Thursday, January 2, 2014

PCP on the Page - John Grisham & Stephen King Go Back to the Well

Recently, two authors I really like, Stephen King and John Grisham, released sequels to books they had written many years ago. This was a new thing for both of them. While King has written direct sequels before, specifically with his Dark Tower series of books, and has linked the locations and events of his books together, he hasn't really written a direct sequel to one of his "standalone" novels. Likewise, outside of his series of young reader novels set around the character Theodore Boone, John Grisham had never written a direct sequel to one of his books either. So, I found it interesting that both authors had direct sequels to two of their most popular novels come out right around the same time as each other this fall. I guess that I have gotten used to Hollywood's endless sequel machine, because I'm actually somewhat surprised that these two authors hadn't done this before and waited so long to do so.

For John Grisham, the well that he goes back to is the character of Jake Brigance, the southern lawyer from Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, published back in 1989. Set three years after the trial that freed Carl Lee Hailey who killed the Klansmen who raped his daughter, Brigance is desperate for a flashy case and eager to fight a tough fight. He gets one when a wealthy local recluse kills himself, but right before doing so mails Brigance a brand new, extremely controversial last will and testament. Brigance has to figure out why this multimillionaire is leaving 90% of his estate to his Black housekeeper, instead of to his children and grandchildren, and to defend this will in court from the legal challenge by the man's family.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sycamore Row. It had a crackling energy that had been somewhat lacking Grisham's work of late, perhaps because he was going back to a highly popular character. Unlike A Time to Kill however, I don't see them adapting this one into a film, even if Matthew McConaughey wanted to reprise the role. The book doesn't lend itself to a film the way some of Grisham's earlier works did. That doesn't mean it's not a good read, because it is, it just doesn't have as many thrills or the life and death stakes of some of his other works.

Continue after the jump for the review of Stephen King's Doctor Sleep -->

Stephen King went back even further into his deep history of novels than Grisham did, writing a sequel to his extremely popular The Shining from 1977. Doctor Sleep continues the story of Dan Torrence, now an adult alcoholic, drowning out the demons from his childhood at the Overlook Hotel. He finds himself in New Hampshire, and in AA, after a lifetime of drinking and nomadic wandering around the country. Once sober, he finds employment at a hospice, and his Shining power helps him to help the dying as they transition to the afterlife, earning him the nickname Doctor Sleep. But little does Dan Torrence know, he's about to be drawn into another battle between good and evil.

Like a lot of King's work of late, Doctor Sleep gets bogged down a bit in slow narrative building and lots of flowing description, without a whole lot of action taking place. A good majority of the first half of the book is world building, showing us just how much his experiences at the Overlook Hotel have damaged and haunted Torrence in his life. This doesn't mean the book is not enjoyable, because it is, but what it does mean is that Doctor Sleep lacks many of the horrifying scares that King's earlier work was known for. I'd much rather re-read The Shining several more times than read Doctor Sleep again. Let's hope that the next time Stephen King makes a direct sequel to one of his earlier novels that he does a much better job of it. If you like King though, you'll like Doctor Sleep, if nothing else but to settle the question of "what happened to the little kid from The Shining?"

Alright, that's all for today over here at CRAPOLA. I hope you had a safe and fun New Years, and I hope your 2014 is better than your 2013! Thanks for dropping by!

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