King’s latest book, “Under the Dome,” takes place in a fictional town based on Bridgton, and King chose Bridgton Books for his only book-signing event in Maine.

Bridgton Books owner Justin Ward, reserved and unassuming as bookstore owners usually are, couldn’t be more excited.

The Stephen King fan is stoked that King’s latest book, “Under the Dome,” takes place in a fictional town based on Bridgton, and he’s even more thrilled that King chose Bridgton Books for his only book-signing event in Maine.

“All of a sudden they called up and one of his publicists said they’d like to have a book signing here, since the book is set here in Bridgton,” Ward said. “Needless to say I was pretty ecstatic. There haven’t been many book signings.”

Since Bridgton Books couldn’t handle the crowds the book signing will likely draw, King will autograph copies of “Under the Dome” at the Magic Lantern movie theater, across the street from the bookstore. The event will be held Wednesday, Dec. 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The famous Maine author, who has a home in nearby Center Lovell, will be on hand to sign 400 copies of his newest release.

Ward said anyone who wants to attend needs to call or visit Bridgton Books to purchase a $35 ticket, which entitles them to a copy of the new book and a space in line on the big day.

“They get the book when they come on Dec. 16. Basically when they arrive, we’ll hand them a book, they’ll give it to Stephen, and he’ll sign it. It should be pretty cool,” said Ward, who added that flash photography won’t be allowed and that there probably won’t be time for King to personalize messages. “But they need to reserve their tickets as soon as possible, since they will probably sell out pretty quick once word gets out.”

Ward has owned the bookstore since 1993. He remembers holding an informal book signing for King’s wife, Tabitha, a novelist in her own right, the year he opened. Ward has become friendly with the King family, with Stephen King often visiting Bridgton Books when he’s at his home in Lovell.

“He’ll come in when he’s in town. He’s an awesome guy. Nice, considerate, the family is just all-around great. And that he’ll come in and sign books, that’s pretty nice of him,” Ward said.

Good for business

The signing will be a boost just when Bridgton Books needs it. Ward said the whole bookstore industry has been lagging as of late – even the bigger chains – and for the popular King to hold a signing at a small, independent bookstore in rural western Maine is an early Christmas gift.

“This will be a good shot in the arm for the bookstore, that’s for sure. He wanted to help us out,” Ward said.

King’s publicist Marcia Difilippo confirmed King’s regard for the independents.

“This is the only Maine book signing he’s doing. Steve has always tried to help independent book stores and he knows it’s tough for them at this point,” Difilippo said.

She said King lived on Kansas Road in Bridgton in the mid-1970s and enjoys visiting Bridgton when he’s staying at his Lovell home.

‘Under the Dome’

Difilippo said the new book, which debuted Nov. 10, is 1,074 pages in length and weighs 3 pounds, 10.2 ounces. The New York Times noted the sheer girth of the book in its poignant review: “Tight and energetic from start to finish … hard as this thing is to hoist, it’s even harder to put down.”

Reviewers so far have praised the tome for its riveting writing. And readers must agree since the book shot up to No. 1 on the New York Times bestsellers list for hardcover fiction in its debut week. It is currently at No. 2.

While the book is generating rave reviews nationally and internationally, Difilippo said local readers won’t be disappointed either. Someone with knowledge of Bridgton will see many similarities between the fictional setting of Chester’s Mill, which gets stuck under a huge see-through dome that descends mysteriously from the sky, and real-life Bridgton. Everything from the layout of the roads through Chester’s Mill to some of the characters in the book are based on real people and real places in Bridgton, she said.

“It’ll captivate local readers,” she said.

Pam Brucker, a special education and reading professor at Southern Connecticut State University, was in Bridgton on Monday for Thanksgiving break and stopped by Bridgton Books to buy a copy of Stephen King’s new release, “Under the Dome.” Brucker, shown here with bookstore owner Justin Ward, is an avid Stephen King reader and bought a ticket on behalf of her son for King’s upcoming book signing event on Dec. 16 at the Magic Lantern. “The scariest book I’ve ever read is ‘It.’ This one I’m buying specifically because it’s related to Bridgton,” she said of King’s new book which is set in a fictional town based on Bridgton, where the author lived in the mid-1970s. (Staff photo by John Balentine)

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