Stephen King Stories You Ought to Know

Night Surf

 

Originally, this story was published in 1969 in Ubris magazine and was later on collected in King’s first short story collection, Night Shift. What is Night Surf? It’s the short story that served as the jumping off point for The Stand. Not a whole lot of people know this. And I suspect when people read this month’s ‘You Oughta Know’, they’re going to find this story and read it and really like it.

As a standalone story it’s very good. Looking at it now as a sibling to The Stand, it’s even better. There’s more meat on it, more of a point to it; not to say there wasn’t before The Stand. The latter just enhanced Night Surf.night surf

Basically Night Surf is about a group of teens that think they have survived a virus (A2 and then later a more lethal virus, A6 aka Captain Trips) that has wiped out nearly the entire world’s population. As they spend the night at a beach, one of the teens that had joined their group begins to show signs of Captain Trips and the narrator of the story, named Bernie, begins to think about the bleak future of humanity and his eventual demise.

Night Surf comes in at- 3/5 (Very Good)

 

 

Stephen King Stories You Ought to Know

“I like this story a lot; it tickles me. And the old guy’s voice is soothing. Every now and then you write something that brings back the old days, when everything you wrote seemed fresh and full of invention. “Mrs. Todd” felt that way to me when I was writing it.”-SK

Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut

This story is one of the classic stories, at least for me it is, in King’s second collection in 1985 called Skeleton Crew. The story itself was originally published in 1984 in Redbook magazine.

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Blue Ribbon Award-Winning Short Story

There’s a certain freshness to this story when you read it. Even if you’re reading King’s work in order or skipping around, when you come to this story there’s something unique about it. I know, unique is a broad word when describing King’s work sometimes. But this story is remarkable.

The story is about a woman who is obsessed with finding shortcuts and saving time. And who doesn’t like a good shortcut? But those of us that have read King know that sometimes shortcuts can lead to danger. Not here…not really.

Mrs. Todd tells Homer about these special shortcuts and how taking them cuts literally miles and time off of her trips. Doubtful of some of the tales she was telling (much because Homer knew how long some of these trips would actually take), Homer takes Mrs. Todd up on her offer to ride with her one day on a trip so she could prove to him she was truthful. 200px-SkeletonCrewHC

On the trip, Mrs. Todd takes a shortcut with Homer in tow. As they drive down the mysterious and unknown road, Homer sees things that his eyes cannot believe nor his mind comprehend. And as he sees these weird and odd things like live tress and odd creatures on either side of the old country road, he sneaks a peek at Mrs. Todd who seems to be looking younger.

Later on, Mrs. Todd turns up missing and is never found or heard from again. But Homer seems to think that he knows where she has been all these years; she’s found another shortcut that has taken her to parts unknown. And the end of the story, he’s right…

This story is about a woman finding a country road that turns into a portal of sorts between our world and the world unseen. Todash, if you will. And these “todash” places have cropped up a lot in King’s work over the years.

Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut is a great shortcut indeed- 5/5 (Certifiable Classic)

1922 Book Review

“1922 was inspired by a nonfiction book called Wisconsin Death Trip (1973) written by Michael Lesy and featuring photographs taken in the small city of Black River Falls, Wisconsin. I was impressed by the rural isolation of these photographs, and the harshness and deprivation in the faces of many of the subjects. I wanted to get that feeling in my story.”-SK

1922  is one creepy fucking story. This was the lead off story and perhaps the most engrossing of the four in Full Dark, No Stars. The story is told in first person by Wilfred James, the narrator and the man that with the help of his young son, murdered his wife and tossed her body into a well.

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Blue Ribbon Award-Winning Story

The story is a confession by James about what he had done in 1922 and how it has driven him crazy in the end. This story had several disturbing scenes for me but none tenser than when Wilfred James and his son went into his wife’s bedroom to murder her. That scene was gory and scary.

Let me not forget her corpse getting 1922out of the well and coming back into the house later on…classic King. Here’s the situational question with this story: would we kill to keep our home? Wilfred did but in the end it cost him everything.

 

1)   1922 works because King successfully places us back in time. He does this time traveling seamlessly without us even noticing that we’re back in the old days. His descriptions of vehicles of times past and farm life come off as authentic like he was there writing down his observations to give to us, the reader

2)   1922 works because of the total destruction of the James family. Not only does Wilfred not get along with his over bearing wife, he murders her and tosses her body in the family well out back. Their son eventually breaks underneath the weight of what happened to his mother and his part in it and runs away from home apparently on a robbing spree to keep he and his girlfriend going. Wilfred himself eventually breaks down along the way.

