Sunday, June 25, 2017

Collectioning (2017 Edition), Part 1: An Excuse to Talk About the Old Days

coll-ect-ion-ing  (kƏ lek' shƏn ing)    1.  the process of systematically adding to one's collection of a specific type or category of objects.  2.  a sign of low-grade obsessive-compulsive disorder.  3.  another reason for people in Third World countries to hate people like me.  4.  a made-up word invented by a lame blogger, who, in his defense, says "yes, but at least I didn't put a hashtag in front of it"  (See also)

You know how it is: every so often, you feel an itch in that part of your mind that governs the rules of your collecting; an itch that can only be scratched by adding to the collection.

While writing some of my recent posts, I was reminded anew of a mistake I made years ago: getting rid of my first copies of many of my King books.  See, when I first began buying King books, it was via used paperbacks; I was a haunter of used bookstores and thrift shops, and it is from those haunts -- mostly, though not exclusively, a used bookshop called The Book Rack -- that the majority of my initial collection was built.  Before high school was over, though, I'd joined the Stephen King Library, which sent me a hardback copy of a King novel once every month.  As those arrived, I traded in my old paperbacks.
  
It didn't seem like a mistake at the time.  Why keep 'em?  I had just gotten better copies!  I got a hardback, whatta I need a bent-up old paperback for?
  
What younger me wasn't counting on is that older me would grow nostalgic for those paperback editions.
  
Younger me had no way of knowing that older me might feel the need to have those paperbacks on his shelf ... simply have them, to look at and occasionally take down, holding them wistfully while futilely pretending that he was still that fifteen-year-old boy who walked into The Book Rack and spent hours sorting through its musty old treasures.  Would the Bryant who is typing this spend money to go onto a holodeck recreation of that shop, complete with all the books that used to be there on a semi-permanent-yet-nevertheless-rotating basis?  Not just the Kings, but the stacks of movie novelizations, the romance-novel room he literally never even went inside, the Mack Bolans and Destroyers and Leon Urises and James Micheners he never bought but was always weirdly drawn to?
  
You bet he would.

Such a thing is not possible, of course.  The past is forever gone, never to reappear except in elaborate recreations, and not terribly often even then.  All the money in the universe will not truly buy you What Was.
  
BUT ... if I still had all those original paperbacks, I could still have a tiny bit of What Was; a tiny bit of then.
  
A tiny bit of me.
 
I have been thinking about that sort of thing a lot lately, and recently decided to devote some funds toward reacquiring as many of those old paperbacks as I could find.  Not the literal copies themselves, of course, but the editions/covers that I first owned.  Convincing stand-ins for my starter copies, in other words.
  
The good news for me was that, with only a couple of seeming exceptions, the specific copies I initially owned were published in huge quantities.  It's not exactly a challenge to obtain used copies, even in good condition; not only was it easy, but it was relatively cheap.
  
So I thought what I'd do is turn this into a show-and-tell sort of post, including scans of these covers up and maybe a few reminiscences, if such should occur to me.  Is this self-indulgent?  Yes sir.  But if I know the things I think I know, then it's the sort of self-indulgence that makes sense to folks who love books.
  
Oh, by the way: this saga of materialism also resulted in the purchase of quite a few editions that I did NOT have back in the day.  I tried to not go too far down that rabbit hole, and you can judge the success/failure of that attempt for yourself.  (Spoiler alert: I failed, fairly hardcore; so much so that I've ended up splitting the post in two.)
  
To give these shenanigans a structure of some sort, I'm going to go in chronological order by edition, to the extent figuring out such a chronology is possible.  That can be tricky with paperbacks, which generally do not offer a year of publication apart from the year of the original mass-market edition.  But I think we'll be able to make do relatively well.


Carrie (Signet, 15th printing, circa November 1976)





Apologies for violating the thesis of this post right off the bat, but I've got a confession to make: I did not own this edition of Carrie when I was a teenager, or at any point since.  Regardless, this specific edition looms very large indeed in the history of my Stephen King fandom, so it seemed (A) like I ought to get a copy and (B) like a good place for this post to begin.
 


Allow me to explain by quoting myself from a 2011 post that touched on the subject of why this edition of Carrie matters to me:

In maybe 1984, or '85, or possibly as late as '86, I ran across a copy of the paperback you see pictured above.  What happened next is nothing for me to be proud of.

I had a couple of friends in the neighborhood I lived in from 1983 until 1991.  We used to pal around like boys do, just sorta assing around in the woods that bordered parts of the neighborhood.  There was one spot in particular that we used to like to visit because it was a smallish (ten feet high, maybe less) cliff; it was shaped interestingly, almost like a crescent moon, and at one point we tunneled into it and made a small cave.  We even spent the night inside it once, just to say we had done it.

At some point, though, a developer built a new house on that plot, and we weren't able to spend as much time there anymore.  Peeved by that, we used to sneak around its back yard (of which the cliff was now a part), pretending that the occupants were villains who would interrogate us for information if they caught us.  As I recall, we pretended it was the Death Star on other occasions, and would go streaking through the back yard pretending that we were X-wing pilots.

On one of these occasions, I decided to be extra brave: I streaked through the carport, the back wall of which had an open section leading straight into the back yard.  As I did so, I noticed a bookcase filled with books, and was drawn as steel to a magnet.  Quietly, desperate not to get caught, I began looking through the books, curious as to what they might be.

One of them was that paperback version of CarrieMy aversion to seeing bloody images kicked in, and I was so disgusted with it that I instinctively flung the book into the back yard.  I paused for a moment, horrified by what I had seen, and also by what I had done.  The horror over what I'd seen won out, and the rage that built up inside me at having been startled in that way led me to chase the book into the back yard, and then fling it over the fence and down the small cliff where we'd once played so much.  I then ran back into the garage and started gathering up armfuls of the other books, and flung them all over the fence, over the cliff.  My friends had long since run away, afraid of being caught.  Once I'd finished, I ran away, too, and never went back.  The Death Star had finally been destroyed.

I suppose nobody was home.  I've occasionally wondered what the owners of those books must have thought when they discovered they were missing; I've wondered whether they ever found the books.  I'm not proud of the memory, that much is certain.  Were there any repetitions of that sort of behavior?  No; it was an isolated incident.  But it did happen, and it happened as a direct result of the cover of that novel being glimpsed by eyes that were not ready to glimpse it.


With all that in mind, I think you'll have no trouble believing that that image of Sissy Spacek as Carrie White, blood-soaked and on the precipice of mass murder, is seared into my brain; perhaps into my actual psyche.  There's no way to audit such things, but if one could open some sort of Windows-style File Explorer program of the contents of my brain, and then go to the folder labeled "Stephen King," that image would be one of the most frequently-accessed.
 
That was a rough moment for me.  I simply could not cope with the sight of blood in any significant amount in movies; it would traumatize me for days, my mind flashing back to it at inopportune moments, such as when I was trying to sleep, trying to not think about the fact that such a thing as death existed.  I sound like a little basket-case, don't I?  It wasn't like that; it just fucked me up a little, is all.  I'd wager most kids get fucked up in a similar manner by something; if, for me, it hadn't been this, I'm sure it would have been something else.

But it wasn't something else; it was that cover of Carrie.
 
And I gotta tell you: it still fucks me up a little bit.  I wouldn't have it any other way.


The Shining (January 1978, Signet)




 

Unthinkable that until recently I did not have a copy of this edition!  I don't actually have a heck of a lot to say about it, though.  I've struggled to unlock any memories of the first time I read this novel.  I can't even swear that I read it before seeing the Kubrick movie; I probably did; I think I did.
  
But I can't swear to it.


Night Shift (February 1979, Signet)






I already kinda/sorta had a copy of this edition.  Allow me to explain.  There was at least one printing -- the 7th -- that used the same cover art, but in what is apparently referred to as a "stepback" format (meaning that the book has a second cover inside the front cover, printed on slick photo-stock-type paper).
  
Now, I've got to make a confession: I didn't dig too deep into this notion of that being called a "stepback."  I saw it a few places when I Googled it, but got tired of sifting through results that included the phrase "step back."  Long story short, I couldn't immediately find a resource that seems definitive AND trustworthy, so I'm just choosing to believe that that is what this is called.  "Stepback."  If that's not true, I apologize for spreading alternative facts and welcome your correction.

In any case, I tried to rebuy this edition a few years ago, and ended up with the stepback version.  It looks like this:






I dig that, if only for the opportunity it afforded me to make a hi-res scan of the artwork minus the title.  But in truth, 1990 Bryant didn't have this version; he had the other one, the one where that creepy-ass hand is front and center.
  
And so I tracked a copy down; not exactly difficult hunting, thankfully.
 
I read this for the first time on a trip to Glendale, Arizona, for the Fiesta Bowl, which was played on January 1, 1990.  We'll hear more about this trip during this post, as it was a very King-rich trip of sorts.
 
For now, suffice it to say that it was a work trip of sorts for my mother, who worked for the University of Alabama athletic department.  Like many of their employees, she got to go to the bowl game for free, and her family -- which, obviously, included me -- got to tag along.
 
What I remember about that trip is that I rode an airplane for the first time, and that I took a LOT of books with me.  Among them: Night Shift, which I was either reading for the first time or was rereading.  But I think it was my first read.
 
Mom's boss's wife saw me reading it, and was mildly taken aback.  I guess she thought maybe I was too young for it or something, so she called it junk and told me that HAD to be something better I could be reading.  That sounds like some Tipper Gore shit or something, doesn't it?  Nah, it wasn't like that; I knew her very well, thanks to having spent a lot of time at Mom's office.  We were friendly, and she was just giving me a good ribbing. 
 
Either way, I didn't let it slow me down; I plowed through that book in a single day, and loved pretty much all of it.

  
The Stand (January 1980, Signet) 





This is the one that started it all.  The Stand was not the first King novel I read (we'll talk about that later), but it was the one that turned me into a hardcore King fan.

I quote one of my own posts again:

When on vacation in Gulf Shores with my family during the summer of 1990, my Dad told me about a a book he’d recently read a review of.  It was called The Stand, and was about an epic battle between good and evil; it was written, he said, by Steven Spielberg.

“Really?” I asked, immediately interested.  Despite the woeful Poltergeist incident of 1982 (and a similar one involving Twilight Zone: The Movie the next year), I was a devoted Spielberg fan, and counted Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., and the Indiana Jones films as being among my favorite movies.  I’d even enjoyed The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun, which my parents had taken me to see, and Always, which I’d seen with my brother; I’d watched every episode of Amazing Stories; I’d loved Spielberg productions like The Goonies and Gremlins and Back to the Future; and I’d read and loved the sequel to E.T. (The Book of the Green Planet, which William Kotzwinkle wrote from a story by Spielberg).

So the news that Spielberg had written an epic novel about the battle between good and evil made it a foregone conclusion that I was going to be tracking that novel down, capturing it, and consuming it.  I was on the hunt for The Stand as soon as the trip to the beach was over.

One of my favorite places to go in those days was The Book Rack, a used bookshop near the office where my mother worked.  I spent that summer going to work with my mother, hanging around the office doing odd jobs and reading and pestering her co-workers, and once or twice a week, I’d walk the mile or so to The Book Rack.  As soon as we got back from vacation, I set off for The Book Rack to see if they might have a used copy of The Stand.  I asked one of the ladies who ran the shop about it, and she informed me that The Stand was a novel by Stephen King, not Steven Spielberg.  She then, very open-mindedly, pointed me in the right direction, and what I found was not the uncut version my father had undoubtedly read a review of, but the original paperback, with the faces of a bird and some mysterious man joined at the eye.


It was this cover -- with that awesome Don Brautigam art -- that was largely responsible for my decision to buy the book.  I can remember the sensation of standing in The Book Rack, looking at the cover, flipping it over to read the description on the back, flipping it back over to stare at the intimidatingly haunting art.  Time stretched out.  Something about holding it felt right; I knew the moment I picked it up that even though it wasn't written by Steven Spielberg, it was going home with me.  Did it sing to me like a certain rose sang to Jake Chambers?  Nah.

