How HBO’s ‘The Outsider’ Differs From the Stephen King Book

HBO’s new series, The Outsider, poses the question of how one person could be in two places at the same time — and the answer is absolutely terrifying. The series is an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name, but it features a few plot changes. Read on to see some ways the HBO series differs from King’s horror story.
[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for season 1 of HBO’s The Outsider and the Stephen King novel.]

Ben Mendelsohn, Cynthia Erivo
Ben Mendelsohn, Cynthia Erivo | Bob Mahoney/HBO

Detective Ralph Anderson’s son

Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) is a character central to the series. He and his wife are still grieving the loss of their young son Derek, who appears to have died from cancer shortly before Terry Maitland’s (Jason Bateman) arrest. This pain and grief drive Ralph’s investigation and thinking of his own dead son drives him to find justice for the young murder victim, Frankie Peterson. 

But in Stephen King’s novel, Derek Anderson isn’t dead. He’s actually away at summer camp while his father investigates Frankie’s murder. 

Ben Mendelsohn, Mare Winningham
Ben Mendelsohn, Mare Winningham | Bob Mahoney/HBO

Holly Gibney in ‘The Outsider’ series vs the book

HBO’s version of Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo) is slightly different from the books. The character is also in King’s novel, Mr. Mercedes, and she is described as a grey-haired woman with pale skin who is obsessed with movies.

Unlike the series, in King’s books, Holly also isn’t scared of flying, nor does she sit in the window describing details of cars that drive by. However, in both the show and the novels, Holly is an extremely intelligent investigator, and she has an uncanny way of seeing things that others can’t. 

Holly’s love interest, Andy Katcavage is not a Stephen King character

In the series, Holly meets ex-cop Andy Katcavage (Derek Cecil) while investigating a strip mall in Dayton. The two strike up a connection and get romantically involved. He later comes to Georgia and helps with the murder investigation. 

However, the character of Andy Katcavage doesn’t exist in King’s novel. In the book, Holly follows the leads in the case on her own, without any romantic relationship. 

A few character names are different

While the main characters in the show, Terry Maitland, Holly Gibney, and Ralph Anderson keep their names from the book, others are changed. Terry Maitland’s wife in the novel is Marcy not Glory, and her daughter’s name is Grace, not Jessa.  These aren’t significant differences, and they don’t take away from the storyline, but they are changes nonetheless.

‘The Outsider’ version of El Cuco vs the book

In the book, Holly bases her description of the monster on a Mexican horror movie, Rosita Luchadora e Amigas Conocen El Cuco. And his presence is first suggested by Yunis Sablo. 

But in the series, Holly gets the suggestion in New York City from a woman she meets while visiting Maria Canales in jail. When she describes him to the group, she gives a play-by-play of the monster’s escapades in New York and Dayton, rather than mentioning the movie. 

Also, when El Cuco comes to see Jeannie Anderson (Mare Winningham) in the series, he looks dark and disfigured. But in the King novel, he looks like Claude Bolton and has numerous tattoos.

Other minor differences between Stephen King’s novel and the show

The HBO series is set in Georgia and its surrounding states. But in the novel, Frankie Peterson’s murder takes place in Flint City, Oklahoma. 

In the book, Holly works with an investigator named Bill Hodges, but he does not appear in the series. And the character of Heath Hofstadter’s (Martin Bats Bradford) cousin, Terry Powell (Drez Ryan) is not in the book.