I am definitely a reader-come-lately to Stephen King. I read my first King novel in my twenties and it was literally years before I read another. Not because I didn’t enjoy it but because I was hung up on the idea that King was a “horror” writer. I was wrong and I wish the marketing people had done a better job of placing King in the hands of readers because he is a very, very entertaining writer and his subject matter is so much broader than horror. He is a writer who explores the human condition.
This is a book of short stories. Each one is prefaced with an introduction in which King discusses when it was written, the story behind how he came up with the ideas in the story, how it reflects on other work he has written and a host of other observations. There are also some insightful thoughts on writing as an art and a craft and how other writers have influenced this authors work.
There is something for everyone in this collection and for those who enjoy short stories and can appreciate the difficulty in this style of writing, those readers will be richly rewarded. There are also great lessons for writers and this book is like having a master class in short fiction at hand.
Among my favorites, and there were many because very few of the stories in this volume fall short of the mark, were the following:
“Bad Little Kid” – the quintessential story of an imp whose lifelong mission is the commission of trouble for one man.
“Mile 81” – for those that enjoyed “Christine” a different take on a car as evil.
“Afterlife”- a meditation on dying and reincarnation
“Ur” – for anyone who loves books and believes e-readers are the devil’s tool, this one is thoroughly wonderful! It makes me love my Nook even more. I am waiting to find the Ur menu and archive!!
“Blockade Billy” – for the baseball and sports buffs.
“Mister Yummy” – a great snapshot of old age and the world of AIDS. And yes, Mr. King, you’re right…you don’t have to be gay to write well and with insight and respect about the gay experience. Bravo!
“Tommy” – one of two poems that King included in this volume.
“Obits” – a secret power that we sometimes we wish we might possess but could also spell disaster.
“Drunken Fireworks” – are there any other kind? I laughed all the way through this one. It is such a true observation of human beings and the way they interact. And drink! And light off fireworks!
I was given this book as a gift and what a wonderful gift. I read as often as possible. Many times late at night and there were at least a few nights when I could barely keep my eyes open but I didn’t want to put the book down. I had to wrest it from my partners hands. She is a King reader from way back and now that I am not obsessing about her ruining it for me, she can finally get her hands on it. She did manage to sneak in one story and keeps asking “Are you done yet?”
Readers who love Stephen King won’t be disappointed and readers who are not normally King readers, I encourage you to explore him as a writer. You will be pleasantly surprised and probably a convert. The good news? King has a huge volume of work so converts will not have to wait impatiently for the next book. We have a lot of catching up to do!