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First edition cover
|November 19, 1984|
It would be the last novel which King released under the Richard Bachman pseudonym until the release of The Regulators in 1996, and the last released prior to Bachman being outed as being Stephen King's pseudonym.
The initial hardcover release of Thinner included a fake jacket photo of "Bachman". The photo is claimed to have been taken by Claudia Inez Bachman. The actual subject of the photo is Richard Manuel, the insurance agent of Kirby McCauley, who was King's literary agent.
Billy Halleck, an arrogant, obese lawyer in Connecticut, has recently fought an agonising court case in which he was charged with vehicular manslaughter. While he had been driving across town, his wife Heidi distracted him by giving him a handjob, causing him to run over an old woman who was part of a group of traveling Gypsies. The case is dismissed at a preliminary stage thanks to the judge, who is a close friend of his. However, as Billy leaves the courthouse, the old woman's ancient father, Taduz Lemke, strokes Billy's cheek and whispers one word to him: "Thinner." The word, and the old man's behavior, startle Billy.
From this point on, Billy quickly loses weight. As the loss becomes more and more rapid, he realizes that Lemke has cursed him. He also learns that the judge who gave the unfair verdict was also cursed by the old man, causing scales to grow on his skin. The town police chief who helped soft-pedal the charges against Billy is cursed with a horrifyingly extreme case of acne. Both men eventually commit suicide.
With the help of his friend Richie "The Hammer" Ginelli, a former client and Mafia figure, an emaciated and desperate Billy tracks the Gypsy band north along the seacoast of New England to Maine. He confronts Lemke at their camp and tries to persuade him to lift the curse, but Lemke refuses to do so, insisting that justice must be done upon Billy. The Gypsies throw Billy out of their camp, but not before Lemke's great-granddaughter Gina shoots him through the hand with a ball bearing. Billy calls for help from Richie, who sends a mob doctor to treat Billy's hand and then arrives in person to terrorize the Gypsy camp.
After Richie finishes with the Gypsies, Lemke agrees to meet with Billy. Lemke has brought a pie with him and adds blood from Billy's wounded hand to it, saying that the curse can be transferred to someone else but not destroyed. The weight loss will stop for a short time and then resume unless another person eats the pie, which will strike him/her with the curse and allow Billy to regain his health. Lemke begs Billy to eat it himself and die with dignity, but Billy instead takes it home, finding Richie's severed hand in his car and realizing that Richie has been murdered by the Gypsies. Billy intends to give the pie to Heidi, whom he has come to blame for his predicament; the next morning, though, he finds that both she and the couple's daughter Linda have eaten from the pie. Realizing that both of them are now doomed, he cuts a slice for himself so that he can join them in death.
- Thinner, the film based on the book
- Bloom, Harold (2007). Stephen King. Infobase Publishing. p. 22.
- Van Gelder, Lawrence (October 26, 1996). "Thinner (1996) Eat and Be Thin. What's the Catch?". The New York Times.