3)   1922 works because this book has some really cool and grotesque scenes in it. The part where Wilfred and his son kill Arlette in their bedroom was wickedly twisted. Also don’t forget the entire scene where she is dragged out of the house in the night and thrown down the well to hide her corpse.

4)   1922 works because one night Wilfred’s dead and rat-riddled wife escapes the well and enters into the farmhouse. She tells him the future of his life and their son’s. Turns out she was right in her prophecy from beyond the grave.

5)   1922 works because Wilfred ends up selling the house and land that he murdered his wife for. I thought that this was a huge piece of irony written by King that we find peppered throughout his work. Wilfred lost everything and for what? To be eaten by rats at the end of the story all alone in a hotel room in Omaha? Great King story.

 

1922 is a disturbing place to go- 5/5 (Certifiable Classic)

Stephen King Stories You Ought To Know

“This probably the only story in the book (Nightmares and Dreamscapes) which was written to order. John Skipp and Craig Spector came up with the idea of an anthology of stories exploring what things would be like if George Romero’s zombies from his Deadtrilogy (Night of, Dawn of, Day of) took over the world. The concept fired off in my imagination like a Roman candle, and this story, set off the coast of Maine, was the result.”-SK

Home Delivery

This short first appeared in 1989’s zombie anthology, The Book of the Dead. Later in 1993, it was collected in King’s short story collection, Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

Home Delivery is a zombie short that takes place on a small island off the coast of Maine. It’s not a long story, but it’s one of those shorts that kind of puts you right in the middle of what’s going on within the community’s problem. And that problem is a world-wide one: zombies.

This isn’t King’s first foray into the world of the reanimation. If you remember, Pet Sematary was one of King’s first dives into the zombie pool. Later came our month’s feature,Home Delivery and later in the 2000’s came his novel, Cell.

Home Delivery is a really cool situational story meaning that you get to see how the small island town is dealing  with a world-wide plague that has spawned perhaps millions of zombies across the globe targeting the living.

This story isn’t more of his popular stories or best known. But this story is creepy in parts and keeps you interested in what’s going on until the last page. Zombies and Stephen King equal a great combination.

Home Delivery delivers the goods- 3/5 (Very Good)

Stephen King Stories You Ought To Know

One for the Road

This scary tale was first published in 1977 in the March/April issue of a  magazine called, Maine. Later on the next year this short story was collected in King’s first book of short stories, Night Shift.

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Blue Ribbon Award-Winning Short Story

One for the Road tales the story about a family that has taken a wrong turn during a snowstorm at night and wind up in a town that looks like a snowy ghost village. And that town is ‘Salem’s Lot.

Not knowing the events that had transpired in that town a few years ago, the husband decides he’s going to get out of the car and go for help leaving his wife and child safely inside the stalled and locked car. What’s the worse that could happen? Right?

When he and a bar owner and the bar owner’s friend drive through the storm back to where the man’s car was to save his the his family, the husband to his horror, finds that his family is missing. The bar owner and his friend know exactly what has happened: it must have been the vampires that are said to still roam the town at night…beware of a twist at the end.

It was good to come back to the Lot even though if it was just for a few minutes.

One for the Road goes the distance- 5/5 (Certifiable Classic)

Stephen King Stories You Ought To Know

The Man in the Black Suit


“This story is proof that writers are often the WORST judges of what they have written.”- SK

The Man in the Black Suit is an award winning (World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction, 1995–O.Henry Award for Best Short Fiction in 1996) short story that was originally published in 1994 in The New Yorker magazine and later collected in King’s 2002 collection of shorts,Everything’s Eventual.

The story came to Stephen King when a friend of his told the story about how his grandfather had a run-in with what he described as the Devil himself while walking around in the woods one day.

This story is told as a recollection of a much older Gary narrating the tale about the day he escaped the devil down by the fishing stream when he was 9-years-old.

One day, Gary goes fishing at a nearby stream for trout and falls asleep there on the bank. When he wakes up he discovers a man in a black three piece suit with skin like milk and claw like fingers with sharp, pointy teeth and eyes red as fire standing there before him. Along with this frightening imagery of the man, Gary could smell burnt matches in his presence.

As the man in the black suit stands there, he begins to talk to young Gary telling him all kinds of scary shit about his mother being killed by a bee sting while he’s been away fishing, his dad eventually molesting him later on in the future and that he, the man in the black suit, was going to eat him whole there in the woods. Gary manages to get away from the man in the black suit and heads for home.

