The Colorado Kid

The Colorado Kid

3.5 613
by Stephen King

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On an island off the coast of Maine, a man is found dead. There’s no identification on the body. Only the dogged work of a pair of local newspapermen and a graduate student in forensics turns up any clues, and it’s more than a year before the man is identified.

And that’s just the beginning of the mystery. Because the

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On an island off the coast of Maine, a man is found dead. There’s no identification on the body. Only the dogged work of a pair of local newspapermen and a graduate student in forensics turns up any clues, and it’s more than a year before the man is identified.

And that’s just the beginning of the mystery. Because the more they learn about the man and the baffling circumstances of his death, the less they understand. Was it an impossible crime? Or something stranger still...?

No one but Stephen King could tell this story about the darkness at the heart of the unknown and our compulsion to investigate the unexplained. With echoes of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and the work of Graham Greene, one of the world’s great storytellers presents a moving and surprising tale whose subject is nothing less than the nature of mystery itself...

Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
Stephen King is the undisputed master of horror; but The Colorado Kid is a dramatic departure for the iconic author of innumerable blood-curdling classics like The Shining, Carrie, Cujo, and Pet Sematary. A pulp-style mystery about two salty newspapermen and their investigation into the unresolved death of a man found on an island off the coast of Maine, The Colorado Kid will have readers speculating until the very last page -- and long afterward.

Stephanie McCann is a journalism major doing an internship at a newspaper on Moose-Lookit Island. Two veteran editors show her the ropes -- and let her in on a bizarre mystery that has gone unsolved for more than 20 years. When an unidentified man was found dead on a beach, the local police wrote it off as an accident. But the newsmen continued to dig deeper, vowing to unlock the dead man's secrets…

King has a unique way of completely redefining genres, and his homage to the pulp mystery -- a kind of deconstruction of the traditional blueprint -- is no different. What many readers may expect (an unsolved mystery, an investigation, and a neat and tidy explanation) doesn't quite happen. But because of King's unparalleled storytelling prowess, it doesn't even matter; in fact, his unusual conclusion is perfect. He writes in the afterword: "What I found out writing The Colorado Kid was that maybe…it's the beauty of the mystery that allows us to live sane as we pilot our fragile bodies through this demolition-derby world. Wanting might be better than knowing."

The Colorado Kid is a must-read for mystery aficionados as well as all those who call themselves Stephen King fans. It's an unusual and thought-provoking addition to the author's already mammoth body of work. Paul Goat Allen

Product Details

Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Hard Case Crime
Product dimensions:
4.02(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.53(d)

Read an Excerpt

"Twenty-five years ago," Dave said, "back in ’80, there were two kids who took the six-thirty ferry to school instead of the seven-thirty. They were on the Bayview Consolidated High School Track Team, and they were also boy and girlfriend. Once winter was over—and it doesn’t ever last as long here on the coast as it does inland—they’d run cross-island, down along Hammock Beach to the main road, then on to Bay Street and the town dock. Do you see it, Steffi?"

She did. She saw the romance of it, as well. What she didn’t see was what the "boy and girlfriend" did when they got to the Tinnock side of the reach. She knew that Moose-Look’s dozen or so high-school-age kids almost always took the seven-thirty ferry, giving the ferryman—either Herbie Gosslin or Marcy Lagasse—their passes so they could be recorded with quick winks of the old laser-gun on the bar codes. Then, on the Tinnock side, a schoolbus would be waiting to take them the three miles to BCHS. She asked if the runners waited for the bus and Dave shook his head, smiling.

"Nawp, ran that side, too," he said. "Not holdin hands, but might as well have been; always side by side, Johnny Gravlin and Nancy Arnault. For a couple of years they were all but inseparable."

Stephanie sat up straighter in her chair. The John Gravlin she knew was Moose-Lookit Island’s mayor, a gregarious man with a good word for everyone and an eye on the state senate in Augusta. His hairline was receding, his belly expanding. She tried to imagine him doing the greyhound thing—two miles a day on the island side of the reach, three more on the mainland side—and couldn’t manage it.

