Some of my Favorite Short Stories
I’m a fan of short stories. I started with the likes of Stephen King’s SKELETON CREW, and the novella that kicks that collection off, “The Mist”. How could you not fall in love after reading that perfect story? Is that fair though, a novella? It opened the gate for me into the world of short fiction, so I’m going to say “yes”.
Here are a few short stories that I love that deserve some time in the spotlight.
KING: “Night Surf” & “Strawberry Spring”
I followed SKELETON CREW with EVERYTHING’S EVENTUAL, and then (eventually) NIGHT SHIFT. I want to keep the King part of this post short and sweet, so let me just mention two pieces I loved from NIGHT SHIFT:
King is an expert at stories of all lengths. “Night Surf” is the story that inspired my piece, “Fire” (from LAND OF BONES).
“After the guy was dead and the smell of his burning flesh was off the air, we all went back down to the beach.”
It features good old Captain Trips, that wonderful Hong Kong Flu from King’s THE STAND. A pack of teens or early twenty-somethings hanging around a beach in Maine living in a dying world. They assume they’re immune to the flu, but soon find out that may not be true. Love this one.
“Maybe a need for one desperate and passionate romance with the warm night, the warm fog, the smell of the sea, and the cold knife.”
A strawberry spring and Springheel Jack. This story is one of my all-time favorites that I haven’t heard too many folks talk about. Serial killer story, but in King’s wonderful voice. Win-win!
MCCAMMON: “Nightcrawlers” & “Pin”
I first discovered Robert McCammon’s “Nightcrawlers” in a paperback copy of the DARK MASQUES anthology. And it has stuck with me ever since. I’m fascinated by all things Vietnam-related, and this was an interesting way to explore the possible effects of the war on the men that made it home.
“The nightcrawlers began to ripple and fade. I saw the flames of the burning cars through their bodies.”
I love stories based in diners (I brought Veronica from “Welcome to Paradise” to one). This story has a Twilight Zone feel to it and brings a new definition of “bring the war back home”. One of my Top 3 favorite short stories ever. It also appears in BLUE WORLD.
“It has to be in the center. In that black part. It has to go in deep. Real deep, and you have to keep pushing it until you see the inner sun.”
“Pin” is another story from BLUE WORLD. Very short, very effective (“Henry” from my first collection, SLUSH, came about after reading this one). I can’t say much without giving it away, but this one is fucked and will make you squirm while reading it. Brilliant.
“A Thing” by Barbara Malenky
I came across this amazing story via a paperback copy of FROM THE BORDERLANDS.
“You take him,” I whisper barely above the sound of the wind in the trees, “’cause I got no more use, and you can feed him until you get well enough and then you pass him on to another near dead.”
If you can find a copy of this one, do it. It’s an interesting story about getting a second chance.
“The Visitor” by Jack Ketchum
Zombies are in this one, but Ketchum takes it from another angle. An old man’s wife is bitten and he sits at her bedside in the hospital as she turns and eventually dies. No one can make a zombie story this touching. #Legend From PEACABLE KINGDOM
“Colt.24” by Rick Hautala
This is a fun story of a man making a deal with “Old Scratch”. One that’s been told a million times, but Hautala’s version is great. I read this one in his collection, BED BUGS.
“The Texas Chainsaw Breakfast Club, or I Don’t Like Mondays” by Bracken MacLeod
Most amazing title ever. The story is awesome, too. MacLeod is one of the best (relatively newer) authors out there. This one is in his collection, 13 VIEWS OF THE SUICIDE WOODS. A group of kids from high school are kidnapped and tied up in a basement. Who is their captor? You’ll have to read to find out. A very good horror story.
“Johnstown” by Brian Keene
“The dream dies, as all dreams eventually do. Cindy and I didn’t know that back then. We were young and in love, and dreams were meant to last forever. We spent nights making love down by the river and the flood never touched us.”
One thing I share with the Grandmaster of Horror is a love for The Boss. This story from BLOOD ON THE PAGE was inspired by “The River”, “Spare Parts”, and “Johnstown”. Three terrific, if not dark and depressing, Springsteen songs. It’s a story that follows the life of a young couple that start off a thing of shining beauty, but end up swallowed in darkness on the edge of town (sorry, I had to). This story isn’t a straight-up horror tale, but that’s what makes it special. Brian just writes a story that would make The Boss proud.
Maybe you know and love these stories too. Maybe you read them and weren’t impressed. Whatever the case, they all mean something special to me. They each inspired me. One of the wonderful things about collections is that, like albums, each track speaks to the reader in its own language. Either you understand it or you don’t. That’s one of my favorite things about reading reviews for my own collections. Seeing which stories hit or miss with each reader. It’s always different.
I hope you’ll consider purchasing a copy of my latest collection, LAND OF BONES. And if you do enjoy it, I hope you’ll take a minute to toss-up a review, and maybe mention the standouts for you.
Feel free to stop by my Facebook page and say “Hi” or share your favorites with me.
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