Joe Hill

Strange Weather by Joe Hill

William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 195 Broadway, New York, New York 10007;

Joe Hill knocks a home run out of the park with all bases loaded with Strange Weather, 4 novellas that will twist your mind and make your heart skip two beats a minute.

Strange Weather it is, with a major eclipse crossing the United States, an insane clown president with glowing eyes and a mouth that twitters faster than his brain, if he’s got one.

When there is a book of novellas, there is always one that strikes me as my favorite. My rainbow twist of the four is Loaded, about a mall security guard named Randall Kellaway back from the war in the Mid-East, not having served with honors for sure. He is crazy about guns but is far from being a true gunslinger (he lacks honor).

Kellaway isn’t allowed to have guns but he has plenty. And so does the disgruntled employee from the jewelry store that comes to take her revenge with a fancy revolver. She discovered her boss flashing her sex over the Internet and pulled the trigger.

Kellaway comes in with his illegal piece, sees a Muslim woman with something clutched to her chest and everything goes wrong. A witness sees everything and then it all goes black.

There’s a story behind everything that goes wrong in Loaded but that’s Joe Hill’s job. And he does it with finesse. His dad, Stephen King, has created a true gunslinger in Joe and he’ll never forget the face of his father; never be sent west. (Reference to The Dark Tower by Stephen King).

In another story called Aloft there’s a gent named Aubrey Griffin, frightened of heights, who agrees to a sky jump in honor of a dead friend. However, it all goes wrong because there’s a cloud that is alive and it won’t let him pass.

I’ll say no more than Joe Hill has his guns out and they are blazing throughout the length of this novella. Clouds are only supposed to bring Rain, which is the name of the final novella.

The rain that fell was sharp and solid and as deadly as Joe Hill’s words. Truthfully, Joe’s words are as deadly as the bullets that fly from a gunslinger’s heavy gun. Strange Weather is a collection of four stories that will truly keep you awake and realizing that Stephen King’s apple has not fallen far from the tree. In one of the stories a strange man carries a Polaroid camera that takes pictures and makes people forget. Joe Hill has here captured the imagination of his avid readers. He really does quite an excellent job on these novellas, as well as on his other short stories and novels.

Joe Hill’s first book was a book of short stories called 20th Century Ghosts; then he moved quickly to A Heart-Shaped Box, where a man who has played hard (like Ozzie Osbourn) buys a suit that travels with a deadly ghost that plays with a sharp silver blade. A Heart-Shaped Box would make a wonderful movie but it just hasn’t been done yet. Hopefully a good director will pick it up.

His other three novels are Horns, Nos4a2 and The Fireman. He blows the hole out of the bulls-eye on every single book. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his graphic novel by the name of Locke & Key, a book about keys that open doors to other realities and the family that is both blessed and cursed by them.

One other novella that Joe Hill wrote while he was traveling to a writer’s convention in 2006 is named Gunpowder, and is about teenagers with special talents who live on another planet. It is a powerful story in a hardcover all by itself in 3 forms. All three are hardcovers, one has no dust jacket, one does have a dust jacket, and the third is the deluxe edition with a dust jacket and slipcase. The first is a regular trade, the second is signed and numbered by Joe Hill, and the third is signed and numbered by Joe Hill and the artist Gabriel Rodriguez. They are all wonderful and rare.

There is a rumor that Joe is going to lengthen Gunpowder to a full-length novel and this would be great. But right now I highly recommend you buy a copy of Strange Weather. It will be released on October 24th but you can pre-order a signed copy on the Internet from Waterstreet books. It’s so good I just read Loaded for the second time.

I haven’t yet read anything by Stephen King’s other son, Owen. But I’m hoping that he’ll be just as exciting as the rest of the writing family. His new book, Sleeping Beauties, which Owen co-wrote with his father, will be released at the end of September.

These are the days of Strange Weather, which will follow the eclipse. Joe Hill is one of the great writers of these days.

The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman by Joe Hill—to be published by William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers—May, 2016

“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

Once the fire starts it’s nothing but trouble. You can spell trouble D-E-A-T-H! It really does take a Fireman to put out a fire. It also takes a nurse, one with true compassion, not faked; the children see right through faked compassion, to ease them when they’re sick.

Harper Grayson was a nurse and she worked at a school. Worked, as in once did, while the schools were still open.

Then she worked at a hospital where she could do some good, not in the way most nurses do some good but, spit spot, on the double, a diagnosis of the situation. Keeps the Fireman safe, or is it safety first for the burning pain of an appendix inside inflammation but it hasn’t burst yet.