At least, I don't think it did; but I heard it all the same, and responded.
 
I'd been to The Book Rack many times before finding that copy of The Stand.  I sometimes went on shopping trips with my Aunt Margaret, who was a thrift-store junkie.  I'd spend the day with her every so often, and we'd go (among other places) to a thrift store she loved to visit at around the time they were putting their new treasures out.  While she was checking them out, I'd go hang out in the back room where they kept the books and records, and just skim through everything.  We went so often that I practically had their inventory memorized.  The Book Rack was a few doors down, and eventually, I asked Aunt Margaret if I could go look at their books; she said sure, and so I went there, where the selection was larger.

I got to know that store in and out, too.  But there was something about it that I loved.  It was snug; it was cozy; the ladies who worked there were nice, and always seemed happy to see me.  I'd go and stay as long as I could, reading the back covers of all the sci-fi books and so forth.  Aunt Margaret would come collect me, and I'd maybe talk her into buying me a book or two; that never took much convincing.  (As one reader -- hi, McMolo! -- will appreciate, she was also a key element of my developing musical tastes.  She played classic rock in the car while we drove, not because she liked it, but because she assumed I would.  I have a very vivid memory of hearing "Riders on the Storm" for the first time on one of these jaunts; and on another, she bought me both Operation: Mindcrime and Smashes, Thrashes & Hits brand-new on cassette because I begged her for them.  Good times; the best times, maybe.)
 
Anyways, like I say, I'd been to The Book Rack many times before that day I found -- or was found by -- The Stand; but I typically went into the back room of the store, where the sci-fi books and the movie novelizations and the stuff I cared about was found.  The bestsellers were in the front room, which was mildly new territory for me; it was the room I passed through to ge tthe rooms I cared about.  From that day on, though, it was that front room that was always my destination, the goal being to see what new-to-me King novels had turned up.  None of them ever had the impact upon me that this edition of The Stand had.

How could they? 
 
I've got to say, the copy I got in the mail last week -- pictured above -- is a beauty.  It doesn't appear to have ever been read.  You don't always get that lucky when buying used paperbacks online, but I had a few show up in that condition in this group of acquisitions.  Pretty cool!

It was a cheat of sorts, though.  I didn't actually need it.

See, I never turned loose of that copy I got from The Book Rack.  That's how deeply that particular copy sang to me: even when I was getting rid of my paperbacks, I still hung on to that copy.  Even then, I knew what nostalgia meant; I was not foresighted enough to know how deep it would eventually run, but I knew that it DID run, and had a feeling that I could cross it only at certain points.  At others, I'd be best served to stay where I was, and so I've kept that copy all these years.

It shows it, too:




It's a battered old thing, but it's had a lot of love poured into it over the years.  It might never get read again, but it'll never -- EVER -- be sent out to pasture.  It's got a place of honor on my massive Stephen King bookcase, and always will for as long as I'm around to give it one.

Can't resist sharing this, too:




All these replacement copies are fine, and will satisfy my needs.  But without those stamps from The Book Rack on the inside, they can only ever be shams; effective shams, but shams nonetheless.
 

Let's also have a look at a few pages from the very back of the book:






I wish I could remember exactly what order I read King's books for the first time.  The Running Man was first, and The Stand was second, and I deeply suspect that given my strong reaction to The Stand, The Gunslinger may have been third.  I can say for a fact that that inside-back-cover ad for it sang to me quite loudly, so if it wasn't the very next King book I consumed, it can't have been long after that that I met Roland for the first time
 
 
The Dead Zone (August 1980, Signet)






These Signet covers from the eighties, man ... to a very real extent, those are still the editions that spring to mind for me when I think of "Stephen King."  Everything about them works for me, from the layouts to the art to the font.  Woe unto me if anybody ever wises up and decides to create an entire run of new paperbacks for the titles that were never part of that series of designs.  Wouldn't YOU love to have 11/22/63 and Duma Key and Under the Dome and Revival, et cetera, in that format?

Me too.  And I'd buy every last one of 'em, which is why I kinda hope it never happens.

Only kinda, though.

As for The Dead Zone, it's a case of the paperback art being very similar to the hardback art, with a few key exceptions: for example, that big ol' "#1 NATIONWIDE BESTSELLER" at the top.  I love that, and I also love that the red of that line -- such a suggestive color -- is the only brightness on the cover.  The hardback was no cartoon, but it had a bit brightness to it: the face was more prominent and (along with the title and King's name) was in color.  For the paperback, they put all that in black-and-white, and made both the face and the Wheel Of Fortune more difficult to see, as if both were hidden in shadow.

The Dead Zone isn't really a horror novel, is it?  But that cover turned it into one for me in high school; that and the general suggestibility my brain was prone to (i.e., if I thought it was a horror novel -- as I did with anything which bore King's name -- then it became one regardless of any other consideration).  This can maybe be summed up by the response I had to the scene early on -- page 14, in the paperback -- when Johnny scares Sarah with the Halloween mask.  Of all the scenes in the novel, that's the one that has stuck with me most solidly over the years.  Why?  My guess is that I was simply primed and ready for this novel to include monsters, and, not knowing any better, I took what was happening at face value (so to speak).

It's an interesting moment.  It puts the reader somewhat at odds with Johnny; we don't know if we can trust him.  You could argue that the moment taints the rest of the novel, but even if it does, I think it's in a good way; this is a guy who has darkness within him.  It isn't the darkness of Greg Stillson, who just a few pages previously kicked a dog to death; but it certainly isn't sunshiny, either, is it?

When I was discovering these books for the first time during 1990-91, I knew nothing about them.  Nothing whatsoever!  I might have seen a few images from a few of the movie versions -- and had seen Stand By Me in its entirety, making "The Body" an exception -- but had no context for them.  All I knew about these books was what was on the back cover

It's a pretty great way to discover a book, if you ask me.


Firestarter (August 1981, Signet)





As with The Dead Zone, the paperback art for Firestarter is an altered version of the hardback's art.  The Viking hardback had a white background with the fiery art front and center; and I think maybe I prefer it to the black-dominated paperback.  I don't know, though; maybe not.  I like 'em both.

This copy of Firestarter was a reacquisition, and one I obtained for the same reasons (nostalgic ones) that prompted this post.  It didn't come from this particular round of reacquisitions, though.  It's in-bounds for this post though, because of  where this copy came from:




Yep, from The Book Rack!  I was feeling nostalgic for that place two or three years ago, and decided to stop in and see if they had any old King paperbacks I might enjoy owning / re-owning.
    
They had moved locations at some point: not far; right across the street from the location I knew and loved.  Across the parking lot, actually; to a different building in the same shopping complex.  I think this complex was originally less a set of shops than a set of offices, given the layout (multiple rooms, office-style layout) and decor (carpeted floors, surely the bane of retail's existence).
  
Anyways, thanks to this, the "new" location still holds much of the same ambience -- and, therefore, allure -- of the original.  So while it's not precisely the same thing I have in my memory, it is close enough that I still get the same feeling from it.
  

Creepshow (July 1982, trade paperback, Plume)



If that looks a little cropped, it's because the book is slightly too wide for my scanner.

How great is that photo of King?


This one is neither a recent acquisition nor one obtained from The Book Rack.  Nope, I'm basically now just talking about shit because I feel like it.
  
*shrug*
   
To the best of my knowledge, the first exposure of any kind that I had to Stephen King came via reading a bit of this comic-book adaptation in a grocery store.  I got to the moment when Grantham shows up with a "cake" in the form of a severed head, and I took off running.  Literally.  That shit haunted me for years.
  
It was still haunting me in 1990, too.  As a newly-minted King fan, I remembered that moment with Creepshow and now understood it to be a product of his new-favorite author.  I was trepidatious to read the comic, afraid it might still scare me; but now, I also sort of craved that type of scare, which I was getting from King in prose form.  But this comic was something altogether different; it was closer to a movie, and watching scary movies was something I had to work up to.

Suffice it to say that I eventually got there.  I think Creepshow was one of the first; I believe that during Halloween season of 1990, I watched both Salem's Lot and Creepshow on TBS.  Maybe others, as well, but I'm 99% sure I watched both of those.  Creepshow worked on me, man; it fucked me up a little.  But I got through it, and by the time it was over, I'd figured out that it was at least as funny as it was scary.  I still needed to confront the comic, but I'd conquered the movie itself, so a big step had been taken.
   
The comic proved to be incredibly elusive (no surprise; it was out of print).  I did not find a copy until the mid-to-late nineties, on a trip to Oxford, Mississippi, where I found one in a bookstore.  I can't entirely remember why I was even in Oxford; likely it was for a football game or something like that, but I simply don't know.  It's possible a friend and I went there just for the sake of going, which is a strange thing to say about Oxford.

Speaking of Oxford, it is forever tainted for me on account of the fact that I drove there to see Owen King speak at a bookstore a few years back, only to be stymied by being unable to find anywhere to park literally in all of downtown Oxford.  And I was there hours early!  I was so annoyed by all of this that I simply went home again, which is a defeat so thorough and humiliating that I don't even like to remember it.

Still, Oxford was the town that finally gave me my copy of Creepshow, so it's got that in its favor.



Cujo (August 1982, Signet)





This paperback's design is obviously an abridgement/manipulation of the art for the original hardcover.  The hardcover is preferable, but I do like the paperback as its own thing.  It was the version I encountered first, and that image of a snarling, rabid mouth hovering in blackness has always worked on me.  When I saw the hardback -- via my Stephen King Library copy -- and got the full image, it walloped me.  I thought it was scary on the paperback, but seeing Cujo -- still snarling and rabid -- appearing out of the mist like that was almost the equivalent of the first time you see a long-treasured movie in HD.  You've seen it before; but now you are seeing it.
  
It was that shock of feeling that I was suddenly getting a better, more genuine article that was instrumental in completing my transition into a hardback snob.

But, I have to admit: when I got this paperback -- with its combination of black/gray/rabies -- in the mail recently, I got a little thrill of recognition when I saw it.  That counts for a lot when scratching a nostalgic itch is the aim, so in this case, mission accomplished.
  


Danse Macabre (December 1983, Berkley)





I've had this paperback ever since the early nineties.  And I didn't even get it from The Book Rack!
  
No, I bought this one brand new; I couldn't find a used copy at The Book Rack, so I had to resort to paying COVER PRICE.  Ack!  It came from Bookland, probably; that wasn't the only mall bookstore in town, but it was the one I visited most often.  Waldenbooks is the likeliest other possible vendor.  I don't have quite the same amount of affection for those stores as I do for The Book Rack, but I've got a fair bit for them; I can still see them in my mind's eye, because I spent a lot of time perusing their aisles.

As for this edition of Danse Macabre, that's one of THE great King-book covers.  It took me years to find a hardback (which is an entirely different image, and an entirely lame one) edition of Danse Macabre, and even once I had, I never considered getting rid of this paperback.  It's just too lovely.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that the book had a major impact on me.  It was almost certainly the first significant work of critical writing that I ever read.  It was extremely readable, and it really said something to me that that King would use his own voice not merely for telling stories about evil clowns and world-ending plagues, but also for talking about why books and movies matter to him.  I became an English major in college, and about a year into that program, I adopted a laid-back, informal writing style that ignored many of the "demands" about critical writing.  If I didn't feel like writing a thesis statement for an opening paragraph, I didn't; if I felt like slipping in a curse word here and there, I slipped one right the fuck in.

No way I didn't learn that from King, and in large part from Danse Macabre.

This blog is the logical outgrowth of that process, so for better or for worse, when you look at that paperback, you're looking at the reason why I'm doing this thing I'm doing in the way I'm doing it.


Christine (December 1983, Signet)






What I really need in the case of Christine is a library-binding version of the above-pictured paperback.  Do you know what I'm talking about?  It's technically a hardback, but it's the same size as a paperback and has the same cover, type of paper, etc.; the only difference is in the type of binding.  Anyways, that's the version of Christine I always think of when the novel floats into my mind.  I first read it not via a copy I owned but by checking it out of my school's library.