This is a must read…

The Man in the Black Suit rocks-5/5 (Certifiable Classic)

Stephen King Stories You Ought To Know

Rainy Season

This Stephen King story you ought to know is a odd little tale called, Rainy Season. First published in the Spring 1989 issue of Midnight Graffiti magazine and then later collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, this, as far as I know, is the only King story about toads.

What’s so peculiar about this Stephen King tale you ask? Well, how about it rains toads? Yup, not just your swamp variety toads we’re talking about, but full blown vicious amphibians that can break through glass and chew through wood and they’re nearly as big as footballs with razor sharp teeth. Oh yeah, they can and will kill you as some sort of town sacrifice every seven years in exchange for the town’s prosperity. Kind of a trade off.

This isn’t one of King’s more famous or well-known shorts. In fact most people hadn’t heard of it outside the hardcore King readers cliques. But it is a fun and fast read. I enjoyed it very much.

Sure it’s outlandish. But it’s about toads falling from the sky and eating their way into a couple’s home to chew them apart as per the seven year ritual. Usually you don’t see that kind of behavior from things that go croak in the night.

Overall I like this story and have read and re- read this tale several times. It’s not a long story, but if you’re looking for something to pass the time on a rainy day, then Rainy Season is a must.

Rainy Season rains down at- 3/5 (Very Good)

Stephen King Stories You Ought To Know

The Death of Jack Hamilton

“As a kid, I was fascinated by tales of the Depression-era outlaws, an interest that probably peaked with Arthur Penn’s remarkable Bonnie and Clyde.”-SK


This is one of those shorts ( King’s 2002, Everything’s Eventual, collection) where King showcases that he’s a well-versed writer, not a horror writer like most people outside his fandom like to tag him. So when King writes a story about a member of John Dillinger’s gang slowly dying from a gunshot wound, of course I’m going to read it…and like it.

This story is simplictic. It’s not balls to the wall nor is it chalk full of Depression Era nostalgia. The story is about Dillinger gang member, Jack Hamilton, dying from the bullet that is lodged in his lung during a shoot out. After being refused treatment by Joseph Moran, a Depression Era gangster doctor who operates under the radar, Dillinger and his boys try to find a place to lay low and maybe get Hamilton some help. But the truth of the matter is that Jack is dying and the reality of that is horrible not only for him, but the rest of the gang. They all know that it’s just a matter of time.

The story is about the realities of being outside the law. What happens to men that are wanted fugitives who are mortally wounded and can’t see a straight-up doctor? In this short, we get to hear the accounts of Jack Hamilton’s final hours…

The Death of Jack Hamilton- 3/5 (Very Good)

Stephen King Short Stories You Ought To Know

“Yeah, it’s about baseball, but give it a chance, okay? You don’t have to be a sailor to love the novels of Patrick O’Brian, and you don’t have to be a jockey-or even better-to love the Dick Francis mysteries. Those stories come alive in the characters and the events, and I hope you’ll find similar liveliness here.”-SK 

This short was first released back in 2010 by Cemetery Dance as a limited edition hardback. Later Scribner released it under their house and eventually it was added to the collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams in 2015. 200px-Blockade_Billy

I like baseball, past and present and wondered when King was ever going to write a fictional baseball book. Blockade Billy is his fictional gift for baseball fans and fans of his. I enjoyed it on two different levels: One as a baseball fan and another as a fan of Stephen King’s work.

 

So why does Blockade Billy work…

  1. Blockade Billy works because it’s a baseball story set in the later part of the 1950’s. And if anyone knows about that era of baseball history they can appreciate a trip to the past, fictional granted, but still a good trip.
  1. Blockade Billy works because the title’s main character Billy Blakely is a little off in the head. You don’t know why or how and that’s where King begins to work his magic. He writes Billy as odd as any one of his creations. And throughout the story, you know that there’s just something sinister about the baseball player but you don’t know what. Great suspensebuilder.
  1. Bloackade Billy works because the way King wrote this story is fluid. Meaning that the narrator’s voice is strong and uninterrupted throughout him telling the story to Mr. King himself. I liked that. I liked the fact that an old man in a old age home is recalling a story, a baseball story, and he tells it with such enthusiasm and vigor.
  1. Blockade Billy works because King keeps it simple. No need to saturate the plot or populate the landscape with characters that do not matter. King sticks to the story and doesn’t allow it to lag at all. Plus he gave the narrator a truly strong and believable voice. I felt that the old salty coach was really talking instead of King writing his words.

 

Blockade Billy hits a homer at- 3/5 (Very Good)