I hate to admit it, but I was one of those people.
I stayed away from Stephen King’s writing growing up because I made the stupid mistake of thinking his stories would be far too scary for me. Yes. I was scared of being scared. Kids are so crazy… Of course, I was making a far grander assumption, one more damning than “judging a book by its cover”. For almost three decades, I missed tons of great stories because I didn’t think I could “handle” Stephen King, thereby misjudging him and myself.
My introduction to King’s work came from a known scholar of his work, Patrick McAleer. Patrick and I have been friends since college, but it wasn’t until he began working on his first book, a study on the Dark Tower series, that I started to realize I needed to give King's work a chance.
The door peeked open, and I watched the gunslinger begin his journey across the desert in search of the man in black. I’ll admit, I almost gave up on the first book, The Gunslinger. The writing didn’t exactly blow me away, but I continued on, determined to get past my fears and to help myself become a better writer.
The door opened wider when I started on The Drawing of the Three, and it nearly blew off its invisible hinges as The Waste Lands and the Wizard and Glass tore through my mind. I became possessed by the Dark Tower series until its stunning conclusion, and then it left me wanting more, stunned, like Roland was in the dry heat of the desert.
For those of you who know nothing about the Dark Tower, I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say this is a story that King has admitted is very important to him. You can see that in his writing. The Dark Tower is something he obviously wrote for himself and not for the masses. His gunslinger, Roland, is very much a part of him, and as Roland goes on his journey to find the Dark Tower, the world (and worlds) King has created begin to bleed into his writing, becoming like something alive. The story is a great one, but the ambition behind it is stunningly fascinating.
I read more of King’s work after that. The Stand, followed by Four Seasons. I haven’t branched much more than that sadly, but I have a queue of his books awaiting me. I’m no longer intimidated by his stories because I have so much more respect for him as a writer now. Reading the Dark Tower series again has made it ten times better, by the way, and I imagine a third reading will be even better.
And if you have any King recommendations for me, please fire away!