Stephen King has experimented with novella e-book-only releases before, the first being Riding the Bullet in 2000, long before the medium had matured with the sophisticated e-book devices like Kindle, Nook or iPad. A Face in the Crowd (Simon and Schuster Digital, $1.99) is in the same vein, available in e-book (multiple formats) and audio book, but not in print. Not yet, anyway.
King shares the credit of this short story with Stewart O’Nan, as he did in 2004 on Faithful, and I was pleased to see them collaborating again, this time on a baseball-related ghost story.
King is one of the rare authors who can shift seamlessly between writing full length novels and short stories, and anytime I indulge in reading his work, I am richly rewarded with effortless, colorful prose and compelling characters doing something utterly fascinating. I’m less familiar with O’Nan, but did enjoy Faithful, about the Boston Red Sox.
The story follows Dean Evers, an old, retired widower who’s taken to watching baseball on lonely nights to distract himself from the absence of his wife, who died from a stroke a few months earlier. The games are supposed to be a diversion from his mind wandering back into memories he would rather not revisit, but they prove to be just the opposite. As he watches the games on TV, a cast of characters appears in the seat behind home plate–people Evers recognizes, people he thought he’d never see again.
I found the story and the character of Dean Evers interesting enough and I loved the baseball lingo and references to familiar players. I was a bit surprised with the ending. Not because it was shocking, but because it was an average finale for such accomplished storytellers. I didn’t find the expected, classic King twist, but maybe my expectations were too high. The story stopped more than it ended; typical of the shorty story format, and while I didn’t find it a memorable read, it didn’t annoy me, either.
This is a short story, clocking in at about 32 pages. They added excerpts of the upcoming novels, Blackhouse and Talisman, putting the total page count to 60, but they are only a few pages of much larger stories.
If you like King’s style and you dig baseball, A Face in the Crowd is worth your while, but it’s not the best either of these talented wordsmiths is capable of.