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Heart-Shaped Box [NOOK Book]

Overview

Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman's noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, an item for sale on the Internet, a thing so terribly strange, Jude can't help but reach for his wallet.

I ...

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Heart-Shaped Box

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Overview

Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman's noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, an item for sale on the Internet, a thing so terribly strange, Jude can't help but reach for his wallet.

I will "sell" my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder. . . .

For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn't afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts—of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What's one more?

But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. It's the real thing.

And suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude's restored vintage Mustang . . . standing outside his window . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting—with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one bony hand. . . .

A multiple-award winner for his short fiction, author Joe Hill immediately vaults into the top echelon of dark fantasists with a blood-chilling roller-coaster ride of a novel, a masterwork brimming with relentless thrills and acid terror.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
The buzz leading up to the publication of this book included one of publishing's worst-kept secrets: Joe Hill, the author of Heart-Shaped Box, is also Stephen King's son. This revelation really wouldn't mean anything if Hill's debut novel weren't a singularly unforgettable horror masterwork that will delight and disturb anyone who reads it. The apple, it seems, doesn't fall far from the tree…

Aging, self-absorbed rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for the macabre -- his collection includes sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman's noose, Aleister Crowley's childhood chessboard, etc. -- so when his assistant tells him about a ghost for sale on an online auction site, he immediately puts in a bid and purchases it. The black, heart-shaped box that Coyne receives in the mail not only contains the suit of a dead man but also his vengeance-obsessed spirit. The ghost, it turns out, is the stepfather of a young groupie who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne callously used her up and threw her away. Now, determined to kill Coyne and anyone who aids him, the merciless ghost of Craddock McDermott begins his assault on the rocker's sanity…

Regardless of Hill's literary bloodlines, the comparisons between Heart-Shaped Box and his father's works will be inevitable. Both share a narrative voice that is witty, engaging, and darkly stylish -- at once morbid, poetic, and profoundly moving. Additionally, both are masters of imagery, ambiance, and allusion. The different sections of Heart-Shaped Box, for example, all reference popular heavy metal songs (Zeppelin's "Black Dog," Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," etc.), and Coyne's dogs are named after original AC/DC band members. Blending the wild world of rock 'n' roll with the baleful realm of the supernatural, Heart-Shaped Box marks the beginning of the literary reign of Joe Hill. All hail the new king! Paul Goat Allen
Janet Maslin
These are the bare bones of Heart-Shaped Box — literally, since the ghost is a skeletal old man. But Mr. Hill uses them to shockingly good effect, creating a wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty tale of horror. In a book much too smart to sound like the work of a neophyte, he builds character invitingly and plants an otherworldly surprise around every corner.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Stoker-winner Hill features a particularly merciless ghost in his powerful first novel. Middle-aged rock star Judas Coyne collects morbid curios for fun, so doesn't think twice about buying a suit advertised at an online auction site as haunted by its dead owner's ghost. Only after it arrives does Judas discover that the suit belonged to Craddock McDermott, the stepfather of one of Coyne's discarded groupies, and that the old man's ghost is a malignant spirit determined to kill Judas in revenge for his stepdaughter's suicide. Judas isn't quite the cad or Craddock the avenging angel this scenario makes them at first, but their true motivations reveal themselves only gradually in a fast-paced plot that crackles with expertly planted surprises and revelations. Hill (20th Century Ghosts) gives his characters believably complex emotional lives that help to anchor the supernatural in psychological reality and prove that (as one character observes) "horror was rooted in sympathy." His subtle and skillful treatment of horrors that could easily have exploded over the top and out of control helps make this a truly memorable debut. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
According to an October 19 USA TODAY story, Morrow picked up this first novel by a two-time Bram Stoker Award winner on its own literary merits, not knowing that Hill is the pen name of Joe King, son of Stephen. This reviewer wishes he had had the same opportunity. It's impossible to read this wrenching and effective ghost story without seeing Hill's father in it-which is not to say that it's bad. It reads like good, early King mixed with some of the edgier splatterpunk sensibilities of David J. Schow (The Kill Riff). Aging death-metal guitarist Judas Coyne, who's obsessed with the macabre, is living peacefully in upstate New York when he buys a dead man's haunted suit from an online auction site. (It arrives in a heart-shaped box.) Soon he and young Goth girlfriend Georgia are pulled into battle with the ghostly old man and their own shattered pasts. Predictable at times, the book has genuinely touching emotional moments as well as action-packed confrontations with the dead. Morrow has a huge media push behind this book, and film rights have already been sold to Warner Brothers. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/06.]-Karl G. Siewert, Tulsa City-Cty. Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School
Hill, two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award for his short fiction, delivers a terrifyingly contemporary twist to the traditional ghost story with his first novel. Aging rock star Judas Coyne is a collector of bizarre and macabre artifacts: a used hangman's noose, a snuff film, and rare books on witchcraft. When he purchases a suit billed in an online auction as the haunted clothes of a recently deceased man, Coyne finds more than he bargained for. Everywhere he looks he sees the twisted spirit of an old and evil man following him and dangling a deadly razor on a chain. He learns that the suit belonged to Craddock McDermott, the stepfather of a former lover who committed suicide shortly after Coyne tossed her out of his life. McDermott, a professional hypnotist prior to his death, swore to destroy Coyne's rock-star life of self-indulgence to avenge her death. The behind-the-scenes look at stardom alongside the frightening pyrotechnics of McDermott's ghost will draw in teens who really enjoy a good scare. But like all good ghost stories, Hill also crafts a deftly plotted mystery as McDermott's true motivations and powers unfold. The depth of character hidden in the dark shadows of both men lifts what could otherwise be a formula supernatural thriller to an impressive debut.
—Matthew L. MoffettCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
A rock star buys a ghost who chases him from New York to Florida, blood spurting all the way. Jude Coyne, after a career in the darker reaches of the rock-music world, lives in upstate New York with Georgia, the latest in a succession of young pierced admirers he calls by the states of their birth. Georgia's predecessor, Florida, is at the heart of the troubles that arrive when Coyne answers an ad offering a ghost, something special to add to his collection of creepy items that includes a Mexican snuff film. The ghost inhabits a garish suit of clothes that arrives in a heart-shaped box, and the situation is a set-up. Knowing Coyne's taste for the weird, Florida's sister has inveigled him into buying the soul of her and Florida's stupendously evil stepfather, Craddock, a stinker who learned a lot of very bad magic as a soldier in Vietnam. The motive is the apparent suicide of Florida, who Coyne sent home after one too many bouts of depression. Craddock's ghost immediately gets into Coyne's head, urging him to murder Georgia and then commit suicide. Coyne resists, but the bad vibes are too much for his gay personal assistant, who flees the farm and hangs himself. Craddock persists in his attack on Coyne, using a ghostly truck as his assault vehicle. Lesser rock stars would have capitulated early on, but Georgia turns out to be full of spunk, and Coyne's German Shepherds are fierce protectors who the ghost greatly fears. To get rid of Craddock, Coyne figures he will have to go to Florida to find out just what did happen to make that ghost such an abusive spirit. Much will be made of the kinship of Hill and his superstar father, Stephen King, but Hill can stand on his own two feet. He's gothorror down pat, and his debut is hair-raising fun. Film rights to Warner Bros.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A fast-paced journey on wheels borrowed from hell’s used-car lot, and there aren’t a lot of comfort breaks...The pictures [Hill] painted colored my dreams and darkened my mood even after I’d put the book down.”
Bookseller (London)
“A relentlessly scary ghost story.”
The Observer
“You can’t go wrong with Heart-Shaped Box.” Top Five Fiction-Books of 2007
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061798306
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2000
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 8,916
  • File size: 672 KB

