I got into King the year I was transitioning from 4th grade (elementary school) to 5th grade (junior high). My father worked for a paper company who's office was based out of Amherst, MA but the mill was based in Bango, ME. It was called Lincoln, Pulp & Paper at the time. Later Eastern. That summer, my father took us on a trip to Maine, to a company cabin on Moosehead Lake. I'd never been to Maine before (except perhaps to stop by into Maine for candy and shopping, after dropping/picking my sister up at a summer camp in NH). We probably only stayed on Moosehead for a week, but it looms much larger in my memory and imagination. For the first few days, I had it in my head to get a 'paddle boat', one of these contraptions that really aren't meant for lakes or any body of water, except really for entertainment. Since I couldn't convince my parents to get one, we ended up getting a motor boat. We made our way out, and found an island. Abandoned. It made such a large impression, and my mom commented that it resembled "The Overlook from the Shining". Not knowing what it was, I wanted to learn everything about it. My mom informed me that it was written by a man named Stephen King, who lived in Bangor, in this very state, Maine. This was the hook that got me for life.
Sure enough, before arriving home, we took a stop at my grandmother's place in Boston. We stopped at Mobile Book store (the famous one!), and stocked up on King books. I remember getting The Shining, and a few others. When we arrived at my grandma's home, Carrie was on tv (she had all the cable channels!). I had a habit of watching all the horror stuff when I visited her on previous visits (Tales from the Crypt, the Puppetmaster series, etc), but this one felt different. King seemed different. It lit a spark that never went out.
I even remember the night before 5th grade, the movie version of 'Pet Cemetary' was on TV. I was supposed to be going to bed by 8 PM, but I managed to sneak in most of the movie.
I even recall trying to read 'IT' in 5th grade, and bringing it to school for breaks (though I never quite finished it that year. That was probably a year or two later when I did).
The biggest moment of my King reading life was when I stumbled on The Dark Tower series. At the time, I had discovered (as a lurker, for the most part) alt.books.stephen-king on the usegroups. I remember Bev Vincent very well from that time, as he was a regular. And probably the nicest, most useful member there.
I was 13 when I picked up the Dark Tower. According to the newsgroups, it would be difficult. Stick with it, people said. This would have been 1995, I believe. Sure enough, I found The Gunslinger to be unlike anything else King had put out, and I was intrigued.. though I did find it slow moving, and difficult. I trusted King, though, and kept on. By the last part, with the vision of the universe, etc I was completely hooked. I was totally in love with what the DT was proposing. I quickly moved onto DT2 and then DT3, and was... suckered into the maaajor tease that was the end of DT3 (though I must say, I loooved the ending and setup, just the same). That's right, I had started the DT series before 4 had been released. Damnit! The wait could at times be infuriating/frustrating, but worth it.
At the Mobile Book Store in Boston, my grandmother bought me the DT box set, which includes the first three (Grant) editions. Over time, I also had to have the audio book editions (I've yet to get the Wind + Keyhole, though I'm looking to it). I also, for a time, had the version of 1-3 on tape that was read by Stephen King himself. I wish I had those, those I'm most nostalgic for.
Around this time, I also developed a obsession of sorts with David Letterman (no, not a scary one, a healthy one). I oscillated between wanting to be a horror writer, and being the successor to the Late Night throne, Letterman was my idol. Being from Western Mass, NYC is not that far away really. Growing up, my family never really went to NYC-- mostly due to my mother basically being scared of big cities (she grew up in Boston). Being only 13 or so at the time, I couldn't get into tapings of David Letterman, as their policy was 16 and older only at the time. My dad wanted to introduce me to culture and the city, and to take our chances (I presume he felt that just because it said 16, doesn't mean they enforce it well). In addition, I had entered puberty at a younger age than most of my peers, and so I looked older. Sure enough, I was able to enter the Letterman studios, and see my first (of many) tapes of Letterman. But this isn't a Letterman forum, so back to King, my going off point will make sense in a moment. Since I had the Dark Tower books on tape, and the trip was about 3 hours each way (a looong way for me in my mind back then!) we popped in The Dark Tower series on our many trips to NYC (sometimes with my Carnegie Deli doggy bag on my lap).
I have such a fond memory/ies of these trips. My father is such a good man. While I don't know if he actually cared for these stories, he listened patiently as he drove me to and from NYC. Some of the trips weren't to NYC, one time in particular he brought me to Bangor, so I could see where the companies mills are from (and yes, an opportunity to drive by the house that King built). I willl say sheepishly that I was overly sensitive about doing this- as much as I would have liked to see King's house (and I did), I was all too aware of the fact that King had had stalkers in his life, as well as more than likely far too many people gawking into his house. I didn't want to be one of many, here, intruding on his life. When we were in Bangor, we checked out a game going on in the 'Field of Screams' (it was a very nice field!), and yes, we did drive by King's house, briefly slowing down in front. I emphasized to my dad how I'd be mortified if King saw me doing this, as much as I was curious, I wanted to respect his privacy. I justified to myself, that since we were in my dad's company town, and the mill wasn't that far away, I might be a slight 'exception', as we didn't drive alllll this way to Bangor JUST to see the house. Still, I felt conflicted.
So this day, my dad has not finished The Dark Tower with me. We had long since moved on to the CD's, and we made it (as far as I can tell/remember) to somewhere in book 5. To this day (from as far back as 1995), my dad will say "did-a-chuck, dad-a-chuck", and we will both know exactly what he means. usually I will finish his "did-a-chuck" with a "dad-a-chuck", with me sort of emphasizing the "dad" and looking at him funny. Sometimes, when I ask him if he wants to go on a long trip somewhere, or is about to go on a long business trip (he still does these), I ask him if he wants company. Then I sort of twistedly ask "so where are we in The Dark Tower?" as if it's some sick game I've been playing with him, for about 20 years now (wow!) I would love to reach The Tower with my father- and as they say, "I shall always remember the face of my Father"...
That's what Stephen King and his work means to me.