In the third of a series of guides to becoming an alpha geek, FHM drags you by the hair into the shit-scary netherworld of Stephen King.

Who is he?

The incredibly prolific King (49 novels and counting) has written everything from mind-bending sci-fi to heartwarming coming-of-age tales, but it’s the horror genre that he’s made his own.

A staggering 36 movies – including The Shining, Misery, The Running Man and The Shawshank Redemption – have been adapted from his work, with that number set to hit 37 with the upcoming big-budget remake of Carrie

Why would I want to get into him?

“He’s a consummate storyteller,” says Ryan Daley, book reviewer for renowned horror website Bloody Disgusting. “If you're looking for pure escapism from your fiction, you can't do any better than King.”

Over his 38-year career, King has shifted over 350 million books to his sizeable and devoted fanbase, and won pretty much every writer’s award on the planet, including the National Book Foundation’s prestigious lifetime achievement award, the Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Stephen King: "Mu-hahahahaa!"

Where should I start?

The Long Walk,” says Ryan. “If this unbearably tense novella doesn't hook you from the start, you need to check your pulse.”

This classic 1979 King tale (written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) is set in a nightmarish alternative present day, in which America’s ‘national sport’ is a horrifically cruel walking contest: 100 teenage boys must each maintain a constant speed of at least 4mph, or receive a bullet to the head. Harsh.  

What should I steer clear of?

“I’d avoid everything King published between 1992 and 1996,” warns Ryan. Having beaten his personal demons during the late 1980s – he’d long battled addictions to booze, cocaine, weed and painkillers – King’s creativity seemed to hit something of a brick wall.

He’s since rediscovered his writing mojo – although, as the 64-year-old himself admits, “I'm writing at a much slower pace than previously… The force of my invention has slowed down a lot over the years – and that's as it should be.”