Tag: On Writing

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Posted August 21, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Thriller / 0 Comments

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen KingTitle: Mr. Mercedes (Goodreads)
Author: Stephen King
Published: Hodder, 2014
Pages: 496
Genres: Crime, Thriller
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When I picked up Stephen King’s new novel Mr Mercedes, I felt anxious and nervous. This novel has been billed as King’s first hard-boiled detective novel and it reminded me of his past attempts at pulp fiction. Joyland was billed as a pulp novel and by all accounts it had the makings of a good dime-store novel but the end result felt like King stuck to what he does best and only paying homage to the genre. Mr Mercedes has all the hallmarks of a hard-boiled novel, a brooding and jaded detective, a femme fatale and mysterious villain but this read more like a cat and mouse suspense thriller. Don’t get me wrong, this novel is a homage to detective fiction; Philip Marlow gets a mention and a fedora even makes an appearance. Though the third person narrative and chapters focusing solely on the killer meant we are in a thriller and I had to adjust my expectations.

Bill Hodges is a retired cop with not much to do; when he was on the force he was highly decorated but now he is left alone with the thoughts of all his unsolved cases. One of those cases was the psycho-loner who ploughed down a crowd of people in a stolen Mercedes. One day Hodges receives a letter from this killer taunting him into a little game of cat and mouse. This is a high-stakes race against time; can Hodges catch the Mercedes Killer before he strikes again?

I found it interesting that Stephen King picked the fundamental character archetypes found in hard-boiled fiction, in particular to Bill Hodges, and made it his own. On the other hand the plot felt into the typical tropes found in suspense thrillers. So we have a book that is walking a fine line between homage and cliché. When it comes to hard-boiled detectives, there has been a great evolution in the genre and character archetype; it was felt a little dated to see an old white guy again. I felt it to be unnecessary, in fact I am struggling to think of any ethnicity within the book that didn’t come across as stereotypical. It was a shame because you can do so much with a hard-boiled detective and still keep him as a homage to 1940’s crime novels.

I get the impression that maybe Stephen King is the kind of writer that sticks to the tried and true methods of writing within a genre. As prolific author, I’m beginning to question if he ever takes a risk in his writing. I am not one to judge King’s work, I’ve only read a few of his books (I think five) but they all seem to follow the typical tropes found within their genres. Does he take risks?

It is starting to bug me this whole ‘old white guy’ category of novels all feature non-multicultural characters and if we do have some ethnicity, they all feel a little too stereotypical. It isn’t necessary in today’s novels; there is room to explore some diversity within a book. I won’t go into anything about feminism because I fear I would give spoilers with what I want to say but we need more strong/independent women in novels like this.

Having had a bit of a rant, I found that I’ve managed to talk about the novel and not give any spoilers. I did in fact enjoy the ride this took me on, it was predictable and typical of the genre but sometimes it is fun to go on that journey again. In fact (with the exception of On Writing) I think this is the first Stephen King novel that I have actually enjoyed. I find some parts of his other books entertaining but on a whole they do not work for me. Maybe I’ve just read the wrong King novels. Bill Hodges is returning in another two more novels and I will be picking them up and using the books as a little entertaining read when I need them.


11/22/63 by Stephen King

Posted November 21, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Science Fiction / 5 Comments

11/22/63 by Stephen KingTitle: 11/22/63 (Goodreads)
Author: Stephen King
Published: Scribner, 2011
Pages: 849
Genres: Science Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Jake is a recently divorced high school teacher who finds himself time traveling to 1958. Fascinated by the chance to live his life in what feels like a much simpler time without mobile phones and the internet, Jake decides to live a life that transgresses all the normal rules. He makes his home in 1958, gets a job he enjoys, falls in love with the beautiful librarian and tries to live the ultimate American dream. But he is also obsessed with making the world right, most importantly trying to stop a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. But does Jake know just how much the world would change if he stops the Kennedy assassination?

I’ll be honest with you, I’ve not read much by Stephen King before, two books in fact (one of those was On Writing). I went into this book expecting a novel about time travel and the effects of changing the past would have. I also expected some weird plot with supernatural or horror elements but that’s just what I expect from King. What I got was something a lot different; this was more of a “what if?” novel. King explores his own thoughts of alternate history and time travel but he doesn’t really stop with that.

Possibly the most unexpected part of this novel was the character building and living life in the late fifties and sixties. King does an interesting job at telling a story of living in the era but in his own unique way by making the protagonist feel out of his element. The whole idea of living life in a time you are not from and finding someone in that time that could possibly be your soul mate. That was not what I thought King would write about but he did a great job building a memorable story around what he wanted to talk about.

Sure, some people are going to want him to skip all the normal life stuff and get to the time travel and alternate history aspects but I found it enjoyable leading up to it. It’s no Mad Men with the characters and life in the sixties but I did enjoy reading it. It’s a huge book and it could have been trimmed but if I was the one to take out elements I probably would have taken out the time travel. Then the book wouldn’t have worked as well.

I’m very interested in that time period, but I would have either preferred a more Mad Men style novel or more noir style with the war on organised crime and those dodgy back door deals made by the FBI. It did end out being a very interesting novel; it definitely surpassed my expectations and turned into a good read. Stephen King is a good story teller but there was not much to love about the prose and style but overall it was worth the read.