The Under Ground Writing Project

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Review of Stephen King's The Colorado Kid

Posted by Oliver on March 13, 2015 at 12:05 PM

The Colorado Kid succeeds at something I’m always trying to do. Now I know why people get annoyed with me when I’m trying to be “clever.”


Stephen King wrote this book allegedly because he was a fan of indie publisher, Hard Case Crime. They were about to go under, apparently, and he offered to write them up a book so they could say that they published a big author and use that to market their brand. It seemed to work for them.


My dad says this thing about George Lucas sometimes: Lucas could totally release a tape of his home movies and call it “Star Wars,” and he’d make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office, his fan base is that established. It’s a good point, and King has a similar kind of clout. He could have cobbled together a meaningless mash of cock-up and given it to Hard Case Crime and it would have attracted significant readership. When I was told the impetus behind The Colorado Kid, I figured that’s what I’d see: some pointless mush that King threw together over a weekend. I’m pleased to have misjudged King’s integrity.


The Colorado Kid isn’t a creeping, eerie masterpiece of hard boiled crime. King will not be the next Dashiell Hammett, and we won’t be speaking his name on lists of crime fiction writers with P.D. James. We cannot go that far. For The Colorado Kid, the distance we can go is to say it’s an engaging read and–given a certain kind of taste–as satisfying a novella as you might spend a few hours ruminating on.


King designs a king of “pick your own ending” mystery scenario without seeming to do it in a stereotypical fashion or even necessarily inviting that type of reading. The Colorado Kid also serves, rather unexpectedly, as a vessel for the opportunity to examine the form and function of story structure and what people seem to mean when they say “good” or “satisfying.” In my opinion, this is a really good example of “writer’s fiction.” There’s a phrase in rock and roll history: musician’s musician. Obscure artists who earn the moniker “musician’s musician” earn it by making things easier to appreciate by people in their field than by the general public–people say of them that “hardly anyone bought their album–but I guarantee that everyone who did went off and started a band.”


The Colorado Kid isn’t so abstractly authorish to earn the credential of being something only writers will really get, but it is definitely going on my list of books I’ll suggest to people who are studying character and plot.


Side note, this is what King did in this book that I’m always trying to do: King wrote a “story” that deserves quotation marks around it without veering into realms of surrealism and obscurity.


I think I respect King more than I used to respect him. I didn’t used to respect him very much.

Categories: Books, Writing Process, Revision/Rewriting

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