Stephen King begins The Dead Zone with a very ordinary American boy, Johnny Smith, in a small New England town.
Johnny is learning to ice skate in 1953 when he falls, knocking himself out.
Johnny comes to muttering, “Don’t jump it no more” to Chuck Spier, who the next month will lose an eye jump-starting his car.
Years later, Johnny is a high school teacher.
An accident on the way home from taking his girl to a carnival puts Johnny in a coma for four-and-a-half years.
When he awakens, he has months of excruciating physical therapy.
He also has occasional, intense, and unwelcome psychic perceptions.
Johnny unwittingly becomes a target of gullible people seeking answers.
He also becomes the target of skeptics who assume he’s a shyster out to bilk the public.
His teaching contract is withdrawn because he’s too controversial.
His widowed father, who should be retired, has to go back to work just to feed them.
Then one day Johnny shakes hands with a congressional candidate and sees the man’s evil agenda.
Even if you can’t believe a crack on the head in ’53 triggers psychic experiences, you have to admire the skill with which King builds his story.
This is superb storytelling.
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
Viking Press, 1979. 372 p.
1979 bestseller #6 My grade: B+