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Duma Key: Unlocking more than you ever wanted to see

Posted by goldwriting on February 20, 2008


Continuing his quest to become the most prolific horror writer in history, Stephen King unleashed a new tale of heaven meets hell on the sandy beaches of an island called Duma Key. The story follows a sturdy Midwestern man named Edgar Freemantle who has worked long and worked hard to have the good life. On the far end of middle age he has built his construction company into a multi-million dollar empire, kept his wife happy and healthy and raised his two wonderful daughters. Retirement plans weren’t nearly on his mind yet, but other plans, more devious and more red plans were already in action. A crane on his work-site backs into his truck and just misses taking his life. What it did succeed in taking was his right arm, a crack out of his skull, the mobility of his right leg and lastly, the happiness of his marriage. Edgar begins to have rage issues when he wakes up in the hospital and after numerous therapy sessions it is decided that maybe he needs what is referred to as a “geographic cure”. Time to pick up and move on. His doctor also suggests a hobby, “something to build hedges against the night” as King put it. Edgar sees a brochure for Duma Key and knows it is the place he will start his new life. The hobby he digs up from his past is drawing, which leads to painting, which leads to things he never could have dreamed of in his worst nightmares.

King succeeds continually at creating characters that not only are believable, but likable as well. I instantly felt I knew Edgar Freemantle, along with Jerome Wireman, the wise and painfully genuine gentleman who lives down the beach, and Elizabeth, the elderly woman who’s past is not only hidden from others, but from herself as well due to the onset of Alzheimer’s. In classic King form he sets up a relaxed and easygoing pace, steadying the reader for the roller coaster they are strapped into. Then with a soft turn of the page and a quick hidden scream you find yourself tearing through the final 250 pages at breakneck speeds (I actually finished the book at 2:30am this morning, no rest for the wicked or those who imagine it). Beyond the storyline, just underneath the surface, this story is also about the muses, the voices from those hidden places that speak to all people who create, artists, writers, builders, musicians, etc. We read in here the dangers that lie beneath the ebb and flow of what we safely refer to as “inspiration”. King asks if you really know where that great line came from, how that picture in your head got so clear, and what would you do if you realized their was power just lurking out of focus behind those ideas.

I’ve been a fan of King’s for most of my life, in fact it was with him that I really gained my appreciation of literature as a whole. He was an author passed down to me by my Mom and I initially read him as something else her and I could talk about, but soon enough I found myself diving from one strange and haunting world to another. I can’t seem to get enough of King’s talent for twisting the simple and ordinary into mesmerizing and terrifying. Yes, he can be called a “pop author”, but you can never call him lazy. The man is a writing machine and even through his own personal declarations of retirement, he shows no signs of slowing down. To that, I say, “Thank goodness.”

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