First edition cover
|Cover artist||Rob Wood|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
Needful Things is a 1991 horror novel by American author Stephen King. It is the first novel King wrote after his rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol. According to the cover, it is "The Last Castle Rock Story". However, the town later serves as the setting for the short story "It Grows on You", published in King's 1993 collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes which, according to King, serves as an epilogue to Needful Things. It was made into a film of the same name in 1993 which was directed by Fraser C. Heston.
A new shop named "Needful Things" opens in the town of Castle Rock, Maine, sparking the curiosity of its citizens. The proprietor, Leland Gaunt, is a charming elderly gentleman who always seems to have an item in stock that is perfectly suited to any customer who comes through his door. The prices are surprisingly low, considering the merchandise, such as a rare Sandy Koufax baseball card, a carnival glass lampshade, and a fragment of wood believed to be from Noah's Ark. However, Leland expects each customer to also play a little prank on someone else in Castle Rock after their purchase. Gaunt knows about the long-standing private grudges, arguments, and feuds between the various townspeople, and the pranks are his means of forcing them to escalate until the whole town is eventually caught up in madness and violence.
The novel ends as it begins, with a first-person narrative indicating that a new and mysterious shop called "Answered Prayers" is about to open in Junction City, Iowa—an implication that Gaunt is ready to begin his business cycle all over again.
- Brian Rusk: The boy who is the first customer in the store called Needful Things.
- Leland Gaunt: Presumably a demon in human form, who has spent centuries traveling about the world and tricking people into selling their souls to him, usually in exchange for useless objects disguised as the things they want most.
- Alan Pangborn: the Sheriff of Castle Rock and the main protagonist.
- Patricia "Polly" Chalmers: known as the town's most eccentric woman, Polly was originally a Castle Rock native who became an "out-of-towner" after living in San Francisco for years before returning.
- Norris Ridgewick: one of the town's deputies and Sheriff Pangborn's closest ally.
- John "Ace" Merrill: the town's resident "bad boy" and petty criminal.
- Danforth "Buster" Keeton: the town's head selectman, who often used the authority of his office to intimidate others.
- Wilma Jerzyck: Mad woman and first victim of one of Mr. Gaunt's pranks, performed by Brian Rusk, which starts the cycle.
- Netitia "Nettie" Cobb: Best friend of Polly Chalmers and enemy of Wilma Jerzyck.
- Myrtle Keeton: Lonely wife of Buster Keeton. Buys a porcelain doll from Mr. Gaunt.