25. The Green Mile (Novel)
Original publication date: 1996
Initially published as a series of six inexpensive paperbacks, The Green Mile is a sprawling example of everything that makes Stephen King so great outside of full-blown horror. In terms of his character-driven dramatic chops, King layers the plot with a gang of fascinating people, mostly inmates and employees coexisting inside a 1930s’ penitentiary. The richest of all The Green Mile’s characters is its narrator, Paul Edgecomb (played by Tom Hanks in the 1999 movie version), who handles the jail’s death row duties and befriends John Coffey, a large and childlike inmate who’s a similarly intriguing presence.
It’s in Coffey that King’s other non-horror knack shines through, and that’s his predilection of combining realism with the supernatural. The bulky black man has special mind powers that heal Edgecomb’s wife of her brain tumor and cause the book’s primary villain, a sadistic prison guard, to lose his mind.
The Green Mile touches upon redemption, compassion, and friendship—themes that anti-horror blowhards might not expect from Stephen “Horror Poster-Boy” King. But then again, anti-horror blowhards should just blow it out of their asses, anyway.