Heart-Shaped Box (novel)
Cover of US edition
|Cover artist||Susan Young|
|February 13, 2007|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|LC Class||PS3608.I4342 H43 2007|
Aging rock star Judas Coyne spends his retirement collecting morbid memorabillia such as a witch's confession, a real snuff film and, after being sent an e-mail directly about the item online, a dead man's suit. He is told, by the daughter (whom he does not know at the time), that the old man's spirit is attached to this funeral suit. The ghost will go wherever it does and so buying this suit would effectively be buying a poltergeist; Judas cannot pass up this opportunity.
The suit soon arrives in a heart-shaped box. Various odd occurrences alert Judas to the fact that the ghost is dangerous and is out to kill him and those around him. His assistant, Danny Wooten, realizes that the ghost of the suit will try to kill everyone around Jude. He leaves Jude's service, but not before contacting the woman who sent the suit. Jude finds out that the ghost was the father of a groupie, Florida (it is later revealed that her real name is Anna), whom he dated for a few months and who had later committed suicide. The ghost wanted revenge on Jude for causing Anna's death, as he saw it. His current girlfriend, Georgia (whose name is actually Marybeth), refuses to leave and together they run from the house with the ghost chasing them.
The ghost's intention is to keep Jude away from his two dogs, Angus and Bon, as it turns out that dogs, as familiars, can protect their owners from the dead. But Georgia insists on taking the dogs with them. The animals save the couple several times, but the ghost eventually manages to kill both dogs. Jude and Georgia investigate and find out the true story about Florida. She did not commit suicide because of the breakup between her and Jude. Florida had many emotional problems and Jude had tried to help her but, in the end, he gave up.
The reason she was so unstable was that she was being hypnotized and molested by her stepfather, the now dead and ghostly, Craddock McDermott. When Florida left Jude she had nowhere to go but back to her twisted family, but eventually she threatened to contact Jude to have him help her escape the incestuous relationship and file charges against Craddock and her elder sister, Jessica (who even let Craddock molest her own daughter Reese). They drove Anna to suicide to prevent her from doing so. At a later point, Craddock, a man knowledgeable in the dark arts, realized he was dying and planned with Jessica to get revenge on Judas. They believed that Judas had "ruined" Florida by making her reject her family and their incest. Craddock hexed the suit; once he was dead, Jessica set the plan in motion. After a series of gory battles between Judas Coyne and Craddock McDermott, Georgia finds the way to bring Florida back from the grave and help Jude fight her stepfather. In the end, the evil Craddock is vanquished, freeing Jude and Georgia from his cruel curse; Jessica, meanwhile, is arrested for the abuse she helped commit against her daughter and is imprisoned. Jude and Marybeth make it through the horrendous event and happily marry.
Hill received a great deal of attention with the publication of Heart-Shaped Box. Subterranean Press published the advance edition of 500 copies and they sold out within days, long before publication. The limited signed and numbered 200 copies and 15 lettered copies are sought after by Joe Hill book collectors. A second printing of the limited edition was announced by Subterranean Press on April 14, 2007, and released in May 2007. The second printing sold out within hours of being announced. Hill went on an international tour promoting his book which ended in April 2007.
His previous book, 20th Century Ghosts, was only available through a UK publisher and was printed in very limited quantities (1,700 copies in total, 700 of which are signed).
Heart-Shaped Box won the 2007 Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel.
The film rights to Heart-Shaped Box were acquired by Warner Bros. in 2007 to be produced by Akiva Goldsman. Irish director Neil Jordan wrote the script and was slated to direct. At present, the project has stalled in development hell.
- Joe Hill's personal website
- Read a Heart-Shaped Box excerpt online
- Time Magazine review of Heart-Shaped Box