I am going to come clean right away: I do dig Christmas. I like the lights and the magic of ol’ Santa. But here’s the thing, I like Christmas when it’s Christmas. Not Christmas in July nor do I need to be reminded in August that Christmas is coming. There should be a law for when Christmas supplies litter the stores! We all agree, don’t we?
That being said, I was on NPR’s website and clicked on their best summer books and what to my wondering eyes should appear? But a book with the cover of a vanity license plate that read NOS4A2! I scanned the paragraph, looking for something to grab at me:
Hmm. . . O.K., Joe Hill . . . evil car–sounds like Stephen King. . .tribute to King. . .mmm—wait—huh? What? What? JOE HILL IS STEPHEN KING’S SON?!
Does my local library have the book?
Then let’s put that baby “on hold.”
I entered the library trying to contain myself, but squeaks eeked out—which was probably the deciding factor as to why the folks hanging out at the library cleared out a path for me to skip and skitter over to the holding section at Denver Public Library. Poor librarian. When he asked to scan the book, I might have behaved like this.
And when it was mine, all mine, I experienced Borrower’s Remorse. It’s a thick book—692 pages kinda thick. I had a bit of panic. I challenged myself to read a book a week and that snotty little part of me that resembles Nellie Oleson sneered in my inner ear, “I knew you couldn’t do it.”
That night—after 175 pages —I made myself put the book down.
Joe Hill first introduces us to a pretty much dead Charlie Manx, convicted of “tak[ing] children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith,” and, yes. I got a bit nervous. I’m not about to read something about the torture of children—luckily, it’s not exactly what you think. When a young Victoria—or Vic, as she likes to be called—rides her bicycle over an old bridge, she is able to find lost things. Her bridge is like a wormhole, only attainable on her Tuff Burner bicycle. Vic goes looking for trouble and finds Charlie Manx. Manx is a creepy guy who takes children “to a place where every morning is Christmas and unhappiness is against the law,” and Vic is the only one to escape from him. Years pass and a grown-up, damaged Vic finds herself yet again crossing that bridge to end Manx once and for all.
There were moments that I kept thinking, “This is freakin’ Stephen King’s son!” Gotta give the guy props for writing under a pen name. Can you imagine the pressure otherwise? Does he prove it’s in the genes? Probably. I was sucked into a creepy world that kept me up late at night and I forgot all about Joe Hill’s identity. There were times when I had to force myself to slow down and not speed read. If I could have read it while looking in-between my fingers, I would have. The Gingerbread Man—he’s on my list of people I don’t want to meet. And once more, I’m scared of cars again—specifically the Rolls-Royce Wraith.
Till next week,
May you not spill coffee or booze on your book