While Stephen King’s first collection of short stories (Night Shift, 1978) doesn’t contain the scariest thing I’ve ever read (we’ll talk about which collection gets that honour when we get to it), it does have ONE OF the scariest stories I’ve ever read – one that I think was even harder for me to read this time around.
For some, “The Boogeyman” is probably silly, but King works that magic he has that gets to that deep, dark place inside that makes you think “…what if there really IS something inside that closet?” and goes from there. When Heather and I were working out our reading schedule for this book last week, I made sure that “The Boogeyman” was at the beginning of a day’s reading, because I didn’t want to take any chances on reading it after dark, or before bed.
Honestly? It was even worse than I remembered it being. Because – even as a grown ass woman – I’ve still got a bit of a fear of things that go bump in the night, and this one is even worse once you have children, no joke.
Frightening in a completely different kind of way than the story above is “I Know What You Need,” and I’m not exercising my hyperbole skills when I say that this story may be the root of my mistrust of people that are just TOO MUCH exactly what I need when they come into my life at the EXACT MOMENT I need them.
King really did a number on young sj, in more ways than one.
Night Shift also contains what I maintain is one of the SADDEST things King has ever written, “Last Rung on the Ladder.”
You know how a good ugly cry can be incredibly cathartic? That’s the story I reach for when I am in need of sobbing my eyes out over fictional characters. It breaks my heart (in that hurts-so-good kind of way) every single time. The first time I read it, I was the age of the children in the barn…now I’m the age they were all grown up. It doesn’t get easier to read with time, I think it’s more affecting every time I pull it off the shelf.
There are a lot of stories in this collection that have been made into shitty movies, so I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that you can find the inspiration for Children of the Corn, Sometimes They Come Back, The Mangler, Graveyard Shift and Maximum Overdrive within these pages (as well as others that have been included as shorts or were made into Dollar Baby films). I’d like to include The Lawnmower Man on that list, but really – that movie has more in common with Flowers for Algernon than it does with this story…plus Unky Steve sued the pants offa them to get his name removed from the production.
Not every story is a winner (personally, I find the first story – “Jerusalem’s Lot” – to be rather tedious, but I’m not a huge fan of epistolary works to begin with), but there are a few gems that are definitely worth reading if you’re a King fan of any sort.
As an aside, it makes me giggle that the majority of these stories were originally published in Cavalier or Penthouse. Had I been around and looking at girly mags in the early 70s, I’m sure I would have been reading them for the articles. [nod]
If not for the three I talked about above, this probably would have been a 3 star book, but because of them it gets bumped up a notch.
Next up on our READ ALL THE SK list is The Stand, which is the mark by which I judge all post-apocalyptica. I’m also thinking of bringing back the Drinkalong to watch the miniseries with you guys. Show of hands, who’s interested?