NEWS 2000

10/26/2000 10:04

Stephen King book-signing draws fans from Maine and away By Associated Press

BANGOR, Maine (AP) Stephen King always draws a crowd, but some fans went to great lengths to see him at a rare appearance in his home town.

A 14-year-old from Dallas skipped school and flew to Bangor and a woman drove 11 hours from Pennsylvania to join dozens of local residents for a book-signing event Wednesday in dowtown Bangor.

Michael Altemeier skipped high school and flew from Dallas to meet the author. "I think I am the biggest King fan," he said. "I'd never seen him live, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

An aspiring writer himself, Altemeier owns about half of King's books. His mother videotaped the meeting as Altemeier, shaking with excitement, reached the front of the line and talked to King.

"You can't be from around here, since you act like I'm incredibly important," the best-selling author said.

Holly Newstein thought it was worth the drive from Reading, Pa.

"I was up here two years ago for the 'Bag of Bones' signing. This is one of his first since the accident, and I'm just delighted he's still here," she said.

King was seriously injured when he was struck by a van in North Lovell in June 1999. He sustained broken bones in his right leg and hip, broken ribs, a punctured lung and a head injury.

King alluded to the accident when one fan told him it was wonderful that he was at the event.

"It's wonderful to be anywhere in the world," King said.

Some of the fans came bearing tribute to the writer.

Cody Mitchell, a teen from the Boston area, gave King an action figure meant to represent a character from the "Dark Tower" series. A young girl gave him a "Happy Halloween" drawing.

While the author obliged those who asked for photos during the two-hour event, he declined to sign a pregnant women's belly. He was persuaded to initial her T-shirt, which read "Stephen King fan under construction."

He also signed the arm of one man, who said he was going to have the signature turned into a tattoo.

"The fun of it for us is seeing how much people enjoy it," King said. "People are so appreciative."