I wonder what the deal is with those types of editions?  Are they printed that way, or do schools take them to binderies and have them specially made somehow?

Inquiring minds want to know, so if you've got that knowledge, share it in the comments, plz.

The edition I first owned, however, was this one:





Weirdly, both of these copies claim to be first printings.  I don't think I believe that's true, but what do I know?  The movie came out that month, so it makes sense that there would have been a tie-in edition.

It's a mystery!

I love both editions; the one with the original art from the hardback wins, but only by a hair.  It's a photo finish, you might say.


Pet Sematary (November 1984, Signet) 



Who needs a description (or anything else) when you've got a blurb like that?



Pet Sematary was probably the King book that scared me the most.  There's a lot of shit to take in with that one, especially if you are a kid who was scared of everything; everything ... perhaps not in a literal sense, but closer to it than is the case with most people.  You couldn't get me to watch a movie that I thought would frighten me, and if you did, you weren't going to get me to look at the screen during the bloody or scary scenes.

I could approach an armistice with such material if it consisted of words on a page, but it would still fuck me up a little on occasion, which means that a lot of King's work worked on me.  Pet Sematary was tops on the list, from that standpoint.  And, for the record: it was years before I got around to watching the movie.  I forced myself to take in a lot of the movies not too long after reading the books (so circa 1990-91), but I shied away from Pet Sematary until 2001.  I watched it with some friends as part of a movie marathon we undertook in a post-9/11 daze.

I made it through just fine, but even so, it worked on me.  I don't think it's necessarily all that great of a movie, but I can never -- and will never -- write it all the way off.

And I'll never not have a tremendously frisson-laced fondness for that beautiful cover art.
 
I told a story about this one during my recent King-book-rankings post.  Since it was that reminiscence that kind of kicked off the impetus for this post, I think it makes sense to quote it here, with apologies to those of you who have already read it:
 
I spent a lot of time hanging out at my mother's workplace while school wasn't in when I was a kid.  This went on even through much of high school, and I had a sort of volunteer position in the office, where I'd ferry mail from one place to another, or help unload freight trucks, etc.  But it wasn't an actual job (though it would turn into one in college), and so I'd also spend a lot of time goofing off, roaming the building, or shooting the shit with various workers, or sitting around reading.
  
Sometimes, I'd go for walks around the area, including frequent -- damn-near daily -- ones to The Book Rack, a nearby used-book store.  It was here that I found the battered old paperback copy of The Stand that set me on my lifelong exploration of the works of Stephen King.  I devoured it whole, and returned to The Book Rack over and over again that summer (the summer of 1990), getting a new copy of a King book every time I finished one.
  
My mother's boss was a big reader, too, and was always interested in what I was reading.  I'm sure he'd heard of King, but had never read anything by him, so his interest was piqued by my newfound fascination with the author.  He asked if he could borrow one, and ended up with Pet Sematary.
  
The next day, when I saw him, he told me he'd stayed up all night reading it ... and, when he got to the end, had to fight down the urge to fling it out the nearest window.  The only thing preventing him from doing it, he said, was the fact that it was my book.  So he handed it back to me, and went to his office, and he never borrowed a book from me again.  None of this was contentious, though; he knew he had stepped outside his area of reading comfort, and did not for one second criticize me for liking a novel he'd disliked.  He -- and all the people who worked in that office -- were instrumental in the development of my personality and worldview, in part because they implicitly encouraged me to develop it for myself.  They didn't push me; they offered potential paths and let me choose for myself.
  
I think of that more and more frequently these days, and that aspect of my life is forever intertwined by with the development of my King fandom.  I think of those novels, and I think of who I was when I first read them.  Is this part of the reason why Stephen King means so much to me?  Almost certainly, and that's just fine by me.
  
I marvel a bit at the complete lack of judgment my mother's boss had for me, despite his severe reaction to it.  Given some of the book's content, there are other outcomes that could have resulted: maybe he goes to my mother and tells her about the sort of stuff her fifteen-year-old son is reading, and she doesn't like the sound of it, and it becomes A Big Thing.  Who knows what happens from there?  Or -- maybe worse -- some other version of him tells some other version of me that reading books like that will rot my brain, and that version of me turns defensive and offended.
  
As it happened, though, what I took away from it was this: he didn't like it, but he stayed up all night so he could finish it.  He had to know what happened despite the fact that he didn't like it once he got there!  What that told me was this: I could handle it, and he couldn't.
  
The more I think about, the more of an impact I think that had on me.  I was a very timid, extremely fearful child; the fact is that I related to the adults in this office more than I related to kids my own age.  I'm on the fence as to whether this was a good thing or a bad thing in terms of my overall development -- on the whole, I lean toward thinking it was a bad thing -- but either way, it is an integral part of who I am.  For better or for worse, the me that I am today is the logical outcome of the me that made all those walks to The Book Rack in the summer of 1990, the me who took back his copy of Pet Sematary and felt like he'd somehow managed to do something that even his mother's boss -- perhaps the most respectable person he knew -- couldn't do.
  
I didn't have much confidence in anything, but now, I had confidence in books.
  
Without that, who would I be today?  Impossible to say, but whether I'd be homeless in a ditch or living in a penthouse someplace, I would not be the me who I am right here and now.
  
Good times!  And, for the record, this was a different boss than the one whose wife lovingly gave me shit about Night Shift; Mom had two bosses, like a sitcom character or something.  I liked both of them a lot, and I think the feeling may even have been mutual.  If not, they never let on!


The Talisman (March 1985, Berkley Books)





Of the King novels that were extant at the time of my becoming a fan, I'd say The Talisman is perhaps the one for which I have the least nostalgia.  I can't remember much of anything about reading it for the first time.  I know I liked it; I think I might even loved it.  It worked on me strongly enough to send me to The Book Rack looking for Peter Straub novels, so there's that; I know I liked The Talisman.

But I don't remember much of anything about my initial reading of it.

I dig that cover, though.  It's basically identical to the cover of the hardback, so it was a hella waste of money to get this paperback.  I'm opting not to think of it that way, though, because now I have a copy of the novel that I can put in my Peter Straub section.

Yes, I do worry about things like that.  I worry a lot...

I also worried about not having some of the Peter Straub paperbacks I useta have, so I got those back, too.  Check 'em out:







 

No sir, my nostalgia is by no means limited to King stuff.  King-adjacet stuff also falls under that umbrella, and also plenty of things that aren't King-adjacent at all.


Cycle of the Werewolf (April 1985, trade paperback, Signet)





I still have my original paperback of Cycle of the Werewolf, which I got not from The Book Rack but from a (I think) Waldenbooks in a mall in Glendale, Arizona, while on that trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
  
I never stumbled across a copy of it in The Book Rack during that summer of 1990, and did not see a copy until I found it in the Central High School library that fall.  I checked it out and read it, and was horrified by some of the Berni Wrightson illustrations.

My Stephen King fandom was a HUGE part of getting me over my aversion to seeing blood in movies and illustrations and such; you know that by now, because it's been a running subtheme of this post.  Cycle of the Werewolf was possibly the first major step I made in that direction.  I didn't know the illustrations were there, so they shocked me the first time I read the book ... but, crucially, I simply kept reading, only to return to the images later, fascinated.
  
It was a tiny way to face one's fears; but perhaps not insignificant.  It was that success that gave me the courage to, later that fall, try to be brave enough to watch some King movies on television around Halloween, and then in November to brave the new miniseries adaptation of It, which had already become one of my favorite books of all.
 
I succeeded, too; and if I had not been able to force myself to look at that severed pig's head atop the fencepost in Cycle of the Werewolf (or the cop getting his face ripped off), I don't know that I could have had that success.

Back to Glendale.  As I mentioned earlier, I was there for the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day 1991.  I went with my parents and brother, we were probably there for three or four days.  I wouldn't be caught dead without a sack of books on an out-of-state trip, and so on this one, I took a whole mess of books I'd been wanting to read.  I even took a Star Trek novel to the game with me just in case Alabama got their ass beat and the game proved to be not worth watching; they did, and it did, and so I read the entire novel during the course of the game.
 
That trip was worth taking, though, for many reasons but for one above all others for me: I finally found a copy of Cycle of the Werewolf, on a trip some of us took to a mall.  I'd been unable to find it ANYWHERE in Tuscaloosa, and I guess I didn't know yet that bookstores could do such a thing as special orders.  I was dedicated to finding a copy for myself, though; every time I went to a bookstore in Tuscaloosa, I looked to see if they had a copy.  So plop me down in a mall in Arizona, and I had one objective; an objective which, by God and sonny Jesus, was achieved!

So that's what I think of when I think of Cycle of the Werewolf: being a little bit traumatized by it, but in a useful way; and in a way that kept the book at the forefront of my mind even when you sent me most of the way across the country, on a trip that was my first airplane flight as well as my first (and only) trip to Arizona.  Yeah, yeah; seeing a new state and a colossal football game is cool and all, but does this joint have a copy of Cycle of the Werewolf?

That's how my mind works.  And, as it turns out, yes; they sure did.  They sold it to me, and I've had it ever since.


Thinner (September 1985, Signet)





I don't have much to say about this one.  Great cover; basically identical to the hardback, though, apart from the authorship attribution.  All I can remember about my first reading is that it happened on that Fiesta Bowl trip, and that it didn't much impress me.
 
I've grown to appreciate it more over the years, though; it's quite a good novel, actually.


Skeleton Crew (June 1986, Signet) 





Given how much I love this collection, I have a disappointingly tiny set of memories regarding first reading it.  I can't really remember much of anything except for a general sense of excitement over "The Mist."

The cover is great, but essentially identical to the hardback.


Different Seasons (Signet, 19th printing, circa August 1986)





This was the edition of Different Seasons I had a copy of.  Boy, do I love that cover, which means that I love the poster art for Stand By Me.  It makes for a beaut of a book cover, too.

The dingus who sold me this through Amazon felt the need to include a bookmark advertising their anti-Common Core Facebook page.  It contains seven bulletpointed talking points about how Common Core is a thing we should "choose to refuse."  And hey, maybe it is; I don't really know.

What I do know is that I don't buy used books for the opportunity to be given a free political message.  This is not an advocacy opportunity; your job is to send me the book I bought from you, and that is all.  Negative feedback delivered, sir (or madam, as the case may be).

Sure am glad to have a copy of this book again, though!
 
Here, again, I'm going to quote myself from a recent post (ranking King's novellas):
 
The first time I read Different Seasons was during my junior year of high school.  I did a great deal of the reading in the school's parking lot, and I'll be goddamned if I can remember why that is.  I didn't have a car; pretty much the only reason I'd have for being in the parking lot was if my friend Dan was giving me a ride someplace.  But since I played football during my junior year, I had practice and/or workouts during the last period of school, so I wouldn't have been catching a ride home from Dan until senior year, after I'd quit the team.
  
So what gives?
  
All I know is, I have very strong memories of reading both this novella and "The Body" in the parking lot behind the school.  I was a very fast reader in those days, so this may well have been within a day or two of each other; less, if for some reason I was able to devote most of the day to reading, but I can't think of a scenario in which that would have happened.
  
It's a mystery, and one which you give zero fucks about, I am sure.  Why would you?
  
Regardless of self-indulgent non-reminiscences by yours truly, this novella -- which, you will note, has no "the" in its title (despite how you sometimes see amateurs list it) -- is obviously a big deal within King's body of work.  It didn't seem so until the movie adaptation came out, though.  Prior to that, it was likely seen as a bit of an aberration, a short piece of work designed to deliver a twist ending.  It did that very capably, of course, and -- apologies for dipping back into where this began, but it can't be helped -- I can remember letting the book go a little limp in my hands at the moment when King allows the shoe to drop; I looked around me at the cars, the trees, the street, the football field, and I just sort of took stock of my surroundings.
  
