Published in 1979, The Dead Zone, Stephen King’s seventh novel, introduces us to a character named Greg Stillson. In the scene in which King introduces us to the door-to-door Bible salesman, Stillson, who suffers from emotional issues and has seemingly exaggerated dreams for himself, vindictively kicks a dog to death.
Later in the book, Stillson goes on to become President of the USA. One of King’s lines from the book explains the phenomenon: “But the people didn’t elect buffoons to Washington. Well – hardly ever.”
A 402-page book that went on to become a Locus Award Nominee for Best Fantasy Novel in 1980, the Dead Zone describes the lives of two characters – Johnny Smith, a psychic school teacher and Greg Stillson, a megalomaniac who holds political ambitions.
Made into a film in 1983 by David Cronenberg, starring Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith and Martin Sheen as Greg Stillson, the book seems almost a prediction for an election fought on rhetoric and jingoism. Sheen’s terrific portrayal of the character, when viewed today, seems utterly familiar because of its startling resemblance with the present US president.
Talking to Now This Politics, King said, “I was sort of convinced that it was possible that a politician would arise who was so outside the mainstream that he was willing to say anything that would capture the imaginations of the American people.”
And the similarities between Stillson and Trump are startling.
“They take him as a joke at first,” says King. “Because he has these rallies and he throws hotdogs to the crowds. And says when Greg Stillson is elected you’re going to say, ‘Hotdog! We got a real mover and shaker at last.’ Crazy stuff that nobody would possibly believe. Or so we thought till Donald Trump came around.”
In Dead Zone, Stillson, like Trump, is a political outsider whom no one takes seriously at first, has a cadre of bikers who support him, and talks about Right-wing America-First policies. He even has a flashing red button.