Of Kings & Countrymen - Debbie Bennett

I'm reading - or rather, forcing myself to read - Stephen King's Sleeping Beauties, co-written with his son Owen King. I used to love Stephen King's books, back in the days of Firestarter, The Stand and It.  Back in the days when you didn't have to wade through pages and pages of exposition and asides and irrelevant minutiae. I just about managed 11.22.63, but since then I've given up, and I doubt I'll get to the end of this book. It sits on my bedside table and I'm even watching Family Guy in bed now, because I can't face picking up the hefty doorstop of a paperback and trying to remember which one of the myriad of characters is in this chapter. I can't even hold it comfortably to read.

Why does nobody edit this stuff anymore? Is it because he's such a huge name and the publishers know the books will sell whatever they do or don't do? Is it because of the cut-backs everywhere, the redundancies in the publishing industry and reluctance to buy those essential services back in? Or is it because I've unknowingly become a part of the 3-minute-public, with an attention span of a gnat who needs constant stimulation?

I don't think it's the last point. I'm quite capable of long and hard reads if I'm sufficiently interested. But I'm just not. Maybe it's my smack-in-the-middle-of-menopause age that makes me long for something that moves, a good old page-turner. Maybe I'm doing the Kings a disservice, I don't know. Certainly I can't see a voice other than the father as yet in the novel.

Whereas King's other son, Joe Hill, has a hugely impressive and distinctive voice. I loved The Fireman - and in many ways it's reminiscent of King's The Stand in its themes of post-apocalyptic world changes, with Hill's own spin on it. And again in the post-apocalyptic genre - Justin Cronin's The Passage. Loved it, apart from the odd ending, before I realised it was the first of a trilogy ... But the sequel The Twelve? Overblown, self-indulgent and in danger of disappearing up its own backside. I did finish it, but have no interest in reading the 3rd book - I'm past caring what happens to any of the characters.

Having inadvertently yet again signed up for Amazon Prime by mistake and therefore having another month's trial period, I bought another couple of paperbacks with Sleeping Beauties, including Sarah Pinborough's Cross Her Heart. And this really is a page-turner, with a plot that evolves naturally from the story and not a twist-you-won't-see-coming (trust me, I will, and I don't like feeling the author is waiting gleefully to leap out and yell SEE, I TOLD YOU SO!). This was a book I was snatching ten minutes of before I had to leave for work in the morning.

So maybe it is me. Maybe my tastes have changed. But life's too short for bad books, or good books that just don't grab me. The proof is, after all, in the reading. And I think I'll go and read something else!


Chris Longmuir said…
Stephen King has been overwriting for years now and I think you're right, he's big, therefore, in the publisher's eyes, no longer in need of drastic editing. I remember wondering about this when I was reading one of his doorstops many years ago. I can't remember the title but it was a story about old men. I think I did finish it but it was a struggle. So. although our attention spans have become shorter, it doesn't disprove the lack of good structural editing in King's books. But it does go to prove that it doesn't matter how successful you become as a writer, you still need an editor.
Umberto Tosi said…
You can say all that again, Debbie! Where are the editors of these obese, boring, self-indulgent mainline books? I refer such professional big-ticket publishing industry drivel to those who try to dismiss author-published books as poorly edited, thank you.

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