In The Tall Grass is the product of a collaboration between two members of the most talented family in horror, Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. The story was originally published in Esquire magazine earlier this year and is King’s second collaboration with Hill after their 2009 novella Throttle.
In The Tall Grass is the story of Cal and Becky DeMuth, a brother and sister driving across the United States to arrange the adoption of Becky’s unborn child. Passing through Kansas they encounter a dilapidated church and hear a child calling from the long grass nearby. The child sounds in trouble and the DeMuth’s natural disposition as do-gooders leads them to believe they can help the child out of the grass. However, shortly after the child cries out for help he is scolded by his mother for attempting to lead strangers into the grass. Events only become more sinister from that point on.
The DeMuths enter the grass, only to become immediately and inevitably separated in the seven foot foliage. Panic, coupled with prolonged exposure to the burning sun begins to drain the pair mentally and physically as it gradually dawns on them that leaving this overgrown field is not going to be as easy as previously thought.
From reading In The Tall Grass it immediately becomes clear that although the book is a collaborative effort, it is quite difficult to distinguish where one author’s voice begins and the other ends. With both authors writing in a similar way they are able to produce a coherent yet unique meld of their writing voices that keeps the story moving at a satisfying pace.
Without giving too much away the story itself is chilling and bloody in equal measure, the tension building to an almost inevitably bloody conclusion that ends on a suitably downbeat note. In The Tall Grass is an engaging and absorbing read that exhibits the best of both its authors, drawing the reader in before delivering a swift blow to the gut that will leave them reeling.
Also included in the eBook edition of the story are the opening chapter of Doctor Sleep, King’s sequel to The Shining and the beginning of Hill’s forthcoming book NOS4R2. The opening of Doctor Sleep features Wendy and Danny Torrance living in Florida three years after the events at the Overlook Hotel. Whilst Wendy is physically disfigured by the explosive end to proceedings, Danny is suffering below the surface. The chapter features the terrifying woman from Room 217 and hints at much larger dangers to come for poor young Danny. The chapter fits almost seamlessly into the narrative from The Shining and almost fits as an epilogue. It is well known that Doctor Sleep will feature an older Danny Torrance and it will be fascinating to see how King builds such a damaged little boy into a fully grown adult.
Hill’s NOS4R2 promises to be something very different indeed. Events of the opening chapter follow a nurse working in the hospital of a high security prison delivering blood to a patient who hasn’t woken up in years. The terror that can be produced simply by this man opening his eyes and muttering a few sentences is incredible and will leave readers desperate to read the full version. Whisper it quietly but Joe Hill may just be on the cusp of producing a book to rival anything his father wrote in his prime…
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