New York: The Viking Press, 1982. First Edition. Easily toward the top of the list of King's finest work - a volume collecting four novellas, each written after completing a major novel: The Body, Apt Pupil, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and The Breathing Method. Three of the four novellas were successfully filmed to great acclaim: The Body as Rob Reiner's Stand By Me (1986), Bryan Singer's Apt Pupil (1998), and Frank Darabont's highly-lauded The Shawshank Redemption.
The finest inscription I've seen in any Stephen King book, succinctly conveying the depth of his admiration for, and debt to, his literary idol. To the casual reader, the connection between King and John D. MacDonald (1916-1986) may not be immediately apparent, but despite a 31 year age difference, there was a strong friendship between the two men, and depth of mutual admiration. Prior to the publication of Night Shift (1978), King's first story collection, his editor Bill Thompson asked him who he'd like to write the introduction, putting the question to him thusly: "If you could have anyone in the world do the introduction to the book, who would you pick?" King's automatic response was "John D. MacDonald." When asked why, he responded, "Because he taught me everything I know...Because I idolize him." King, fearful the quality of his stories were not up to snuff, and certain that MacDonald would be too busy, felt it was a long shot; he was shocked when his editor called and read him a letter from MacDonald, who said he would read the stories, and if he liked them, would write the introduction. "His agreement to do that introduction and its prompt arrival a couple of weeks later pleased and impressed me more than the kind things the essay itself had to say about my work; MacDonald's generosity to a young writer who he'd never met helped to keep that young writer open to the needs -- and wistful hopes -- of other young writers."
For King, an introduction by MacDonald was a huge deal. At the time, he had Carrie, Salem's Lot, and The Shining beneath his belt; MacDonald, writing pulps since 1946, and novels under his own name since 1951, was already a household name, thanks to the success of his Travis McGee novels. He would ultimately make a friend of his literary idol, meeting MacDonald and his wife Dorothy, and exchanging frequent letters until MacDonald's death in 1986. In a 1987 interview, King affirmed his admiration for MacDonald's style and influence: "I had cut my teeth on his stories. I still think that of all the people doing top fiction today, he is the best. He was my model as a kid. If there are people out there that want to write, all you need to do is read 20 of his stories to get an idea what it takes to make a story kick over." cf. Scott, Steve. Blog post: "The Stephen King Connection." The Trap of Solid Gold: Celebrating the works of John D. MacDonald. October 29, 2011. Konstantin, Phil. "An Interview with Stephen King." The Highway Patrolman, July, 1987. Barron, Horror Literature: A Reader's Guide 4-166. Item #4830
First Printing. Octavo (24cm); blue paper-covered boards and navy blue cloth backstrip, with titling and author's initials stamped in copper and metallic blue on spine and front cover; dustjacket; [xii],527,pp. Inscribed on the front endpaper to John D. MacDonald: "For John D. MacDonald - With good wishes and admiration - any similarity to your own work in these tales is part of the debt I owe you - when I was learning to write, you kept school for me - Be well and live forever - Steve King 8/5/82." Slight forward lean, textblock just beginning to sag, with base of spine and lower corners gently bumped, and some faint, scattered soil to upper edge of textblock; Very Good+. Dustjacket is unclipped (priced $16.95), lightly shelfworn, with several edge tears and attendant creases, and some faint sticker residue at base of spine panel; Very Good+.