When the burning starts, it’s a good thing to have someone owe you a favour, someone who understands what a fire hose is for.

Then, in a hospital in New Hampshire, there was a Black person named Renee Gilmonton, one of the patients accustomed to be stared at, cause how many children growing up in New Hampshire saw anyone of colour? And if you run toward somebody bursting into flames, well, that was just crazy, no? But Renee was like coal anyway and fire wasn’t going to make her any darker, was it?

Renee had a book store before the dragon scale sparkled her neck, never made much money but they had hellava poetry slams there every week. She loved books and, with her, brought the book called The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Harper asked her why she brought such a short book about a tragedy just waiting to happen and Renee might have said, “Well you’re not going to want to start to read The Stand, the long version, when you might never get a chance to finish it. And we’re all on The Bridge right now anyway.” But that’s not precisely what she said, is it?

And while we’re talking about Renee, Black as coal, we could talk about the video of her, when she was reading to one of the children the child felt her get really warm and jumped away as Renee started to glow, grabbed her mint plant she came in with and started running for the exit. The video shows the whole thing while she was running out of the hospital, glowing, glowing, with eyes like death rays but the video didn’t show anything after she left the hospital and I’m not going to tell you what they found.

Harper’s not working at the hospital anymore and that doesn’t mean she’s one of the lucky ones but she could be; you can’t work at a place that blazed away, can you?

Joe Hill wrote this book, called The Fireman; that’s what I’m really talking about and when Joe writes his words take flight like musical notes with wings. It doesn’t matter if the edges of the wings are singed by flame, those words fly and they have a song of their own.

He’s special, that guy Joe Hillstrom King; that was his name once, and on his birth certificate that’s still his name. But he was a caterpillar then and he spun a cocoon and when the cocoon split open he was a bird that spoke words as beautiful as butterfly wings. Sometimes the words caught fire and that’s when the lucky reader; I say lucky reader because if you are reading one of his books or stories, you are a lucky reader alive in another world; the world that Joe Hill built—or burned, whichever you like, or maybe don’t like, but you’ll love it. This book, The Fireman is Joe’s longest book yet and that’s actually a good thing because it’s one of those books you never want to end. If you are a true reader, you know exactly what I mean.

Now Harper Grayson, in the shower, suddenly sees the Dragonscale on her body. Who wouldn’t forget to turn the shower off at a time like this? Her husband, Jakob, looks at her body and only thinks about himself. But didn’t he call her babygirl all the time? Ahh, relationships!

All that time in the hospital working, working, working, covered in Tyvek to keep out the Dragonscale, running for your life as the hospital burns, but now, pregnant and with the shower water running, her husband burns her with cold eyes. There are many people who opt out; that means suicide; that’s the nice way of saying it. Joe Hill can say it many ways; his words dance on the page and your eyes are kissed by the Dragonscale. By the way, have you examined your body yet?

Oh, but this is only a book; it’s not real. That’s the skill, the gift that Joe Hill has. He makes it real.

When you read The Fireman you will develop a relationship with Joe Hill that won’t exactly make you all warm and fuzzy, but you may burst into flame. It’s not always easy to find a Fireman when you need one.

Sometimes, in your relationships, things get strange. Like when Jakob finds out about Harper’s Dragonscale and begins to think. That’s when Harper finds out what kind of relationship she has always had with Jakob; things are not what they seem to be.

Then there are the Quarantine Patrol. There are always people who have dreamt of becoming dragon-slayers—and now they have their chance. But who are the real dragons; the people with the guns or the people with Dragonscale? And where is The Fireman when you need him?

Quite possibly in the back of the house, one would guess. And then there is Renee, running from the hospital but leaving not a trace. A crazed husband with a flapping bleeding cheek and a gun firing every which way but gun control is being able to hit your target. That’s not quite what is meant when people talk about gun control, is it?

Did you ever have a friend that turns up just when you need him? Well, The Fireman is like that; always rising just like the Phoenix. Sometimes you need a firebird to get you away from an abusive husband; any battered wife would tell you that’s true.

The book by the name of The Fireman keeps language aflame. There are a number of places to buy this wonderful book when it comes out and if you are lucky, you might get one signed by Joe Hill. Is this his best book yet? His dad, Stephen King, must be very proud. Joe’s dad is Shining! Joe Hill has given birth to a child that loves the flames. And there’s more books to come.

