Monday, June 10, 2013

Today I Am a Man of Many Hats: A Review of "Joyland," Part 2

Part one of my Joyland review focused mainly on my emotional reactions to the novel, and that felt, to me, like the right tack to take: it's an emotional novel, blatantly and unashamedly so, and I really can't imagine that Stephen King would want you to take it any other way.

There are certainly other aspects of the novel that deserve attention, though, and chief among them has got to be the murder-mystery element.  After all, this is a mystery novel, one published by Hard Case Crime, and King was invested enough in the idea that he opted to forgo an e-book publication in favor of having people enjoy the novel in a pulp-paperback format, like crime-novel readers of yore would have done.

We're going to cover that decision in part three of this review.  (Spoilers: I think it was a miscalculation, but also kinda don't care one way or another.)

Speaking of spoilers, since this post is going to focus on the murder mystery, there are going to be spoilers aplenty.  Yes, I will be talking about whodunit.  Yes, I will be talking about other things you don't want to know unless you've read the novel.  Let's be clear about that.

So if you want to remain unsullied, here's your chance to bow out.

To provide some cushion, I shall now post amusing cat GIFs, which I saw on Joe Hill's Tumblr (he reblogged it from Wil Wheaton's, and Wheaton got it from Olenna Redwyne's; the original post can be found here.  By the way, I don't think that's the real Olenna Redwyne; if it is, it certainly makes my use of the word "unsullied" richer with added meaning.)











Them some sad-ass cats there, boy.

Alrighty, then.  Now that the Sad Cat Diaries have been dispensed with, let's get into Joyland.

Longtime King fans -- or, at least, knowledgeable King fans -- will recall that the author's first book for Hard Case Crime was The Colorado Kid.  Notable for numerous reasons (among them: this was King's first novel after flirting with retirement after concluding the Dark Tower series; also: that the book eventually served, in an incredibly loose manner, as the source material for the television series Haven), The Colorado Kid has been a somewhat controversial release among King fan-circles.  Some see it as an enjoyable minor work that has some interesting metafictive commentary on the nature of stories and mysteries; others see it as an unenjoyably minor work that was marketed as a crime thriller and/or mystery novel, but had no crime, no real mystery, and absolutely no resolution.  It felt a bit as if Hard Case Crime had contacted King and said, "Hey, you wanna write a mystery novel for us?" and King said, "Uh...yeah, sure, why not...here's this.  It's not really a mysterym and there's no crime in it," and Hard Case Crime said, "Can we put your name on the cover?" and King said, "Absolutely," and Hard Case Crime said, "In that case, the blatant lack of crime and/or mystery is no problem for us at all."

I like the book, but I can understand why it might have frustrated some readers, especially those who read it because they were Hard Case Crime devotees and not regular King readers.  I doubt it did much of anything to convince those folks to pick up another King book at some point down the road.

Flash forward nearly a decade, and Joyland finds King publishing a second novel under the Hard Case Crime banner, this one longer and with decidedly more resolution.  Does it fit the Hard Case Crime branding?  I don't know; I'm not a regular reader of theirs, and I'm thoroughly unknowledgeable on the subject of crime fiction in general.  I'd love to theoretically change that one of these days; but then again, I'd theoretically also love to travel the world, and have sex with Bryce Dallas Howard.  At the same time, even.  Those things are...unlikely.  Becoming a reader of crime fiction is more doable, but as with those other things, I have no immediate plans.

Whether it fits the Hard Case Crime branding or not is unknown to me, but it is clear that King made a concerted effort this time out to actually have a resolvable mystery be part of the novel's backbone.  I don't think it was what interested him in the story, per se; he's on record as having said that the novel began for him with an image of Mike, the wheelchair-bound little semi-psychic boy.  He couldn't shake the image, and wrote a novel as a means of exploring it.

For my part, I think the mystery elements work quite well.  Not being a devotee of the genre, I did not spend much time trying to figure out who the killer was.  Partially that's because King himself spends very little time trying to figure it out.  The one rule that I figured I could count on was that it would turn out to be someone Devin knew; in other words, it couldn't end up being some random person who had not appeared as a character in the novel.  I also felt certain that it would not end up being whoever the first person was to be offered up as a potential suspect.

Beyond that, I was too wrapped up in Devin's plotline -- and in his relationships with Tom and Erin, then Mike and Annie -- to worry about it.  An occasional thought might flicker through my mind that the novel was eventually going to deal with who killed Linda Gray, but beyond that, I was able to more or less avoid trying to Figure It Out.  As a result, when Lane was unmasked as the killer, I was surprised, and mostly persuaded.

