Night Shift – Stephen King

imageBook 5 of the Stephen King Challenge is Night Shift. Night Shift is the first short story collection from Stephen King and it is quite simply the finest group of short stories that I’ve ever read. While not all of them are 5 star reads, as a whole the entire compilation is amazing. This is King at his utmost finest.

Here is my breakdown of each story –
Jerusalem’s Lot – A short story that pre-dates the happenings in ‘Salem’s Lot. The story takes place in 1850 and is written in epistolary form where the main character, Charles Boone inherits an old mansion near Preacher’s Corners. The town folk are leery of Mr. Boone and his manservant, Calvin McCann, and feel that the mansion is cursed. Upon inspecting the house, they find an old map that leads them to a deserted town nearby called Jerusalem’s Lot. They find out that the town is deserted for a reason. The story wears its Lovecraft influences well.

4 out of 5 stars
Graveyard Shift – A fun romp in an old mill on the river that is filled with rats. The asshole of a foreman leads a team of workers to come in while the mill is shut down for the holiday to clean out the basement. The creepy atmosphere drips off the pages as you are led into the dark corners of the basement and beyond where there are rats, rats, and more rats.

4.5 out of 5 stars
Night Surf – The story that led into the idea of The Stand. While that sounds like a great read, it’s not. Unfocused and very little point.

2 out of 5 stars
I Am The Doorway – Now this one is a fun marriage of Ray Bradbury meets The Twilight Zone. What did an astronaut bring back from his space exploration of Venus? Yeesh!

5 out of 5 stars
The Mangler – Can a huge commercial laundry machine have a demon inside? It sure can if it’s located in Maine. While the idea seems silly, King does a good job keeping everything tongue in cheek.

4 out of 5 stars
The Boogeyman – Three dead kids and the closet door is always open, just a crack. Was it an accident, murder by an abusive father, or was it the Boogeyman? Great story that has shades of EC Comics Tales From The Crypt-type of feel.

5 out of 5 stars
Grey Matter – Another EC Comic inspired story about what can happen if you drink skunky beer. Loved it!

5 out of 5 stars
Battleground – What every kid whose played with those little green army men has daydreamed about. A direct hit!

5 out of 5 stars
Trucks – a bleak existence as automobiles and owners trade places as masters and slaves.

4 out of 5 stars
Sometimes They Come Back – The new students in Jim’s class look and act a lot like the greasers who killed his brother all those years ago. How is that possible? What do they want? How will Jim ever get rid of them? Great story!

4.5 out of 5 stars
Strawberry Spring – A killer is on the loose during a Strawberry Spring. Not a bad story, but not quite as good as the others.

3.5 out of 5 stars
The Ledge – What would you do to win your freedom and the woman you love? Would you walk around a 5″ ledge of a building 43 stories in the air? This story made my ankles hurt and my balls retract up into my stomach. Good stuff!

5 out of 5 stars
The Lawnmower Man – WTF was that? I don’t think Loony Toons could come up with something this silly.

2 out of 5 stars
Quitters Inc – Now if only we had watchdog organizations like this. We’d all live to be a hundred. Really enjoyed this one.

5 out of 5 stars
I Know What You Need – Ed comes into Beth’s life and always seems to know just what she needs. Good story, but I would’ve preferred a nastier/scarier ending.

4 out of 5 stars
Children Of The Corn – Burt and Vicky find out that Gatlin, Nebraska is no tourist destination. Starts out with good scares but then ends flat. I have to admit, it was too hard to not think of the movie while reading this and it probably ruined it for me. I wanted more.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars
The Last Rung On The Ladder – Larry and his sister Kitty weren’t supposed to climb the rickety ladder that led to the haymow when they were kids. But sometimes temptation is too much and the thrill of plunging down into the loose hay below disguises the danger. King’s descriptive abilities inserts the reader into the story. You can smell the dusty hay, feel the wobbly ladder, and feel the fall pull your stomach into your throat. Great story!

5 out of 5 stars
The Man Who Loved Flowers – Twisted tale of what could be going on when you see a man carrying flowers down the street.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
One For The Road – A tie-in story that takes place 2 years after the happenings in Salem’s Lot. Great storytelling where you can feel the frosty air in your lungs and the terror in your chest.

5 out of 5 stars
The Woman In The Room – A sad tale about the struggle to euthanize a loved one to ease their suffering. More depressing than anything.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars
Again, the whole thing was such a blast to read. I savored every morsel. If you haven’t read Night Shift yet, plunk your hard earned cash down now.
5 out of 5 stars!
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https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

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Boom Town – Glenn Rolfe

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A novella from a new player in the horror lineup from Samhain Publishing, which is also the home of the excellent author, Jonathan Janz. Glenn Rolfe weaves a tale that is one part The Blob and one part Invaders from Mars. While the story isn’t original, its still a blast to read. Rolfe has a style that derives from some of the great storytellers (King, McCammon, etc) where it sucks you in with wonderful, believable characters and realistic dialogue. Nowhere is this more evident than in the way the children protagonists talk amongst themselves. So many authors get this wrong. They’ll screw up how a kid would react to a situation and totally slaughter the dialogue of how they would really talk. When I see an author do this, it ruins the whole story for me because now I can’t buy into it; my suspension of disbelief is shot to hell. Not so with Rolfe. Excellent, excellent child characters. The story is a fun romp like a great B-movie. Pick it up and be introduced to the new kid that has some swagger. You’ll be glad that you did. I know I was.

4 1/2 oozing faces out of 5
~ this ARC was given to me in exchange for an honest review

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

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The Doorkeepers – Graham Masterton

imageJosh’s sister, Julia, moves to London and isn’t heard from for 8 months. One morning, her body is found cut to pieces and dumped into the Thames River. Josh and his girlfriend, Nancy, fly to England and attempt to find out what happened to Julia. The police are stumped and have no leads. They end up running into Ella, a psychic medium, while combing the neighborhood looking for anyone that might know Julia. Ella not only knew her, but she offers to conjure up her dead spirit so that they can communicate with her. After exhausting every other means to find her, to no avail, they reluctantly take up Ella on her offer. What they find is that there are doors to other dimensions and that an old Mother Goose nursery rhyme is the key that allows them to pass through the present London that they know and into other Londons that have different realities. Some are stuck in 1930’s technology and the American Revolution never happened. Another dimension finds London at war with America during World War II time, except this is the American Revolution with Germany as England’s ally. In each dimension, there are Doorkeepers called the Hooded Men that hunt down anyone that comes through the doors into the different worlds. As Josh and Nancy follow Julia’s trail through a door into another dimension, what they find is pure terrror.

The Doorkeepers is a great story and my first from Graham Masterton. He has a wonderful way of telling a tale that is vibrant and the characters are fully fleshed out. I found myself buzzing along through the story and not wanting to put it down. There are scenes in the Doorkeepers that are truly horrific and one that made me cringe in discomfort simply from reading it. That’s the kind of unsettling that I love to discover when I’m reading horror. You’d think from that description that Graham pours buckets of blood drenching the story. This isn’t the case. There is blood, but it takes you by surprise and kicks you in the gut when it springs out from the story instead of numbing you by reading page after page of it. Story and characterization is Masterton’s trademark and it shows in the Doorkeepers. My only complaint is that ending felt rushed like he had a double-decker bus to catch and needed to wrap the story up before he missed it. Other than that, I really enjoyed my first dabble into experiencing Masterton and I look forward to my next.

4 1/2 bloody doors out of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

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