Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Colorado Kid By Stephen King

The Colorado Kid
By Stephen King
Copyright 2005

In 2005, to help launch the Hard Case Crime series, Stephen King penned a short, paperback novel about a mysterious death in a Maine resort town. What’s odd is there is nothing hard boiled about this story. The story is about as soft as anything King has ever written.
An intern at a small Maine newspaper is having lunch with her two bosses – elderly gentlemen who own the paper – when talk turns to unsolved mysteries. Having blown off a national reporter looking for unsolved crime stories, they proceed to tell her the story of the Colorado Kid who died under mysterious circumstances in their small town in 1980.

They recount for her the finding of the body and how the obvious cause of death was choking to death on a piece of steak. The man goes unidentified for nearly a year until a young police intern decides to check the tax stamp on a pack of cigarettes in the man’s possession. They find out he was an advertising executive from Colorado.

The old men tell her how they worked to reconstruct his movements to determine how and why he got to Colorado. They were never able to discover the how or the why. The Colorado Kid walked away from his job in Colorado at about 10:00 a.m. to die in Maine that evening. The lesson, they tell the young woman, is not all stories have an ending.

That is true, but novels should. While reading, the men keep hinting that there’s going to be an unsatisfactory ending. But the reader reasonably suspects the woman will pick up where the old men leave off and find some great revelation as to how or why the man died. It never happens.

Stephen King has written a couple novels I liked less, but never has he written so unsatisfying as The Colorado Kid. Upon completing the book, I thought it a useless, unsatisfying reading experience. What’s a mystery with no twist or no resolution? The story amounts to just a bunch of stuff that happened.

In his postscript, King acknowledges that many will not like the book. I don’t know of any fans that do. The postscript sounds like a copout – like King knew he wasn’t doing his best work or putting forth maximum effort.

His second novel for the Hard Case Crime series, Joyland, is what one would expect from a writer of King’s caliber writing in this genre. Read Joyland and skip the Colorado Kid. You’ll be glad you did.

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