King, O’Nan combine to make a scary ‘Face’

Stephen King isn’t publishing a new novel this fall, but Constant Readers have had plenty of material to occupy them as of late. One of his most recent releases is this second collaboration with Stewart O’ Nan (co-writer of Faithful), the digital-only short story “A Face in the Crowd.”

“Face” introduces us to Dean Evers, a typical King character if there ever was one. He’s a displaced Red Sox fan, living in Florida and grudgingly pulling for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His wife died months ago after a second stroke, and since then Evers has been floating through a lonely existence, waiting around for something to happen.

“Something” comes in the form of his childhood dentist, a man long dead who appears one night on Evers’ television during a Devil Rays game. There the man sits, looking exactly as he did when Evers knew him decades earlier. That’s bad, but not as bad as the next person Evers sees in the stands, a young boy Evers went to school with. A young boy who would be an old man now, had he lived. A young boy who points at Evers from his seat behind home plate as though he can see him through the television screen and mouths ominous words at him.

That’s bad. And it’s only the beginning.

King and O’Nan have combined seamlessly to produce a Twilight Zone-ish tale of regret. Evers seems likeable enough at first, but as more and more phantoms begin popping up at Tropicana Field a lifetime of selfishness comes to the surface, forever changing our perception of the man as well as his perception of himself. Most will spot the ending from a mile away, but that doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of the path the authors take to get us there.

While not as creepy as King’s recent “The Little Green God of Agony” or as visceral as “In the Tall Grass,” his twopart collaboration with son Joe Hill, “A Face in the Crowd” is an enjoyable diversion, a little something else to tide us over until the next short story or novel appears.

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