Sunday, 13 January 2008

Duma Key by Stephen King

Hodder & Stoughton

"LOOK for the picture inside the picture," Stephen King's hero advises would-be artists in Duma Key.

Edgar Freemantle, a millionaire developer, is on site when a crane backs into his car without warning, and takes out his right arm and part of his skull.

As he recovers, he discovers that a genius for art has been hiding out in him, and has been brought to the surface by the 'contracoup' damage to his brain.

Edgar finds himself on lonely Duma Key in Florida, renting an artists' house where Dali and Calder worked in their glory days.

But (this being Stephen King), there's a duppy lurking in the lagoon, and Edgar is drawing it back into reality.

I really like Stephen King's books. I like his characters, who are decent, kind, courteous people. I love the throbbing, electric tension, and even the sheer terror.

In the last couple of books, though, the storyline that once stretched taught from white-knuckle opening to bug-eye ending has gone slack.

The master has written 12 books since 1999, when a van driver ploughed into him as he walked on a country road, and injured him seriously enough that King's wife bought the guilty van, so it couldn't go on eBay as 'the van that killed King'.

But lately he hasn't been writing with the same power, lucidity or grace.

Duma Key has sequences where someone does something, followed by later sequences where the character describes the same action to others. It has cuddly love-ins where the protagonist's genius is lauded.

Every good writer is entitled to the occasional stinker, and heaven knows, King has written enough top-rate stories to have earned the right to a dud or two.

But I worry. I hope the next book has him back on form.

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