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)

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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)

Bag of Bones Book Review

“I wanted to have one more book that was big, that felt like I was running the tables in terms of sales. I wanted to knock Tom Clancy out of the No. 1 spot. Like Leonardo DiCaprio, I’m king of the world, even if it’s only for two weeks, whatever. I wanted those things.”-SK on B.O.B

 

 

Book Store Totals

Released on September 22, 1998 by Scribner

First book published by Scribner

1998 Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award Winner for Novel 

1999 British Fantasy Society Award Winner for Best Novel

1999 Locus Award Winner for Dark Fantasy/Horror Novel 

This book is a great read. Plain and simple. This was King’s first book with Scribner and what a novel to lead-off with. This book has everything: Love, loss, redemption, a ghost story and a murder mystery all in one book.

Bag of Bones is more than just a ghost story or a haunted house story. It’s a story of loss, coping, self-examination, and hoping for a brighter future. You literally go through the range of emotions with Mike as you read the book, most importantly, his thoughts on what was and what is going on in his life.

When I first read this book I was young. I was 19 a few months before I turned 20. I didn’t know anything about a mid-life crisis and certainly didn’t know about losing a spouse. And when I read the book for the first time back then, I didn’t get it because of my age and life inexperience.

As most of King’s work, especially after I have gotten older and more mature in life (at 35), I’m connecting with Stephen King’s work on a higher level. And Bag of Bones is one of those books that I emotionally connected with. Not only did I connect with Mike, but sympathized with him as well. No cardboard cutouts in this novel. Most characters were the real deal.

Stephen King to me puts on a writing clinic fusing a great story with a full reaching arc that never tires. His use of ghosts, love gained and love lost and a murder mystery of long ago make this book a don’t miss.

So…Why does Bag of Bones work?

  1. Bag of Bones works because Mike Noonan is such a likable character. His life has been shattered by his wife’s death which has affected not only his mental and physical state, but his career as well. You just root for this poor guy as he tries to put his life back together. And you really hope that Mike is going to end up happy again. Mike is one of the good guys in King’s work with no flaws that make him unsympathetic. One of my favorite main characters.
  1. Bag of Bones works because it’s a great ghost story. That gets lost in this book I think because of the stuff going on with Mattie and her estranged father-in-law, the evil and decrepit Max Devore. When the story turns back to the actual haunting and why it’s going on in Sara Laughs, Mike uncovers why exactly the place is haunted and who it is doing the haunting.
  1. Bag of Bones works because of the authentic relationship that Mike forges with Mattie and Kyra. This relationship comes across on the pages as real even though Mike tries to not think of Mattie in the ways he thinks about her. He has a boyish crush on her but reminds himself of the age difference. I think the dynamic between Mike and Mattie was truly authentic as King intended it to be. Also, I think that Mike saw himself as a father to Kyra because of the connection that they had. All of that felt real to me and came alive on the pages.
  1. Bag of Bones works because at its core it’s a love story of sorts. Mike loved his wife profoundly. And for several years he couldn’t get over her untimely death. I don’t really think he ever got over Jo’s death at all. It was really a cool idea to have Jo’s ghost being at Sara Laughs with Mike helping him solve the mystery of Sara Tidwell’s death. It was good for Mike to have that connection with Jo even if it was from beyond the grave.
  1. Bag of Bones works because it plays into three different themes: A love story, a murder mystery and ghost story. It seems like a lot going on, but King managed to weave in and out of each theme seamlessly without confusing the reader. Not many writers can perform this kind of magic. But Stephen King has been doing it for years.

 

Bag of Bones rattled my bones at- 4/5 (Awesome)

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)

From a Buick 8 Book Review

“I’ve had ideas fall into my lap from time to time-I suppose this is true of any writer-but From a Buick 8 was almost comically the reverse: a case of me falling into the lap of an idea.”-SK

Bookstore Totals

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Blue-Ribbon Award Winning Novel

  • Released by Scribner on Sept. 24, 2002
  • Was #1 on NY Times Best Seller list on Oct. 13, 2002
  • 2003 Horror Guild Winner for Best Novel

 

What can I say about this book? Only that I loved it! Yeah, it was a great, well-written novel by one of the best writers alive or dead. I can say for sure that I went into this book not knowing what this novel, at its core, was really about. You think it’s going to be about a haunted car or something but how wrong you’d be; how wrong I was.

Yeah, the title says it all: From a Buick 8. You know it’s going to be about a ghostly car, a 1954 Buick Roadmaster to be exact. And you already know King’s work with a car in the past. But was this going to be like Christine at all? The answer is no. This novel was waaaay better than Christine. Buick 8 had a certain texture and tone to it that made it more about the people than the car itself.

