09 April 2013

Books: Double Feature by Owen King (2013)

In his debut novel, Double Feature, Owen King creates a darkly humorous look at family and low-budget film making, along with doses of screwball comedy.  The youngest son of best-selling author Stephen King, the writer shows a deft hand at creating odd characters that are sympathetic and very real.

The novel is about filmmaker Sam Dolan, who always had a difficult relationship with his father, a B-movie actor/director Booth Dolan—a boisterous, opinionated, lying lothario whose screen legacy falls somewhere between cult hero and pathetic. Sam has a half-sister Mina, who is, at times, violent yet endearing as well. While she sees the faults of their father, she loves him despite Booth’s tendency to screw-up repeatedly –though Mina’s mother is alive, while Sam’s mother Allie is dead, their relationship is strained due to the possible issue that Sandra may be a bit crazy. 

While still young, Sam makes his first film, "Who We Are." But the money man, who is also the first AD, hijacks the film in post-production, altering the film and destroying almost everything else. With his film irrevocably ruined, he’s trashes the only known copy. But as he tosses the DVD into the bin, it misses and lands on the ground. Too depressed to make sure it’s gone, he leaves.

And that little misstep sets in motion a ten years odyssey for him, as the film develops a cult following. Meanwhile, he toils at Brooklyn video store and doing wedding videos. But one weekend in 2011, Sam is forced to come to terms with his failed opus, "Who We Are," his dad and his messy life –which includes seeing two women, one who is married. Along the way we are joined by Mina, Wesely –his housebound roommate who has become famous on the internet- and Sam’s Godfather Tom, a contractor who can’t seem to stop adding additions onto his house. 

As a long-time reader of his father, Stephen and also now a fan of his brother Joe, Owen King’s turn into the realm of such authors who deal with family –John Irving, Jonathan Tropper- in a humorous way is great. While his dad has done the same, the elder King’s family dysfunction has always been sort of mean. Here the younger King takes a more real (maybe) look at regret, resentment and ambition. And he creates real people, who speak real words of everyday people –a hallmark of what I like about the elder King’s novels. 

While I felt the story petered out towards the end, I was still impressed with the novel, as King’s prose is different from his famous father and rising star of a brother; it seemed wilier, I guess. Finding the human condition is always difficult, but Owen King’s perceptive about people is sometimes what is best about the book; it’s very funny and always charming.


Now that I've joined the working world again, I'm bound to slow down my reading time. The last week has been awfully tiring, and while I'm not sure I want to stay with this new company, I also realize I'm in no position to turn it down as well. I fully intend to get back to the Setting Free the Bears, but I needed to read this first. 

Still, until I can find a happy balance of not being so exhausted when I come home from work that all I want to do is watch TV, I might end up reading one or two books a month.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice review. Double Feature did have its strong points, particularly in the quirky characters, but I agree, that ending was really weak. I think the book overall could have used a serious editing. Events took an awfully long time to happen, and while King writes well, he's not so amusing that he can keep you interested when nothing's going on. Keep up the good work!