Mostly persuaded.  Thinking back on things, I wasn't sure that King had actually done much of anything to paint Lane in a negative enough light to make it plausible that he could be a serial killer.  (Which I suppose he counts as, right?)

Let's check out Lane's first appearance in the novel:

Out in front stood a tightly muscled guy in faded jeans, balding suede boots splotched with grease, and a strap-style tee shirt.  He wore a derby hat tilted on his coal-black hair.  A filterless cigarette was parked behind one ear.  He looked like a cartoon carnival barker from an old-time newspaper strip.  There was an open toolbox and a big portable radio on an orange crate beside him.  The Faces were singing “Stay with Me.”  The guy was bopping to the beat, hands in his back pockets, hips moving side to side.  I had a thought, absurd but perfectly clear: When I grow up, I want to look just like this guy.  (p. 18)

Apart from being a strong description in general, this is a strong bit of writing because of the final sentence.  It's nothing special, as far as sentences go; the meaning and import of what Devin is thinking is what makes it so strong.

To explore that more fully, we have to turn to another section of the novel, further in.  But first, let's have another visit from DJ Mahfah, who has two ditties for your amusement: the first is that still-rockin' Faces song that Lane seems to enjoy so much; the second is a still-rockin' (and still creepy) Beatles tune.




Kinda hard to remember that Rod Stewart used to kick a little ass back in the day; but there's the proof right there.






If that song skeeves you out a bit, I don't blame you.

Now, here's another passage, one that will explain why the "Run For Your Life," and prove that Devin Jones is also skeeved out by the song:

We could argue about what constitutes the creepiest line in pop music, but for me it’s early Beatles – John Lennon, actually – singing I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.  I could tell you I never felt that way about Wendy in the aftermath of the breakup, but it would be a lie.  It was never a constant thing, but did I think of her with a certain malevolence in the aftermath of the breakup?  Yes.  There were long and sleepless nights when I thought she deserved something bad – maybe really bad – to happen to her for the way she hurt me.  It dismayed me to think that way, but sometimes I did.  And then I would think about the man who went into Horror House with his arm around Linda Gray and wearing two shirts.  The man with the bird on his hand and a straight razor in his pocket.  (p. 44)

I have a few thoughts about this.  

(Let's deal with the pedantic one first, as an aside.  Is anyone else bothered by John Lennon's poor grammar in these lines?  Yes, yes, it's a creepy song; Lennon -- or at least a character being played/sung by Lennon -- is saying that he'd rather murder a woman than be spurned by her in favor of another.  Yes, misogynistic; yes, gross and sick and creepy.  I get all of that, and I assume that you get it too, and what's more I assume that John Lennon must have assumed we would all understand that he wasn't serious.  Can't say for sure, but it seems likely, or at least possible, and anyways, the song rocks, so there.  Back to the point: the grammar is awful.  The line ought to have gone, I'd rather see you dead little girl, than to see you with another man.  It adds a syllable, and Lennon must have figured it sounded better his way.  But grammatically speaking, he's saying that rather than be -- himself -- with another man, he'd rather see his girl dead.  I like to imagine that the secret meaning of the song is that the girl is a pimp, whoring Lennon's butthole out to dudes for ten bucks several times per day...until one day Lennon says "No more with the up-my-butt!" and decides to take a stand for unwilling anuses everywhere.  Yep; that alternative reading makes me pretty happy.)

On a more serious note, that's a haunting passage from King, and not because of the Lennon lyrics.  Devin Jones is a thoroughly sympathetic character, and finding out that he even briefly entertained violent thoughts about Wendy is troubling.  It's palatable because (A) they were stray thoughts at worst, (B) he never acted on them, and (C) the older Devin does nothing to try to whitewash the sentiments.

Where this Beatles passage ties in with The Face is in the link it creates between Devin and Lane.  Thinking the violent thoughts of retribution against Wendy causes Dev to think about Linda Gray's killer.  That killer, of course, is revealed to be Lane; and when he first saw Lane, Dev found himself thinking a variant of the thought, "I want to be like that guy when I grow up."  Here is a guy who, spurned by his longtime girlfriend, is entertaining thoughts -- albeit casual ones -- of her death, and when he sees an actual murderer dancing to The Faces, he feels envy.

Creeeeeepy, dude...