This novel is a gem hidden among all of his work, novels and shorts. It doesn’t get the fanfare that I think it deserves because casual readers of King will ask where are the scary parts? Well, it ain’t a horror novel. It does have supernatural tones, but the book achieves in making us realize that for all the questions that we have about the world we live in, they are hardly any answers if any at all. That’s what King conveyed to me at least. Sometimes there are’t any answers. It is what it is… as the kids these days say.

So why did From a Buick 8 work?

  1. Buick 8 works because King writes characters that we just can’t help but to like and identify with in some way or another. In this novel, he does it again because he lets us meet Trooper Curtis Wilcox, a rookie with the Pennsylvania State Police. When he comes in contact with the abandoned 1954 Buick Roadmaster, he becomes obsessed with it, wanting to know where it came from, what it is, and what it could do where the owner was. I think there’s a Trooper Wilcox in all of us because most of us obsess over things from time to time. Sometimes to the point of insanity. And sometimes in that pursuit of obsession we lose ourselves. The lucky ones are brought back.
  1. Buick 8 works because the car takes the backseat so to speak. The novel is more about trying to solve questions that have no answers. There’s so many questions about the car that is stowed away in Shed B at the Barracks at the PSP (Pennsylvania State Police) building. However, the tone of the book weighs heavy because it strikes a nerve with the deep readers that have asked existential questions before about certain things only to never have a real answer. Sometimes, just like in Buick 8, there is no answer. Things just are. There’s a lot of talk about fate. And King rolls fate fast and hard in this novel.
  1. Buick 8 works because the pacing of the novel King presented to us. They weren’t chapters per say but flashbacks from the past to the present concerning the car that was locked up in Shed B. I liked the way different people took to the narrating giving their slant on the overall story about the car and experiences they had.
  1. Buick 8 works because there was a distinct aura of mystery surrounding the car. It just shows up at a gas station and the driver disappears around the corner of the building never to be seen again. That’s where the story picks up because there is the plot: where in the hell does a car like that come from and why did someone (a man dressed all in black) leave it and never come back for it? Questions with no answers.
  1. Buick 8 works because it does exceed expectations. It’s one of his most philosophical novels because it dives into a broad range of emotions. I think the more emotional parts of the book were these: 1) King’s description of Trooper Wilcox being hit and killed on the side of the road by a drunk driver (The same man that found the Buick at the gas station where he worked in 1979) 2) At the end of the book where Ned is a trooper just like his old man, still watching over the Buick Roadmaster locked up in Shed B just like his father before him had. Talk about the use of fate…

 

From a Buick 8 roars in at-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)

Joyland Book Review

“I loved county fairs when I was a kid. There’s sort of a cheesy, exciting feel to them, and I decided that’s what I wanted to write about.”-SK

Bookstore Totals

  • King’s second book published with the Hard Case Crime imprint
  • Published in 2013
  • NY Times Best Seller
  • This book was was re-produced in 2013 a week after the release into a 3 book limited edition: 1) a gift edition. 2) a numbered edition. 3) a numbered and signed edition numbered and signed by the author.

 

Okay, this book was a little hard for me to review. I mean I liked it, didn’t love it. Didn’t hate either. It’s very difficult to hate anything that Stephen King writes because I like his stuff so much. That’s why with every book from him I read, I can always find something that works for me. Maybe I’m a little bit biased, but I’m a total fan of his, not a critic from New York or Los Angles. That’s not to say every book or short story he writes is the greatest piece of fiction to ever hit the bookstores. King has more hits than misses and for me he hasn’t missed anything.

Joyland was one of those books that was like 60/40 for me if I’m honest here. I read it in a span of a few days. I could have read the entire thing in a day if I had the time, but I couldn’t.

So what’s got me at a 60/40? (60% liking it) I think the length. The length of Joyland was short and even though it was short, it did keep my attention throughout. It’s not like because the length of the book made it any less of a good read, but I think the shortness really undercut what could have been a really engrossing novel.

 

I really think that Joyland could have been an epic novel if he really wanted it to be and I think that’s my problem with it: It’s just too damn short! Plus, I’m greedy because I wanted more because I felt like King really just scratched the surface with the killer, Lane Hardy, and Devin the book’s young sleuth. But with any good story, you always leave it wanting more. And that’s a good feeling to have: I wanted more with this story!