Meet the Author

Joe Hill

Joe Hill is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Horns, Heart-Shaped Box, and NOS4A2. He is also the Eisner Award-winning writer of a six-volume comic book series, Locke & Key.

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Read an Excerpt

Heart Shaped Box


By Joe Hill

William Morrow

Copyright © 2007 Joe Hill
All right reserved.




Chapter One

Jude had a private collection.

He had framed sketches of the Seven Dwarfs on the wall of his studio, in between his platinum records. John Wayne Gacy had drawn them while he was in jail and sent them to him. Gacy liked golden-age Disney almost as much as he liked molesting little kids; almost as much as he liked Jude's albums.

Jude had the skull of a peasant who had been trepanned in the sixteenth century, to let the demons out. He kept a collection of pens jammed into the hole in the center of the cranium.

He had a three-hundred-year-old confession, signed by a witch. "I did spake with a black dogge who sayd hee wouldst poison cows, drive horses mad and sicken children for me if I wouldst let him have my soule, and I sayd aye, and after did give him sucke at my breast." She was burned to death.

He had a stiff and worn noose that had been used to hang a man in England at the turn of the century, Aleister Crowley's childhood chessboard, and a snuff film. Of all the items in Jude's collection, this last was the thing he felt most uncomfortable about possessing. It had come to him by way of a police officer, a man who had worked security at some shows in L.A. The cop had said the video was diseased. He said it with some enthusiasm. Jude had watched it and felt that he was right. It was diseased. It had also, in an indirect way, helped hasten the end of Jude's marriage. Still he held onto it.

Many of the objectsin his private collection of the grotesque and the bizarre were gifts sent to him by his fans. It was rare for him to actually buy something for the collection himself. But when Danny Wooten, his personal assistant, told him there was a ghost for sale on the Internet, and asked did he want to buy it, Jude didn't even need to think. It was like going out to eat, hearing the special, and deciding you wanted it without even looking at the menu. Some impulses required no consideration.

Danny's office occupied a relatively new addition, extending from the northeastern end of Jude's rambling, 110-year-old farmhouse. With its climate control, OfficeMax furniture, and coffee-and-cream industrial carpet, the office was coolly impersonal, nothing at all like the rest of the house. It might have been a dentist's waiting room, if not for the concert posters in stainless-steel frames. One of them showed a jar crammed with staring eyeballs, bloody knots of nerves dangling from the backs of them. That was for the All Eyes On You tour.

