In The Horror Novel, "Later," We Soon Learn That The Dead Have No Secrets
Growing up as a little boy without a father figure is hard enough. Growing up in New York City and seeing ghosts everywhere you turn, is worse. This is the life of Jamie Conklin in Later (2021), the latest novel of Stephen King, released March 2nd this year.
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
Before giving my own brief review of this book, I’d like to first give an overview of it, for anyone who might be interested in the general plot and main subplot…
Jamie Conklin lives with his single mother, literary agent Tia, in the big apple, and he has quite the childhood. Jamie is relatively a normal child, seeing dead people aside. He plays, he’s kind-hearted and polite. He hates conflict, but as you’d find in the book, he does have a tendency to use profanities.
One day this younger ghost whisperer is exploited into locating a bomb planted somewhere dangerous by the deceased bomber, Kenneth Therriault. Kenneth does reveal the location because, as Jamie explains, ghosts must always tell the truth when asked a direct question. But, what Jamie soon learns is that the dead often have secrets that perhaps others would like to keep hidden, and using his special abilities come at a cost.
Kenneth’s spirit is taken over by a demon, which promises to haunt Jamie for the rest of his life. Jamie is scared and really wants to tell his mother, but on a second thought, refuses to worry her. She had suffered once from the financial crisis in 2008, when her assets got caught in a Ponzi scheme that her brother had invested in. She had also taken a hit in 2009, when the star author Regis Thomas, of her literary agency died without completing the final book of the series, that was keeping her family and her company afloat.
By then, she had already met NYPD Detective Liz Dutton and started dating her. Liz managed to get them onto the dead author’s premises and watched skeptically, as Tia persuaded her little boy to ask a dead man how his book ends. Liz is blown away when Jamie recites a plot for over an hour that she considers too complex for a child his age.
It was this same Liz, now convinced, that forced Jamie into locating the said bomb in a bid to save her own job. By now, Tia had dumped Liz, after finding cocaine on her. She warns Liz to never come close to her family again, but it doesn’t work because Liz finally gets fired anyway for being a dirty cop and comes back for Jamie.
She kidnaps 15-year-old Jamie and forces him into locating a large shipment of drugs. She tells him that she needs him to ask the dead drug boss, Donnie Bigs, some questions about the shipment. This is her big score, and she explains how she would spend the money from it.
Only Donnie Bigs isn’t dead when Jamie is taken up to his room. Liz had tortured, beaten, and even begged the man… and still he hadn’t talked, so she shoots him in the head right in front of Jamie and then asks him to find the ghost. In his attempt to escape, Jamie calls on the demon of Kenneth to help him, and the demon kills Liz so strangely that she dies laughing.
This 272 paged book is clean, direct, and evocative. It centers around a crime-driven plot, involving murder, kidnapping, drugs, etc. Stephen King also dialed back his child-like voice in this narrative novel, which is told from the perspective of a 22-year-old Jamie Conklin. While it is noteworthy to recognize that the said author is older than 70 himself, readers all over would agree that Later is unlike anything ever written by Stephen King. But, like Jamie says “We change, and we don’t. I can’t explain it. It’s a mystery.”
Stephen King talks about his newest book, “Later.”