Hodder, out now
Voracious cars, prophesying dunes, uncanny obituaries – it can only mean the latest collection of Stephen King short stories…
One of the great delights about researching my book on King a couple of years ago was tracking down all the short stories that had appeared since the last collection, Just After Sunset, hit bookshelves. Reading tales that had only seen print in small-run magazines had a certain thrill – but overall I’d rather have them conveniently available between hard covers, and nearly all of those stories are here in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. (The exception are the stories King wrote with his son, Joe Hill – ‘Throttle’ and ‘In the Tall Grass’ – as well as baseball tale ‘A Face in the Crowd’.)
Each story is prefaced by comments from King, sometimes answering the age-old question “Where do you get your ideas from?”; on other occasions, he gives an insight into the writing of the piece. Some of the tales have been revised from their original publication, but only one is really noticeably different.
They’re not all horror stories – sure, there are some extremely nasty moments in stories such as ‘Mile 81’, but many of them are observational pieces, filtered through the prism of King’s imagination… which, inevitably, gives them a certain sort of edge. The most mundane actions – taking your elderly Alzheimer’s disease-afflicted father out for lunch; catching a taxi across town to get to an urgent meeting – can have unforeseen ramifications when seen through King’s eyes, and it’s the ones without the outré fantasy elements that may well lurk in the dark corners of your memory for years to come. Although having said that, it’s the ending of ‘Summer Thunder’ that has haunted my dreams since finishing the book – King managing somehow to find a brief light in a downbeat and depressing situation. It’s a strong collection that amply demonstrates why King is finally achieving the critical acclaim he deserves.
The paperback edition, out now, also includes an extra story – Cookie Jar – which melds fantasy and real life horror in the way only King can.
Verdict: Some of King’s strongest work in recent years brought together to form an excellent collection. 9/10