No sooner had the addition been built than Jude had come to regret it. He had not wanted to drive forty minutes from Piecliff to a rented office in Poughkeepsie to see to his business, but that would've probably been preferable to having Danny Wooten right here at the house. Here Danny and Danny's work were too close. When Jude was in the kitchen, he could hear the phones ringing in there, both of the office lines going off at once sometimes, and the sound was maddening to him. He had not recorded an album in years, had hardly worked since Jerome and Dizzy had died (and the band with them), but still the phones rang and rang. He felt crowded by the steady parade of petitioners for his time, and by the never-ending accumulation of legal and professional demands, agreements and contracts, promotions and appearances, the work of Judas Coyne Incorporated, which was never done, always ongoing. When he was home, he wanted to be himself, not a trademark.

For the most part Danny stayed out of the rest of the house. Whatever his flaws, he was protective of Jude's private space. But Danny considered him fair game if Jude strayed into the office - something Jude did, without much pleasure, four or five times a day. Passing through the office was the fastest way to the barn and the dogs. He could've avoided Danny by going out through the front door and walking all the way around the house, but he refused to sneak around his own home just to avoid Danny Wooten.

Besides, it didn't seem possible Danny could always have something to bother him with. But he always did. And if he didn't have anything that demanded immediate attention, he wanted to talk. Danny was from Southern California originally, and there was no end to his talk. He would boast to total strangers about the benefits of wheatgrass, which included making your bowel movements as fragrant as a freshly mowed lawn. He was thirty years old but could talk skateboarding and PlayStation with the pizza-delivery kid like he was fourteen. Danny would get confessional with air-conditioner repairmen, tell them how his sister had OD'd on heroin in her teens and how as a young man he had been the one to find his mother's body after she killed herself. He was impossible to embarrass. He didn't know the meaning of shy.

Jude was coming back inside from feeding Angus and Bon and was halfway across Danny's field of fire - just beginning to think he might make it through the office unscathed - when Danny said, "Hey, Chief, check this out." Danny opened almost every demand for attention with just this line, a statement Jude had learned to dread and resent, a prelude to half an hour of wasted time, forms to fill out, faxes to look at. Then Danny told him someone was selling a ghost, and Jude forgot all about begrudging him. He walked around the desk so he could look over Danny's shoulder at his computer screen.

Danny had discovered the ghost at an online auction site, not eBay but one of the wannabes. Jude moved his gaze over the item description while Danny read aloud. Danny would've cut his food for him if Jude gave him the chance. He had a streak of subservience that Jude found, frankly, revolting in a man.

"'Buy my stepfather's ghost,'" Danny read. "'Six weeks ago my elderly stepfather died, very suddenly. He was staying with us at the time. He had no home of his own and traveled from relative to relative, visiting for a month or two before moving on. Everyone was shocked by his passing, especially my daughter, who was very close to him. No one would've thought. He was active to the end of his life. Never sat in front of the TV. Drank a glass of orange juice every day. Had all his own teeth.'"

"This is a fuckin' joke," Jude said.

"I don't think so," Danny said. He went on: "'Two days after his funeral, my little girl saw him sitting in the guest room, which is directly across from her own bedroom. After she saw him, my girl didn't like to be alone in her room anymore, or even to go upstairs. I told her that her grandfather wouldn't ever hurt her, but she said she was scared of his eyes. She said they were all black scribbles and they weren't for seeing anymore. So she has been sleeping with me ever since.

"'At first I thought it was just a scary story she was telling herself, but there is more to it than that. The guest room is cold all the time. I poked around in there and noticed it was worst in the closet, where his Sunday suit was hung up. He wanted to be buried in that suit, but when we tried it on him at the funeral home, it didn't look right. People shrink up a little after they die. The water in them dries up. His best suit was too big for him, so we let the funeral home talk us into buying one of theirs. I don't know why I listened.

"'The other night I woke up and heard my stepfather walking around overhead. The bed in his room won't stay made, and the door opens and slams shut at all hours. The cat won't go upstairs either, and sometimes she sits at the bottom of the steps looking at things I can't see. She stares awhile, then gives a yowl like her tail got stepped on and runs away.

"'My stepfather was a lifelong spiritualist, and I believe he is only here to teach my daughter that death is not the end. But she is eleven and needs a normal life and to sleep in her own room, not in mine. The only thing I can think is to try and find Pop another home, and the world is full of people who want to believe in the afterlife. Well, I have your proof right here.

"'I will "sell" my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder. Of course a soul cannot really be sold, but I believe he will come to your home and abide with you if you put out the welcome mat. As I said, when he died, he was with us temporarily and had no place to call his own, so I am sure he would go to where he was wanted. Do not think this is a stunt or a practical joke and that I will take your money and send you nothing. The winning bidder will have something solid to show for their investment. I will send you his Sunday suit. I believe if his spirit is attached to anything, it has to be that.

"'It is a very nice old-fashioned suit made by Great Western Tailoring. It has a fine silver pinstripe,' blah-blah, 'satin lining,' blah-blah...." Danny stopped reading and pointed at the screen. "Check out the measurements, Chief. It's just your size. High bid is eighty bucks. If you want to own a ghost, looks like he could be yours for a hundred."

