Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stephen King's legacy - It's not just his books

I have to admit that when I picked up Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, I did so because he’s Stephen King’s son, and I was curious what his writing skills and story-telling were like. From now on, I’ll pick up his books because both are high caliber.

Judas (Jude) Coyne is a fifty-something, semi-retired, mega-successful hard rock star. He lives on a farm in rural New York State with his two dogs, Angus and Bon. There is a slowly-revolving door on his house which allows for the entry and exit of young, gothic female fans whom he refers to by the name of the state from which they come. Georgia lives with him when the novel begins. It is his relationships with these young women, his penchant for collecting occult memorabilia, and his ugly childhood that turn the wheels of this story.

When the story opens, Jude’s assistant tells him about an interesting item up for auction online. For $1,000, Jude can own a ghost. It’s a no-brainer. Jude tells his assistant to buy it. A few days later, a heart-shaped box arrives at Jude’s farmhouse and inside the box is a dead man’s suit. With the suit came the ghost. And from that point on, things go increasingly bad for Jude and Georgia.

I don’t know how someone could grow up with Stephen King as his father and remain uninfluenced by the man and his books. The connections are easy to see. (I even think there’s a subtle nod to Maximum Overdrive in Heart-Shaped Box.) But I don’t want you to think that Hill is another King, because he isn’t. His voice is original and strong and this novel was unique and fun to read. Hill’s second novel, Horns, is next on my list. It’s about a guy who wakes up hungover from a wild night and has horns growing out of his head. He’s not sure anyone else can see them, but he can, and he can feel them. I’m looking forward to that ride as well.

Joe Hill is the real deal. He carved a place for himself long before anyone even knew the secret of his family tree. But if you glance at the author’s photo, there’s no denying who his daddy is.

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