Why?
  
More to the point, why do I remember this some twenty-seven years later?  My memory is kinda shite, so it ain't that I've got a steel cage for a brain.  So, again: why?
  
I'm speculating here, but maybe it's because the novella is so powerfully focused on the notion of not taking one's freedom for granted that when it became apparent to me that Andy was, against all odds, actually going to be able to steal his back, it jolted me.  A bit of a mental stimulus, an electrical current passing from one lobe to the next, a whispered command for me to look up from the page and try to see my surroundings as though, for just that one moment, I were Andy Dufresne (which, to some extant, I likely fancied myself to be, in the way all teenagers see themselves as trapped and persecuted).
  
I don't know for sure.  All I know is that the feeling is still with me.  The circumstances surrounding it puzzle me, but nothing puzzles me about the reaction itself: it was a well-earned response to a wonderful story.  A lot of people were surprised by how well the movie turned out.
  
Not me.  I kind of expected it, and I think that expectation can be traced back directly to that day in the parking lot at good old Central East.
  
And, a bit later, I said this:
  
Stand By Me was the first significant exposure I had to Stephen King; this was probably true for a lot of people who are roughly my age.  For that reason, I love the cover to the movie-tie-in paperback edition I've included above; but that was also the copy of Different Seasons that I first owned, so it has that undeniable whiff of specific and personal nostalgia that the cover to the hardback does not hold for me.  
  
Variant designs of book-cover art likely work that way on most everybody, and I suspect that that is an unsung factor in hardcore fandoms for people like me.
  
I mention this so as to also mention an error I made at some point in the distant past: when I began collecting King hardbacks via the Stephen King Library, I then got rid of the original copies I'd owned, the ones I'd cut my King-fandom teeth on.  What a dolt!  God damn it, I'd love to still have those ratty old used paperbacks!  One of these days, I'm going to make it a point to begin reacquiring copies of those editions, all of which I remember quite vividly.  This version of Different Seasons may be the first on that list.
  
In case you're wondering: it was indeed.  But the copy I received was damaged (it had stickers on both front and back cover that tore off chunks when I removed them), so it got sent back.  The second copy I got was in much better condition, but I was nervous waiting for it like it was something important.  What a dingus!


'salem's Lot (Signet, 49th printing, circa September 1986)






I have a soft spot for that cover image, but if I'm being honest, it's nothing special, is it?

It's special to me, though; so in that sense, I guess it's worthwhile.

I'm not sure when this specific edition was printed, by the way.  My guess is around the time It made its hardback debut, which is why I'm listing it as "circa 1986."


The Bachman Books (November 1986, Signet)





I love that cover to pieces, man.  And in all honesty, I love this book to pieces, too.  This is one of the books I discovered not via The Book Rack but via the Central High library.

As I recall, Rage worked on me pretty well.  I was just enough of an outsider that Charlie's plight seemed like a thing I could understand.  I thought it was pretty horrifying, though, which seems like an appropriate reaction.  Ditto for The Long Walk, which really stuck with me.

Roadwork did not.  I couldn't make heads or tails of that one, which makes sense; a junior in high school who understands the intricacies of Roadwork is a kid who's had a rough life.

I had already read The Running Man; and I'll have more to say about that a few books down this list.  What I'll say about it here is that rereading it armed with a budding familiarity with King's entire body of work was almost certainly one of the factors that helped me understand that a person's understanding of a novel could change over time.  Initially, I'd taken it to be mere fodder for a sci-fi/action movie, and had enjoyed it (albeit bemusedly) on those terms.  But as I learned more about King and understood the ways in which the novel fit within his work, I came to understand that it was actually a different sort of thing than what I'd initially believed it to be.

That's a good lesson to learn about books; we don't always grasp them immediately.  For me, that's part of the nostalgic allure The Bachman Books holds.

But it's also that cover.


Stephen King: The Art of Darkness by Douglas E. Winter (December 1986, Signet) 





This title is a bit of a cheat; I didn't rebuy that paperback pictured above, because I never got rid of it.  Yessir, that's the very copy I've owned for going on thirty years.  Frankly, I just wanted to talk about Winter's book for a minute, because I've got just as much nostalgia for it as for most of the King books we've talking about.

I can't remember exactly when I bought it.  No surprise there; I can't remember that with most of the King books in this post, either.  I feel like it was probably sometime in 1991.  And, by the way, it was NOT from The Book Rack.  Tuscaloosa had several used bookstores in addition to that one; I can't remember any of their names, but would visit them every once in a while to see what goodies they might have.  Obviously one such trip turned up this title, which I fell in immediate love with.  "Holy gee!" I might have lamely professed, "a book about Stephen King?!?" 
 
It was via this book -- which covers King's work from Carrie through Thinner -- that I first heard of legendary unpublished King titles like Sword in the Darkness, Blaze, The Cannibals, and so forth.  A section detailing all of King's short fiction included references to seemingly unobtainable tales like "Before the Play," "The Crate," and "Weeds."  What tantalizing nuggets of information!

All of that was cool, but I'm oddly proud to say that it was the literary analysis that stuck with me; and I'm convinced that I have Douglas E. Winter to thank for the fact that that later became a pursuit in which I had interest.  Various high-school English teachers tried, and mostly failed, to instill that same interest in me; a creased paperback by Douglas E. Winter succeeded where they could not by simply talking about something I cared about.  It's that honey-versus-vinegar dichotomy; the honey wins every time, baby.

Books have been very important to my life.  And I want to be very clear about something at this point: I consider myself to be a fairly unintelligent person.  This, by the way, is NOT your cue to jump to my defense (or pile on, for that matter!) and insist that I'm very intelligent indeed.  NO.  I'm really not.  I never have been; there's a sort of vacancy to my thoughts that has almost certainly held me back from becoming genuinely successful in any way.  This is okay.  Not everyone can be intelligent!  IT'S FINE!  The trick is to know your limitations, and work within them even while you push yourself to exceed your talents.  My thoughts lean toward vacancy, but I can -- and sometimes do -- push beyond that.

It's that last bit that's of interest to me.  I firmly believe that whatever intellectual ability I possess came directly from my love of reading.  Reading taught me to think, and thinking taught me to use the intellect I have to ... well, maybe not to its fullest ability, but to the fullest ability I can manage on an average day.  The first novel I can think of that was a significant step forward for me in this regard was Frank Herbert's DuneDune, in a real sense, helped me to be a better thinker.

And as much as I believe that, I believe that The Art of Darkness taught me to think about thinking.  That's an evolution, and a significant one, and it should not be undervalued.  From Winter, I learned that a novel is more than just a story; entertainment is more than passing the time in a pleasurable manner.  These are methods of cultural transmission; these are building blocks.  These are the place where the past and the present and the future are somehow one and the same.

I'm no genius, but I'm no dolt, either; and it is my belief that Douglas E. Winter deserves some of the credit for that.

One of these days, he'll get it in the form of a proper series of posts about The Art of Darkness, but for today, this little ode will have to do.

By the way, I decided that this spate of acquisitions would be a good excuse to do something that I'd never done: get a copy of the original 1984 hardback from New American Library.

And so I did:





The paperback pictured above, you may have noticed, was "EXPANDED AND UPDATED" from this original '84 hardback.  The main expansion seems to have been to include an appendix covering the individual Bachman books (that pseudonym having been made public after the publication of Winter's book).  So really, if you're going to own an edition, it's the '86 paperback you want.

But I myself am a sucker for this sort of stuff, and I dig having the original version to put on my shelf.  Whenever I do that series of posts on Winter's King writing, I'll likely do an extensive comparison to see what other differences might exist.

Won't be today, and it won't be tomorrow, and it probably won't be next year.  But someday; someday.

Both hardback and paperback contain an eight-page midsection of black-and-white photos.  Check 'em out, courtesy of my scanner and this hardback I just got, which is bendable enough to capture 'em:



One of the all-time essential photos of King.

I can't quite tell -- is he pretending to choke Tabby in the top photo?  Boy, there's some shit that wouldn't fly in 2017.

Owen is really going for it here, bless his heart.  That kid wrote Double Feature years later!

How great is that photo of King and Romero?

I feel pretty certain I saw these photos before I ever saw Creepshow, and I base that on a vague feeling that the photos made me expect for this segment to be scarier than it actually is.

Great photo!



By the way, the 1986 update first appeared in a trade paperback edition from Plume, in June.  On account of feeling a need to have a copy of that edition, too, I tracked one down.





This will be an excellent copy to take notes in when and if the need to do so arises.


It (September 1987, Signet)


I kinda dig the fact that this copy appears to have been read a dozen times.



Pretty much the same as the hardback art, but man, I've got to tell you: there's just something about the paperback that I love.  Some combination of the art, the font, the thinness of the paper, the specific weight of the book in my hand; this is THE edition of It for me.

It was this edition that I remember reading at some point in the early fall of 1990, sitting outside on the curb in front of our house, waiting for my Grandfather to arrive.  He was coming to visit so he could watch one of my football games; this must have been a Thursday, since it was after school and I wasn't already at the game.

It was also this edition that I remember reading -- again, sitting outside our house on the curb -- when I suddenly realized there was a kitten sitting on the other side of the road, looking at me.  I'd read a bit, and then look up, and the kitten would have gotten closer.  A page or two, look up: closer the cat had crept.  Eventually, she ended up sitting in my lap, and even more eventually, we named her Phoenix and had her in our family for the next twenty-plus years.

These things may have even happened the same weekend.  Was it my first read of the novel or a reread?  Neither would surprise me.  But I know I had the book with me when my football team traveled to Natchez, Mississippi for a road game that required an overnight hotel stay.  (How exotic this seemed!) 
 
I think of my football-playing days a lot when I think of this novel.  This leads me to suspect that I probably read it over the course of the first few weeks of the season, possibly more than once.  I can remember having it with me on the team bus and in the locker room (both at our fieldhouse and on the road).  I bet I'd have taken the fucker with me onto the sidelines if I thought I could get away with it.  If you're assuming that reading Stephen King quickly became more important to me than playing football, then you've made the correct assumption.

And if you accused me in court of using this spate of acquisitions to also purchase a few unlocked memories, I'd plead guilty and serve my time.  Lots of time for reading paperbacks in the clink, ain't there...?


The Running Man (Signet, 3rd/6th printings, 1987)



3rd printing



This is one of the biggies in this post for me.  As I've mentioned elsewhere, The Running Man was my first King novel; I got it from my Dad, who bought it for me on account of the fact that Mom wouldn't let me go see the movie.

It was this paperback that my Dad brought home, and I loved it.  By the time I reached the end, I knew it must be very different from the movie; Arnold's character (Ben Richards) dies in the end of the novel, and I figured there was no way on Earth that happened in the movie.  I asked my Dad, who'd seen it, and he verified that sure enough, Arnie beat all the bad guys and lived to quip another day.

Don't underestimate the impact this had on me.  I was fascinated by the idea that the book and the movie were that different.  Up until The Running Man, I don't believe I'd ever encountered that concept outside of the world of James Bond.  It never fazed me with 007, perhaps because I sensed that most of the changes from Fleming had been made to make the movie more exciting.  In essence, though, they were the same thing: Bond fights some bad guys, has some fun with his new girlfriend(s), and does some traveling.

I knew The Running Man must be a different thing altogether, though.  Why would Ben Richards be so different from book to movie?  Why would he suffer such a depressing fate in one but not in the other?

I possessed no means of finding out, but I read the book several times, trying to figure it out for myself; and then, when I finally got to see the movie (in edited-for-television format, most likely), I was even more fascinated by just HOW different it really was.

An interesting thing happened then: I accepted the book and movie as equally valid, but inherently different.  I still feel that way to this day, too; I love that silly-ass movie.

And I love that silly-ass movie-tie-in edition book cover.  Apparently I didn't at some point in the past, though, because I got rid of my copy.  Why would you do such a damn-fool thing, Past Bryant?!?  Why?!?

