It has been four decades since Stephen King wrote The Stand, his acclaimed novel about a deadly influenza pandemic wiping out most of human civilization.
So the bestselling contemporary horror novelist has difficulty understanding why authorities did not see the coronavirus crisis coming, or take the necessary precautionary steps.
“Just in the last three or four weeks people are saying to me, ‘We are living in a Stephen King world,’ and boy, all I can say is I wish we weren’t,” King, who has sold an estimated 350m books worldwide, told CNN.
“This has been waiting in the wings for a long, long time. I wrote The Stand about a pandemic that wipes out most of the human race, and thank God this one isn’t that bad, but I wrote that in 1979 and ever since then this has just been waiting to happen.
“The fact that nobody really seemed prepared still mystifies me.”
King has been outspoken in his criticism of Donald Trump’s reaction to the crisis. On Sunday he added Ron DeSantis, the Republican Florida governor, to his list of leaders he believes have underperformed. DeSantis has been under fire for not enacting a statewide shelter-in-place order and for allowing beaches to remain open, placing hordes of spring breakers at risk of infection.
“It’s almost impossible to comprehend,” King said. “I remember back in the 70s when Republicans laughed at Jimmy Carter as being indecisive and wishy-washy.
“The president we have now, and Ron DeSantis here in Florida, these are supposed to be go-to-it guys, the guy you want in charge when something really goes wrong because they don’t waffle, they don’t wishy-washy.”
King, who has homes in Maine and Florida, continued: “You had Trump at first saying, ‘This isn’t really very serious, don’t worry, everything’s going to be OK,’ then when the stock market starts to die, when the reality of the thing hits home, he’s talking about, ‘Well, take it easy. This thing is going to be like a miracle, everything’s going to be OK by Easter and we’ll have the churches full.’
“And then a couple of days later he talks about a quarantine. [New York governor] Andrew Cuomo didn’t know about it, nobody really seemed to know, it just came out of his head.”
DeSantis, a fervent supporter of the president, is following suit, King believes: “I’m not sure he’s ahead of the curve, I think he’s somewhere behind it. This whole situation is a little bit like the barn door has been locked but the horse was stolen, I’m going to say, 10 days ago.”
The author did have some good news for fans. Publication of his next book, If It Bleeds, has been brought forward two weeks to 28 April, to entertain self-isolating readers sooner.
King noted that the new publication date would be the same as his fellow bestselling author John Grisham’s new novel, Camino Winds.
“I want to talk to the publisher about maybe doing a two-for-one,” he said. “Wouldn’t that be cool, a double feature?”