Stephen King’s rare public appearance brings many cheers

As Stephen King pointed out, the Victoria Theatre in Dayton wasn’t sold-out on Thursday, June 9, because attendees were there for video games or movies — no matter how much fun those forms of entertainment might be.

“You’re here because you read! So give yourselves a hand!” said King, who was in Dayton on a rare book tour to promote his newest novel, “End of Watch.”

And that led the crowd to cheer for one of the most prolific, beloved and celebrated modern American authors.

It wasn’t the first cheer of the evening (nor would it be the last). Excited fans lined the sidewalk in front of the Victoria. Inside, attendees even cheered when the lights dimmed and the usual public announcements were made (no cell phone texting, exits, etc.) The cheers returned when Sharon Kelly Roth, public relations director for Books & Co. came out to introduce King.

Roth mentioned that the bookstore had been trying for many years to engage King in a visit; he rarely makes tours or public appearances. Then, after listing King's astounding list of literary awards and achievements (learn more at www.stephenking.com), Roth added, "And here he is, the man you'd give your 'favorite author award,' Stephen King!"

The biggest cheer so far!

Finally, there he was on stage, sharing stories behind just a few of his beloved novels as well as anecdotes that had the exuberant crowd roaring with laughter.

“I once met a woman at a book event who said to me, ‘you scared the hell out of me. Now give me a hug!’” King said. “I think that must make me the Easter Bunny of Horror. Or at least America’s Boogey-man.”

King shared that on another occasion, a reader told him, “’I don’t like scary books. I like uplifting works, like ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ I told her… but I wrote that! She said, ‘no, you didn’t.’”

The movie version of the story was based on King’s novella, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” in his collection “Different Seasons.”

King delivered plenty of substance with his humor, explaining that he believes much of his success is due to creating characters and situations that readers can truly connect to. Once that’s established, he said, he can spin a fantastic tale. “But character is most important in tales of terror,” he added.

He said that as a writer, he doesn’t keep a writer’s notebook. “Some ideas just stick,” he said. Once he has an idea that won’t let go, he said, “I need an accelerant to make it work,” meaning another angle or idea that works with the original idea to spark it to life.

One of the many attendees of the event was Erin Flanagan (www.erinflanagan.net), herself a writer of short stories and a professor of English and creative writing at Wright State University. She is, she says, "a self-described super-fan of Stephen King."

“Both myself and my sister, Kelly Hansen, realized we’d each read about half of King’s novels,” Flanagan explained. “So we decided that we should each finish reading all of his novels. As of last summer, we achieved that goal — with the exception of The Plant, his unfinished serial novel. And of course now, we’re eager to read ‘End of Watch.’ After that, we’ll start on his stories and novellas!”

As King wrapped up his witty, engaging, charming and insightful talk, the crowd gave him a standing ovation… and the biggest cheer of the night.

There was just one more to-do before the attendees exited to collect their copies of “End of Watch,” included in the price of the ticket.

Books & Co. has a tradition of raffling off book posters autographed by visiting authors. All proceeds go to benefit Project READ, Dayton's literacy resource and advocacy organization (learn more at www.project-read.org)

As bidding climbed higher and higher, both Roth, who led the auction, and the crowd exclaimed with excitement. At the end, the poster went for $4,400.00 — a record-shattering amount, Roth said.

The winner of the bid was Tracee, who wanted the poster for her boyfriend David, originally from Dayton. They live in Ohio, outside the Dayton area. David’s birthday, Tracee explained, is coming up, and the money also goes to a good cause.

Finally, attendees received their copies of ‘End of Watch,’ all first editions. King had pre-signed four hundred copies of the novel; attendees received signed copies by random chance. Many who received signed copies whooped with joy; several cried with happiness as well.

All in all, the Evening That Stephen King Came to Dayton was delightful, entertaining and uplifting. Sometimes, it just takes America’s Boogey-Man to remind us that reading and books are still much beloved in our culture.