I made a huge mistake last night. I made the decision to carry on reading until I finished this book. I just couldn’t put it off any longer. It meant I went to bed super late and was an absolute mess this morning. I emailed a colleague thinking he was a customer. It wasn’t a massive thing but it could just have easily have been the other way round. Nobody should have to answer emails before noon. And then, to add insult to injury, I had a 45-minute phone call with a customer. Thankfully, it wasn’t a bad one but it went on too long. She wanted me to sort somethings out for her and insisted on waiting on the line as I did it. As we all know, doing your job whilst someone is hovering always makes it impossible so it was a bit of a nightmare. So, I had a dodgy start to the day. But the rest of it went okay. And at least I didn’t have to worry about finishing the book for tonight’s post.
Every Stephen King book comes with some sort of expectation, right? I mean you can’t get to be a writer of his status without it. So, you can be forgiven for picking this book up and expecting it to be classic Stephen King mixed with a classic crime thriller. But, if you are hoping for that, you might just end up disappointed. The Colorado Kid is a slow burner and never takes you down the kind of road you expect. It’s less a crime mystery than it is an analysis of storytelling. When two veteran newspaper journalists recount the story of the Colorado Kid to their new intern, everyone is given a bit of a lecture on journalism and the art of writing for an audience.
We start off on pretty familiar ground: two teenagers stumble across a dead body leaning against a bin on the beach. Nobody knows who he is, how he got there, or how he died. With a little more investigation, it is decided that the mystery man died after choking on a piece of steak. Not a glamorous or very suspicious cause of death, right? Well not if you ask the men who run the local newspaper. After everyone has forgotten the strange man, Dave Bowie and Vince Teague still wonder who he was. There were so many random elements to his death that, despite all of the evidence, they never quite believe it was just a random event. And when they finally find out the name of the deceased, things only get stranger.
The Colorado Kid is a story that keeps you guessing all the way through. The structure is really simple but it continues to add layers and mystery to a fairly cliched plot. It is indulgent storytelling that takes time to investigate life in a small community. It cares less about investigating the crime at its centre than anything else. This is a narrative all about human nature and what we want from a story. Is the best writing King has ever done? No. Of course not. The man has written so many books at this point there’s no point in even asking the question. But, again, this book is a bit of an experiment. It’s not about creating the most beautiful prose but about manipulating a situation. And, if that’s what he was aiming for, King did a bloody good job.
What really makes this story work is the ending. It’s utter marmite: the kind of thing that will definitely divide readers. If you ask me, it’s perfect and so funny. I stayed up way too late to finish this book and the payoff really wasn’t what I was expecting. But it was pretty hilarious. You get the feeling that King played off his reputation when he worked out this story for publication. And it’s clever. It’s not just that he’s playing with his readers but he’s also making a really good point about real life. As someone who has hated every ending that King has written in the last decade or so, it was refreshing to find something that actually worked really well. I can see why you might hate it but, if you do, I think you’re kind of missing the point. No offence.