Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Traumas in the tropics

Stephen King doesn't always hit the bull's-eye, and sometimes the quality is all over the place in the same book. His work often seems to be produced by two distinct personalities, one a kid enamored of ripping yarns, the other a thoughtful, even spiritual, adult. It's a topic he has dealt with in “The Dark Half” and in his autobiographical “On Writing,” in which he discusses his years of addiction to drugs and booze.

DUMA KEY, Stephen King

Scribner, 2008. 609 pages.$28.00.



Durban House Press, 234 pages. $15.95


“Duma Key” is one of those for me, with mesmerizing sections on his protagonist's newly discovered talent for painting, interspersed with sections I'd just as soon skip on horrors and creepy crawlies. That's not because they scare me – they don't, in fact, I usually find them pretty amusing – but because they seem shallow next to his explorations of relationships and the psyche.


Edgar Freemantle is horribly injured in an encounter with a construction crane. He loses his right arm, and gains artistic and psychic abilities which would be surprising anywhere but in a King book. He chooses Duma Key,an imaginary island off Florida's west coast, for convalescence after his wife divorces him. She's as terrified by his rages as he is by frustration and memory lapses.

Interspersed with chapters on the horrific history of a longtime Florida family, he gives us some little gems on creation, titled

How to Draw a Picture. They could just as well be called How to Write, or How to Live. Samples:


I: “Start with a blank surface.”

IV: “Start with what you know, then reinvent it.”

XI: “Don't quit until the picture's complete. . . . Talent is a wonderful thing, but it won't carry a quitter.”

In some ways, his best yet, especially for explorations of male friendship, female variety and the art world.



Lake County author Kit Sloane, drawing on visits to her daughter-in-law's home in Panama, moves her movie-themed mystery series there from its usual wine country locations.


Film editor Margot O'Banion and director Max Skull are about to make their first independent feature film, The Big Ditch, with their own money and an investor. Trouble is, the investor disappears almost as soon as they arrive in Panama, before he tells them where the money is. Their male star arrives with his spiritual guide from a cult called Fateology and his flamboyant agent, two women with nothing in common except a desire to control the poor guy. The cult has the motto "stardom is coming", and should be more fun than it is.

While Margot races around the country trying to find the missing investor, a new money man with some dubious Colombian ties appears, quickly followed by another Fateologist, a movie star turned enforcer, who wants the Colombian off the scene.


E-mail Sophie Annan Jensen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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