I’m one of Stephen King’s constant readers, so Just After Sunset, a collection of short stories was a re-read for me. I enjoyed these enormously.
Something weird happened when I read the first story in this collection though.
For years I’ve been day-dreaming about a story which I thought I had invented. My plot was based on a sudden event that occurred which killed two people in a building at the exact same time. The dead man and woman emerged unhurt from the debris of the building but when help didn’t come they walked to a nearby restaurant which should have been crowded with people but found it deserted too, along with everywhere else they went. The couple went to each other’s homes hoping to see their loved ones, but when they got there found their homes were deserted too. Eventually they realised they were dead. After a respectable amount of time they became romantically involved, which was lovely at first but after a while the couple realised that forever was going to be a really, really long time. I think the reason why I never had a crack at writing this story was because of the forever thing. It’s just too long and I couldn’t figure out how to end it.
The weird thing was that when I read Willa, I realised where I got my plot idea from. There are differences in the stories (for one, Stephen King doesn’t write romances) but the idea is close enough that I knew without doubt that ‘my’ plot must have come to me after reading this the first time around (probably in 2008 when Just After Sunset was first published). Now I think about it some more I think my plot probably also owes something to the movie Ghost as well as the television series Lost.
I remembered most of the other stories in this collection as I read them, too. Knowing what was going to happen didn’t make me any less anxious for the characters in some of the scarier stories. Stephen King has an extraordinary knack of making a character feel real to the reader very quickly and very often, to care about them.
My favourite stories in the collection were The Gingerbread Girl where the main character, a recently separated woman, was captured by a madman who planned to kill her, along with Graduation Afternoon, where a teenage girl could see both her future as a successful journalist and her present, as she saw a nuclear bomb detonate in the distance with a wave of destruction come towards her. I also enjoyed Mute, the story of a man unburdening himself to a Catholic priest in a confessional booth.
I was unable to read large sections of A Very Tight Place because they were so yucky, but I enjoyed being horrified by the story all the same. It is surprisingly enjoyable to finish reading a story that has grossed you out so much that you’ve squeezed your mouth shut and clenched your shoulders up near your ears. My sigh of relief at the end of this story brought me a physical and mental release.
Some of the stories in this collection have a supernatural element while others had more of your everyday-type of horror. I like both.
I also liked the notes at the end of the book where the author said what prompted him to write each of these stories and a little about where he was living or doing at the time. His notes offer a fascinating look into his personal life as a writer and I always appreciate and enjoy these.
I’m looking forward to getting my hands on If it Bleeds, Stephen King’s latest short story collection sometime soon.