“You saved the little girl, but dear boy! You can’t save everyone”
As anyone who knows me will tell you, Stephen King is one of my favourite authors. I would probably buy his shopping list in hardback if he would grace us with it. So I was understandably excited to hear Joyland was being released, even though King’s major new work “Dr Sleep”, about grown up Danny Torrance from The Shining, will also be coming out later in the year. With this one, I got my King fix early.
Devin, the books narrator, is telling this story as an old man looking back on his defining moment when his childhood was lost forever. At the time the book starts he is coming to terms with the loss of his first love, Wendy Keegan, who breaks off the relationship painfully over the course of months. He is lost without her but when the opportunity comes along to work at a nearby amusement park he thinks this is the best way to take his mind off her. Joyland defiantly does this and a lot more. Devin walks in as a boy but leaves a man by being emotionally and physically tested in ways only King could come up with.
Not long after Devin joins the Joyland carnies, he is told about a horrific homicide that happens years previously, where a young girl is taken into the into the Horror House by her suspected boyfriend and is killed and dumped onto the tracks. The ghost of Linda Grey is said to be still haunting the ride. At first this is dismissed by most parties as a local legend but when Tom, a newly made friend of Dev’s, takes a ride and claims to have seen her, his interest in the case starts to take shape.
A reason why I love King’s style so much is his ability to make real, breathing people I genuinely care about. None more so than Mike, a child with a life-threatening condition called Duchene Muscular Dystrophy and his single mother Annie who Devin meets on his walks along the beach to work. These two nearly had me in tears, so much so I had to take a break from reading to hold them back.
I saw an interview with King online, where he explained why this book wasn’t being released in Ebook format. It wasn’t a slur against Ebooks, as he is a fan of them, it’s more the idea of people walking into a bookshop and connecting with it in a way the online market place will never be able to replicate.
I loved this book. It’s a tight; less than 300 page thrill ride and contains his trademark ability to place absorbing and natural characters right in the middle of a supernatural story. The supernatural never takes centre stage, it’s the people you remember and I will remember these guys for a long time.
Joyland is published by Hard Case Crime.