I saw Stephen King live on stage last June on his book tour promoting End of Watch. The “live in concert” bit is mine. That appeared in no advertisements that I saw. Only a book nerd would look forward to seeing a favorite author with the same excitement as seeing a favorite band perform.
It was completely strange to see a man onstage whose books I’ve read for years, whose face I’ve watched change on the photos inside various book jackets.
While still waiting in my seat with the house lights up, the thought, “Here comes the millionaire,” popped into my head. A friend, who was also in the audience, told me later that the same thought occurred to him as well. Feeling my mind juxtapose these thoughts (“millionaire,” his being a Red Sox fan, his long bouts with alcohol and cocaine, writing in the laundry room of a trailer in his early years) and weigh them one against the other was far stranger than seeing King in the flesh.
The manager of Taylor Books, the locally-owned coffee shop which was hosting the show, did a little patter at the top of the show, introducing him as Richard Bachman, which I thought was clever. Who knows how many times King has heard that.
You could probably scrub through all the Stephen King, End of Watch interviews on YouTube and cobble together most his talk, except for the part on Davis Grubb, an author born in West Virginia. King was visibly excited as he reminisced about his mother bringing home Grubb’s Twelve Tales of Suspense and the Supernatural. He was also a big fan of Grubb’s most famous book, The Night of the Hunter. Watching him animatedly reenact the Love/Hate, tattooed knuckles sermon was hilarious.
The real, palpable magic of the “show” happened when King described going into the Charleston Public Library the day before and discovering an old copy of Twelve Tales. After opening the cover, King found that Davis Grubb, dead since 1980, had autographed the book. As he was telling us this, King pantomimed opening a book and running his fingers across the inscription, a dreamy look falling over his face. For a beat the concert hall was completely still, completely silent. Then he snapped out of his trance with the slight embarassment of a man who’s been caught singing loudly in a public bathroom. It was obviously the power of a book and an author holding sway over Mr. King. The moment was electrifying.
He immediately followed this up with, “Now don’t you go stealing that book,” complete with the admonishing finger-wagging of an English teacher at the head a classroom of 8th graders. We were being told what for by Stephen King, the teacher. Too funny.
King’s neat smile, his sometimes glottal Maine inflection….it’s just odd that this country boy from Maine has spun all these stories. But, as they say, don’t confuse the teller with the tale. And, as any good Stephen King reader worth his/her salt will tell ya, there are other worlds than these.
Picture by F. Brian Ferguson, Charleston Gazette-Mail