‘Strawberry Spring’ by Stephen King

King, Stephen 1968

Strawberry Spring by Stephen King, 1968

The magic trick:

Nicely drawn scenes that not only add to the ambiance of the story, they fuel the mystery

This is a mystery story, and one of the essential aspects of a mystery story is subterfuge. Gotta throw the reader off the scent, right?

King does that wonderfully here in a wonderfully surprising way: through lovely, nuanced language. I don’t come to his work expecting beautiful sentences. I certainly didn’t expect that from “Strawberry Spring,” a story published when he was only 21. But it’s there. There are three or four passages in which the narrator is describing the fog – the strawberry spring – that really dazzle. They conjure up a mood of mystery and terror not with gory ideas but simply the power of the language. And that’s quite a trick on King’s part.

The selection:

For me, that was one of the most beautiful nights I can remember. The people I passed under the haloed streetlights were murmuring shadows, and all of them seemed to be lovers, walking with hands and eyes linked. The melting snow dripped and ran, dripped and ran, and from every dark storm drain the sound of the sea drifted up, a dark winter sea now strongly ebbing.

I walked until nearly midnight, until I was thoroughly mildewed, and I passed many shadows, heard many footfalls clicking dreamily off down the winding paths. Who is to say that one of those shadows was not the man or the thing that came to be known as Springheel Jack? Not I, for I passed many shadows but in the fog I saw no faces.

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