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Walk the Green Mile
The Green Mile - Stephen King
Member Name: dawnymarie
The Green Mile - Stephen King
Date: 23/04/12, updated on 24/04/12 (151 review reads)
What attracted me to this book?
My recent discovery of this author and resonance with his style of writing inspired me to seek out another of his offerings. This one appealed once I had read the synopsis as the concept fascinated me and I felt a need to know what the outcome would be. When mentioning the title in conversation I had excitable responses from people who have seen the movie. My curiosity got the better of me and I am delighted that it did as King did not disappoint with this one.
Paul Edgecombe is the chief 'screw' on death row. Named The Green Mile by those who work in Cold Mountain penitentiary. Not a job that fills Paul with delight but one that he does to the best of his ability with compassion. Running a tight ship he faces a challenge when a young man, with connections in high places, joins the team - Percy Whetmore has a different approach to his role on The Green Mile and appears to gain satisfaction from causing suffering to all that he comes into contact with. Paul wants rid of him before something bad happens. New inmate - John Coffey - arrives in a calm and peaceful manner. A large coloured guy, as big as a bear, he could have easily caused chaos. Paul found himself feeling at ease with him and wondered why - he knew this man was different, something hypnotic about him intrigued him and he set about researching his case which involved two small twin girls deaths. The peaceful nature of this giant man did not match what Paul had become accustomed to seeing in men awaiting death on The Green Mile - or 'dead man walking' as newbie guard Percy revelled in shouting as he announced the arrival of John Coffey. There is doubt in Paul Edgecombes mind.....
Want to join me for a walk along the green mile?
Named The Green Mile because the flooring, that the prisoners walk from outside their cells to the small room that houses Old Sparky (the electric chair), is lined with green linoleum. King describes the environment on death row with just enough information for the reader to get a good idea of how it may look and feel to be a warder; and a prisoner, on The Green Mile. All of my senses were aroused by his occasional input - I felt happy with the amount of description as I like to stick with the story and not be bogged down with too much detail.
The prose does not begin within Cold Mountain penitentiary, I am first introduced to the Detterick family and get my bearings with concise description of the surrounding rural area that the family reside. All of the Detterick characters will remain two dimensional, though I did get some insight into the traits and dynamics of the household. I also got a chilling realisation of what it may feel like to wake up and discover that your twin daughters were gone. Set in 1930's America I witnessed the policing system which consisted of a wild west style set up of a main police guy and his deputy - the main guy slowing down and wanting a hassle free ride before retirement. King builds pace early on in the book as the search results in a tragic sight. A baffling sight. It is then that we meet John Coffey. His last name sounds like the drink but is spelt different - that is what he calmly tells the team that discovered him. I was really hooked with the story by now as King's introduction to John Coffey was such that I knew John was different and had my doubts about him murdering the two girls.
The majority of the prose features life on the mile and for this reason the main protagonist and his colleagues are developed the most - plus Mr Coffey and another small character that I will discuss in due course. Even so I felt like I knew enough about Paul Edgecombe's home life which included his wife Janice.
Paul is the main protagonist. I wondered how I would develop a liking for him as he was a head prison guard - top screw. Not someone I would normally find interesting. Not in this case. I liked Paul from the moment he makes an appearance in the prose. His distaste for the cruel treatment of John Coffey by new guard, Percy, appealed to me. I had something in common with Paul - I thought that the gentle giant of a man may be innocent. I felt sympathy and empathy for him. Paul was kind hearted and compassionate whilst also being tough when he had to be.
It is when a small character, with a big appeal, is introduced that Paul's gentle nature shines through. Mr Jingles is a mouse but not just any mouse. Like big John - the big guy - he appears to be special. He captivates all of the guards except for one. Percy is hell bent on executing the smart mouse named Mr Jingles and once again plays the bad guy. There are few prisoners on death row throughout the tale - some have done bad and will never do bad again, some are just bad through and through and continue to cause suffering whenever they get the chance - after all they can only send them to Old Sparky once. Even though there were real bad guys in those cells Percy managed to come top of the list for plain old nastiness. King presents him as a small built young man who has feminine features, I imagined that he must have had some bullying and that was the reason he relished his cruelty to others - even a mouse. On the other hand he had a vulnerability that King managed to get me to sympathise with momentarily until he was back to his horrible tricks.
A front story runs alongside and Paul resides at a residential home - his descriptions and sarcasm for the place are often amusing. It is here that he finally pens a manuscript about the terrible occurrence that led to him ending his time on the Green Mile. I enjoyed the occasional visits to 'older' Paul - many years older Paul - and found the similarities between an orderly named Brad Dolan and Percy Whetmore a treat. I was pleased, though, that King only concentrated fleetingly on this time period and then got on with the story - that's his philosophy and it was good to see that he stuck to it.
John's cell mate, Del, is a small French guy. He committed a terrible murder but Paul knew that he only had that one crime in him and it was like he never did it now. Del is the prisoner that Mr Jingles has been waiting for and never leaves his side. The pair of them were appealing when together. I felt quite sad - as did the guards (apart from Percy) - when the date of execution arrived for him and wondered what would become of his small companion Mr Jingles. I was surprised to become so concerned about that little mouse.
Throughout the prose I encountered all manner of human traits. Paul and his team of guards, who had become friends, where consistent with their professionalism whilst also displaying loyalty, tenacity and compassion. From Percy came offerings of hatred, confrontation, blackmail, betrayal and cruelty - yet there were more than a few glimpses of fear and childlike insecurities. From the courts and country policing system came discrimination and a lack of co operation. No appeals in that town, not for a coloured guy anyhow - I found that really sad.
The prose flowed well. I didn't find myself getting confused and there was no need for re reading sections. The characters were well rounded and had believable personalities. King had done his research and it was interesting to get a feel for The Green Mile - though grisly in the room that housed Old Sparky. It was realistic and descriptive without becoming gross and thankfully King did not linger too long on the executions - apart from one. This tale is imaginative and the air of hypnotic quality that surrounds the big guy, Coffey, is fascinating. I didn't find any of the book frightening but it was thought provoking.
I'll not tell you if my suspicions were correct about the innocence of John Coffey. You will enjoy finding that out for yourself and the journey is exhilarating with some unexpected happenings. All I will say is that the ending leaves everything neatly tied up and you won't be left guessing and frustrated.
Buy this one from ...
You can purchase for less on Amazon at the time of writing.
A captivating concept. Covering an interesting time in history and insight into the penitentiary system. Death row would not normally be my choice of reading material but this was no ordinary tale. King's imagination comes into it's own as he tells the story of a coloured giant of a man with unusual powers who is found guilty of the murder of twin girls. Doubt about his guilt is obvious early on in the book which allows the reader to sympathise with the convicted man who may go to the chair for someone else's crime. Did he do it? Evidence clearly suggests that he did. He doesn't seem like a man who would commit a crime of any sort let alone murder and rape. Paul Edgecombe sets about investigating and makes himself unpopular in the process - will it make any difference to a convicted coloured guy? Be prepared to be acquainted with a mouse named Mr Jingles - he'll tug at your heart strings. Pages turn quickly and the story is satisfying. Not over the top on description - you won't be bogged down.
Also published on Ciao
Summary: A masterpiece by King