Stephen King writes a thriller on the power of prose to enthrall and seduce
BY DREW ROWSOME
The first thing to know about Finder Keepers is that it is not a horror novel, though it promises, a little too broadly, of horror to come. That leads to the second thing to know about Finders Keepers, it is the middle book of a trilogy of which Mr Mercedes is the first and the third is yet to come. Fortunately one doesn't have to have read Mr Mercedes to thoroughally enjoy and be engrossed by Finders Keepers. It is a stand alone thriller/film noir that keeps the pages turning at a rapid pace.
The reader is plunged into a classic Stephen King set piece: an elderly writer, a former alcoholic of course, is the victim of a home invasion. From there, two intertwining plotlines ratchet the tension as they speed towards an inexorable collision. As the plot rockets along, King takes time to muse on the power of prose to enthrall and seduce. Revenge, riches and fate, all take a back seat to words on the page and the miracle of what an author creates:
When he was a kid, Pete saw the notebooks only as buried treasure. His treasure. He knows better now, and not just because he's fallen in love with John Rothstein's nasty, funny, and sometimes wildly moving prose. The notebooks were never just his. They were never just Rothstein's, either, no matter what he might have thought, hidden away in his New Hampshire farmhouse. They deserve to be seen and read by everyone. Maybe the little landslide that exposed the trunk on that winter day had been nothing but happenstance, but Pete doesn't believe it. He believes that, like the blood of Abel, the notebooks cried out from the ground. If that makes him a dipshit romantic, so be it. Some shit does mean shit.
Unfortunately King seems to have a chip on his shoulder and doesn't seem to believe that his prose is as powerful as the canonized - he name drops Updike, Roth, Cheever and other established literary icons, always in awe and with just a touch of envy. One wants to tell him that his own body of work may not be as academically lauded, but that he has created some indelible characters and experiences that have influenced more than all of the masters combined. Of course part of that is from sheer volume, and occasionally King slips up. He has an unfortunate tendency to not trust himself: the moment the plot strands click into place, it is a clever shocker that is very well done, he undercuts it with some regrettable explanatory foreshadowing,
Not long after, he made the biggest mistake of his life.
King also seems to be obsessed with prison sex and there are more references to forced sex between men, most occurring in prison, than are palatable as explanations for psychosis. In that King does resemble his literary idols, straight (or closeted) middle-class but aspiring white men all, in navel-gazing without the nerve to look a little further below in any context other than straight sex and marriage.
But King is a great storyteller and as long as he wants to take working out his demons, I'll look forward to reading about the process. Finders Keepers ends with more of that regrettable unsubtle foreshadowing - the third volume is teased to contain supernatural horror elements to ramp up the thrills. As much of a letdown as that is, especially after a very satisfying and powerful climax, I'm eagerly awaiting part three.