After losing his job at Doubleday, Bill Thompson moved to Everest House, but he and King remained good friends, going to lunch and attending baseball games together. In November 1978, Thompson approached King about the possibility of doing a book about horror in movies, television and radio over the previous thirty years. Since it would be a work of non-fiction, King wouldn’t have to offer it to his fiction publisher, NAL.
At the time, King was living in Orrington, Maine and teaching creative writing and literature courses as a writer-in-residence at the University of Maine, his first experience teaching at the university level. In the evenings, he was finishing work on Firestarter.
The concept intrigued King, but he wasn’t enthusiastic about the project at first. It intimidated him. It was easier to tell lies in fiction than write the truth in non-fiction, he thought. It wouldn’t be his first time writing about the nature of fear and why people want to be scared by something entertaining, though. He’d prepared a long forward on the subject in Night Shift, for example.
Thompson was persistent and persuasive. He asked King how often he had been asked why he wrote horror and why people read horror. If he wrote this book, King would never have to answer those kinds of questions again, Thompson argued. All he’d have to do is say, “I wrote this book.” It would be his “Final Statement” on the matter. » Read more
Like a lot of kids who grew up in the Seventies and early-Eighties, I was introduced to horror fiction not through prose, but via comic books. The mid-Seventies were an especially fertile period for horror comics—the era of ‘The Marvel Age of Comics’ and ‘The DC Explosion’, among others, fondly remembered now as the Bronze Age. Every week, I’d peddle my BMX Mongoose bike down to the newsstand and grab the latest issue of Werewolf by Night, The Witching Hour, Tomb of Dracula, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, and dozens more, including my personal favorite, Man-Thing (written by Steve Gerber).
It was Gerber’s work that first made me aware, at age eight, that writing was a job somebody could have when they grew up. And so, while every other kid my age wanted to be an astronaut or a police officer or The Six-Million Dollar Man, I was already planning on being a writer. I produced dozens of comic books, laboring over them with pencils and a box of crayons, scribbling them down on sheets of paper my father had brought home from his job at the paper mill, defective sheets with globs of pulp wood embedded in them. I invented monsters and superheroes of my own (including one in which an intelligent, amorphous blob from outer space attacks the Earth), but I did a number of pastiches, as well—writing (and less competently illustrating) new adventures of Captain America and the Falcon, Kamandi, The Defenders, Spider-Man, and more.
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THAT WAS THEN…
I can’t even begin to guess at how many times I have read this collection, nor can I remember the first time I picked it up. I know I was in college at the time, and I know it was summer break and I devoured many of the stories sitting in the shade of the weeping willow tree in my side yard, but that’s all that comes back to me.
Except for the stories, of course.
Always the stories.
It feels like they have always been a part of me. In fact, along with “The Monkey” (which was collected in SKELETON CREW), the 20 short stories that comprise NIGHT SHIFT are as responsible for my becoming a writer as anything else from my past.
I read em, I loved em, and I immediately wanted to write stories just like em; stories that would make other readers feel the same way I did.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that that was easier hoped for than done. And that’s part of the beauty of these 20 stories. They are deceptively simple tales. Nothing fancy. Nothing pretentious.
They don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are: just good (or, in some cases, great) character-driven stories that are crisp and well written and, mostly, very scary.
I’ll do my best here to recount my initial feelings about each of the 20 tales (beware of spoilers): » Read more
Yessss, I’m finished reading RAGE. As a matter of fact, I’m almost finished with NIGHT SHIFT, too. I’m just a bit behind in posting my thoughts because: a) the holidays; b) I’ve been busy writing the title novella for my next collection, A LONG DECEMBER; and c) I love the holidays and everything that comes with them, so I have been lazy.
It won’t happen again, I promise.
Okay, I lied. It will probably happen again.
Maybe even sooner than later.
Apologies in advance.
And because Brian Freeman suggested it, and because Brian Freeman is the technical brains behind this project and I have to listen to him, I am offering up my Top Ten Stephen King novels listed below (novels only, no collections, and in no particular order):
2) ‘SALEM’S LOT
3) THE STAND
4) THE DEAD ZONE
5) THE SHINING
7) PET SEMATARY
8) BAG OF BONES
9) HEARTS IN ATLANTIS
10) FROM A BUICK 8
11) LISEY’S STORY
13) THE GREEN MILE
(See? I lied already. That’s 13 picks, not 10. And you can’t stop me!)
I’d love to hear your own Top Ten SK novels, so please post them when you get a free minute or two. I will be posting my thoughts on RAGE and NIGHT SHIFT in the next week or so. In the meantime, remember to follow me on Twitter if you do the Twitter thing.
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