Stephen King made a rare stop in Dallas to promote his new book, 11.22.63: A Novel, and to show his appreciation to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza for their assistance. The event, A Conversation with Stephen King, included a press conference, a special reception and a conversation with Lee Cullum, host of CEO on KERA.
Stephen King is an author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy. He has written nearly 50 novels and sold over 350 million books. Many of his novels and short stories have been made into films such as Carrie (1976), The Shining (1980), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and The Green Mile (1999).
King walked into the press conference and immediately started.
“I’ve got this book, 11.22.63, and the people from The Sixth Floor Museum at the Dallas [School] Book Depository helped me a lot,” said King. “I wanted to come down and do something to help them, if I could. So here I am. That’s all I know.”
Members of the press laughed.
King had the idea for 11.22.63 in 1971 while he was still teaching. King remembers the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination eight years later which was just as fresh as September 11th is today. He also remembered people at the time started talking about what might have happened if Kennedy was never assassinated and the series of events that allowed the assassination to happen. This was the spark for another King novel.
At the time King realized the idea for 11.22.63, he did not have the time or the resources to write a novel that would require an immense amount of research. After all, Google would not be invented for another 25 years. King could tell this novel was going to be a very large project.
King shelved the idea because it was too soon in 1971 and also because Jacqueline Kennedy was still alive and so were her two young children.
11.22.63 is a story about Jake Epping, a high school English teacher. He is befriended by Al, who runs the local diner. Al introduces Jake to the time portal in the pantry of his diner that leads back to 1958. Al, who is ailing, wants Jake to use the portal to save President Kennedy. That would involve changing the future. Trouble is the future doesn’t change so easily.
During the course of writing 11.22.63, King visited Dallas and got to know The Sixth Floor Museum better than most. King also visited other Oswald sites around Dallas like the Neely Street house in Oak Cliff, Ruth Paine’s house in Irving and General Walker’s house on Turtle Creek Blvd.
“We went to 214 Neely Street where Lee and Marina lived and where she took the pictures of him with the guns and The Daily Worker. Seeing that and seeing the back yard where they were posed you get a real feeling of this really happened. These were real people who lived in Dallas,” said King.
King reflected upon hearing the news that President Kennedy was shot.
“I had just turned 17 two months before. I was a junior in high school. Here in Dallas it’s an hour earlier than it is on the east coast. So nobody announced anything in our school. The guy who drove us home said ‘Somebody shot the President of the United States and he’s probably going to die.’ And it came on the radio that he had died. Then the driver said, ‘They’ll catch whoever did it and then somebody will kill the son-of-a-bitch.’ And that was pretty much what happened,” recalls King.
“When I got home my mother was in tears. She kept saying, ‘That beautiful man. That beautiful man.’ I was shocked at that because we were Republicans.”
And when asked about conspiracy theorists King said that he does not have any bones to pick with them but he’s sure they’ll have a bone to pick with him.
King is a believer in Occam’s razor, nine times out of ten the simplest explanation is the truth. He believes that Oswald purchased the guns, was photographed with the guns, and used the guns.
A Conversation with Stephen King was a delightful affair and hopefully a fund raising success for The Sixth Floor Museum. King won over the audience with his wit and insights to his world. Much like his novels, he left the audience wanting more.