Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Just after Sunset

Just after Sunset, published in November 2008, is a collection of thirteen (what more appropriate number than thirteen for a King collection) Stephen King short stories.  The stories gathered into this volume appear to have been written over a number of years (one of them over 30 years ago) with the shortest of them clocking in at ten pages and the longest ones running over fifty pages each.  In the book’s introduction, King laments about how easy it is for a novelist to lose his short story writing skills if he does not regularly practice the craft.  Obviously, from what we see here, he need not have worried too much.

Of the stories in the collection, only one of them, a story called “N.” would really be called a Stephen-King-style horror story – although there is one other about a horrifying cat, titled “The Cat from Hell,” that does come close. That one, the oldest story in the book, was originally published in Cavalier magazine but this is the first time that it has been included in a Stephen King anthology.  I should note, too, that there are several “ghost stories” in Just after Sunset, but none of these qualify as horror stories since the ghosts in them are generally among the stories’ most sympathetic characters.

Many readers, especially King fans, already will be familiar with “The Gingerbread Girl,” a longish story that was released on CD as an audio story about six months before its inclusion in Just after Sunset.  This is one of the most effective stories in the book, and it follows the theme of what I think are the best stories in this collection: wacky killers, crazed seekers of revenge, and crazy do-gooders are best avoided at all costs.

My personal favorites are “A Very Tight Place,” in which King demonstrates that he can still write a “gross-out” story with the best of them; “Stationary Bike,” a story in which one man learns what it really takes to keep his veins and arteries clear of all the goop he eats; and, “The Things They Left Behind,” an excellent story of one man’s survivor’s guilt after the murders of 9-11.

All in all, this is a nice collection of King’s work, and the icing on the cake is a seven-page section at the end entitled “Sunset Notes,” in which King explains the origins of the stories and why he felt compelled to write them.  King fans should enjoy this collection – and those less familiar with his work might be pleasantly surprised.

Rated at: 4.0

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