In a post from last week, I wrote about how I used to listen to a late-night talk radio show based in St. Louis when I was a teenager. Today, I’d like to tell you how that show introduced me to my favorite author.
It happened when I was 16 years old. I was listening to Jim White’s show on KMOX and trying to fall asleep. White was getting ready to go to the hourly news break when he gave a teaser about his guest for the next hour’s segment. He said his guest was the author of the novel Carrie, which was the basis for a popular movie that came out the year before.
I hadn’t gone to see Carrie, but I had several friends who had – they said the movie was very scary, especially the ending. I wasn’t into scary movies then, but I was curious to find out more about the author who created such an interesting story. I made myself stay awake so I could listen to the segment.
I’ve forgotten most of what Stephen King had to say that night. What I didn’t forget was when he read aloud from the foreword of Night Shift, a collection of King’s short stories published in early 1978. I was impressed by his knowledge of horror and his theories about why we are drawn to horror stories. While preparing to write this post, I found my battered paperback copy of Night Shift and re-read the foreword. I could still vividly recall King’s reading of certain passages.
At the time, my mother was librarian at our local public library. The next day, I told her I wanted to read some books by Stephen King. It may have taken a few weeks, but the next time one of his books got returned, she checked it out for me and brought it home.
It may have been Night Shift, or maybe Salem’s Lot or The Shining that I read first. I think our library had all three of those books; it did not have Carrie. I’m sure my mom wouldn’t have approved if she’d known about the amount of mature content in those books. They weren’t exactly appropriate material for a good Baptist teenager to read. I didn’t care, I loved them anyway.
I read King voraciously through the rest of the 70s and 80s, but took a break from him in the 90s. I had young children then, and wasn’t in the right mindset for reading horror. In the early 2000s, I quickly got caught up with him again, and I still read his new works as quickly as I can get my hands on them.
That one radio segment gave me the gift of a lifetime of reading pleasure. I haven’t read all of King’s works, but I know I’m pretty close. His non-fiction writing is also excellent. I still refer to my copy of Danse Macabre from time to time when I’m looking for information about horror books and movies. I read On Writing just a few months ago, looking for advice on my own writing projects. As tempting as it would be to try to emulate King in the horror genre, I just don’t think I have the frame of mind to write horror.
Many thanks to the late Jim White for introducing me to Mr. King more than 35 years ago. I also need to thank Stephen King himself for the dozens and dozens of stories he has provided through the years, and thank you in advance for the stories yet to be told.
Who is your favorite author, and how did you ‘meet’ them? Feel free to share by commenting.