Nightmarish, bizarre, outlandish: Lots of words come to mind when you think of Stephen King's books, but true-to-life? After years of writing about monsters in the closet, the author is finding plenty of trouble right at his door. As most readers and moviegoers know, King's Misery concerns a best-selling writer who is kidnapped and tortured by an insane ex-nurse (a role for which Kathy Bates won an Oscar). Anne Hiltner, 44, of Princeton, N.J., who King's lawyer says has been harassing the author by mail for years, claimed in a March 15 lawsuit that King stole Misery from her unpublished work. Supporting materials filed with Hiltner's suit, mostly poems on pastoral subjects, bear less resemblance to King's work than the average grocery list does. Hiltner has since dropped her suit against King, but not before calling him ''an evil man'' who had tapped her phone, broken into her home, bribed local police, and hired helicopters to spy on her. King's lawyer has no comment.
One tormentor would have been bad enough, but late last month a man carrying a fake bomb allegedly broke into King's Maine home, apparently wanting King's help in writing a book. The man, Erik Keene, 26, of San Antonio, claimed King stole the plot of Misery from a woman he said was his aunt Genene Jones, a nurse convicted in 1984 of murdering an infant. He's now in jail, and his lawyer wants him declared incompetent to stand trial. King doesn't want to talk about any of it, but he's beefing up household security.