I've been feeling this nostalgia-for-old-paperbacks thing for a while now, and -- this won't surprise you -- it was this edition of The Running Man that called to me the loudest.  I'd actually attempted to get a replacement copy of it a year or two ago, but when the book came in, it was this:


6th printing




"What the fuck is this shit?!?" I might well have hollered.  Not what I wanted, that's what.  But it's a cool cover; objectively-speaking, it's WAY better than the other one (to the extent such an opinion can be called "objective").

But does it sing to me like that 3rd-printing cover, with Ahunuld looking intense and thoughtful, clad in his jumpsuit and radiating weird red lines off to one side of his body?

Absolutely not.

This seems like an opportune time to mention something: the notion of my King-collecting Holy Grails.  You know what "Holy Grail" means in the terms of collecting, right?  Well, among mine are original paperback editions of the first four Bachman books (Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork, and The Running Man).  The editions that existed before anyone knew Bachman was actually Stephen King.

Copies of those -- especially Rage -- tend to be pricey, so I'm not going to have them anytime soon.  But someday; someday, you better believe it.

One more thing regarding The Running Man.  When I scanned the front cover of that 3rd-printing paperback, I sort of waggled my fingers as the scanner did its thing.  The results creeped me out a little bit, so here is the uncropped scan:




That's a freaky-deaky-lookin' hand, ain't it?

Cool.
 
 
The Eyes of the Dragon (January 1988, Signet)
 
 

  
 
I like those raised faux-dragon-scale thingies on the front cover.  I also like the way the final word of the title is positioned around the image.  Overall, it's similar to the hardback's cover, but different enough that -- as with Cujo and a couple of the others -- it does stand somewhat on its own.
 
And the fact of the matter is: it's this cover that I prefer.
 
This is another King novel I read for the first time while on the Fiesta Bowl trip to Arizona.  I enjoyed it quite a bit -- the book, I mean, not the trip (although, yes, also the trip, also quite a bit) -- and put it to what I thought to be good use.  I mentioned earlier that this was a sort of work trip for my mother, and one night, she and all her work cronies had -- "had" (like it was a chore or something) -- to attend a big dinner banquet.  I got tasked with babysitting my brother and the kids of one of Mom's bosses.  We had fun, played games and whatnot.  Then, when bedtime came, a goodnight story was requested of me.
 
Now, look, y'all: I had never done any babysitting.  This, frankly, was outside my skill set (which consisted largely of reading and/or watching Star Trek and arguably playing offensive line, and not much else).  But I figured it was part of the job, so I decided to tell the kids the plot of The Eyes of the Dragon -- which I may well have read in a single sitting that very day -- for bedtime.
 
They didn't sleep so well, as it turned out.  In a sign of how cool their mother was, she thought it was hilarious when they told her about the "scary" story I'd told them.  She asked me to tell it to her, so I did, and she said it didn't sound very scary, and actually sounded like something she might want to read.
 
Pretty cool lady.


Carrie (Signet, 53rd/57th printing, circa spring 1988)





This memorable and suggestive cover was the edition of Carrie I got from The Book Rack in 1990.  For that reason, it's one of the top two or three images of Carrie that appear in my brain when I think of that story.

When I began working on this project -- buying up the old paperback editions I once owned -- I did so by making a list of all the King books that were in existence at the time of my discovery of his work.  Relatively speaking, it wasn't that many; but still, we're talking 25 or so titles, depending on what you count.

For all of those, I had easy-to-access mental images of the covers I was looking for; all I had to do was get on Amazon or eBay and track down good copies.  Along the way, I had only a bit of difficulty.
  
For example: a few sellers on Amazon are REALLY bad about putting identification-barcode stickers on the front cover, back cover, and/or spine of their books, and in many cases, if you attempt to remove them, the covers get torn.  Those sellers win  negative feedback, plus the opportunity to refund me my money.  So in a few cases, I had to return my original purchases and then try again.  (I think I already mentioned this, didn't I?  Sorry, I've been writing these out of order, as the books arrive in the mail.)

The solution for that ended up being eBay, where the sellers charge more, but also do a better job picturing/describing their products.  This is crucial, because on Amazon, sellers kind of suck at actually matching the book they are selling with the photo on the item page.  This is only partially their fault, because, as we've discussed, figuring out how to list different printings of paperbacks can be challenging.

This was eventually to my benefit, but we haven't reached that portion of the story yet.

Instead, we've reached the portion of the story where I tell you how it was much more challenging than I ever expected to find a copy of this edition of the Carrie paperback.

The notion of it being difficult never even crossed my mind, to be honest.  Why would it be difficult?  I'd found my copy in a used bookstore, and it must have sold thousands of copies, so how tough could it be to find one?

This particular edition was a tie-in version for the short-lived Broadway musical, which came and went in the spring of 1988, and evidence indicates that there might not have been a huge number of copies printed (likely thanks to the musical getting closed after only a handful of performances).  You can find dozens of editions of Carrie pictured on Amazon; this ain't one of 'em.  Goodreads shows it, but they're of no help to you in finding one.  Literally nobody on eBay is selling one as I write this, unless they've listed it as, like, a crock pot or a baseball card or something similarly incorrect and unhelpful.

As I continued to scour the Internet, I had virtually no luck at all.  Not only could I not find a copy to buy, I could find only occasional proof of this tie-in edition ever having existed at all.

I began to get very antsy about this.  Because here's the thing: that cover had always stuck in my mind, and it was one of the two or three editions I most wanted to re-obtain.  So if that one was going to prove to be impossible to find, this whole project was going to be a failure in my heart.  Lame?  Sure.  True?  Absolutely.

Finally, success: a prominent online bookshop dealing in Stephen King books had one listed, for $25.  $25!!!  But hey, given how obscure this edition apparently is, it seemed worth it to me.  I don't know that I'd currently be willing to pay a penny more than that; but I've mostly been a good boy this year when it comes to squandering money, so I thought hey, I can do $25 for this.

A few days later I got an email saying that the order had been canceled because the book was no longer in stock.  An inventory mishap due to moving physical locations, or something like that.  Mother FUCK!

At this point, I became obsessed with finding a copy.

Unfortunately, I had kind of run out of places to look.  I scoured AbeBooks; nothing.  Half.com; nothing.  I dipped my toes into Craigslist; nothing.  I'm sure there are still other venues to consult, but I was out of ideas.

Then, an idea emerged.

I'd gotten a copy of The Eyes of the Dragon in the mail, and it was the wrong cover.  I checked the original listing, and found that I'd failed to properly read it: the seller HAD listed it in the wrong place, but had said in the description that the cover was different than the one pictured.
    
From this, an idea emerged: what if somebody on Amazon HAD the book, but was simply listing it in the wrong place?  Some sellers are aware of this, and either include photos or write out descriptions of the actual covers.  If any of them had done so, it might actually be possible to find; it would mean combing through hundreds of listings for Carrie, and was a shot in the dark, but hey ... nothing else was working.

And that's the story of how I ended up with two different copies, neither of which cost me more than about six bucks.  One of them was described as being a tie-in edition for the musical, so I bought it as fast as possible.  Two more were listed as being 1988 editions, and so as to increase my odds of success, I bought both.  One of them turned out to be a different edition (but one I did not have, so an acceptable acquisition); the other was another winner.
 
I'll say this: having managed to outwit the grim hand of obscurity, I'm super-duper thrilled to have this edition of Carrie once again.  Say what you want about the musical itself; that artwork is a minor minimalist masterpiece; it would have broken my heart a little bit not to have been able to re-obtain this cover.
  
Happily, that's not how it turned out.

Oh, by the way: one of the copies is listed as being from the 53rd printing; the other is a 57th printing copy.  So I can't help but wonder what that means in terms of the 54th-56th printings.  Were they all musical-tie-in editions, too?  If so, that's a minimum of five printings that were tied in with promoting the musical.  That sounds like a lot of copies going into the marketplace, so why should it be so difficult to find one circa 2017?

It's likely to remain a mystery to me.  But if you have any info on the subject, please leave it in the comments, and I'll say thankya.


Misery (June 1988, Signet)





Also known as the paperback with THE all-time champion stepback:




And if I gotta explain WHY that's the all-time best, then I personally revoke your Constant Reader membership card.

Man, if I was King, I'd have posters of that in every room of my house.

Anyways, this brings up a couple of other things I wanted to mention.  First, inside my copy is evidence of a great used bookstore:




I've never been to Carole's Book Stop, and have no idea if it even exists in 2017, but I know for a fact that at one point they were a fine store, because whoever handled this book for them -- Carole herself, perhaps -- had the good sense not to stamp the store's info (or write the price) on the stepback.  Defacing that stepback would tantamount to vandalism, and Carole knew better; this is proof she must love books, and therefore The Truth Inside The Lie salutes her.

If you're in Hot Springs, look 'em up and tell I said hello.

Also, this puts me in mind of the fact that one of my favorite things about paperbacks is reading blurbs from reviews of the hardback.




If I were an author, I'd insist on every page of blurbs having at least one dreadful review in it.  I think I stole this idea from a Naked Gun poster or something like that, but it's a funny idea, and always will be.


The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (September 1988, trade paperback, Plume)






Like The Stand, I never turned loose of this trade paperback, obtained -- as you can see -- from The Book Rack for the very dear price of $5.50.  I got this and the trade of The Drawing of the Three in the same visit.
 
I already owned, and had read (and loved), the mass-market editions of both novels.  But on one of my frequent visits to The Book Rack, I saw the trade editions, and fell head-over-heels in love with them.  In lust, too.  I needed those trade paperbacks; they had ART in them!.  I didn't have enough money for either, nor had I brought anything to trade.  So what I did was walk back across the train tracks to my Mom's office and beg her for ten more bucks.  I'm sure I delivered some variation of the "Mom, if I don't have these books today -- these specific ones -- I am going to literally die, so unless it's not worth ten bucks to you to keep me breathing, I gotta have it.  What if somebody else gets them before I get back?!?" speech, which I saved for precisely such occasions as this.

I don't remember for sure, but I think that it was around lunchtime, and I think my Mom drove me there and bought them for me in person.  I can't swear that that is true, but I think it is.

All I know is, I got 'em both, and have had 'em ever since, and will never turn 'em loose.


The Tommyknockers (November 1988, Signet) 





In my mind, this paperback's art was identical to the art used in the original 1987 hardback:




But no, those are entirely different apart from the color, aren't they?  Of the two, I vastly prefer the paperback, although I kind of enjoy the association the hardback brings up for me with the mothership opening toward the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Apart from that and the general eeriness of the color, it's a bit of a dud.  Maybe the paperback is only marginally better; I dunno, but I do like it.

Inside the front cover of the copy I got, I found this:




I can't read the two names, but I can read the "Always 'n' Forever!" sentiment, and given that this book is now in my possession, it seems that maybe neither always nor forever ended up being the case.  That bums me out a little, but I can't help being cheered right back up by how appropriate this is to The Tommyknockers, which is a novel about failed romance as much as it is anything else.

It also reminds me a bad short story I wrote in college about a guy who visits used bookstores looking for old paperbacks written by his father.  When he finds copies that have addresses inside, he writes letters to the former owners, inquiring as to the circumstances behind their divesting themselves of the book.

I kind of like that idea; but the resultant story was poodoo, as the Gungans say.
  
 
The Drawing of the Three (March 1989, trade paperback, Plume)



Yeah, fuck YOU, James McWhatever!  This book is MINE now!



In 1989, everything King wrote was still considered horror by default, as the Kirkus blurb makes plain.  I don't know that anybody today classifies The Drawing of the Three in that category.  But it's fair to do so, I think, if only for the lobstrosities and some of the Jack Mort stuff.

Or maybe that's me seeing the book through the eyes of fifteen-year-old me, who was undoubtedly swayed by that very blurb from Kirkus.

You will note, by the way, that the front cover merely refers to this novel as The Drawing of the Three.  I am generally a stickler for referring to it formally as The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three, and indeed that title can be seen on the inside front cover; but since the front cover lists only the subtitle, that's how I'm listing it here.  Is that weird?  Sorry if that's weird.