"Let's buy it," Jude said.

"Seriously? Put in a bid for a hundred dollars?"

Jude narrowed his eyes, peering at something on the screen, just below the item description, a button that said YOURS NOW: $1,000. And beneath that: Click to Buy and End Auction Immediately! He put his finger on it, tapping the glass.

"Let's just make it a grand and seal the deal," he said.

Danny rotated in his chair. He grinned, and raised his eyebrows. Danny had high, arched, Jack Nicholson eyebrows, which he used to great effect. Maybe he expected an explanation, but Jude wasn't sure he could've explained, even to himself, why it seemed reasonable to pay a thousand dollars for an old suit that probably wasn't worth a fifth of that. Later he thought it might be good publicity: Judas Coyne buys a poltergeist. The fans ate up stories like that. But that was later. Right then, in the moment, he just knew he wanted to be the one who bought the ghost.

Jude started on, thinking he would head upstairs to see if Georgia was dressed yet. He had told her to put on her clothes half an hour ago but expected to find her still in bed. He had the sense she planned to stay there until she got the fight she was looking for. She'd be sitting in her underwear, carefully painting her toenails black. Or she'd have her laptop open, surfing Goth accessories, looking for the perfect stud to poke through her tongue, like she needed anymore goddam ... And then the thought of surfing the Web caused Jude to hold up, wondering something. He glanced back at Danny.

"How'd you come across that anyway?" he asked, nodding at the computer.

"We got an e-mail about it."

"From who?"

"From the auction site. They sent us an e-mail that said 'We notice you've bought items like this before, and thought you'd be interested.'"

"We've bought items like this before?"

"Occult items, I assume."

"I've never bought anything off that site."

"Maybe you did and just don't remember. Maybe I bought something for you."

Jude said, "Fuckin' acid. I had a good memory once. I was in the chess club in junior high."

"You were? That's a hell of a thought."

"What? The idea that I was in the chess club?"

"I guess. It seems so ... geeky."

"Yeah. But I used severed fingers for pieces."

Danny laughed - a little too hard, convulsing himself and wiping imaginary tears from the corners of his eyes. The sycophantic little suck-ass.

Chapter Two

The suit came early Saturday morning. Jude was up and outside with the dogs.

Angus lunged as soon as the UPS truck ground to a halt, and the leash was yanked out of Jude's hand. Angus leaped against the side of the parked truck, spit flying, paws scuffling furiously against the driver's-side door. The driver remained behind the wheel, peering down at him with the calm but intent expression of a doctor considering a new strain of Ebola through a microscope. Jude caught the leash and pulled on it, harder than he meant to. Angus sprawled on his side in the dirt, then twisted and sprang back up, snarling. By now Bon was in on the act, straining at the end of her leash, which Jude held in his other hand, and yapping with a shrillness that hurt his head.

Because it was too far to haul them all the way back to the barn and their pen, Jude dragged them across the yard and up to the front porch, both of them fighting him the whole time. He shoveled them in through the front door and slammed it behind them. Immediately, they set to flinging themselves against it, barking hysterically. The door shuddered as they slammed into it. Fucking dogs.

Jude shuffled back down into the driveway, and reached the UPS truck just as the rear door slid open with a steely clatter. The deliveryman stood inside. He hopped down, holding a long, flat box under his arm.

"Ozzy Osbourne has Pomeranians," the UPS guy said. "I saw them on TV. Cute little dogs like house cats. You ever think about getting a couple cute little dogs like that?"

Jude took the box without a word and went inside.

He brought the box through the house and into the kitchen. He put it on the counter and poured coffee. Jude was an early riser by instinct and conditioning. When he was on the road, or recording, he had become accustomed to rolling into bed at five in the morning and sleeping through most of the daylight hours, but staying up all night had never come naturally. On the road, he would wake at four in the afternoon, bad-tempered and headachy, confused about where the time had gone. Everyone he knew would seem to him clever imposters, unfeeling aliens wearing rubber skin and the faces of friends. It took a liberal quantity of alcohol to make them seem like themselves again.

Only it had been three years since he'd last gone on tour. He didn't have much interest in drinking when he was home, and was ready for bed most nights by nine. At the age of fifty-four, he had settled back into the rhythms that had guided him since his name was Justin Cowzynski and he was a boy on his father's hog farm. The illiterate son of a bitch would have dragged him out of bed by the hair if he'd found him in it when the sun came up. It was a childhood of mud, barking dogs, barbed wire, dilapidated farm buildings, squealing pigs with their flaking skin and squashed-in faces, and little human contact, beyond a mother who sat most of the day at the kitchen table wearing the slack, staring aspect of someone who had been lobotomized, and his father, who ruled their acres of pig shit and ruin with his angry laughter and his fists.

So Jude had been up for several hours already but had not eaten breakfast yet, and he was frying bacon when Georgia wandered into the kitchen. She was dressed only in a pair of black panties, her arms folded across her small, white, pierced breasts, her black hair floating around her head in a soft, tangly nest. Her name wasn't really Georgia. It wasn't Morphine either, although she had stripped under that name for two years. Her name was Marybeth Kimball, a handle so simple, so plain, she'd laughed when she first told him, as if it embarrassed her.

