Joyland by Stephen King a book review

Ratting 4/5

So if you have read my review of Titanic Thompson the man who bet on will know I have an affinity for the grifter and con-man being interested in such matters, I also have a passing interested in carnivals (fun fairs if you are from UK like me). If you have been following this blog you will also know that I am a fan of noir as Money Shot by Christa Faust and The Moving Target will attest to, you may also might have noticed a like a good horror story along the lines of A Head full of Ghost. You might have also have read that me and Stephen King have not the best relationship Stephen King’s IT: A book that that I couldn’t finish. So if you take a Noir story set it at a carnival, with a ghost written by Stephen King, I am not going to know what to to, could I suffer another 280ish pages of King again?

Joyland at it’s heart is a murder story against a backdrop of a carnival the titular Joyland. Add a dying child in a wheelchair who has a gift (I believe the King fans will call the is the shining), mix  in a young man’s story of love that was lost, drop in a story of friendship, whisk then add a ghost. You have one of the most unique pieces of noir fiction released by the Hard Case Crime Publishing house.

It’s hard to review Joyland with out spoilers and it is a story that I want you discover on your own. I would be doing you a disservice if I told you too much.

Devin Jones, has just had his heart broken by a woman, he decides to get a summer job at Joyland to take his mind of things. The old timers of the carnival speak of a murder in the fun house, Devin decides to delve deeper, whats more there is talk of a ghost as well.

Now in his 60’s Devin tells his story of working  at Joyland way back in 1973. Devin’s story covers loss, love and untimely closure, King weaves his story with enough carny slang draw you in to the world of the carnival, he brings the emotions to table and sets out a truly moving story. That’s all you need to know before you pick this up, fans of Kings non horror will enjoy this, fans of noir will enjoy this too, it might not be the hard boiled we know but it works.

Joyland  does 3 things.

  1. questions what  exactly is noir
  2. Sets up enough emotion to move and hook the reader
  3. Achieves the status of being a Stephen King book I like

Not being a King fan in a world where most Horror readers are, I may be a minority but Joyland is one of Kings works to the Contrary.  Enough elements to keep everyone’s interest going. And not a demonic clown in sight.


A Head full of Ghost. The Exorcist meets the 2010s

Paul Tremblay in A head full of ghost adds a contemporary twist in the possession story. The exorcist for the i-phone generation.

Something is not right in the Barrett’s home 14 year old Marjory maybe descending in to madness, Mr Barrett has found religion and Mrs Barrett is trying to hold it all together while young Merry is trying to make sense of it all. All set against the backdrop of Pa Barrett losing his well paid Job. In a way it’s a normal story of middle class family trying to make ends meet. But something more sinister is afoot and the family maybe able to make a quick buck with the magic of TV. Years after the events Merry sits down to tell her story to a journalist.

Tremblay writes a fast paced story, jumping between time zones using present day Merry and 8 year old Merry along with numerous blog posts critic each episode of the TV show.

Each character is well fault out and develops nicely through the story allowing the reader to be engaged with the cast and at times building sympathy, revolution and sometimes hate. There is enough in there to keep the reader gripped.

What allows the book to be as good as it is, Tremblay builds his world with gusto and creates a totally believable scenario. You believe that Barrett has found religion and that how he believes the TV show “The possession” is the best way forward. You believe that the TV production crew would behave like that, Tremblay catches the slew of TV ghost hunting shows and manages to put it on the page.

But at the end I was angry with Tremblay at the end, I wont mention the ending but it will make you think and you may even feel cheated. The Journey to get cheated is well crafted and as they say it is better to travel than to arrive.