As you are well aware by now, Uncle Stevie and I have a long, ongoing, somewhat unhealthy relationship. He writes, I read. No matter the length or the quality (hello, cocaine years), I was — and still am — there for him. I’ve read pretty much everything, and lots of times I’ve read stuff more than once. His short story collections? Automatic re-reads. Anything to do with The Dark Tower? I’m all over it. I’ll read it until I get every single cross-reference.
And now, Uncle Stevie finds himself two books into a planned trilogy about a retired police detective named Bill Hodges. I read — and really enjoyed — the first book last year, Mr. Mercedes. It was a mostly straightforward detective novel — bad guy does terrible thing, retired cop starts poking around for clues, good guys defeat bad guys. I liked it. I liked the little “ka-tet” of characters King threw together, with Hodges, his teenage neighbor Jerome, and aspergers-y Holly. I wanted them to catch Brady Hartsfield. I wanted him to pay for killing that poor sleeping baby in the prologue. King kept the plot moving and left us guessing until pretty much the very end. All good, as far as I was concerned. I was looking forward to book two.
And really, I wasn’t too disappointed. Although book two is a really different beast than Mr. Mercedes.
Morrie Bellamy is obsessed with a Steinbeck-esque writer named John Rothstein. Rothstein lives in a secluded farmhouse and hasn’t published anything for years. Bellamy and some friends break into Rothstein’s house, steal his cash and his huge stash of Moleskine notebooks (OF COURSE, these are filled with unpublished, glorious writing, but Morrie doesn’t dare take a peek), and murder Rothstein. Bellamy buries the money and the notebooks behind his house in an un-named Mid Western town. He attempts to broker a deal to sell these notebooks on the black-market (his friend, Drew, specializes in rare books), and then ends up in jail on an unrelated charge. He gets life. This is in 1978.
Morrie never stops thinking about those notebooks and what might be inside them.
Meanwhile, in present day, a kid named Pete Saubers now lives in Morrie’s old house. His life is tough. His dad was really badly hurt by Brady Hartsfield, and lost his job and his ability to walk. His parents fight constantly and Pete and his little sister Tina worry about divorce.
One day, Pete finds a buried treasure in the abandoned field behind his house. A trunk filled with envelopes of cash and bags and bags of Moleskine notebooks. Pete figures he can solve his parents’ financial troubles, and begins sending them anonymous cash donations on a monthly basis.
And the notebooks? Well, Pete becomes pretty much as obsessed with Rothstein as Morrie Bellamy ever was. Pete becomes the first person in the world to read Rothstein’s two unpublished novels, both better than anything Pete had ever read before. But what should Pete do with these notebooks? Surely, there has to be a cash value for something as rare as this?
An interesting story, right? And halfway through, we still haven’t even heard a peep from Bill Hodges and his Scoobies.
But Bill does get involved when Pete finds himself in over his head. And that’s when the book does a 180 and turns from an interesting mystery into a pulse-pounding thriller. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.
Until…well…until Uncle Stevie pulled an Uncle Stevie, and gave us an ending straight out of Writing on Cocaine 101.
SPOILERY STUFF AHEAD. BEWARE.
No, I didn’t need for this book to suddenly have a supernatural twist. No, I didn’t need any of this crap with Brady Hartsfield to happen. And no, I don’t really look forward to what King might have planned for book three. I would prefer these to be pure detective stories, without any sort of King crap that might be better served in a story about The Shop (remember that creepy place in Firestarter?).
But come on. Its not like I won’t read the third book, even if I thought the end of this one was crazy. King knows I’m his bitch.
In Finders Keepers, when Morrie reads his first Rothstein, he has a revelation.
For readers, one of life’s most electrifying discoveries is that they are readers — not just capable of doing it (which Morris already knew), but in love with it. Hopelessly. Head over heels. The first book that does this is never forgotten, and each page seems to bring a fresh revelation, one that burns and exalts: Yes! That’s how it is! Yes! I saw that, too! And, of course, That’s what I think! That’s what I FEEL!
That’s how I felt when I read The Shining all those years ago at summer camp. He’s had me since Jack Torrance met Lloyd the bartender, and I haven’t looked back.