I could not help but think of Harold Lauder while reading that Beatles passage.  Having just recently completed a reread of The Stand, Harold was fresh in my mind.  As you may recall, he, too, is a spurned lover.  In his case, Frannie Goldsmith was never actually his girlfriend; but despite that, she unquestionably did spurn him in favor of Stu Redman.  Harold's mind also immediately turned to plans of violent retribution, but in his case, he was more unhinged than Devin Jones, and so he actually tried to bring his plans to fruition.  Not so our man Devin.  He's a calmer, kinder soul than Harold Lauder, luckily.

This connection between the two scenes above is, for me, one of the masterstrokes in the novel, and it might be the element that causes the resolution of the mystery to genuinely work.  When I finished the novel and began thinking about it, one of my first thoughts was, "Okay, but Lane seemed like a genuinely nice guy, so does it actually make sense that he was a serial killer?"  And my initial impulse was to feel that it probably didn't make sense.  When I found those two passages and considered them in tandem, though, I knew it made plenty of sense.  Bear in mind, the novel is from Devin's point of view; we are seeing through his eyes, and as much as possible, the older Dev (narrator Dev) is giving us the younger Dev's perspective.  Bearing in mind, and bearing Dev's hinted-at ever-so-slightly homicidal urges, it makes perfect sense to me that he would not, initially, see anything suspicious or creepy about Lane.  He's seeing through the eyes of a profoundly -- if tritely -- upset young man; he cannot be counted on to be seeing clearly.

King's linking of Dev and Lane in this way is really rather genius.

That's what I mainly had to say about the mystery aspect of Joyland.  I have a few more stray thoughts on the subject, though, which I shall present in the form of bulletpoints:

  • The way Dev figures it out – the tipped hat in the photos – is going to be tough as hell to film without it being a dead giveaway, and I suspect that it will have to be changed.  (There’s a nice foreshadowing on p. 223: “ “Now I’ve got to move on,” Lane said.  “Today I am a man of many hats.”)
  • Do I buy Erin’s keen sleuthing work?  Eh…not really.  But I can let my eyes go cross and more or less talk myself into accepting it.
  • Here's a quote (in italics) from page 160 -- Mike talking to Dev: “Oh, one other thing.  I almost forgot.”  He shot a glance at her, saw she was only halfway down the boardwalk, and turned back to me.  “It’s not white.”  The next time “white” is mentioned is on page 175, when Devin has taken Eddie’s gloves off and sees some sort of white cream for the psoriasis.  Now, here’s what I’m not sure of: did King intend for us to get to this bit with Mike’s odd pronouncement still in our minds and say to ourselves, “Ah-hah!  Mike was talking about Eddie’s hands!”  If so, I’m not sure it entirely worked; but, then again,I’m not entirely sure it didn’t either.  Certainly Dev thinks Eddie might theoretically be the killer; but, unpleasant though Eddie is, what with his mouth that tastes of jalapenos, he is seemingly eliminated from suspicion by this scene.  But occasionally in mysteries, the suspect who is first to be (seemingly) ruled out actually ends up, by virtue of some plot twist, being revealed as the killer.  So I thought this might be some sort of elaborate fake-out.  Which could, in and of itself, be an even more elaborate fake-out designed to keep us from scenting out Lane.  But as I mentioned earlier, I put virtually no effort into trying to figure out the mystery, because I was more invested in the characters than I was in trying to figure out Who The Killer Was. 

Before I sign off for the evening, here's something interesting King had to say in a recent interview with NPR's Terry Gross (which can be heard or downloaded here and is well worth your time).  King is speaking on the subject of Agatha Christie mysteries:

The thing that I enjoyed was that it was all there in front of you, so that when Miss Marple got everybody together in her room and said "this and this and this should have been obvious to me," I’m thinking to myself, "Well, it should have been obvious to me, too."  There was a puzzle element to it, and I just couldn’t figure out how anybody could plot that way.  And I guess the reason why was that I was never built to be the sort of writer who plots things; I usually take a situation and go from there.  With Joyland there IS a trail that you can follow that leads to the killer, but you know what?  If you figured out who it is in advance, you’re doing better than I was, because I got near the end of the book before I realized who it was. 

[Gross says “Uh-oh!” and laughs] 

No, no!  I think that’s good!

[“Is it?" says Gross.  "Why?”]

I don’t want the reader to feel like this is all a sort of prefab creation.  I want it to feel organic, to feel like it grew by itself.  I’ve never seen novels as built things; I have a tendency to see them as found things.  I always feel a little bit like an archaeologist who’s working to get some fragile fossil out of the ground, and the more you get out unbroken, the better you succeed.
 
Good stuff from the King, as is typically the case in interviews.
 
