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Publisher's Summary

Each of these five interconnected, sequential narratives, set in the years from 1960 to 1999, are deeply rooted in the 60s culture and the haunting images of the Vietnam War. "Low Men in Yellow Coats" is the story of 11-year-old Bobby Garfield who discovers a world of predatory malice in his own neighborhood. Bobby also discovers that adults are sometimes not rescuers but at the heart of the terror. In the title story, a bunch of college kids get hooked on a card game when they discover the possibility of protest. In "Blind Willy" and "Why We're in Vietnam," two men who grew up with Bobby in suburban Connecticut try to fill the emptiness of the post-Vietnam era in an America which sometimes seems as hollow - and haunted - as their own lives. And in "Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling," this remarkable work's denouement, Bobby returns to his hometown where one final secret, the hope of redemption, and his heart's desire may await him.
©1999 Stephen King, All Rights Reserved, (P)1999 Simon & Schuster Inc., All Rights Reserved
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Critic Reviews

"We now know what Stephen King, the master of horror, is afraid of. The Vietnam War...scares him so bad he won't let his hero act imprudently." (The New York Times)
"...Hurt skillfully evokes pathos from the story's fine detailing...." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Steve A. on 01-15-03

Touching, Funny - Amazingly well written and read.

I've listened to hundreds of recorded books over past twenty years. This is my favorite. I was never much of a Stephen King fan. This changed that. I am, however, a huge admirer of actor (and reader) William Hurt. As far as I know, this is only recorded book he's performed.

The book starts with "last summer" of young boy's childhood in the late 1950's. And Hurt's reading of every boy, girl, lonely parent, friend, scumbag and guardian angel is absolutely real. Stephen King also reads a central portion of book and he's just fine - Funny as hell in fact, when recounting "his" college years in the 60's and amazingly touching - when reading the chapter about Vietnam Vet/Street Beggar 'Blind Willy'.

It's not horror, not really fantasy - although there's a supernatural thread that runs through the story, which took me a little off-guard when it first appeared, but I completely got caught up in. It's one of many layers in this amazingly well written and performed book. They should all be this good.

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46 of 47 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Jim "The Impatient" on 08-08-15


This book is two novellas and three short stories. It starts with LOW MEN IN YELLOW COATS. This is one of the best books, stories, novellas that King has ever written. I believe King is best when writing about young boys. Bobby is eleven, which is a golden age for most males. Young enough to still play with cars, have a slight interest in girls without the knowledge of sex, but old enough to start wondering about the future and his place in it. The character development of Bobby in this first novella is excellent and King's writing puts you in 1960 and Bobby's head. 1960,a time when people rode the BIG GREY DOG and just before Americans lost their virginity as a nation. Just before the Vietnam War and the turmoil that would change America forever.

In LOW MEN IN YELLOW COATS, King's imagination goes extreme, but builds up slowly. There are references to THE CRIMSON KING, THE REGULATORS, GUNSLINGER, BREAKERS and THE DARK TOWER. At first it seems like this is a story about a child growing up in the 60's with no weirdness, but slowly things start to change. King takes some of the mundane and turns it paranoid. You will wonder about lost pet signs, hopscotch, things hanging in power lines, and anything that seems normal at first, but maybe just a little different. I will repeat what I have said in many King reviews, King writes about people and the human condition and covers it up with horror to attract the reader. You think you are reading horror, but you are really reading about real people and their daily struggles.

The first novella is about 10 hours long, so the size of a regular novel. This alone makes the book worth reading. The next novella and shorts stories are totally different and may not even seem to fit. I believe King put these together to show where we were and how we changed and the expectations we had as a young nation. This is only my opinion. Many will wonder why these are together, as they are weakly connected and so different from the first story. The whole mood changes and there are no more low men in the rest of the stories. I enjoyed the second novella, Hearts in Atlanta. I was born in 1958 and am just a little young for this generation. I was of the age where I got to watch our nation change, but not really old enough to understand and be involved. I have a sister four years older then me and she was part of it. Everyone I know who was a teenager in the mid to late sixties was affected by those times. It was the time of the Sexual Revolution and a time when we first started questioning our government and the American way of living. King takes us through those times as college students. When it was first starting, even to the origin of the Peace Symbol. I love to play cards and Hearts is a great game. I can easily see how these students get distracted from their studies for a stupid thing like playing cards. Teachers were under additional strain, knowing that if they flunked a kid, the next year that kid would probably end up in a jungle in Vietnam. It was a truly exciting, but scary time. HEARTS IN ATLANTIS, is not like the first story, but I felt a great read anyway.

The next short stories are, Blind Willie, Why We're in Vietnam, and Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling. Blind Willie is a five star read, but not even close to the first two novellas. I would give Low Men about seven stars. If you find you did not enjoy Hearts in Atlantis, then you are really not going to like these stories. You have already gotten your monies worth, so you may want to stop here. For me the last two stories were worth only four stars, but I can see how many would not like them at all. I also feel the younger generation might not be able to relate.

William Hurt narrates Low Men and one of the other stories. He is fantastic and also a big star from those times. Stephen King Narrates Hearts and two of the other stories. He talks out of his nose, but is still great to listen to. He is one of the few writers who can narrate his own work, putting a personal touch to the story.

The Prisoner was one of the best shows ever on TV.

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19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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