In the end, the book is what it is and Joyland works despite my issue with the length:

  1. Joyland works because it’s a coming of age tale. I like when characters are telling the story and are much older, giving their slant to the events of the narrative, possibly bending the truth a bit to suit their fading memories on what happened concerning the tale they are telling. People do that all the time when recounting a story from long ago.
  1. Joyland works because it’s a book that can be read in a quick amount of time. This can come in handy for those that just want something to sit on the couch with on an idle, rainy Saturday afternoon with nothing to do or on a long drive.  Perfect book to get lost in for awhile.Image result for joyland alt cover
  1. Joyland works because Devin has had his heart broken at a young age. Guys or girls both can relate to this because we’ve all been down that road before in a relationship much as Devin had in the book. I felt for him because I had a certain situation in my past that was like Devin’s. Again, King has a way of tapping into a reader’s emotion and memory conjuring up things that were happy and sad about our lives. Why can he do that so well? Because he writes about real people with real everyday emotion. The characters in Joyland had that and more.
  1. Joyland works because it’s a whodunit. I like mysteries myself. And who better than to write a mystery about a killer working the carnivals and theme parks over time than Stephen King.
  1. Joyland works because it’s not a convoluted book. As much I as wished it was more engrossing, it is still at its core a pretty straightforward book without the notions of having to flip back and re-read pages because of a clue that you think you might have missed. It was nice to just sit down and read and be entertained.

I do recommend anyone reading this book that hasn’t yet.

Joyland is a really cool place to visit- 2/5 (Okay)

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)

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Book Review

“If books were babies, I’d call The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon the result of an unplanned pregnancy.”- SK

Bookstore Totals

  • Published April 6th, 1999 by Scribner
  • Debuted #1 on The New York Times Best Seller List on May 2nd
  • In 2004, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon was released as a pop-up book
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Blue Ribbon Award-Winning Novel


In under 230 pages, this book doesn’t disappoint at all. In fact, I think that it’s one of his best, top ten material for me. I can’t say enough about this book about a nine-year-old girl getting lost, growing-up and surviving all on her own in the forests and bogs all the while trying to beat the odds as sickness, starvation and the God of the Lost is stalking her along the way.

This is what I would call a “gateway” novel into Stephen King’s Universe for those in the lower teens looking to start reading King’s work.

 

Why does The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon work…

  1. TGWLTG works because King takes a small child and thrusts her into a real situation that any kid could find themselves in. And in that real life horror, he makes a hero out of the girl. I love the underdogs and I loved Trisha’s strong bond with her favorite baseball player, Tom Gordon. Had it not been for the thoughts of him (and the visions and interactions with the Red Sox closer) and her Walkman, she would have died for sure. They were lifelines.
  1. TGWLTG works because it had that “what’s that stalking her in the woods” backdrop. As if her being lost, sick and scared wasn’t enough, King puts in a hidden figure that is watching and keeping pace with the lost girl as she traveled through woods and swamps. I think the thing in the woods kept the novel going to a degree because as a reader you didn’t know what this thing was or what the end game was going to be. All you knew was that the thing in the woods was going to make itself known at some point. And I thought keeping it hidden was a cool idea to build up the anticipation of when it did appear in the final showdown. Sometimes the scariest things are the ones we don’t see.
  1. TGWLTG works because Stephen King didn’t get himself or the story too bogged down within itself. The book could have really, really been tough to read had he stretched it out into something like 600 plus pages. Hell, who am I kidding. He’d find a way to make it work even if it was a 600 pager, right? But nevertheless, I think the length really helped this book. Perfect marriage between length and story.
  1. TGWLTG works because it’s so simple. A girl that needs to pee walks off the path and deep enough into the woods where no one could see her. And then she gets turned around and forgets where she came in at. And that’s real. I’ve been lost in the woods before and it’s scary because everything looks the same pretty much. And to a child? I think King was able to take something that could and does happen every day and make it a scary and interesting tale. Simple things can be very frightening.
  1. TGWLTG works because I have a daughter around this age and as I read it, it made me think of my own child. That’s who I had in mind when I read this novel. What if this was her? Yet again, Stephen King was able to hit home with an emotional connection for his readers; at least with me he did. If you’ve ever been lost then you know how this girl felt and I did. I also felt the pain of the parents trying to find their daughter. I wish that King would have did more on the parents and the thoughts that were running through their heads while Trisha was trying to find her way back out of the woods. I do think that was a missed opportunity. However it didn’t hurt the novel in any way.

All in all, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a great read and one that I will be revisiting soon I’m sure. It was difficult to put down because you just had to find out what other perils that this young girl was going to have to face and overcome. While I read the book in the comfort of my own home, I too, felt lost with her. That’s why Stephen King is a master craftsman at what he does: He’s able to draw you in and make you feel.

I felt all of Trisha’s fears, her cries, her pain, her sickness and her despair and bouts of happiness as she tried to find her way out of the woods. Trisha McFarland is one of the better literary role models out there.

King in this novel was able to capture what it’s like to be a 9 year old girl being lost in the woods from the perspective of a child. He was able to make us, the reader, feel the totality of her being alone, all alone in a place that looked the same at every turn.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon gets a save at- 5/5 (Certifiable Classic)