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Later Stephen King Main

"Later" Book Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Published by Titan Books | Hard Case Crime

later stephen king poster large

Written by Stephen King
2021, 248 pages, Fiction
Released on March 2nd, 2021

Review:

Like many folks, I’ve been reading Stephen King since I was in the tail end of elementary school. My first book was IT, and the teacher had a hard time wrapping her head around the fact that I not only finished the book but I “got it”. That’s not because I’m a damn genius (though I’m no dummy). The reason I gravitate towards King is simply that he tells stories in a language that doesn’t put on airs. He speaks a language that makes sense to me; he also has a knack for colorful phrases that you just have to put to personal use. I’ve never tired of “We lie best when we lie to ourselves”. It has had a great deal of application with certain people in my life.

In Later, that true American language is lean and mean to the point of making Ira Levin blush with pride, and Sai King’s enjoyment in writing this one is evident from page one. The opening quote of a King novel will tell you quite a bit about where it’s ultimately going, and Later is no exception:

“There are only so many tomorrows.” -Michael Landon

We’re all discovering that in one way or another, regardless of our age (and especially in a time like the unmitigated shitshow we’re all living through). That’s a lesson that Jamie Conklin has had to face from the time he opened his eyes in this world. Jamie sees dead people in the moments after they die, but this isn’t The Sixth Sense. The horrors of seeing the dead and even pulling the truth out of them (they can’t lie to Jamie) are the least of his worries. His mother, a literary agent named Tia, is losing her business and control of her life. Her partner, hardened cop Liz Dutton, isn’t at all who she’s seemed to be. His Uncle Harry is dying painfully from Early Onset Alzheimer’s in his ‘40s. When his mom’s cash cow, author Regis Thomas, dies suddenly, Jamie is asked to use his power to do some extremely unethical things. It’s not the only time he’ll be asked (or forced) to commune with the other side to solve a selfish adult’s problem, but there are worse things out there than the newly dead.

As King reminds you himself on numerous occasions, this is a horror story.

That’s not entirely true, though. Later is just as much a racing crime thriller and a sad family drama as it is horror but make no mistake: It’s the horror that holds this bad boy together. Stephen King has reached a point in his career and mastery of the craft where his writing is somewhere between a novel and a screenplay simply because of the way it flows. He’s honed his writing to a ludicrous point, and he’s showing that off here (which he doesn’t always do, honestly).

King is at his best when the narrator has a singular voice and a conversational tone; Jamie’s is refreshingly honest and young enough to still be a bit magical. Those are the stories where you can really lose yourself. Later can stand shoulder to shoulder with stories like “The Body”, “Rage”, and “The Long Walk” – it’s cinematic as hell and not only frightening but often startling. Before long, you’re back in classic King territory with callbacks to other stories and a hint of the connections that make up that titular bigger picture that you’re always looking for in his work.

This is Stephen King operating entirely in his wheelhouse. There’s a kid with a frightening and powerful ability. The relationships are deeply personal and complex, love often wrapped inside frequently deserved hate. It’s set in the publishing industry (and you could argue that very few authors know more about that). An ancient evil is resurrected, and you’ll be floating once you get that first taste. There’s enough detective/crime work to make the story hum. The story length is of great importance to those who really know his work – that area between long-winded novella and short novel is where the man really cooks with gas.

Once you get to the end, you realize just how perfect the tagline on the cover really is. It says, “Only the dead have no secrets.” In a horror story, that’s a frightening prospect indeed. In a horror story by America’s most prolific and brutally honest storyteller, it’s a thing of beauty.

Grades:

Overall: 5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
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Buy from Amazon UK.
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Buy from Bookshop.

About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer - USA
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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