When someone decides to sober up, they often eliminate people from their lives who stuck with them through their drunk years. It’s a cruel, necessary housecleaning and one Stephen King embarked on between 1988 and 1989, the year he finally stopped drinking (snorting coke, swilling mouthwash, popping pills). First, King fired his longtime agent, Kirby McCauley, the man who put together the ground-breaking deals that made him rich. Next, he abandoned his longtime editor, Alan Williams, whom he’d followed to Putnam (for The Tommyknockers) and returned to his regular publisher, Viking. Then he stepped back and let his vanity project, hard rock radio station WZON, go from his preferred rock n’roll format to a more conventional, noncommercial public radio station format. Then he stopped publication of his popular Castle Rock fan newsletter.
But there was one person he couldn't get rid of without a fight, his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. The more King tried to lay this ghost to rest, the more Bachman struggled, and the result is one of his most mystical and violent books. It’s deeply uneven, but The Dark Half is like a rough draft for his nonfiction memoir, On Writing. Only more people get beaten to death with prosthetic arms.