I'll be back soon with part three of my review, which will consist partially of a contemplation of the whole no-digital-release issue, as well as of a general roundup of some remaining thoughts about the novel which I have not yet addressed.  It probably won't happen for a few days, though, so I'll see ya when I see ya.

39 comments:

  1. I did not guess the identity of the killer. I mean, I knew it had to be one of a limited number of characters introduced/ in a certain age range, so I had it narrowed down, but as the story swept me along, I kind of forgot to look for clues. I re-read (well, re-skimmed) the sections with Lane on my train ride in this morning. It's there if you look for it, but nothing too overt. I think Eddie Parks is the red herring (and of course, the big twist.)

    Lennon was by all accounts a violent young man, which adds a bit of menace to that line, to boot. If but for a twist of fate (and considerable artistic talent, and luck, of course) he might well have ended his days as a Liverpool version of Junior Rennie.

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    1. The idea of an alternate-universe John Lennon carving hookers up in Liverpool's night alleys is a bizarrely appealing one. Or is that just me? (If so, it's likely the result of still beig in the midst of a "From Hell" reread.)

      Did I mention the thing you expected me to mention in the first review? Or did I miss it?

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    2. haha - not yet, sir! Sorry, don't mean to be coy, but now I'm looking forward to "breaking the story" at the DSO. Hopefully I can finish my review up by tomorrow afternoon.

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  2. Just finished the book and both parts of three part review. My thoughts so far?

    Well I think it's interesting as I was wondering if the novel held together all that well also.

    I guess the gold standard to which you sort of have to judge it by would A. Conan Doyle, I guess. I'm told he started every one of his stories with the murder and then went backward from there. Might be a good way of doing it, but who knows.

    Now that you've pointed out all those facts, and bearing in mind King's own admissions, well, we'll see.

    As for this quote:

    "The idea of an alternate-universe John Lennon carving hookers up in Liverpool's night alleys is a bizarrely appealing one."

    Me: (stares wide eyed at screen, backs chair away.)

    For the record, Lennon himself was never happy with the song and didn't count it among his best work, and I agree. Even at his darkest, and like King, Lennon could tread into some pretty dark territory (cold turkey, Daddy don't go) he still never seems to have gone all out the way this song does.

    I think it's true he fancied himself "Just a Thug" in his younger days, but the truth is he always struck as, well, forgive me, something of a push over. Especially if he was dealing with anyone stronger than him.

    As for part on of this review, seeing as how it would have deviated into "cheer up old fellow" post involving a line and character from "Flushed Away", I think I'll just go out on a more upbeat, if skewered, note.

    Take it away, Chuck!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km1C-Xcpqg8

    ChrisC

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    1. And here I thought part one of the review WAS cheerful...!

      However, I'm happy to indulge ANY excuse to talk about "Pulp Fiction" in general, and that scene specifically. It's one of my all-time favorite movies (although Buddy Holly really ISN'T' much of a waiter...), and that scene is one of the movie's major highlights.

      Back on the "Run For Your Life" thing for a second: to me, it's easy to shrug the song off. I do not for one single second believe that Lennon meant it seriously. It's debatable whether the character singing the song -- if we want to allow that it's a character, and not Lennon himself (not a sure bet) -- means it seriously, either. To be sure, it's a minor song in the Beatles catalog; but minor Beatles is still vastly superior to minor work by virtually anyone else, and I don't think this song is any exception.

      And now, to delve back into my Lennon The Ripper reverie: can't ya just picture him desecrating some poor working-girl's womb, hollering "I am the EGG MAN!!!!!" while he goes about his bloody business?

      (For the record, The Truth Inside The Lie and its author do not endorse hooker mutilations, womb desecration of any sort, or violent and anti-social behavior in general. Said entities DO endorse amusing -- or, in this case, semi-amusing -- flights of fancy. Speaking of which, I stand by my alternative reading of "Run For Your Life" as a male prostitute's revenge fantasy.)

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    2. "And now, to delve back into my Lennon The Ripper reverie: can't ya just picture him desecrating some poor working-girl's womb, hollering "I am the EGG MAN!!!!!" while he goes about his bloody business?"

      Brilliant!

      In addition to all the times Epstein had to cover for his sending various folks to the hospital (one of these instances included giving a fellow party-goer minor brain damage when he brained him with a shovel for suggesting he and Epstein were lovers) he was a self-confessed woman-beater. I give him all the credit in the world for redeeming himself as a man of peace, owning up to his past, apologizing, genuinely seeming to see the error of his ways. But it's simply not the case that he was a half-hearted young thug; he was a violent young man with a hairtrigger rage. No, this doesn't mean he was secretly a serial killer, just that that particular line has a bit of an edge to it beyond the edge of the words on account of it.

