We’ve been tracking with interest the emergence of details on Stephen King’s long-anticipated/dreaded sequel to The Shining, which was revealed last year to go by the title Doctor Sleep, to be due for publication some time this year, to follow the present-day exploits of the now middle-aged Danny Torrance and, most importantly, to feature a prescient cat in some capacity. Now, King has given an interview to Entertainment Weekly that deals largely with the forthcoming book, and he’s saying all the right things about it.
Firstly, it has a release date: September 24th, which should give you enough time to read it and throw together something for Halloween riffing on some aspect of it. Secondly: That prescient cat angle isn’t quite so outré and promising-premise-derailing as it first seemed, with King claiming as inspiration the widely reported case of Oscar, the nursing home cat who seems able to sense when residents are about to die, as demonstrated by his curling up beside them.
King says of hearing of the cat’s ability: ‘I thought to myself: ‘I want to write a story about that.’ And then I made the connection with Danny Torrance as an adult, working in a hospice. I thought: ‘That’s it. I’m gonna write this book.’ [...] The cat had to be there. It always takes two things for me to get going. It’s like the cat was the transmission and Danny was the motor. The whole sequel idea is really dangerous. I think people have a tendency to approach them with a raised eyebrow like, ‘Hmm, if this guy is going back to where he was 30 or 35 years ago he must be low on ideas. He must be touching empty on the old gas gauge.’ I don’t feel that way, but I did feel in this case it was a real challenge to go back.’
It’s not like King has ever run short on fresh new ideas in the past, so just to hear him say he has a concrete reason for revisiting Danny Torrance should prove reassuring to fans of the original novel. He has two, in fact – having lately abandoned the chills of his best-known work in books like 11/22/63 and Under the Dome, King’s stated aim with Doctor Sleep is to once again ‘scare the shit out of people’: ‘A lot of people who got scared to death by The Shining, they’ll come up to me and say, ‘I read that book when I was at camp when I was 12,’ or ‘I read that when I was in high school at 15, and it really scared the living crap right out of me.’ And [while writing Doctor Sleep] I’m thinking, ‘Those people are now in their 40s and they’ve been exposed to Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees and other stuff. It crossed my mind that they might read the new one and say, ‘Well, this isn’t so scary. I thought he was a scary guy!’ And it’s not so much that I’ve changed, but that they’ve grown up and matured. And they aren’t such easy targets!’
So not only is King a man with an idea he feels is worth risking the legacy of one of his most beloved books to explore, he’s also determined to find new ways of scaring an audience jaded by the ensuing 30 years of horror since that novel’s publication. Admit it: Cat or no cat, your curiosity is piqued.