Jeff's Ranch Reading
Author and MG co-owner Jeff (JJM)reads mostly thrillers with well-drawn characters and lots of tension. If there's a supernatural element to them, that's even better.
Jeff and fellow author Robert Englund admire a blow-up cover of one of Jeff's novels at Comic-Con 2009.
From the very first pages of
this debut novel, the reader is propelled through the adventures of
59-year-old protagonist Brigid Quinn, a retired FBI agent now living in
Arizona and trying to enjoy a tranquil life with a new husband and a
couple of pugs. When echoes from her past intrude upon her present,
Brigid must rely on skills she thought she’d left behind—on violence
and dishonesty and a disturbing familiarity with the worst of
humanity—to try to put her personal history to rest, once and for all.
Becky has created a thoroughly original heroine, given her a believable
life and realistic challenges, and written a first novel that reads
like an old master’s best. Do not pass this one up.
That’s pretty much the only reasonable reaction to Stephen King’s magnificent 11/22/63. The time-travel novel nominally focuses on an effort to change the future by preventing Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK, but it’s about so much more, including personal responsibility, the costs (and benefits) of love, the differences between America in 2011 and in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. It includes nods to earlier favorites (including Christine and It), but this one, while offering suspense of the highest order, rejects the supernatural and instead offers an explanation for its events rooted in current theoretical physics. 11/22/63 is a seminal work by an American master at the peak of his powers. Don’t miss it. -- JJM
Feast Day of Fools is a sprawling, magnificent beast of a thriller. In it, Texas sheriff Hackberry Holland has to face a rogue’s gallery to match Dick Tracy’s—except that where Tracy’s were all about garish visuals and character tics, each of the foes Hack has to deal with is a fully developed character with his own reasons for doing wrong (usually while believing it’s the right—or only—thing to do). James has created some of the most memorable villains in all of fiction, and in this book there’s a double-handful of them. Of course, Hack has his own demons to wrestle, and the combination of outer and inner influences ratchets up the tension and suspense to almost unbearable limits. James’s 30th novel just might be his masterpiece. -- JJM
At 1072 pages, Under The Dome is likely the biggest book you'll read all year. But reading it doesn't feel like a chore or a long slog. The tension begins in the first chapter and never lets up for a second. Following something like 100 characters, the author creates a realistic, suspenseful depiction of the small town of Chester's Mill, Maine, just down the street from familiar Castle Rock, in a state of mortal crisis as it's cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Just about every aspect of life in this strange isolation chamber is examined, all in the service of a story that moves inexorably toward a dramatic climax.
It isn't a perfect book -- I had problems with a couple of major elements, including the source of the Dome itself. But it's a tour de force, and in spite of its flaws, it's still one of the best books I've read in years. Very good King is better than 99% of the best books by most other writers, and this is indeed very good King.
Also Part II