For over a year now, I’ve had an opportunity to read many of the books from the Hard Case Crime library of hard boiled crime fiction. For the most part they are an excellent collection of stories, but I think I’ve found a clear favorite among this collection in the recently published Joyland. Written by legendary author, Stephen King, Joyland has a uniqueness that other crime novels don’t often try for in that it’s wonderfully subtle. In Joyland, the main character isn’t some “hard as a coffin nail” P.I. who’s as quick a draw with a pistol as he is the ladies. The main character is Devin Jones, a heart broke college kid working away from home, in a North Carolina amusement park, during the summer of 1973. Devin is thoughtful, but also young and inexperienced. While at Joyland he’ll encounter a unique little boy who himself is fatally ill and Devin will pick up on a haunting legacy of a girls cruel murder, at the park, several years before.
I think one of Joyland’s biggest strengths is that it is written as a memoir of Devin Jones. I’m fascinated by King’s ability to take us into the mind of a man nearing retirement and still re-live youthful moments in that man’s life that would change him forever. King injects a wonderful amount of humanity that helps us relate to these characters and accept their story. There are also these little nuances of having to learn a special “carney” language, and Devin eventually finding a special joy in “wearing the fur” for kids even on the really hot July days. Also, what better place could you pick for a grizzly murder than a small, under budget amusement park all set in the early 1970’s? I really don’t have much to be critical about in this story. I feel that most fans of King’s prior novels will embrace this book as it has a very “early” King vibe.
Summer is in full swing now and Joyland should be at the top of your summer reading list. Joyland is available in book stores now or you can get a copy through Titan Books.