Thursday, December 18, 2008

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

I'm always worried, when discussing Joe Hill, that people will assume that any praise directed at him will be poorly disguised affection for his father (Stephen King).

Not true, of course. If he sucked, I'd say so. Not to worry, tho' - he doesn't. As a matter of fact, while I'd say his Pop has the advantage in novels, Joe (dare I say it?) gets the nod in short story writing.

Not every story here is 'horror', not by a long shot. 'Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead' has nothing whatsoever to do with physical death, focusing instead on regret and the mourning for a romance that slipped away. 'The Widows Breakfast' reads like something out of Steinbeck, and 'My Father's Mask' and 'You will Hear the Locus Sing' are . . well, arty I suppose (which translates to: I didn't understand or like the pair very much).

DNA being what it is, horror and the macabre does have its place in his work. 'Last Breath' was short but powerful, 'Abraham's Boys' was a solid homage to Dracula, 'The Cape' had a wicked twist at the end, and 'The Black Phone' was a great, frightening piece about a child in danger.

The best story, the one that left me literally saying 'wow' and securing Joe Hill as 'one to watch' in my eyes? 'Pop Art'. It's the story of an inflatable boy and his flesh and blood friend . . .yeah, I know. It sounds like a farce or absolute dreck. It isn't. It's warm and touching and darn near a tearjerker. A wonderful, wonderful story.

Not only do I recommend this book, I think you're a fool if you don't already own it. Why are you wasting time here? Jump over to and order it already. You won't be sorry.


Beth said...

I just picked up this book through Better World Books ( ...They're great!) along with Heart-Shaped Box. I've heard very good things about him as a writer. I didn't read this review but will come back after I read the book. In just the couple of lines that I saw, though, I can see that you gave it good marks.


Estela said...

After reading your review on "Heart Shaped Box" I picked it up and read it. I was not disappointed. I have five books awaiting me already, so I'll have to wait before trying his short story collection.

Bridgett said...

Heading over to Amazon to order it now.

How did I not know this was Stephen King's son? And why different last names?

Slapinions said...

Beth - did you finish King's Just After Sunset? Did you enjoy it?

Estela - *very* pleased I inspired your selection, and glad you liked it :)

Bridgett - unlike his brother Owen, Joe wanted to distance himself from the family name to see if he could make it on his own. Or so the story goes.