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Stephen King



  Acclaim for Joyland by Stephen King!

  Also by Stephen King

  Title Page




  Author's Note

  Available now from Titan Books

  Acclaim for JOYLAND by STEPHEN KING!

  "Joyland is a small marvel of a book, a novel of loss and heartbreak, of growth and discovery...a bittersweet paean to lost love, lost time, and lost stands with such shorter King masterpieces as The Body and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption as one of the writer's finest works, a highlight in a career that has had so many."

  --National Post

  "[An] elegiac novel of mystery and imagination...Joyland presents itself as a hair-raising thriller (which indeed it is), but it is as much a bittersweet romance, a tribute to older times and sounder values, a celebration of family and friends and love and the wonder of existence."

  --Wall Street Journal

  "The book [offers] an unexpected perspective...a neat trick to pull off in a thriller, and Joyland is definitely a thriller."

  --Los Angeles Times

  "Some of King's most graceful writing...ruminative, amused, digressive, marvelously unaffected, and finally, devastatingly sad."

  --Entertainment Weekly

  "The book delivers chills [and] a mournful sense of life's fragility...good fun."

  --New York Times

  "A moving, immensely appealing coming-of-age tale... the real strength of Joyland stems from King's ability to connect with his characters directly and viscerally. It's that emotional bond that marks the difference between books that merely entertain and books that matter in a fundamental way."

  --Washington Post

  "At its heart, this is a captivating story filled with more light than dark, more sweetness than horror, and plenty of grace...strip away all the mayhem and you'll find a writer who has a fine handle on humanity."

  --Christian Science Monitor

  "The story [possesses] an aching nostalgia...this reads like a heartfelt memoir and might be King's gentlest book, a canny channeling of the inner peace one can find within outer tumult."


  "This is classic times dark and intense, [but] there's less of King's trademark horror and more of the wistful nostalgia and emotion that will remind fans of Stand by Me and The Green Mile, especially for its bittersweet and moving conclusion."


  "An enthralling, sweet and nostalgic tale of first love, loss and what comes after death...I couldn't put this one down."

  --Halifax Times-News

  "A true pulp novel...absorbing, emotionally intense."

  --A.V. Club

  "Joyland is a far gentler, deeper, more thoughtful book...more a coming-of-age mystery than a horror-filled thriller...and all the more intriguing for it."

  --The Guardian (UK)

  "Nobody writes about the young American male better than Stephen King and Joyland is one of his masterpieces."

  --Ed Gorman

  "Joyland consumed me... it's the best kind of Stephen King novel."


  "Joyland is King at the absolute height of his game... With his second offering through the excellent Hard Case Crime...he's hit the home run that I've been hoping for these last few years."


  "A poignant, beautifully told coming of age story... Joyland is a standout of the genre, and an absolute stunner of a novel that will break your heart."

  --My Bookish Ways

  "Much deeper, more personal, and ultimately far more emotional than you expect it to be."

  --Cult Box

  "A masterpiece of pulp fiction storytelling, showing King at the height of his powers as a storyteller... What King has done is transcend genres as only our greatest writers can and tell an incredible human story."

  --Book Reporter

  "Joyland is wonderfully nostalgic and evocative...totally of [King's] best of recent years, perfectly balancing heartbreak and chills."

  --The List (UK)

  "A must for King fans."

  --Library Journal

  "One of the best novels of King's career...Joyland soars with the energy and enthusiasm of a young writer and is built with the tools of a seasoned and confident favorite book of the year."

  --Horror World

  "A beautifully written, heartbreaking coming-of-age tale that is sure to be remembered along with the best of Stephen King's work outside of the horror genre...I haven't come across a book of King's that has resonated this strongly with me since The Green Mile."

  --The Fiction Pub

  "It's a ghost story, it's a mystery--it's a tale of crossing the line into adulthood. It's also the perfect summer read."

  --The Weekender

  "It stays with you long after you put the book down because King manages to write about eternal themes... love, life and death, memory and change and loss."

  --Daily Kos

  "Another extraordinary and well-crafted story bought to you by the best storyteller alive. Do yourself a favor and pick it up today."

  --Vancouver Weekly

  I stashed my basket of dirty rags and Turtle Wax by the exit door in the arcade. It was ten past noon, but right then food wasn't what I was hungry for. I walked slowly along the track and into Horror House.

  I had to duck my head when I passed beneath the Screaming Skull, even though it was now pulled up and locked in its home position. My footfalls echoed on a wooden floor painted to look like stone. I could hear my breathing. It sounded harsh and dry. I was scared, okay? Tom had told me to stay away from this place, but Tom didn't run my life any more than Eddie Parks did.

  Between the Dungeon and the Torture Chamber, the track descended and described a double-S curve where the cars picked up speed and whipped the riders back and forth. Horror House was a dark ride, but when it was in operation, this stretch was the only completely dark part. It had to be where the girl's killer had cut her throat and dumped her body. How quick he must have been, and how certain of exactly what he was going to do!

