The Long Walk: Part One

The Long Walk may not be a great book but it’s a fascinating career choice for the emerging Richard Bachman, and a tremendous palate cleanser between King’s earliest works and the flurry of cocaine-fueled activity that would be the hallmark of his late-1970’s and 1980’s output.

Children of the Corn

“Children of the Corn” may not be Stephen King’s most original work, yet it continues to be a fan favorite because it taps into something truly horrifying about the American experiment.

I Know What You Need

“I Know What You Need” was first published in Cosmopolitan in 1976, and while the choice of maret may have been due to the story’s soap opera conceit, the story shows off one of Stephen King’s best qualities: the ability to build fantasy on top of a foundation of realism.

Quitters, Inc.

Though he cultivated a reputation as an iconoclast and literary rebel early in his career, the success of his first three novels and the Carrie movie, meant that by 1977 King was rubbing shoulders with Hollywood royalty. HIs stories at the time reflected the change in his surroundings.

The Sisters

In the top floors of an abandoned hotel, a group of young girls rally around the comfort and protection of a mysterious supernatural force called the Sisters. When one of the girls, Wendy, starts having strange visions, she begins to question whether the Sisters are truly the saviors they claim, or something much more sinister.

The Ledge & The Lawnmower Man

“The Ledge” and “The Lawnmower Man” are both great examples of King’s overactive imagination going off the tracks in delightfully bizarre ways. They also provide a solid shot in the arm for a short story collection that, at the mid-way point, was in danger of careening off the tracks.

Strawberry Spring

Like “The Mangler,” “Sometimes They Come Back,” and “The Boogeyman” before it, “Strawberry Spring” suffers from a lack of imagination at the crucial moment. What begins as a solid world-building exercise, showing how a small community can devolve into panic with a little injection of chaos, turns into a strange gotcha finale that is somehow both unearned and wholly unoriginal, even by 1970’s standards.

Sometimes They Come Back

“Sometimes They Come Back” has a lot of things going for it: a solid protagonist, a compelling premise, and natural tension given the unreliability of the main character. But while the final outcome is less than fulfilling from a narrative standpoint, the story has interesting parallels to the modern world.

Trucks

Stephen King is a master at creating diabolical metaphors for the plight of the working man. Night Shift, in particular, is littered with tales of blue collar stiffs battling real world and supernatural disorder. “Graveyard Shift,” “The Mangler,” and “Gray Matter” all do a tremendous job of rooting the horror in the real world anxieties of the northeastern industrial working classes. “Trucks” takes the horror of industrial decline and takes it on the road for one of Night Shift’s most memorable tales.

Battleground and Gray Matter

“Battleground” and “Gray Matter” show us a young writer see-sawing between his best and worst selves, trying out different tactics and narratives, finding himself. While the excesses of “Battleground” occasionally rear their ugly heads over King’s 40+ year career, fortunately the brilliance of “Gray Matter” shows up a lot more.

I Am The Doorway

“I Am The Doorway” is not King’s best short by far, but it is noteworthy because it’s one of his first direct dives into science fiction AND body horror. He would do a better job with both of these genres with his short-lived work under the pseudonym Richard Bachman (in particular The Running Man and The Long Walk in sci-fi, and Thinner in body horror), but for a departure from form “I Am The Doorway” is a solid start.

Atmospherics, Creature Design, and Bad Horror

Horror deals in something fundamental: fear. More than that, though, it can incorporate the full range of human emotions through a medium that is both enjoyable, entertaining, and deeply cathartic. But in order to succeed, horror needs to master a few key ingredients. Comparing Terrifier and The Nun, BLK STG gets to the heart of why one succeeds and the other doesn’t.