East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A learning experience: The Colorado Kid


No need to make a fuss about it: my favorite Stephen King book is Danse Macabre, with On Writing coming second. I’ve read also a nice share of King’s fiction, but I always found his essays a lot more interesting.

On the other hand, I was quite curious to read The Colorado Kid, for two main reasons:

  • First, it was published by Hard Case Crime, and I am sort of a Hard Case Crime cultist.
  • Second, everybody seemed to hate it, in particular those that style themselves as King’s fans.

With such credentials, I said to myself, it had to be good.
And so, having received a copy as a gift for Christmas, I spent two evenings reading it. And here’s a few thoughts.

Now, first of all, a disclaimer: basically whatever my opinion can be of a Stephen King book is meaningless. The man’s a best-selling author, and his books sell like in cartloads. My opinion is not going to change anything.
And yet…

It had a great cover, too.

I liked The Colorado Kid, because it was not what I was expecting, and because it worked for me on a number of levels.

The plot in a nutshell: in 2005, on a small island off the coast of Maine, two ageing journalists relate the mysterious case of the Colorado Kid to their young intern. It’s both a mystery and a test of the girl’s skills as a journalist.

The first thing that worked for me was the way this short novel works as a masterful crash course in dialog. The whole book is basically three characters speaking, and you need to be good, when the words fall on the page, to characterize the three voices sop that reader won’t feel lost.
I think I’ll re-read this book just for that focus on the dialogue.

The second thing is, of course, the fact that the book is a long meditation on the subject of mystery, and on how the reader’s mind works when a mystery is concerned. The way the mystery is presented, what the reader needs to latch on the story, how the plot is supposed to develop. Another strong lesson, almost an essay in narrative form.
I like that.

Third, with its open ending, The Colorado Kid works as a sort of zen koan, narrative-wise, and reminded me of Scarlett Thomas’ idea of a “novel without a plot”. Another powerful idea worth exploring.

And I can see why the fans did not like this book – there’s a mystery but there’s no solution, there are no monsters (at least in plain sight) and it’s just these two old coons and this chick talking about something that happened to someone else twenty-five years before.
No clowns and balloons, no killer cars, no Jack Torrance.

But it was a nice read, and a lot of fun, like a brain workout. Now I’ve here Joyland, waiting in the queue. Because that one, too, was published by Hard Case Crime, and the fans I heard hated it. It’s got to be good, right?

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “A learning experience: The Colorado Kid

  1. I found Colorado Kid quite interesting, and joyland mediocre – apart from the great work on characters that is one of King’s most celebrated features. In any case, I would like to openly defend the horror production of King – that wrote a lot of damn good books. Apart from It, that is a sort of gallery of the American horror during the 50’s, there is Salem’s lot – great book- and Night Shift -great anthology of short tales. All of this to say that King is a bestselling author for a good reason. Said this, his production has been so vast that is normal to find a lot of awful books inside of it. We’re talking about 70 novels, after all. Concerning Danse Macabre…what a charming book it is! A light-touched, funny essay on the contemporary horror literature and its topoi.


  2. I wonder: would that book be published if someone else had written it? I strongly doubt it. But, youu know… I used to be a king fan in my youth… 😉


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