This entry in the Hard Case Crime line of paperback originals honors its 1950s precursors in at least one respect: Its racy cover has almost nothing to do with the story inside. The retro-look painting shows a luscious brunette in a wee black dress; her only other accoutrement is a handheld tape-recorder. Presumably, she is meant to be Stephanie McCann, a 22-year-old journalism intern who, over the course of the book’s 170-odd pages, sits and listens to a pair of old Maine newspapermen as they recount a local unexplained mystery. But McCann, though pretty, bears little resemblance to the cover model. Nor does she tape the proceedings. And the mysterious tale told by Dave Bowie and Vince Teague, the scribes who produce The Weekly Islander, contains no sex, no mayhem, no excursions into the trailer-park tawdriness of American life—in short, none of the classic narrative trappings of the pulp paperpack. As King notes in an afterword, Dave and Vince’s tale is a “hard case” in that it has no easy resolution. How did an ordinary, happy family man from Colorado end up dead, a piece of steak lodged in his throat, on a lonely beach off the coast of New England? How did he even get there, after leaving a Denver office building less than six hours before someone spotted him in that remote stretch of the Eastern Seaboard? The quest for answers produces little more than a shaggy-dog story. Indeed, it’s less a fully realized novel than a novelet that King has ably but not quite sufficiently tricked out with Downeast humor, coming-of-age moralizing, and musings on the nature of mystery itself.
STEPHEN KING. The Colorado Kid (2005).