TitleAuthor: Stephen King
Page Count/Review Word Count: 848
This is going to be one hell of a review. That’s because I structure each of my reviews so that they have the same number of words as the book has pages, and this one was a bit of a chunker. It was good though, a pretty impressive collection of short stories that showcase a variety of different genres and writing styles, though most are loosely linked in the sense that they feel a little bit like dreams or nightmares.
Let’s take a look at a few of the different stories that stood out to me. The first story is called Dolan’s Cadillac and it basically follows an incredibly elaborate revenge plan with the aim of swallowing up someone’s car in a pit trap and then burying them beneath the road. It’s unlikely, perhaps, but King had done his research (as usual) and so it was believable and delightfully vindictive. I thought it was King at his best.
I also liked The Night Flier, which was a vampire story in the vein of ‘Salem’s Lot. It did a great job of fusing together traditional vampire mythology with the modern world, or at least the world that was modern when Stephen King was writing this. It’s not his strongest story, but it was pretty good for what it was.
Another standout was The Moving Finger, which shares its title with an Agatha Christie short story but which is definitely very different. In it, a man discovers a finger poking out of the plughole of his bathroom sink and decides to wage war on it, ultimately pouring drain cleaner down the sink in a bid to get rid of it. The problem is that it doesn’t exactly go down like that.
Another memorable story was You Know They Got One Hell of a Band, a Twilight-zone inspired piece in a small town called Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven where the waiters are the spitting image of Janis Joplin and Buddy Holly and where the mayor is a piece of Rock ‘n’ Roll Royalty. The only problem is that they’re putting on a show and they don’t want anyone to leave town.
The Doctor’s Case is worth mentioning too, if only because it felt a little incongruous with the rest of the mix. In it, King imitates Raymond Chandler’s style, except he’s writing a Sherlock Holmes short story in which Dr. Watson is the one who solves the crime. It was pretty fun and quirky enough, but I don’t think it really fit with the rest of the collection.
Then there’s Heads Down, which is basically an essay about little league baseball. Even the fact that a teenage Owen King was one of the players wasn’t enough to grab my interest because I’m just not that interested in sports. Even if I was, baseball wouldn’t be my game. Sure, the fact that it was written by Stephen King helped, but I only kept reading because I had to if I wanted to get to the end.
Umney’s Last Case was good, though. It basically followed a 1920s style private eye as his world starts caving in around him. Then it gets meta, and it turns out that he’s a fictional character and that the writer himself has decided to make a few changes, including by escaping from his life and into the story. It was a lot of fun and would have made for the perfect ending if The Doctor’s Case and Heads Down were removed and included somewhere else.
Still, all in all, this was a pretty good collection, and while there were a few stories that I didn’t enjoy as much as others, that’s only to be expected from a short story collection. I’ve read a few of King’s short collections now, and I’d have to say that this is one of my favourites, although there are some notable exceptions and let’s be honest, when it comes to King, it’s not exactly as though you’re spoiled for choice.
I’d had this book for nine years before getting to it and I definitely regret leaving it for so long, although I can still understand my mindset. It’s a bit of a commitment going into it, and it took me around a week to finish it despite the fact that I did some travelling and I’m also generally a pretty fast reader. I think it might have worked better if I’d read a story a day or something, and in fact that’s probably what I’d recommend if you’re thinking about getting to it.
Other than that, I only have positive things to say about this one, and I’m glad that I had a more positive experience with this than I did with Bag of Bones and Night Shift, which were my other more recent reads. I’m starting to run out of books to work through now. It’s a good job he keeps on writing new ones, really. Go King!