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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 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.

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