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Collecting Stephen King: Six Early Books

  • Oct 26, 2021

When asked why he wrote, Stephen King responded, “There is nothing else I was made to do.” With a growing bibliography of 63 novels, roughly 200 short stories, and a smattering of nonfiction, graphic novels, and even poetry, King continues to fulfill his destiny.

He began writing at an early age and had his first brush with publishing in high school, where he created a satirical newspaper with the mature title, The Village Vomit–subsequently earning a three-day suspension from school for making fun of faculty. Although he wrote throughout his youth, he wouldn’t make his first professional short story sale until 1967.

Photographic Portrait of a Young Stephen King
Photographic Portrait of a Young Stephen King.

In order to support his young and growing family, King resorted to a series of odd jobs, including a stint at an industrial laundromat and working as an English teacher. It wasn’t until his wife, Tabitha, fished out three discarded story pages from the garbage that King would begin his reign as the modern master of horror.

1. Carrie, 1974

Cover of Stephen King's Carrie

With the encouragement of Tabitha, King revisited his unfinished tale about an ostracized telekinetic teen and sold it to Doubleday. Written in only two weeks, Carrie, King’s first published novel, sold a disappointing 13,000 hardcover copies from a first edition run of 30,000. It wasn’t until its paperback release a year after the initial publication that readers took notice. One million paperback copies sold that year, launching King’s prolific career.

2. Salem’s Lot, 1975

Cover of Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot
First edition of ‘Salem’s Lot.

Following the success of Carrie, Stephen King turned to vampires for the fan favorite ‘Salem’s Lot. Inspired by readers’ enduring fascination with the original vampire tale, Dracula, King conducted an experiment. He dropped his version of the bloodsuckers into a modern, unassuming little town to see what would happen. The result is one of King’s most sought-after titles.

3. The Shining, 1977

Cover of Stephen King's The Shining
First Edition of The Shining.

For The Shining, the novel many believe to be King’s greatest work of horror, he took readers to the sinister Overlook Hotel, isolated in the Colorado Rockies. Inspiration for the story struck King during a weekend getaway with his wife at The Stanley Hotel. Much like The Overlook, The Stanley Hotel shut down during the winter months, and the Kings found themselves checking in to the now infamous room 217 as the final guests of the season.

King wandered the empty halls, dined in solitude, and chatted with Grady, the lone bartender. His eerie experiences found their way into the novel and into our nightmares.

A prologue exploring the origins of the evil that inhabits the Overlook and Jack Torrance’s troubled childhood was excised from the final publication. It has since only been published twice, once in a 1982 issue of Whispers magazine, and again as an abridged version that appeared in the April 26-May 2, 1997 issue of TV Guide, released to coincide with The Shining TV miniseries.

4. Rage, 1977

Cover of Stephen King's Rage
First edition of Rage, under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.

Stephen King’s fourth novel also marks two firsts: his first novel written under the pseudonym, Richard Bachman, and his first novel to go out of print. Rage breaks away from the supernatural and instead portrays a realistic narrative of a high school shooting. The story proved too controversial even for King, who ultimately ended its print run.

Copies of the original novel have become increasingly scarce. Rage also appeared as part of The Bachman Books, a 1985 collection of four novels (also including The Long Walk, Roadwork, and The Running Man), but has since been removed from the lineup.

5. Night Shift, 1978

Cover of Stephen King's Night Shift
First edition of Night Shift.

While publishers awaited his forthcoming magnum opus, The Stand, King returned to his roots to complete his first collection of short stories under the title Night Shift.

Night Shift contributed to the realization of King’s nonprofit Dollar Baby project. Beginning in 1982, King granted young filmmakers one-time rights to his short stories for the bargain price of $1.00 each, under the stipulation that he would receive a finished copy of the work, and that it could not be used for commercial purposes. Due to King’s non-distribution condition, few fans have been privy to see the extensive and growing collection of Dollar Babies. Just three of the films were ever granted commercial distribution–including one by Frank Darabont, who later adapted the screenplays for The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.

6. The Stand, 1978

Cover of Stephen King's The Stand
First edition of The Stand.

By the late 1970s, King, suffering from severe writer’s block, considered dropping his long-time coming fantasy epic, The Stand. He persevered and 823 (edited) pages later, he had completed what he called his personal Lord of the Rings, albeit a horrifying post-apocalyptic version. An uncut version released in 1990 comes in at an astonishing 1152 pages.

Stephen King’s early titles, while only a fraction of his ever expanding body of work, contain some of the greatest modern nightmares put to paper, and ensure that readers will be keeping their nightlights on, closet doors shut, and feet under the covers for generations to come.

Pamela Raia

Pamela joined Bauman Rare Books in 2015. After receiving a B.A. in English Literature, she spent several years traveling the world before landing in Las Vegas. In her spare time she is an avid reader, runner, and road trip planner.

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13 Responses to “Collecting Stephen King: Six Early Books”

  • Jude Hagan says:

    I am interested in buying all six of these books as a set if they are first editions.

    • Jessa Feiler says:

      Hi Jude! We have all of these books on and off. Right now for instance, we have a beautiful signed copy of The Shining: For many collectors, the hunt is the best part. However, for other collectors, the best part is enjoying their books at home. If you want the complete set, your best bet may be to get in touch with us by phone or email to find out what we can do.

  • Donna Gulick says:

    Where can I sell my Steven Kings books too? I have all but the last 4.5 years when my husband passed away.

  • Charlie says:

    Love King books

  • Ron Carmichael says:

    Very informative.

  • Karen Law says:

    I have a collection of Castle Rock newsletter from first edition to the end plus a postcard from the editor Stephanie. Can you tell me if they are worth anything.

    • Jessa Feiler says:

      Hi Karen! They don’t sound like something for us, but I’m sure that some King collectors would be interested. You might consider linking up with them through fan websites.

  • Laura says:

    I really would love to have these first additions! How would I get them?

    • Jessa Feiler says:

      Hi Laura! Get in touch with us via the “Contact Us” page on our website. We’re available during standard business hours by phone or by email whenever. Collecting Stephen King can be a wonderful journey; he has so many publications that it’s quite fun to bring them all together over time.

  • Brandon Scott Card says:

    **The prologue has also been released in a limited run of The Shining.

    • Jessa Feiler says:

      Interesting! I’m not the original author, but this is good to know. (And good for more completist collectors to know, too!)

  • Robert Marsee says:

    Hello my significant other and I ran across three hubris publications from the University of Maine that her father was in when he was published, we then noticed that Stephen King was also in two. The third has Tabitha King just listed as Tabby it was before she was Mrs King.
    So we have three mint ubris 1968 publications of a literary journal for the University of Maine Orono, one one has “Here there be Tigers” and “Cain Rose Up ” , the other has ” Harrison Park 1968″ and “Strawberry Spring”
    We’re looking to sell them but for having difficulty determining the value.