Flavorwire presents an exclusive excerpt of Stephen King’s newest novel Joyland, with an introduction by its editor, Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime. Ardai writes:
“When Stephen King told me he’d just finished writing a book called Joyland, set in a small-town amusement park, and he thought it might be a good fit for Hard Case Crime, I was very excited, and not just for the obvious reason. (What publisher wouldn’t love to get a note like that from Stephen King?) The other reason I was excited is that I’ve always had a passion for amusement parks, and for novels set against that backdrop – carny novels, circus novels, novels set in county fairs or freakshows or on the Coney Island Boardwalk. We’d already done a novel set in the world of burlesque (The Corpse Wore Pasties by the pseudonymous Jonny Porkpie) and one set in Atlantic City (Casino Moon by Peter Blauner), but we’d never done an out-and-out carny novel. Here at last was our chance.
“And Joyland is a carny novel – a glorious one, suffused with the sounds and smells of the midway, the secret language of carny life and the darker secrets as well. It’s the perfect summer read in that respect: a behind-the-scenes visit to an amusement park you can enjoy from the comfort of your lounge chair or bed. (Or on a plane ride to an actual amusement park. Why not?)
“But Joyland has some hidden surprises for readers as well. No, I’m not talking about the sort that pop out of the shadows and scare the pants off you, though you might find one or two of those as well. I’m talking about the novel’s bittersweet emotional core – the story of a young man making the transition from childhood to adulthood, having his heart broken and finding love again, discovering what really matters in life and how terrible it is to have that threatened. You’ll see a hint of it in the passage that follows – the carnival flavor is strong, there’s plenty of joy in Joyland… but underneath it all there’s an undercurrent as well, a scent of something frightening just over the horizon.”
From Stephen King’s Joyland:
I ride-jockeyed. I flashed the shys in the mornings—meaning I restocked them with prizes—and ran some of them in the afternoons. I untangled Devil Wagons by the dozen, learned how to fry dough without burning my fingers off, and worked on my pitch for the Carolina Spin. I danced and sang with the other greenies on the Wiggle-Waggle Village’s Story Stage. Several times Fred Dean sent me to scratch the midway, a true sign of trust because it meant picking up the noon or five PM take from the various concessions. I made runs to Heaven’s Bay or Wilmington when some piece of machinery broke down and stayed late on Wednesday nights—usually along with Tom, George Preston, and Ronnie Houston—to lube the Whirly Cups and a vicious, neck-snapping ride called the Zipper. Both of those babies drank oil the way camels drink water when they get to the next oasis. And, of course, I wore the fur.
In spite of all this, I wasn’t sleeping for shit. Sometimes I’d lie on my bed, clap my elderly, taped-up headphones over my ears, and listen to my Doors records. (I was particularly partial to such cheerful tunes as “Cars Hiss By My Window,” “Riders on the Storm,” and—of course—“The End.”) When Jim Morrison’s voice and Ray Manzarek’s mystic, chiming organ weren’t enough to sedate me, I’d creep down the outside staircase and walk on the beach. Once or twice I slept on the beach. At least there were no bad dreams when I did manage to get under for a little while. I don’t remember dreaming that summer at all.
I could see bags under my eyes when I shaved in the morning, and sometimes I’d feel lightheaded after a particularly strenuous turn as Howie (birthday parties in the overheated bedlam of Howdy House were the worst), but that was normal; Mr. Easterbrook had told me so. A little rest in the boneyard always put me right again. On the whole, I thought I was representing, as they say nowadays. I learned different on the first Monday in July, two days before the Glorious Fourth.
Excerpted from Joyland by Stephen King, published by Hard Case Crime. Copyright © 2013 by Stephen King.