Joyland by Stephen King

joyland_property_embedDid you know there’s a secret language spoken amongst Carnival folk. In this instance, let’s call it ‘the talk.’ It’s shorthand for the job at hand, and it defines who belongs in the industry and who doesn’t. For example the ‘Bally’ attracts punters to the carny show by ‘building the tip,’ ‘freezing the tip,’ giving ‘the pitch’ using ‘the jam,’ and delivering ‘the blow off.”

The Ferris Wheel is known as the ‘chump-hoister.’ Junior rides like the spinning tea-cups are’ zamp rides’. In Gypsy circles, fortune telling is ‘Dukkering.’ The ghost train is the ‘dark ride.’ A newcomer to the carny industry is a ‘Forty Miler’ and the reason for operating any carny – ‘GTFM’ (get the fucking money.)

I can’t really explain why I’ve never been on a Ghost train, or horror ride. (Does the Scooby Doo spooky coaster count?) You may have recognised by now, I love a good scare. Getting the chills gives me the thrills and all that, but I’ve just never gotten around to taking a ride at a carnival or show that had skeletons jumping out of corners, and canned screams on audio. Having read Joyland by Stephen King, I will definitely hop on board at the next summer carnival, out of pure curiosity.

Part of the Hard Case Crime series, King has woven a truly engrossing tale. Of course it has all the hallmarks of King best seller, *read creepy supernatural themes* but it also has likeable and believable characters and a coming of age theme that is really really enjoyable to read.

College student, Deven Jones, takes a summer job at Joyland (think mini Disneyland/Gold Coast theme park on a smaller regional scale). He’s in the process of grieving a high school romance, and the carny life is just the distraction he needs.

However, Joyland is haunted by the legacy of a vicious murder, and when ghost stories emerge about the victim revealing herself in the Horror House, Deven is compelled to discover who was responsible.

With a fortune teller hinting what lies in Deven’s future, a relationship with a dying child and mother, and teenage friendships with other summer workers that should last a lifetime, the emotional impact and care-factor for the outcome is overwhelming by the end.

The descriptions of the carnival itself transported me to a summer showground, with sawdust, Dagwood dogs, hot jam doughnuts, and shouting carnies; tanned and leathery from a life outdoors, giving away lucky draw cards and selling hopes of the big prize.
While the book had me at outset with the well-developed mystery and ghost tale, its unfolded more as a story about growing up and aging, and about those who are taken too young. The ending was profoundly moving, convincing and authentic.

 

In Short: Better than any chump hoister; the rubes will be engrossed.

 

Credit: Props to Wayne Keyser and his website and eBook ‘From the Midway’ for the extra information I have presented here on all things carny.  See http://www.goodmagic.com/carny/index.htm to check it out and buy his book. 

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