Stephen King’s latest short story collection, Just After Sunset, is a case of hit and miss, with a little something for everyone. In his introduction to Constant Reader, King talks about his editing the Best American Short Stories collection for 2007 and how he rediscovered his love for writing short stories, learning and educating himself in reading the many short stories for the collection. Featuring less stories than his usual collections, Just After Sunset features some of King’s best short stories he’s ever written, as well as a blend of action-packed, artistic, and outright disturbing stories in the classic, morbid King style.
Just After Sunset begins with the best of the collection, “Willa,” an unusual tale about a group of people at a train station. David has found that his wife to be, Willa, has left the station and gone into town. He must bring her back before the train arrives. He finds her at a bar where there is music, drinking and merriment. And it is here he discovers a realization that changes the very world around him.
In “The Gingerbread Girl,” Emily Owensby has had enough of her life and runs away to her father’s vacation house in the Florida Keys. It is here that she must find out what she wants to do with her life, but as she pays a visit to a neighbor, she finds herself thrown into a situation that threatens her very life.
“Mute” is a story about an acquaintance between a supposed deaf-mute person and Monette and what happens when he reveals his true feelings. “N.” is the dark tale about a man’s destroyed psyche as he supposedly fights to maintain the fabric of reality and prevent the monsters on the other side from breaking through. In the final story, “A Very Tight Place,” King explores the idea of what would happen if one were in a Port-A-Potty that got tipped over on the door side, trapping the person within.
Just After Sunset is not one of Stephen King’s best short story collections, for some of the stories just try to hard, or aren’t that good, and yet there are some, like “Willa,” “N.,” and “Mute,” that fire the imagination and leave the reader wanting more.
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Originally written on December 19th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.