Speaking only for myself, the publishing event of the year was not HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. Believe me, I love the thought of thousands of school-aged children standing in line at midnight to buy a book --- but I wasn't there. However, I gladly would have stood in line way past my bedtime to pick up a copy of THE COLORADO KID by Stephen King. What's not to love about a new King novel, a paperback original published by the newly indispensable Hard Case Crime imprint?
It turns out that the book was nothing like I had expected. It's not a hard-boiled detective novel --- no faces through the window, no sex beyond the sultry Glenn Orbik rendering on the cover, no gunshots, either on or off the page. What THE COLORADO KID is, however, is a finely rendered mystery with a gently philosophical touch that, incidentally, contains some of King's best writing. Yes, even this late in the day, The Man is still The Man.
So what can be expected from a reading of THE COLORADO KID? It is, at its essence, a discussion over coffee, kind of the New England equivalent of MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, wherein the elderly editors of a weekly newspaper serving Moose-Lookit Island off the coast of Maine take an interning reporter to school with the account of a death occurring more than a quarter-century beforehand. The deceased was discovered on Moose-Lookit with no identification, though he later became known as the Colorado Kid; his death was apparently the result of choking on a piece of steak. But with the "how" solved, the questions raised in the minds of the newspapermen --- related to the journalistic w's --- remain.
THE COLORADO KID is the story of that investigation, told in retrospect. There is charm to the narrative, not the least of which is the result of King having a bit of fun with the reader. He very implicitly interjects himself into the narrative throughout the novel --- all I will say is that it is self-evident from the first page --- but this work is not a mere piece of whimsy. Some of King's best writing is contained in the very last paragraph of this fine work, but please don't skip ahead to read it. It is built entirely upon what has gone before, not only in THE COLORADO KID, but also in King's entire body of work. And for that alone, I would have stood in line at midnight.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 4, 2005