The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (July 1989, Signet)





I might primarily think of the trade paperback edition of The Gunslinger when that novel comes to my mind, but let's not overlook the fact that I love the cover for the original mass-market paperback, too.  This was the edition that introduced me to the Dark Tower, and that cover art -- which might or might not be by Michael Whelan (no other artist is mentioned, although it's not unusual for paperbacks not to credit the cover artists) -- sings to me.  It remains one of my favorite depictions of the Tower.

So, yeah, I had to get a copy of this again.  Why I ever gave it up to begin with is beyond me.

The copy I ended up with has some chunks missing out of the cover on front and back; I may need to replace it with a better copy eventually.


The Drawing of the Three (January 1990, Signet) 





Given the similarity between this and the trade paperback, there really wasn't much need for me to rebuy this edition.  But hey, obsessiveness.


It (Signet, 20th printing, circa fall 1990) 
  
  

   
  
Obviously,this is a tie-in edition promoting the ABC miniseries that aired on Sunday and Tuesday, November 18 and 20, 1990.  That being the case, let's assume this edition came out during the late summer or early fall of '90; since its intent was to promote the miniseries, and since a television event in those days was geared entirely to same-night viewing, I think it's likely that this edition beat the paperback of The Dark Half (which we'll be discussing next) onto shelves.  If not, they were likely simultaneous (or nearly so) releases.
  
I had a copy of this tie-in edition, and here's what was cool about that: it was a brand-new copy.  I didn't get it from The Book Rack, but from Bookland, the mall store.  It was either this or the paperback of The Dark Half that marked my entry into new-book King collecting.  It's entirely possible I bought them on the same visit; by this point, I was working occasional Saturdays as a cable-runner for whatever broadcast network was televising the home games at Bryant-Denny Stadium, which means that I was occasionally flush with a bit of cash, and could therefore afford a hypothetical splurge like the $12 or so those two books would have cost me.
  
So yeah, I'm guilty: this was not my first edition of It.  But it was from that same era, and I've got the same sort of nostalgia for it.
  
It wasn't all that easy to find a copy in 2017.  It wasn't as difficult as finding the musical-tie-in edition of Carrie, but it wasn't far removed.  I ended up snagging two copies of this one, as well; not because I necessarily wanted to, but because I could only find a copy via eBay, and the seller was selling two copies as a lot.  It was a little more pricey than I wanted to spend, but both copies are in decent condition, and hey, when it comes to my King collection, the more the merrier.
  
In any case, I think it's a great cover.  It takes full advantage of Tim Curry's instantly-iconic look, and the juxtaposition of his ghostly-white face with the pitch-black background is perfect.  Even if I'd never owned this edition, I'd want a copy, and would probably have sprung for it.
  
But you probably could have guessed that by now, couldn't you?

By the way, while putting this post together, I stared at the scan of this book's front cover for a bit, trying to figure out if it was an illustration or a photo.  As I stared, I became a little hypnotized by Pennywise's eyes, and began to feel as if the frown on his face was turning into a smile.  I shook my head, blinked a few times, and then repeated the process...

...getting the same results.  And this time, I could have sworn he lifted an eyebrow at me, too.

I'm not trying a third time.  If you want to, go ahead, and let me know how 


The Dark Half (October 1990, Signet)






You'll notice that this is another from-The-Book-Rack reacquisition, from that same visit I made two or three years ago.  (I also got from them a copy of the stepback edition of Misery, which served to satisfy me for a while; but they stamped a price on the stepback page, and I had to get a fresh copy without markings like that, so that's the one I talked about earlier.)
  
I didn't get my original copy of this paperback from them; as discussed a few paragraphs ago, this and the tv-tie-in edition of It were my first brand-new King purchases.  (Danse Macabre is a possible alternative for that crown, but it feels as if that came later; can't say for sure, but if you had a gun to my head and required a guess, that's how I'd give it to you.)

The thrill of owning a new King book -- one not sullied by creases, tears, musty smells, or yellowed pages -- was palpable.  It was a significant change in my King-reading habits and desires, one only intensified when I got my first King hardback (Four Past Midnight, via the Stephen King Library) later on.

I still love the cover art for this paperback; vastly superior to the hardback, in my opinion.  No artist is credited, which is bullshit.  Those folks do not deserve to be laboring in anonymity.

And with that, we've reached the end of the nostalgia-service portion of this post. 
  
After acquiring this paperback (in 1990, I mean), I began buying King's novels brand-new in hardback.  That began, as I just hinted, with Four Past Midnight, which, if I'm not mistaken, I got sometime in early 1991 as the then-introductory book to the Stephen King Library.  I've still got those hardbacks, so there is no equivalent why'd-I-discard-THOSE-for-the-love-of-Steve fretting to undo.

That's not to say I have no nostalgia for those books; I surely do.  But it's separate in my mind from the nostalgia centered on the paperback years.

And this edition of The Dark Half is where those years -- which were actually just a few months -- began to draw to a close.  We're talking about roughly May of 1990 (or maybe June) through sometime in spring of 1991.  Not even a year between finding that copy of The Stand and kicking off my status as a Constant Reader by getting Four Past Midnight in hardback.
 
That's kind of like Bryant As King Fan: Year One.
 
It's the lamest year, but it's also -- by FAR -- the coolest year, and it's certainly the year I think of more than any other.  I sometimes wonder: if I'd gotten into King a year later, or two years later, or ten years later, would I have ended up as big a fan as I am now?  If I'd picked up something other than The Stand that day in The Book Rack, would I have become the kind of guy who would be blogging about that author nearly thirty years later?
 
Was it all about King and the book(s), or was it all about me?  Was it both?  Neither?  Was this always a thing waiting to happen, or was it a cosmic intersection of precisely the right attitude in me with precisely the right book in precisely the right shop on precisely the right day in precisely the right year?
 
One wonders about these things sometimes.
 
What if The Book Rack hadn't had a copy of The Stand that day?  I suppose I might have not bought it, in which case I suppose I might never have ended up a King fan.  Or maybe -- and this seems like a possibility -- I'd have simply pushed it back four years.  I feel almost certain that I would have watched the miniseries when it aired, and I might even have remembered Dad having mentioned the novel to me.  I think I almost certainly would have enjoyed the miniseries, and I think I probaby would have read the novel after.
 
Would it have had the same impact?  Might the impact have been even greater, somehow?
 
There is no way to ever know.  All I know is what did happen, and I don't know it as well as I wish I did.  Rebuying all these books was a way to try and freeze some of those moments in carbonite, to capture them in amber so that I can study them a bit, and try to remember them a bit more fully.  Was it successful?
 
Yeah, kind of.  Certainly more successful than NOT doing it would have been.
 
I've created a new shelf for all these books.  They are in a different room, away from my other King books.  Because in a way, they really are their own separate collection.  They mean something ... different.  Maybe something more, even.
 
I'm pretty happy to have it.
 
*****
 
The next part of this post will focus on editions of books that I got not so much because I was in mid-life-crisis mode, but because I just thought they seemed like editions I should own.
 
I might even have allowed that to expand into non-King books.
 
We'll find out when I finish it!

35 comments:

  1. Hello! Thank you for this fantastic post! I love all of the personal stories. Great stuff. My first King novel was that 1987 Signet It mass market. I was obsessed with monsters and horror movies and the goosebumps novels when I was a kid and, knowing this, a friend of mine, when I was in the 6th grade, lent me his copy of It saying it was the scariest book he'd ever read. I devoured it! I think it was the first adult novel i'd ever read (either that or Jurassic Park, which I'd read the same year as the movie was coming to theaters later that year and I was really excited about). Like your copy of the Stand, that very same battered copy of It has a prominent placement on my bookshelf (I never did give it back. What? He never asked!)
    The first King book I ever read, though, was a little earlier, and that was the Creepshow comic, which was, bafflingly, in my elementary school library. I wonder if they assumed that since it was a comic it was for kids. Anyways, I loved that book so much and it would be years before I actually saw that movie.
    Your writing of the Art of Darkness makes me wonder what your opinion is on a book I recently picked up. I bought it blindly knowing nothing about it other than the topic was one that I was very much interested in. The book is called Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction Of Stephen King edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller. It also has a very long foreword by King himself and an introduction by Peter Straub. I only picked it up a couple of days ago and haven't really cracked it open yet but I don't think I've seen you write about it (apologies if I missed it somewhere) and wondered if you've read it and what you think.
    Well sorry for the long comment! Love the blog, keep up the great work!

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    1. "My first King novel was that 1987 Signet It mass market." "I think it was the first adult novel i'd ever read" -- Wow! That's a heck of a novel to begin with. But I'm sure it leveled you up as a reader massively; how could it not? Very cool.

      "I never did give it back. What? He never asked!" -- Slightly unethical, but I approve. It's on the loaner to ask for a book back, and if they fail to do within a year, then ownership of the loaned book is officially transferred to the current possessor. I believe that's one of the Rules of Acquisition in Ferengi culture, so you're in the clear, at least on Ferenginar.

      "The first King book I ever read, though, was a little earlier, and that was the Creepshow comic" -- Dang, I just love hearing about this sort of thing! As somebody with an irregular path to King, it just warms my heart to no end. Every King book that comes out is bound to have turned X-number of people in Constant Readers. How cool is that?

      " which was, bafflingly, in my elementary school library. I wonder if they assumed that since it was a comic it was for kids." -- Boy, now THERE is a disgruntled parent waiting to happen...! You're almost certainly right about how it ended up there, although with that cover, I wonder how anybody could have made that mistake. It worked in your favor, though!

      "Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction Of Stephen King edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller" -- Ah, yes, I know it well. The foreword by King, On Becoming a Brand Name, is actually a piece from the February 1980 issue of Adelina. It later appeared in Secret Windows, as well. It's essential reading for any King fan, as far as I'm concerned. My memory of the rest of the book is that it's not quite up to that level, but very good.

      I actually considered including some brief discussion of it in part two of this post (which will contain the two Underwood/Miller interview collections), and might yet do so.

      No need to apologize for the long comment! That's how we like 'em around here.

      Delete
  2. Mr. Burnette:
    Have you been reading my mind? I've been going through this exact same thing lately, although quite not as hardcore as you, I believe. There is something special about having a copy of a book that you remember fondly, even if you have a newer version. It's a tactile part of your history and who you were. Time travel of a sort, I guess. I see a copy of a book I had, or at least read, and I'm back to being that younger person for a short while. But smarter I hope.
    There's not much better than a good book, they're like old friends.

    Let me tell you about the first time I read The Shining. It wasn't all that long ago really, I'm embarrassed to say.
    I was living in a six-unit apartment building, an old rural elementary school on top of a hill. It was winter and only two of the apartments were rented. I worked nights, my neighbour worked days. There was a lot of snow that winter I recall - the perfect setting for reading this. It seemed like I was the only one living there as I never saw my neighbour and it was painfully quiet in there, all day and all night. I'd come home after midnight and read for a while. To say I got creeped out at some points is an understatement, but much fun.

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    1. "There is something special about having a copy of a book that you remember fondly, even if you have a newer version. It's a tactile part of your history and who you were. Time travel of a sort, I guess." -- Couldn't have said it better myself. (And didn't!) Time travel, indeed.

      That's a great story about reading "The Shining." Thanks for sharing it! I hope I get a lot of comments with stories like that, because I'm sure we all have memories like that.

      And no, I haven't been reading your mind. OR HAVE I?!?!?!? (creepy music plays in background)

      Delete
    2. It was fun to read The Shining in that setting. I read 'Salem's Lot around then too. I didn't sit too close to the window at night, lest I have a floating visitor.

      A quick question not related to this post, if I may. How do you divide your time between reading new material and rereading King stuff? I think that may be a rabbit-hole that you could easily go down and never come back up.

      Delete
    3. It's a worry I have, for sure.

