NEW YORK — A new novel from James Patterson has a title that calls for a disclaimer and a spoiler alert: “The Murder of Stephen King.”
“A work of fiction,” readers are assured. “All incidents and dialogue, and all characters with the exception of Stephen and Tabitha King, are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.”
And, yes, the story has a happy ending.
But still, that title.
“I think it’s a good title,” Patterson told The Associated Press during a recent telephone interview. “It’s exactly what the book is.”
Not exactly — the murder is only attempted.
“I guess we could have put in ‘attempted,'” he added.
Patterson’s 150-page book, which comes out Nov. 1, tells of an obsessed fan out to get King and of the detective (who happens to be named Jamie Peterson) trying to save him. The novel is part of his “BookShots” series of “pulse-pounding thrillers under $5 and 150 pages or less.” The prolific Patterson, who averages several best-sellers a year and openly works with co-authors, collaborated with Derek Nikitas on the King story.
Other fiction writers have imagined — or least suggested — the demise of a public figure. Hilary Mantel’s short story “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: August 6th 1983” came out in 2014, after the former British Prime Minister had died. Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives were angered by Nicholson Baker’s 2004 novel “Checkpoint,” in which an opponent of the Iraq War considers killing then-President George W. Bush and a friend tries to dissuade him.
King, through an assistant, declined comment on Patterson’s book, but confirmed he has received an advance copy.
In “The Murder of Stephen King,” the villain’s motive is explained at the start: “He’ll write a tell-all book from his prison cell and be crowned the new King of Horror. All the readers will scream: The King is dead; long live the King!” Patterson says the novel is clearly a homage to the author, with praise for his work and for King. He notes that King has included crazed readers in his books, notably in “Misery,” and that Patterson has encountered his own share of “buzzing pests” and “scary kooks.”
Patterson says he doesn’t know King, although he has heard he’s a “neat guy.” The book is entirely imagined, down to the King household, as seen by Detective Peterson.
“Classic images come to mind: killer clowns whispering from inside sewer drains, teenage vampires scraping their claws on your bedroom window, creepy twins in a hotel hallway, rabid dogs and undead cats and crazed prom queens drenched in pig’s blood. I’m about to meet the guy whose head it all spilled out of,” Patterson and Nikitas wrote.
“But Steve King’s pushing seventy these days, clean-shaven with backswept gray hair. He sits at the kitchen table, so engrossed in a book that his nose is practically touching the pages. His long upper lip gives him a harmless, almost rabbitlike appearance.”
While Patterson speaks warmly of King, King has not returned the compliments in the past. In a 2009 interview with USA Weekend, he said Patterson was “a terrible writer but he’s very successful.” Speaking to the AP, Patterson is dismissive of King’s remarks, calling them “hyperbole,” in the style of Donald Trump.
“I know I’m not a terrible writer,” Patterson says. “That’s a little over the top.”
Patterson said those who know about his book have not objected to the title, and that some have even found it funny.
And what if King were to write a novel called “The Murder of James Patterson”?
“If Stephen King wrote it,” he said, “I would definitely want to read it.”