King’s latest is published by Hard Case Crime, a small imprint hell-bent on bringing the pulps back to life (see “Pulp Faction,” BKL My 1 05). A contribution from the master of the horrible and fantastic–who clearly read a few paperbacks growing up–makes perfect sense. But oddly, this is less identifiably a genre work than King’s other books. It’s neither horror nor fantasy, and, despite the title, it’s not a western. There are elements of mystery, but what King has written is actually from a much older tradition: the yarn. One afternoon, on a Maine island, two crusty old newspapermen tell a cub reporter about their investigation into the unusual appearance and death of a stranger. Despite the potential pitfalls of writing the whole thing as a conversation (some readers will tire of the oldsters’ knee-slapping and folksy expressions), this is powerful storytelling. King appears to be fumbling in his tackle box when, in fact, he’s already slipped the hook into our cheeks and is pulling us inexorably toward the bemusing, maddening–let’s just say the ending won’t appeal to everyone–final page. If it’s ironic that King delivered an experiment to people who celebrate the art of formula, that’s OK. One of the reasons the pulps remain popular is that, behind those uniformly lurid painted covers, there always lurked a few writerly surprises.