Huge day for me today! Today I have finally finished every Stephen King book. Novels, short story / novella collections, non-fiction, Richard Bachman books, I’ve read it all. I don’t know exactly when I decided I would read every King book, I think I must have been 11 or 12. One day, I went to a store called Old Possum’s Used Books and bought every King paperback that my Dad didn’t have. My collection was complete but I had all the reading work to do.
When I was little, Stephen King was an eerie legend. I’d ask my dad “What’s the scariest story ever?” And he would say, “Either Pet Sematary or Harvest Home.” By the time I was 16, I’d read them both and to this day I agree with him. My dad would give me summaries of a few King stories, and as an avid reader I was dying to get my hands on them.
Finally, in 1996, when I was 9, my dad handed me his all black paperback copy of ‘Salem’s Lot and said, “You can probably handle this.” I consider ‘Salem’s Lot to be maybe the 3rd or 4th scariest King book now, back then I had opened up Pandora’s box, and taken the first steps on a journey that would end up lasting me 20 years. I can still remember reading the scene about the woman finding her baby dead, and thinking This is really bad, maybe I shouldn’t be reading this. Of course, I didn’t tell my parents that though, I just plowed on through to the end.
Over the next few years I tackled all of the scariest ones at random. My next King book was the scariest one of them all, Pet Sematary, I was 10. I can still remember reading a lot of that one on my grandparents back porch on sunny summer days. I didn’t understand the whole Spinal Meningitis scene with Zelda, but after I saw the movie, which just about had me and my sister in tears with how scary it was, I understood it just fine.
I discovered IT at age 11, coincidentally the same age as the Loser’s Club in 1958. I didn’t understand a lot of the adult parts, but the kid stuff made perfect sense. There were so many parts where I found myself saying, I’ve done that or I’ve thought about that before too. IT had a huge impact on me. Shortly after IT, I read IT’s twinner book The Tommyknockers, and I think my family is just about the only group of people I’ve ever heard of who actually love The Tommyknockers.
After making the decision to read them all, I decided to read them all in release order, starting with Carrie. I discovered new classics like Night Shift (the best short story collection by far), Cujo, and Christine. In high school I found the graphic novel of Creepshow at the library, then bought the DVD at Media Play. During this period, I also discovered the Dark Tower series and I read one installment every summer from age 15. I read DT1 while driving to my grandparents cabin near Gunnison. I read DT3 (my favorite one) while driving to San Antonio for an epic vacation. I read DT4 in San Francisco while visiting my grandpa for the last time before he died of cancer. Once I got to books 6 and 7 and finished them off back to back.
I read some of Four Past Midnight in a glassy corridor at CU North Classroom building on snowy days while waiting through my 3 hour gap between classes. During a winter break in college I flew through Under the Dome in two weeks and loved it. I think Under the Dome started the new period of fun books that Stephen King seems to be going through again. With the help of ipods and audiobooks (and from working at the golf course where I got to sit on a mower for hours and hours) I got to rediscover a lot of the classic King books and really examine what makes them great. In 2012, Chuck Benson’s deep voice narrating IT got into my head and I began to think up lines of a story in his/King’s voice. I went home from work and began writing the first pages that eventually wound up being a book called Kill River.
That summer I also traveled to Bangor, Maine for the first time and saw a lot of the IT and other King landmarks thanks to the Stephen King tour. It was a trip that was truly one of the highlights of my entire life and I’m happy to say that I’ll be going back this summer, this time dragging my dad along with me (the man who was responsible for all this King fandom.)
I’m 29 now and it’s 20 years later. Tonight I finished the last pages of Bazaar of Bad Dreams, the latest King book, and I’m now fully caught up. Entire works read, it feels weird for me to say that. Through my parents divorce, the turn of the century, the crazy dramatic times in middle school in high school, the hectic times in college, moving out, getting married, buying a house, growing up, I’ve almost always been reading a Stephen King book. I am the very definition of one of his “Constant Readers,” and it’s been a privilege to get so much good entertainment out of one author over the majority of my life. They’ve steered me onto my own path as an author. I know I’ll never write anything half as awesome or inspiring as IT or Pet Sematary but I will always keep those books I love close to remind me of where I came from and the kind books I want to write.