Dear Mr. King,
I’ll never forget when we first met.
Me: an awkward fifth-grader in a peach shaker-knit sweater pulling CUJO off the shelf of my father’s horror collection.
You: black print on a white page introducing yourself with a Once upon a time.
Starting CUJO–my first impression of you–I thought, so where’s the freaking dog?
I’m sure you did it on purpose. Started with Frank Dodd, moved to a creature in a little boy’s closet, created that first prick of terror with such mastery that right away this dark, inner horror wrapped its tendrils around my heart and squeezed. Didn’t stop squeezing. Even when I put the book down in a cold sweat, quaking and cringing under my Doritos® bedspread, praying for morning light.
Clearly, it was love at first sight.
I devoured your books: CARRIE, CHRISTINE, PET SEMATARY, SALEM’S LOT, IT, THE STAND, even your Bachman stuff. Everything I could get my hands on, the day they came out. Cracked the spines, dog-eared the pages, bit my nails to the quick, slept with my light on.
Now, I have to admit I wasn’t always faithful. This may be hard for you to hear, but once (only once! okay maybe twice) I turned to Koontz. Hey, it was a moment of weakness, and I regret it to this day.
It may help you to know Koontz has nothing on you.
Coming back–The Tommyknockers, I believe–was like coming home to a friend. (A really fucked up, homicidal, sociopathic friend, but a friend nonetheless.) Something about the cadence of your words struck such a chord with me—you had a bop in the step of your prose that reminded me of my artist father trying to march in formation in the Marines. It set you apart from everyone.
Your books made an impression on me. I’m not just talking about being scared of the dark. Or scared of being alone in my room. Or wary of cherry red Plymouth Furys staring at me with their big-ass headlight eyes.
(Don’t worry. I don’t blame you for any of that. My father loved you first, so it’s all his fault. He called you Steve like you two were friends, when really he should have come after you with a baseball bat, or an ax, or lured you into a stormdrain. Anything to protect his daughter. Cause I had it bad.)
As a teenager I bought a black and white postcard from a spinning rack at a bookstore: you at your messy writing desk next to an antediluvian computer, feet up, pen in hand making notes. A glimpse into your world–a world where walls could seep blood and madness lurked behind the most mundane of faces.
You know how when you’re a little kid you think of God as this white-bearded colossus dictating from atop a puffy cloud? Then you grow up and realize everything you believed had been grossly misrepresented?
Well, with that postcard suddenly my perception of you changed. It went from this image of a writerly genius sitting straight-backed and serious at the far end of a gloriously spacious writing room, a beam of light shining down on your head, to something much more real.
You know what that postcard did? That postcard took the magic out of you.
I realized, looking at that image, that you were a normal (adorably messy) human being who worked very, VERY hard, and THAT’S why you were so good. I realized I could be that person too. Or at least, my own version of it.
Knowing that made me appreciate you even more. Because writing is ugly and difficult and simultaneously beautiful and necessary, and sometimes it’s just a giant rolling ball of suck.
So thank you, thank you Mr. King, for doing what it took to get yourself there. For putting down all those words. That awkward, fashion-backwards fifth-grader thanks you once upon a time and always.
-Your Biggest Fan (but not in a creepy or threatening way I swear)