Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King
St. Martin’s Griffin
Trade Paper, 310 pages, $15.99
Review by Sheila Merritt
Reading an unauthorized biography requires a healthy dose of skepticism. In the case of Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King, biographer Lisa Rogak’s errors with facts lessen her credibility. The discerning reader will probably question the other aspects of the book based on the mistakes and faulty reasoning.
The notable errors have to do with films. Rogak refers to Jack Fisk, the art director on Carrie and husband of Sissy Spacek, as “Jim Fish.” She mentions “silent-film star Myrna Loy.” Loy did have bit parts in silent movies, but she became a star in the talking picture The Thin Man in 1934. Then there’s her description of director Stanley Kubrick being “known for his perfectionistic (sic) ways in his previous vocation as photographer for Look magazine. He brought his obsessive tendencies with him when he first started to direct movies in the 1960s.” Kubrick began his career as a film director in the 1950s, something a little research would have indicated. Indeed, the difference of a decade doesn’t seem to trouble the author, since she erroneously says (on page 239) that the movie of The Mist came out in 1997, instead of 2007.
Perhaps more troubling than the mistakes/misprints of years, and getting an emphasis or a name wrong, are Rogak’s feeble attempts to make summations about King. She throws out, for example, the query: “Have any famous actresses caught his eye?” Since she didn’t directly interview him, the biographer supplies an inadequate answer based on an a quote attributed to King from a 2006 article/interview: “There are always temptations when you’re off on tour and doing the conventions, and plenty of groupies.” What that statement has to do with famous actresses catching Stephen King’s eye, is not at all obvious. It is a non sequitur response to a question Rogak never asked of him. It is reminiscent of the Coors Light coaches commercials, in which footage at a press conference is edited into a fictional Q&A with fans.
Haunted Heart is a biography that elicits reactive expressions such as “take it with a grain of salt,” and “buyer beware.” Because of careless editing and a certain callow casualness with interpretation, Lisa Rogak’s journalistic skills are suspect. It’s difficult to resist the urge to say: “Just the facts, Mam.”