Friday, March 16, 2007

The Outing of Joe Hill

Speaking of Stephen King...as we were a couple of posts back...I've been hearing good things about his son's first published novel. Apparently, "Joe Hill," has been writing short stories and one unpublished novel for a while now, but the revelation that he's Stephen King's oldest son should change everything for him. I love the idea that authors can pass on their skills to the next generation this way, much like what seems to happen in musical families. Joe's picture makes me wonder how he got away with hiding his real identity as long as he managed it.
...when Hill's fantasy-tinged thriller, "Heart-Shaped Box," came out last month, it was inevitable that his thoroughbred blood lines as a writer of horror and the supernatural would be out there for all to see.
...
Hill, 34, took on his secret identity to test his writing skills and marketability without having to trade on the family name.

"I really wanted to allow myself to rise and fall on my own merits," he said over breakfast in this coastal city. "One of the good things about it was that it let me make my mistakes in private."

The moniker he chose did not come out of the blue. He is legally Joseph Hillstrom King, named for the labor organizer whose 1915 execution for murder in Utah inspired the song, "Joe Hill," an anthem of the labor movement. His parents, who came of age during the 1960s, "were both pretty feisty liberals and looked at Joe Hill as a heroic figure," he said.
...
Hill's decision to follow his father's career should come as no surprise. His mother, Tabitha King, has been turning out novels for decades. His younger brother, Owen King, came out in 2005 with a well-received novella and short story collection that is more literary than horrific and laced with absurdity.

Like Hill, Owen King wanted to cut his own path and his book did not mention his parentage. But he decided against a pen name, figuring it would be too much trouble to try to go by an alias when meeting people or having an agent, manager, publicist or personal assistant handle details of his professional life.

The only sibling who has yet to make it into print is Naomi King, oldest of the three, who has switched careers from restaurateur to Unitarian minister. But Hill said his sister is working on a nonfiction project: a book-length study of the sermon as literary text and its place in American culture.

The Kings should certainly be proud. A family of five, all writers, is really something. I'm going to have to place Joe Hill's "Heart-Shaped Box" on my TBR list but that's a mighty long list, so if any of you have already read it, tell us what you think of it, please.

12 comments:

  1. I haven't read it but have placed it on my TBR list too. Several from my book group have read it and have given it rave reviews!

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  2. That's good to hear, Amy. Looks like the little King apple didn't fall too far from the King tree, in that case. I'm going to check my county library system to see if I can reserve a copy.

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  3. My husband acquired Hill's book recently, hasn't begun reading it yet, but it looks really creepy. And when I saw Hill's bookflap photo, there was no doubt he was Stephen King's son :)

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  4. Even though I don't think I've read any of King's novels, I love the fact that the family is literary and that the kids are following in his footsteps.

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  5. Stefanie, I'd love to hear what your husband thinks of the book...or your own thoughts if you end up reading it. I don't read much "horror" anymore, but I'm really curious about the guy.

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  6. That's really something,isn't it, Jenclair...mother, father and all three children are writing or have written books. That's pretty amazing when you think about it.

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  7. I just finished it... and it's very nearly the equal of Stephen King's best. Like all great horror fiction, it does not rely primarily on horror to hold your interest, but gives you characters to become committed to and language to savor as well.

    It reads like a movie -- extremely visual and atmospheric, reminding me in that sense of my personal favorite Stephen King, "Bag of Bones." It's wonderful to discover that the standard Stephen has set will be upheld by his son for at least another several decades.

    Dad must be very proud!

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  8. Sounds good...I do love it when the torch is passed to the next generation this way. It sure goes a long way toward proving that the science of genetics explains a lot of the talent that we see from generation to generation, doesn't it?

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  9. i thought heart shaped box was great and he is very much in the same league as stephen king...i had to have a nightlight and thats usually something only SK himself can do...

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  10. Joe Hill ROCKS!! Read "20th Century Ghosts", a fantastic book that contains about a dozen short stories, all by Joe and all different in content. This will give you a great idea of what Joe's capacity is as a writer and he is every bit as good as Daddy. In Jan. he comes out with a comic book series titled "Locke & Key". Google it to see what it's about. I smell movie all over it. Hell, the movie rights to "Heart Shaped" has already been bought by 20th Century!! So, if you like the book, my suggestion would be to toddle on over to eBay and buy a signed one as HSB is Joe's DEBUT book. I just saw an article where Steven Kings signed debut book recently sold for over $40,000.00!!!! Yes, I happen to sell this book but I am honestly a fan first so therefore I am not even going to list my eBay store's name here. I respect this site and happy to be a member. Ciao! Pamela

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  11. Anonymous, I quit about half way through the book, not that I found it bad, but because that it really didn't spook me much. That's probably not so much a reflection on Hill as it is a reflection of the fact that horror novels seldom scare me anymore. I can't remember the last one that managed that trick.

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  12. Come on, kickbuttbooks, we both know that Joe's book will never sell for anything remotely like that amount of money. His father's debut was not printed in nearly the quantity that Joe's book was printed, and it kicked around for quite a while before it was "discovered" as a good investment in the book world. Joe did not really sneak up on anyone and I doubt that his book will ever have much of a real value in terms of price.

    A few fanatics might "invest" in a copy, and the price might be temporarily driven up, but it's going to come down just as quickly, I suspect.

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