Sunday, January 7, 2007

“When asked, "How do you write?" I invariably answer, "one word at a time." ~ Stephen King

During the course of a “so, what did you get for Christmas?” conversation at work a week or so ago, one of my fellow dispatchers mentioned that his wife had gotten the latest Stephen King novel, “Lisey’s Story”. This naturally led to a discussion of the Master of Fright’s best books and our own personal favorites.

I first started reading Stephen King's stuff back in the early 1980’s when I was living in California and working as a Telecommunicator at the Stockton Police Department. Unlike my current job where you are not only the dispatcher but also the call-taker, SPD has two separate positions – dispatcher (police radio operator) and CRO (complaint receipt operator). If you were
working the desk (the radio), there was NO WAY on God’s green earth that you were ever even going to think about picking up a book but if you were on CRO duty then chances were good you’d have some time to read as long as you knew enough to put the book down when 911 rang. This was especially true if you were assigned to the dreaded overnight shift.

There was a trick to reading while working the night shift and that was to make good and sure that you had a really GOOD book to read – something that would keep you awake and keep your head from slamming into the keyboard too many times when you drifted off to sleep after reading the same paragraph over and over twelve times. Stephen King always managed to fit the bill nicely so I began to haunt the library in search of his books almost as much as his ghosts and ghouls haunt various locales in Maine (a State that I will not go to anymore thanks to Mr. King!).

The first Stephen King book that I ever read was “Salem’s Lot”, a creepy tale of a vampire named Mr. Barlow and his faithful manserva
nt Straker, new residents of the small town of Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine, and the unlikely heroes who eventually rid their town of the vicious blood-sucker. After this one, I was hooked and continued my new-found love affair with “The Dead Zone”, “Carrie”, “Christine”, and one of his short story collections “Night Shift” (the cover alone on this one would make my hand itch just looking at it!).

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I’ve read so many Stephen King novels and short stories over the years that it’s hard to pick any one favorite but it’s fairly easy to pick out the ones that have creeped me out the most!

At the top of the list would have to be 1986’s “It” – the book that was the final nail in the coffin for any potential future trips to Maine! This is the first of many stories set in the fictional town of Derry, a place that is haunted by a monster that changes shape to match the fear of its victims. The creature first shows itself as Pennywise the Dancing Clown and, as someone who has always hated clowns, this book terrified me right from the get-go! I refused to watch the TV movie that was eventually made based on the book after just one look at Tim Curry’s depiction of Pennywise. To this very day I’ll still pass – thank you very much!

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Other books that stand out at the top of my list are 1983’s “Pet Sematary” (my son Michael was the same age as the tragic/evil Gage at the time I read this one) and 1981’s “Cujo” because – if you think about it - a rabid dog terrorizing people trapped in a sweltering car is not that far-fetched of a horror! Additional favorites include “Gerald’s Game”, “Insomnia”, “Misery”, “The Shawshank Redemption”, and “The Green Mile”.

One of the reasons that Stephen King has always appealed to me is the fact that there are times when it seems that the man has climbed inside my head and written about the things that scare me the most – things in the closet, things under the bed, things in dark basements, things that just aren’t what they first appear to be! His characters are basic every day people in not so basic every day circumstances that act the same way that I would if put in the same unnatural predicaments. Though trust me, I'm staying far away from Maine where most of his trouble seems to start!

Now I ask you, with writing like that how can his books not be appealing and yet terrifying at the same time?
So what about you , Constant Reader? Friends and neighbors? Do you have any favorite Stephen King stories, movies, and/or books? If you do, I’d be frightfully delighted to hear about them!


  1. "Christine" was my favorite. I don't remember when I read the book, but I was definately younger than I am now. I really identified with the young man who "inherits" Christine from the old man, and the changes he goes through. The fact that an old car could come to life was pretty cool! Now, I just wish MY old car could "come to life" a bit more easily on cold mornings!

  2. Ah, but you don't want it to come to life the way that Christine did! If that was the case, I'd never leave another note on your windshield again!

  3. Anonymous11:05 PM EST

    Being a dispatcher for SPD, you would have more than enough material for a True Crime Book or Movie.

  4. Well, Mike, no argument there - at the time that I dispatched at SPD, Stockon was Number 9 in the nation for crime. Fun! Fun!

  5. I am a HUGE Stephen King fan. I own almost everything he has written. I've read "It" a couple times. It scares me so bad I can't hardly stand to look at it now lol. I adored the Dark Tower series, but thought he took a cheap was to end it.

    By the way.. I'm Tagging you for the Silly Questions Meme.. it'll be up in a minute or two.

  6. hmmm...I do check in from time to time, usually on one of the frequent suck-moose days of my life. I picked this one to comment on, ever late as I am, because no one can resist Stephen, least of all I.

    I vote for "The Stand". Reasons? Mother Abigale reminded me of my sainted grandmother, Gas Can Man reminded me of one or another of my husbands (memory fades at my age), and I think I have always known that I would thoroughly enjoy kicking Randal Flag's arse. M-O-O-N, that spells I win. Someday..

    As to Mike's comments, I think we should team up on the proposed book or movie. we could rock the world, one lost soul at a time. If we wait awhile, I will doubtlessly have one of my periodic hometown panic attacks--and the script will write itself.

  7. First off....

    nice to see you mizcyn and know you are still on the face of this planet. hope all is well.

    Last, Pet Cemetary was always my favorite, it was the first "scary book" and first "scary movie" I ever read/watched. Scared the bejeezus out of me. I have never read "It" but i think now I will have to add it to my list!


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