Happy 69th birthday to Stephen King!

After nearly seven decades on this planet, the master of horror still reigns supreme.

Stephen King was probably the greatest influence on this horror and sci-fi fan's early life after Star Trek. I  read my first King book at the tender age of eleven: it was a paperback edition of 'Salem's Lot, and it shocked me in two ways. First, I was stunned to discover that it was about vampires; up to that point, all the vampire stories I had read or watched were firmly period pieces (I didn't read Richard Matheson's I Am Legend until a little later). Reading about vampires in a modern small town was a fresh and unnerving experience.

Second, one plot point in the story involves the death of a 12-year-old boy named Danny Glick, who later rises to become a vampire. Reading about a boy a little older than me dying -- and his funeral scene is traumatic -- was genuinely unsettling in a way that I had also never felt before while reading or watching a horror tale.

From that moment on, I was hooked (becoming one of what King calls his Constant Readers), and for 39 years since then, I have bought every Stephen King book the moment it came out (although I have to admit that as a family man with less time on his hands, I'm a little behind on reading the last two). And sure, the man has gone through his peaks and valleys (there were a few years after his accident where he was particularly shaky, which is also quite understandable considering what he went through), but in recent years outstanding books like Under the Dome, Revival and 11/22/63, as well as the somewhat lesser but still very enjoyable Bill Hodges novels, have shown King to be going through a bit of a personal creative renaissance again.

Not only that, but the King "brand" is surging again as well. Major film adaptations of It and The Dark Tower are in production now, 11/22/63 was recently made into a miniseries, and future movies or TV events based on Revival, Gerald's Game, The Mist and Mr. Mercedes are all in various stages of development.

None of this stuff would matter, however, if King didn't deliver the goods, and he's continued to do so for over four decades. As he has often said himself, King was born to tell stories, and his seemingly effortless ability to weave compelling tales about memorable and fully fleshed-out characters still grips millions of readers around the world, including this one. His unabashed love for the written word, his dedication to promoting the arts of reading and writing, and his devotion to scaring the pants off people (even while he has branched into other genres all along) define him as not just America's greatest living horror writer, but one of our greatest living writers, period.

Enjoy your birthday today, sir, and this Constant Reader for one looks forward to many, many more.

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