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Big Name At Hard Case Crime: Stephen King, JOYLAND
It’s hard not to like Hard Case Crime. A scrappy crime novel brand since 2004, under the Titan Books umbrella since last year, Hard Case Crime has made it its mission to harken back to the painted-cover pulps of old. It does so by grabbing up unseen titles from the ancient greats like James M. Cain and by drawing fresh talent from the guts of the crime genre.
Now a major player steps up to bat again from the bullpen of Hard Case Crime. Stephen King is launching a new novel with them, Joyland. June 2013 is the release date on this bad boy, but expect it to be making waves across the literary scene over the next twelve months.
Classic King fans can take heart. True to its traditionalist roots, this Hard Case Crime Stephen King scans like his vintage work.
Joyland’s synopsis blends the best of old-school King: Nostalgia, crime and subtle horror. Maybe it’s the Hollywood in me, but I want to spin it as “The Shining at an amusement park.”
Here’s the official scoop from the Hard Case Crime Joyland press release: “Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.”
King puts it a simpler way, promising crime, mysteries and ghosts. But it’s Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime publisher, who uses the buzzword I’m looking for: Heartbreaking.
King’s at his best not when he’s trying to scare, but when he’s goes for your rib cage. The indisputable capitols of his canon are the works that tone down the supernatural and amp up the human element.
It seems like Joyland will deliver. At the very least, it’ll find an easy mark in me, as I’m game for anything that couples creepiness with carnivals, a peanut-butter-and-chocolate combination of horror if ever there was one.
Some reservations may be had. This isn’t King’s first foray into Hard Case Crime. The Colorado Kid was his first shot, and word has it from scrupulous critics of the genre scene – namely, our own Sir James D. Callaway – that the Kid missed the mark. With painted covers and a solid genre ethic, Hard Case Crime always looks smashing on the outside. Cracking the cover is a different matter, with duds mixed in with work that pops.
Still, Joyland seems to play to King’s strengths better than The Colorado Kid. Hard Case Crime’s King debut was more a case of King trying to play to the venue, rather than the venue making the best of his talents sing.
Consider my ticket to the creepy carnival as good as bought a year from now, and watch this space as it’s hotly debated in the meantime.