Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

DUMA KEY by Stephen King

If Hollywood ever makes a movie of Duma Key, Bruce Campbell has to play Wireman. No one else will do. Campbell was in my head throughout Stephen King’s long novel of a haunted one-armed artist, and I’m going to miss hearing him on the page now that I’ve finished the novel.

And what a novel it was! King is a great writer, but he’s not always great. He’s always dependable, just like a clutch hitter (which reminds me of his latest book, Blockade Billy, which didn’t do for me what Duma Key did), and can deliver the goods. But on some days he just shines.

That’s what King does in Duma Key. I know not everyone is going to agree with me, and I’m okay with that. A lot of books these days offer a quick movie-on-the-page kind of read that keeps the mind and imagination busy, but doesn’t always engage the heart or the full attention. Reading on auto-pilot is very easy to maintain with those books.

On the other hand, you have these novels that reach out and grab you, pull you into that world, and keep you captivated while the circus explodes around you. I’ve tried to figure out the difference, but I can’t. It’s not plot or characterization or setting. It’s just magic. And a touch of elegance.

When I first started reading, the character of Edgar Freemantle didn’t quite pull me in. I knew there were parallels between his injuries and those King suffered during his roadside accident, and I knew King was probably channeling some of those dark days onto the pages. I was moved, but not absorbed.

Looking back now, I don’t know when I became absorbed. I read the first 100 pages in a sitting (still had over 500 to go) and knew that I didn’t want to leave Freemantle on his own just as all the weirdness was kicking in. But somewhere after the accident, after Freemantle could regain control of his body, after his wife told him she was leaving him, I was absorbed.

The story seems incredibly simple. Character goes through traumatic incident, decides to go to a new location, gets a weird new ability, and discovers that the new location has a creepy backstory just waiting for a horror writer to abscond with the idea. In a way, reducing it to that sentence, I shouldn’t have been as absorbed as I was.

But then there’s Wireman, whose tragic life beggared a book of its own. And there’s Mrs. Eastlake, whose tragedy spanned a full, long lifetime. Both of those stories got parsed out in dribs and drabs, and I was surprised that I didn’t peek ahead. I wanted to, but I didn’t want to disturb the narrative flow that King had set up.

I think that’s the greatest piece of magic King works here: that narrative flow. As I turned the pages, I got to know Edgar more, and I got to know Wireman and Mrs. Eastlake. I got to know why Jack Cantori was pure hero material and the best guy anyone could ever take on what could possibly turn out to be a suicide mission.

I discovered all the secrets of Duma Key, and I will be honest and say I wasn’t surprised about all of them. I don’t think I was supposed to be because I’m a clever reader with vast experience. But King ambushes clever, experienced readers with this book. He reaches out, tickles the imagination, and gives you a set of friends you hate to let go of.

I hated turning the last page and knowing I wouldn’t be with those people any more. That’s one of the best compliments a reader can give a writer, and it’s the best I have to offer.


2 Responses to “DUMA KEY by Stephen King”

  1. […] I was captivated. (See the review here.) […]

  2. I think that Duma key would make the best stephen King movie yet , aside from the Stand which is my personal ever. love it.

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