What was your favourite distraction as a child?
Sadly, not digging up old animal bones or torturing insects. In the late '50s, there wasn't a lot of TV in the States, but we did get WPIX out of New York City and they had Million Dollar Movie, which started at nine o'clock in the morning and played all day.
What was the best thing about being an American teenager in the '60s?
I'd say dating girls, getting a car, listening to music, Beatlemania... It was great to be a kid.
Did you need a car to live in the sticks?
Yeah, it was rural. To do anything, you needed wheels. Until I was 18, when I finally got my licence, I had to get to the movies other ways, which was a problem if I wanted to take a date.
What, you had to hitchhike with your date?
Well, you could thumb it, but things were more complicated than that. What you had to do was go to your best frend - if he had the car - and ask him if he wanted to go to the movies. You'd say you'd pay for half the gas. So he'd say yes, then you'd go ask some pretty girl out, and she'd say she was busy! It was hard.
You might end up sitting in the back seat while your friends get it on in the front.
Sure. I can remember going to the drive-in a couple of times - and this was after I got my licence, so I'm behind the wheel - and I'm all by myself while they're making out like crazy on the back seat. Humiliating.
That's harsh. What were the first stories you read whkh made you want to write honor?
Pulp magazines like Weird Tales and Startling Stories. The pages were starting to crumble and they smelled of Egyptian spices. I remember thinking that would be one hell of a way to earn a living. Getting money just to make things up!
Were you influenced by all those weird tales?
Yeah. The first thing I sold was The Glass floor It was 1969. It was a story about a haunted house with a secret library which had a floor made out of a miror. When you walked into the room, after a while you began to feel like you were floating. Just hanging in space. And then you'd fall. That was the twist.
How much did you get for that?
Thirty doliars. Actually, I'll tell you a real truth here. The first story I ever published, but didn't get paid for, was in 1963. I sold a story called I Was A Teenage Grave Robber. They changed the title to In A Half World Of Terror. It was about a mad scientist who grew giant maggots and forced this teenager to dig up fresh corpses.
I don't know. But at the end, the maggots ate the scientist and the teenager got away.
Did you have to do other jobs to pay the rent when you were first selling stories?
Sure. I worked in a laundry while I was writing for men's magazines. This is no bullshit: any medical treatment for my kids' childhood diseases was paid for by mags with tities like Cavalier and Dude. Oh, and Juggs. That's charming, isn't it? Naked women paid for my kids' health.
Was working in the laundry weird?
There was a guy who worked there who fell into the pressing machine, or "mangle", as you call it. He was over the machine dusting off the beams when he just lost his balance and fell.
And the machine ate his hands?
Yeah, it swaliowed his arms. So he had two hooks where his hands used to be.
Must have been tricky doing up his laces...
True. And he always wore a white shirt and a tie. We used to wonder how he got that tie knotted so perfectly. He used to go to the bathroom and run one hook under the hot tap and one under the cold, then he'd creep up behind you and put the hooks on your neck. That was his little joke.
At least he kept his sense of humour. In Misery, the novelist rewards himself with a cigarette when he's finished his latest book. Do you have a ritual?
I used to keep a bottle of champagne handy, but 10 years ago, I quit drinking.
Why, did you get bored of it?
Not exactly. It was either stop drinking, or go all out and try to drink everything. The only time I really miss it is when I finish a book.
And have you had any bad experiences with a "Number One Fan" yourself?
I haven't directly, but my wife has. There was a guy who broke into our house when she was home alone. It was about six o'clock in the morning, and she had just got up when she heard glass breaking downstairs.
And she went down to investigate?
What did he look like?
He looked like Charles Manson with long hair, and he had a rucksack in his hands. He said that he was my biggest fan. Then he stopped suddenly and said he actualiy hated me because I'd stolen the novel Misery from his aunt. Then he held up the rucksack and said that he had a bomb and was going to blow her up.
Jesus! What did your wife do?
She ran out in her bare feet and nightgown, man! The police came round and he was still there. It turned out that all he had in the bag was a load of pencils and paperclips in a box.
What was up with him, then?
It turned out he was from Texas. His aunt was a nurse who'd been fired from some hospital, and he made a connection with the nurse in Misery.
Wow! Is there anywhere you'd be scared to live?
Yes. Port-au-Prince, Haiti - where you step over the bodies of dead children in the marketplace.
Moving away from honor, I've heard you own a radio station. How did that come about?
I did this piece in Playboy about the death of rock'n'roll, and there was this guy in it called The Humble Yet Mighty Marshall who said that his station was being sold, and if I was really into rock'n'roll, I should buy it. So I did.
And you're in a band yourself, aren't you?
Yeah. The Rock Bottom Remainders.
Done any memorable gigs?
We played the London Palladium, and Bruce Springsteen came up and we did Gloria, the old Van Morrison anthem. It's really easy, but I forgot the chords in the excitement of playing with Springsteen. And we played at the opening of the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. The organisers didn't want to offend any of the real musicians by snubbing them, so they got these five writers who thought they could play.
So you've done books, films, TV series, acting, radio stations, music - do you think a honor advert could work, and for what product?
Yeah, I guess. You could do ads getting people to wear their seat belts with a kind of you-could-look-like-this-style horror. Mutilated faces being thrown through windscreens. Or shots of blackened lungs for smokers.
But those are getting people not to do things...
Yeah, you're right. I guess it would be hard to get them to actualiy buy things using horror. Nobody is going to buy a food product if you show a great fat guy with hundreds of lesions saying. 'You'll look like this if you eat ...."
Desolation is a theme in your books. Was there a desolate person or notorious tramp in your home town?
Yeah, there was. This guy used to roll around town staying in different people's sheds. Remember, this was out in the country, so folks just used to say, "Oh, look, there's Sooky." Better to be a tramp out in the country. At least you'd get some pie, now and again.
Is it true you're interested in cricket?
It is. I took some English people to a baseball game in NewYork, and they thought cricket and baseball were from the same school, but I didn't agree. So I thought I would see cricket for myself this year, and the damn game was rained off. I met Dickie Bird, though. He was very dapper.
Finally, is God a good guy, or an evil fellow?
I think he's fairly loveable. After all, we've only had one big bomb in 53 years, man!