Doctor Sleep, Stephen King's 56th novel, which has just been published, is set to be a sure-fire chart topper in book charts this autumn. The new novel from the master of exquisite horror revisits Danny Torrance from his previous novel The Shining as an adult.  (The Shining became a classic movie in time, starring Jack Nicholson.) Danny is now an alcoholic, tormented by memories of his angry father.

Danny's mother Wendy died from lung cancer and Danny works in a hospice. Because he has paranormal gifts, he is able to help people towards a serene exit from this life. The trouble really starts when a telepathic child called Abra impinges on his consciousness. Danny agrees to help Abra but ends up battling serial killers in the process. Now 65, King is eminently successful as a novelist and he owns several properties in a secluded part of the state of Maine. The novelist has been sober ever since his family intervened to save him from the worst excesses 25 years ago. 

King was wary about writing to any great extent about Alcoholics Anonymous in his new novel, although alcoholism is obviously central to the plot. "The only thing is to write the truth, " King tells today's Guardian. "To write what you know about any particular situation. And I never say to anybody, 'This is all from my experience in AA,' because you don't say that."

He remembers being at one of his son's Little League games with a can of beer in a paper bag "and the coach coming over to me and saying, 'If that's an alcoholic beverage, you're going to have to leave.' That was where I said to myself, 'That's something I'll never be able to tell anybody else. I'll keep that one to myself.' I drew on that memory."

During the drinking period, King would be sober while he wrote during the day-time. At night, he would drink and edit what he had written earlier. "As time went on, I started to fumble a lot of the balls, " he told The Guardian. "I had a busy public life and a lot of those things got a bit ragged by the end."  He didn't drink in bars, "because they were full of assholes like me," he says.