Needful Things

Needful Things

Leland Gaunt opens a new shop in Castle Rock called Needful Things. Anyone who enters his store finds the object of his or her lifelong dreams and desires: a prized baseball card, a healing amulet. In addition to a token payment, Gaunt requests that each person perform a little "deed," usually a seemingly innocent prank played on someone else from town. These practical jok...

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Title:Needful Things
Author:Stephen King
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Edition Language:English

Needful Things Reviews

  • Bradley

    With this tome of Stephen King small town horror, I'm constantly amazed that I had missed picking this up and geeking out over it when it first came out.

    I'm certain that I would have. It has all the things I'd been learning to geek out about with his general horror universe, including Cthulhu references, homages to his previous works including events and characters, all of them strung up as if on a map of homicide victims on a perp board, and of course, Castle Rock, itself.

    Castle Rock Entertainm

    With this tome of Stephen King small town horror, I'm constantly amazed that I had missed picking this up and geeking out over it when it first came out.

    I'm certain that I would have. It has all the things I'd been learning to geek out about with his general horror universe, including Cthulhu references, homages to his previous works including events and characters, all of them strung up as if on a map of homicide victims on a perp board, and of course, Castle Rock, itself.

    Castle Rock Entertainment, indeed. This is the grand blowout of the town, with evil creeping in and changing all of its residents from a patina of middle-class respectability and Rockwellian charm into roving bands of gleeful murderers with very dark hearts.

    And can we really blame it entirely upon Antique Madness? Roadshow Antiques? That equally weird craze of the early 90's, turned EVIL? Or was it just Mr. Gaunt, aka (Flagg, maybe?) stirring up loads of crap? Nah, it's just the greed and pride of humanity, stoked in just the right way, and that's what Stephen King is really known for.

    His supernatural aspects are generally underplayed and always in direct support of deep characterizations, of twisting flawed people into even more atrocious examples of humanity, with usually only a few semi-heroic survivors at the end that *sometimes* manage to make it through the fire.

    This novel is a shining example of all this, taking all the best simmering-pot boil-over of 'Salem's Lot, the twisted madness of Tommyknockers, and throwing in an epic battle of two older ladies eviscerating each other in broad daylight on the street. :)

    Truly a charming novel. :)

  • Gregor Xane

    Mr. King likes to tell stories about people getting trapped. He's got one about a guy trapped in a bedroom. He's got a whole bunch of these stories, really. He's got people trapped inside a car, in a gas station, a classroom, a grocery store, a hotel, on an island, a city under a giant force field. I'm pretty sure he's got one about a lady handcuffed to a bed for the whole book. I'm just going from memory here. He's probably got a lot more.

    In

    , the entire town of Castle Rock is tra

    Mr. King likes to tell stories about people getting trapped. He's got one about a guy trapped in a bedroom. He's got a whole bunch of these stories, really. He's got people trapped inside a car, in a gas station, a classroom, a grocery store, a hotel, on an island, a city under a giant force field. I'm pretty sure he's got one about a lady handcuffed to a bed for the whole book. I'm just going from memory here. He's probably got a lot more.

    In

    , the entire town of Castle Rock is trapped by their possessions. Its citizens are punished mercilessly for 700+ pages with some special brand of evil that feeds off the sin of imbuing bric-à-brac with sentimental value.

    Admittedly, I'm oversimplifying the plot of this book quite a bit. But

    is just a morality tale at its core, a boldfaced warning about materialism. The message of the book seems to boil down to something we all heard as kids, mom saying that you don't

    those roller skates, you just

    them.

    But to say that this is

    a simple morality tale really does this book a disservice. It's got all the things I like in a King book: suspense, action, gore, folksy humor (the cruel and the crude varieties), characters you can identify with, protagonists you care about, insane people and perverts, monsters and great big explosions. Most importantly, it's got a great villain. Our bad guy, Leland Gaunt, isn't subtle, he chews up the scenery at every turn, but he's exactly what this novel calls for. Done well (and King does them very well), comic book villains are the best kind. All right, maybe just the most fun to read about.

    And, yes, this book had some of the Stephen King things I don't like so much. I feel sometimes King is writing down to his characters, like he'll create a character just for the sake of mockery. Lester Pratt, the goody two-shoes, Christian 'boy scout' character in this book is a prime example. I would be willing to bet that no one ever--no matter how repressed and/or brainwashed, sheltered, or close-minded--ever, ever had an internal monologue that's featured the celebratory phrase "rooty toot toot"

    while thinking about the prospect of getting some pussy.

