Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Stephen King's "Joyland" book review

There is a lot to like in this retro tale of summer, spooks, 70's young love, and amusement park life. Stephen King again proves he is a master story teller. His characters are sympathetic and richly drawn. We have "Madame Fortuna"/Rozzie Gold from Brookyn, the carny mentalist; Mrs Shoplaw, the worldly landlady; Erin, the feisty coed;  Mr Easterbrook, nonagenarian owner of the park and Mike Ross, the dying child with "the sight" and yummy mummy/sharpshooter, Annie Ross. Our hero is college student, Devin Jones, who dreams of being an author much like Mr King. Devin takes a summer job in a B grade amusement park (think Jesse Eisenberg in the marvellous "Adventureland" flick from 2009, though this park is on the North Carolina coast ).  One of Jones's jobs is to "wear the fur" (dress up as the park's mascot, a giant dog). Is this a nostalgic nod to Scooby Doo (and those "meddling kids" investigating spooky carryings-on in fun parks)?
Okay, I might be pushing my luck with that one.

Amusement park/sideshow alley settings tap a rich vein for mystery, horror and the macabre (e.g. books like "Nightmare Alley", "Something Wicked This Way Comes", Koontz's "The Funhouse", films like "Freaks" and "The Seven Faces of Dr Lao").
I enjoyed the amusement park lingo used by the staff and the behind-the-scenes descriptions of the amusement park. This novel has a lot of heart, chills are secondary. A quick pleasurable read, celebrating Americana gothic and pulp fiction.
Hard Case Crime books, 2013, 283 pages
Note the retro, lurid cover.

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