      Success at first aggravated and inflamed these tendencies; we actually can credit LSD-25 with most of the transformation. (Tho according to some accounts of his time in LA during his "Lost Weekend," he was still fairly violent when drunk.)

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    3. It occurs to me that I know entirely too little about Lennon (and McCartney/Harrison/Starr, for that matter) and will need to change that one of these days.

      I'm now picturing the band doing the first run-through of the song with lyrics. In my mind, they're grooving away on this charming little ditty when Lennon opens his mouth and starts going on about killing someone. Paul and George are sort of nervously shooting each other looks while John pays no mind; Ringo just shrugs and keeps time.

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    4. From the age of 18 to about 22, I think I read every beatles bio on the market. I was in heaven when the Anthologies came out. I had all the solo albums, even. I was obsessed.

      Nicholas Shafner's Beatles Forever is probably my favorite. But the first one I read that truly blew my mind was the Love You Maker by Peter Brown. Most people found that one too over-detailed but man, I memorized that friggin' thing.

      Ah well, just riffing. I like your Ringo image, there - that strikes me exactly as it would actually happen.

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    5. Incidentally, the captcha I just had to enter was "UMEGATU RISING," which sounds like the best Godzilla film never made... had to mention it. Carry on.

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    6. UMEGATU RISING! Fantastic!

      I remember entering a Captcha for "soiled indeed" at one point. Got a chuckle out of that.

      I just bookmarked Amazon's page for "The Beatles Forever," and the King fan in me was pleased/horrified to note that the book currently has 19 customer reviews.

      Surely that's a sign I should buy one.

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  3. While I don't find it strange to read every Beatles bio there is on the market, I do caution with one single word: Goldman. For any true Beatles fan, that should be enough of a warning for as much amounts of salt as needed when it comes to what some biographers have to say.

    I don't say none of them had their flaws, I do say however there's a difference between flaws and just plain anti-social ticks, and I'm sorry, but as far as I'm concerned, Lennon, as well as well as the other Beatles seem to have almost unconsciously gone out of their way to be as anti-anti-social as possible.

    In particular, and I hate to say this, cause it really is just sad coming from the guy who helped make their sound, yet I'm not too sure I can trust Geoff Emerick's portrayal of their personalities in his autobiography Tomorrow Never Knows.

    Two incidents in his book make me question Emerick as a reliable source, one is during the White Album sessions. I think the truth is he was under a lot of stress at the time, and Lennon, in reality, must have told him to take it easy and calm down. In his book, if not in real life, Emerick has just two words for Lennon, and they ain't happy birthday, to himself, Emerick says this.

    The other is when this strange pouting grudge is held against this simple working class piano repairman who Emerick tries to impress by acting like a "tough" at the keys, even throwing the repairman what he hopes is a tough look. The repairman naturally laughs, probably becausr he thought such behavior in a kid was just, you know, "adorable", yet it's clear Emerick still holds a grudge on someone who's probably not around anymore.

    Bear in mind, I've been through therapy enough to have learned at least some things, if maybe not all, about neurosis, and Emerick just strikes me as a case of neurotic grudge holding.

    It's something to bear in mind when the next Beatle bio comes along, and it's something they even had to put up with in their prime as well.

    ...What were we talking about again, something about the movie "Flushed Away"?

    ChrisC

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    1. I know and loathe the name "Goldman," mostly because of a U2 song that references that famous hack-job. Didn't he do one on Jim Morrison or some other famous rocker, too? I'd research it, but I'm too lazy. Wait...wait...laziness subsiding...research impending...

      Ah, yes; he was also notorious for a couple of shoddy Elvis biographies.

      To quote Bono:


      "Don't believe in Goldman
      His type [is] like a curse
      Instant Karma's gonna get him
      If I don't get him first"

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    2. That's the great thing about beatles bios - one can triangulate such a diverse body of opinion. Biases, neuroses, and axes to grind are all worth noting and pointing out, of course, (even when they're coming from the subjects themselves.)

      Lennon and Me by Pete Shotten is another one I really enjoyed.

      The Goldman one I read about half of. I think Bono had it right, there. Gore Vidal called what he did "bio-porn." That always cracked me up.

