Created by Stephen King
(1947 — )
Of course, horrormeister Stephen King has always incorporated elements of crime into his fiction, and he’s often sung the praises of various crime and mystery writers, with John D. MacDonald being a particular favourite. The Colorado Kid (2005) and Joyland (2013), both originally published by Hard Case Crime, and early short stories such as “The Fifth Quarter” (1972) and “Umney’s Last Case” (1983) have certainly broached the genre. However, the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, about a retired police detective being hounded by an elusive thrill killer, marks the author’s first truly serious and concerted foray into crime fiction.
KERMIT “BILL” HODGES is the former cop, and when we first meet him in Mr. Mercedes (2014), he’s miserable. Almost bored to death. His wife has left him, his daughter lives far, far away, he has no real close friends, and he’s lonelier than anyone should be. He’s thinking of pulling the plug.
And then he gets a creepy, disturbing letter from someone purporting to be the perpetrator behind one of Hodges’ unsolved cases — that of a man who intentionally drove a Mercedes into a crowd of people standing in line for a job fair, killing eight people and injuring many more. The driver was never found, but the letter contains information that only the cops — or the killer — would know. Ironically, it’s the spark that pulls Hodges back from the brink, and he’s soon thrown himself back into the case. There’s not a lot of questions about who done it — readers know right from the start almost that it’s a not-quite-wired-right young computer geek, Brady Hartsfield, who’s behind the carnage, but the treat is in watching the twitchy, twisty story unfold as Bill works the case while Brady taunts him at every turn. It’s a helluva genre debut, and won the 2015 Edgar Award for Best Novel from the Mystery Writers of America.
By the end of that first book, Hodges had found a new lease on life, officially becoming a private detective. But the cat-and-mouse game continues through two more novels, Finders Keepers (2015), titled after the name of the detective agency he and his new partner, Holly Gibney, a young, emotionally unstable woman, start up, and End of Watch (2016), with Hodges being taunted (rather inexplicably) by the killer again and again, as the supernatural elements King is so well known for slowly creep in from the edges, coming home to roost in the third and final installment, when we find ourselves firmly right back in StephenKingLand.
In 2017, a 10-part mini-series based on Mr. Mercedes, and was about as good an adaptation of the book as one could hope for. It boasted an impressive cast, including a beat down, worn out Brendan Gleeson perfectly cast as Bill and Harry Treadaway as Brady, and it had David E. Kelley (Picket Fences, Ally McBeal, The Practice, etc) running the show, and crime writer Dennis Lehane chipping in as a writer and consulting producer. It did well enough in the ratings that a second season was produced, based mostly on the series finale, End of Watch, wisely skipping most of the middle book which, while enjoyable, seemed like a lateral move, or, as Janet Maslin of the New York Times put it “very much like a middle volume.” Even then, however, it took huge liberties with the source material.
Which brings us to the third season. I wondered “Where would they go from here?” The answer, it turned out, was back to the middle, where they picked up the basic plot line of the second book and grafted it on to the conclusion of the End of Watch novel, again taking a few liberties.
- Mr. Mercedes (2014) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
- Finders Keepers (2015) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
- End of Watch (2016) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
- MR. MERCEDES
(2017-19, AT&T Network)
Premiere: August 9, 2017
Based on the novel by Stephen King
Adapted by David E. Kelley
Directed by Jack Bender
Consulting producer: Dennis Lehane
Executive producers: Stephen King, David E. Kelley, Jack Bender, Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey
Starring Brendan Gleeson as BILL HODGES
With Justine Lupe as Holly Gibney
and Harry Treadaway as Brady Hartsfield
Also starring Kelly Lynch, Scott Lawrence, Jharrel Jerome, Robert Stanton, Breeda Wool, Mary-Louise Parker
- Season One | Buy the DVD |Buy the Blu-Ray
- “Pilot” (August 9, 2017)
- “On Your Mark” (August 16, 2017)
- “Cloudy, With a Chance of Mayhem” (August 23, 2017)
- “Gods Who Fall” (August 30, 2017)
- “The Suicide Hour” (September 6, 2017)
- “People in the Rain” (September 13, 2017)
- “Willow Lake” (September 20, 2017)
- “From the Ashes” (September 27, 2017)
- “Ice Cream, You Scream, We All Scream” (October 4, 2017)
- “Jibber-Jibber Chicken Dinner” (October 11, 2017)
- Season Two | Buy the DVD
- “Missed You” (August 22, 2018)
- “Let’s Go Roaming” (August 29, 2018)
- “You Can Go Home Now” (September 5, 2018)
- “Motherboard” (September 12, 2018)
- “Andale” (September 19, 2018)
- “Proximity” (September 26, 2018)
- “Fell on Black Days” (October 3, 2018)
- “Nobody Puts Brady in a Crestmore” (October 10, 2018)
- “Walk Like a Man” (October 17, 2018)
- “Fade to Blue” (October 24, 2018)
- Season Three
- “No Good Deed” (September 10, 2019)
- “Madness” (September 17, 2019)
- “Love Lost” (September 24, 2019)
- “Trial and Terror” (October 1, 2019)
- “Great Balls of Fire” (October 8, 2019)
- “Bad to Worse” (October 15, 2019)
- “The End of the Beginning” (October 22, 2019)
- “Mommy Deadest” (October 29, 2019)
- “Crunch Time” (November 5, 2019)
- “Burning Man” (November 5, 2019)
- They Wrote What?
Famous Writers Who Have Dipped Their Toes in the P.I. Pool
- I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts
Things That Go Bump in the Night, and the Eyes Who Go After Them
- The Uneasy Noirs of Stephen King
A nice (but too brief) overview by Nick Kolakowskii (June 2020, CrimeReads)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.