When Gerald Winters recently decided to reorganize his rare-books store in Bangor, Maine, housing a collection mainly dedicated to Stephen King, he stashed most of his inventory in the basement. He's now suffered what the Bangor Daily News describes as a "devastating blow" to his business: A water main burst near the store, which he'd opened about a year ago, flooding its basement with at least six feet of water and ruining about 90% of his stock. He says there was no time to save anything, telling WGME, "I would have drowned in the water." Among the washed-out King items: seven original typed manuscripts, dozens of first- and limited-edition books, foreign-language prints, signed tomes, and other hard-to-find ephemera. Some items were so rare they weren't even for sale—he simply kept them on display for his customers. "You can't replace this stuff," he tells the Daily News.
On his store's website, Winters describes how he first became a "Constant Reader," as King would put it, of King's work after a friend lent him The Stand in 1998. "I was hooked after that," he says. He details his meticulous gathering of anything King-related over the next 20 years, in which he "would visit every single bookstore in every city I visited and lived." King himself is distressed about the news. "I'm horrified," he tells the Daily News. "As a book lover, my heart goes out to him." He also said he'd see if he could help Winters. In the meantime, Winters has been avoiding phone calls from customers, family, and even his wife, who still lives abroad. "I don't even want to talk to them, because I don't know what to tell them," he says. "It's a mess." (Read more Stephen King stories.)