Thursday, 22 August 2013

Unfeasibly excited about a visit from the doctor...

Are you as excited as I am about the next King release, ‘Doctor Sleep?

Released next month (September 2013), the sequel to the classic 1977 novel ‘The Shining’ (which was only Stephen’s third novel, but already showed so much of what we have come to perceive as ‘classic King’), is long-awaited and so eagerly anticipated that the first chapter has already been released on the Stephen King Books super fan area of their Facebook page (see here).

I have wondered, over the years, what happened to Danny Torrance; has he grown up, led a ‘normal’ life, and lost his ‘shining’ ability? Or did he become his father, a low-achieving alcoholic?

 Whenever I reread this book (or watch the controversial-in-King-circles movie – sorry but I love it), I feel oddly dissatisfied that I didn’t find out more about him, and where he ended up.  I can’t wait to find out, but I am oddly worried that I will end up hating the man he becomes. Worse than this, though, I worry that I will feel indifferent about him. I hope not, the Danny of ‘The Shining’ is a great character, so I hope this new offering pulls off the extreme and allows a surge of emotion, even if just pity, towards the character, and most of all I hope that little Danny Torrance is recognisable somewhere within Dan, his grown-up self. There is something extra thrilling about waiting for a sequel, that return to familiar settings and characters that you feel are a part of your own history if you have read the previous book enough, so the risk of let down is far greater in this instance.

 What do you think? Can King resurrect and improve on his own masterpiece? Or can ‘Doctor Sleep’ never live up to the brilliance of ‘The Shining’?

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Roll up, roll up, take your places for a fair offering from King...

Given that ‘Joyland’ has recently been released, looking at this newest tale from Stephen King seems like a good place to begin.

 Each time a new King book is released I end up lurking around the postman like a rabid Cujo waiting to bite his hand off if he doesn’t release my parcel quickly enough. Unwrapping that cardboard sleeve to see the treasure within is, for me, an unparalleled pleasure, that new book smell and still-shiny unsullied cover adding to the excitement that comes with starting not only a new book, not just an unread King book, but a JUST RELEASED THAT DAY Stephen King unknown book...

‘Joyland’ was great in this respect, the bright colours and retro cover caught my eye like sweeties in a glass jar, the glossy paper finish catching the light and just begging to be read there and then.

So I did.

 This is King’s second publication in the ‘Hard Case Crime’ series, which was founded in 2004 to focus on publishing hard-boiled crime fiction, both genuine noir, and modern interpretations of the genre. From Donald E. Westlake, Mickey Spillane, and Ed McBain, through to authors including Michael Crichton (writing as John Lange), Robert B. Parker, and Christa Faust, this series enjoys the best of many great authors, whether or not this is their typical style.

 King initially collaborated with them for his 2005 novel ‘The Colorado Kid’ and this new release has been hotly anticipated. If you like crime fiction and King’s work, you’ll be in crossover heaven.


 Firstly, this is much shorter than the majority of King’s work (though longer than ‘The Colorado Kid’). In keeping with hard-boiled detective fiction, the language is pared-down and sparer than his typical lengthy prose, but really this is the only similarity I can draw without fishing for painful commonalities. I enjoyed this book, but it’s not your typical crime, not your typical detective (there is a lead character filling the role of ‘crime solver’ but detective he is not), and not your typical setting. I love the fairground as the location, as close to clich├ęd as it is for a horror author, it gives a great atmosphere that flies around your imagination in glorious Technicolor. King revels in creating an idiomatic language used between the fairground carnies, and, as ever, treats us to fabulous dialogue and graphic description. And that, I suppose, is the true reason this still reads as a hard crime novel – the stark and craven pictures King can draw from just a handful of words, the banal mixed with the ridiculous, a sparsity of words leaving room for the imagination to take over.

Personally, I saw a lot of similarities between this story and King’s 1998 work ‘Bag of Bones’, and felt he was drawing from a similar emotional well when writing both.

I won’t spoil this for you if you’ve not read it, as it’s such a recent release  - you too deserve to come to it fresh and eager, with few expectations except for the pre-released blurb and cover, and to form your own take and your own opinion. I do feel though, this is a better foray into this field than ‘The Colorado Kid’, which I enjoyed at the time but now struggle to recall in much depth. ‘Joyland’ paints bright and gaudy mental pictures that will linger after the words themselves fade, the crime element will hook you, but the fairground tawdriness will pull you back in for a second go-round.