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himself, knows the highways, the small towns, the cities, the country. You can find most of it on a
map; and what isn't on a map is merely chartographer's error.
Sensitivity. And talent. Talent for what? For being able to create not just the people who live in
these stories, but also the stories themselves. King is a story-teller. Not a preacher, or a speechmaker,
or a versifier, or a rambler. Story-teller. Sit me down, Steve, and tell me a story that will scare the
hell out of me. Beginnings and middles and ends. It's not as simple as it sounds. You can be taught
the mechanics, but you can't find the talent in a classroom. You have it. You don't. And when you
have sensitivity and talent that comingle in something larger that itself has no name ... you have
someone like Stephen King.
Now I don't mean to suggest that the man is perfect when he sits down at the typewriter. If he
were, we'd have absolutely nothing to look forward to. In the mornings he works on his important
stories; in the afternoons on what he calls his "toy trucks" — those bits and pieces of novels and
stories that eventually grow into something that he simply has to finish. He claims that he also does
his correspondence in the afternoon. Well.. . like I said, the man's not perfect. After all, he did teach
a course or two at the University of Miane in Oreno (Oregano? Oreo?): Forms of Literature, Writing
Fiction, Writing Poetry, Directed Writing, and Themes in Horror and the Supernatural. He gave up
the profession, then slipped back into it while none of us were looking.
And none of us have so little class that we say "I told you so, idiot!"
So there Kirby McCauley and I were. In Oreno, Maine. We spoke one morning to his class on
THS. I don't know how well we did, but on the final examination King asked the class who we were .
and none of them got our names right. One of them said that one of us looks like Woody Allen. Not
anymore. Kirby has a beard.
And in spite of leering promises (didn't I tell you Tabby was a gem?), none of those "with-it"
young coeds came to our motel that night. God knows we tried, but I suppose my own particular
dialect of body language responds more readily to braille.
No, the man's not perfect.
But I have just finished reading his latest book, The Dead Zone, and I am here to tell you that there
is something in the wind. Not only is it a novel Elizabethan in its tragedy, but it also contains the
single most frightening line in anything I've ever read.
It is obviously much too soon to evaluate a career that's just getting started, has decades yet to run,
but I am confident that critics (of the purest sort) will mark The Dead Zone (in essays yet to be
written) as one of those elusive "turning points" in the development of a writer. Or milestone,
Whatever the word, the effect will be the same.
A man standing in the middle of a runway, waving a flashlight, guiding . . . something . . . down
from the night sky.
And when it lands, my friends ... oh lord, when it lands!