The Green Mile by Stephen King
Orion Books (paperback), 1999
BLURB FROM THE COVER
At Cold Mountain Penitentiary, along the lonely stretch of cells known as the Green Mile, killers await death, whilst their guards watch over them. Good or evil, innocent or guilty, none of them have ever seen the likes of brutal new prisoner John Coffey, seemingly a devil in human form.
This happened in 1932, when the state penitentiary was still at Cold Mountain. And the electric chair was there, too, of course.
THE TWO DEAD GIRLS
The Green Mile was first published as a serialised novel in six parts. I’ve never read it in this format. I’ve read The Green Mile half a dozen times. The movie version is the best King adaptation I’ve ever seen. The Green Mile is one of my favourite King novels.
The Green Mile was first published as a serialised novel. Each section of the novel opens directly where the last section finished and even includes the last few sentences of the previous section for continuity. This would have worked really well if I had bought The Green Mile in six parts but jars a little reading The Green Mile as a whole.
I love the story of The Green Mile. I think King offers something very original. The Green Mile is not your typical prison novel. The Green Mile could be an awful novel riddled with clichés. A novel about a convicted child killer who had has the gift of healing. In a lesser writer’s hands The Green Mile could have been a disaster but King makes The Green Mile something tragic and wonderful.
I loved the character of John Coffey. King does a great job of bringing this gentle giant to brilliant, memorable life. Coffey is one of the most believable fictional characters I’ve ever read. My heart went out to him. I wept with Paul and the other guards at the end of the novel when Coffey meets his maker on old Sparky even though he did not commit the crimes he has been found guilty of. Michel Clark Duncan was brilliant in the movie.
The Green Mile is written in the first person narrated by Paul Edgecome who was the head guard when Coffey was sent to the fictional Cold Mountain Penitentiary. The narrative voice is great in The Green Mile. I love the way Paul tells the story, weaving his memories of Coffey and his time on death row with little anecdotes about his life in a nursing home and the guard who could be Percy Wetmore from Cold Mountain’s reincarnation. Paul’s got a good storyteller’s voice that pulls you in and sweeps you along.
The Green Mile has got some great moments. Bill Wharton’s arrival and his attempt to choke one of the guard’s to death. Del’s pet mouse. Percy’s nastiness. The moment when Coffey cures Paul’s urine infection and Paul starts to wonder if Coffey might be innocent. There are a few stand-out moment’s that are among the best I’ve ever read. The day Del is executed and is actually barbecued alive and screaming because Percy does something nasty to get revenge for Del laughing at him. Coffey curing the warden’s wife of cancer. Coffey keeping the sickness bugs he takes from the warden’s wife and forcing them into Percy who loses his mind and murders Wharton. Great stuff.
There is a scene in the movie when Coffey gives Paul a vision of what really happened to the girls he’s been convicted of raping and murdering and just how evil Wharton is. This scene never happens in the book. I completely forgot it and was so confused I actually flicked back through some pages to see if I had missed something. I like the way Paul figures it out on his own without Coffey’s help but actually mis-remembered the scene being in the book. I’ve read The Green Mile several times and really thought the scene happened. Damn Hollywood and their movie budgets for confusing little old me.
The Green Mile is a great read, absolutely great. I loved every page. King can count this among his greatest works. I would like to have read it the way it was originally published though. I’d have gone mad waiting for each instalment.