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Book Review: Billy Summers

Billy Summers (Simon and Schuster ISBN: 978-1-9821-8966-2) is the latest release from Stephen King, and at 528 pages it tells the story of the complex man that Billy Summers becomes. As a child he sees his little sister stomped to death, then kills the man who hurt her. Having an alcoholic mother, he was removed to live in a group home, which is all that you've heard about and more. When he comes of age he joins the Marines and becomes a deadly sniper. When he leaves the service he becomes a sniper for hire.

Hoping to retire, he is presented with one last job that pays two million dollars he can't refuse. It fits within his moral code of only killing “bad men,” or men that prove to be truly evil, so he joins the scheme to take down the man who killed a rich man's son. In order to keep himself busy so nobody will guess what  he is doing in an unnamed city in the south, he portrays himself as a writer and he is placed in a rental office space with a perfect view of where he is to kill. Meanwhile--as he is also killing time--he takes on the task of writing a veiled autobiography, and finds that he enjoys writing and rewriting scenes from his past as his alter-ego, Benjy Compson.

But Billy is cautious. While others make plans for him after the kill, he makes a contingency plan for himself. Fearing that he will be expendable once the kill is done, he rents an apartment in an unknown part of the city. Using his wits to make himself invisible to the group of men who have a bounty on his head, he lays unknown and quiet until the heat of the chase comes down on him again.

And that's just the first half of the story.

He saves a girl who had been gang-raped and left to die in the road in front of his apartment. This girl named Alice Maxwell inserts herself into his life and joins him in fleeing the city. Alice becomes the center of attention in the second half of the book. After getting back at her rapists, he and Alice take to the road  in order to meet up with one of his buddies from Iraq who is also his agent, so he can make a plan to get clear of the bounty on his head. He continues to write and Alice becomes his reader. They come closer to understanding each other while their plan develops into something they will do together. 

In the end it all comes down to killing a very bad man named Mr. Klerke who has a taste for raping a young girl. Alice is the bait in their plan to get inside his mansion, and Billy kills the man. But he is shot in his side during their get-a-way.

But that is the question of the ending. Does Billy live to finish his book, or does he die, leaving the writing of the finale of his story to Alice?

While the second half of the book follows the hunt for them as they face a very real death, it's also an  exposition of how Alice and Billy turn to each other for support during that trip to kill a bad man.

With over seventy books to his credit Stephen King is certainly one of the world's best known and liked authors. And this novel will continue his legendary skills as an icon to writing where the evil between us can be occasionally seen in our lives.

This is a good read, even if you are afraid of what King has written before. I enjoyed the immersion into his world and ease of following the multiple stories within the plot. Read it, because it's good.


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