"Ain’t makin much progress with it, are ya, dear?" Vince asked.

"No," she admitted.

"Well, that’s because you see Johnny Gravlin the soccer player, miler, Friday night practical joker and Saturday lover as Mayor John Gravlin, who happens to be the only political hop-toad in a small island pond. He goes up and down Bay Street shaking hands and grinning with that gold tooth flashing off to one side in his mouth, got a good word for everyone he meets, never forgets a name or which man drives a Ford pickup and which one is still getting along with his Dad’s old International Harvester. He’s a caricature right out of an old nineteen-forties movie about small-town hoop-de-doo politics and he’s such a hick he don’t even know it. He’s got one jump left in him—hop, toad, hop—and once he gets to that Augusta lilypad he’ll either be wise enough to stop or he’ll try another hop and end up getting squashed."

"That is so cynical," Stephanie said, not without youth’s admiration for the trait.

Vince shrugged his bony shoulders. "Hey, I’m a stereotype myself, dearie, only my movie’s the one where the newspaper feller with the arm-garters on his shirt and the eyeshade on his forread gets to yell out ‘Stop the presses!’ in the last reel. My point is that Johnny was a different creature in those days—slim as a quill pen and quick as quicksilver. You would have called him a god, almost, except for those unfortunate buck teeth, which he has since had fixed.

"And those skimpy little red shorts she wore...she was indeed a goddess." He paused. "As so many girls of seventeen surely are."

"Get your mind out of the gutter," Dave told him.

Vince looked surprised. "Ain’t," he said. "Ain’t a bit. It’s in the clouds."

"If you say so," Dave said, "and I will admit she was a looker, all right. And an inch or two taller than Johnny, which may be why they broke up in the spring of their senior year. But back in ’80 they were hot and heavy, and every day they’d run for the ferry on this side and then up Bayview Hill to the high school on the Tinnock side. There were bets on when Nancy would catch pregnant by him, but she never did; either he was awful polite or she was awful careful." He paused. "Or hell, maybe they were just a little more sophisticated than most island kids back then."

"I think it might’ve been the running," Vince said judiciously.

Stephanie said, "Back on message, please, both of you," and the men laughed.

"On message," Dave said, "there came a morning in the spring of 1980—April, it would have been—when they spied a man sitting out on Hammock Beach. You know, just on the outskirts of the village."

Stephanie knew it well. Hammock Beach was a lovely spot, if a little overpopulated with summer people. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like after Labor Day, although she would get a chance to see; her internship ran through the 5th of October.

"Well, not exactly sitting," Dave amended. "Half-sprawling was how they both put it later on. He was up against one of those litter baskets, don’t you know, and their bases are planted down in the sand to keep em from blowing away in a strong wind, but the man’s weight had settled back against this one until the can was..." Dave held his hand up to the vertical, then tilted it.

"Until it was like the Leaning Tower of Pisa," Steffi said.

"You got it exactly. Also, he wa’ant hardly dressed for early mornin, with the thermometer readin maybe forty-two degrees and a fresh breeze off the water makin it feel more like thirty-two. He was wearin nice gray slacks and a white shirt. Loafers on his feet. No coat. No gloves.

"The youngsters didn’t even discuss it. They just ran over to see if he was okay, and right away they knew he wasn’t. Johnny said later that he knew the man was dead as soon as he saw his face and Nancy said the same thing, but of course they didn’t want to admit it—would you? Without making sure?"

"No," Stephanie said.

"He was just sittin there (well...half-sprawlin there) with one hand in his lap and the other—the right one—lying on the sand. His face was waxy-white except for small purple patches on each cheek. His eyes were closed and Nancy said the lids were bluish. His lips also had a blue cast to them, and his neck, she said, had a kind of puffy look to it. His hair was sandy blond, cut short but not so short that a little of it couldn’t flutter on his forehead when the wind blew, which it did pretty much constant.

"Nancy says, ‘Mister, are you asleep? If you’re asleep, you better wake up.’

"Johnny Gravlin says, ‘He’s not asleep, Nancy, and he’s not unconscious, either. He’s not breathing.’

