Night Shift is the first collection of stories that Stephen King published, way back in 1978, and after reading it over the last six months I come away quite happy with the content. There are no blow-you-away fantastic stories here – although several are very good – but more importantly, there are none that really shit the bed either.
I recommended sixteen of the twenty short stories in Night Shift, and of the four that I gave a red arrow to, the only one I really struggled to get through was the first story in the collection – Jerusalem’s Lot. Others may get into this one more, but I just couldn’t stomach the language for the length of time King asked me to do so.
Although I recommended 80% of these stories, they are not all of the same high quality. The Last Rung on the Ladder is hands down the best story here – simple in execution, with a haunting and perfectly played pay-off. Just below it on the totem pole are Battleground and the serial killer tale, Strawberry Spring. Just below those I’d put vertigo-inducing The Ledge and The Man Who Loved Flowers. They are the five stories here that I would recommend to any fan of Stephen King.
Night Shift is a good collection, and crucially, most of the best stories in this anthology – with the exception of Battleground – are not in any way supernatural or out-of-this-world, whereas the stories I liked the least were not grounded in reality at all. Subjective, sure… but it is worth mentioning.
The Woman in the Room is a dramatic tale about a man dealing with his bed-ridden mother who is dying of cancer, and his struggles over whether or not euthanasia is his only option.
Back in the late seventies this was likely a much more controversial narrative thread than it is these days – not that readers are blasé about euthanasia in fiction, although to some degree that is probably true – but this story simply lacks the punch that I think it once did.
The Woman in the Room is the last story in Night Shift, and unfortunately it is probably not the final kick to the gut you are looking for or expecting from King. It’s a perfectly serviceable tale, just not a particulary memorable one.
Unfortunately my short story More of a Wednesday Girl didn’t place in that contest that I was waiting for at the end of February, but I’m all right with that. It was nice to be shortlisted, seeing as it has been so long since I’ve even been that close to success. And more chances will come my way, I just need the right story and the right judge looking at it.
Obviously, the coronavirus has been all-encompassing this month, and rightly so, but the downtime at home has given me (and will hopefully continue to give me) the opportunity to catch up with some writing.
I finished a short piece called Paid in Full, in Plastic, which was a lot of fun and turned out quite well. It’s the fifth tale I’ve completed in 2020 and the 100th short story (upwards of 1,000 words) I’ve done since I started keeping detailed records of my writing exploits in 1995 – some of which are even pretty good!
It’s nice to hit a milestone like that, and I just hope that the inspiration can continue in these strange and uncertain times.
On 17th of March I posted on here that the number of confirmed global cases of Covid-19 was over 180,000, and that the number of deaths had passed 7,000. Thirteen days later and those numbers are now over 740,000 and more than 35,000 respectively. These are frighteningly large numbers, and they will get a lot bigger.
I am now off work for twelve weeks as a result of the furlough plan that the UK government has put in place. It wasn’t my idea, but once it was presented to me it quickly became apparent that it was the most sensible move to make. Nobody quite know how it works – least of all, my manager – but effectively I will be paid 80% of my wage to sit at home and ride this thing out… well, that is certainly the plan. Watch this space.
It’s a difficult time for everyone, not least of all the families and friends of those who have sadly died, or are currently suffering, as a result of the coronavirus. Everyone who reads this will have been touched by the restrictions that the virus has forced upon the world, and we all have to do the right thing and get through this together, so the less we all jump on the bandwagon and bitch about cabin fever or how we are becoming a nation of depressed zombies because we can’t go out, when we all stay inside on our tablets and mobiles anyway, the better we will all be.
There is no need to panic or raid the supermarkets for all that they have, but we do have to be careful by interacting with as few people as possible, and washing our hands often. You don’t have to agree with the politics of those who are telling you to do so, but – come on, folks – a little common sense is not beyond you.
The first story in this anthology, Jerusalem’s Lot, acts as a prelude to King’s second novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, and One More For the Road is somewhat of a suffix to that novel.
What this piece has going for it over Jerusalem’s Lot is that it takes a more modern approach to the storytelling, and that in itself is immediately a tick in the pro column. The narrative style of that first companion piece is one of the main reasons that I could not recommend it.
You don’t need to have read ‘Salem’s Lot (and certainly not the other short story in this collection) to get or enjoy this piece. Ultimately, this is a straightforward vampire tale, but familiarity does help to flesh out the world. One More For the Road gets a pass, but it’s a very thin recommendation.
I thought about coming on here and trying to bring a little levity to this coronaviral situation, but at the point of writing there has been over 180,000 diagnosed cases and more than 7,000 deaths as a result of this, and those numbers are increasing all the time and rapidly. So I don’t feel much like cracking wise.
Disneyland is closed; pubs in Ireland are closed, (over St. Patrick’s Day, no less); concerts all over the world have been cancelled. Hell, many cities are off limits and a growing number of countries are locked down entirely. Businesses and governments have not gone to these lengths for shits an’ gigs, or without serious consideration. This is not a drill, people. This is the real deal.
There is enough rice and pasta for everyone. Bread and milk is plentiful if we all just buy what we need and not encourage stupidity by manufacturing a shortage. You really don’t need all of those Ibuprofen or paracetamol, and all those cereals and biscuits are not going to help either.
Remember, there are those who can’t get to the stores as often or as readily as many of us can, and a lot of us are being selfish with our purchasing and leaving shelves empty for those who really need it or are simply trying to buy a regular supply for their household.
Most of us have jobs we need, and all of us have people we care about. So let’s try to stay safe and stay smart in this unclear time.
The Man Who Loved Flowers follows a smiling young man as he walks the streets of New York carrying a bunch of flowers, and it focuses primarily on the reactions of those around him as he passes by.
This is a simple tale of misinterpretation, and how things are not always as they seem on the surface. The story does take a darker turn in the final third – putting this into more familiar King territory – but to say anything further would be to spoil it for those who have not read it.
Because The Man Who Loved Flowers is fairly brief, King doesn’t have the time to dilute it with his usual shenanigans – a trait he is unfortunately guilty of on many occasions – and this is one of the best things on offer in this collection.