The Colorado Kid by Stephen King was published in 2005. I bought my copy years ago for $3. I finally got around to reading it this past week because there was a lot of Haven watching going on around me and it occurred to me that that TV show is inspired by The Colorado Kid. Anyway, the novel is a short, speedy read – I think I finished it in a day.
Overall, because the author is Stephen King, I think that this novel gets more praise and interest than it would if it had been written by almost any other author (with a few obvious exceptions). I really like the Hard Case Crime concept – I cannot speak to their quality or their value. I just really like these pulp-style crime novels with vintage artwork covers. HCC has published many recognizable authors in their series; this novel by King is number 013 in the series. Anyway, in the Afterword, King himself admits that this novel will divide readers – they will love it or hate it, he does not see any middle ground.
I did not hate this novel, but I really am not impressed whatsoever. I accuse King of vague trickery with this one. Sure, it is a HCC novel and there is a vintage artwork cover on it. Yes, there is a mystery somewhere in the pages. However, as I was reading it and now afterwards, I keep asking myself: is this really about anything or is it a novel about nothing? The novelty (pun intended) is that there is no closure or resolution to the mystery. There really isn’t any deduction either. Angela Lansbury and Sherlock Holmes are not showing up to follow the clues. Instead, at base, this is a rumination on what a “mystery story is” and what a “newspaper story” is.
The main characters are two elderly journalists who have developed a local newspaper (since 1948). They have hired on a young female intern named Stephanie to work at their paper The Weekly Islander. Basically, the superficial story is that the two older writers are grooming/mentoring Stephanie to take over for them at the paper. Part of doing this is getting her to value the local geography and society as well as teaching her various subtleties that are beyond textbook journalism basics.
Anyway, one evening the three journalists spend time discussing the locale’s “one big mystery.” This mystery involves a John Doe body that was found back in 1980. And this is what this novel is really about. It is a discussion on journalistic jurisdiction, the overarching purpose and goal of news items in a paper, and what a “story” consists of. Ultimately, the three seem to conclude that mysteries that get published have closure and resolution – even if it is just what people want the end of the story to turn out to be. But real mystery stories tend to have a disconcerting multitude of deadends and open-ends. And that is the sort of thing that doesn’t work just to sell papers and maybe puts more value in the journalist’s investigation than that of the policeman’s.
Nevertheless, is this novel really about anything? I go back and forth on this. In moments where I am feeling all speculative and academic I want to say that it is – it contains subtle ideas on stories and newspapers and mysteries etc. In moments where I am feeling particularly empirical and dictatorial, well, I insist it is actually a faux-novel filled with nothing.
I’m only giving this two stars. I’m not impressed. I just don’t think it is as insightful and witty as it wants to be. It is a quick read with a slight puff of twist to it. Also, the effort King makes to have the characters speak in the local dialect is annoying. If I never read “Ayuh” again, it will be too soon.