Stephen King: The Colorado Connection
Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. I have two shelves in my library devoted to King, and whenever I'm in a used bookstore or a thrift store, I look for Stephen King paperbacks--I love the old 80's editions that look gnarly and crass, and I give them a good home. And that's how you get six copies of It, kids.
One of my earliest memories of reading was in the 3rd grade, when I read King's The Eyes of the Dragon and my mom found the paperback crammed in between my mattress and the wall and the realization in her eyes--the acknowledgment that her baby girl was growing up and reading scary stories was a hit of drug I've been chasing ever since. King's book, On Writing, was one of my favorite books for a long time--I remember reading it in my bedroom in college, and laughing so hard my roommates thought I had a boy over.
I've always associated King with Maine, which is totally appropriate. He's from Maine; he knows the state, and he does a lot in Maine to make it a better place. In the spirit of write what you know, most of his books are set in Maine.
But--some aren't, and I'm here to argue Colorado plays an important part in King's lexography (ok, may have just made that word up). I don't know his connection to Colorado, but here's my evidence:
The Shining is based on The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park--Colorado. The Overlook, the hotel in The Shining, is north of a fictional town called Sidewinder, which is more remote than Estes. (The Stanley is also the place where I took the best shower of my life, but that's another story.) The Shining is undoubtedly one of King's most well-known, cornerstone works (Simpsons homage, anyone?) The Kubrick film notoriously did not meet King's expectations, so much so that he supported a made for TV remake and performed a cameo in it. Furthermore, Jack Torrance, the main character in The Shining....an alcoholic, frustrated writer? Seems a little autobiographical, King. A meaningful "road not taken what if". King acknowledges this himself in On Writing, saying "I was, after all, the guy who had written The Shining without even realizing that I was writing about myself." (95)
On that note, Misery is also set in Colorado. While not as well known as The Shining; Misery is another significant, emotional novel for King. Telling the story of a writer, Paul Sheldon, who feels trapped in their genre of choice (romantic, gothic novel with the titular character, Misery) who gets in a car accident up in the mountains of Colorado (Sidewinder shows up again, I believe) and is rescued by a nurse, Annie Wilkes---Misery superfan. Cut off from civilization, Wilkes nurses Paul Sheldon back to health, and then demands he write a novel about Misery just for her. Wilkes is the worst kind of villian--won't swear, but has no problem smashing Sheldon's legs with a sledgehammer. King has said, "Annie was coke, Annie was booze, and I decided I was tired of being Annie's pet writer." Significant personal story, again, set in Colorado.
Finally, The Stand. The good guys gather in Boulder, Colorado to face off against the bad guys in Las Vegas, Nevada. King writes of each place like a local, speaking of "the town was built on a hill" and aware of mile markers and details locals recognize. I say this, as I am a local. I don't think you can argue the Stand isn't an important King novel--it's one of his greatest challenges, and I've avoided re-reading it because -- well, it's a bit too true to life.
I'm sure there are more, but I think that's a pretty compelling argument. I wonder what personal connection King has to Colorado--other than winters in Florida, after he got hit by the van and needed a warmer climate for comfort, I don't think he lives out here.
It's one of the questions I'd ask him, if our paths ever cross.