Book Review: Later

‘This is a horror story…’

Later: King, Stephen, Numrich, Seth: 9781797121741: Books

As regular readers will know, I adore Stephen King. By my last count, I have read an even thirty of King’s novels, and that’s not including short story collections or his excellent non-fiction works Danse Macabre and On Writing. Aside from the latter however, I’ve faithfully stuck to the horror section in King’s oeuvre, having never delved into the Dark Tower series, or his latter period crime novels… until now.  

Having said that, despite being released on the crime fiction imprint Hard Case Crime, Later is a horror story. We know this because the narrator tells us this numerous times throughout the novel.

Jamie Conklin can see dead people. Yes, it’s like the kid from the Sixth Sense, and yes King does address this in the prose. That doesn’t make it any less troubling, and there are unavoidable similarities between the two tales, but Jamie’s unique ‘gift’ is less central to the plot here and there isn’t a Bruce Willis in Later either. Not unless he popped as a background character without me realising.  

Now, while I was aware of King’s various forays into the crime genre, I’d never really considered reading any of it, despite my admiration for the TV adaptation of Mr Mercedes, until I heard that Later was more of a horror story. Whilst that description is true, and there are moments here that are truly horrific, the lazy stereotypes that often make me shy away from the crime genre still pervade. The buxom femme fatale, the criminal overlord. What makes this different is the supernatural element combined with the fact that Later ties in with one of King’s best loved horror novels. While this link is fairly vague, it is still satisfying for long-time fans to receive a minor nod to King’s illustrious past.  

Later is a nice, easy read. It has a compelling story and a likeable protagonist. It didn’t quite give me nightmares, but some of the gruesome imagery that King employs wouldn’t look out of place in any of his more acclaimed horror novels. In short, it’s an above average late era Stephen King novel, and that is really all I wanted from it.