In The Tall Grass by Joe Hill & Stephen King.
|Book Name:||In The Tall Grass|
|Publisher(s):||Orion Publishing / Hodder & Stoughton|
|Formatt:||eBook, audio book|
|Release Date:||09 October 2012|
With In The Tall Grass, the father and son team of King and Hill collaborate for the second time to create a short but devastating, blunderbuss shot of horror. This novella is horrific in the most disturbing way, it is written by masters of their craft and dammit, this is the good stuff.
The story starts with Cal and Becky DeMuth who are twins travelling across America. Becky is now six months pregnant and going to stay with relatives so she can get her life settled before the baby arrives. Her brother is along for the ride to ensure she gets there safely. These two, we’re told, are inseparable.
It’s when they are driving through rural Kansas, down a road lined with tall grass, that they just happen to turn the radio off, they decide to open a window to let in some air, and as if on cue they hear desperate cries for help coming from somewhere out in the grass.
Becky and Cal pull the car over and venture into the field to try and help and it is at this point that they both get lost…
It goes without saying that the world inside the tall grass isn’t one of maize and Toad of Toadhall. It is as the authors put it, “a Dali world in Kansas stereo,” where the ground is sticky and placental and, of course, an evil lurks ready to mess shit up. And oh my, do things get messy. Once the switch flips and that mess truly hits the fan, you can’t help but to keep turning those pages. All too soon you’re hitting the last few lines and as your brain finally comes up for air, you find that you’re left muttering expletives softly under your breath. It’s that good.
If there is a very simple recipe for a great horror story it is this; tell the audience why they should care for the protagonists and then proceed to ruin the lives of all involved in the most creatively horrific ways you can. With that in mind, In The Tall Grass is a masterclass in story telling and in everything that is scary. The tension and the claustrophobia build up like a septic blood blister until it explodes in a terrifying yet very satisfying splatter. You won’t feel comfortable but you won’t be able to look away.
King and Hill also get you with a devious humour (McSweenie’s limerick is my new favourite rhyme) and a full appreciation for what they are writing. If you’re reading their story then you know you’re about to be sucked in to something terrifying and the authors know that you know this so they have a little fun with you. I mean, you can’t get much more tongue in cheek than the following line:
“That all but one of these cars appeared to have been there for days – even weeks – was another anomally that wouldn’t hit them until later.”
It’s as if the authors are smiling at you with a grin that says ‘Ohh yeah, this is going to be fun.’
I read an interview with King once where he said that if he was to ever die while writing a novel then he would want Joe to finish it for him as their styles are almost identical and this story is a testament to that. Personally, I tend to feel like Joe excels slightly more in writing real characters while King is the king of evil and environment but at no point here do you find yourself thinking, ‘Ah that’s Stephen what wrote that bit there.’ The writing really is seamless.
I should also mention that this novella comes with previews for both King’s next novel Dr Sleep and Hill’s forthcoming NOS4A2. With Dr Sleep it’s great to revisit characters we met so long ago in the Overlook Hotel and the hit of NOS4A2 is incredibly chilling with a distracted nurse and a man who really doesn’t seem all that well…
Plus (and I’m not getting paid to say this, I promise) the story was only 99p over at Kindle (UK) which quite frankly is a bargain.
Should you give In The Tall Grass a go? If you haven’t guessed yet, it’s an almighty yes!
I warn you though, if you read this story you are not delving in to anything remotely pretty. There are things here that will probably make you feel sick and uncomfortable and there will be things you half wish you could un-read. You know the bit in American Psycho with the rat? You know how you almost had to look away from the page? Well there are scenes in this story that make you feel the same. So yeah, fun might not be the word to describe In The Tall Grass but it’s certainly brilliant and will stay with you whether you like it or not.
The Bottom Line
You’ll be sickened, sucked in and you won’t want to eat sardines for a while, but you’ll almost certainly find yourself wanting more.