    King also has a tendency to veer into some rather cloying, almost treacly, Garrison Keillor territory, and in this book the opening and closing are perhaps the most nauseating examples of this that I've personally encountered.

    And then, like with many of King's novels, we have the borderline

    ending.

    Now, I know what you're thinking:

    But, you see, the thing is, Stephen King is sort of like the President of the United States of America. (Bear with me here.) The people you hear bitching about the President the most, the people who are the hardest on him, seem to always be the very same people who voted him into office. I've read over thirty books by Stephen King. So, in my mind, that pretty much means I voted that son-of-a-bitch into office over

    I'll say what I want.

    And now you're probably asking,

    No question.

  • Paul Nelson

    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,

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Also posted at

  • Leo .

    What a fantastic book by the great man. Needful things is a great book. A shop owner who gives everybody what they want for a price. Soon the whole town is in chaos and at each others throats. Great concept and well worth the read. The film is great too. Max Von Sydow is amazing as the character Leland Gaunt🐯👍

    I see a moral to this story. How people covet the things they so desire and will do almost anything to get it. Even if it is out of reach people will covet. Result to murder. Cain and Able

    What a fantastic book by the great man. Needful things is a great book. A shop owner who gives everybody what they want for a price. Soon the whole town is in chaos and at each others throats. Great concept and well worth the read. The film is great too. Max Von Sydow is amazing as the character Leland Gaunt🐯👍

    I see a moral to this story. How people covet the things they so desire and will do almost anything to get it. Even if it is out of reach people will covet. Result to murder. Cain and Able springs to mind. This selfish attitude that humanity has come to. Striving to get to the top and step on many to get there.

    The Black Friday day when hundreds or thousands of people queue outside a department store waiting for it to open. Some even camp outside for days! Just so they can get their hands on the latest TV for a knock down price. People trampling over each other and fighting over merchandise.

    This book epitomizes the greed, envy, ambition and downright stupidity that us, as human beings, have come too. The temptation. The lure. The deceit.

    What a crazy Profitable; I say that with my tongue in my cheek for only the top profits; paradigm we live in.👍🐯

  • Edward Lorn

    Some authors write about king slayers. Others write about serial killers. Stephen King? He writes about fuckers capable of leveling entire towns. Whether those responsible are aliens or devils, it doesn't matter. The ride is usually a fun one.

    is no different. It is, however, the epitome of a bloated Stephen King novel. There are entire characters herein that serve zero purpose. George T. Nelson and Frank Jewett's stories could have been left out. Ace Merrill is another pointless

    Some authors write about king slayers. Others write about serial killers. Stephen King? He writes about fuckers capable of leveling entire towns. Whether those responsible are aliens or devils, it doesn't matter. The ride is usually a fun one.

    is no different. It is, however, the epitome of a bloated Stephen King novel. There are entire characters herein that serve zero purpose. George T. Nelson and Frank Jewett's stories could have been left out. Ace Merrill is another pointless character. I simply do not see what he added to the proceedings. I never understood why Buster couldn't do everything by himself. Even when those two split up, they're still only across the street from one another. Even the movie version cut Ace and nobody cared. I theorize that Ace was a loose end for King, the bad guy that got away, so he felt the urge to give the hood a proper send off. Insert Ace in

    . Problem solved.

    Now I know what you're thinking. "Doesn't sound like you enjoyed this one, E." Well, that's not entirely true. Yeah, I think certain characters are useless and some scenes are pointless, but I dig this book quite a bit. King always impresses me with how he manages to create entire fictional towns populated with such true-to-life personalities and make it seem so fucking effortless. At this point in his career (1991), King had killed two small towns and crippled another three: 'Salem's Lot was sucked dry; Chamberlain was never the same after Carrie White; Derry died a special kind of death but refused to go away completely; Haven would be off-limits for decades; and Castle Rock had one bombastic enima. I remain in awe of that fact. Think about that. In less than fifteen years, one author populated and then ravaged five small towns. And we loved every minute of it.

    I think several things make readers ignore the bloat in

    . Cora and Myra's Elvis Presley fascination is awfully hilarious, as well as some of the shenanigans other characters get into. The beshitted picture of one townie's mother had me in tears, I was laughing so hard. Buster was blissfully insane, and Nettie and Wilma's fight scene is one of the most gruesome in all of horror literature. This novel is jampacked with awesome occurrences, and that makes the bloat feel worth it. Even the uber goofy ending can be ignored because the rest of the book is... well, it's just a shitload of fun.

