‘M B Blissett is reviewing another of my books. God, that’s beautiful.’
After realizing his romantic life is not going in the direction he’d hoped, Devin Jones decides to take a summer job at an amusement park. There he makes friends with Tom Kennedy and Erin Cook, also summer hires at Joyland, which years before had been the scene of the murder of a young woman named Linda Gray whose ghost is said to be seen at the Horror House. He also befriends a young boy, named Mike Ross and his mother, Annie. Their lives all become entwined when Devin decides to investigate the mystery of Linda Gray’s unsolved murder by the “Carny Killer.
Joyland was written for the crime imprint Hard Case. It showcases the best of King’s work, how he manages to blend sentiment, hard truth, a melange of horror, nostalgia and human drama. It is welded to a warm, insightful look at a time in a man’s life where his world is changed within a single summer. There is genuine pain woven throughout, an appreciation for the ability of love and beauty, the denial and gift of sex has both to heal and wound. It’s also a tense thriller with an exciting climax that works symbolically and literally.
The supernatural element is subtle, using an element of foreshadowing and a sense of prophecy within it that does not derail the story, amplifying the story to great heights and providing a dynamic that accentuates the tragic-thriller parts without distracting from the poignant, beautiful warmth that pours out of the pages like sunlight through a window.
King, in the last few years, has produced work that has more subtlety, depth and pathos as time goes on. I intend to revisit his earlier work at some point, and he’s an education for me as a writer as much as a reader. Joyland more than merits it’s title and I am overjoyed for the film adaptation. Read the book though, always.