Night Shift was Stephen King’s first collection of short stories, published a year after The Shining, five months after Rage, and nine months before The Stand. Given its place in King’s bibliography, it’s hard to make the argument that the collection was a stalling technique for either the publisher or the writer himself—even considering Rage‘s publication under the Richard Bachman pseudonym. That means, essentially, that there’s no excuse for it except, perhaps, that Doubleday thought they could spend the majority of ’78 raking in pre-Stand cash up till and including the publication of that particular book. The Constant Readers are trying to figure out the motives for the simple reason that Night Shift wasn’t all that great on this, the nth reading, which may have something to do with the knowledge that better collections—Skeleton Crew, Nightmares & Dreamscapes, and Everything’s Eventual—followed.
The quality of the work suffers from the quality of everything that came after it, which is pretty much everything when you consider that most of the stories collected in Night Shift were initially published when King was in his early to mid-twenties, seemingly trying to sow his genre oats and experimenting heavily with twist endings. Four of the stories—”Jerusalem’s Lot,” “Quitters, Inc.” “The Last Rung On The Ladder,” and “The Woman In The Room”—had been previously unpublished, and maybe that was for the best. An even larger number of the stories were made into movies (as well as some of King’s first “Dollar Babies”), with “Children Of The Corn” being the most recognizable and “The Lawnmower Man,” “Trucks” (Maximum Overdrive), “Sometimes They Come Back,” and “The Mangler” having thankfully been relegated to the bargain bin of your local video store (do you still have video stores?) where they can no longer do anyone any harm.
OR CAN THEY?
Pat: Am I really supposed to believe that a huge ironing machine ripped itself out of a concrete floor, bashed through a wall, and is chasing people down at their homes?
Andrea: So what are you up to?
Andrea: I mean in the book, not in life.