Saturday, March 24, 2012

The coolest gift ever

I'm a writer groupie, okay? I admit it. There's something about owning a book signed by the guy or gal who wrote it that appeals to me, especially now that I understand how much blood, sweat and tears go into producing a book, having written a few myself.

The first signed book I got was also probably the coolest. This is the story:

It's the mid-1980's and my wife and I are living in Bangor, Maine. I had gotten hired by the FAA as an air traffic controller following the disastrous PATCO strike of 1981, when President Reagan fired all the illegally striking controllers (And before you email me about being a scab, save your energy. The strike was illegal and the strikers had 72 hours to go back to work, no questions asked, before losing their jobs. I don't feel guilty and you're not going to change my mind, so get over it already, it's been thirty years), and in the early years of my career I moved around a lot.

So anyway, it's 1986 and we're living in our first house, in Hampden, Maine, one town south of Bangor on I-95. My wife is working as a bank teller in Bangor, and if you know anything about modern genre fiction, even if you don't read horror, you know who Bangor's most famous native son is: Stephen King.

Well, it just so happens that one of the young women working in the bank with my wife is the sister of Stephen King's secretary, or personal assistant, or something. This is the woman who in the days before PC's and the Internet did the typing of King's manuscripts.

Now, Bangor, Maine is not a huge town. Back in the 1980's, when we lived there - and probably even now - if you spent enough time in Bangor you would eventually see Stephen King around town; we certainly did. But of course I never had the nerve to simply approach him and bother him by telling him how much of a fan I was, that's just not my way.

But unbeknownst to me, my wife grabs one of my many Stephen King books over the summer, a short story collection titled SKELETON CREW, and brings it into work with her. She gives it to her friend at the bank, along with a nicely typed card asking Mr. King if he might consider inscribing the book. Her friend passes it along to her sister. I'm completely unaware, my default setting even back then.

Fast-forward to Christmas, 1986. We won't have any kids for another year-and-a-half yet, so it's a pretty small, intimate Christmas morning. My wife is beside herself about one present in particular she wants me to open. It's obviously a hardcover book, which makes a lot of sense since she knows how much I love to read.

But still, it's a book. Why all the excitement?

I open it up and see SKELETON CREW, which, of course, I already own. My wife, who knows me pretty well by now even though we've only been married three years, patiently instructs me to open it up and look inside. This is what I find:

Just in case you can't make it out, here it is:

"For Allan -
with best wishes from
Susan - and me -
Stephen King

I have to tell you, I about shit myself. Sorry for the graphic depiction of surprise, but there it is. For a genre fan like me it's hard to imagine a better present, and in fact I honestly don't believe I've ever received a cooler or more thoughtful Christmas present.

The funniest part? Between Christmas 1986 and October 1990, when we bought the house in New Hampshire we still live in, my wife and I (and our growing family) lived in four different places, and somewhere along the line, with all that moving, I misplaced that copy of SKELETON CREW.

I was heartbroken. I knew the book was still around somewhere, tucked away inside a box, but I just couldn't find it. A couple of weeks ago I was cleaning some stuff out of our cluttered attic, rummaging through a cardboard box, and there it was!

I was so excited, it was almost like opening that Christmas present again. I mean, that signed book had been lost for over twenty years. I guarantee you, it won't get lost again.


Jenny Milchman said...

Al, I can just about imagine how precious that inscription is to you--not to mention having lived in the same town as the Great One :)

Dani said...

I haven't read a lot of Stephen King (genre isn't my usual thing) but Skeleton Crew and Eyes of the Dragon are two that I have read. I do thoroughly enjoy his short stories. Although now that I am reading your books, I might give Stephen King another try...
Eyes of the Dragon is by far one of my favorite books though, I have read it at least 10 times. :) Cool story, thanks for sharing!
Can't get a book signed on your e-reader...:(

Les Edgerton said...

Cool story! And, Dani, you can get a book signed on your ereader via Kindlegraph and or Autography (not sure if I spelled the latter correctly).