Heart-Shaped Box: Joe Hill

Book style: Horror/suspense/ghost

Beer pairing: Sierra Nevada Black IPA

This book is written under a pseudonym, and for good reason. *Spoiler alert** – this book is written by Stephen King’s son. But if you know much about Stephen King, like you’ve seen his face before, you’d probably figure this out by looking at the back cover. Mr. Hill had his picture taken and looks like an exact replica of dad. So much for the pseudonym I guess. Also, not much of a spoiler I guess, either.

Anyway, I digress. Knowing who Mr. Hill’s dad was, I tried to step away from all of the Stephen King books I’d read and take this book at face value, and not compare the two authors. But honestly, this was really hard to do, especially since Mr. Hill decided to write in the same genre.

Overall this book was alright. I liked the story line. The story involves Jude, a retired ex-rocker, now grayed and living with a 20-something ex-stripper named Georgia (after the state where he met her) and his part-time assistant, Danny, who comes over to the house to take care of correspondence and paperwork. Jude has a collection of odd, usually dark trinkets, found all over the place. Danny finds an item he thinks Jude will want for his collection: an old suit that apparently holds the ghost of an old man inside. Jude takes the bait and buys the suit. Lucky for him, he gets what he paid for, but unlucky for him, this isn’t just any ghost. This ghost has a connection to him and can’t wait to get at him.

I paired this book with a Black IPA from Sierra Nevada. I thought something dark, yet hoppy, with some depth and fullness was needed for a dark fantasy/horror type book. If I’d had any from the south, like Abita’s Turbodog, I would have probably gone with that since Jude, our main character was originally from the grand state of Louisiana, same as Abita (random tidbit – I recommend a brewery tour of Abita – it’s a great location, great nearby restaurants and they let you pour your own beers).

The story line is interesting and roped me in, but the writing itself is…immature. It felt like a book in maybe first draft form. I found myself critiquing this book based off of some of Stephen King’s rules from his book On Writing. One of the lines I remember from his book is “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” I found Mr. Hill to use plenty of adverbs, and he also told me how the character was feeling, something that Stephen King points out not to do. He says in his book to show how the character is feeling, don’t tell. In other words, describe how someone shoved the bookcase down to the ground, shattering the floor and several glass trinkets that had been displayed, instead of someone who “angrily” pushed the bookshelf down because he was mad. I found the sentences to be short and choppy as well, and wasn’t able to get a good picture in my head of many of the characters.

It wasn’t all bad though. There were some snarky, funny parts, among the dark fantasy genre. I will probably give Mr. Hill’s books another shot. I think this may have been one of his first. Hopefully he can get rid a few of those adverbs.



Overall rating: 6/10


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