Jude had worked his way through a collection of Goth girlfriends who stripped, or told fortunes, or stripped and told fortunes, pretty girls who wore ankhs and black fingernail polish, and whom he always called by their state of origin, a habit few of them cared for, because they didn't like to be reminded of the person they were trying to erase with all their living-dead make-up. She was twenty-three.

"Goddam stupid dogs," she said, shoving one of them out of her way with her heel. They were whisking around Jude's legs, excited by the perfume of the bacon. "Woke me the fuck up."

"Maybe it was time to get the fuck up. Ever think?" She never rose before ten if she could help it.

She bent into the fridge for the orange juice. He enjoyed the view, the way the straps of her underwear cut into the almost-too-white cheeks of her ass, but he looked away while she drank from the carton. She left it on the counter, too. It would spoil there if he didn't put it away for her.

He was glad for the adoration of the Goths. He appreciated the sex even more, their limber, athletic, tattooed bodies and eagerness for kink. But he had been married once, to a woman who used a glass and put things away when she was done, who read the paper in the morning, and he missed their talk. It was grown-up talk. She hadn't been a stripper. She didn't believe in fortune-telling. It was grown-up companionship.

Georgia used a steak knife to slice open the UPS box, then left the knife on the counter, with tape stuck to it.

"What's this?" she asked.

A second box was contained within the first. It was a tight fit, and Georgia had to tug for a while to slide the inner box out onto the counter. It was large, and shiny, and black, and it was shaped like a heart. Candies sometimes came in boxes like that, although this was much too big for candies, and candy boxes were pink or sometimes yellow. A lingerie box, then - except he hadn't ordered anything of the kind for her. He frowned. He didn't have any idea what might be in it, and at the same time felt somehow he should know, that the heart-shaped box contained something he'd been expecting.

