Category Archives: Reviews

Night Shift – Overview…

stephen king night shift nelNight 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.

Night Shift #19 – One More For the Road…

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Word count – 6,300

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.

Recommended ⇑

Night Shift #18 – The Man Who Loved Flowers…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 2,300

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.

Recommended ⇑

Night Shift #17 – The Last Rung on the Ladder…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 4,800

This is Stephen King doing what he does best – urban horror, without any supernatural or demonic bent. There are no monsters under the bed, and nothing in the closet. This is just… stuff that can happen.

It’s a simple story about the relationship between a brother and a sister, how it ebbs and flows over the course of their lives, and about one particular incident that has defined them. It’s emotional and engaging in its simplicity.

King is prone to both falling down and rambling when he tries to wrap up a story, but this is impactful and stops before he finds something else less meaningful to say. The Last Rung on the Ladder is just damn good storytelling, and without a doubt, the first great story in the collection.

Recommended ⇑

Night Shift #16 – Children of the Corn…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 11,100

Children of the Corn has spawned about a thousand movies, which is strange considering the source material is this short story, which seems to run out of steam before the end.

A couple find themselves in one of those rural towns that King is so fond of writing about, only to discover that all the adults have been killed and the community is being run by a bunch of teenagers who worship a corn-God known as He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

It’s difficult to put Children of the Corn amongst the top tier of stories, because this deep into the anthology there have been several that are much better. This is too long and suffers from the pay-off not being worthy of the build-up. I can recommend it, but only just.

Recommended ⇑

Eagles, Chapter VI – The Long Run (1979)

Members: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B Schmit, Joe Walsh

Timothy B Schmit joined the Eagles and original member Randy Meisner left before this album came out, so this felt even further removed from the original template of the band than Hotel California had been.

The Eagles had released their first five albums in five years. The Long Run was a troubled release and took three years to build, a truth that was fuelled by drug use and growing animosity between members. This was their last collection of new material until 1994.

The Long Run (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
Overplayed and probably a little overrated, this is still a fine track, although Henley is resting on his vocal laurels here. 8
I Can’t Tell You Why (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Timothy B Schmit)
Lead – Schmit
This is the debut lead vocal on his first album with the Eagles, and it instantly gives him the best win-loss record in the band. A great soulful song. 10
In the City (Joe Walsh / Barry de Vorzon)
Lead – Walsh
A decent Joe Walsh track that is probably better known as the song that plays through the end-credits of cult seventies movie, The Warriors. 8
The Disco Strangler (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Don Felder)
Lead – Henley
This is a fantastic tongue-in-cheek diversion into the disco sound of the late seventies, but with a decidedly dark sting in the tail. Nobody else in the band could have sung this. 10
King of Hollywood (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey & Henley
One of my favourite Eagles tracks – a sombre tune about Hollywood starlets and the dark side of the business – that works even better because of the split vocal duties. It is accompanied by some great, evocative guitar work. 10
Heartache Tonight (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Bob Seger / JD Souther)
Lead – Frey
This is a great party track and a standout moment from Frey that was destined to be an encore. It’s a nice light touch in amongst a lot of the heavier stuff that surrounds it. 8
Those Shoes (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Don Felder)
Lead – Henley
Another very good dark turn on this album about the predatory nature of the singles scene. You have to love the use of the dual talkbox as well. 9
Teenage Jail (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / JD Souther)
Lead – Henley & Frey
Glenn Frey puts on the most sinister voice he can muster and dives into this obscure lyric. This track doesn’t get a whole lot of love, but I think it’s a good song on a great album. 8
The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
With a title that probably wouldn’t fly in today’s more sensitive times, this is a lot less offensive than you may think. This is a party track, complete with piped in crowd noises, so it’s hard not to smile when it’s on. 8
The Sad Cafe (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Joe Walsh / JD Souther)
Lead – Henley
This feels like the band tried to replicate the mood of the final track of Hotel California… except this is not in that song’s league. A competent ballad to bookend the album. 7

Overall: 86%
The Long Run is a much underated album. It’s not discussed as often as the band’s earlier releases, and certainly not as much as Hotel California, but this follow-up is almost as good, and the second best thing they have ever done.

Night Shift #15 – I Know What You Need…

Word count – 8,200 words

For the most part, I Know What You Need plays like a very creepy stalker story – the kind of thing that is a lot more prevalent now than it was when this was written in the early 1970s.

This mostly works, but the tale loses a little of its flavour for me in the final act, when King decides to throw some pseudo-voodoo in there to make sense of the narrative. I get it, but it just feels like he put a bow on the story when there really was no need.

I would have preferred that the story dissolved without a firm resolution, but it’s a minor quibble in an otherwise very good short piece that sits along with the best in the anthology thus far.

Recommended