I never read Stephen King till the year after I graduated from college. At some point I realized that I had no idea what kind of writer he was, whether his books were any good, or really anything about him. But he's such a cultural icon, I figured it was about time to see what was what, and I went on a little binge. I'm happy to report I enjoyed many of his books a great deal, especially The Shining, Salem's Lot, and Pet Sematary.
Eventually, I worked my way past the golden years and realized that at some point, somebody decided more words is better and stopped editing King's work. Thus you end up with imposing tomes like Desperation and Cell, which are enormously long and full of so much imagery that the fastest-paced story takes forever to tell. I went off King and haven't been back since, except to reread bits of my favorite, or short stories that he wrote back in his heyday of the '80s.
But then here comes The Colorado Kid, a slim little novel that doesn't seem to fit much about Stephen King. I'd been half interested in the ads for the Syfy show Haven when I learned it was (very loosely) based on this book. I'm much more likely to pick up a book than a whole TV show, especially one where I'm a full season behind, so here we find ourselves.
Make no mistake, this is not the King of the late '80s, reeling out tales of mystery and suspense. First, this book is short--you'd call it a novella, but I'd even call it a protracted short story. The length is not painful, and I'll have spent maybe 4 hours total by the time I'm finished reading it. This can only be a good thing; it implies, at the very least, that someone edited the damned thing.
Anyway, it's the story of an unsolved mystery--a body is found in a small Maine town, and it takes years to figure out who it is, and still no one knows how or why he got there. Now, I don't know yet how the story ends (I hate blogging after I finish a book), but I'm 85% of the way through (thanks, Kindle) and I can tell you, that's just the reason for the story. This is actually a lazy, leisurely vignette of a micro-mini newspaper run by two old coots and their bright-eyed young intern. They're telling her a story that makes so little sense it moves beyond journalism into yarn-spinning--which is what they do.
Stephen King LOVES old Maine codgers. He loves the accent, the turns of phrase, the wry wisdom of a 92 year old newspaperman. He loves the locals' scorn for folks from away, the elderly's affection for the young. King believes that there is mysticism in things like old codgers and stores with clever misspellings in their names and women. This is as much a story about the older generation passing their wisdom on to the younger as anything else.
And you know what? I love those things, too. And when he's not getting exhaustingly bogged down in those details--when someone edits his books--he does them really well. The lazy afternoon of storytelling at this local paper is a fine, fast, fun read. It's not horror--far from it--but besides having my pants scared off, this book has everything I love about Stephen King.
And, while this makes me even more angry at travesties like Dreamcatcher and Cell, it's nice to know he's still out there, somewhere, working with an editor and cranking out good old New England storytelling.