The Outsider – Stephen King
I was on holiday with my parents. I can’t remember where, but I remember we had stopped at a newsagent, or a typical holiday type shop where they sell buckets and spades and postcards and stuff.
Anyway, whatever this shop was, it also sold paperbacks.
So, I was happy.
And there was this one paperback, and it had this black cover. As in, completely, utterly black. No book title, no author name, no illustration. Nothing.
Well, you bet I was drawn to that book like filings to a magnet.
Now, in my imagination, my memory of that day, this is how it went.
When I picked the book up I realised that although the cover was a featureless black, the author name and book title were there, embossed on the cover. I had to hold the book a certain way, let the light catch those deep black edges, until I could decipher what it said.
Memory is a funny, treacherous companion. When I did my research to find that book cover, this is what I came up with.
Actually, now that I look at it, this cover is even more terrifying than the one I remembered. See that tiny spot of red blood dripping from the vampire’s fang?
Anyway, I didn’t buy it.
I wanted to, oh yes I surely wanted to.
But I didn’t. I put it back on the shelf and left.
Unknown to me that book had already changed my life.
The name of Stephen King was seared into my consciousness.
What kind of novel was `Salem’s Lot, that the publisher had decided to print it with a BLACK COVER? Something was going on inside that book, (something unpleasant no doubt) and I needed to find out what it was.
And that title! `Salem’s Lot. I just couldn’t get my head around that title. The word `Salem evoked witches, but the Lot part?
I can’t remember where or when I bought The Shining, and neither can I remember why I went for King’s third novel instead of his second (with that black cover constantly calling to me). Maybe I felt that `Salem’s Lot was a bad place to start, that I should lead up to it with another of King’s books. One that could not be as pant wettingly terrifying as `Salem’s Lot obviously was.
Even though my edition of The Shining had that freaky illustration of Danny’s face on the cover.
Anyway, if that was my reasoning I was wrong.
The Shining terrified me.
And for years afterwards I suffered with a terror of looking in mirrors for fear of what I might see lurking behind me.
Here I am now all these years later, no longer that awkward, lonely, bookish teenager but a bookish adult and I am still reading Stephen King novels.
The Outsider is his latest.
I had popped into town to get some shopping (bananas if you must know) and as I was walking past WHSmith I happened to glance in through the entrance.
The Outsider was on a display near the front of the shop and, just like all those years ago when I spotted that paperback with its black cover, I was drawn to it as if by a magnet.
The cover for The Outsider is good, but it’s nowhere near as good as that deep black, embossed paperback cover for `Salem’s Lot.
But of course, I still had to buy it.
I’ve been reading The Outsider every chance I get, and struggling to put it down. I’m pretty near the end now.
Is it as scary as The Shining?
Well, no, but I’m a much older, battle hardened version of that gawky young teenager who really wasn’t old enough to be reading books like that anyway these days.
Is it a gripping read?
Would I recommend it?
If you like Stephen King, then yes, absolutely.
Am I going to tell you anything about the plot?
No, because you probably already know the basic premise, and if you don’t you can find that out here.
I’m not sure there is any other author who has stuck with me like King has throughout my life. I read a lot, but he’s the only one.
From that first encounter with him in that shabby little seaside shop that I can remember nothing about except that it sold paperbacks, to this wondrous digital age of marvels, I’m still a fan.
And I’m sure I always will be.