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Sweatpants & Books | Shelf Care | The Men Who Could Be King

By Alex Doyle

Welcome to Shelf Care where I review three books related by a theme.  These aren’t necessarily the latest releases, but are hopefully books you can’t believe you missed.

This column’s theme:  The Men Who Could Be King

Stephen King is a baseline I use when trying to describe other authors, either because he’s so popular that a lot of people have read his books ( and even more have seen the movies ), or because he’s an example of what solid writing looks like.  If you like how he tells a story, and the things he tells stories about, you should consider the following:

So if you like:

Some of Stephen King’s short fiction

Mysteries with a satisfying payoff

Affordable housing with a catch

Authors from Maine

You might like:

14, by Peter Clines


Nate Tucker moves into a ridiculously affordable apartment and starts realizing there’s a reason it’s so cheap. With the help of the other residents, they start investigating their turn of the century building to discover why weird things are happening, and what’s up with the occasional bright green cockroach.

Sample passage

“There is nothing else,” said Veek. “There’s no electrical lines running into the building at all. There’s also no meters out back or in the basement. No one here notices because we’re not paying for it. No one else notices because it’s not their job.” She nodded at the building. “We’re not hooked into the L.A. power grid.”

“So where’s the electricity come from?”

Veek shrugged and shook her head. “I have no idea.”


Through the whole book I was thinking ‘there’s just nothing that could possibly tie all the weird stuff in this building together. No way’… and then Clines does. It’s a quick read and a well-written horror/mystery with a satisfying payoff, and for why it reminds me of Stephen King’s short fiction, well, you’ll know it when you get there.

Or if you like:

Stephen King’s The Stand

Vampires that don’t dress for the opera

Post apocalyptic road trips

You might like:

The Passage, by Justin Cronin


Set both in the days just before and the ninety some years after a plague creates a vampire apocalypse, this chronicles the story of a girl who may ultimately save the world, and a journey a band of survivors has to undertake to repair the equipment that is keeping their village safe from the ‘virals’ that roam the countryside

Sample passage

“Now I know why the soldiers are here.”


While there are obvious similarities to  The Stand,  (a plague wiping out humanity, bands of survivors, and well-defined characters that bring a little something extra to the table ),  The Passage is very much its own story with its own take on those themes. And while it may not initially match The Stand for length, does have a set ending, even though it’s the first book in a trilogy that tells the story over decades.

Or if you like:

Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redepmtion*

Books adapted for television


Road trips

You might like:

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman


Shadow Moon gets out of jail to discover his wife is dead (kind of), and, with nowhere to go, takes a job as a bodyguard for a mysterious Mr. Wednesday. The resulting road trip has him encountering both the old world old gods immigrants brought with them to the Americas, and the new gods of media and technology to name a few.

Sample passage

“Work for me. There may be a little risk, of course, but if you survive you can have whatever your heart desires. You could be the next king of America. Now,” said the man, “who else is going to pay you that well? Hmm?”


While American Gods has been in print for over fifteen years, it’s enjoying a revival due to it being made into a (very much NOT for kids) TV series.  It has a less fantastical tone than most of Gaiman’s books, and despite the subject matter, feels more grounded in reality.  Considering the length of the narrative and what it says about American culture, it feels like a Stephen King novel.


*Yes, there’s no ‘the’. I checked. More than once.


So, what other books should have been on this list? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and stay tuned for my next column, where the theme will be: But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There.



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About Alex Doyle (41 Articles)
Alex Doyle is a father, programmer, smartass and a fan of anything that wastes no time to getting to the point. When he's not trying to be clever on the Internet, or irritating his kids with dad jokes, he can be found looking for the next great story that everyone has to read.

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