Thursday, December 18, 2008

You CAN go home again

I have several Stephen King books on my keeper shelf. For sheer storytelling power he's extraordinary in every way that matters.

I still read just about every book he publishes and enjoy most of them. In the last three months or so I reread Salem's Lot, Misery, The Mist and From a Buick 8. And last night, for no particuar reason, I picked up his first collection Night Shift.

Yes, he got better as a writer, much better in fact. But I tell you this book has a mesmeric hold on me. I don't exaggerate when I say that I've read some of these stories twenty times. They're almost like saying the rosary for me.

Graveyard Shift still creeps me out; I Am The Doorway is an acid nightmare; Sometimes They Come Back is an Evan Connell-like portrait of personal and professional failure tucked inside a stunning horror tale; Strawberry Spring and I Know What You Need presage the later, more sophisticated work; The Ledge and Children of The Corn demonstrate his mastery of pulp tropes; and The Woman in the Room is the sad, gripping masterpiece of the collection.

This is one of those books to keep permanently on the nightstand. Whatever kind of fiction you like, you'll find an example of it in Night Shift. It's a special treat for writers. Nobody in popular fiction has ever equaled King's rolling thunder approach to the job of telling a story. He's like a prize fighter who can hit you three times before you get your guard up. These stories have the effect of blunt force trauma on me. I think they'll have the same effect on you.


mybillcrider said...

When that book came out, I reviewed if for a now defunct publication called BESTSELLERS. It's still in my top two S. K. favorites.

James Reasoner said...

My buddy Leland DeBusk -- now gone, rest his soul -- loaned me his copy of NIGHT SHIFT while we were in college and said, "You gotta read these stories!" For that reason alone it's one of my favorite King books. And luckily, the stories really are great.

Chad Carter said...

The first King book I read, at the tender age of 13, still the one book I will always hang onto of King's. I think King's prose is snappy and without guile, belonging to a man trying to sell work as fast as he can, paying homage to every writer he ever loved. "Gray Matter" is the Pulpiest of the Pulpy stories here and my personal favorite.