But we always talked about the latest King books. That was one of the strongest connections we had—not just King, but our general love of reading and other authors we both liked. Yet it always came back to Stephen King and his works. It was a conversation we kept going for decades, right up until my father suddenly passed away in March 2021. His last King book was, I think, Later.
Many Happy Returns
Stephen King’s effect on the horror genre, on popular literature, on filmmaking, and on pop culture is vast and indelible. He is the most popular author of his time; his books have sold hundreds of millions of copies; and many of the films based on his work are now considered classics of horror cinema. This includes Brian de Palma’s Carrie, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Rob Reiner’s Misery, and more recently, Andy Muschietti’s It.
He’s been part of our lives for nearly 50 years, and an especially important, deeply personal part of the lives of what he calls his Constant Readers: the ones who have been on the ride with him for most of this time, some stretching back all the way to the beginning, others hopping aboard the dark train with the novel It or the brilliant film adaptation The Shawshank Redemption.
I’m one of those Constant Readers, and I have shelves full of King books staring at me as I write this, ranging from crumbling paperbacks to pricey limited editions. I have my share of King signatures, although I’ve only met the man, very briefly, twice. An interview remains the top item on my bucket list and is likely to be there until and if it ever happens.
Reading Stephen King taught me about the power of storytelling and memorable characters, the complexity and mechanics of the craft itself, and the awe that truly great books could inspire in a reader. His novels, short stories, and movies have provided endless hours of joy and entertainment. His literary voice is instantly familiar and feels, whenever I open a new book of his, like that of an old friend. In many ways he is an old friend and has been for years, even though I don’t know the man.
The reach of his work unites everyone who has ever read him, and I’m pleased to say that it united my father and I, right up until Don Kaye Sr. passed beyond the realm of human understanding. That is top of the list when it comes to the gifts that Stephen King – without even being aware of it – has given me over the years.