There was a game that they played at the King house where all the writers grew up together. There was a book on the table that had an ongoing story and the goal of every member of the family was to leave a cliffhanger that was extremely challenging for the next person to enter the kitchen. That may very well be where The Fireman came from. Ask Joe the next time he does a book reading and signing. You might be lucky and hear the truth. It’s in each of his books.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Like father, like son, some people say. Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. As a matter of fact, this apple is sweeter if you like your books tinged with tales of horror and love. Joe Hill slips you quickly into his world like slipping a noose around your neck while you are eating a lollipop, then, before you know it, the rope is tight and your feet are off the floor.

Joe Hill doesn’t just do this with his new book NOS4A2, but all of his books, The Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, his novellas—Gunpowder and Thumbprints, do exactly the same thing. What is nice about them is, each book does it differently and Hill doesn’t waste a word. You might say, like one of the lead characters in NOS4A2, Charles Talent Manx, that Joe Hill has a talent for it himself.

When Charles Manx first appears, an old man who seems to be in a coma, one gets a taste of what evil is truly about in three pages. How does this happen? Well, Manx just opens his eyes and talks to his nurse, Ellen Thornton, and a few words are enough to spiral her to hell.

Charles Talent Manx drives a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, with the license plate NOS4A2, right into and out of a place called Christmasland. Christmasland! Sounds like a place any child would want to go to have fun, but wait. Obviously, there’s more to it than that, of course, of course.

In this delicate tale of terror, there is a little girl named Victoria McQueen, a young princess of the fair sex who is capable of white magic. Why, she can ride her bicycle over an old wooden covered bridge, called the Shortaway, and come out miles away from where she started.

Stephen King, in his books, usually has that knack of taking sides, sheer evil against goodness with a fatal flaw, and one must pay attention or else things go wrong. Joe Hill has that same talent but is more succinct.

I love Stephen King’s books—one of my favorites by him is The Dark Tower, an eight book series of mystifying American magic with demons, wraiths and gun-slingers. It’s the modern Lord of the Rings but King does waste a word or two in the tale.

As a writer myself, I look for those places that could have been edited but Joe Hill has me mesmerized. The more I read, the more I like. Multi-talented, Joe Hill writes graphic novels too, an exceptional example is Locke and Key. But we’re getting off topic, leaving Christmasland before we’ve even arrived.

I did mention Victoria McQueen, didn’t I? She is the young girl who rides her bicycle over the old wooden bridge, the Shortaway, which takes her exactly where she wants to go. Whether it is good for her or not. Sometimes, when she stays too long in the places the bicycle takes her, her eye begins to pulse, like there’s pressure in her head that’s not good for her. Magic has it’s price.

Charles Talent Manx’s old Rolls-Royce Wraith takes him on roads no one else can find, which disappear him when he drives. He needs that car just like Victoria McQueen needs her bicycle and magic bridge.

There are people in this world, a few special folks, who can go places no one else can go. They don’t need to buy a ticket but they still have to pay a price. Folks can get away with anything, anytime but there is always a price to pay. Like when Victoria McQueen, unwanted by her mother, definitely unwanted by her father, looks for trouble on the other side of the Shortaway bridge, she finds it.

Victoria rides right into Christmasland, a magic place run by Charles Manx. He likes to take little boys and girls there, and then, well, they never come back. Sometimes Charles hooks up with other characters with kinks in their thinks, such as Bing Partridge who put a nail gun to his dad’s temple and thought it was a joke. When he pulled the trigger his dad didn’t do much more thinking at all. Then Bing took his mother right out of her grief.

Bing was lonely, and he had dreams of Christmasland where a kindly old fellow drove a big old Rolls-Royce Wraith. After a hard day at the factory where he worked with solvents that weren’t too healthy if you were around them too long, the Wraith with the license plate NOS4A2 just pulled up in front of his house and Bing knew he was in heaven. But his goal was Christmasland and only Charlie Talent Manx could get him there.

There’s so much more but my job isn’t to spoil the ride for you. Once you get in the Rolls-Royce Wraith built in 1938, you’re in for the ride of your life. What’s left of your life, that is.

I’ve told you plenty but there are no spoilers here. I’m not saying whether Victoria McQueen gets to grow up and have a child of her own; a child that can do magic like hers. If she had a boyfriend, because she wouldn’t be the marrying kind, he’d be a Biker who knew his engines. Maybe she’d write children stories. But you’ll need a Search Engine to find out about that.

This is Joe Hill’s third novel and, like his father Stephen King, this might be The Stand for him. His first two novels were really, really good but this one will take you places you’ve never been before. Joe Hill doesn’t waste a word. NOS4A2! Get it, Read it. You’ll love it and you’ll curse me for taking you to Christmasland!

NOS4A2, a William Morrow Book, An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishing, written by Joe Hill, 2013.