A letter plops onto the mat from a correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous. “I work for an important national institution,” he writes, “and if the powers that be ever discover I am a fanatically devoted Hooting Yard reader, my career will go up in smoke.” I would have thought it would guarantee instant promotion to the very top of the tree, plus gongs and baubles, but I may have an imperfect grasp of these matters. Anyway, the letter from this shadowy figure is headed – rather worryingly – “Plagiarism”. Here is what he has to say:
Mr Key! I thought I should bring this rather important matter to your attention. Your secret is out.
While away on an extended family holiday recently. I read the 1986 novel It by Stephen King. I like to submerge myself in fantasy/horror guff while I am disconnected from my mainstream way of life. Anyway, I read a 1100 page Stephen King novel – why am I defending myself? That is not why I am here.
If I may interject for a moment, I too am puzzled why my correspondent feels the need to defend himself. I have read a few Stephen King books over the years. He is a superb storyteller, and I have nought but admiration for his industry and craft.
So, during the book, a young boy, who is keen on birdwatching, is affoisted (I think I may have made that word up) by the evil clown/spirit thing in a water tower. In order to defend himself, he must really ‘believe in himself’ or some such of the like that allows the story to move on in a semi-logical way.
“How does he do this?” you ask. I shall tell you:
1. He holds up his birdwatching book ‘like a shield’ (does not specify whether book is opened or closed)
2. He chants – and this is the point, Mr Key, so pay attention – “Robins! Gray egrets! Loons! Scarlet tanagers! Grackles! Hammerhead woodpeckers! Redheaded woodpeckers! Chickadees! Wrens!”
There! Did you see that? In the middle of a book which has sold millions! A list of birds! “Robins! Gray egrets! Loons! Scarlet tanagers! Grackles! Hammerhead woodpeckers! Redheaded woodpeckers! Chickadees! Wrens!”
So: tell me the truth. Is it plagiarism, or are you and Stephen King in actuality the same person? Or; hah!, no doubt you have some other high and mighty explanation!?
I note that the book my correspondent quotes from was published in 1986, the same year as the inaugural Malice Aforethought Press pamphlet which unleashed Mr Key’s prose into a panting and expectant world. Clearly, then, Mr King was employing some kind of eldritch mind transference powers to “tap into” the Key cranium, rifling through it not only for its present contents but for material it would contain in the future. So let us say, rather, some kind of eldritch time-travel mind transference powers – precisely the kind of gubbins we find in Mr King’s books. I rest my case, though I would add that I have a distinct memory of taking a snooze in the year 1986 during which I had that uncanny feeling one sometimes gets that my brain was being rummaged through, past, present, and future, by a freakishly tall recovering alcoholic American bestselling writer.