Not all the literary scholars in New Haven, Conn., are on the faculty of Yale University. Take Stephen Spignesi, for instance, the world's leading expert on Stephen King. Spignesi, formerly a jewelry-store manager, is the author-compiler of The Shape Under the Sheet: The Complete Stephen King Encyclopedia, a 780-page, six-pound concordance to the people, places, and things in every Stephen King work. There are over 18,000 entries, ranging from ''Tupperware storage boxes'' (found in Randy's refrigerator in ''The Raft,'' a story in Skeleton Crew) to ''a six pack of Pepsi, chips, and some dip'' (''the items Thad was buying on June 10 at Dave's Market when he got a call from Stark at the store'' in The Dark Half).
''I guess you could say I have a penchant for completeness,'' Spignesi, 38, admits happily. A King junkie since picking up The Shining in 1977, he spent five years on the project, putting in a couple of hours every night after work and immersing himself completely on weekends. ''I even skipped family functions to work on it,'' he says.
If The Shape Under the Sheet catches on with hard-core King fans and there are many it could do very well. Few authors inspire such devotion as King, and the market in King collectibles is especially strong. Is Spignesi excited about making a killing in the King market? Well, it's hard to tell which event thrills him more the publication of his encyclopedia or the fact that King's new TV series, Golden Years, debuted on July 16, his own birthday. ''There are no coincidences,'' he intones. ''It's synchronicity.''