I have to say that I think this is my favourite of King’s books, and absolutely his anthologies, at least thus far. With the possible exception of the last story, The Breathing Method, all the stories are strong on their own. What is more, these are the first of his stories, up to this point, that do not have a supernatural element (again, excepting The Breathing Method). It is stories like this that prove that Mr. King is not just a one trick pony. He writes horror well, with excellent pacing and foreshadowing, but he writes of human monsters as well as he does vampires or ghosts. In fact, I think his writing is at its most powerful when he isn’t including monsters.
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is easily my favourite of the four stories. Coloured by my love of the movie (which I hypocritically watched before reading the story), I might have found things to hate about this story. But the movie was a fairly faithful adaptation. What’s not to love about a prison break story that is also a story about an innocent man who doesn’t just succumb to his predicament, but actually becomes a better man for it? This is classic storytelling.
Apt pupil endeared itself to me by the very fact that it tied itself into Shawshank and Andy Dufresne. I could not stand Todd and found myself much more in sympathy with the old man, a sad thing to say about a sadistic ex-Nazi murderer. I suppose, however, that I am faulting this story for something that it is not. Neither Todd nor Dussander were obviously meant to be sympathetic characters. Even from the off, before Todd was shaped into the monster he was, we can see that he was an apt pupil, but he was certainly not a nice kid. And, embarrassing as it is to admit, I only now realized another significance to the title. Todd, the apt pupil, certainly learned well from his role model. He started killing people. Whether that would have been the case if he had not blackmailed Dussander into telling him stories of the Holocaust is unknowable, but he learned his trade well.
The body, the story that was the basis for Stand By Me, seemed to me like one of the most Gothic tales in that it was all about the days gone by. King’s narrator interjects to tell us this is a story that took place in the past. And it was a very sentimental sort of story. This is not the first, and I know it is surely not the last that will hearken back to the old days. Even Roadwork was about the old days, and how changes are affecting people of a small town. And it is in a tale like this that shows that, horror title or not, Stephen King is a master storyteller. He wrote in the afterword that he was not one of the world’s greats in prose style, but it is not prose that attracts the masses. Prose style is nothing when compared to a great story.
And the Breathing Method . . . I want to know what’s upstairs, and I’m now wondering if this house makes an appearance in The Dark Tower series. I don’t like unanswered questions, but I suppose that’s what’s to be expected from a story that is mired in the uncanny (even attributing one story within the story to that style.
Called Different Seasons because it was not a novel of the supernatural, I think that this book contains four solid stories, and is one of the reasons that Stephen King has not only maintained a long career as a writer, but is seen as one of the great writers of our generation.