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The Colorado Kid, by Stephen King
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Publisher: Dorchester Publishing Company
Published: 2005
Review Posted: 10/22/2005
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 6 out of 10

The Colorado Kid, by Stephen King

Book Review by C. Dennis Moore

Have you read this book?

It's a really cool story to tell someone, and something I'm sure every publisher on the planet would wish were in his repertoire. You write to Stephen King and ask if he'll provide a blurb for your new line of crime novels and instead of a blurb he says he'd rather write a book for you. And this coming after his ''retirement'' so you know people are gonna want to read this thing. You ask me--and you must be cuz you're reading my review--either the publisher should have known enough to tell King ''Not only is this NOT a Hard Case Crime novel, considering there's no case and no true crime, but it's also not very interesting at all'', or King should have read over what he had before sending it in and realized ''This isn't a novel, it's two old guys telling a woman about a dead body found on the beach 20 years ago and no one ever discovered how he died.'' Because that, sadly, is the novel. I've just given you the entire synopsis.

Okay, I'm sure I could flesh that out a little bit. Here goes.

Vince Teague and David Bowie (I'm not making this up) run The Weekly Islander, a small newspaper on the island of Moose Lookit, Maine. Young twenty-something Stephanie McCann is an intern working for the pair on her "Arts n' Things" column. A man from the Boston Globe has come to talk to them about unexplained mysteries for an article he's doing and Vince and Dave rehash the same old stories they've told a million times before. When the man leaves and Vince, Dave, and Stephi talk about it, she discovers there is a REAL mystery on this island that the pair refused to share with the Boston Globe man because he wouldn't have understood what made it so special. Gotta tell you, neither do I.

Twenty years earlier, two local high school kids found a body on the beach. He had no identification, only a piece of steak stuck in his throat, a pack of cigarettes with only one cig missing, and a Russian coin in his pocket, along with $17 in paper money. Oil and sand on his fingertips, plus the position of his fingers, suggests there was more steak in his hand, but the gulls must have taken it.

The man is listed as a John Doe, he's autopsied--and death by asphyxiation is put on the death certificate, damn that steak--and the case is forgotten. A year later, the pair tell Stephanie, one of the interns working for the police force at the time of the John Doe figures out a way to track down the body's identity. They discover his name, where he came from, they even have a pretty good theory on how he got from Boulder, Colorado to Moose Lookit, Maine in one afternoon. What they don't figure out is why, or what happened to him once he arrived.

That's their story. A true, honest to God unexplained mystery on Moose Lookit Island.

Hey look, I just told the exact same story and it didn't take me 178 pages to do it.

I hate that I didn't like this novel, because it's Stephen King, man, STEPHEN FREAKIN' KING. I love his work. Even the crap like "Rose Madder" or "Insomnia" has that something you can't name that keeps you going. But with this novel, King seems to have just become a bad parody of himself. His narrators are two 90-year-old Maine locals, so the story is sprinkled with liberal doses of ''accourse'' and ''ayuh'', but that's not quite so distracting as stuff like this: ''Did Mr. Edwick remember Cogan because Cogan brought him something? Because he brought tea for the tillerman?''

Who talks like that? Seriously. Or this, which is the first sentence in the book:

After deciding he would get nothing of interest from the two old men who comprised the entire staff of The Weekly Islander, the feature writer from the Boston Globe took a look at his watch, remarked that he could just make the one-thirty ferry back to the mainland if he hurried, thanked them for their time, dropped some money on the tablecloth, weighted it down with the salt shaker so the stiffish onshore breeze wouldn't blow it away, and hurried down the stone steps from The Grey Gull's patio dining area toward Bay Street and the little town below.

Man, let me know the next time I need to stretch before I start reading a book. Now I'm all worn out. Even at this length of only 178 pages, The Colorado Kid could have been a lot shorter still if King knew how to shut up and tell the damn story. And while I'm on that subject, 90% of this book is told as a 20-year flashback. I don't care how interesting they are, there's something that rings a little too false for me reading a story told like this, because people only tell stories like this, with this level of detail, in novels.

''Doc pointed to the dead man's neck--which even Nancy Arnault had noticed, and thought of as puffy--and he says, 'I've got an idea that most of it's still right there where he choked on it. Hand me my bag, Vincent.'

''I handed it over. He tried rummaging through it and found he could only do it one-handed and still keep all that meat balanced on his knees: he was a big man, all right, and he needed to keep at least one hand on the ground to keep himself from tipping over. So he hands the bag over to me and says, 'I've got two otoscopes in there, Vincent--which is to say my little examination lights. There's my everyday and a spare that looks brand-new. We're going to want both of them.'''

Again, I have to ask, who talks like that? The way Vince is telling the story is unbelievable, but so is the Doc's dialogue. If you're actually telling this story to someone, the MOST you're gonna say is ''The doc said most of the steak was still stuck in the guy's throat from where he choked on it. He couldn't get in his bag himself, so he asked me to. He had two examination lights in there and he asked for both of them.''

So not only is the story really dull, but the narration is utterly unconvincing. And, come on, this is a "Hard Case Crime" novel. But they never find out what happened to the guy? For all they know he died from choking on a piece of steak, end of story.

In the afterword, King points out people will either like this story or hate it, there's no middle ground. I disagree, I'm in the middle. I didn't hate it, despite the tone of this review, but it's most definitely not on my top 20 favorite King books. At least it was shorter than "Insomnia." Then again stuff actually happened in "Insomnia."

King then goes on to dissect the nature of mystery and how we're living a mystery every day of our lives and sometimes there IS no discernible beginning, middle, and end.

It's crazy to be able to live with that and stay sane, but it's also beautiful. I write to find out what I think, and what I found out writing The Colorado Kid was that maybe--I just say MAYBE--it's the beauty of the mystery that allows us to live sane as we pilot our fragile bodies through this demolition-derby world. We always want to reach for the lights in the sky and we always want to know where The Colorado Kid (the world is full of Colorado Kids) came from. Wanting might be better than knowing. I don't say that for sure; I only suggest it. But if you tell me I fell down on the job and didn't tell all of this story there was to tell, I say you're all wrong.

Let me translate: "Hey, folks, I know this story kind of sucks and doesn't have any real ENDING you can see, but come on, that's what life's really like. And anyway, I'm Stephen King and I came out of retirement to write this, what are ya gonna do?" No writer is above giving his readers a half-assed story and when you put in a disclaimer at the end that pretty much admits a lot of readers are going to see that you're book is half-assed, then you should have known better than to publish the damn thing in the first place. That's all I'm saying. Course, I'll also be one of the first on line to buy the next King book, so what does he care what I think?
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