A prejudice laid to rest

Posted by Guy Pringle, 1st December 2010

It was John Harding at this year's Guildford Readers Day who made me face up to my long-standing prejudice. John is the author of One Big Damn Puzzler, a featured book in nb33, and, most recently, Florence and Giles.


His brief on the day was to talk about his favourite reads of 2010 which he did eloquently using the pile of books he'd brought along as visual aids. I always take it as a good sign when people actually want to hold the physical book - it shows a personal investment.


However, my heart blenched when I saw a Stephen King tome lurking. In my mind Stephen King = horror, but once John started to talk about Under the Dome he became an evangelist. He eulogised about the author’s ability to create a cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter (and there are a lot of them!), to manage a cast of over sixty (including three dogs) and still present a gripping and plausible plot. His admiration for Mr King was downright patent.


So I’ve tried it, my very first Stephen King and . . . he was absolutely right. OK, if you stand back from the inexorable action you can pick some holes but I have raced through 732 pages so far and have reached that point where there aren’t enough pages left.


There are many subtle cultural references, such as the baddie having photos on his desk of him with Sarah Palin and, separately,  Tiger Woods, ‘who had seemed like a very nice negro.’ How many inferences can be drawn from such a simple phrase? There’s also my favourite line, so far, when things are reaching a hiatus and ordinary people are needed to stand up and be counted: ‘Who better to recruit than a librarian when you’re dealing with a fledgling dictatorship?’ How nice to have librarians presented in a positive light.


I admit I listed Shawshank Redemption as one of the books/short stories to discuss at our next  Readers Gathering because I loved the film. But now I’m looking forward to reading the whole collection. And after that I may well need another King-size tome (but not one of the horror titles – I’m too squeamish!)




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