Owen King looks back on one of the most unconventional Books of his father


Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes isn’t a conventional horror novel. No ghosts, no vampires. The protagonist of the book is a police detective. Hodges is a denizen of a town that feels something like Detroit. He is haunted by an unsolved case, the mass murder of eight people, run down by a stolen Mercedes out of a job fair in the wee hours of a cold April morning, and once we meet him, he is watching a Jerry Springer-esque talk show and giving serious contemplation to shooting himself in the head.

“Today everything had turned to shit,” believes an out-of-work data processor with the splendid title of Augie Odenkirk, standing in line outside the job fair. He appears more baffled than mad as his ideas continue: “They’d done something to the cash.” Afterwards, Augie is forced to remember The Grapes of Wrath — but all of his reveries finish a few pages later. Poor Augie is among those victims, crushed beneath the wheels of a car.

No, Mr. Mercedes is most likely not the first King book to come to a lot of minds, but with all the Brendan Gleeson-starring series premiering next week, it is my (admittedly biased; I do understand King a bit) opinion that an ancient re-evaluation is so. That is because Mr. Mercedes is a story for our second.

“They’d done something to the cash.” Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Goldman Sachs — these guys are the ones that did it, even though it’s tough to comprehend precisely what it was, since there wasn’t a trial and nobody went to jail and what would you know, the numbers are jumping around again, like lottery balls in a hopper.

“People are really satisfied with record high stock market — around 17% since election!” Donald Trump tweeted.

You need to assume that Augie Odenkirk, if he had been about to hear this information, might be somewhat skeptical. After all, stock-market highs are good and well, but it is more than six months in the Trump administration and the production jobs that Mr. Winning promised on the campaign trail have yet to come pouring into the American jar. The stock exchange is for men and women that reside in Manhattan and summer for men and women who can afford cars, in the Hamptons .

People like Augie get up before dawn to stand in line. Other individuals, such as detective Hodges, consider the circus and sit in their armchairs and discover the prospect of eternity rather enticing.

That is only the half of it if any of that strikes close to home.

There is also Mr. Mercedes himself, Brady Hartsfeld. Brady is a particularly villain, a mischief-maker by turning people’s machines against 23, using a keyboard who receives his lulz. (He refers to some of his favorite hacking tools as Thing One and Thing Two.)

Brady is no longer happy with getting away with murder. He would like to push Hodges all the way across the border, sending messages to torment him until he gives into temptation and pulls on that trigger. In a hilariously bit of stage-setting by King, we find that Brady works from the basement of his mother. In actuality, if you’re not getting the picture yet, I will be clear: The novel is nasty.

So is 2017. So was 2016. So was 2015. Keep flipping the calendar backward; it’s getting more ugly and it has been ugly.

Something has been happening to the money. Incapacitating depression is difficult to resist and, in light of current events understandable. Who would not be depressed, living in a society which can not agree on reality, let alone policy? The world wide web has all crammed us into the car’s back seat and we’re never, ever going to be permitted to get out and stretch our legs and use the restroom. Get familiar with your sister and your brother.

Like the book it is based on, Hulu’s version of Mr. Mercedes is stinging. Gleeson is cranky to snack as Harry Treadaway’s Brady and Hodges is human enough to be terrifying. If you’ve got the stomach for this, but in case you can take a while, the novel is well worth a look, also.

Owen King’s books include Double Feature. His publication Sleeping Beauties, co-written with Stephen King, will be released in September. They’ll be looking on Oct. 5 in Toronto’s Koerner Hall, their only Canadian appearance.

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