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Confessions of a Constant Reader

Updated: Aug 4, 2019

Hi. My name is Duncan Ralston and I'm a Constant Reader.

To clarify, for those who don't know the term, it means I'm a long-time Stephen King fan. It's a term of endearment he's bestowed upon his readers.

To me - and I'm sure to many others, probably even King himself - "Constant Reader" doesn't mean you only read King, nor does it mean you've read every word he's ever written, from the Dark Tower series to The Cannibals, his unpublished 1981 draft of Under the Dome (King completionists can find the manuscript here). To me it means a fan, which I definitely am. I don't love all of his books but I enjoy a great deal of them.

King's writing inspired me to write my own stories.

I'm not ashamed to admit I plagiarized a few of his shorts from Night Shift from memory for class assignments in my early teens. Back then, King was a god to me.

Though I never did finish my journey to the Dark Tower. After reading The Wastelands - which I loved - I jumped immediately on then brand-new Insmonia, and quit King in a rage for ten years. On Writing brought me back into the fold, and I think I've read 40 of his novels and all of his collections but the latest. I've seen all the movies and miniseries, skipped Haven (the pilot didn't hook me), and dumped out of CBS's Under the Dome at the beginning of season 2.

I could talk about Stephen King all day long.

Another thing I love to do as a fan is read about Stephen King. Not biographical stuff. I got enough of that from Danse Macabre, On Writing, and the old Biography episode from 2002, "Fear, Fame and Fortune." What I love is reading about his writing. I've read the entire blog series from horror author Grady Hendrix, The Great Stephen King Reread, and James Smythe's Rereading Stephen King in The Guardian. I read King for a Year. And around that time I came across a blog by an indie author I was friends with on Facebook, Tracing the Trails.

I found the personal way Chad wrote about the books to be a good fit for me and King's writing, and I discovered echoes throughout to my own experience reading them as a teen. So when Chad eventually completed his journey through all the novels, novellas and collections and asked if I'd be interested in co-publishing the completed work, I jumped on it. I reread the entire thing from Carrie to Elevation (though I think he'd ended the original blog around Revival). And I was amazed when he told me Richard Chizmar of Cemetery Dance, who has worked with Stephen King for many years, would provide the introduction to the book!

Those of you who know me might also know I'm not a big fan of nostalgia for the sake of it. Much of it feels like a cynical cash-in (I won't name names here, but if you follow me on Facebook you'll likely know which I mean). But in the case of King's work, I have to admit, I'm a bit of a sucker for it.

A favorite from my teens - still a favorite now!

Reading Tracing the Trails over the past few months as editor, I was struck immediately by an overpowering urge to reread books I'd already read twice or more. As soon as I was done with Trails, I picked up The Shining for the first time in more than twenty years, possibly closer to thirty. It's a much better, much leaner book than I remembered. Reading it again, as a writer myself, I realized it was a master class in horror writing - and that it had influenced my own writing in ways I hadn't known until I was back in the Overlook with the Torrences and Tony and Dick Halloran. If there are any flaws to be found they're the product of its period, not the writing.

I may not buy all of his novels on release day like I used to, but when his words hit me I'm there 100%. And they usually do. In my opinion, 11/22/63 was one of the best novels of his career. It's also a great miniseries. Some of the best adaptations of his work have come out in the past few years. I absolute loved IT Part One, I enjoyed Castle Rock, Mr. Mercedes, Gerald's Game (a novel I had wanted to adapt when I first started out screenwriting in my teens) and 1922. I even thought the much-maligned Dark Tower movie was a lot of fun, though it wasn't a perfect film by any means.

Hell, I even went to see the Stephen King musical collaboration with John Mellancamp and T. Bone Burnett, The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (read my thoughts on it here)!

If you're as big a Stephen King fan as I am, I think you'll love Tracing the Trails. I'm proud to have played a small part in getting it out there in the world, because I really do think it's a special book. Here's the cover and synopsis:

For over forty years, Stephen King has been one of the biggest names in literature and popular culture.

In 2013, author and Constant Reader Chad A. Clark embarked on a journey, not of miles but of pages and words, reading all of Stephen King's works. Every book and short story, in the order they were released. What lies between these covers are his reflections along the way, the search for inspiration in a style of writing that has evolved over all this time. A trip from Castle Rock to the depths of Derry. From the Blasted Lands to the farthest reaches of Mid-World. For all of us who have been lost in many a King book and pined for the chance to look him in the eyes and say, "We thank you." With an introduction by Richard Chizmar and tons of guest reviews, this book is over 400 pages of pure King fandom.

Get your copy of Tracing the Trails on Ebook or Paperback.

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