On my recent trip to Barter Books in Alnwick, I bought four novels, including two from Stephen King; Joyland, and more importantly, Under The Dome. And, as I mention in the first link, I also bought two Shaun Hutson novels while I was there.
Now, before Stephen King, my favourite writer for a long time was Shaun Hutson. I own and have read at least twenty of his novels (some of them more than once), so I can confidently say that I enjoy his stuff. I like his style; it is vivid, fast paced, and doesn’t hold back when it comes to the more deprived parts of society. Hutson also has a very good knack at building up a very dramatic finale, a technique which usually results in me skimming entire sentences in my determination (or perhaps desperation) to reach the end.
And once I do finish, I’m rarely let down. It is often hard to predict how it will end, as Hutson will often go for the less favourable ending, where perhaps the protagonist dies, or arrives too late to stop bad things from happening. Sometimes it even ends abruptly, with the overwhelming threat left to your imagination. But whatever happens, it usually concludes the story perfectly, which, as most of you will no doubt know, isn’t an easy skill to master.
So, yeah, Hutson’s influence has definitely helped to shape my writing style, and the way I approach and do things. If you aren’t familiar with his work, I would say my short story One Stormy Night is similar to his novels, in regards to how it ends. It may not reach his level, but it was certainly Hutson inspired.
However, despite all this gushing praise, I have to admit I wasn’t impressed by Last Rites and Epitaph, the two aforementioned Shaun Hutson books I bought at Alnwick. I still enjoyed them, of course, but they didn’t captivate me like his previous efforts have. Yes, the stories were intriguing, and his familiar style was as strong as ever…but ultimately I was disappointed. And I think Stephen King’s Under The Dome is to blame.
Why? Because Under The Dome had everything. I’m not going to go over it again, but it was nigh on perfect. As a result, I don’t think the other books in my collection can compete. Normally Hutson is a refreshing change of pace from King; while a King novel is slow and long-winded, Hutson’s novel is like a punch to the face. Under The Dome, however, was somehow a hybrid, combining both styles and making the separate versions inadequate. Suddenly I’m looking at these two books and thinking ‘eh, they’re good, but neither of them are Under The Dome.’
I knew I loved UTD, but I hadn’t realized how much until I tried to read another book and struggled, simply because I was so amazed by the story of Chester’s Mill. It was such an amazing novel everything else is, frankly, unappealing to me. That might be the greatest compliment I can give Under The Dome, but it also signals that I have a big problem on my hands; I’ve got plenty of books to read, but is there the possibility that I won’t even like them, thanks to Under The Dome?
In some ways, It’s like having a night in the most luxurious room in the world, where you get the best night’s sleep that you’ve ever had. It was fantastic. The best thing ever. You loved that you got to experience it, and you wouldn’t even dream (ha!) of not doing it. BUT now you have to go home, to your normal bed…and suddenly it is no longer enough. It was acceptable before, but it is not special now. Bland…boring. And you’re stuck with it. And who wants that?
So, thanks Under The Dome. I don’t know what to do now. It was too bloody good it has ruined everything else for me. Humph. I expect a compensation cheque in the post, Mr King. I’m sure you can come up with a suitable figure in return for me not being able to enjoy a book EVER AGAIN (at least 5 figures; don’t be cheap).
…I have a tough life don’t I?
Mind you, I do think that I’d feel this way regardless; both books were just disappointing by Hutson’s standards. Last Rites was just silly, and seemed somewhat half cocked (I think it would have been much better), while Epitaph, though interesting in concept, was ultimately very predictable, which as I said before, is very unlike Hutson. Again, it could have been much, much more. They just didn’t live up to hype.
So, next step is to go back to King, and read Firestarter. Hopefully I’ll enjoy that, and this feeling I’m getting will just be a fluke. I guess I will just have to see.