  I walked slowly down the double-S, thinking it would not be beyond Eddie to hear me and shut off the overhead work-lights as a joke. To leave me in here to feel my way past the murder site with only the sound of the wind and that one slapping board to keep me company. And suppose...just suppose...a young girl's hand reached out in that darkness and took mine...?


  FIFTY-TO-ONE by Charles Ardai

  KILLING CASTRO by Lawrence Block

  THE DEAD MAN'S BROTHER by Roger Zelazny

  THE CUTIE by Donald E. Westlake

  HOUSE DICK by E. Howard Hunt

  CASINO MOON by Peter Blauner

  FAKE I.D. by Jason Starr

  PASSPORT TO PERIL by Robert B. Parker

  STOP THIS MAN! by Peter Rabe

  LOSERS LIVE LONGER by Russell Atwood

  HONEY IN HIS MOUTH by Lester Dent

  QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE by Max Allan Collins



  MEMORY by Donald E. Westlake

  NOBODY'S ANGEL by Jack Clark

  MURDER IS MY BUSINESS by Brett Halliday

  GETTING OFF by Lawrence Block

  QUARRY'S EX by Max Allan Collins

  THE CONSUMMATA by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

  CHOKE HOLD by Christa Faust

  THE COMEDY IS FINISHED by Donald E. Westlake

  BLOOD ON THE MINK by Robert Silverberg

  FALSE NEGATIVE by Joseph Koenig

  THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH by Ariel S. Winter


  WEB OF THE CITY by Harlan Ellison



  First Hard Case Crime edition: June 2013

  Published by Titan Books

  A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd

  144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP

  in collaboration with Winterfall LLC

  Copyright (c) 2013 by Stephen King

  Cover painting copyright (c) 2013 by Glen Orbik

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Print edition ISBN: 9781781167694

  E-book edition ISBN: 9781781168493

  The name "Hard Case Crime" and the Hard Case Crime logo are trademarks of Winterfall LLC. Hard Case Crime books are selected and edited by Charles Ardai.

  Visit us on the web at

  For Donald Westlake


  I had a car, but on most days in that fall of 1973 I walked to Joyland from Mrs. Shoplaw's Beachside Accommodations in the town of Heaven's Bay. It seemed like the right thing to do. The only thing, actually. By early September, Heaven Beach was almost completely deserted, which suited my mood. That fall was the most beautiful of my life. Even forty years later I can say that. And I was never so unhappy, I can say that, too. People think first love is sweet, and never sweeter than when that first bond snaps. You've heard a thousand pop and country songs that prove the point; some fool got his heart broke. Yet that first broken heart is always the most painful, the slowest to mend, and leaves the most visible scar. What's so sweet about that?

  Through September and right into October, the North Carolina skies were clear and the air was warm even at seven in the morning, when I left my second-floor apartment by the outside stairs. If I started with a light jacket on, I was wearing it tied around my waist before I'd finished half of the three miles between the town and the amusement park.

  I'd make Betty's Bakery my first stop, grabbing a couple of still-warm croissants. My shadow would walk with me on the sand, at least twenty feet long. Hopeful gulls, smelling the croissants in their waxed paper, would circle overhead. And when I walked back, usually around five (although sometimes I stayed later--there was nothing waiting for me in Heaven's Bay, a town that mostly went sleepybye when summer was over), my shadow walked with me on the water. If the tide was in, it would waver on the surface, seeming to do a slow hula.

  Although I can't be completely sure, I think the boy and the woman and their dog were there from the first time I took that walk. The shore between the town and the cheerful, blinking gimcrackery of Joyland was lined with summer homes, many of them expensive, most of them clapped shut after Labor Day. But not the biggest of them, the one that looked like a green wooden castle. A boardwalk led from its wide back patio down to where the seagrass gave way to fine white sand. At the end of the boardwalk was a picnic table shaded by a bright green beach umbrella. In its shade, the boy sat in his wheelchair, wearing a baseball cap and covered from the waist down by a blanket even in the late afternoons, when the temperature lingered in the seventies. I thought he was five or so, surely no older than seven. The dog, a Jack Russell terrier, either lay beside him or sat at his feet. The woman sat on one of the picnic table benches, sometimes reading a book, mostly just staring out at the water. She was very beautiful.

  Going or coming, I always waved to them, and the boy waved back. She didn't, not at first. 1973 was the year of the OPEC oil embargo, the year Richard Nixon announced he was not a crook, the year Edward G. Robinson and Noel Coward died. It was Devin Jones's lost year. I was a twenty-one-year-old virgin with literary aspirations. I possessed three pairs of bluejeans, four pairs of Jockey shorts, a clunker Ford (with a good radio), occasional suicidal ideations, and a broken heart.

  Sweet, huh?

  The heartbreaker was Wendy Keegan, and she didn't deserve me. It's taken me most of my life to come to that conclusion, but you know the old saw; better late than never. She was from Portsmouth, New Hampshire; I was from South Berwick, Maine. That made her practically the girl next door. We had begun "going together" (as we used to say) during our freshman year at UNH--we actually met at the Freshman Mixer, and how sweet is that? Just like one of those pop songs.

