In 1993, Stephen King released Nightmares & Dreamscapes, his third short story collection (fifth if you count his two novella collections “Different Seasons” and “Four Past Midnight”).
In all honesty, as a collection, I thought this was pretty bad. When you look at the quality of Night Shift and Skeleton Crew, it’s hard to believe at times that this is even the same author. It feels like King went rooting through his trash to pick out a few stories he may have initially tossed rather than publish. Some of these aren’t even stories – there’s a teleplay, some poems and a non-fiction piece that seemed to be used to pad out the content.
“Dedication”, “The Beggar and the Diamond” and “It Grows on You” were real slogs to get through. Most of the time, I was just bored. I didn’t care too much for his attempt at a story set within the world of Sherlock Holmes, nor did I like his distracting turn with British dialogue in “Crouch End”. Even with all the gore in here, the one thing that grossed me out the most was the father’s lunchtime snack in “The House on Maple Street” – what kind of psychopath eats a ketchup sandwich?
That said, they’re not all bad. I did like “The Moving Finger” – a story about a sentient finger slowly growing out of the drain of the bathroom sink. I also liked “Umney’s Last Case”, which I think was the best of the bunch. “The Fifth Quarter” was fun as a short and sweet pulpy gangster story and “Rainy Season” was a good bit of horror that might have snuck its way into Night Shift.
When there are twenty-four stories and there are only four that I liked, it doesn’t make for a particularly strong collection. I think this one is easily skippable. Now, where is my copy of Night Shift?