It is quite an embarrassing thing to admit that in the summer of 2013 I graduated from my Masters in English Literature, but I had never read a Stephen King book before. What can I say? I was too busy reading D. H. Lawrence and Nietzsche? It sounds disgustingly elitist but it’s true. Furthermore, to claim that I had no idea what to expect when I approached Joyland is accurately horrifying as well.
From my limited pop-culture knowledge I knew that I was approaching the author lauded for The Shining (1977), but that was all. Perhaps that was why I was surprised to receive a book published by Hard Case Crime – a publishing house that seeks to revive the narrative and visual aesthetics of the pulp paperbacks of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Stephen King and a hard-boiled detective publishing house? My snobbish literary sensibilities went into overdrive: King attempting a Dashell Hammett? I was sceptical.
Learning from the outset that the park’s Haunted House was the site of the murder of a young woman, whose ghost suitably takes up residence there, the reader is lulled into the false sense that what will unfold in the subsequent pages will be the protagonist’s preoccupation with the murder (and more particularly with the murderer). Here is King’s first satisfying defiance of the reader’s expectations. His narrative is undoubtedly a whodunit, but it is one with substance. The protagonist states,
Tags: hard boiled crime, hardcase crime, joyland, stephen king
“If you read a whodunit or see a mystery movie, you can whistle gaily past whole reaps of corpses, only interested in finding out if it was the butler or the evil stepmother. But these had been real young women. Crows had probably ripped their flesh; maggots would have infested their eyes and squirmed up their noses and into the grey meat of their brains.” (p 201)