"Is this for me?" she asked.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill Copyright © 2007 by Joe Hill. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Joe HillQ: What do you make of the popularity of the ghost story across cultures and through time?Ghost stories are an instrument for thinking about death, for looking at the big question, what happens when we die? At bottom, every interesting work of fiction is an investigation into life's most basic questions, like why do two very different people sometimes fall in love, or why do terrible things sometimes happen to good people. Stories operate as thought experiments, and we use them to safely explore the kinds of feelings and situations we'd rather avoid in real life.How many stories begin with the death of a loved one? Must be thousands. Most of us feel ill even thinking about the people we love dying, but it's going to happen someday, and stories give us a chance to prepare for how that's going to feel. Not very far into Heart-Shaped Box, my protagonist, Jude, an aging rock star, learns about the death of someone who once mattered to him, very much. And as the story goes along, Jude is forced to revisit other losses, such as the deaths of beloved bandmates, and the slow, unhappy, dwindling-out of his mother. The reader gets to piggyback on Jude's emotions, and maybe learn something about their own in the process. Also, fear is a little bit of a rush. If it wasn't, there wouldn't be any money in rollercoaster rides. They offer a hard, exciting jolt to the system, just the thing to kick the end-of-the-day, back-from-work-and-there's-nothing-on-TV doldrums.Q: Who's the hero of this story? Jude and his girlfriend Georgia both get their heroic moments, although at first blush neither one really comes off as the heroic type. Jude is a burned-out, nihilistic rock star, in his fifties. He's cruel to the people who love him. He's tired of music. He occupies himself with his dogs and his sick collection of occult artifacts: Aleister Crowley's childhood chessboard, an authentic witch's confession. Georgia is spoiled and selfish and doesn't think much about the consequences of her actions.But one of the things I love in fiction is a good reversal. There's more to Jude and Georgia than first appears, more to them than anger and self-involvement. There's a hidden decency too, and deep reservoirs of courage and humor. Heart-Shaped Box is, at least in part, a mystery, only the question isn't whodunit, but whoarethey?To answer the question, though, if I had to pick a clear, definite hero in this story -- well, I'd have to pick two: Angus and Bon, Jude's dogs. The book features some pretty raw scenes of dog-on-man combat. Not to mention some dog-on-ghost combat. Heart-Shaped Box is really a very straightforward horror-chase tale, mixed with Marley and Me. If it wasn't too late, I might want to retitle it The Texas Marley Massacre.Q: Do you have dogs yourself, and what's your relationship to them? I have one dog. My relationship to her is I feed her, and she pees on things and gets into the garbage. If a deadly ghost comes hunting for me, and she's my last line of defense, I'm in trouble. The dogs in Heart-Shaped Box are wish-fulfillment pets. Q: You seem to know a lot about classic muscle cars, the private lives of rock and roll stars, and the south. What's your approach to research?I try not approach it. As a rule, I make an effort not to do any, unless I absolutely must. But if research is necessary, I try and prepare for the big exam by doing all the necessary reading, like any good student. And because reading a few books is no replacement for real-life experience, I'll run the story by a few experts on whatever the subject is, and make sure I got it right. Recently I wrote a short story featuring a young woman who served in Iraq. I read the hell out of the subject before I wrote the story, but more important, I turned to some veterans of the war, to make sure I represented the experience as accurately as possible. On the subject of hard rock, which figures prominently in Heart-Shaped Box, that's an area I began researching when I was about fourteen. We're talking years of intensive study here.Q: What role does music play in the book?One of the things Heart-Shaped Box is about is the way that a certain kind of very unhappy person will use loud, angry music as a way to armor himself against the world's sharp edges. Jude has used his music as a kind of armor for most of his life. Also, sometimes as a bludgeon.I'm always wondering why people care so much about art, about books and movies and music. We're a culture just drowning in our own entertainment and it seems everyone is passionate about some form of artistic expression: a particularly funny sitcom, a comic book, a certain CD. But what's it for? And so Heart-Shaped Box, and a bunch of my short stories, are at least in part about art itself, and how sometimes it can be a tool, and sometimes it can be a weapon, and sometimes it can be a low-grade pain reliever. Like Excedrin, without the bitter aftertaste. Q: You've won some awards for your short fiction. What's the difference between short fiction and novel-length work? Well, Heart-Shaped Box is really my second book. My first was a collection of stories, 20th Century Ghosts. It was published as a limited edition in England, although I'm happy to say that William Morrow has plans to rerelease the book over here in the States, sometime down the road.The short stories in 20th Century Ghosts taught me how to write the novel. For a lot of writers -- well, for me, anyway -- the short story is a workshop, a place to try new ideas, take chances, and sharpen the tools of the craft. A novel requires a tremendous investment of time and emotional energy. If you write a bad one, you don't get to have those two years of your life back. So a short story is a good place to test-drive riskier concepts.While writing Heart-Shaped Box, I always felt very sure of where I was going. I had written all these other ghost stories, and stories of suspense, working on the tales that went into 20th Century Ghosts, and I was confident that I knew what I was doing, when I began to mess with those elements on a larger scale.Q: What were the influences on the writing of this book?I had a head full of Charles Portis's True Grit while I was working on Heart-Shaped Box. They're very different stories, but there's a similarity to the underlying architecture. True Grit is about a fourteen-year-old girl named Mattie Ross, who in the 1870s sets off to find and kill the man who murdered her father; to help her she hires Rooster Cogburn, a bad-tempered, trigger-happy federal marshal and a drunk. And the story maps both their search for the killer, and the slow, cautious development of their friendship. Heart-Shaped Box is very different stuff, but it's also a road story, and also about two difficult, hard-edged people -- Jude and his girlfriend Georgia -- gradually coming to care for one another.A less obvious influence was the Swamp Thing stories of Alan Moore. Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing collected a batch of supernatural tales easily as impressive as Clive Barker's Books of Blood. My version of the South in Heart-Shaped Box isn't the real South -- it's Alan Moore's twisted reimagined South, something I referred to when I named Jude's hometown Moore's Corner. Q: The story is dominated by Craddock McDermott, the ghost Jude buys on the Internet and who then pursues Jude across three-hundred odd pages. But there are some other ghosts that wander through the book. Why did you bring in so many other haunts?Ghosts are a sturdy metaphor for the way the past keeps impinging on the present. Before Judas Coyne was a million-dollar heavy metal musician, he was Justin Cowzynski, a lonely, miserable country boy with no prospects and no future. But at nineteen he climbed on a bus for New York City, left Louisiana and a tortured childhood behind, and when he stepped off the Greyhound forty hours later, he had invented this whole new persona for himself, and a rock star name to go with it. And so the story is in part an investigation of whether you can really make such a clean break with your past. Jude has spent his whole life walking away from the things he can't bear to deal with anymore. He walked away from a marriage. He walked away from an important relationship with a girl named Anna, who later kills herself. His closest friends are all dead, something else he doesn't want to think about. Jude is already a haunted man, even before he buys the ghost online. And all these spirits keep rising up around him. That's the power of the ghost story. The dead won't stay dead. Like the man said, not only is the past never over, it isn't even past.Q: What are you working on now?As a rule, I try and stay away from saying too much about works in progress. It's something of a superstition with me. Bad things seem to happen when I talk about unfinished work. But I've got a pair of new novels, one a dark fantasy for younger folks, and one a psychological thriller for grown-ups, both in various stages of completion. And I've been chipping away at a few short stories as well.Q: Do you believe in ghosts?Sometimes yes, sometimes no, how's that for an unsatisfying answer? I don't believe in them at noon. I'm a little less sure at one in the morning.
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 468 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Creepy Cool

    I heard a lot of people raving about this book and the "rental line" was too long, so I decided to buy it and find out what others liked about it.<BR/><BR/>Ghosts...check<BR/>Creepy...check<BR/>Left me feeling a little uneasy in the dark...check<BR/>Made me appreciate contemporaries again...check<BR/><BR/>Great story, real characters and I liked that the main character was not the typical young, hot-blooded male. He's mature and has been through and has seen a lot of crap during his time. I didn't like him at first, but he grew on me and in the end, I loved him.<BR/><BR/>The book draws you in and keeps you on the edge the entire length of the book with its twists and turns. It's graphic, but endearing at the same time.<BR/><BR/>This is a keeper.

