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For 20 years, Stephen King has had an image stuck in his head: It’s a boy in a wheelchair flying a kite on a beach. “It wanted to be a story, but it wasn’t a story,” he tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. But little by little, the story took shape around the image — and focused on an amusement park called “Joyland” located just a little farther down the beach.
King’s new thriller is set in North Carolina in 1973. Joyland has a horror house and a torture chamber, but it’s not exactly a horror novel. The park’s fun house may be haunted by a ghost — which may explain the dead bodies — but the book isn’t exactly a supernatural thriller, either. Instead, the book combines elements of crime, horror and the supernatural. The main character is a college student who aspires to write for The New Yorker. After his heart is broken by his girlfriend, he wants to get away from New England and takes a job in North Carolina, at the Joyland amusement park, where he enters a different world.
As King — who is also the author of such horror, mystery and crime classics as Carrie, The Shining and It — began writing the book, the amusement park atmosphere he began with turned more lurid, more “carny,” more influenced by the state fairs and local carnivals of his youth in rural Maine.
“The more carny it got, the better I liked it, actually,” he says, “and I started to go to websites that had various carny language, some of which I remembered a little: pitchmen called ‘shy bosses’ and their concessions called ‘shies,’ and the little places where they sold tickets and sometimes sat down to rest called ‘doghouses,’ and other stuff I just made up, like calling pretty girls ‘points.’ “
Read the full article and listen to the interview @ NPR.org.
Originally, we were only going to publish Joyland in paperback.
Steve grew up buying paperbacks for fifty cents from the wire spinner racks at his local drugstore in Lisbon Falls, Maine, the sort with sexy cover paintings and lurid cover copy and breathless storytelling that kept you glued to the page well past your bedtime. I did, too, though in my case it was in New York City rather than Lisbon Falls, and by the time I came around the wire spinner racks had vanished and the era that produced them was gone, too. When I found these paperbacks it was at flea markets and library sales, at used book stores and on my father’s bookshelves. (My grandmother’s too – this proper old lady had been a big fan of Mickey Spillane back in the day.) Like Steve, I fell in love with them, discovered they scratched a powerful itch I hadn’t even known I had. And when, years later, I found myself reminiscing about them with a friend over drinks, we decided the world needed more books like that, damn it. That’s how Hard Case Crime was born.
Read the full essay on Boing Boing.