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.
Word 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.
I’ve written a few flash pieces this month, all to fairly strict deadlines, but that is as much of a challenge as the writing process itself.
Row Boat Resuscitation is a dramatic tale about a sinking ship… although I’m not married to that title. Filling in the Blanks is fiction, but it does take a lot from my experience with my grandma. And Maternity Test is about a teenager’s prospect of meeting his mother for the first time. They are all very short, but they each offer a good platform to jump from.
I’ve started another short piece as well, which will see conclusion over the next couple of days, so I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes.
I also got word that More of a Wednesday Girl – a short story I wrote last year – has been shortlisted in a contest that I had all but forgotten about, which is a nice end to the month. It’s been far too long since I had any competition success, so fingers crossed there.
Word 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.
Word 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.
I’ve come to a decision about Slipwater. I am giving myself until my birthday next year – that’s May 7, 2021 – to find traction with a professional agent or publisher. If I still have made no headway by that time I’m going to self-publish the novel.
I know, I have always been opposed to going down that route. It’s the easy way, right? Any idiot can do that. There are no checks at any point in the process, and certainly nobody to tap you on the shoulder to tell you what you’ve written is trash.
Yeah, I know.
But I wrote the novel for a reason, and it’s good. I believe in it, and I want others to have the chance to read it, and if I have to swallow my pride and do what I swore I never would… then so be it.
Of course, I would much prefer to do this the traditional, tried and tested way, so if anybody in the business is reading this, here’s your chance to get in on the ground floor.
In other news I wrote a dark flash piece called I Am the Cheese. It’s something I put together very quickly – in about an hour actually – that isn’t particularly polished, but has potential down the line once I give myself the room to mess around with it.
I have sent off a few pieces to contests this month. I was going to give myself a budget each month for this, to get me in the habit of sending stuff away, so that may be an idea I can run with. I’ll have to see how it shakes out.
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.
Word count – 6,600 words
Quitters Inc tells the familiar tale of one man’s desire to stop smoking, and the lengths he goes to in order to do just that. On the recommendation of a friend he speaks to a very shady man who promises he can ensure he never smokes again, although his methods are a little… questionable, to say the least.
There is a campy quality here which is a little reminiscent in execution to The Ledge, from earlier in the anthology, which is certainly not a bad thing, although this has not been afforded quite the same level of skill and care.
Quitters Inc has a good story at its core, and although it is not as polished as some of the other entries in Night Shift there is enough good stuff in here to be counted as one of the better entries in the collection.
Well, I promised three short stories by Christmas Day but only managed to deliver one by the end of the year. I finished Last Chance Lagoon just in time to close out the year on a high note.
I think it was always going to be the one I finished first, but at 1400 words it’s a little longer than I had originally expected. It’s good – I like it – and I did enjoy presenting it to my captive audience, who seemed quite taken by being the star of the show.
This is my final post of the year, but I have big ideas for 2020. There are many things I want to accomplish in the next twelve months and beyond, and I’m going to get on them right away.
Happy New Year, folks!
First of all, Happy Holidays. I hope you all had a good time, and got what you wanted and deserved.
Unfortunately, I didn’t finish any of those short stories that I had tasked myself to do. All three of them are in the home stretch, and I reckon if I had put down the chocolates and the turkey I may have found the time to have completed then over the last couple of days… but alas, the call of the festivities was much too great.
While I may not have met my self-imposed deadline, I have manufactured a few decent tales that I otherwise would not have created. I think they will turn out pretty well – it’s just finding the inclination at this time of year to put a bow on them.
2020 is just around the corner now. I aim to make it a good year for me and mine, and I hope you all do the same for you and yours.