    27 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Who Knew?

    Who knew that "horror-genes" exist? Obviously, Stephen King's son got HIS share!...lol! It's been a long time since a book has impressed me to the extent where I STILL get shivers--months after resding the book--when I think about it! Bravo! I'll look forward to many more!

    19 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2011

    Not for the easily frightened

    I have never read a book that literally made me scared to be alone. This is the one. It's a great read that keeps you wondering what is next. I couldn't put it down but I was scared to pick it up at night..Great book.

    17 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Best Debut Novel I Have Ever Read!!!!!

    Joe Hill has crept into my house and made me turn on my lights to check for ghosts. This novel will make one think twice about antiques. The main character Jude is a death metal rocker with a sick twist on colletibles. He collects aynything to do with death and the occult, he even has a snuff film in his collection. So when he comes across a chance at buying a ghost online he doesn't think twice about it. This purchase may just cost him more than money, it may just cost him his life. <BR/><BR/>This novel was so good that I had to check twice to make sure that it was his first one. This book was phenomenal and it reminded me of someone else. As I was looking up the author I found out that he comes from a distinguished family. He is the son of Stephen and Tabitha King, they obviously know a little bit about writing. <BR/><BR/>This novel kept me reading well into the night, at the expense of my own fears. The way that he uses shorter chapters with a long one interspersed in between makes it seem like you have read for an hour when it has been four. The characters seem believeable and it is easy to start to believe that you are reading a biography instead of a fiction novel. <BR/><BR/>I would recommend this book to anyone who likes horror, suspense, or just a good book to read. Stephen King fans will be happy with this book, it made me think back to his older books and want to go back and re-read them. Next on my list is to pick up Joe Hill's new book, 20th Century Ghosts. Pick up your copy today, just read it with the lights on.

    13 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2008

    A Powerful First for a Writer to be Reckoned With

    Joe Hill has successfully planted his writer's flag in the world of fiction with this incredible debut novel. He launches his story using a classic horror device - a haunted object, and then obliterates all cliches and standards where the genre is concerned. His story was thrilling, terrifying, and beyond comparison. It's rare to read an author who can create such originality using such a common theme.

    13 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Protagonist: Judas Coyne is one of those selfish characters who

    Protagonist: Judas Coyne is one of those selfish characters who you are supposed to dislike at first but come to love in the end when me becomes more selfless. A good job is done with his character, but this guy is nowhere near John Edward Marinville from Stephen King’s Desperation, or Darrell form The Walking Dear, or Sawyer from Lost. He is a whole character who acts according to the way he was drawn up.

    Antagonist
    The bad guy is a ghost, Craddock McDermott. Though this character is mostly well thought out, it would had been better if the author would have gone more into how his hypnotic methods work. Dean Koontz has a few novels where the bad guys use hypnotism, and their methods are spelled out very well, really making the reading thing. Hill doesn’t really do this as much as just saying that his character has methods that work.

    Storyline and writing: The story did drag in placed, especially at the beginning. In general the theme of the book is a good idea. It could have been a lot shorter, though. 

    Overall
    There are flashes of a good writer here. I would read him again, to see if he’s gotten better. But overall, I didn’t think this was a really good book. 

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Don't believe the hype

    Joe Hill is being touted as America's next major horror writer. If this is the best American writers can do, I'll stick with the British authors I love (e.g., Neil Gaiman, Jonathan L. Howard, Mark Hodder), thank you very much.

    "Heart-Shaped Box" revolves around an aging heavy metal rocker (Judas Coyne--not too cliche, huh?) with a penchant for collecting weird or macabre items. One day his personal assistant finds an Internet auction for a ghost--yup, a ghost. Naturally Coyne is intrigued by the auction and snaps up the ghost. A week or so later, the titular heart-shaped box shows up at his door. It contains a suit--the very suit the "ghost" had wanted to be buried in but wasn't, due to his stepdaughter's switch to a cheaper "burial suit."

    Coyne starts seeing a ghost wearing the suit. Turns out the guy had two stepdaughters, and one was a girl Coyne had lived with.

    To cut to the chase, the ghost blames Coyne for his younger stepdaughter's suicide. Getting Coyne to buy his ghost by setting up an online auction was his surviving stepdaughter's idea, so that the ghost would in essence "belong" to Coyne and would thereby have access to him. What follows this revelation involves an ill-conceived road trip, unnecessary deaths, more "startling" revelations about family grudges, and a conclusion that is barely satisfying.

    Hill's "hipper than thou" language is annoying in the extreme. All Southerners sound like uneducated, foul-mouthed hicks. (The South, by the way, seems to be the root of all evil in Hill's universe. There isn't a sin or unsavory behavior that isn't practiced almost exclusively by Southerners. Way too simplistic a view for my tastes.) The characters are two-dimensional cliches: jaded rock star; dirt-poor Southern girl who sleeps her way to a comfortable life; semiliterate, fanatically "religious," crazy rednecks...you get the idea. The only characters who arouse sympathy in the reader are the dogs--and boy, do they suffer for their nobility.