"She said later she knew that, she’d seen it, but she didn’t want to believe it. Accourse not, poor kid. So she says, ‘Maybe he is. Maybe he is asleep. You can’t always tell when a person’s breathing. Shake him, Johnny, see if he won’t wake up.’

"Johnny didn’t want to, but he also didn’t want to look like a chicken in front of his girlfriend, so he reached down—he had to steel himself to do it, he told me that years later after we’d had a couple of drinks down at the Breakers—and shook the guy’s shoulder. He said he knew for sure when he grabbed hold, because it didn’t feel like a real shoulder at all under there but like a carving of one. But he shook it all the same and said, ‘Wake up, mister, wake up and—’ He was gonna say die right but thought that wouldn’t sound so good under the circumstances (thinkin a little bit like a politician even back then, maybe) and changed it to ‘—and smell the coffee!’

"He shook twice. First time, nothing happened. Second time, the guy’s head fell over on his left shoulder—Johnny had been shakin the right one—and the guy slid off the litter basket that’d been holding him up and went down on his side. His head thumped on the sand. Nancy screamed and ran back to the road, fast as she could...which was fast, I can tell you. If she hadn’t’ve stopped there, Johnny probably would’ve had to chase her all the way down to the end of Bay Street, and, I dunno, maybe right out to the end of Dock A. But she did stop and he caught up to her and put his arm around her and said he was never so glad to feel live flesh underneath his arm. He told me he’s never forgotten how it felt to grip that dead man’s shoulder, and how it felt like wood under that white shirt."

Dave stopped abruptly, and stood up. "I want a Coca-Cola out of the fridge," he said. "My throat’s dry, and this is a long story. Anyone else want one?"

It turned out they all did, and since Stephanie was the one being entertained—if that was the word—she went after the drinks. When she came back, both of the old men were at the porch rail, looking out at the reach and the mainland on the far side. She joined them there, setting the old tin tray down on the wide rail and passing the drinks around.

"Where was I?" Dave asked, after he’d had a long sip of his.

"You know perfectly well where you were," Vince said. "At the part where our future mayor and Nancy Arnault, who’s God knows where—probably California, the good ones always seem to finish up about as far from the Island as they can go without needing a passport—had found the Colorado Kid dead on Hammock Beach."

"Ayuh. Well, John was for the two of em runnin right to the nearest phone, which would have been the one outside the Public Library, and callin George Wournos, who was the Moose-Look constable in those days (long since gone to his reward, dear—ticker). Nancy had no problem with that, but she wanted Johnny to set ‘the man’ up again first. That’s what she called him: ‘the man.’ Never ‘the dead man’ or ‘the body,’ always ‘the man.’

"Johnny says, ‘I don’t think the police like you to move them, Nan.’

"Nancy says, ‘You already moved him, I just want you to put him back where he was.’

"And he says, ‘I only did it because you told me to.’

"To which she answers, ‘Please, Johnny, I can’t bear to look at him that way and I can’t bear to think of him that way.’ Then she starts to cry, which of course seals the deal, and he goes back to where the body was, still bent at the waist like it was sitting but now with its left cheek lying on the sand.

"Johnny told me that night at the Breakers that he never could have done what she wanted if she hadn’t been right there watchin him and countin on him to do it, and you know, I believe that’s so. For a woman a man will do many things that he’d turn his back on in an instant when alone; things he’d back away from, nine times out of ten, even when drunk and with a bunch of his friends egging him on. Johnny said the closer he got to that man lying in the sand—only lying there with his knees up, like he was sitting in an invisible chair—the more sure he was that those closed eyes were going to open and the man was going to make a snatch at him. Knowing that the man was dead didn’t take that feeling away, Johnny said, but only made it worse. Still, in the end he got there, and he steeled himself, and he put his hands on those wooden shoulders, and he sat the man back up again with his back against that leaning litter basket. He said he got it in his mind that the litter basket was going to fall over and make a bang, and when it did he’d scream. But the basket didn’t fall and he didn’t scream. I am convinced in my heart, Steffi, that we poor humans are wired up to always think the worst is gonna happen because it so rarely does. Then what’s only lousy seems okay—almost good, in fact—and we can cope just fine."

