Dave Gallaher, the 68-year-old singer for Microwave Dave & The Nukes, was driving to a New Year’s Eve gig last year when he learned that Stephen King liked his blues band.

King had posted on Twitter that Gallaher’s group played the “best slide guitar rock and roll since Lonesome George Thoroughgood (sic) and the Destroyers.”

“The local paper called and wanted a comment on (King’s tweet), and I said, ‘Stephen King, the author?’ I had no idea we’d be of interest to him. I’ve never even read one of his books,” Gallaher said from his home in Huntsville, Alabama.

Besides having sold an estimated 350 million books since “Carrie” came out in 1974, Stephen King remains a consistent pop culture trendsetter at the age of 67, at least partly because he is also a pop culture omnivore. In the space of one week in September, his tweets mentioned the little-known Pennsylvania rockabilly band Reach Around Rodeo Clowns, the British TV series “Peaky Blinders,” the Jerry Lee Lewis soundalike Jason D. Williams, GEICO commercials featuring Maxwell the pig, and the cable TV series “Fargo.” He began posting on Twitter last December and now has 562,000 followers.

Reading his tweets some weeks, you’d think the Bangor author did nothing else but watch TV, read books and push the buttons on his radio. But this year, King is as busy as ever, even though he had proclaimed 2014 to be his “sabbatical year.” He’ll sign copies of his new novel, “Revival,” at Books-A-Million in South Portland on Nov. 17, and the musical he wrote with John Mellencamp, “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” comes to Portland’s Merrill Auditorium Nov. 20.

Here’s a list of some other things that have happened during King’s “sabbatical”: Hulu announced in September it will make a nine-hour miniseries based on King’s novel “11/22/63.” The movie “A Good Marriage,” based on a King short story, hit theaters in October. His book “Mr. Mercedes” came out in June, and King’s already finished the novel’s sequel, “Finders Keepers.” The Lifetime TV movie “Big Driver,” based on a King story, began airing in October. And the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine features an extensive interview with King, covering a range of topics from his cocaine habit in the 1980s to his views on religion.


Also this fall, King got involved in Maine politics. He appeared in a TV ad for Democrat Shenna Bellows, who lost her bid to unseat popular Republican Sen. Susan Collins.

“I was trying to not have to do any publicity on the things that are coming out this year – that’s why I called it a sabbatical year – but of course I did. And from January to September, I worked on the novel that’s on my desk right now (‘Finders Keepers’),” King said from his vacation home in Lovell. “But I played my guitar a lot and enjoyed the woods. It’s been a pretty good year.”


King said he’s doing a six-city book tour this fall to promote “Revival,” because the publisher asked him to. And he likes talking to people who like his books.

“But it doesn’t get easier. I’m not as young and don’t have as much energy as I once did, and I’ve got this bum leg,” said King, who suffered multiple leg fractures when he was hit by a van while walking along Route 5 in Lovell in 1999. King said he’s in good health, despite the limp.

King has always been prolific. In 40 years, he’s written more than 50 novels, six works of nonfiction, two screenplays and nearly 200 short stories. He splits his year between homes in Florida and Maine but lives a fairly simple life. That might explain why he has time to do so much.


“I’m not a clothes person. I’m not a boat person. We do have a house in Florida. But we live in Maine, for Christ’s sake,” he told Rolling Stone, when asked why he isn’t “living it up” more with the money he’s made. “To me, the greatest thing in the world is downloading TV shows on iTunes because there are no commercials, and yet if I were a working stiff, I could never afford to do this.”

Like a lot of King’s work, “Revival” shows off his ability to recall the emotional power of his own past and to present it in a way that fits in with current pop culture tastes. The book begins in 1962, in a small rural town that is much like Durham, where King grew up. He says writing the book allowed him to “relive some of that time period and write about it before I’m senile.”

The story focuses on a new minister with a “secret obsession” who curses God and mocks religion.

“In the book, I’m looking at, how did we get here, to where we are today? In my childhood, we had a party (telephone) line, and our ring was two shorts and one long, and you had to be careful that somebody else wasn’t listening in. We had one church in town and all the roads were dirt,” King said. “Now things are entirely different, and the world has changed so much.”


But King has changed with it, enough to keep his work and ideas relevant. Scholars, fans and people he’s tweeted about say that King’s interest in other books, TV shows and movies helps him write in a way that is easy for most people to relate to.


And people he’s tweeted about, especially, say that his generosity of spirit and compassion for other artists help explain why he can write characters that people care so deeply about.

They may not get a direct benefit, like increased sales, but being tweeted by Stephen King is a giant confidence-booster for anyone.

“I just think he’s a guy who notices things out of the mainstream, he looks far and wide for things that are interesting and inspiring to him,” said Gallaher, the Alabama blues musician. “I don’t know if (the tweet) has gotten us any more bookings, but there’s a lot more people now who say, ‘I’ve heard of you.’ And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Sarah Lotz, a South African horror writer, was amazed in March to find out that King had read her book “The Three” and had agreed to write a blurb for the jacket. A King fan since childhood, Lotz, 42, said it was “mind-blowing” to learn that the horror master had taken the time to read her work. Lotz’s editor sent a note to King asking for his endorsement, but figured it was a very long shot.

“I think he’s just a very generous person. He has an incredible amount of heart, and that comes out in his writing – that’s why you care about his characters,” Lotz said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an evil clown or whatever – you get behind the characters.”

Rebecca Housel, who teaches and writes about pop culture under the moniker “The Pop Culture Professor,” said King’s keen study of pop culture is a big reason he’s so successful.


“He’s a fantastic writer, I’d say the best of the late 20th century. And he stays relevant because he watches TV and movies, and he’s listening to music,” Housel said. “He’s a talented creative force, who appreciates the work of others.”


King’s tastes and his constant consumption of pop culture help him to understand what will touch his readers, said Rocky Wood, an Australian author who has written several books on King’s writing.

“Steve writes about the Everyman. We can so often imagine ourselves in the situation his characters find themselves in because the characters are so brilliantly drawn that we recognize ourselves or people we know in them,” Wood, who has ALS and cannot speak, wrote in an email. “He constantly references a wide range of songs, bands and musicians in his work, along with books, writers and even poetry. These all ground the work in our everyday reality, allowing us a deeper immersion in the tale.”

Quentin Jones, guitarist for Reach Around Rodeo Clowns, says King’s tweet recommending his band’s music shows that King appreciates a wide range of art and creativity, even if it’s not in the mainstream. King himself, earlier in his career, had been considered a lesser author by some critics because he wrote horror, and because he was so popular.

“He appreciates the real art of what he does. I’m sure he’d be a writer whether he got paid for it or not,” said Jones, 52. “And I think he appreciates that in others when he sees it. Why else would he be giving a nod to us, an underground band from Pennsylvania?”

King explains his tweets by saying he likes talking about young writers and talented artists. He likes the fact that if he recommends a book by a lesser-known but talented writer, people might go out and buy the book.

“I get enthusiastic about a lot of stuff. So when I watch or read stuff I like, I just wanna tweet about it,” King said. “If I get a funny thought, or something fascinates me, I’ll mention it. Like that GEICO pig, he just fascinates me so much.”

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