Thinner (novel)

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Thinner (tephen King novel - cover art).jpg
First edition cover
AuthorStephen King (as Richard Bachman)
CountryUnited States
Publication date
November 19, 1984

Thinner is a horror novel by American author Stephen King, published in 1984 by NAL under King's pseudonym Richard Bachman.[1] The story centers on lawyer Billy Halleck, who kills a crossing Romani woman in a road accident and escapes legal punishment because of his connections. However, the woman's father places a curse on Halleck, which causes him to lose weight uncontrollably. King, who was overweight at the time of the novel's writing, created the novel's outline following an annual medical examination.

Following the book's release, media outlets discussed the similarities between the works of Bachman and King. Eventually, bookstore clerk Stephen Brown, a fan of King's work, located evidence from copyright data held in the Library of Congress that Bachman and King were the same person. After the secret of King's pseudonym was revealed, sales of Thinner increased tenfold. In total, over three million copies of Thinner have been sold. Critical reception to Thinner was polarized; some reviewers disliked the authorship deception and pessimistic ending, while others held these same points as merits of the book. The literary style, however, was generally praised. A film adaptation was released in 1996.[2]


Billy Halleck, a successful, arrogant, and morbidly obese lawyer, is distracted while driving across town by his wife Heidi giving him a handjob, and he runs over an elderly Romani woman as a result. Billy uses his connections within the local police and criminal court to get himself acquitted and avoid punishment. The woman's father, Taduz Lemke, exacts vengeance by imposing a curse upon Billy outside the courthouse, and Billy begins to lose weight rapidly regardless of how much he eats. Worried, Billy consults a series of doctors, suspecting cancer, but the doctors are unable to determine the cause of his weight loss. Later, Billy discovers that the judge who presided over his case has grown scales on his skin, and the policeman who committed perjury on Billy's behalf has been struck with severe acne. Both men eventually commit suicide.

With the help of private detectives and Richie "The Hammer" Ginelli, a former client with ties to organized crime, an emaciated Billy tracks the Romani 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 Romani inhabitants 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 Romani camp.

After Richie finishes with the inhabitants, Lemke agrees to meet with Billy. Lemke brings a strawberry pie with him and adds blood from Billy's wounded hand to it. The weight loss will stop for a short time, but then resume unless Billy passes the curse to someone else by getting them to eat the pie. Lemke implores Billy to eat the pie himself so that he may die with dignity. After finding Richie's severed hand in his car and learning that he has been murdered, Billy returns home and 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 their daughter Linda have eaten from the pie. Realizing that they are both doomed, he cuts a slice for himself so that he can join them in death.


Thinner is partly based on an episode in Stephen King's own life. He weighed 236 pounds (107 kg) and was warned by his doctor that he needed to lose weight and stop smoking. Although he did in fact lose the weight, he was angered by the fact that the decision to lose weight was not really his own, but, he felt, had been forced on him by his doctor. The central idea for Thinner grew out of King's contemplation of a scenario in which a person began to lose weight and was unable to stop.[3]

See also[edit]

  • Thinner, the film based on the book