This week I'm on a family vacation and tonight we're stopping in Maine so that makes me think of Stephen King -- and Patrick Shawn Bagley, but mostly Stephen King.
I haven't read every Stephen King novel but I've read a lot of them and I really like them. When we talk about writing we always say it's really about the characters and Stephen King gets into the hearts and souls of more characters than any other writer. And these are characters I can relate to, characters we might call, "everday." When the world ends in a Stephen King novel the survivors are never black belt, super secret assasins who've been in deep cover, they're a nerdy kid with pimples and a truck driver and a waitress.
As we drove through Maine today my wife and I were telling our two sons the story of The Stand but then I told them the story of when I first read The Stand.
It was the late 70's and I was working as a night shift security guard in an office building in Calgary (I was very young, like a six year old secuirty guard, really, someone should have called a social worker). I clocked in at 11pm and was the only person in the building until 7am. So one night I arrived and sat at my desk in the quiet lobby and started reading The Stand. On the first page the car crashes at the garage and the virus is let loose. By three o'clock in the morning when I was supposed to do my rounds of the empty building most of the people in the world had died and the survivors were moving west.
I put the book down and walked through the lobby, my footsteps echoing like they nevr had before and I pressed the button for the elevator. Of course the damned thing was already on the main floor so the bell rang right away and I just about dropped a load. The doors opened and I got on the elevator. I rode up to the top floor. I was supposed to get off the elevator and check every floor but the top couple floors of the building were still being finished and looked like the constuction site they were. Or, they looked as if they'd been trashed.
And from the elevator I could see all the way out the windows and at that time Calgary was going through one of its boom periods and was very much a work in progress. There were a dozen half-built highrises and a dozen more like the one I was working in that were half-filled. So the whole city looked half-built.
Or half destroyed.
I decided the the whole building was fine and rode the elevator straight down to the lobby.
In fact, for the next month I decided the building was fine and never left the lobby.
Right up until the day I left at 7am and got called by my boss a couple hours later wanting to know why I didn't know a homeless guy was sleeping on the couch in the lobby of a law firm. Apparently he'd been in the bathroom when the building closed and he made himself at home.
It was time I looked for another job anyway.
That effect Stephen King has on readers is why he's a great writer.
So, anyone else care to share a story about reading Stephen King?