cbr11bingo – Reading the TBR.
Stephen King can seemingly write a story any way he puts his mind to, and here he is in a decidedly Dickensian bent. Intentionally echoing the serial publication of Dickens’s novels, The Green Mile was initially published in six paperback installments, at monthly intervals.
The story itself is told in flashback by an aged former prison guard named Paul Edgecombe, writing from the sunroom of his retirement home. In between dodging a contemptuous employee and spending quality time with a new companion, Paul records the story of what happened in the death row block of Cold Mountain prison during his last year on the job, 1932.
1932 is the year John Coffey comes to Cold Mountain. Coffey has the body of a giant at 6’8”, 300 pounds, but has the intelligence of a child. His first night on death row his only concern is whether the guards can leave a light on overnight because he’s afraid of the dark. Despite the intimidating nature of his size and his obvious power, Edgecombe has trouble believing his new charge could be capable of the crime for which he is sentenced to death: the brutal rapes and murders of nine-year twin girls.
Besides Coffey, Paul is also troubled by the presence on his block of Percy Wetmore. Percy is a cruel and stupid man who has no business being a prison guard, but his family’s connections to political power make him untouchable, a fact Percy wields to his advantage with glee.
It’s a busy year on death row, 1932. One that involves a seemingly magical mouse, a horrifically botched execution, several acts of violence and a couple of tragedies. And all of it is centered around the gentle giant and unlikely murderer, John Coffey, same as the drink only spelled different.
Like Dickens, King is great at creating a fully realized world, populated with memorable side-characters. And while he indulges in the ultimate Dickensian indulgence of unlikely coincidence, he pulls it off so well the reader doesn’t mind. This is a fine story, wonderfully told.