This is a convoluted review because my thoughts on the book are probably as convoluted as any I’ve ever had about a book. It’s not the book itself that is incredibly confusing, but rather my feelings about its existence. I am a reasonably big Stephen King fan, as I’ve read more than a dozen of his books, with Salem’s Lot being one of my favorite books ever. So when I saw this crime novel titled, The Colorado Kid by King on the shelf, I grabbed it on a whim and gave it a shot. The result of reading this book, though, may be the most exciting thing about it.
The book is a mystery/crime novel from 2005 with a few black and white illustrations about every chapter. The cover is a shocked girl standing over a body on the beach with a man running towards the scene behind her. It all seems interesting enough, and I was interested to see how King handles mystery/crime/pulp stories.
The story is about Vince and Dave, older gentlemen running a small-time newspaper, and Stephanie, their new but really settling-in graduate student. The two men tell Stephanie about the only real mystery that ever occurred in town. The story then takes place in the newspaper office, with the men going back and forth recalling the story of The Colorado Kid to the soon-to-be-permanent new writer.
The Colorado Kid mystery is that of a man found on the beach by two teenagers many years ago. There are some unusual particulars about the man, how and why he got there, and exactly what happened to him to cause his untimely death. The older of the two newspapermen were directly involved with the mystery as they were the first and really only reporter on the mystery.
SPOILERS, but not really because…well, it’s complicated, but the point of this review.
The twist in the book is that by its end, we find out the identity of The Colorado Kid and learn he is survived by a wife and child. We do not learn what happened to him or why he was on the beach. We also don’t learn the reasons behind any of the strange (although not supernatural or extraordinary)details surrounding his death and the items found on his person. The book ends with the two men going back to work on their tasks for the day and Stephanie getting around to writing her piece. The men recounted the details of the tale they knew, and Stephanie learned of it while impressing the men further with her inquisitiveness and growing news writer sense.
The Afterword of the book by King is basically him explaining that the real story is in the telling of the story so that we can think about it and wonder. I understand this notion, and I’ve lived something like it previously through another of King’s works, The Dark Tower series. That nine-book series has a similar explanation afterward that essentially says it’s the journey, not the destination(which makes a lot more sense). BUT that series is a vast world and journey where we learn so much as our imaginations run wild in a massive experience told by a master. Needless to say, The Colorado Kid is not that.
So after the book ended, I was a bit frustrated. There’s not even any action in the story; think newspaper article without the line about someone killing someone else. The old men were charming enough, and Stephanie was a likable would-be hero(if she did anything), but that’s all I really got from the book. Of course, this was on purpose, but that doesn’t make it less maddening. I know what everybody in the story knows about The Colorado Kid, just as if we all read the same short case closed newspaper article about a body found on the beach.
After letting the frustration fade, the book’s real purpose for me, I suppose, sank in. My imagination, in this case, isn’t running wild about The Colorado Kid because I wasn’t there, and I can’t investigate for myself. I only have the details recounted on a story with not too many certain details. I will likely not think about the story again, as there’s nothing to solve and no point in it anyway, as it wouldn’t help anyone if I did.
The thing that I did get from the story is a double-aged sword: Should this book have been written?( as nothing was learned and there’s seemingly no point) and Wow, this book was written and indeed does exist. The latter thought is the important one and what I’m taking away from the whole experience using a glass half full perspective.
King wrote this book about three people sitting in an office discussing a newspaper article that isn’t that exciting or important. He went on about these characters and the mystery for 200 pages! In the end, I learned nothing but rather only wished something would have happened. The book exists, though, didn’t hurt King’s career from what I know and probably sold many copies. So basically, he just did it, and there it is… This, in turn, dictates that you and I should or could also just do whatever our “it” is, and it, in theory, will exist. It may not get us the result we hope, but it will live, and someone out there will see or experience it, further cementing that we did it and it exists.
The Colorado Kid, in this way, is both hope and inspiration. It’s not a particularly thrilling story and definitely at the bottom of my favorite Stephen King books list. However, its existence serves as a statement to everyone else that you can do “it,” and it’ll be okay when you do. I may not recommend The Colorado Kid if you ask me for a good book, but I also recommend you read The Colorado Kid.