The Introduction to Stephen King's Just after Sunset Describes How an Editing Assignment Forthe 2006 Edition of Best American Short Stories Inspired the Author to Attemptshorter Fiction Again

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 16, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Introduction to Stephen King's Just after Sunset Describes How an Editing Assignment Forthe 2006 Edition of Best American Short Stories Inspired the Author to Attemptshorter Fiction Again


Byline: Christian Toto, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The introduction to Stephen King's Just After Sunset describes how an editing assignment forthe 2006 edition of Best American Short Stories inspired the author to attemptshorter fiction again.

It's a reunion that suits the horror maestro well, even if some of the tales told here only flirt with the supernatural.

The collection gives pause to the notion Mr. King's talents are ebbing, or that he needs either gory passages or a parade of pop cultural references to sustain the reader's attention.

Instead, he draws upon richly observed characters and the kind of textured prose that today's literary heavyweights might envy. It's too late to envision Mr. King as a literary force with a capital L. He's drawn too much blood on the printed page for that. But the best passages in Sunset rise to the level of his august peers.

Take Willa, a tale of a free-spirited gal and the man who can barely keep up with her. The story is set partially at a depressing train station, but the rest goes down at a honky-tonk bar Mr. King describes with clean, crisp detail.

Willa is more than just a flirty romance. It's a ghost story, albeit one with a kicker that causes goosebumps of a different order.

The Gingerbread Girl stands as the book's best no-frills horror yarn. Emily recently lost her baby girl, and the death has caused an irreparable fissure in her marriage. So she runs away, literally. Her sudden passion for jogging, which borders on mania, deposits her in Florida where she finds shelter in a home owned by her father.

She'll need her newlytoned legs when she runs into a serial killer on Florida's coastline. It's boilerplate King, but the sophisticated opening gives readers plenty of reason to root for Emily's survival.

Other stories touch on more conventional horrors.

Harvey's Dream lasts less than 10 pages, but Mr. King needs only a few paragraphs to evoke a wholly relatable nightmare - being stuck in an emotionless marriage. But that scare isn't the only one introduced here.

N. carries a whiff of Mr. King's engaging novel It, if only in the way it evokes the permanent bonds forged during childhood.A distraught woman finds a manuscript left behind by her brother, a psychiatrist who recently died under suspicious circumstances.

The manuscript reflects the brother's dealings with N, a patient with severe OCD. …

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