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First edition cover
Author Richard Bachman
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Horror novel
Publisher NAL
Publication date November 19, 1984
Pages 309
ISBN 0453004687
Preceded by The Running Man
Followed by The Regulators

Thinner is a 1984 novel by Stephen King, published under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. It would be the last novel which King released under the Richard Bachman pseudonym until the release of The Regulators in 1996 (the initial hardcover release of Thinner included a fake jacket photo of "Bachman"). The novel was adapted for the screenplay of a 1996 film of the same title.


Set in 1980s New England, the novel focuses on an arrogant, obese lawyer named Billy Halleck, who has recently fought an agonizing court case in which he was charged with vehicular manslaughter after receiving a hand job from his wife Heidi while driving, causing him to run over an old woman who was part of a group of traveling Gypsies. (Although the book contains passages supposedly in the Romani language, they are actually in Swedish, and are more or less gibberish.) Billy is acquitted thanks to the judge, who is a close friend of his. As Billy leaves the courthouse in his affluent Connecticut town, the old woman's ancient father, Taduz Lemke, strokes Billy's cheeks and whispers one word to him: "Thinner." The word, and the old man's behavior, startle Billy.

From this point on, Billy quickly and inexplicably loses weight (about two pounds a day); the loss becomes more and more rapid and he realizes that Lemke has cursed him. He also learns that the judge who heard his case and gave the unfair verdict was also cursed by the old man—scales start growing on his skin. The town police chief who helped soft-pedal the charges against Billy is cursed with a horrifyingly extreme case of acne.

With the help of his friend Richie "The Hammer" Ginelli, a former client who is a Mafia figure (mentioned in King's The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three), an emaciated and desperate Billy tracks the Gypsy band north along the seacoast of New England to Maine, where the stage is set for a confrontation between himself and Lemke, resolving the issue of the curse and the blood-debt owed by Billy.

After Richie terrorizes the Gypsy camp, Lemke agrees to meet with Billy. Lemke has brought a pie with him and cuts Billy's hand to add some of his blood to it, saying that the curse can be transferred to someone else but not destroyed. If Billy can get someone else to eat the pie, that person will be struck with the curse and Billy will regain his health. Lemke begs Billy to eat it himself and die with dignity, but Billy instead takes it home, discovering along the way that Richie has been murdered by the Gypsies. He intends to give the pie to Heidi, whom he has come to blame for his predicament; the next morning, though, he finds that both she and his daughter Linda have eaten from the pie. Realizing that both of them are now doomed, he cuts a slice for himself so that he can join them in death.


Chapters in the book are numbered according to Billy's weight, and decrease as he continues to lose weight.


see: the film based on the book



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