"I can do this," I told myself. I can end the year with a book by Stephen King. Believe it or not, I've never read a single book by the King of Horror Fiction (I wonder what Stephen King thinks of that title), although I've seen at least two Stephen King movies, The Shining and The Shawshank Redemption. Horror fiction is not my usual reading choice--not by a long shot--but we'd been given the thick paperback Duma Key as a Christmas gift and I picked it up, read a few pages, and thought, "I can do this". I could always stop reading it if I didn't care to finish it, as I do with other books which fail to engage me. But it did engage me--and quickly. Stephen King is a good storyteller, a master. His friendly, familiar style drew me in, mi amigo; his informal tone seems to balance the menacing events, liberal use of profanity, and gore of his books, muchacho. He's also quite funny, and characters exhibit a droll sense of humor at times. Edgar, the protagonist of Duma Key, who's lost an arm in a horrific accident, makes jokes about his missing arm such as, "I was going to say I'd cut my own arm off first, but all at once that seemed like a really bad idea."
Quite briefly, here's the basic storyline of Duma Key, a bestselling horror novel published in 2008. Edgar Freemantle, a wealthy, 57-year-old contractor, suffers a traumatic brain injury and loses his right arm in a horrendous accident at a job site. Edgar also battle bouts of rage and forgetfulness during his recovery, and to make matters even worse, his wife wants a divorce. Depressed and suicidal, Edgar follows the advice of Dr. Kamen, his therapist, to "change his scenery", and moves from Minnesota to Duma Key, a small, nearly deserted island off Florida's gulf coast. Edgar rents Salmon Point--which he calls "Big Pink" due to its pink color--a unique house on the northern part of the island, where Edgar feels compelled to draw and paint, a compulsion he relates to the phantom limb sensations he has in his right arm, the itching and burning. His paintings, which are quite good, have a sinister side to them, and seem to foretell horrific future events. They are also somehow connected to the past, and to Elizabeth Eastlake, an elderly resident of Duma Key.
Duma Key was a good introduction to the novels of Stephen King, and an auspicious way to end my year of reading, with a new-to-me author. I enjoyed this story, which is an inventive blend of the creepy and the "ordinary".
The author was born in Portland, Maine on September 21, 1947, the son of Donald King and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury. Extremely imaginative and prolific, Stephen Edwin King wrote over 40 books, including a 7-part series of novels, a 6-part serial novel, and countless short stories, and is one of the world's most popular writers. Obviously, he's heeded his true calling as a writer. Here's a fascinating interview from Lilja's Library with Stephen King about Duma Key, before the book was published. At least to me it's fascinating--I enjoy reading what writers have to say about their work and writing. Would I read another book by Stephen King? Yes. While I can't say that I'll join a Stephen King fan club, I am interested in reading Lisey's Story, which King has called his best book. I'm particularly interested in what writers deem as their best work.
As always, your comments are welcomed.