      While we're talking Beatles I had some fun back and forth on twitter about the recent article of best Solo Beatles songs. The selections played it fairly safe (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/readers-poll-the-10-greatest-solo-beatle-songs-20130605) Nothing against those songs, but my own list runs so differently.

      McCartney's post-beatles catalog alone is so vast and varied I could fill out 20-25 before I got to anyone else.

      And with that, I reach for my Goodnight Vienna and Sentimental Journey CDs and settle in for a morning of Ringo...

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    3. I might have posted this somewhere already, yet the following partial post break up list (with some substitutions of my own) is courtesy Jeff Walker's Let's put the Beatles back together again. The subtitle to his book is telling: How to assemble and appreciate the "second half" of the Beatles legacy"

      Ballroom Dancing, McCartney
      Love comes to Everyone, Harrison
      I'm losing you (cheap trick version), Lennon
      Set on you, Harrison
      Move over Ms. L (early take), Lennon
      Café on the Left Bank, McCartney
      Cleanup Time (stripped down version), Lennon
      Blow away, Harrison
      Beware My Love, McCartney (this one is killer)
      Hari's on Tour, Harrison (so's this one)

      Viola, another Beatles album!

      ChrisC

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    4. My knowledge of the Beatles post-Beatles is alarmingly slender. I know most of Lennon's and McCartney's big hits, and that's about it.

      I am ashame.

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    5. I love this topic. (Sorry to go on and on about the Beatles, here - hope I'm not comment-bombing) Personally, for me, some of the stuff (Plastic Ono Band, Wonderwall, Band on the Run, The Firemen) is tough to break up or re-realize as integrated efforts. If we're talking four Beatles solo records, though, like Kiss did in the late 70s, that'd be pretty wild.

      But the pool from which I'd choose would include:

      Lennon: Give Me Some Truth, Oh My Love, Scumbag, Don't Worry Kyoko (this one needs a bit of chemical stimulation to "bring out the colors.") Watching the Wheels, Bring On the Lucie, Well Well Well, Crippled Inside, I'm Losing You, Oh Yoko!, Luck of the Irish, John Sinclair, Nobody Told Me, Instant Karma, Just Like Starting Over, Ya Ya, Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out, Stand By Me

      McCartney: Basically everything from McCartney (but particularly "Every Night") basically everything from Ram, Band on the Run, and Venus and Mars, too, for that matter (these albums are absolutely killer-diller.) C-Moon, Hope of Deliverance, Big Boys Bickering, Long Leather Coat, Kicked Around No More, Off the Ground, My Brave Face, Live and Let Die (naturally!) Bip Bop, Let 'Em In, and Silly Love Songs. (So ridiculous, but hey.)

      (And there's no real way to work in stuff like the Fireman (his techno/trance project) or Working Classical, but there is some great stuff on those, as well.)

      Harrison: All Things Must Pass is pretty much wall-to-wall awesome, and the Wonderwall soundtrack is pretty wild, too, if you're into the whole "raga rock" thing. (Which I very much am. "Ski-ing" is one of my favorite tracks, ever.) Others: Don't Let Me Wait Too Long, Be Here Now, Give Me Love, Dear One, Not Guilty, When We Was Fab, Zig Zag (and a couple of Traveling Wilburys ones, too)

      Ringo: Early 1970, It Don't Come Easy, No No No, I'm the Greatest, Photograph, Goodnight Vienna, Blue Turning Grey Over You, Bye Bye Blackbird

      As you can see, it's tough for me to just come up with one album, but I did make a series of mix tapes with the above material (named, for no particular reason, Wrestlemania vols 1 - 4) that I listened to a gazillion times. Wish I still had those. I mean, I've still got all the tunes, just not the mix tapes.

      Whew.

      Before I sign off, man, there was an old radio program that covered the whole "Is Paul Dead?" thing, with creepy sound fx, an over-the-top announcer/ host, and all the backwards-loop/ slowed-down stuff. That was just about the greatest (and creepiest) thing ever. I've looked for it high and low but have never been able to find it. My friend had a crappy copy on cassette that we wore out.

      (Under no circumstances, tho, should anyone get the horrendously "Last Testament of George Harrison" cheapie-DVD-deathsploitation movie available from Netflix. Absolute and utter garbage production-quality / concept wise, with no useful info and nothing of interest.)

      The Anthology stuff is all cool, too. haha - basically, give me a few million and access to the Apple archives/ studio and I could shape all of the above into at least 5 of the best Beatles records never made.

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    6. Don't know for sure, but it seems possible that one of the following might be the radio show you mention:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AW7ESxUgRqs

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAisnKgwfIE

      Maybe not, but I figured it was worth mentioning.

