Nightmares & Dreamscapes includes short stories that range from merely quirky to seriously spooky, a nonfiction piece about baseball, a teleplay, and notes about pieces’ origins, all by that master of the macabre, Stephen King.
My favorites of King’s works are his stories in which the horror comes out of people rather than out of the drains or the ether. Leading the lineup of those is “Dolan’s Cadillac,” a story about an elementary teacher who gets revenge on a gangster for killing his wife through an elaborate ruse that lures the villain to drive his Cadillac into hole sized just large enough for the car to fit in without allowing the passengers to escape.
Readers with a taste for the occult should read “The Night Flier,” in which a writer for a sleazy rag investigates a series of deaths in small East Coast towns with small airports. The journalistic elements in the tale were enough to keep my attention.
“The Doctor’s Case.” a Sherlockian spoof in which Watson solves the mystery, and “Umney’s Last Case,” a take-off on Raymond Chandler novels, are simply fun.
Nightmares & Dreamscapes has something readers of every taste to like as well as some things to dislike.
Leaving Home is a collection of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion monologues about Lake Wobegon, the little town on the edge of the Minnesota prairie “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”
Leaving Home doesn’t make any attempt at a plot. It’s simply a collection of literary oddments.
The chapters are short, usually three to five pages, often funny, and vibrating with the ring of oral stories about small town people from mid-century mid-America.
People who grew up in any rural community in America after World War II will recognize the traits that Keillor alternately mocks and lauds.
These are church-going people, with or without personal faith, but with a strong commitment to what their church represents.
They aren’t rich or famous. Some are comfortable, others not so much.
All of them wonder what the world is coming to.
The book will bring joy to fans of Keillor’s down-home style of yarn-spinning.
Leaving Home should also have a strong attraction for depressed 21st century readers wondering what the world is coming to, and yearning for models of how to live among those with whom you disagree without being disagreeable.
Skeleton Crew is a collection of 22 Stephen King short stories of varying lengths and varying degrees of weirdness.
The hefty volume rings all the bells King fans enjoy and adds a few notes about the creative process behind them.
King has a particularly good ear for children’s memories, which he demonstrates in “The Monkey,” a story about a toy that has the ability to kill, and “Gramma,” a story of an 11-year-old left to care for his senile grandmother when his mother must go to the hospital because his older brother has been injured at football practice.
My favorites stories from the collection are built around situations that would be unsettling even without any supernatural flounces, such as:
“Here There Be Tygers” in which a third grader has to go to the bathroom which is in the school basement, a very scary place.
“The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet,” in which a crazy writer feeds a creature called a fornit that lives in his typewriter and produces words for him: What else could explain them?
There may not be a story here for every reader’s taste, but there’s enough variety that most readers will find something intriguing.
Skeleton Crew by Stephen King
G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 1985. 512 p.
1985 bestseller #5; my grade: B+