'Everyone loves something for nothing . . . even if it costs everything.'
When new shop Needful Things opens in Castle Rock, there is soon an avalanche of customers desperate to 'buy now' but as the front cover says, you will pay later. Leland Gaunt is the proprietor and he has an extensive stock, something will definitely catch your eye, I guarantee it.
Is it the perfect store? Well it possesses the thing you desire most and its available for whatever you think it's worth, with a small proviso, you have to do something in return, a small prank or an undercover delivery. Nothing to worry about, honestly?
We then meet what appears to be the whole town as various characters visit Needful Things and become enthralled by what's on offer. Everyone it seems has a trick to play for Leland Gaunt and the repercussions get ever closer to a violent outcome of catastrophic proportions.
So once again it's not a review as such but more a gushing of what I loved about Needful Things, so if you've not read it then proceed with caution, there will definitely be spoilers.
First off young Brian Rusk and his baseball card, the start point of a particularly harrowing battle between two ladies equal in determination and destined to meet amidst knife and cleaver. Nettie Cobb, Polly's housekeeper, and her enemy Wilma Jerzyck, a strong minded but not really likable woman. A tragic ending befalls all three participants of this game and three brilliant second tier characters. And Brian's Mother Cora, versus Myra Evans in the battle of Elvis, an unhealthy infatuation with the King of rock n roll 'thank you .... thank you very much' and someone will be dying for a hunka-hunka burning love.
'He had discovered another large fact about possessions and the peculiar psychological state they induce; the more one has to go through because of something one owns, the more one wants to keep that thing.'
Needful Things and Leland Gaunt have a profound and dire effect on anyone who visits his shop and obtains an item, they are bound to him as much as to the item purchased. Not the thing you really, really wanted it to be, but in your mind it is that thing and it’s the only thing you can think of. Possessed mind, body and soul, by the trickster in his lair. Just a touch of his wares or a step into his hide is all it takes and you want it, can't get enough of it and you'll do anything to keep and protect it.
'He closed his hand around it in a fist to keep it from falling to the floor . . . and at once a feeling of oddness and distortion swept over him.'
My favourite characters were of course Sheriff Alan Pangborn and his partner Polly Chalmers, Alan blessed with speed of hand, is one of the last people to meet the true trickster Leland Gaunt. He is a gifted amateur magician and is able to produce a number of different and complex shadow puppets and sleight-of-hand tricks. After overcoming his own bind to Gaunt at the game end, courtesy of Polly his tricks prove to be the deciding factor in the fight against evil. And Polly is just lovely, the pain, the pills, her terrible loss and the fight to overcome her purchase from Needful Things. Her own Lucifer’s locket in the shape of a magic artefact, a spider that feeds on her pain amongst other things and she so wanted the pain to be gone, it was the thing she wanted most of all but not without cost.
He makes you buy back your own sickness, and he makes you pay double! Don’t you understand that yet? Don’t you get it?’
I love the way Stephen King brushes past a character, almost nonchalantly, he gives you a snippet of what they're about, something that defines them, a piece of their history, a reaction, anything and it leaves them embedded in your memory, like someone you've briefly met. Your first opinion well and truly formed. And we meet plenty of characters in this story, the majority of them memorable not all of them likeable but none without consequence.
If I had anything near a criticism it would be an over indulgence in characters, when we hit the religious group action and the street fight, I wasn't bothered so much with the lead up. Just wanted to get back to Alan, Leland Gaunt, Polly and the one and only Ace Merrill.
' Misdirection. It was a five-foot-long snake hidden inside a can of nuts . . . or, he thought, thinking of Polly, it’s a disease that looks like a cure.'
Loved the ending though, brilliant stuff. So where does Needful Things sit in my list of King Favourites, well if you trawl the net you won't find this book in anyone's top ten it's more likely to be in the bottom half in fact. I really enjoyed it, both the story and the characters sparked my interest immediately, it may have gone round the mountain to get to the top but I like good characterization and this has it in abundance. I think this definitely sits in my top ten, not quite up there with The Stand and IT but not a million miles away.