It can’t be easy to be the son of Stephen King — especially if you set your sights on writing fiction. The novelist’s elder son goes by the name Joe Hill and pens genre fare like next month’s NOS4R2 (pronounced Nosferatu) that’s very much in Dad’s wheelhouse. Joe’s younger brother, Owen, has kept the King handle but treads more in the quirky-literary territory of John Irving. No wonder the young hero of Owen King’s ambitious and warmhearted first novel, Double Feature, struggles to escape the shadow cast by his famous father: Booth Dolan, the cult star of B movies like Rat Fiend! and Hellhole.
Sam Dolan has a prickly relationship with his mostly absentee dad, but he still wants to break into the film business, so he writes and directs a feature that goes hilariously awry. King writes with witty verve, orchestrating comic set pieces in a tricky narrative that jumps back and forth in time. While the female characters are less plausibly developed, the men in Double Feature — including Sam’s blogger pal Wesley and his godfather, Tom, a bachelor contractor who’s forever building additions to his house — emerge as a fraternity of oddballs whose acts of self-sabotage make them no less endearing. B+