When I was nine, I went to day camp with a kid named Chris. During one of the infrequent overnights, Chris dazzled everyone with a book called Cycle of the Werewolf, which had the coolest pictures ever! Later that summer, on the night of my birthday, Chris stayed over my grandparents’ house with me and brought something called Creepshow. I loved it, but the name Stephen King didn’t really sink in.
In 1987, I saw Pet Sematary in the theatre, mostly alone when my brother Jason freaked out and my Dad snuck him into another movie. Later that summer, my Dad bought me the paperback copy, and I read at least part of it in the attic of my grandparents’ cabin at Lake Desolation. Sometime later that year or the following year, my grandparents sent a box down from New York containing a bunch of my Uncle Doug’s old books – many of which were Stephen King. They remained in the cellar for awhile before I went exploring, and I brought up a couple handfuls of books, just to put them on my shelf next to Pet Sematary. Among them were Night Shift, The Bachman Books, It, and a hardcover copy of The Eyes of the Dragon. I experimented with some of the short stories in Night Shift, then delved into Rage. By that point, I was well on my way to being hooked. I remember specifically looking at my shelf at the 1,138-page It and thinking, I will never be able to read something that long. Within a year, I’d proven myself wrong. I became a Stephen King fan.
On one of my grandparents’ infrequent visits down to visit my Dad, they took my brothers and I out to Walden Books and told me to pick out any two books I wanted. I picked Skeleton Crew and Misery, both in paperback. I remember specifically putting my chewing-gum wrapper in Skeleton Crew to hold my place. I think I still have that in the book, too.
In 1989, I’d begun visiting my Mom more. On one of my Saturday trips into Quincy, I stopped by a store called Infinity Books (where I’d later end up working) and saw a display-stand for the new paperback, The Dark Half. That became the first King book I bought for myself. In 1990, for Christmas, my Mom discovered that it didn’t cost all that much to make me the happiest kid alive. That year, I got Danse Macabre, The Gunslinger, and Christine in paperback, and The Stand (complete and uncut), and Four Past Midnight in hardcover. I nearly wept. That was the same year I bought The Stephen King Companion and The Stephen King Quiz Book.
In 1991, I was living with my Mom and I had a paper route, and I was finally able to buy Stephen King in hardcover for the first time. The day Needful Things was released, I had my Mom drive me out to Infinity Books. I plunked down my money and got myself a shiny new hardcover novel. Life was bliss.
1992: my Mom bought me The Stephen King Encyclopedia. There was no looking back. In 1993, for my 17th birthday, my Mom got me a birthday cake with black-frosting roses, and wrote Happy Birthday from Stephen King on the cake. Later that year, through my Mom’s connections at WHJY radio station, I got to meet Stephen King for the first time, during a tour with The Rock Bottom Remainders.
By 1994, I was working at B. Dalton and some other job at the mall, and making what I thought was pretty good money (i.e., I wasn’t starving.) For the first time, I plunked down money on a Stephen King limited edition, the “gift” edition of Insomnia. Two years later, I discovered the Internet and, almost immediately, SKEMERs. I met him again that year, for a pre-publicity signing for Desperation and The Regulators. 1997, I began The Stephen King House O’Love, a fun tribute website. After I was chided for the name - in USA Today of all places – I changed the name to Charnel House, and slowly began to grow to become, at the time, “the best Stephen King fan site on the Internet.” It was a good time.
1997 was also the time that a lot of my dreams about King came to fruition. I attended my first SKEMERs con in Bangor, went to Betts Bookstore, and actually saw Stephen King’s house for the first time. All this stuff of legend – my teenage/young adult view of legend, anyway – was becoming real for the first time. It was magic.
Bag of Bones was released in 1998, and I traveled up to Maine with Bob Ireland in November. (It was actually the fourth time I’d been to Bangor that year: I went for a King auction, a Rock Bottom Remainders concert, and the SKEMERs con previously.) I met Stephen King for a third time when he signed my copy of Misery “To Kevin from your #1 Fan, Stephen King.” I stumbled out of Betts and promptly fainted. It’s embarrassing, but that’s probably my favorite fanboy story.
In 1999, I got my second tattoo: a representation of Good vs. Evil, duking it out in silhouette inside the front cover of The Stand (the ’90 version). It hurt a quite a great deal, but it was worth it.
Now it’s 2005, and I’m still (again?) the biggest King fan I know. I’m thrilled beyond belief about Cell, Lisey’s Story, and the Dark Tower comic book series. After all this time, Stephen King still makes me happy, every single day.