King had already set several of his novels (The Dead Zone, Cujo, The Dark Half) in the town of Castle Rock, Maine, by the time Needful Things (690 pages) came around. In this novel, he wipes the town off the map after a man who may or may not be the devil opens up a shop that offers the residents of Castle Rock anything their heart desires — for a price.
King: Of all the books I’ve written that have gotten lousy reviews — and there have been some that have — I would say I’m most disappointed in this one just sort of missing the mark critically. The idea for that book came all at once. I thought, “What if somebody came to this town and forced all these people to do nasty things like pranks [to each other] to get things that they really wanted.
What it turned out to be, I thought, was a satire of the whole Ronald Reagan ethos of “greed is good, consumerism is good.” To me, it was a hilarious concept. And the way that it played out was funny, in a black-comedy way. It really satirized that American idea that it’s good to have everything that you want. I don’t think it is.