a famous Magizoologist, and is a guide to the magical creatures found in the Harry Potter universe.  Sales of this book has raised millions for the charity Comic Relief.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith)

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a classic detective story featuring Cormoran Strike, a one-legged former military police turned private eye.  It is tautly-written, with deft social comedy and complex characterisation.  With glowing reviews from both professional reviewers and the reading public, it was described as a “stellar debut” by Robert Galbraith… but the biggest twist in this story is that the ’nobody’ Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym of a very famous ‘somebody’ – J.K. Rowling.  The Cuckoo’s Calling is the novel that dispels any remaining doubt about J.K. Rowling’s abilities as a masterful storyteller.

What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss

A new Dr Seuss book – rediscovered after his death – sounds almost too good to be true.    What’s more, it’s a classic Dr Seuss story starring the siblings from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish!  What Pet Should I Get? follows brother-and-sister Jay and Kay as they go to a pet store to choose a pet.  A noon deadline makes their decision very difficult!  Why this almost completed manuscript was never submitted will remain a mystery; but careful detective work by the publishers suggests that this story may be the precursor to One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

Come Over to My House by Dr Seuss (as Theo LeSieg), illustrated by Richard Erdoes

This is a lesser-known Dr Seuss book but my personal favourite.  Theo LeSieg is the name used by Dr Seuss for stories he wrote that were illustrated by others. (LeSieg spelt backwards is Geisel, Dr Seuss’ real name).  Come Over to My House  shows its readers children from different countries around the world, in their national costumes and diverse traditional houses.  The colourful pictures and rhyming text make it a fun as well as educational story.  With cheerful and charming vintage illustrations, Come Over to My House is reminiscent of Miroslav Sasek’s wonderful This is… series (such as This is Paris).

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson is the father of gonzo journalism – a subjective, personal style of reporting which engages readers through the author’s first-person commentaries as much as through the subject matter; and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
is his masterpiece.  This novel, based on actual roadtrips undertaken with his activist-attorney friend, is
notable for its extensive references to illicit drug use, and its critique of the counterculture movement.  Angry, intoxicated, politicised, anti-authoritarian, Hunter S. Thompson’s distinctive writing makes him a pop-cultural as well as literary sensation.

Kingdom of Fear by Hunter S. Thompson

The second-last book published in his lifetime, Kingdom of Fear is subtitled “Loathsome Secrets of a Star-crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century”.  Part-memoir, part-satire and part-polemic, Kingdom of Fear shows that age has not diminished his anger nor wit.  In section after section, he argues for a need to distrust authority, especially in these Post-9/11 times, with governments granting ever more power to the police and military.  Still angry and radical, this is his clarion call to maintain the rage.


About Karen Seligman

Karen Seligman is a librarian working in public libraries. As a lifelong booklover, she loves having access to a library’s worth of books! As a librarian, an important (and fun) part of her work is about connecting people to new ideas and new books. Karen is a literary magpie who can't settle on a single favourite genre – she loves narrative nonfiction, historical fantasies and food writing.