But is it a horror story?
Later is published as a Hard Case Crime novel. Which I actually find a little strange… I mean, I guess it is a crime novel but is it more of one than, say, The Institute? Or Mr. Mercedes? Neither of them were Hard Case Novels, but both of them felt more like crime novels than this in some ways. There’s no good detective or cop of note in this one either, just a dirty cop. No one really doing detective work, just things happening to people. None of which is to say it’s bad, but it doesn’t seem super crime novel-y to me, if that makes sense. It does seem more like a horror story, though. Although not completely that, either.
I guess mostly it’s another King book that’s more than one thing at a time, which isn’t really that unusual. And it does feel crime novel-ish in some ways… I mean, there’s a serial bomber and a whole drug storyline. I wonder a little about the decision to publish it as a crime novel, but I don’t think it’s that important either. I think Stephen King has been very much in crime/cops/detectives mode these past however many years, so have fun, I guess.
Jamie Conklin starts off as a little boy who sees dead people. Mostly, these dead people are harmless, though not really helpful either. Part of this story is about a time when one was helpful. Part is about a time when one was harmful — or could have been if Jamie hadn’t gotten fairly lucky. Part of it is about a bad cop, and part of it is about a mother and son. Said mother is about a literary agent, which is an interesting departure from King’s writer characters while still staying in the same general family. Although the literary agent does some writing in this one too.
Also — spoilers here, skip this paragraph if you hate them — it’s a little bit about incest. If you know only one thing about this book already, it’s probably that. However, it’s such a little part of the book, and it doesn’t really matter — there’s some suggestion that it explains the ability to see and talk to dead people, but also, perhaps it doesn’t (I don’t think that’s based on anything, is it? Any legends or folklore or anything? I’ve never heard of any connections between incest and powers of any kind. Although I suppose that doesn’t mean it’s not out there.) Anyway, that’s the big shocking twist, but I don’t find it particularly important, as shocking twists go. I don’t have a problem with it, but I don’t think it actually matters that much.
It’s also a little about Alzheimer’s, which I feel has been very present in the Kingverse lately. And you know what? I get that. That’s probably one of King’s fears. The man’s mind is his livelihood, after all. It’s not his ability to type or write stories that matters, it’s his ability to think them up. He’s also a big reader and clearly a smart guy. It probably doesn’t matter that he has the money to ensure that he’s taken care of or that he doesn’t have to churn out two or three books a year to afford to live, losing the ability to do it would probably be worse for a man like him than a physical disability.
And you know, Alzheimer’s is pretty horrible anyway. I’m nothing like the writer Stephen King is, but I did work as a CNA for almost a decade, and I saw a lot of Alzheimer’s, and it’s horrific. The person loses themselves — and their loved ones lose them — long before they actually die. It was honestly one of my worst fears even then — before I started making a living with my brain — and the older I get, the more I fear it. I’m talking a lot about it for something that’s not really the point of the novel, but I think it is part of the point. Because Jamie finding out who his father is isn’t really that horrific because of the incest — well, it might be, but since we don’t know the circumstances of the incest, it really isn’t — but because his father suffered from early-onset Alzheimer’s. Which means that Jamie might too. And that’s frankly more of a horror than the possessed ghost Jamie deals with or the crooked cop that would have killed him. Jamie beat the possessed ghost in the ritual of Chüd. He used that demon to get clear of the crooked cop. But who beats Alzheimer’s? As far as I know, nobody. That’s really horrible.