Riding With The King: The Colorado Kid (2005)

Do you ever try to engage with a piece of media and it just doesn’t land for whatever reason? Maybe you pass it on down the line or donate it to the library and then think, “Dang, I wish I could give that another shot?” That’s what I went through with Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid from 2005. My father-in-law, an avid reader, tore through the book with a quickness and then passed it to me. However, for reasons I can’t quite remember, this very short Hard Case Crime book just didn’t land with me, so I passed it along.

I don’t remember exactly when that was, but it was probably just a few years after the book came out. In an interesting twist of fate, it would be King’s next Hard Case book Joyland that got me interested in his books again after several years away. Around then, I started looking around to get my hands on all of his works and have made a serious dent thanks to used copies, paperback reissues and pre-ordering his last several offerings. I keep a running list on my phone so I can always know what I have, what I don’t and what I still need to read (which is most of them, really).

I, of course, turned to my trusty app — I use Notes in almost every aspect of my life — when I saw a new printing of The Colorado Kid out in the world in the past year or so and snatched it right up. It sat in the To Read Box for a bit, but when we went on vacation recently, I figured it would be nice to start things off with a quick read and this was an excellent choice.

The Colorado Kid is a pure mystery book. In it, Ohio native Stephanie McCann’s been interning at a small Maine newspaper with its two employees Vince Teague and Dave Bowie. After a Boston-based reporter interviews the older gentlemen about unexplained stories from the area, they only offer up the usual tales that have been told already. When he leaves, Stephanie asks if they really didn’t have anything more interesting to discuss.

The rest of the book consists of Dave and Vince trading off telling the mystery of The Colorado Kid, an out-of-towner who was found dead on the beach who had seemingly choked on a steak. Essentially, the men are telling the young woman about the mystery as a test to see if she has what it takes to be a real reporter, but there’s also a sense of passing on the torch to someone who has proven herself to already be in the club.

I’ll go ahead and dub this paragraph SPOILER COUNTRY. This mystery does not have an ending. The newsmen literally give Stephanie everything they know, but they still have no idea why this guy from Colorado lit out from his wife and kid and came to small New England island town. In that way, it’s very much like life which does not always present us with answers. This all ties into what Vince and Dave are trying to impart to Stephanie about what makes something a story (beginning, middle and end) and also the kinds of questions that can exist in a news story and those that negate the very idea. I don’t think the past version of me who started this book would have been receptive to this kind of ending, but it didn’t bother me now.

The Colorado Kid is not King’s most satisfying read because of the way it plays out, but like all of his best it’s filled with intriguing characters with their own unique voices. I think that may have actually been one of the reasons I did not tap into this book on my first attempt, I just had no context for how New Englander’s talk, which is pretty much all this book is. I’m still an Ohio guy living in New York, but I married a New England woman and have spent my fair share of vacations in any number of those tiny, Eastern states since then. I’ve also read and seen more stories set in that world and just feel more comfortable in that environment, which helped with my enjoyment.

With this book, King doesn’t present a full story, but he does put an earwig of a mystery in my mind that is still crawling around well after I finished the book. Ultimately, I’m glad I went back and got myself another copy of this book — one with an even better cover I must admit — and gave it another shot. It’s not one of my favorites, but like Dolores Claiborne, it’s an interesting experiment in novel-writing that I enjoyed. I’m also curious about the TV series kinda-sorta based on the book called Haven, but will give it some time before pursuing that.

Want to read King’s Hard Case Crime books? Follow these Amazon Associate links, I’d appreciate it! The Colorado Kid, Joyland (my favorite of the bunch) and Later!

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