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BRASWELL: Looking Back - Oct. 27, 2013

Mary Braswell

Mary Braswell

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

As Halloween nears, what better time could there be to look back at the prolific modern day author, Stephen King?

Before fortune and fame

— Stephen Edwin King was born to Donald Edwin and Nellie Ruth King on September 21, 1947 in Portland, Maine.

— When King was about two years old, his father left the house saying he was “going to buy a pack of cigarettes.” He never returned.

— King’s mother struggled to raise Stephen and his adopted older brother, David. Ruth King moved her small family several times, finally settling in Durham, Maine, where she cared for her parents until their deaths. She then took a local job in a residential facility for the mentally challenged.

— While exploring the attic one day with his older brother, King discovered a paperback version of an H.P Lovecraft collection of short stories that had belonged to his father. The artwork on the book’s cover featured a yellow-green demon hiding in a cavern beneath a tombstone. King later stated that “I knew that I’d found home when I read that book.”

— The older brother, David, had a newspaper he published on a mimeograph machine to which Stephen contributed articles. His first independently published story was “I Was a Teenage Grave Robber”; it was serialized in four issues of “Comics Review” in 1965.

“The Glass Floor” was King’s first professional short story to sell. The year was 1967.

— King took odd jobs to help pay for his studies, one in an industrial laundry. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maine in 1970. With a certificate to teach high school, King did not immediately find work. In the meanwhile, he sold stories to magazines.

— In 1971, King married Tabitha Spruce whom he’d met at the University of Maine. That same year he took a teaching job in Hampden, Maine. The couple has three children, Naomi (born in 1970), Joseph (born in 1972) and Owen (born in 1977).

— In 1973, King’s first novel was accepted by Doubleday Publishing. With an advance of $2,500, “Carrie” was released in 1974. King’s mother died shortly after this first book was published. His aunt read the story to her before her death. By this point, King was drinking heavily and stated that he was drunk while delivering his mother’s eulogy.

— King’s alcohol and drug addictions were so serious, he admits he can barely remember writing “Cujo” in 1981. Soon after that novel, his family and friends staged an intervention by dumping on the rug in front of him beer cans, grams of cocaine, Xanax, Valium, NyQuil and marijuana, all found in his office. He has been clean and sober since that time.

Did you know?

— King published seven novels under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.

— King does not sign autographs because he despises the idolatry of celebrities, which is also why he has never endorsed an official fan club.

— The Rock Bottom Remainders is a band that includes some of today’s most popular authors. Between them, they’ve published more than 150 titles, sold more than 350 million books, and been translated into more than 25 languages. Among its original members: Stephen King, Dave Barry, Roy Blount, Jr., Amy Tan, Robert Fulghum and Barbara Kingsolver.

— After watching the first cut of Rob Reiner’s “Stand by Me”, King was in tears stating that it was the best adaptation of one of his novels he’d ever seen.

— King allows aspiring film-makers to purchased rights to any of his short stories for $1.

— In 1995, King had four books hit the New York Times Bestseller List. They were “Skeleton Crew”, “Thinner”, The Talisman” and “The Bachman Books.”

— King never answers his own phone and does not use a cellphone at all.

— Since the publication of “Carrie” in 1974, King’s books have never been out of print.

— King has a personal library of about 17,000 books, the majority of which he has read.

— In 1992, King and his wife Tabitha gave a donation to build Mansfield Stadium in Bangor, Maine. The only condition was that the scoreboard be placed where King could see it out his office window while writing.

— In June of 1999, King was hit by a van as he walked not far from his home in Maine. He suffered a collapsed lung, a broken hip, a gash to the head requiring 20 stitches, eight chipped places in his spine and a leg broken in nine places. The only thing not damaged was the lenses in his glasses, which he kept, replacing the frames later.The driver of the van, Bryan Smith , died just over a year later of a drug overdose at age 43.

— King fulfilled a lifetime ambition , expressed in “Salem’s Lot” (1975), of being interviewed in Playboy Magazine in 2009.

J.K. Rowling is Stephen King’s favorite author.

— Before the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, King, an avid fan, said he wanted his tombstone to have a single sock and the line “Not in my lifetime, not in yours either” engraved upon it.

— While no fan of fame, King has amassed a fortune for doing what comes so naturally to him. His estimated wealth is $400 million (2013).

Quiz

“The Running Man” is a science fiction novel by Stephen King, first published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1982. How long did it take King to complete the 304-page novel?

a) six weeks

b) three months

c) 10 days

d) one month

Answer

c) It took King only 10 days to complete “The Running Man”, a 304-page paperback.