    I had my suspicions that I wouldn't like this book due to a relationship the author has with an older, more famous American horror writer. But I set my reservations aside because I read so many reviews stating that this book was terrifying, one of the most frightening books the reviewer had ever read, and so forth. Apparently here in the USA the only thing you need to achieve success and lavish (unwarranted) praise is a famous relative.

    As I stated in the beginning of this review, I'll stick with my British authors, for whom "originality" isn't an alien concept.

    8 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 25, 2008

    The Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

    Really scarey! I gave it to a friend to read and she gave it back a few days later saying she was afraid to continue. I enjoyed it.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Horror fans will believe in ghosts at least in Joe Hill novels

    Rock star Judas Coyne loves collecting gruesome macabre junk. He always checks E-Bay and other on-line sites to see if any collectibles are for sale. He recently purchased a suit at an online auction in which the seller claims the attire is haunted by the ghost of the dead owner.--------------- Judas thinks of five degrees of separation when he learns who the ghostly owner of the suit is apparently his new possession belonged to the late Craddock McDermott, the stepfather of a superfluous groupie he tossed aside before she committed suicide over being coldly discarded by the famous rocker. Craddock vowed revenge when he was alive but had to wait for death to complete his quest as his spirit plans to kill Judas.---------------- The dueling lead characters make this a fascinating psychological ghost story as nothing is quite like it seems. Readers will start off thinking Judas is a cold hedonist and Craddock is kindhearted stepfather who cannot rest until he obtains an eye for an eye. However, agendas and deeper motives surface during the exciting story line that will have the audience stunned. Horror fans will believe in ghosts at least in Joe Hill novels.---------- Harriet Klausner

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2008

    I was rooting for the ghost!

    I didn't really care what happened to the main charactar, who had no redeeming qualities that I could see.

    5 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2008

    Didn't care!!

    After forcing myself to finish this book, I discovered I didn't care about the characters, and felt like I was reading a script for a generic horror movie. It was almost as if Joe Hill wrote this book hoping it would become a movie. BORING!

    4 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2012

    A Must Read

    If you are a Stephen King fan, especially "classic" King, you must read his son Joe Hill! Excellent book, couldn't put it down. Looking forward to reading everything else he has written!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Started VERY strong...and then dwindled

    This novel started off wonderfully, with a very creepy, original ghost story with genuinely scary sequences, but then lost it's steam rapidly due to a plotline surrounding the ghost's motivation and backstory

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Tightly-written, spooky page-turner.

    I couldn't help thinking while reading this novel that it's a book Stephen King might produce if anybody had the nerve to edit his manuscripts these days. Lean writing, nicely spooky scenes and explicit about the necessity of dog ownership should you choose to tangle with a vengeful ghost. Didn't put it down for about six hours.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Scary stuff!

    I usually don't read "horror" stories, but noticed all the good reviews. Characters were extremely well-developed; I felt like I knew them each personally. Definitely a book to read during the day, in the light.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2012

    What!

    I cant believe this is in the teen section, so not for younger teens

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2008

    Great So Far!

    I'm reading Heart-Shaped Box right now and I can barely put it down! I love it! I love the characters, Jude, Danny, and Marybeth (Georgia)! Joe Hill is amazing!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    EXCELLENT!!! JOE HILL BRINGS A NEW HIT TO THE TABLE!!!

    Joe Hill, like many of you know, is the horror novelist's Stephen King's son. But just because "Heart Shaped Box" is a "horror" novel, let there be no stereotyping. Joe Hill has a completely different writing style than his father. In fact, (and this is in my own opinion) Joe Hill writes a little better than his dad. But regardless, "Heart Shaped Box" was an EXCELLENT read, and makes me wanting more. I am really looking forward to this young novelists next thrill ride of a novel.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2014

    Joe Hill¿s first novel is an enjoyable enough¿if at times uneven

    Joe Hill’s first novel is an enjoyable enough—if at times uneven—diversion. He builds upon a clever premise (What would happen if you bought a ghost on the Internet?) and fashions a tale about an aging rocker—Jude, the main character—who achieves redemption by avenging the evil misdeeds of the ghost he “buys.”


    The tale features many aspects of the classic hero myth, with Jude as our unlikely champion. When he is first visited by the ghost, he is reluctant to battle it but eventually embarks upon a journey in order to defeat it. That journey outward leads him home and is, of course, actually a journey inward, for—by redeeming the evil misdeeds of the ghost—he ultimately redeems himself. He encounters damsels in distress and receives supernatural assistance via the spirit animals of his two pet dogs (Angus and Bon—yes, references to AC/DC). There’s even an element of the Oedipus myth thrown in for good measure.


    In all, “Heart-Shaped Box” is a fun read and eclipses the by-the-numbers formula of many a ghost story. My hope is that this novel is a mere appetizer for heartier subsequent novels.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    Block out a couple of days for this one!

    This was my first Joe Hill experience and I was beyond impressed! He had me jumping and clinging to the book, then sighing with relief. Then I was back to gasping, hunched over the book waiting with anticipation. What a nail biter! An amazing read by an amazing author. Way to go, Joe!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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