The Road To Misery – Part 3: The Ardent Bliss of Youth

Much like Suntup Editions’ first publication, The Eyes of the Dragon Art Portfolio, the limited edition of Misery had its origins in 1987. Someone once told me that there are no coincidences. We flap and glide and wreck ourselves through this life, driven by something deep within the core of who we are, or by nothing at all. For a long time, I was bouncing around like a pinball. Or was I?

It’s a romantic notion that there are no coincidences. That this journey we are all on, has been carefully orchestrated. So maybe, when I decided to visit a bookstore in early 1987, it was no coincidence that a new release was on the shelf from an author I had never heard of by the name of Stephen King. It was The Eyes of the Dragon, and I was primed to receive it.

Considering that 30 years later I would meet and become friends with David Palladini, the artist whose illustrations appeared in the novel, and that I would publish a portfolio of the art from that novel, I cannot help but give myself over to the idea that there are no coincidences. To take it further, the next King book I read was Misery, and here too, 31 years later, I go on to publish a signed limited edition of that novel.

The image above is a photo of the actual copy of The Eyes of the Dragon that I bought that day, and the Misery beside it is the one I discovered a few months later.

By the time I had finished reading both of these novels, I had developed an interest in not only reading as many King books as I could find, but also in collecting them.

I knew nothing of the handful of limited edition releases that existed at the time, so my collecting focus began with 1st editions. It felt as if I had just arrived late to a really fun party, and there were all these books that I had missed. Then the hunt began, and when the local used bookstores turned up nothing of interest, I started buying from specialty dealers in the United States to build my collection.

So began my travels in collecting the works of Stephen King, and in 1988, I thought it would be a good idea to start selling King collectible books. I figured if I was so into this, others must be too, and I could help them acquire items that were hard to find locally.

Something should be said about the perceived immortality of youth, and the power of belief. At twenty, I felt immortal. Failure was not a part of my belief system, and fear had not yet chosen to hibernate in the vacant cave of my chest for one very long winter. That would come later. Success was obvious and expected. Thoughts came clearly and rapidly, and in 1988, I started a mail order business while living at home with my parents. I specialized in science fiction, fantasy and horror books. I placed an ad in a national Sunday magazine, made a catalog, and began receiving orders in the mail.

That continued for three years while I was at college, studying something unmemorable. Then I had to go into the military, and when my service was over, I took the next logical step. I opened a retail bookstore, selling mostly comic books.

Those years from 1988 to 1994 were some of the most magical years of my life, and it all began with the discovery of that King book, which was the spark that started it all. My experiences at the comic store were life changing. I developed a love for popular and fan culture. A love that extended on through to the artists, the writers, and the stories they told, the worlds they created; the characters, human and non-human, and the magnificent gold and orange smiles it carved on our faces, that look in our eyes that said, we are okay, everything is okay. We are young, no matter how old we are, we are golden, no matter how wrecked the world is around us, or right beside us; we are alive, and happy, and we are hardwired to it all, to the movies and television we watch, to the comics and books we read, to the games we play, and to the great blue wonder of it all.

Selling that store was one of the hardest decisions I had ever made, but sell I did, because in April 1994, I immigrated to California. I left behind my family, my life as it was, and unbeknownst to me, my twenty-year old self; what Ken Grimwood referred to as the “Ardent bliss of youth,” and nothing would be the same again for another twenty-two years.

Some memories from the comic store years.

  • Simon Mason April 30, 2018, 9:33 am

    Interesting that your first books were UK editions Paul. Was the bookshop in the UK or were you still in South Africa at the time?

    • Paul Suntup

      Paul Suntup April 30, 2018, 10:03 am

      Hi Simon. I was still living in South Africa then, so all books were U.K. editions. I left for California when I was 26.


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