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I like big books.

The Colorado Kid (Hard Case Crime #13)

The Colorado Kid - Stephen King So this is the first "hard case" crime story that I've ever read. That being said, I'm not entirely sure what the genre is supposed to look or feel like. I have some impressions from other pulpy type stories that I've seen in film, but no novels.

The Colorado Kid concerns the discovery of a body on the beach of a small island community and the unravelling of its mysterious origins. The story itself is rather uncomplicated, in fact, the narrators mention several times throughout that it's not really a story at all - and that much is kind of true. What's interesting to me here is the format King chose rather than the plot or character development (of which there's none). The story begins in media res with a big-shot Boston reporter trying to find stories for a running column on unsolved mysteries. The natives aren't very forthcoming, engaging in that typical small-town insider shunning of the rather "big" outside world. It's a truism of King stories that small towns have dark secrets that manifest self-preservation instincts through their denizens. Anyway, nothing real sinister here. In this case, a couple of small town reporters, Vince and Dave relate a mysterious story from their earlier days running the Weekly Islander to their cub intern Stephanie McCann, who serves as a stand-in for the reader. The story of the mysterious death and the string of dead-end investigations are related to her by the narrative muses of this Odd Couple who weave their narrative seamlessly back and forth between them over the course of an evening. The narrative is therefore mostly first-person and the novella consists mostly of dialogue. The conversational nature gives the book a feeling of oral history, with all the strengths thereof invested within it. The answers, such as they are, are limited, but the back and forth between the characters as they hash out the story imprints a feeling of induction upon the mind of the reader encouraging participation in the story. McCann's character is a pretty brilliant device to give voice to the questions and reasoning you yourself come up with along the way and that makes you feel part of the story - giving it whatever appeal it has.

I also like the fact that the mystery remains unsolved. There's room for interpretation and leaves the reader with a limited set of facts to try and arrive at a conclusion of their own. King gives some suggestions through Vince and Dave of likely scenarios, but wisely abstains from leaving anything to definitive for you to cling to. Thematically this element runs throughout the narration as Vince and Dave avoid conclusions and reprimand McCann for being to hasty with hers. It's good storytelling and ensures the story stays with you beyond the last page.

Coming off reading It, I was looking for some stronger characters to develop in the story, which is probably where my own naiveté comes in. It may simply not be part of this particular genre, but I also feel like that really probably wasn't even the point of the story. The point is the mystery and power of storytelling itself, also a recurring theme in King books. Nevertheless, I come to expect strong and memorable characters from King and I doubt any of these will stay with me. Vince and Dave are truly an Odd Couple and McCann is likable enough, but there's just not a lot to grasp onto here. Again, probably intentional on King's part, and probably my fault for choosing to read The Colorado Kid after probably King's most complete novel.

I think this book has a bit of identity crisis too. Filed and published under Hard Case Crime fiction, the novel lacks the common elements of the genre: no violence, no sex, no detectives and, quite possibly, not even a murder itself.

All that aside, The Colorado Kid was a great evening read. I woke up this morning still thinking about it and it reminded me rather pleasantly of my adolescent years watching tons and tons of The X-Files.