    Obvious Tie-ins:

    Hidden Gems:

    Gaunt refers to the items in his shop as "gray things", which supports my theory that all of King's works can be tied back to the Dark Tower series by way of

    or

    . I believe all of King's supernatural villains, all of his monsters, belong to the race of Old Ones known as the Prim. But more on that in my

    post coming in April.

    Notable Names:

    Pop Merrill

    Ace Merrill

    Evvie Chalmers (I love how this woman is in five different King books, but is never on-camera, as it were)

    George Bannerman

    Thad Beaumont

    In summation: It's not the best book King has ever written, but it's far, far,

    from his worst.

    is a favorite for many King fans, and I understand why. I simply think he could have used fewer characters to the same end. Well worth a read, whether you're a King fan or not. But, be forewarned. Whole sections of this book make no sense unless you've read

    .

  • Dan Schwent

    A store has opened in the Maine town of Castle Rock, a store selling objects a person most desires, at a price the buyer can afford. But are the goods worth the cost? Can Sheriff Alan Pangborn get to the bottom of Leland Gaunt and his Needful Things before he falls prey to the madness that's gripping the town?

    In what originally was intended to be its final appearance, Castle Rock goes out with a bang in this Stephen King tome.

    It reads like a love letter to Castle Rock at times. I caught referen

    A store has opened in the Maine town of Castle Rock, a store selling objects a person most desires, at a price the buyer can afford. But are the goods worth the cost? Can Sheriff Alan Pangborn get to the bottom of Leland Gaunt and his Needful Things before he falls prey to the madness that's gripping the town?

    In what originally was intended to be its final appearance, Castle Rock goes out with a bang in this Stephen King tome.

    It reads like a love letter to Castle Rock at times. I caught references to The Dark Half, Cujo, Sun Dog, The Body, and I think Cycle of the Werewolf. Ace Merrill and Alan Pangborn are the only characters I remember from other books but I'm sure there were probably others.

    The story starts off slow as, one by one, the citizens of Castle Rock fall prey to Leland Gaunt's charms, buying his trinkets for whatever cash they have on them and doing pranks for him. These pranks are as custom tailored to the victim as the trinkets he sells and soon the denizens of Castle Rock are fuming at one another. Once things escalate to the point of violence, there's no turning back, making Needful Things very hard to put down for such a heavy book.

    There's not a lot more I can tell without giving things away. Alan Pangborn could have been a Gunslinger in another life and his relationship with Polly was pretty well done. Ace Merrill was a world class douche and fell into the #2 bad guy role pretty well. I thought Needful Things took the gossip and cattiness that's a staple of small town life and turned the dial up until it broke off.

    Things I'm still pondering:

    - Was the spider that appeared near the end a relative of the spider from It, only feeding on pain instead of fear?

    - Are Leland Gaunt and Randall Flag the same person?

    - What happened to Castle Rock after the conflagration at the end?

    Needful Things is like cooking a pot roast in a crock pot. It starts out slow, begins to simmer, and is a churning cauldron of deliciousness by the end. Four out of five stars.

  • Jeff

    As Jeff turned to go into Needful Things, he bumped into a woman wearing a

    determined expression, who was hurrying out the door, clutching a stuffed warthog. Entering the store, he was greeted by a tinkling bell and what appeared to be the shop owner, walking toward him with an outstretched hand. Jeff’s first instinct was to back away in revulsion, but he extended his hand and felt a wave of nausea sweep over him.

    “I’m Leland Gaunt and welcome to my humble establishment. I’ve just opened to

    As Jeff turned to go into Needful Things, he bumped into a woman wearing a

    determined expression, who was hurrying out the door, clutching a stuffed warthog. Entering the store, he was greeted by a tinkling bell and what appeared to be the shop owner, walking toward him with an outstretched hand. Jeff’s first instinct was to back away in revulsion, but he extended his hand and felt a wave of nausea sweep over him.

    “I’m Leland Gaunt and welcome to my humble establishment. I’ve just opened today and I haven’t gotten all my goods unpacked, but you’re welcome to look around.”

    Gaunt had the strangest shade of green eyes that Jeff had ever seen. It was as if Jeff was staring into a bowl of spinach.

    As Jeff walked around the store he noticed that, no matter where he turned his head, Mr. Gaunt never left his peripheral vision.

    Looking at a glass case, Jeff noticed a paper with writing. It was the cleverest, best written, funniest review he had ever read. And it was a review of the book he was currently reading. Why if Jeff put this out on Goodreads, he’d get thousands of “likes”. Thousands.