"Do you really think so?"

"Oh yes, ma’am! In any case, Johnny started away, then saw a pack of cigarettes that had fallen out on the sand. And because the worst was over and it was only lousy, he was able to pick em up—even reminding himself to tell George Wournos what he’d done in case the State Police checked for fingerprints and found his on the cellophane—and put em back in the breast pocket of the dead man’s white shirt. Then he went back to where Nancy was standing, hugging herself in her BCHS warmup jacket and dancing from foot to foot, probably cold in those skimpy shorts she was wearing. Although it was more than the cold she was feeling, accourse.

"In any case, she wasn’t cold for long, because they ran down to the Public Library then, and I’ll bet if anyone had had a stopwatch on em, it would have shown a record time for the half-mile, or close to it. Nancy had lots of quarters in the little change-purse she carried in her warmup, and she was the one who called George Wournos, who was just then gettin dressed for work—he owned the Western Auto, which is now where the church ladies hold their bazaars."

Stephanie, who had covered several for Arts ’N Things, nodded.

"George asked her if she was sure the man was dead, and Nancy said yes. Then he asked her to put Johnny on, and he asked Johnny the same question. Johnny also said yes. He said he’d shaken the man and that he was stiff as a board. He told George about how the man had fallen over, and the cigarettes falling out of his pocket, and how he’d put em back in, thinking George might give him hell for that, but he never did. Nobody ever did. Not much like a mystery show on TV, was it?"

"Not so far," Stephanie said, thinking it did remind her just a teensy bit of a Murder, She Wrote episode she’d seen once. Only given the conversation which had prompted this story, she didn’t think any Angela Lansbury figures would be showing up to solve the mystery...although someone must have made some progress, Stephanie thought. Enough, at least, to know where the dead man had come from.

"George told Johnny that he and Nancy should hurry on back to the beach and wait for him," Dave said. "Told em to make sure no one else went close. Johnny said okay. George said, ‘If you miss the seven-thirty ferry, John, I’ll write you and your lady-friend an excuse-note.’ Johnny said that was the last thing in the world he was worried about. Then he and Nancy Arnault went back up there to Hammock Beach, only jogging instead of all-out runnin this time."

Stephanie could understand that. From Hammock Beach to the edge of Moosie Village was downhill. Going the other way would have been a tougher run, especially when what you had to run on was mostly spent adrenaline.

"George Wournos, meanwhile," Vince said, "called Doc Robinson, over on Beach Lane." He paused, smiling remembrance. Or maybe just for effect. "Then he called me."

Copyright © 2005 by Stephen King.

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Colorado Kid 3.5 out of 5 based on 3 ratings. 613 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book, not because I'm a Stephen King fan (although I am), but because it was part of the new Hard Case Crime division of Dorchester Publishing. I'll admit, the variety of authors they've collected to write for them is extensive, and THE COLORADO KID just happened to be the first one in the Hard Case group to make it to the top of my to-be-read pile.

I understand, after reading THE COLORADO KID, why so many people on here posted negative reviews. I understand, because just like the main characters in the story told me, a mystery with no resolution plain and simply pisses people off. People want a happy conclustion to a problem--whether it be why 9/11 happened, why oil prices are so high, why a young woman in Wisconsin was murdered, or how a man from Colorado went to work one morning and ended up dead on a little island off the coast of Maine only hours later.

Not KNOWING, not having Mr. King spell it out for us, angered many a reader of this book. Should it have? Maybe. But I actually felt like there WAS a resolution to this story--that being that not everything in life has such a tidy ending as we want our stories to have. Of all the people who end up dead in the US every year, how many do you think go unsolved as to cause of death, or in the case of murder, capturing a perpetrator? Life--this roller-coaster ride that we get onto daily and hang on to since our very lives depend on it--is not black and white, and it sure as heck doesn't offer us up tidy conclusions at the end of every day.

THE COLORADO KID is, quite simply, a character study of not knowing. We can get the facts, we can extrapolate what we believe happened based on those facts, but in the end, it's all a mystery.

