Billy Summers By Stephen King: The Anatomy of a Writer

January 21, 2022


The Eagle Edition Book Review Entry No. 1 By Oliver Stone.

Billy Summers is the most recent addition to Stephen Kings’ incredible catalog and even though it does not include his classic sense of horror that the author has become known for, it is one of the best works the writer has published recently and proves that King still has his skill of masterful plots, horrifying suspense, and character work that is not rivaled by any other author.

Billy Summers explores the life of its title character, Billy Summers, an ex-marine sniper who has become a licensed hitman, using his skills to kill, as Billy puts it, “bad people”. The story follows Billy on his last job as the character tries to redeem his past life as his current one crumbles around him. Billy Summers is perhaps one of the best characters King has put into the story with his morals being constantly put into question as he tries to be a good person. King excellently makes the audience sympathize with Billy while also knowing that his actions are horrible and unjust. Billy’s arc is the story’s main focus point and rightfully so. Seeing Billy try and fail to redeem himself through several means is both sad and rewarding as just when you think the character is redeemed, a new aspect is introduced that pulls the carpet out from under your feet.

The plot of the hitman has become extremely popular over the last few years in action movies and shows, with works such as Barry and John Wick exploring the light sides of these dark characters. This trend of a hitman’s “final job” has become overdone and played out and while Billy Summers uses most aspects from these trends, King twists them and plays them in a way that will keep you on your toes. King has always been a master at manipulating a plot and surprising his audience through a sudden twist or action that completely uproots what the audience expects. The same can be said about Billy Summers. The plot goes in directions that no reader could expect with new characters and action being introduced that completely change the trajectory of the novel while also keeping the suspense and mystery that King is known for. The novel has moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat while also having earned moments of downtime in between. It is to say that this story does not follow the formulaic trends of the hitman action genre and completely changes the game of these types of stories.

As is common with his work, King deeply explores his themes and messages within his stories. While Billy Summers might seem to be an action thriller with little substance, the book dives heavily into themes of redemption, depression, and new family. The story also focused heavily on the art of writing and how someone can use this art to redeem and reflect on past actions. It’s an interesting contrast to his early works as instead of the main character being a writer and struggling to manifest their skills into a body of work, Billy Summers shows a character getting into writing and using it not for personal gain, but to help himself and others. It goes without saying that King addresses some of his deepest themes in this work and will actually leave its audience more hopeful unlike most of his other work. However, there are some aspects of social commentary that are left out with no conclusion with the novel and King’s attempt to address these aspects of modern life is not executed well within the novel. 

In conclusion, Billy Summers presents some of the best character work and themes the King has ever put to writing while also having a genre-defying plot that puts you on your toes. Though the environment and social commentary is rough and the fantastical aspects of King’s earlier works are sorely missing, Billy Summers is one of Stephen King’s best thrillers and is a worthy read to any reader who is and isn’t a King fan. 

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