      To be honest, I'm currently struggling to make much time for reading at all (or even for viewing tv shows and movies), so it's kind of a moot point. But in theory, what I'd like to do is operate on a rule-of-three basis: reread one, then read two for the first time. That might eventually have to reverse if I'm ever going to make any progress on some of my blogging goals, though.

      I assume no floating visitors ever showed up. I like to creep myself out by thinking about that kind of stuff. My job often involves me being inside a large building late at night all by myself; the lobby has glass doors, and as I was getting ready to leave the other night, I imagined what it would be like if, when I turned the corner and walked into the lobby, Pennywise was standing at one of the doors, waiting for me to let him in.

      I got a good shiver out of that one.

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    4. So I have to ask: if Pennywise was at the door, what was your plan? Run screaming? Ask for an autograph?

      I used to work nights alone in a big building with several rooms and some large empty spaces. I can relate.

      Delete
    5. My plan: float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, emphasis on the floating. Either that, or crapping my pants.

      Delete
  3. Random thoughts on this excellent post:

    This was a delight to read.

    Operation: Mindcrime rules and is one of the best concept albums of all time.

    I'm also a large man who played football despite my lack of enthusiasm for the sport, and opted out of my senior season.

    The original paperback cover for The Stand is fantastic and for me is just ever so slightly edged out by the hardcover artwork, which I adore. I agree re: the Salem's Lot cover, I have that version as well and it's fairly bland.

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    1. Another Operation: Mindcrime fan. YES!

      "I'm also a large man who played football despite my lack of enthusiasm for the sport, and opted out of my senior season." -- How funny is that? I had fun with some aspects of playing football, but I never took it seriously enough. My attitude about it then was that the coaches took it TOO seriously. Both ways of looking at it seem equally valid. I never got big enough to contend as a college player, so it seemed pointless to invest much effort in it.

      Regarding the cover to "The Stand," it makes sense to me. I almost included in this post the story of how, on a family trip to Gulf Shores, I found pristine hardbacks of that, The Shining, and 'salem's Lot in a local bookstore for cover price. Pretty cool!

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    2. "I had fun with some aspects of playing football, but I never took it seriously enough. My attitude about it then was that the coaches took it TOO seriously. Both ways of looking at it seem equally valid."

      Yes, that sounds very similar to my experience. I didn't loathe the sport, and I had a lot of friends on the team, but the varsity coaches (and I think this is common) seemed to think that there was nothing on earth more important than high school football. Actually having fun and enjoying yourself was a foreign concept, which is a shame. I played other sports in HS and it was a much looser atmosphere.

      The Boot Camp atmosphere can wear thin pretty quickly, especially if, like you said, you know you're not interested in playing at the college level.

      Delete
    3. I might have had that interest if the potential had been there. Hard to say for sure. But I do look back on some of it fondly, so on the whole I guess I'm glad it's a thing I did.

      I can't blame the coaches too much for treating it more like a job than like a hobby. For them, it WAS a job, and it was a sort of de facto apprenticeship for many of the players, too. So I don't fault 'em; it just wasn't my thing.

      Delete
  4. Oh, I forgot to add that my first experience with King, or at least a King book, was reading Night Shift in 3rd grade. It was in my school library! I vividly remember reading Children of the Corn while waiting for my older sister's marching band competition to end.

    How that book ended up in an elementary school library is a baffling mystery, but I was happy to make that discovery. My parents were somewhat strict in what I could watch on television, so I felt like I was getting away with something reading Night Shift at that age.

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    1. That's two elementary-school-library King experiences in these comments! Hmm. This may be more common than I'd have expected.

      My parents, too, were very strict with tv and movies. But they placed zero restrictions on my reading. I guess they'd have balked if I was reading Playboy or something, but otherwise, they never said a word about anything. That seems so odd to me now that I may eventually have to ask one of 'em what up wi' dat.

      "Night Shift" seems like it'd be a solid entrypoint to the wide world of King, by the way. A great collection!

      Delete
  5. That Dark Half cover is exceptional.

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  6. (1) I got that Beahm King Companion for Christmas 1989 but got rid of it somewhere along the way in one of my many moves from Ri to elsewhere. When I re-acquired it (the original, not the new one - also have that one of course) I wrote "Christmas 1989" in the inside cover. I start things off with this anecdote because when I got to "A tiny bit of me" in the above, I high-fived you through the internet. I'm all ABOUT re-acquiring things I had as a kid and putting them on the shelf as doppelgangers/ talismen of a young man adrift in time, staring at me through a wormhole from the past. (I did the same for SPIDER-MAN VS. MR. ZODIAC when I re-acquired that one.) So, fire away, sir! To infinity and beyond.

    (2) I still love that "Shining" cover so much. "Night Shift" too. Hell, that "Stand" one, too. I feel you on all of these!

    (3) Love the Tipper Gore line. I miss having my reading material disapproved of. (I mean, I guess there's still ample opportunity but you know what I mean.)

    (4) Nice on getting a pristine copy of "The Stand!" Ka indeed. I am charmed as hell by your getting a companion for your battered copy. There's something very kind about that. A man who treats his books this way can be trusted with many other things.

    (5) Chapeau, Book Rack.

    (6) "I'm basically now just talking about shit because I feel like it." Blogging achievement level: unlocked. (The secret one, that is - not the "because I feel like it" regular old blogging level.)

    (7) Amen on all points Danse Macabre.

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    1. (8) I have such fond memories of all the King I checked out of the library. Like you, the library faux-hardocver is the one I read and the one I remember. I kind of love these editions and wish they would offer them alongside the traditional soft and hardcovers. Anyway, some years after I read all the King available at the Slatersville RI library they tore out the old shelving and replaced it all with collapsable stacks. End of an era. I had a surreal moment once, revisiting from college, when I went to the library and stepped into the "Ka - Li" aisle before they finished doing their expanding and the alarm went off and the librarian came out and disapproved of me. (There's that matronly disapproval again! Maybe heaven for me would be being a precocious junior high student. I wouldn't be surprised.)

      (9) I love this Pet Semetary reverie. And Cycle of the Werewolf, too. Nothing to add, really, just enjoyed reading it.

      (10) I hate buying something and getting some kind of message, political, religious, or otherwise. Although I do enjoy finding bookmarks, receipts, or other memorabilia tucked away in a used book and forgotten by the seller. Different context, of course, although if there was some contemporaneous anti-whatever scribblings on the back, it'd probably be fun. Unless it was awful.

      (11) "a junior in high school who understands the intricacies of Roadwork is a kid who's had a rough life." Amen. "For me, that's part of the nostalgic allure The Bachman Books holds." Also amen.

      (12) I still have yet to read The Art of Darkness, but it's write-ups like this that make me kick myself. I love the photos - you chose some great ones.

      (13) "I think of my football-playing days a lot when I think of this novel." Nice. For me, this novel is indelibly imprinted on memories of making ashtrays in art class, study halls, and baseball practice.

      (14) ha on The Running Man! Yeah maybe not but glad it worked out. Incidentally, Evelyn is totally into the old "Ghostbusters" video now, except every time she watches it she gets increasingly scared by the brief scary make-up fx (for a 4 yr old). Yet, she's totally fascinated. She aint fraid of no ghost. (Me neither but it took me a long while.)

      (15) Never seen that "Carrie" cover, I don't think. LOL on a house where that Misery stepback (and I'm not sure I ever knew that term before) hangs in every room.

      Great post. It's always good to open a door on the internet and find yourself at home. A feeling I often have here! But tonight most especially.

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    2. Thanks for the many kind words! I do aim to make this a homely place, and that's a lovely way for you to have expressed it, so I've got a nice warm glow currently.

      (1) "I high-fived you through the internet." -- I knew it felt like something cool had happened! I love that you did that with your copy of Beahm's book. I've been toying with the idea of taking a few of these paperbacks by The Book Rack and asking them to stamp the insides, and may yet do it. I wonder what kind of reaction that would get.

      (2) Yes indeed. Curating the images for this post was a delight.

      (3) The sweet sting of disapproval supplies many a wonderful memory, doesn't it?

      (4) You'd think a guy like that would have a clean apartment, but sadly, it's 99% cat hair and dirty dishes. Ah, I'll fix it tomorrow. Maybe.

      (5) I haven't made time for it yet -- I'm so nocturnal right now that it's difficult to find daylight hours! -- but am planning to pay them a visit at some point soon and see if I can maybe do a little interview with the owner. Maybe even see if she has any photos of the old location she could loan to me. If any of that happens, I plan to make it a part of my next post.

      (6) Reacquiring these paperbacks did level me up in a way. The musical-tie-in edition of "Carrie" was like the end-of-level boss!

      (7) It's a flippin' treasure. One of my most ambitious goals for this blog is to do an extensive series of posts in which I read every book and story he discusses in any depth therein; and watch every movie, etc. It'll take a while, but it'll be time very well spent.

      (8) I'm sure it's just coincidence that that aisle began with "Ka."

      (9) Thanks!

      (10) Even then, maybe, in the proper context. But yes, I'm with you; people's old bookmarks always seem like a groovy bonus.

      (13) The deepest memory like that I have is of plowing my way through "Needful Things" in homeroom over the course of a week or so. I rarely had any actual study-hall time, but if I had, boy, that would have been PRIME King-reading time.

      (14) That's so great. Like father, like daughter! If she grows up to love marshmallows and hate the EPA, you'll know what happened.

      (15) If I were ever to interview Tabitha -- which seems unlikely -- I would not be able to avoid asking her about that stepback. I would love to know what her first reaction to seeing it was. I bet she rolled her eyes so hard they said TILT.

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  7. Used book stores have a charm that just can't be replicated. There are still a couple of them in my area, and they're nice enough, but I don't frequent them like I did one that used to be around when I was a kid. It was called "First Edition," and they were best known for the chubby cat that they let wander around the store (he had a separate room where customers couldn't go; this is where his food, water, and litter box were, as well as where he could go if he didn't want to be around people). He was a friendly fellow--it was often well worth making the trip just to pet him for a few minutes. The store even incorporated the cat into their stamp, if I recall correctly.

    The aisles were cozy, just close enough for two people to walk abreast if they didn't mind their shoulders making friends. I got my first King book there--a paperback copy of 'SALEM'S LOT. I was in my early or mid teens at the time, and I was far from being a regular King reader: all that I knew about King was that he was a famous horror, and I was on a bit of a vampire kick at the time, so I figured a vampire book by such a well-reputed scribe must be worth reading. I did enjoy it, though I've misplaced my copy somewhere along the way. There was a move in the intervening years, and the only possibilities that I can think of are that it somehow got mixed in with stuff that got thrown out or mixed in with stuff that's still buried away somewhere. I hold out hope that I'll eventually find it, but it might be a lost cause.

    In keeping with the theme of this post, the cover of that edition is the first one that you'll see if you scroll down this forum: http://stephenking.com/xf/index.php?threads/about-salems-lot.11705/ I distinctly remember that red drop of blood on the otherwise dark cover. Of all of the 'SALEM'S LOT covers I've seen, that one remains my favorite, though I may be biased in a your-first-Doctor-is-always-your-favorite sort of way. First Edition closed many years ago. I still go to used book shops, and I'm a frequent presence at the local libraries' used book sales, but none of them will ever be the same as that store across town.

    I'll end with this. Your TOMMYKNOCKERS entry is notable for the personalized inscription in that one copy. I have a copy of THE GREEN MILE that I bought at a library sale a year or so ago. It's nothing fancy, just a movie tie-in cover with Tom Hanks gazing past the reader. I haven't yet read it, but when I flipped through it, I noticed that there's a handwritten Christmas message on one of the early pages (before even the copyright page) from a granddaughter to a grandfather. This message is dated 1999, and it makes me wonder exactly what journey that book took that led it to that library sale. It wasn't a library copy; it was just a used book that the library had gotten hold of. Did the grandfather pass away? Did he read the book and, not being the sentimental type, give it away? There's a story to that book beyond the narrative that King wrote. I'll never know those people. I'll never know the answer. All the same, it makes that copy a bit more special. There's a similar message written in a book about The Day the Music Died that I got at a library sale earlier this year. It makes me feel like I'm part of a bigger world, even if I'll never know those people's faces.

