Book Review: In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill

In the Tall Grass is a horror novella by American writers Stephen King and his son Joe Hill, was released in e-book and audiobook formats on October 9, 2012.

Originally published in two parts in the June/July and August 2012 issues of Esquire magazine, this is King and Hill’s second collaboration, following 2009’s Throttle. In the Tall Grass  has also been published in Full Throttle, a 2019 collection of short fiction by Joe Hill.

As is the norm with anything Stephen King writes, it has also been adapted for screen with Netflix taking the rights for it and releasing it in October 2019. The screenplay was written by, and the film directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) and starred Rachel Wilson and Patrick Wilson. It is one of those rare adaptations that actually stayed very true to the original story and benefitted from that. It’s good.

But, to the book and the authors, I assume Stephen King needs no introduction. This is a predominantly a heavy metal and horror site right? Suffice to say I adore the man, he has had a life changing impact on my reading with masterpieces like The Stand, Insomnia, The Shining, It and of course The Dark Tower series barely scratching the surface of his genius. He has good genes which leads us to his son Joe Hill, or Joe Hillstrom King. An author I also adore with a wonderful collection of material behind him already including The Fireman, Strange Weather, NOS4R2 and The Black Telephone to touch on just a few.

In the Tall Grass Stephen King and Joe Hill authors

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In the Tall Grass is quite typical of Stephen King works from back in the day in that he, along with Joe Hill, take a seemingly standard thing and make it scary. This time, grass instead of a dog, a car or an old washing machine of sorts. The story follows Cal and Becky Demuth as brother and sister. When Becky finds out that she is pregnant, there slightly odd parents suggest they go live with her aunt and uncle until the baby is born. presumably the shame of having her walk around pregnant, and as Becky has plans to put the baby up for adoption, the parents can essentially pretend it never happened of Becky returns with no bump and no baby.

As Becky and Cal are inseparable, Cal decides to accompany Becky on her cross-country trip to her relatives and make an adventure of it, as well as being support for his beloved sister. On the way, they pull in to an old petrol station alongside a field of very tall grass. While sitting there, they hear calls for help coming from the grass. A young boy, who eventually declares himself to be Tobin, appears to be lost in the tall grass. He is not alone though, we also hear his mother calling out. She appears scared, warning Tobin to be quiet and declaring “he will hear you”. Ominous indeed.

Cal, nice boy that he is, decides he needs to help and seeing as Tobin sounds like he is mere yards into the grass, decides to jump in, grab him and get him back out to the road. Simple. But of course, it isn’t as no sooner does he enter the grass, Tobin calls out again sounding much further away. With Cal now also wandering around in the grass, Becky decides to call the authorities for help, dialling on the phone as she also steps into the grass where she quickly loses signal. Becky tries to find Cal, Cal tries to find Becky, they both try to find Tobin and the elusive mother. It would be comical if it wasn’t for the feeling of dread that the authors are managing to convey.

By jumping to see each other’s positions, by walking towards each other’s voices, it quickly becomes clear that something is wrong as the field appears to be shifting position. They can be right next to each other, take one step and be 100 yards from each other. Then we meet Ross, a man who claims to be Tobin’s father and finds Becky. On one hand, yay, she has been found by someone. On the other, you can’t help thinking back to the words of Tobin’s mother. “Ssssh, he will find you”. Is this the he?

As Becky is led to a bloodied clearing by Ross, Cal seems to spiral out of control as panic takes hold fully. He drinks the dirty water from the ground that the tall grass grows from, finally finds Tobin and gets led to a large rock with carvings on it and watches as Tobin feasts on a dead crow. As Becky goes into labour, a crazed Cal and Tobin approach with a sentence uttered by Tobin hanging in the air – “the tall grass doesn’t move dead things”.

In the Tall Grass is a really enjoyable short story from two cracking authors in Stephen King and Joe Hill. It carries a real sense of dread and suffocating tension throughout. While it is clear and obvious that something is wrong in the grass and that entering it is a mistake, the descent onto bloody filth is less expected. It’s a scary premise right? Being lost In the Tall Grass, hearing voices, wandering but being unable to find your way out or the people you are looking for. Night time is coming, you are hungry and thirsty and you are lost. A simple idea but one that works in ways that often only simple ones do.

The supernatural side is great too, but the book is actually scary enough with them just being lost. Add in the oddity of the rock with the dancing carvings, dead animals and a creepy kid too and you have a very good, scary story from the master of horror and his protégé.

Stephen King Links


Joe Hill Links




  • Brendan Fisher

    Owner/Editor/Writer/YouTuber - Heavy Metal and reading, two things I have always loved so they are the two areas you will find most of my reviews. Post apocalyptic is my jam and I always have a book on the go and have for decades now. From a metal perspective, age has softened my inadequacies and I now operate with an open mind, loving many bands from many sub genres but having a particular admiration for the UK underground scene. In my other time, when not focused on Dad duties and work, I try to support the craft beer movement by drinking as much of it as I can and you will also find me out on the streets, walking. I love walking, I love exploring new places and snapping nature photos as I go.

In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill
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