  We were inseparable for two years, went everywhere together and did everything together. Everything, that is, but "it." We were both work-study kids with University jobs. Hers was in the library; mine was in the Commons cafeteria. We were offered the chance to hold onto those jobs during the summer of 1972, and of course we did. The money wasn't great, but the togetherness was priceless. I assumed that would also be the deal during the summer of 1973, until Wendy announced that her friend Renee had gotten them jobs working at Filene's, in Boston.

  "Where does that leave me?" I asked.

  "You can always come down," she said. "I'll miss you like mad, but really, Dev, we could probably use some time apart."

  A phrase that is very often a death-knell. She may have seen that idea on my face, because she stood on tiptoe and kissed me. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," she said. "Besides, with my own place, maybe you can stay over." But she didn't quite look at me when she said that, and I never did stay over. Too many roommates, she said. Too little time. Of course such problems can be overcome, but somehow we never did, which should have told me something; in retrospect, it tells me a lot. Several times we had been very close to "it," but "it" just never quite happened. She always drew back, and I never pressed her. God help me, I was being gallant. I have wondered often since what would have changed (for good or for ill) had I not been. What I know now is that gallant young men rarely get pussy. Put it on a sampler and hang it in your kitchen.

  The prospect of another summer mopping cafeteria floors and loading elderly Commons dishwashers with dirty plates didn't hold much charm for me, not with Wendy seventy miles south, enjoying the bright lights of Boston, but it was steady work, which I needed, and I didn't have any other prospects. Then, in late February, one literally came down the dish-line to me on the conveyor belt.

  Someone had been reading Carolina Living while he or she snarfed up that day's blue plate luncheon special, which happened to be Mexicali Burgers and Caramba Fries. He or she had left the magazine on the tray, and I picked it up along with the dishes. I almost tossed it in the trash, then didn't. Free reading material was, after all, free reading material. (I was a work-study kid, remember.) I stuck it in my back pocket and forgot about it until I got back to my dorm room. There it flopped onto the floor, open to the classified section at the back, while I was changing my pants.

  Whoever had been reading the magazine had circled several job possibilities...although in the end, he or she must have decided none of them was quite right; otherwise Carolina Living wouldn't have come riding down the conveyor belt. Near the bottom of the page was an ad that caught my eye even though it hadn't been circled. In boldface type, the first line read: WORK CLOSE TO HEAVEN! What English major could read that and not hang in for the pitch? And what glum twenty-one-year-old, beset with the growing fear that he might be losing his girlfriend, would not be attracted by the idea of working in a place called Joyland?

  There was a telephone number, and on a whim, I called it. A week later, a job application landed in my dormitory mailbox. The attached letter stated that if I wanted full-time summer employment (which I did), I'd be doing many different jobs, most but not all custodial. I would have to p
ossess a valid driver's license, and I would need to interview. I could do that on the upcoming spring break instead of going home to Maine for the week. Only I'd been planning to spend at least some of that week with Wendy. We might even get around to "it."

  "Go for the interview," Wendy said when I told her. She didn't even hesitate. "It'll be an adventure."

  "Being with you would be an adventure," I said.

  "There'll be plenty of time for that next year." She stood on tiptoe and kissed me (she always stood on tiptoe). Was she seeing the other guy, even then? Probably not, but I'll bet she'd noticed him, because he was in her Advanced Sociology course. Renee St. Claire would have known, and probably would have told me if I'd asked--telling stuff was Renee's specialty, I bet she wore the priest out when she did the old confession bit--but some things you don't want to know. Like why the girl you loved with all your heart kept saying no to you, but tumbled into bed with the new guy at almost the first opportunity. I'm not sure anybody ever gets completely over their first love, and that still rankles. Part of me still wants to know what was wrong with me. What I was lacking. I'm in my sixties now, my hair is gray and I'm a prostate cancer survivor, but I still want to know why I wasn't good enough for Wendy Keegan.

  I took a train called the Southerner from Boston to North Carolina (not much of an adventure, but cheap), and a bus from Wilmington to Heaven's Bay. My interview was with Fred Dean, who was--among many other functions--Joyland's employment officer. After fifteen minutes of Q-and-A, plus a look at my driver's license and my Red Cross life-saving certificate, he handed me a plastic badge on a lanyard. It bore the word VISITOR, that day's date, and a cartoon picture of a grinning, blue-eyed German Shepherd who bore a passing resemblance to the famous cartoon sleuth, Scooby-Doo.

  "Take a walk around," Dean said. "Ride the Carolina Spin, if you like. Most of the rides aren't up and running yet, but that one is. Tell Lane I said okay. What I gave you is a day pass, but I want you back here by..." He looked at his watch. "Let's say one o'clock. Tell me then if you want the job. I've got five spots left, but they're all basically the same--as Happy Helpers."

  "Thank you, sir."

  He nodded, smiling. "Don't know how you'll feel about this place, but it suits me fine. It's a little old and a little rickety, but I find that charming. I tried Disney for a while; didn't like it. It's too...I don't know..."