Kudos to Mr. King for taking an idea, running with it, and showing that he just doesn't give a flying fig if we get it or not. This book left me with questions, yes, and I actually thank him for that. A book that makes you think and question will always be worth more than a book that doesn't.
shydragon More than 1 year ago
I got this because the TV show "Haven" is based on this story and I wanted to find out how it all started. How this became a tv show based on troubled people took a great deal of imagination. Most short stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end with resolution. This one has a beginning, a middle, but no real resolution except for no resolution. It's ok. It was worth the $1 I paid for it. But I certainly would not have paid more. The cover is misleading. My recommendation: Only read it if you are a hard-core King fan or like the TV show "Haven".
bobavey More than 1 year ago
Stephen King pulls a fast one with his Pulp-Mystery, The Colorado Kid, dragging the reader into the tale with an intriguing mystery that begs to be solved. A man that no one seems to know is found dead on an island off the coast of Maine, with no identification and sparse clues as to how he came to be there.

In typical King fashion, he grounds his story with interesting but believable, hometown characters that could easily be the people next door. However, I had a hard time believing that Stephanie McCann, a University of Ohio student, working as in intern at The Weekly Islander, the small newspaper for Moose-Lookit, the town where the tale takes place, would give up on the life she had known and her husband to be just so she could stay in Moose-Lookit and work for the newspaper. I was also disappointed in the way King ended the story. I know why he did it, especially after reading his notes on the subject, and I think he¿s probably right, but I was still disappointed.

The Colorado Kid is a good, fast read that I¿m sure you will enjoy.

