While recent experience told King that Doubleday didn’t want to publish more than one book by him a year, they most definitely wanted no less than a book a year from him, either.
After he finished The Shining, he spent a couple of weeks writing “Apt Pupil” and then returned his attention to the abandoned Hearst-inspired novel, The House on Value Street. He spent another six weeks on it, but the story still wasn’t taking off. Then he started work on one of his longest novels, The Stand, and realized early on that it wouldn’t be finished on Doubleday’s schedule. So, to bridge the gap between novels, King offered them a short story collection.
Night Shift assembles twenty stories. The earliest, “Strawberry Spring,” was first published in 1968 and the most recent, “The Man Who Loved Flowers,” came out in late 1977, shortly before the collection was published in early 1978. Four stories—“Jerusalem’s Lot,” “The Last Rung on the Ladder,” “Quitter’s Inc.” and “The Woman in the Room”—were previously unpublished. Nine were reprinted from Cavalier, and two each appeared in Ubris and Penthouse. The remaining three stories first appeared in issues of Maine magazine, Cosmopolitan and Gallery.
Bill Thompson took an active hand in helping King pick the best of the available stories for this collection. Among others under consideration were “The Blue Air Compressor,” “It Grows on You,” “The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands,” “Survivor Type,” and “The Wedding Reception” (later published as “The Wedding Gig”) as well as some unnamed poems. In an editorial letter to King, Thompson referred to these rejected stories as being “too much ‘Steve-the-student writer’” stories—adding that “Survivor Type” was too grisly. He felt they could do him more harm than good. “This is as important a book for you as a novel,” he said, believing Night Shift would generate more reviews than previous books and no “writing gaucheries” would be overlooked. King obviously listened, though he did allow a few of the stories to be collected subsequently.
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