    Books are wonderful things, aren't they?

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    1. I try my best to shy away from "things were better in my day" type of sentiments. I'm a very nostalgic person, but I'm also a believer in the idea that nostalgia is inherently suspicious. So I don't believe my nostalgia is fundamentally more worthwhile than the nostalgia kids who are 15 right now will feel for __________ when they get to be 42 or so.

      That said...

      I'm sorry, but there is NO WAY ON EARTH e-readers can replicate the type of experience you mention with finding that granddaughter-to-grandfather message in that copy of "The Green Mile." (What an appropriate novel for it to be!) There isn't a digital equivalent to that; there just isn't. Even as I type that, though, I feel certain there probably IS something that will trigger people's emotions in a similar manner. I know it ... but I don't actually believe it, if that makes any sense.

      One of the other used bookstores in town I visited on occasion had a store cat. It was a gaunt old thing, and was probably sickly, but it was sweet as could be, and lay in the window soaking up the sun. One day I went there, and the cat was gone. I didn't ask anybody what had happened; there was no real need. It made me really sad, though, and makes me sad now thinking about it. Every used bookstore should have a kitty or two hanging around; that just seems natural.

      I like the sound of First Edition; those cozy aisles appeal to me. As for that edition of "salem's Lot," it will be included in the second part of this post. I never had a copy of that edition, but recently obtained one. It's pretty great; I can see how if there was a nostalgic attachment, it'd be through the roof for that cover.

      I love your comparison to Doctors, and it makes perfect sense to me. (Eccleston, by the way.) I think the reader's relationship to specific covers is very much a process of imprinting. Fascinating that such things work on us in that way! And, to be fair, it probably doesn't for a lot of people; but it sure does for me.

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    2. There's a used book store close to my home called Second Edition - no cat though.
      Thumbs up on your comment about e-readers. They take up little space, but they give nothing back.

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    3. They probably give something back in the sense that it's cool to be able to put an entire collection of books in your pocket. Apart from that, they hold zero appeal for me.

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  8. Excellent post as usual.

    My first experience with King was probably in the fall of 1981 or early 1982. I was 11 and we had just moved from the Canadian town in which I was born to my mother's hometown due to my parents having recently separated. My uncle's girlfriend at the time (who I had a major crush on) knew I was an avid reader so lent me 3 of her books from her favorite author at the time... Stephen King. They were Firestarter, Cujo and The Stand.

    I marveled at the cover art of The Stand (the one with the swordsman fighting the scythe-wielding crow-man) for a number of weeks but avoided starting it because the sheer size of the book totally intimidated little 11-year old me. But then I finally did decide to give King a try and of course The Stand was the one I wanted to read... I just couldn't get that cover art out of my head, my imagination was going wild thinking what it could mean.

    I will say that the first 100 pages or so I was like WTF? Where is the crow-dude and when will we see the swordsman... LOL!

    But then the story itself carried me away and I never looked back. I devoured that book, Firestarter and Cujo and then polished off his previous books (which at the time weren't that many).

    The Stand will always hold a special place in my heart. Especially that hardcover edition which had a slightly torn dust jacket. If I could get a blown-up version of that cover art in poster-size I would display it proudly :)

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    1. Hot girlfriend-of-an-uncle loaning you Stephen King books. THAT is pretty great, is what that is.

      I suspect that poster would sell well. They'd sell me a copy of it, too.

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  9. Going by cover to cover:

    The Stand:

    Steven Spielberg’s “The Stand”. Yeah, that really should have been a viable alternate reality on some other level of the Tower.

    Creepshow:

    I remember lingering over the “Father’s Day” cake scene as well. I’m somewhat proud to say I all my reaction consisted of was first seeing it, then just pausing long enough to take it all in. It was my first exposure to that level of gore in my life. Looking back, its easy to see that as a kind initiatory moment, where you’re about to take your first big step into a whole other level of fear.
    I think watching the “It” mini-series had a similar effect on my 12 year old self.

    Danse Macabre:

    I recent book I acquired is Tony Magistrale’s “Stephen King: The Second Decade”. It’s interesting to read Magistrale’s take on the topics King raises side by side. It’s kind of like a strange Siskel and Ebert riff.

    Peter Straub covers:

    I own each one of those cover except for “Floating Dragon”. The irony here is that my first “Ghost Story” cover came not from print, but rather in the form of an audiobook.

    I can’t remember the narrator’s name, but I know he was one of the Not Tom Bosley recurring co-stars on “Murder She Wrote”. He played the town doctor, if I’m remembering correct here.

    To be continued.

    ChrisC

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    1. Cycle of the Werewolf:

      Like the “Creepshow” comic, this book was a similar gateway drug experience. Bernie Wrightson’s illustrations may also have been a help here. Looking back on it, Stephen Gammel’s drawing’s for “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” were the first pictures to ever raise the hairs on the back of my neck. It could be that Wrightson served as the next step, or something like that.

      Different Seasons:

      My family actually owned a copy of this before I was even born. It was gift from some friend of theirs’s. I’m just glad they left it lying around, rather than throw it away, or sell it off. Good on them!

      The Art of Darkness:

      Winter really should pen a follow up volume, taking in the rest of King’s career up to the present moment. Perhaps he could even include a chapter for both Owen King (henceforth known as Count “Mayo”) and Joe Hill, as well. It would be interesting to see how his judgment has changed, if at all, from the last time he was at this particular text.

      For my part, I do worry that a focus and over-saturation on all the extreme gore and sequelistis of the 80s might have done the genre an unfortunate, though unintended, disfavor. For one thing, we seem to be too desensitized to splatterpunk aesthetics these days. For another, I hate to say it, but I do wonder if all the focus on Freddy, Jason and the like has created a very stunted, one dimensional image of what the genre is, or what it’s capable of. We seem to have forgotten the sophistication that can go into a work of horror.

      To be concluded.

      ChrisC

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    2. It:

      Also have copy or two of the same mini-series tie-in edition. As an added bonus, here are two links that are worth checking out. One is a page for a documentary that I hope and pray gets off the ground:

      https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pennywise-the-story-of-it-documentary#/

      The second is a YouTube overview of what we would have got with Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjGPgX58-w

      I have to say I was surprised by my own reaction to what I heard. I could understand the psychological approach that Fukunaga was going for, yet at the same time it all just struck me as too down to earth and unimaginative. Fukunaga seemed to not understand King’s intention that the story is meant, among other things, as a master’s thesis on all the great horror icons of the past.

      I might catch hell for this, but I do wonder now if maybe it’s just as well Fukunaga never got to helm the thing in the first place. Who knows. We’ll see.

      ChrisC

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    3. A few things based on this, and I'll work backward:

      (1) I'd seen that vid about Fukunaga's version, but thanks for the link all the same. And you MIGHT catch hell, but it won't be from me. I had the same thoughts with some of the stuff I read about the Fukunaga version. It just sounded ... off ... to me. So all things considered, I think we might have ended up in a better place with that one. Time will tell, obviously.

      (2) I helped fund that documentary about the 1990 "It"! And it did indeed get (more than) fully funded, so there's something to look forward to!

      (3) I'd love to see what Winter has to say about the junior Kings, or about any/all of Steve's post-"Thinner" books. A series of sequels is HIGHLY warranted.

      (4) "We seem to have forgotten the sophistication that can go into a work of horror." -- I am sure there are exceptions, but on the whole, you're probably right. Then again, I think we've forgotten sophistication in many ways, not merely when it comes to horror fiction.

      (5) "Stephen King: The Second Decade" is well worth reading. So is the book about "The First Decade," although it is by a different author.

      (6) Shoot me an email when you have a minute, Chris. I've got something you'll be interested in.

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    4. 2. Now that is Awesome!

      6. For the record, I took your advice, yet the address I used was from the Honk Mahfuh days.

      Don't know if that was the correct one to use or not.

      ......Sorry.

      ChrisC

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  10. On my desk is a mass market paperback of the revised Gunslinger. I wouldn't read it these days; the spine is busted, and it would probably fall apart if I tried.

    Once upon a time, that same book was sitting on a shelf in the Books-A-Million on Skyland Boulevard. There wasn't anything that set it apart from other copies, it just happened to be the one I picked up. I was on break from a shift at the Fox 12, and my manager - Mr. Burnette himself - had told me if I didn't come back with a copy, he was going to write me up.

    Part of the reason it's in such bad shape is that I carried it around for days, wherever I went. A song or something had given me this that carrying a paperback around in your back pocket was some necessary mark of intellect.

    That dilapidated paperback is the first Stephen King book I ever read. It's why I own three full copies of the Dark Tower saga, plus the spin-off comics. It played a key role in cementing and fostering not one, but multiple friendships. It's an undeniable piece of why I'm on this blog right now.

    That bent, slightly yellowed little book changed my life, and for the better. On the occasion I do pick it up, I treat it with the same reverence most people associate with religious artifacts. There is magic in its pages, both the magic of storytelling, and the magic it has soaked up over the past fourteen years.

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    1. For the benefit of any HR professionals who might somehow stumble upon this, allow me to clarify that that threat of disciplinary action against young Mr. Black was issued for satirical purposes only. My management style did not then, and does not now, encompass corrective actions designed to economically benefit specific authors, filmmakers, musicians, etc. It would also be morally questionable for an adult to make de facto required reading of a book in which an unwanted abortion is performed using the barrel of a gun. That might even be illegal in this state, for all I know.

      That said, he's goddam lucky he DID come back with that book, because I meant business.

      Ahem.

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    2. I can remember doing this, of course, but I can't remember something that I'm curious about: did I tell you anything about the book/series? Knowing me, it might have been either: I can just as easily imagine me giving you a plot summary as I can saying something like, "Fuck you, just go read it."

      I feel like it was maybe the latter, but in a lovably-gruff sort of way, kind of like Han Solo talking to Finn.

      Books really can change the course of your life, though. No joke about that. I've been thinking about that sort of thing a lot lately (most recently as it pertains to "Dune," about which more may be said in part two of this post, or perhaps on some other blog altogether). Not bad as far as ponderable topic go.

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    3. Reply the First: Let the record show that I was once written up for "Not Liking Disney World." Granted, that was a dumbass thing to say, as are most things said by sixteen-year-old guys with a superiority complex and nothing in their closet but black t-shirts.

      Reply the Second: Oh, it was definitely the latter, but 100% a Han-to-Finn suggestion. My memory also isn't what it once was, but I think I said something about not having ever read a King book, because "my dad doesn't like him." That sort of paternal disapproval held a lot of weight - as did maternal disapproval, let there be no doubt - although these days I think my dad has come around. As far as I can tell now, Pet Cemetery and Cujo bothered him deeply, and so King was tossed by the wayside.

      Anyway, back to the matter at hand, I revealed my lack of King exposure, which obviously must have triggered some sort of cascading reaction in your brain. This would have been mere months before Wolves was set to be released, and they had just released new copies of the first four - including the "revised" Gunslinger - so that probably seemed the natural place for me to start in your mind. (Note: No promises are made that the mental processes I'm making up for Bryant from fourteen years ago are accurate.)

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    4. I was trying to figure out the chronology, and was curious as to whether this predated "Wolves." Figured it did. The revised "Gunslinger" came out in June, so I'd speculate that we were talking movies, and I mentioned wanting to see "Dark Tower" movies and you were all like, "What's that?" and I was all like, "Read it or die."

      MIGHT have had something to do with talking about how good the "Lord of the Rings" movies were. Posters for "Return of the King" probably came in around that time, so that's a strong possibility.

      I know all about parental disapproval's weightiness. It works the other way, too, of course; and that's been a big part of this duo of posts for me. Had your father read the books or was he basing that off the movies?

      For the benefit of HR pros, by the way, that Disney World write-up 100% went into Mr. Black's file. So suck it.

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