      As for the comment-bombing: bomb away, sir. It's on-topic, as far as I'm concerned.

      I've long had a folder full of MP3s of all the solo projects from the various Beatles. (I...um...borrowed this from a friend.) I've only listened to a bit of it, but one of the nerdy things that I always kinda wanted to do was make some playlists that simulated what Beatles albums might theoretically have sounded like! This makes me want to revisit that idea before too much longer. How cool!

      Your mention of the Kiss solo albums also brings something to mind. There's a song called "See You Tonite" on the Gene Simmons solo album that, to my ears, is one of the most Beatlesesque songs not written by The Beatles. It's a lovely little song, and it makes you wonder what sort of stuff Simmons was capable of writing, but never really got around to.

      Check it out:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnxiITtNZEo

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    7. I think that's it!! Dude, thanks a million, I have been looking for this, forever. So glad I brought it up. I listened to this a million times (and almost always after midnight and on a cassette player that sped up the host's (Dave Foxx's, I guess) voice. I never bought the theory, of course, and see it more as just one of those things, like the Dead Indians/ Moon Landing stuff in The Shining, stuff that isn't there/ wasn't planned but is kinda fun to sift through and look for "clues." Plus, just as a little ghost story, this radio program greatly entertains me, the way it's put together (sound design/ sound fx,) the "We are pilgrims in an unholy land..." gravitas of the narration, and all the backwards Beatles stuff - before the advent of Soundforge and other programs that make it pretty simple just to listen to stuff backwards, in the old days, we all just had to turn the record the wrong way on the turntable. As I'm sure you remember!

      "Remember... toejam football." I'm going to call the friend with whom I used to listen to this, say that, and hang up.

      Oh yeah "See You Tonite" is such a nice little tune. (And definitely Beatles-y) Like you say, it makes you wonder what else Gene might have written if he hadn't been working so hard on stuff like "I Love It Loud."

      Don't get me wrong - the "Big Dumb"ness of Kiss, and most particularly "I Love It Loud" is 2/3rds of my enjoyment of those guys. But every now and again, they'd write a tune like "See You Tonite" or some others and you think, wow, now that would have been a whole different band. I'd say this was true of the Space Ace (especially) and the Star Child, as well.

      Most of the playlists I've seen that try to cobble together a Beatles album from solo work do so with such terrible mix-and-matching. Whereas, of course, the track listing/ arrangement is absolutely essential for stuff like Abbey Road, Sgt. Peppers et al. So, it's important to take into account. It's a tricky business. (One of the ones I read had "How Do You SLeep" placed right before "Dear Friend." Seriously? That's crazy. One is a poison-pen letter from John to Paul, the latter Paul's startled response. To put these on the same album, much less right next to each other, is just... weird. Yeah, I might take this stuff a little too seriously, haha.)

      I've got to say, I checked out that Jeff Walker book when it was brought up a few months back, wherever it was, and this was my main objection to it. It seemed pretty tone deaf to how the songs actually flow/ what they were about. Also, he omits the best of the solo tracks (granted, this is just my opinion) in favor of the absolute worst/ most boring or un-imaginative.

      I might just feel that way, though, because I spent a week agonizing over my own song orders for each side of the Wrestlemania tapes. I should revisit this topic and figure it all out.

      Turn me on dead man... turn me on dead man... turn me on dead man...

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    8. Not only has this reinvigorated my love for The Beatles, it seems to have also awoken my love for Kiss. Big, dumb? Absolutely. But doggone it if they didn't commit to their big dumbness, and you've got to admire that if nothing else, I guess.

      To YouTube to find "New York Groove," AWAY...!

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    9. You know, it's funny you bring up "How do you Sleep", as it turns out McCartney didn't so much get his own back as have a chance to write a song in a similar vein.

      However, the subject of the song isn't Lennon or any of the Beatles, instead it's about ex=Wings bandmate Denny Lane. It seems when Wings broke up, Lane did the entire gossip and scandal sheet scene, selling off all the rumors he could about Paul and Linda.

      When McCartney found out about it, this roast of a song was the outcome. It's called "No Values":

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxvkgZ5Wt3E

      ChrisC

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    10. McCartney wrote "Dear Friend" as a reply to "How DO You Sleep."

      Lennon didn't like the implications McCartney was making on a couple of album covers, etc. So he wrote "HDYS" and was joined by George. The stunned McCartney wrote the rather anemic "Dear Friend" as his response. At that point, thankfully, the two stopped bitching at one another in this fashion.

