Stephen King did it to me again. In less than 5,000 words, he made me think I knew with certainty the innocence or guilt of Jim Trusdale and then 4,000 words later, I was surprised. Or was I? I don’t know. A Death is an easy read with just enough details to give it depth, and ends (no spoilers) leaving you wondering.
This new short story debuts in the March 9th issue of The New Yorker, but you can read it now online for free. A Death tells the story of Jim Trusdale, not the sharpest tool in the shed, who is accused of killing 10-year-old Rebecca Cline on her birthday and stealing her silver dollar. The story is set in 1889 in the Dakotas, before it became part of the United States, as referenced in the story. It’s not a scary story, but one can be filled with horror at the thought of how justice worked in the Old West.
After you read it, feel free to discuss with me the ending and the other little subtle discussion points littered about in this tale.
King also sat down and talked to The New Yorker for its March 2nd issue, where the author compared Jim Trusdale to John Coffey from The Green Mile.
The gallows are erected for Trusdale before the verdict has been given. As a writer, what’s it like to dispatch a man to his death? Do you ever want to let a character escape a death sentence?
Watching someone hang, even a fictional someone, isn’t ever pleasant. But, because I only had to live with Trusdale for a short time, it was easier to see him executed than it was to see John Coffey go to the electric chair in “The Green Mile.” That was partly because I knew that Coffey was innocent, and partly because I lived with Coffey for sixteen months as I wrote the book. He got to be a friend. Jim Trusdale was a mere acquaintance.
A Death will also be published as part of the short story collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, set to be released this Fall. King’s Finders Keepers, the second book in the trilogy that started with Mr. Mercedes, comes out on June 2, 2015.