Like more than a few people, I’d imagine, The Colorado Kid was my introduction to the Hard Case Crime series. It’s not that I have to read every book by Stephen King. A lot of times King’s writing bothers me. There’s almost always a lot of padding in his stories and his characters often read like, well, characters in a Stephen King book. But it was a brilliant stroke by the editors of Hard Case Crime to have King write a relatively short crime story especially for the imprint. Thanks to the name Stephen King, Tower Records had the book on display at the checkout counter. The name Stephen King didn’t sell me, but the Hard Case Crime yellow ribbon and cover art did the task. And I was, frankly, curious. Would a leaner (164 pages), meaner King make for better reading? There’s no doubt that King is prolific, imaginative, and a decent storyteller. Once you stripped away the puff and tangents, he can tell good stories.
The Colorado Kid is told by two ancient reporters to their young, attractive protege. A big city newspaperman comes to Moose-Lookit island off the coast of (of course) Maine looking for stories of the unexplained — real life unsolved mysteries. The two oldsters send him packing with no real story, but Stephanie McCann can tell by looking at Vince Teague and Dave Bowie (!) that they’re holding back. She convinces them to tell her their tale — a tale which, they insist, isn’t really a story and has no easy answers.
The tale itself is about a normal everyday husband and father from Colorado that turns up dead on the island. Nobody knows who he is, how he got there, or why he’s dead. Before the book is over we’ll have some of our questions answered and others, well, just like the oldsters warned, this story has no resolution.
This is probably more a hundred and fourty page story at best. The type is larger than the other Hard Case Crime novels I’ve read and it’s by far the shortest. But you can forgive that. There is padding and the usual King tangents that more serve the author’s idea of characterization than the story, but I still liked it.
The real point of this story isn’t whodunnit. The dead man is a device the main idea of the story is built around. We experience the story from Stephanie’s viewpoint (though the story is told from a third person perspective). We learn things as she does from King speaking through the old men. But King’s not talking about the murder or the story. He’s musing out loud about his theories of plot and narrative. He tells us flat out that it isn’t really a story — there’s no nice tied-up ending. What we get is a story that is unique in that it doesn’t all get neatly resolved, almost relishing the flouting of convention.
Aside from that, it’s an entertaining read and it does have a surprisingly satisfying conclusion. It’s very much a Stephen King book (down to an Author’s Note at the end) and not strictly a Hard Case Crime novel. It’s “hard case” in a different way. But hats off to King for telling a different kind of story.