On Thursday, Stephen King posted a picture on his Facebook page. It was a photo of his dog Molly, sleeping on her new bed.
"The library ladies gave Molly, a.k.a. the Thing of Evil, a new bed," King wrote. "She has decided not to hurt them. (The thing she's chewing in the picture is the remains of an insurance salesman's right toe.)"
The dog bed was a gift from the Manatee Library Foundation, given to King after his appearance Tuesday in Bradenton with fellow mega-selling author John Grisham.
"He loved it!" exclaimed Library Foundation president Jane Plitt. "He loved it!"
The event was titled "Bookends: An Evening With Two Literary Giants." King and Grisham sat on stage at the Neel Performing Arts Center at State College of Florida and, for about 75 minutes, delighted a capacity crowd with a lighthearted, free-ranging personal conversation.
At the end, Plitt gave King the dog bed. It was embroidered with the words, "Molly a.k.a. the Thing of Evil." King had talked about Molly and his sardonic nickname during his solo appearance last year at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
The gift probably set the Library Foundation back a few bucks, but the foundation got the better of the deal. The final figures aren't in yet, but Plitt said "Bookends" raised close to $220,000 for county literacy programs. There are still expenses to be paid, and more income to be figured in, but the amount is huge. The library foundation's goal was to gross $170,000 from the event, so the final figure will be about 30 percent more than they dared to hope for.
Specific plans for the money haven't been worked out yet. There are proposals, Plitt said, and a lot of the details will be worked out Tuesday at the Library Foundation's board meeting. But the funds are almost certainly going to be used for literacy programs in all branches of the county library, and all target lower-income families.
Plitt presented some saddening statistics about literacy in Manatee County. About half of third-graders, she said, can't read at a third-grade level.
A couple of hundred thousand bucks ought to help make a dent in that. Last year, the county chipped in $150,000 on top of the $100,000 the foundation raised for a
library computer system from King's appearance, so Plitt hopes the county commission will once again contribute to the literacy programs.
"What we did last year was demonstrate that we could form these public-private partnerships," Plitt said. "We're hoping to build on that in the future."
Another thing the Grisham-King event did was focus attention on Bradenton that the city doesn't often get. TV news crews and reporters from Tampa and St. Petersburg covered "Bookends" -- even ones that don't bother with the Bradenton Blues Festival, which attracts more than three times the crowd. The comments on that photo on King's Facebook page are largely envious remarks from people who wish they could have been here.
The Library Foundation set the bar high with its evening with Stephen King in 2015, and surprised everyone when it announced that it had something even bigger planned for 2016. Plitt said the foundation has no idea how to top Grisham-King for 2017, at least not yet. It was King who wrangled his friend Grisham for the Bradenton appearance -- both of them donated their time -- so perhaps King has passed the proverbial baton to Grisham and he'll invite another big name from the book world to join him next year.
Meanwhile, though, if you missed "Bookends" live, you can watch it on Manatee County Education Television's website, metvweb.com. You can also listen to my interview with John Grisham at bradenton.com.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.