Duma Key – Stephen King, 2008

King is one of those writers I (usually) find compelling despite his flaws. But the worst of those flaws were barely in evidence in this book, one of his very best. Presumably because he’s drawing on his recent experience of recovering from a horrible accident, the non-supernatural characters and incidents in Duma Key are fully realized and believable. I particularly love stories of success, and Edgar Freemantle’s sudden flowering as an artist was delightfully involving; finding redemption and healing in creation clearly draws from King’s recovery as well, and it’s thrilling to watch unfold. The supernatural elements are still somewhat random and motiveless (which is why I fundamentally prefer fantasy and SF to horror–a lot of horror relies on not questioning WHY the Big Bad showed up and why it’s attacking the protagonists). King’s worst faults in my view: a) vulgarity; b) going for the cheap gross-out; c) an intrusive sort of verbal ticcing, where he repeats cultural or personal catch phrases (joking expressions, song lyrics, ad taglines) ad nauseam. The latter has its good side of adding texture and interest, and it’s realistic in the way the human mind works (mine included). In the recent Lisey’s Story, where he did it constantly, it was incredibly irritating. Here he manages to do it almost as much, but it works because it becomes a natural part of the exchanges between Freemantle and his friend Wireman. Duma Key also has a wonderful portrait of the love between father and daughter. I’m very glad King hasn’t retired, as he threatened to do years back, since he has books like this still in him.

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