A Hotel Owner Reviews Stephen King’s The Shining
Date: February 25th, 1977
You’re receiving this newsletter because you’re on the mailing list for Hal’s Hotelier Book Corner. I’m sorry I haven’t been sending out more reviews. The Hilltop Inn (located in scenic Canadensis, PA) has been very busy this season. A luxury hotel doesn’t run itself, after all!
In this issue, I review Stephen King’s newest novel, The Shining. Maybe you’ve heard of him—he’s an odd fellow from Maine whose first two books, Carrie and 'Salem’s Lot, were quite popular. I’m not a fan of horror, but I when I saw this one was set in a hotel, I had to read it.
The Shining is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. It’s terrifying to see a wonderful place like the Overlook Hotel overrun by the monstrous members of the Torrance family.
Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic, is forced to become caretaker of the Overlook after he’s fired for being a bad teacher and also stabbing one of his students. He and his wife, Wendy, see the solitude as a chance to mend their broken family. However, their young son, Danny, has psychic gifts that awaken the murdered spirits residing in the Overlook.
Before we go any further, my lawyer told me I have to say this: To the best of my knowledge, zero (0) persons have been murdered at my hotel, the Hilltop Inn.
Moving on, the first half of The Shining is great fun. The Torrances fall in love with the Overlook, and who could blame them? Jack, a struggling writer, is inspired by the stunning postcard views of the Rocky Mountains. Wendy is floored by the world-class dining facilities. Danny is entertained by kid-friendly activities at the playground and roque court. The only real complaint I have about the early section is that Mr. Ullman, the Overlook’s manager and clear hero of the book, disappears by page 150. As a hotelier myself, I think he’s one of the most compelling characters in modern American fiction. Running a 5-star resort is no cakewalk, and the book would’ve been so much better if it focused on him instead of Danny’s boring telepathic powers.
Still, I was prepared to call Mr. King and thank him for writing such a pleasant novel about a pleasant hotel. I thought The Shining was going to be the best thing to happen to the hospitality industry since do not disturb signs.
I was wrong.
As I kept reading, I endured torture at the hands of the Torrances. Jack criminally mismanages the hotel Mr. Ullman works so hard to maintain. Danny is allowed to run around like a wild child, a screaming banshee, going so far as to steal a skeleton key and break into room 217. I was on the edge of my seat as Danny rudely disturbed the guest enjoying a quiet soak in her bathtub. What’s next, Mr. King? Allowing young girls to play with fire?
Jack, an alleged adult, has no excuse for his actions. He repays the magnanimous Mr. Ullman with incompetence at every turn. My heart was racing when Jack works on the roof without proper safety equipment. I couldn’t breathe, my eyes glued to the page, when he sabotages the snowmobile (hotel property!) in the shed. Even scarier, he eventually stops working altogether—instead talking to imaginary people in the Colorado Room. Surely, Jack Torrance, there are carpets to be vacuumed, firewood to be chopped, invoices to be filed?
All of that, however, pales in comparison to what happens at the end. I know some of my readers are fellow hotel owners, so I must give fair warning. The following will be graphic. After Danny does something with a ghost and Wendy cooks a big turkey, Jack goes into a murderous rage. It’s not clear why, but my theory is he finally gets fed up with his family’s disrespect of the historic Overlook. To be honest, they would’ve made me a bit miffed as well.
Jack tries to teach them a lesson about proper hotel behavior with the aid of a roque mallet, but Wendy and Danny get the upper hand. Then, they learn of an even bigger threat. The Overlook’s unstable boiler in the basement is about to explode because—guess who?—hasn’t been releasing the pressure. Jack sees this as a great time to start doing his job and tries to save his family and, more importantly, the hotel. Despite his last-minute heroics, he fails. The Overlook perishes in a ball of fire.
I can admit it. I cried. The mere thought of all that complimentary hand soap and pristine china going up in flames was enough to make me put down the book for a few days. People are calling Mr. King the next master of horror, and I can see why.
And now, as I stay up late to finish this review while my wife runs the front desk, I can’t help but jump at every little sound. Is that bang I just heard actually Danny Torrance stealing room keys in the back office? Is that creaking noise actually Jack Torrance coming to blow up my hotel?
You terrified me, Mr. King. I give The Shining five out of five miniature shampoo bottles.
Neil Floyd is a Chicago-based writer with bylines at The Hard Times/Hard Drive, Quirk Books, Game Informer, and more. He’s currently working on a supernatural comedy novel and a supremely silly D&D campaign. You can find him on Twitter & Facebook, his personal website, and near the buffet table at parties.