¿ Bob Avey, author of Beneath a Buried House
ksbanks122 More than 1 year ago
Sometimes you read a book for the wrong reason. I am s fan of the SyFy Channel's series, Haven. Set in Main, full of strange people and occurrences, clearly Haven is a Stephen King product. The credits say Haven is based on _The Colorado Kid_. Based. What does that mean? I read _The Colorado Kid_ looking for the connections to Haven and some of the unanswered questions, such as "Who was Lucy Ripley?" "Who is Audrey Parker really?" "What causes 'thetroubles' in Haven?" "Howe does Duke Crocker fit into all this?" More questions abound. What a disappointment to find that the only connections to Haven were the names of some of the characters, the name of the town, and a partially unsolved mystery surrounding the death of a man who came to be known as "The Colorado Kid" because a piece of evidence placed his last known whereabouts prior ro Maine in Colorado. So, I read _The Colorado Kid_ for the wrong reason. I was looking for ansewers or background information for a TV series I love. Stephen King's story was interesting: a totally improbable death with no apparent resolution other than the wife getting closure, after a year, in knowing that her missing husband was actually dead and the insurance company could pay out on her husband's life insurance, she could get rid of her mounting debt, and most importantly, move on with her life. I'm going to reread _The Colorado Kid_ for the right reasons -- because I love Stephen King's work and I wnt to read a new, and surely surprising, story.
Erin Simpson More than 1 year ago
It was an ok read not nearly as good as haven. I was expecting alot more.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The two elderly reporters of the Weekly Island and their intern Stephanie are discussing unsolved mysteries with a Boston Globe reporter. Afterward Vince and David tell Stephanie about a case they shared with nobody until now the story of THE COLORADO KID, a man who in 1980 is found dead on a beach on Moose-Look Island off the coast of Maine. An autopsy shows that a piece of meat is wedged in back of his throat and the cause of death is given as asphyxiation. The two reporters know he is not an islander and nobody recognizes him. It is only luck that the intern who was with the police that night remembered a cigarette tax label on the cigarette pack in the shirt the man was wearing and remembers they didn¿t come from Maine. As police find the pack in the evidence room and see that it was bought in Colorado, the reporters send a picture to all the Colorado newspapers and that leads to the victim¿s wife identifying the body but that is not the end of the mystery, only the beginning and is one that has haunted the two reporters for a quarter of a century............. Readers are either going to love this book or hate it but they will always remember it. That is the trademark of a Stephen King story. Like his horror novels, this work is very atmospheric with plenty of descriptions so that readers can see in their minds the events unfolding. The two elderly reporters are likeable old coots with distinctive personalities and an ability to tell a mesmerizing story that keeps Stephanie glued to her seat wanting to hear the whole tale just like the audience................. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I started out watching Haven which is based on this book so i figured i would like to know the background story. While i love the show, the book was so dry i couldnt even finish reading it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was OK. Stephen King even said that you, the reader, might not like this story because it is not his style.
jewellwm More than 1 year ago
Book ok, not Kings best, but good story.
Eve_L_Doer More than 1 year ago
I was very disappointed with this book. IT IS NOT AT ALL THE SAME. The TV show is part of the mainland; the book is on an island. There is NO paranormal activity AT ALL in the book. The book has NO police chief. The female lead in the book is a newspaper intern reporter, not in anyway law enforcement.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Found this short story very interesting. Loved learning where the series Haven got it's start.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This offering from Stephen King left a lot to be desired as far as I am concerned. It offers a mystery, then leaves the "solution" unsolved. Of course, you are welcome to invent your own theory, but that is not why I read a book. At least not a work of fiction. I actually quite enjoy reading about unsolved mysteries. I just like my novels neat, tidy, and all summed up at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stephen King is my favorite author, but this was a waste of time. No excitment, ghosts, or anything youd expect of SK. Skip this, read sokething else.
ZuaikoTheMad More than 1 year ago
Of the 26 page sample you actually read only 3 pages. When will publisher understand the sample helps sell the book. Three pages shame, shame.
OP_Semloh More than 1 year ago
Haven is one of my favorite shows so I decided to read this while I waited for the next season to start. It was good, not great. Don't get me wrong, it was a good read, it just wasn't what I was used to from Stephen King or as interesting as the show. Left me wanting more, but only because it felt unfinished. Good for a quick read but don't expect much.
Tanya Perry More than 1 year ago
This was an ok read. This left me feeling unfullfilled.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story grabbed me from the first page. I was so excited, and then to find a young journalist investigating the incident, with two older and jaded editors, was enlightening. I also knew that the older generation has great stories, but this is crazy good writing!
littlericci More than 1 year ago
Before purchasing The Colorado Kid I read some reviews. They all complained that they read it to get answers to the questions raised on the show Haven. That is just sad. This was a very enjoyable and typically well written Stephen King story that they actually based a great TV show on and I for one was very happy to have spent my time reading it.
NovyF More than 1 year ago
The Colorado Kid is one of those King writings that might make you shake your head at first. It doesn't have a standard ending. And that's the point. Despite all the horror and supernatural, King's forte is his characters, and what he accomplishes in 120 pages in this story is amazing. Is it his best short work? No, but not his worst either. Pick a two hour time slot, turn off your cell phone, open this story, and let yourself get lost in it. It's an unsolvable mystery, but the real story is in the telling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really expected more from a King book--but it's not there
mikialama More than 1 year ago
Stephen King wrote this book? Really?? Are you sure?? I mean, are we sure that Tabitha wasn't assuming her husband's fame again? Ok, well, if he wrote it, he wrote it in the fifth grade. Seriously. This bears none of the hallmarks of a true King work. Even the prose is lacking and usually, even when King loses his bearings (in like...uh, Atlantis), his prose is worth reading just because he's so GOOD at it. Unfortunately, that doesn't hold true for this one. Even the Yankee dialect is awful. I picked this up in the steals and deals, quite surprised a book by King was in there. After I read it, I understood. Also, I had noticed a television show called Haven that said it was inspired by this book (really little more than a LONG short story or a short novella). Watch the tv show. I think you'll like it better.
rocklin More than 1 year ago
I' m a Stephen King fan, and I undestand this was a sample, but 5 pages of editorial praise, and 3 of the actual story? Wow
Yvonne Ross More than 1 year ago
The book was ok not what i was expecting.
Lyanna Allen More than 1 year ago
this is not one of stephen king's best stories, but it was an enjoyable light read to pass the day or evening with.
Anonymous 14 days ago
I only read the sample but I watch the show based off this book and I love it and Stephen King!