At Thanksgiving, once, I joined family at a rustic-styled hotel which played host, as well, to a sprinkling of celebrities. At dinner in the clatter-filled, capacious dining hall, I happened to be seated close to the dessert buffet. Chocolate, in all its glorious preparations, was in ample display. The cakes, the cookies, the puddings, the tortes! A three-tiered chocolate fountain reigned as if from a throne. The typical guest approached with barely contained anticipation, spearing a piece of pineapple, a marshmallow, or a wedge of pound cake, and thrusting it with great purpose into the flowing curtains of chocolate.

And then, along came Stephen King.

He kept his head down, didn’t speak to a soul, and no one noticed him or at least let on. Hands clasped behind his back, bent at the waist, he studied the cascades of milk chocolate. Several long minutes passed, a look of scrutiny on his most-identifiable face. And while he observed every detail of that fountain in particular, I watched him. And then, the moment passed and he left. Apparently, he got what he came for, and it wasn’t dessert.

I wondered: Was death by chocolate something he’d take up next in his work? Certainly, he was collecting the telling details, whatever his intended purpose, and it reinforced for me a simple principle: A writer, no matter the genre, ought to know what he’s talking about if he expects to deliver something of value.