Tag Archives: Thriller

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

dr sleepMy husband is a newspaper man.  He subscribes to his reading material of choice both digitally and in print.  Nothing makes him happier than hearing the thunk of the cling wrapped paper hit our driveway on a Saturday morning.

He reads the papers from cover to cover, but he starts at the back pages for sport.  He knows every sporting result, every match up, every ladder.  He also knows world events, politics, and what’s hot and not this week.  He reads book reviews to get ideas for me, hates Andrew Bolt, and has a special patronising voice that he reserves for reading out the guilt laden and superficial advice from the Body & Soul section.

On Sunday, he savours the broadsheet.  In the morning he uses it as a plate to eat his egg sandwich, yolk and salt dripping on the parts he’s already gotten to; and at night he pours over the extras and inserts while elbowing me in bed as he tries to manoeuvre the 3 metre pages.

So while I can say my husband is an avid reader, it’s normally The Age annual footy guide that takes pride of place on his bedside table.

Last night I went to bed late.  I expected him to be snuggled up with the light off, snoring gently after a hell of a week.  However there he was, legs tucked up to his chin, no blanket, eyes boring holes into the crisp white pages of Stephen King highly anticipated new book.

When he finally looks up, his eyes are wide and he’s bitten his lip.

Holy shit, this book is getting good.’

When I first saw the movie The Shining, there were so many creepy elements that affected me.  The dead twins in the hallway, the trademark Kubrick direction, the 70s bowl haircut on the kid who spoke to his finger, and none more than the hideously sexy ghost who seduces ‘Heres Johnny’ John Torrance and then turns into a naked rotting corpse in his arms.

And it’s only moments into reading the sequel Doctor Sleep that this ghoulish character returns and you’re reminded that you’re back reading the master of the supernatural genre.

The tale picks ups decades after the horror at the Overlook Hotel took place, with little Danny (Doc) Torrance all grown up and battling with the demons of the past.  He’s been drifting, fucking up and trying to escape both his father’s legacy and the events of his childhood that haunt him.  He self-medicates to drown out his ‘shining,’ but soon, remnants of his supernatural abilities re-emerge and the meeting of teenager Abra Stone forces him to go into battle to save her soul.

While a whole bunch of cool mind-reading, ESP, telekinesis stuff goes on between Dan and Abra, there is evil lurking nearby.  A travelling tribe of highway folk called the True Knot are in search of sustenance.  And they want Abra.  Part vampire, part kidnappers, part murderers, they are led by a powerful, engaging, and chillingly evil woman in a top hat who drives an RV.

In true King style, the action and spooks are from start to finish.  There is real substance to Dan’s personal struggles as he fights his demons in a gritty and authentic portrayal of addiction. There is a love story of sorts between an unlikely pair, and the plot is fast moving, uncomplicated and tense.  The baddies are really bad, and the goodies are genuinely flawed.  It also gives the original The Shining more depth and intrigue, as the story travels back in time to Danny’s awful memories of the hotel on the hill.

While there is always a risk of a King ending being just that bit too epic (think the giant spider in IT) the climax here is cleverly crafted and will not disappoint.

In Short: “Holy Shit, this book is getting good.”

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.