A Scary Encounter With Stephen King

I don’t read Stephen King. Not because I don’t think he’s an excellent writer. He is. Too too good of a writer. I am one of those people who loves fictional murder because there is a structure, foul play occurs; clues abound; are investigated; characters throw around red herrings; the detective investigates and the murderer is found. All neat in a package of control. I like books to have rational conclusions. An artist such as Stephen King weaves nightmare scenerios that scare the bejesus out of me. I’m terrified of the unknown, the things that flit in the night, and whatever other cliche I can think of. I sincerely become convinced that there are Carries out there ready to strike me down, cars that kill, hotels that are haunted when I try to read a King novel. His voice so convincing.

The mystery bookstore I was managing at the time, didn’t keep much of Stephen King’s hard cover work on hand, as the supernatural or fantasy wasn’t a main focus. There were some pieces, but I wasn’t familiar with any, due to my  lack of courage to read them.

So, when Mr. King entered the store one day to browse, like any other tourist customer, I was gobsmacked. I wanted a signed book of his, badly. He was greeted warmly by the owner, other staff members, and was kindly signing a few titles for the store. I grabbed the first thing I saw with his name on it, not checking what the heck it actually was. Handing it to him to sign with my timid request, I received a glare that could blind a city. I was nonplussed. However I didn’t have time to think what the problem was–he told me, in no uncertain terms.

“If you want a signed book, at least have something I WROTE, ” he forcefully stated. I didn’t understand, until I realized what I had grabbed was some kind of unauthorized biography of him, not a novel, or even an autobiography!  In my rush to make sure I didn’t miss this probable once in a lifetime opportunity to get one of the best current writer’s signature, despite my inability to survive his prose, I’d screwed up and insulted him. I felt like a prime idiot. He went off to peruse some more, and I scrambled trying to find something in hardcover I was sure he actually authored.

The pickings were slim, as I mentioned. But I saw a huge volume, one of a fantasy set filled with all sorts of animals and thought, why not? But how to approach him and not do something more to embarrass myself?

I suppose my need to have his book and signature in my collection outweighed my flushed face, and I cautiously sidled up beside him, when I saw a break in his book buying.

I honestly think my hands were trembling when I passed the book. Mr. King said something along the lines of “This is a bit better” and he quickly scribbled on the endpapers, I made no attempt to guide him to the usual title page. I thanked him profusely, a bit too much, Uriah Heep came to mind, and I backed off clutching my hard won treasure.

He had every right and more so to be pissed at my blind stupidity–I mean, what fan would not know his titles back and forwards and if not, then they weren’t a fan, were they, so why should he bother signing a book for me at all? But he was gracious in his dealings with what he could only think of as a rather poor choice for manager of a store, I’m sure. And I, despite my infamous gaff was bedazzled by his conversation and presence.

So, in the rare possibility Mr. Stephen King should ever see this, hopefully my explanation as to why I don’t read him and therefore didn’t know what book to ask to be signed will be considered a compliment, which it most absolutely decidedly it is!

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Discussion

  1. Nancy Ellis

    What a great story of your brush with fame, unforgettable!!

  2. Wystan Stevens

    I have not read his fiction (as yet), but I thoroughly enjoyed his book “On Writing,” which is also something of an autobiography. It is literate, sophisticated, entertaining, impeccable.

    1. Bruce K. Hollingdrake

      Hi Wystan – thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ve also read that one and agree with you. Very enjoyable book.

  3. ron

    Just wondering what was the title of the book he did sign?

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