Monday, 8 April 2013
The Green Mile
Stephen King is not only one of the most successful writers in the profession, but one of the most prolific too, with more than 50 books under his belt. He is also known for embracing nonstandard approaches to publishing, like in 2000, when The Plant was released as e-book installments, long before Amazon dreamt of making Kindles. The Green Mile is another such book, which was written and published in serial form.
Originally published in 1996 as six monthly installments, The Green Mile is a throwback to the days of Charles Dickens (whose books were mostly published as serials). In it, an old man in a nursing home recounts his days as a death row supervisor. His name is Paul Edgecombe, and his story takes place in 1932, at a prison known as Cold Mountain. It centers around his experiences with an inmate named John Coffey, a hulking black man who'd been convicted of the rape and murder of two white girls.
In the days leading up to his appointment with an electric chair, John shows considerable remorse for his actions. But things take an unexpected turn when he is revealed to possess certain powers, healing Paul of a severe urinary infection just by laying hands on him. This leaves Paul conflicted with the court's decision to have John electrocuted, and the role he'd have to play in it, a confliction that would eventually bring Paul to the realization that maybe John wasn't guilty of the crime he'd been accused of after all.
The Green Mile works as both a series of individual chapbooks and a complete whole. Each installment was written with subtle reminders of the story so far, and ended in such a way that the reader is left wanting more. Most importantly, there were no breaks in continuity, nor did the quality of the overall story suffer as a result of the speed with which it was written. Then again, this is Stephen King we're talking about here, the much lauded and undisputed king of horror.