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Joyland (Hard Case Crime Novels) Mass Market Paperback – May 27, 2014

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Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2013: What a smart, sweet, spooky, sexy gem of a story. In this one-off for the Hard Case Crime publishing imprint, King has found yet another outlet and format (print only, a zippy 280 pages) to suit his considerable talents. All are on full display here in the story of Devon Jones--"a twenty-one-year-old virgin with literary aspirations … and a broken heart"--who spends the summer of 1973 at Joyland amusement park in North Carolina. Devon makes new pals, proves himself to the hard-core carny workers, saves a girl’s life, befriends a dying boy (who has a secret gift), and falls for the boy’s protective, beautiful mother. The first half of the story is sweet and nostalgic, with modest hints of menace to come. (Think: “The Body,” King’s novella that became the film Stand By Me.) Devon learns to “sell fun” and “wear the fur” (carny-speak for dressing as Howie the Happy Hound, the park mascot), but he also learns about the woman who had been killed in the Funhouse, whose ghost still haunts Joyland. King has fun with the carny lingo--most of it researched and real, some of it invented. (The Ferris wheel, for example, is the chump-hoister.) The second half gets spookier, spinning into a full-on murder mystery--but also a love story, and a coming-of-age-story, with some supernatural fun woven in. More than a trifecta, this is King at his narrative and nostalgic best. A single-session tale to savor some summer afternoon. And then try not to keep thinking back on it. --Neal Thompson --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Michael Kelly begins his rendition of King's engaging short novel sounding pleasantly satisfied, if wistful, with just a twinge of regret—precisely the mood of Devin Jones, the book's protagonist. Now in his 60s, Devin recalls the details of how he spent 1973, working as a Happy Helper at Joyland, a slightly seedy North Carolina amusement park where, several years before his arrival, a young girl was murdered on a ride called Horror House. Kelly follows King's lead in fashioning a proper voice for each and every character, creating a delightfully unpretentious and winning listening experience. With this performance, it seems as if Kelly is himself responding to the advice given to new carnival employees by the sweetly paternal Joyland director, Bradley Easterbrook: Remember, the old man tells them, you're here to sell fun. A Hard Case paperback. (June) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

"The Evening Chorus" by Helen Humphreys
From a writer of delicate and incandescent prose, "The Evening Chorus" offers a beautiful, spare examination of the natural world and the human heart. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Hard Case Crime Novels
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hard Case Crime (May 27, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781167699
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781167694
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,710 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Customer Reviews

I found the book to be an enjoyable read that kept me turning the pages right up until the very last.
G. T. Hopkins
The über-short synopsis ... Devin Jones is a college kid who takes a summer job at Joyland, an amusement park in North Carolina.
The book went on way too long for a simple story and the suspense part of it with the ghost was boring.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

639 of 718 people found the following review helpful By krissskrosss on June 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
As a kid looking for something to pique my literary hunger beyond the outgrown Judy Blume and Babysitters Club series, I crept into my parents' library late one night and stumbled on a book about a pyrokinetic young girl on the run with her father. I snuck it back to my room under my shirt and spent the next few nights devouring it under my blankets with a flashlight. I quickly moved on to The Shining, Carrie, Cujo, and It. And so began my literary love affair with Stephen King at 11 years old.

Over the years, I've loved some books more than others, but the Dark Tower series were really what convinced me that he could do no wrong. But after his accident had taken its toll and a string of books read somewhat uninspired and formulaic, I figured his best work was behind him. I was a little sad, of course, but grateful for all the entertainment and inspiration I found through his previous books. Besides, everyone has to lose their mojo eventually, right?

Oh, so very, very wrong.

I knew it three chapters into 11/22/63. And now, the thrill ride that is Joyland proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt: Stephen King's mojo is back, full force. It's like Jerry Garcia in a bag, man. Except in a book.

And speaking of BOOKS...

I drove to the store late last night and stayed up through the wee hours of the morning reading Joyland under my blankets, this time with a slightly more advanced book light. To those complaining about the fact that King didn't release it on e-book, quit your whining. Reading an actual book (not a screen) is FUN. As an adult now with kids of my own who love to read, ebook are strictly for school or literary emergencies (only real book lovers know what I mean) in our house.
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170 of 192 people found the following review helpful By Mel Odom VINE VOICE on June 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
Joyland consumed me, took me down into a world I can still remember outside of the novel because I lived through those times as well, and left me nostalgic and emotionally exhausted. This book is one of Stephen King's best, a steady, haunting melody of memory and youth and innocence that was euphoric.

Readers looking for one of King's bloodthirsty romps aren't going to get that here. They're going to get the Stephen King that wrote Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and "The Body," all tales that I enjoy and recommend to any reader, especially those who think that all the author produces are horror stories.

Devin Jones, the main character, is me at 21, and I think he's a lot of the guys who grew up in the 1970s when the Vietnam War was going on, the battle of the sexes was being waged, and the world was in turmoil. King doesn't really talk about the big issues in this novel, but you can see them in Dev is you know where to look.

Dev is a guy who's just trying to live a quiet life, a "right" life, and find a small amount of happiness chasing his dreams. Of course, he's chasing after the wrong girl, and yeah, a lot of us have been there too.

The book wanders around a lot and introduces a lot of characters, but I was glad to check out the scenery and I enjoyed getting to meet all the people. There are several familiar characters in these pages, all of them the kind of folks King generally tucks into his stories - real people with real histories that we only get glimpses of, which is like real life too. You get the feeling that King knows a lot more about these characters than he shows here, and with his habit of bringing characters back to sprinkle into other novels, I get the feeling that we'll see some of them again.
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137 of 168 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Webster TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not a negative review, and overall, I enjoyed this fairly quick story. The price - just $7.21 as of this writing - is a bargain, and going straight to paperback makes it a convenient and simple summer read to carry around.

Ultimately, the book is just 'okay' - which means three stars - to me. I don't think it was that memorable, and my memories of it will quickly fade.

It's not the story itself that's the problem. The scene of an amusement park with a dark past is a surprisingly underused setting in thriller fiction, and the overall details and description give 'Joyland' a realistic portrayal on the page.

The protagonist is an appropriately nostalgic 60-something telling the story of his summer at the park when he was 21, and recently broken-hearted from an ill-fated college love (I went to University of New Hampshire, and it was funny to see Hamilton Smith Hall get a shout-out). His friends and fellow carnival employees are lively and unique characters - on the surface.

What was missing for me, and why this book is only three stars, is the "life" of the characters beyond those basics. And I realized, reading "Joyland," that this has been missing for me from King's last few books - I've been entertained, and compared to other thrillers he's almost always superior even on an off day - but I end them feeling sort of flat. I don't expect him to recapture the amazing magic of "Salem's Lot" or "Night Shift," but I wondered why they weren't even close.

The problem I think, is that 30 years ago, when King was writing his classic books - "The Stand," "The Shining," "Cujo" - he could have real, normal conversations with people as himself. Like going to the store and chatting up the counter guy.
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