Letter to Stephen King
You will never receive another letter even remotely like this one. It is a thank-you because you almost single-handedly saved my bookstore for one month during the pandemic lockdown.
This is the true story of how it happened— all the good luck/bad luck/good luck and just plain coincidence or synchronicity explained:
Let me introduce myself. I am the owner of a used, out-of-print, and rare bookstore—The Eclectic Reader —in Fort Collins, Colorado. I fell into the book business in 1983, (about the time you were rising to fame), after dabbling here and there in library work in between building a memoir-worthy life. The 80s were the heyday of horror fiction. After a while the horror genre faded away as a seperate entity. You outlasted all the others and your books are bestsellers once again.
One day in 2017 I received a call from the executor of an estate. She had attempted to donate 43 boxes of books to CSU. They refused them. Since the deceased man had been a cat-lover she then tried to donate them to our local no-kill cat rescue. They sent her to me. I have a fund-raising program where I give the cat rescue half the money from books donated in their name. She brought in a 30 page list of the books in his collection.
So that is why on a hot day in mid-summer a flat-bed semi showed up on my small farm with 43 boxes of books on pallets. With no place to put them I was forced to store them outside, as I have stored hay for years. Bought the most expensive tarp and covered them.
Then one day there was a rainstorm (uncommon here in the west). The water puddled under the pallets. Time went by and it approached winter. Ready to pick some to take to the bookstore, I flipped up the tarp. Was greeted by a sight no bookdealer should ever have to see in their lifetime…wet soggy boxes. Never happened with hay… but apparently the water seeped up through the pallets, into the boxes and into the books…or moisture condensed inside the tarp and rained down. With an anguished cry I began tearing into the boxes to see what could be rescued. My partner joined me in the triage. We quit, fingers frozen, when there was no light to see by.
Ultimately all rescuable books went into the empty barn. Occasional visits were made to check for mouse invasion and to pull inventory for the bookstore. Deer slipped into the barn. Stray cats. On a warm, pre-spring day, just before the pandemic lockdown, I decided to look again. Made it to the end of the row, last box. Curiously unopened, still taped shut. “What have we here?” I wondered.
Inside that last box, six Stephen King books, the Dark Tower series, illustrated, some signed by illustrators, Grant publisher. First editions. Undamaged. Shock and awe.
Took them to the store the next morning. In walks a customer. “Do you have any Stephen King books?” He bought some. I pointed to the rare ones, “Are you a collector?” Took his name. Researched the books. Called him. We met during the lockdown and he paid $500 for the six. “Don’t know what happened to the first one. Maybe it was in another box, or ruined. “
A couple of weeks later we emptied the barn and set the books on shelves in the basement. And there it was… The Gunslinger. Perfect. Called the collector. Sold it low for $900.
So there you have it, the true story of how Stephen King saved the business for a month during the pandemic lockdown.
Have I read any of your books? I am not a fan of horror. Too much of it in daily life, but I did read Hearts in Atlantis. Why? Because I was a college student back then and I skipped so many classes playing Hearts that I eventually dropped out. Ok, not the total story.
I have heard that many authors detest having their books sold used because they don’t get a cut of the money. Have they ever sold a used car, piece of art, a record, or DVD? It is a compliment, Mr. King, that your books are collectible and do have a life of their own after they have fallen from the best seller list or gone out-of-print. It is a compliment to be considered so highly valuable.
If my bookstore actually survives the pandemic I will need to send some money to the cat rescue. I hope you like cats.
Thank-you once again for your unknowing benefaction,
Loved this! I used to frequent The Eclectic Reader while living in Loveland, CO for a few years. Also used to be a huge SK fan. Read and owned everything up until about 1991. Still read one every few years or so, in fact. Either way, it’s nice to see that those collectible volumes of the Dark Tower series were able to help keep the doors open and the lights on. Next time I’m in CO I’ll stop in and mention this blog post. Until the pandemic passes, keep the faith!
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Thanks for your support, Lyle. These next few months will be difficult as people are urged to stay home.