Hard Case Crime (a crime/mystery imprint of Titan Books) has published a new Illustrated Edition of Stephen King’s Joyland.
Joyland adds to King’s growing oeuvre of mystery novels, the others including similarly well-received titles like The Colorado Kid and Mr. Mercedes (which is part of a trilogy that will wrap up in 2016 with End of Watch).
Joyland tells the story of college student named Devin Jones who, in the summer of 1973, takes a job at an amusement park known as Joyland hoping it will divert his attention from the pain of a freshly broken heart. But since this is a Stephen King novel, Joyland isn’t just an innocuous amusement park. It’s the setting for an unsolved, vicious murder of a girl back in 1969, and the ghost of the murdered girl is said to haunt the carnival’s Horror House attraction. Devin becomes obsessed with the girl’s case and, with the help of some friends including one who has “The Sight,” goes about trying to solve the mystery.
I have to say I’ve got mixed feelings about this new edition.
On one hand, the novel itself is a very solid mystery-thriller infused with the kind of bittersweet period nostalgia that made earlier coming-of-age books by King like The Body so evocative. That much we had already known back in June of 2013 when the book was originally published by Hard Case Crime in standard format (see Pop Mythology contributor Matt Hlinak’s previous review). And this new volume, when considered in isolation, really is an attractive book. It features a more risqué pulp cover by the late, great Glen Orbik (a master illustrator whose paintings graced the covers of comics and crime novels) along with over 20 penciled, black-and-white illustrations by artists Pat Kinsella, Robert McGinnis, and Mark Summers scattered throughout the book.
But aside from the cover and the smattering of illustrations, this new volume just doesn’t seem… well, necessary. Of course, no special edition of a preexisting work really is necessary, arguably. It’s more about desirability than necessity. But usually when you’re putting out a new illustrated edition either there’s enough of a historical basis in the book (as in, say, The Hobbit: Illustrated Edition) such that even those who already own previous editions and have read the book repeatedly would be potentially interested. Either that or, as with the 2015 illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition, the volume itself is so stunningly ornate and full of lavish, fully colored illustrations that it really is a true collector’s item. But Joyland was only published just two years ago so the historical factor really isn’t there (yet) nor is the volume itself so different and full of extras that those who already own the 2013 edition should justifiably spend another $24 to get it.
The front cover image by Glen Orbik is indeed, as I have said, beautiful. It’s the kind of permissibly lurid book cover with a scantily clad femme fatale that, when I was an adolescent, would alone have had me shelling out my allowance to buy it (hey, we didn’t have Internet porn back when I was growing up). But the carnival map printed on the back was already part of the original 2013 book cover, and the 20+ illustrations inside, while nice, aren’t in themselves terribly spectacular. They’re more just light pencil sketches.
If you’re interested in reading Joyland and haven’t yet already, I would definitely suggest buying the Illustrated Edition in favor of the original. It is a more attractive volume but only marginally so, making it hard to recommend for those who already own the standard 2013 edition. But if cash is plentiful and you’re a serious Stephen King fan, knock yourself out.
Due to my split feelings between the story itself and the presentation of this new volume, I offer two separate ratings:
• Story: 4 stars
• Presentation: 2.5 stars