Thinner Cover

First Edition Cover

Thinner is the 20th book published by Stephen King; it was his 18th novel, and the fifth written under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. The book was released by NAL on 19 November 1984. The novel is about an obese lawyer who accidently kills a gypsy, covers it up, and is cursed by the gypsy's father to rapidly lose weight. Fans applaud it as one of King's best novels.


The story follows Billy Halleck, an obese, upper-class lawyer living in Connecticut. One night, while simultaneously driving home and receiving a hand job from his wife Heidi, he accidentally runs over an old woman from a band of traveling gypsies. He is brought to trial, but is acquitted thanks to his high connections, who fake evidence. His friend, a judge, declares him not guilty. While Billy leaves the courthouse, an old gypsy man, who turns out to be Taduz Lemke, the gypsy woman's father, brushes his hand on Billy's cheek and whispers "thinner."

While on vacation with Heidi, Billy discovers that he is beginning to lose weight, although he has not changed his diet in any way. As the days progress, Billy's weight loss becomes more rapid. Although he is first pleased by this, he soon becomes frightened by the speed and suddenness of the weight loss. He becomes convinced that a gypsy curse has been placed on hm when he discovers that the judge that acquitted Billy and another police officer also involved in the case committed suicide after experiencing unnatural symptoms on their bodies. The judge starts growing lizard scales and claws on his body, and the police officer gets a disturbingly horrific case of acne.  

Billy breaks away from his wife and daughter, who want to have him placed in a clinic, and drives upstate to find the gypsies. Lemke tells Billy that he will never take off the curse, so Billy resorts to drastic measures, where he has his friend, Richie "The Hammer" Ginelli, an underground mobster, manage to find the gypsies again, and Richie torments the gypsies until Lemke finally agrees to talk to Billy and remove the curse. The old man explains to Billy that the curse can only be transferred from person to person and not removed permanently. He slices Billy's hand and adds some of his blood to an odd-looking strawberry pie, telling Billy that whoever eats the pie next will be afflicted by the curse currently plaguing him. The old man also begs Billy to die with dignity and eat the pie himself, but Billy is determined to take it home and give it to Heidi, who he blames for the incident.

Upon returning home, he leaves the pie out for Heidi to eat overnight, and goes to bed. When he wakes up in the morning, he is terrified to find that his beloved daughter, Linda, has also taken a piece of the pie. Billy cuts himself a slice of the pie so he can eventually join his wife and daughter in death.


  • In the book jacket, Stephen King includes a fake picture of "Richard Bachman" (actually a friend of King's literary agent) that is credited to his wife, "Claudia Inez Bachman."
  • The book's working title was Gypsy Pie.
  • The book was adapted into a film of the same name in 1996, where King himself makes a cameo appearance as a pharmacist.


The story was adapted into a film in 1996.

The Bachman Books
RageThe Long WalkRoadworkThe Running ManThinnerThe RegulatorsBlaze
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