Current reviews
  Reviews by title
  Reviews by author

  Contact Onyx

  Discussion forum


Onyx reviews: The Colorado Kid by Stephen King

When Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai contacted Stephen King, all he hoped for was a blurb to draw attention to his new, critically acclaimed line of hard-boiled paperback novels, both original and classic reprints. A big fan of the genre, King decided he’d rather endorse them by supplying a book. The Colorado Kid is the publisher’s lead title in a second-year lineup that features Lawrence Block, Donald Hamilton, Ed McBain and Donald E. Westlake.

Ultimately, Ardai got his King blurb. “Hard Case Crime presents good, clean, bare-knuckled storytelling, and even though The Colorado Kid is probably more bleu than outright noir, I think it has some of those old-fashioned kick-ass story-telling virtues. It ought to; this is where I started out, and I’m pleased to be back.” King has published several crime short stories, and it’s good to see him try his hand at a longer work in the genre.

The Colorado Kid explores a theme that has arisen in recent novels—the unexplained mystery. The story is set in familiar King territory: an isolated island off the Maine coast. Two veteran journalists from the Moose-Look Weekly Islander, sixty-five-year-old Dave Bowie and ninety-year-old Vince Teague, have just finished lunch with a Boston Globe reporter looking for material for his series Unexplained Mysteries of New England. Bowie and Teague trotted out a number of familiar old legends, but after the reporter leaves they enlighten their young summer intern, Stephanie McCann.

For the two veterans do know a real unexplained mystery, but it’s not the kind that would have satisfied the man from the Globe. It has too many unknown elements and no “must’a-been”—an unproven but generally accepted explanation for events. Besides, it’s their story and they don’t want anyone—especially someone from off the island—to mess it up.

In 1980, two teenagers discovered a man’s body leaning against a trashcan on the beach. That’s the whole story. How he got there is a mystery. Even the cause and nature of his death are debatable. Though he’s eventually identified, the more Dave and Vince learn in the ensuing years the less possible it seems that the man they call the Colorado Kid could have ended up where he was found.

The two newsmen take turns relating the story. They’ve become fond of Stephanie, almost forgetting that she’s “from away,” which is a high compliment. The Islander needs new blood, and their story needs a custodian. They hope she will stay on at the end of her internship, and want to teach her the value of knowing the right questions to ask while accepting that many won’t have answers.

The Colorado Kid may surprise readers expecting something Chandleresque, because it’s more of a “cozy” than a hard-boiled novel. Other than its brevity, the book isn’t a huge departure for King, though. He brings to it all the characteristics that have made him popular—a strong narrative voice, an intriguing story, and a trio of deftly created, charming protagonists. Even the minor characters come to life. He makes readers despise two cops who ruined a forensics intern’s career aspirations, and they’re only on-screen for a few pages. It’s a mature, daring work, challenging readers’ expectations of what story is—and what it isn’t.

Web site and all contents © Copyright Bev Vincent 2007. All rights reserved.