A Collection Fit for a King
Bangor’s most apparent claim to fame is almost certainly its longstanding connection to beloved author Stephen King.
Though people travel from all over the world to Bangor to visit some of the real-life sights that inspired the fictional town of Derry (as well as King’s iconic West Broadway home), there are surprisingly few Bangor businesses that capitalize on the city’s most famous resident. SK Tours, the vehicle tour of the city operated by Stu Tinker, has been the only one of note. Until now.
This past fall, Gerald Winters and Son, a new bookstore specializing in rare editions of King’s books—as well as books from J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling and other legends—opened at 48 Main St. in downtown Bangor. The cozy little shop displays books and other ephemera that fans of any of the above authors would likely gawk at, from first editions of “The Lord of the Rings” to some of the rarest limited editions of Stephen King’s books ever published.
Winters, a former computer programmer who has worked for Procter & Gamble, the stock exchange, and the U.S. government, bought his first rare book at a Sotheby’s auction in New York City in 1998. He was hooked. Now, buying and selling rare books, manuscripts and letters is his career.
“I’ve been selling privately for probably 18 years, but never publicly, never like this,” Winters said.
The first King book he ever read was the 900-page “The Stand,” which he says he read in one week.
“I devoured it,” said Winters. “[King has] been a big influence in my life. Probably of my favorite living writers, he’s the biggest in the world.”
Winters has lived all over the world, including Australia, Japan, Ireland and, most recently, Thailand, where his wife’s family is from. In each place he’s lived, he’s acquired books. His collection, which he estimates exceeds 5,000 books and other materials, has been in storage in locations across the globe, and he’s working to get the full collection to Bangor.
Online sales will comprise the majority of his business, as some of the books he buys and sells can claim upwards of $5,000 to $10,000 each. Though major fantasy and horror writers like King, Tolkien, Martin and Rowling are his area of focus, Winters also has in his collection rare editions of books by James Joyce and J.D. Salinger, as well as letters and other ephemera from King. In the Bangor store, however, he’ll also have affordable items, such as used paperbacks, movies and other memorabilia for sale.
Naturally, as an ardent King fan and professional collector of his books, Bangor was a place Winters and his family, including his two-year-old son, wanted to settle. Winters also wanted to have a brick and mortar shop in which to base his growing rare book business, and Bangor’s affordability—as well as its safety and excellent school system—was also an attraction.
As a new Bangorian, Winters this fall turned his front display window into a tribute to King’s “IT,” featuring the storm drain that Pennywise the clown appears in to George Denbrough, along with an abandoned bike, a bloody boot and scary hands reaching out to grab the next victim.
In order to achieve the most realistic depiction of the scene, Winters actually contacted Bangor Public Works to find the right storm drain. King modeled the street where George encounters Pennywise on the very real Jackson Street off Union Street in Bangor, near the Thomas Hill Standpipe. Winters went to where Bangor Public Works stores such items and, after searching through manholes and other supplies, found the exact make and model of the storm drain on Jackson Street. He purchased the storm drain and, with the help of several others, brought the 200-pound piece of metal to his shop, where it’s displayed today.
The coolest thing about Winters’ shop, however, is the fact that the display is open to the public. “Game of Thrones” fans can take a peek at a first edition of the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Tolkien fans can marvel at an uncorrected proof of “The Fellowship of the Ring.” And King fans can experience a wealth of riches—from the super limited edition of “Firestarter,” bound in asbestos, of which only 20 copies were produced, to rare Japanese editions of books, to an extremely rare action figure modeled on King’s appearance on “The Simpsons.”
And while most of the books in the shop are likely out of reasonable financial reach for the casual observer—it’s the diehards that are spending 10 grand on a super-rare King book—one can still buy a copy of “The Gunslinger” or “IT” for the regular price, take it home, and be transported into King’s dark, fantastic world.