Stephen King (Hachette Australia) 2014, 373pp, $32.99
King’s third book in less than 18 months (retirement just isn’t an option) is a less messy work than the uneasy Shining sequel Doctor Sleep and more of a scarily dark fantasy tale than the angry contemporary crime piece Mr. Mercedes, and begins as one of his affectionate studies of growing up in the ‘50s/‘60s, turns into an elaborate and scathing satire of mainstream religion, and then veers into the unexpected into the final act (HINT: the dedications to his favourite authors at the beginning aren’t there for nothing!).
Jamie Morton, a kid from a big, God-fearing family in Harlow, Maine (just down from King’s fictional town of Castle Rock), meets the charismatic Reverend Jacobs just before rock-and-roll hits, and the community grow to adore their new preacher and his family before, to coin a phrase, something terrible happens. Jamie then grows up and meets the now cynical and dangerous Jacobs again in the early ‘90s, as King uncomfortably studies addiction (something he’s admitted to knowing more than a little about personally) and adds a touch of his own Needful Things to what might seem, on the surface, to be a straightforward savaging of money-making evangelism. And, eventually, the 50-something Jamie looks set to meet the ailing Jacobs, his ‘fifth business’ (a Hollywood term, apparently), one more time, as the author veers into ambitiously horrific territory that lingers well after the final page.
With riffs from his previous works (a mention of Jerusalem’s Lot, a possible mention of Christine), an undercurrent of sweet character comedy, insider knowledge of the music business (Jamie’s a talented singer who hits the druggy cover-band circuit into the late ‘60s and early ‘70s), King’s typically healthy attitude to sex and his typically fearful views upon fate, this very readable effort is one of this impossibly workaholic writer’s best and most frightening books in years. And can I get an hallelujah?
This title is available through Hachette Australia. Click here to purchase your copy.