      What's your source on that "Dear Values" biz? Not that I disbelieve it, just I'm a) a Denny Laine fan and probably would take his side in any Denny/ Paul split; he put up with an awful lot over the course of the Wings career, and b) have always heard/ read a much different, non-Denny-related origin for tht tune.

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    11. * Didn't mean for "DO" to be capitalized, oops.

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    12. No problem. To be fair, I probably should know bettern than to take a couple of youtube comments as gospel, the again, I dread the day such things should become the ONLY source of knowledge. Good grief!

      ChrisC

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    13. haha - yeah, I hear that. :-)

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    14. Oh, don't read comments on YouTube! That's like voluntarily wading through sewage! It's not as bad as comments on Yahoo news stories, but it's close.

      That's why I like this blog. I get high-quality commenters. Always appreciated, y'all!

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  4. Okay, not reading because I haven't started Joyland yet (it's next on my list though), but I just wanted to say that you know I love that new Bag of Bones banner!

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    1. Thank ya, ma'am! I was quite pleased with how that one turned out.

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  5. I wanted to enjoy JOYLAND more. I wanted it to be great, not merely good. Wouldn't Devin's brief relationship with Annie have wrecked him as much as his relationship to Wendy? Maybe even more so? And did I miss Dev telling us what happened to Annie over the next forty years? Unless I'm mistaken, we find out about Ted and Erin, but not her.

    I would have been okay with a COLORADO KID-style non-ending to the mystery rather than the climactic scene on the Ferris Wheel. I think a more realistic outcome to the mystery would have worked better tonally with the rest of the book.

    ...

    For those interested in what might have happened to the Beatles had John Lennon survived, I would like to direct you to this address:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/09/john-lennon-at-70-201009

    It's a mock interview John gives on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. Its description of the reunion of the Beatles is priceless.

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    1. I would say that no, Devin would not be haunted by Annie the same way he is/was haunted by Wendy. Because he did not invest anywhere near as much time in his relationship with Annie. What haunts is the cumulative effect of time, and there wasn't enough of it with Annie to have the same sort of impact. As for what happened to her, Devin wouldn't know that. Most of us probably don't know what happened to people we had one-night-stands with forty years ago, I'd guess. Maybe that changes if they shoot a man in the head and save your life, though, so maybe I shouldn't be so quick to assume...

      That Vanity Fair piece is awesome. Seems fairly realistic to me, too.

      I totally forgot until now that the John Lennon story has even more relevance to the Stephen King story than a "Run For Your Life" mention in Joyland. (A) King wrote a nonfiction piece about Lennon's death; (B) there's an insane dude who claims to this day that Lennon was actually murdered BY King!

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  6. I just now saw the "not real" and "Marvel adventure book" for the Janet Van Dyne. Well! Guess that's a Fail for me.

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    1. If so, then it's a fail for me, too; I didn't notice it was a "Janet Van Dyne" book until I'd already posted it. But it was too cool a cover to withdraw, so I didn't!

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  7. can someone explain to me how "its not white" figured into all this? i dont get it!

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    1. I don't remember the specifics, but it had something to do with hair dye used by the killer, who Mike got a glimpse of in his visions.

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    2. I'm pretty sure it refers to one of the reveals during Lane's threatening phone call that triggers the denoument. At one point Erin had seen white in Lane's hair and took it as suggesting that Lane was older than he seemed. But in the phone call he reveals he's figured out Lane has been dying his hair, just as he had worn removable tattoos and Lane acknowledges that his real hair color is blond, hence (implicitly) not white.

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  8. You forgot an earlier clue that Lane was the killer. It was the dead giveaway to me, and along with the "man of many hats" comment, I feel King made it too easy. On page 189, when Dev is protesting that Annie was ten years older than he, Lane says age is just a number. He says "Okay and if I had a dollar for every babe I took out you was ten years younger, I could buy a steak dinner." King even italicized the word "younger" to drive the point home. I thought it was so obvious, that I expected King to throw a curve at the end.

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    1. Also, there is a real Joyland that may interest you. Google "Joyland Witchita KS" and you will find an old abandoned amusement park that operated for 55 years there. Today it is overgrown with weeds, frozen in time, and still has the dark ride waiting for you to enter. It looks like something out of a Stephen King novel!

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    2. Oh, man, that is a creepy-looking place. Very cool!

      As for the other clue you mention, yes, that's a good call. I remembered that brief scene as soon as Lane was unmasked as the killer; but then I forgot it when I was writing my review.

      Thanks for pointing it out!

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