The best tropical fiction on earth sometimes arrives from unexpected directions, this time via the long renowned Master of Horror, Mr. Stephen King. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try a Stephen King novel but, frankly, found yourself a bit grossed out by the reputation, or have had the misfortune to stumble across one of the seemingly endless parade of truly terrible movie or cable television adaptations (Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, and The Green Mile are obvious exceptions).
Fret no more. Duma Key is the the book you’ve been waiting for all your life, and neatly falls onto my tropical radar due to the Sarasota-esque location on the fictional island from which the title is drawn. Since Mr. King apparently spends his winters there now, he qualifies as a Florida writer. Yippee skippee! Perhaps having tired of the brutal brain bashing of a Maine winter, and likely still lugging around a hefty collection of disparate but similar bone pains from his accident several years back, Steve-O is now tuned into the Gulf of Mexico frequency for for inspiration.
Keep in mind that Duma Key clocks in at 770 pages, so you’re going to need a long vacation to get it all in. Never fear. By the time you’re nearing the end, and events are racing forward at a fever pitch, you’ll wish it could keep going. Truly. It’s that kind of book. This story is a cat of a different flavor.
Start with the protagonist, Edgar Freemantle, a Minnesota building contractor who gets himself plastered against the door of his truck by a piece of heavy equipment in a freak work site accident. He loses an arm, messes up a hip, and suffers a dose of brain damage. While recovering, wife, Pam, does what any vow-eschewing woman would do and divorces Edgar, setting off a chain of events that land him all by his lonesome in a beach house on Duma Key. He’s never painted a bit in his life but suddenly finds himself possessed by the talent and determination to start cranking out masterpieces at an amazing rate. Turns out he literally is possessed and that can lead to trouble in a Stephen King novel.
The point here, though, is not to bore you with a blow by blow description of plot points and characters. The point is that the writing displayed by this pop-meister is some of the best damn word construction you’ll run across anywhere, any time. And it’s not slash your girlfriend across the throat with a machete schlock. This is a creepy tale that unfolds in a hypnotic march across the hundreds of pages.
Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects is that the tale is told in first person, languishing inside the head of a person who has suffered hideous injuries and is trying to find his way back through the fog of narcotic pain killers and the agony of rehabilitation to a life worth living again. We surmise this is a topic King is intimately familiar. I welcome this strong effort from Stephen King to the Florida fiction scene. Duma Key is great writing by a master at the top of his game. We wouldn’t lie. Here’s to keeping my fingers crossed the author sees fit to crank out more Florida based tales. I’d read ‘em.