Stephen King is the writer who, unknowingly of course, had the biggest influence on my choice of career. He is one of four writers who turned me into the voracious reader that I am. The other three are Thomas Harris, Peter Straub and John Irving. There were, and still are, others of course but these four were the start of a reading frenzy, when I was 14 (close to 15), that is still going on 30 years later.
In the summer of 1981, I was finally authorised to read any books I wanted from the public library. Having read all of my father's books by George Simenon, Agatha Christie, some by Henri Vernes, Gaston Leroux, Maurice Leblanc, and most of the ones by Edgar Allan Poe (translated in French by none other than Charles Baudelaire) I was now ready for something else. My mother took me to the Cowansville Public Library, serving a population of barely 12,000 in what is now known as "Louise Penny Country", in Quebec's Eastern Townships. The library's inventory was scattered on a few bookshelves, half of which were filled by illustrated books for kids and most of the other half filled by romance novels. That left only a few shelves for other genre novels and some 'real' literature.
I didn't know about not judging a book by its cover, so I went for the ones that caught my eye, at first barely reading the back covers to get an idea of the contents. At the time, I wasn't bilingual enough to be able to read novels in English, but even though the translations were a year or so behind the originals, during that summer I discovered Stephen King (only seven years after the publication of his first book) and his already impressive backlist that consisted of Carrie, 'Salem's Lot, The Shining, Night Shift, The Stand, and The Dead Zone. I don't remember in which order I went through these titles but they filled my summer days whenever I wasn't playing baseball or soccer, or pedalling around town on my bike. I read every evening --sometimes deep into the night. And man, did I have many nightmares!
Between some of these books, I also read Thomas Harris's Black Sunday, and Peter Straub's Ghost Story, which had just come out in French. When fall came, and with it high school and the hockey season, instead of picking up other books, I just re-read King's. In 1982, I was spoiled again with the publication of Red Dragon and The World According to Garp, both published in French; the former is still one of my all-time favourites along with Ghost Story, Dennis Lehane's Mystic River, Michael Connelly's Angel's Flight, Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, and King's Different Seasons and The Dead Zone.
I never stopped reading, of course, although I was only confident enough to start reading books in English in 1989. The first one was King's "The Tommyknockers" (which I'd already read in French) and it was followed by Jim Morrison's first bio "No One Here Gets Out Alive". Here I am now, into my 6th year working as a sales rep for Canadian independent publishers (after 5 years as manager in a bookstore), running a blogsite (or weblog), writing the occasional review for the great website Crime Fiction Lover, co-founder of the QuebeCrime Writers Festival, and writing a crime novel (in French). All of this because of Stephen King, in a public library, in the summer of '81.
So, to celebrate my 30 years of reading Stephen King, how about a contest for a chance to win his brand-new book "11/22/63"! The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada only (it's an 850-page book, so I can't afford to ship it very far!). As usual, you need to be 18 or older, but you have to work a little: I want you to tell me your favourite King character, book and movie. That's it. Send your answers to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contest runs until December 7th (12/7) at 12:07 pm (because 12+7 =19... King's Constant Readers will know what I'm talking about). Bonne chance!
A huge thankee-sai to Simon & Schuster Canada for making this contest possible!