He was like a dose of white arsenic sprinkled into a wedding cake, and I think I knew he spelled disaster the start. He was an accident waiting to happen.
The elderly Paul Edgecombe is living in a retirement village, making the days go by writing his extraordinary life story of the head prison warden on the Green Mile, the execution row in the Cold Mountain penitentiary. Paul’s job is basic, but not simple at all – to keep men and women destined to die in a few months as calm as possible.
The wardens on the Green Mile generally get along quite well. Paul is friends with Brutus “Brutal” Howell, nicknamed for his size, Dean Stanton and Harry Terwillinger. Paul and his wife are quite close with Head Warden Hal Moores and his wife Melinda as well.
The only exception to the general pleasant work environment is Percy Whitmore, who only has a job because of his connections. Percy is cruel, childish and immature, and loves to throw his connections into everyone’s face. He is the least liked by everyone, and they are all mystified as to why he would even want to work on the Mile in the first place.
Percy starts adding to his bad record with the arrival of Eduard Delacroix, sentenced to death for multiple murders. Del accidentally brushes Percy’s manhood when he stumbles, and Percy is too much of an eejit to realise that it was an innocent occurrence. From thereon he delights in making Del’s life as horrible as possible, as if the mere fact that the man is sentenced to death by electrocution is not enough punishment.
Another inmate arrives, a gigantic black man named John Coffey. John is sentenced to death for the rape and murder of the Detterick twins, but Paul is especially stunned from the start, because John is simple minded and seems constantly in agony.
The next inmate to arrive is by far the most difficult of the lot. “Wild Bill” Wharton is a man in his young twenties, also sentenced to death for murder. He prefers to be called Billy the Kid, and rejoices in the havoc he creates. Upon arrival he nearly strangles Dean Stanton while Percy watches, immobilized by fear. Brutus saves Dean but Percy now has to live with an increased derision from his work colleagues, and he just becomes more unpleasant. Wild Bill takes multiple trips into the infirmary soon after his arrival, each time promising to behave afterwards and then just reverting to his old manners shortly thereafter.
Paul is suffering from a painful UTI, and after the incident from Wild Bill’s arrival, John Coffey urgently wants to help him. Paul is scared to let John touch him, but something amazing and magical happens – the moment Paul is touched by John, his infection disappears and he is as good as new. Paul is stunned by the miracle but refrains from telling anyone, correctly assuming they would judge him insane.
As if the Mile wasn’t already packed, Paul Edgecombe is soon the host for another strange inmate, the mouse everyone christens Mr. Jingles. Mr. Jingles is soon the entertainment of the block, and he takes a special liking to Eduard Delacroix. Percy, who wouldn’t notice something amazing if it kicks him in the eye, immediately hates Mr. Jingles and when the mouse takes up residence in Del’s cell block, Percy swears that he will somehow kill Mr. Jingles.
Paul’s misgivings of John’s guilt increases and he decides he has to investigate. He hits some walls, people unwilling to put effort into a closed case, mostly because John is black and they are blinded by racial prejudice. Paul, who isn’t blinded at all, investigates and soon realises the thought involved in the abduction, rape and murder of the Detterick twins far outstrips John’s mental capacity.
Meanwhile, Melinda Moores declining health is a great source of worry to the Paul and his wife. She is diagnosed with a brain tumour and her behaviour rapidly declines and she is soon bedridden. Paul knows that John may be able to heal her, and devises a plan with his trusted friends, and also gets ideas to keep Percy in the dark about the fact that they want to sneak John Coffey out of prison. Will Paul, Dean, Harry and Brutus be able to sneak the massive John Coffey out of the Green Mile, and get him back without detection? How will they keep the wretched Percy in the dark? Will Percy eventually get Mr. Jingles? Is John Coffey really the rapist he was convicted to be, and if not, who killed the innocent two girls so brutally?
You might remember how much I enjoyed the film adaption of this book, and I am happy to say that the book is now rightfully now also a favourite. The movie stayed loyal to the book, and we all know how much I like that.
The Green Mile is just an extraordinary story told by an excellent author. This is my second King novel (the first was Carrie), and I liked this one more. King presents a story that seems interesting but normal, and he introduces the paranormal with such skill that it never seems strange or unbelievable.
Doug Hutchinson was such a perfect Percy Whitmore that I can say that movie Percy is more deplorable than book Percy, and book Percy was so HATEFUL.
The book is long but fortunately not boring. It takes some time reading, but recommended to King fans and Green Mile movie lovers!
Have you read the Green Mile? What did you think?