A great number of children’s books started my love of reading, but I can remember very few of their titles–most of them were dark or magical or weird. All of Robert E. Howard and Ray Bradbury’s work followed, and I could never just name one book of theirs, so I’d have to say that the one singular book that solidified my love of reading would be a novel I stole off my older sister’s tiny bookshelf when I was in the 5th grade: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. It had this simple lurid cover (I recall a stone-like face with blood dripping from lips) that spoke to me. The horror in it was great, sure, and I loved to read way back on my folks’ property in the country where I couldn’t see our house, on this mysterious set of three concrete stairs that had been dumped there–they led nowhere, but they were a great place to let my imagination loose.
I identified with Danny Glick in the book, a kid who loved monsters and monster movies. But more than that, I identified with all of the characters. They were blue collar, they were rural, they were small town–hell, they were my family and neighbors and friends and friends’ parents. That is what made the book so scary for me. Something evil and terrifying and supernatural could literally happen in my back yard–that is what King seemed to be telling me, and I believed him. It was a delightful terror, an adrenaline rush I’ve rarely had from a book since. I wish a book could scare me that much again.