The plot is minimal in that it only involves three people talking. The characters are Dave and Vince, editors of a newspaper on a small island, and Stephanie, a new intern. She wants to know if the two of them have ever come across an unexplained mystery, and in response they tell her the ‘story’ of the Colorado Kid, an unsolved murder that occurred in 1980. That’s really all there is.
It’s often the case that putting constraints on a work can force writers to be more creative, and that certainly applies here. The book’s as gripping as any thriller, with twists and turns galore, packing more into 34,000 words than some writers do in full novels. I was reminded of a film called Locke, which takes place on a single night in a single car journey, with Tom Hardy carrying the whole film by himself. It’s the kind of narrative device that can come across as gimmicky, but often results in compelling drama. The choices King makes with it are absolutely justified.
Stephen King is mostly famous as a storyteller, but I would say he’s just as good a prose writer. He has strong technique, resulting in high quality material on the sentence level that’s a pleasure to read. The Colorado Kid, as well as being a gripping narrative, contains some of his best writing. The final scene in particular, after Stephanie has left Dave and Vince for the night, has a real poetic quality, leaving you with a palpable feeling of wonder.
There’s an afterword where King explains what he was trying to do, which provides a satisfactory conclusion to any readers who didn’t get one from the story itself. It’s a shame there were so many, but a good book doesn’t need everyone to like it. The Colorado Kid is certainly an oddity in Stephen King’s oeuvre, but I found it a rewarding read nonetheless. If you’re looking for something a little different, it might be for you.
Review by Charlie Alcock