Rare Stephen King appearance draws hundreds of fans to Alpharetta

Stephen King signs books at Alpharetta Walmart

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Attention, Walmart shoppers — Stephen King on aisle four.

More than 600 loyal fans of author Stephen King filled the Alpharetta Walmart Supercenter on Ga. 9 in Midway Wednesday night, Dec. 14.

Hundreds spent the previous night sleeping in tents outside the south Forsyth County store to ensure their place in line.

King rarely holds book signings, so the Alpharetta event drew fans from as far away as California and Hawaii.

The author of spine-tingling bestsellers such as “Pet Sematary,” “The Shining,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Cujo,” was in town to promote his latest novel, “11/22/63,” a historical fiction tale about an English teacher who goes back in time to prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating President John F. Kennedy. “11/22/63” was recently named one of the 10 Best Books of 2011 by the New York Times.

King requested an Atlanta-area location for one of only two store signing events for his book tour.

He was also in town to promote “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” a haunting new musical coming to Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in 2012, written by King with music and lyrics by John Mellencamp.

First in line at 9 a.m., the day before the Alpharetta book signing, was Cumming resident Carrie Patterson, a huge Stephen King fan whose mother named her after King’s first novel, “Carrie,” published in 1974 — the same year as her birth.

Next in line, Colleen Munley of Warner Robins, Ga., who planned to give a King-signed book to her husband for Christmas.

Further down the line, Pat and Louanne McCumber, who flew from southern California for the event and Rob and Diane MacDonald, who drove 12.5 hours from Pinckney, Mich., for the signing event.

The overnight campers jokingly dubbed themselves: “Occupy Walmart Movement,” and for most, including senior citizens like the MacDonalds, sleeping on a sidewalk was a new experience.

“I’m not a camper,” said Diane MacDonald, as husband Rob admitted that this was the first time his wife had ever spent the night outdoors.

The Midway location is not open 24 hours, so the campers were on their own after the store closed at midnight.

“There was a mad rush for the restrooms when the doors opened at 6 a.m.,” said Louanne McCumber.

Walmart store manager Melissa Finnegan handed numbered wristbands to the first 400 people in line at 7 a.m. Dec. 13, guaranteeing them a signed book.

Hundreds more waited patiently in line, not knowing whether they would receive a rare Stephen King autograph.

At 7 p.m., the devoted fans’ long wait was over when King took the stage to greet the crowd amid a roar of applause and chants.

“King! King! King!”

He made a few jokes about the Atlanta traffic.

“What do you do here? Give kids a license at age 9?” he said.

Shannon Bennett, of Chattanooga, Tenn., was recovering from breast cancer treatments and unable to camp out or stand in line for hours.

A good friend who works for Walmart was able to surprise her with a special seat next to King’s desk.

After King signed her book and gave her a hug, Bennett was overcome with tears.

“I took one of his books to every single one of my long chemotherapy treatments,” she said. “This just means so much to me.”