    Gaunt appeared over his left shoulder. “That is something, isn’t it? I just got that in today.”

    Jeff felt he had to have it. Maybe tens of thousands of likes. “It is pretty good. How much do you want for it?”

    Gaunt smiled. His teeth reminded Jeff of gravestones. “Well, how much money do you have?”

    How much money do I have? Jeff checked his wallet. “Only four dollars.”

    Gaunt gave him his best shark-like smile and said, “What a coincidence, that’s what I’m selling it for.”

    As Gaunt pulled it out of the case, Jeff could have sworn the page was a shopping list, but once Gaunt handed it over, he saw it was his precious review. The greatest review he had ever read.

    “By the way Jeff, (Jeff didn’t remember telling Gaunt his name), I’d like you to play a small prank on someone…"

  • Nikoleta

    Μου άρεσε αρκετά στο σύνολο του. Το βιβλίο αποτελείται από 3 μέρη. Το πρώτο μέρος κυλάει αρκετά αργά, αλλά ο συγγραφέας κάνει σπουδαία και βαθιά ανάλυση στους χαρακτήρες της ιστορίας και μας προετοιμάζει άψογα για το τι θα επακολουθήσει. Το δεύτερο μέρος μας βάζει πλέον για τα καλά στην υπόθεση και τα πάντα μπαίνουν σε μία σειρά. Το τρίτο μέρος αν και με γρήγορη πλέον δράση, μου φάνηκε ότι τράβηξε την ιστορία από τα μαλλιά, ότι έγινε λίγο "ότι να’ ναι". Μου φάνηκε ότι αυτό το βιβλίο γράφτηκε από

    Μου άρεσε αρκετά στο σύνολο του. Το βιβλίο αποτελείται από 3 μέρη. Το πρώτο μέρος κυλάει αρκετά αργά, αλλά ο συγγραφέας κάνει σπουδαία και βαθιά ανάλυση στους χαρακτήρες της ιστορίας και μας προετοιμάζει άψογα για το τι θα επακολουθήσει. Το δεύτερο μέρος μας βάζει πλέον για τα καλά στην υπόθεση και τα πάντα μπαίνουν σε μία σειρά. Το τρίτο μέρος αν και με γρήγορη πλέον δράση, μου φάνηκε ότι τράβηξε την ιστορία από τα μαλλιά, ότι έγινε λίγο "ότι να’ ναι". Μου φάνηκε ότι αυτό το βιβλίο γράφτηκε από δύο συγγραφείς, έναν προσεκτικό και υπεραναλυτικό στο πρώτο μέρος, και έναν ανυπόμονο και ολίγον τι παρανοϊκό στο τρίτο!

    3.5/5 αστεράκια.

  • Nicholas Armstrong

    I was going to say that the reason I didn't like this book was the huge cast of characters, but that isn't true. Sure, the huge cast bothered me, but I've read books like that before, the problem was far more to do with the writing. The writing was belabored, tired, and trite. I say this with the utmost respect for King, but it was.

    For example, the huge cast of characters followed a largely identical format. With a book rocking 730 or so pages of small font, that's a lot of reading, and, as with

    I was going to say that the reason I didn't like this book was the huge cast of characters, but that isn't true. Sure, the huge cast bothered me, but I've read books like that before, the problem was far more to do with the writing. The writing was belabored, tired, and trite. I say this with the utmost respect for King, but it was.

    For example, the huge cast of characters followed a largely identical format. With a book rocking 730 or so pages of small font, that's a lot of reading, and, as with

    , it had better be worth it. But it wasn't. Scenes were repeated, almost identically, with different characters. A dozen characters marched into Needful Things, had a nearly identical conversation with Leland Gaunt, and then marched out. Different characters vandalized cars and I had to watch them both. Even though they were there for the same reason, doing the same thing, and it was largely the exact same scene. THAT was the problem with

    . It was that the book was extremely repetitive with no payoff.

    Additionally, the end was far, far too gimicky. The ending was just a variation of riding off into the sunset but with the identical language that every other book/movie uses. "what happened?" "we'll never know" blah, blah, blah. I know endings are hard, I really do, but using a cliche one is not okay. Use a variation, spice it up, do something new. To top it off, the final, final, ending was the end of 90% of horror movies "Is it REALLY over?" It was unnecessary. It added nothing, and it didn't improve the story or development.

    Sorry to say, but this is the worst King book I've read, and I really hope it is the worst of them all.

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