Monday, October 21, 2013

The book that started my love of the horror novel

During my first year of high school, I found myself in the library with a few minutes of spare time. I was browsing my high school library's bookshelves when a book's cover caught my attention. When a cover shows a partially bandaged hand with human eyes growing on it, you'd also be curious, yes?

Anyway, I ended up loaning the book from the library. When I got home, I remember plunking down on my bed, turning on the first page, and then closing the book at around 3 am in the morning. Yes, I read all the stories in one night, and that night would start my reading love affair with Stephen King.

I never looked back after reading Night Shift. I read one Stephen King work after another. And I think, at that time, I loved them all. No matter how cheesy the story lines can get, I devoured the book with a passion. The haunted car in Christine might be a bit comedic when you read it now, but in my teenage years, I was scared by the idea. The aliens in Tommyknockers? They creeped me out. Same thing with the clown in It. Cujo made me feaful of dogs for a short period. And when we checked into a hotel, I'm reminded of the twins in The Shining. Salem's Lot was my first ever vampire novel. In a way, that book was to blame for my pretty high standards for anything with vampires.

King also showed me that he can dabble in high fantasy too. The Eyes of the Dragon is one of my favorite King works. And I've read the first 3 books of his The Gunslinger series, which felt uneven. I guess it was with this series that made me realize that I've outgrown King, and that it was time to read other novels, horror and otherwise.

Because of my love for King, I eventually ended up reading Clive Barker and Peter Straub. Though both are not as prolific as King, I have a few Barker and Straub books that I particularly enjoyed. Peter Straub's Ghost Story introduced me to the Gothic tradition. And I still recall how I was floored after reading Shadowland, which is still my favorite Straub novel. As for Barker, reading him exposed to all things weird. My favorite Barker works are Imajica and Weaveworld. His Books of Blood? Possibly the best horror collection of short stories ever.

I'm glad that I started with Night Shift. It's a good place to begin one's journey to the many wonderful aspects of the horror novel. Horror isn't just about monsters, and vampires, and things rising from the dead. It's also about the everyday things that can take a horrific turn. It's about your sick relative, dying of cancer and forcing you to make a tough decision. It's your friend who goes through hell and back just to be rid of an addiction. It's about that quiet man in the corner who could possibly be the serial killer the police is looking for.

It's been a while since I read King. Last weekend, I finished rereading Night Shift in time for the book discussion this coming Saturday. 26 years ago, I read it in white heat. This time, I savored it, enjoying King's gift of characterization and envying him for his talent for description. It made me miss spending a cold night reading a King novel.

I think I stopped reading King after the mess that is Rose Madder and the inferiority of Nightmares and Dreamscapes as compared with other superb collections. Perhaps it's about time I do a bit of catching up. With his unbelievably prodigious ouput, I have my work cut out for me.

12 comments:

Jaime said...

I haven't read Stephen King in forever. Night Shift is a GREAT one. I think I will have to read one again.

www.jaimelovesstuff.com

Peter S. said...

Hello, Jaime! "Great" is an understatement, I think! Night Shift rocks!

Lynai said...

I had never really read Stephen King (I am a Dean Koontz fan)until about 3 years ago and it was Rose Madder which...made me madder haha. I didn't like it, but I didn't close my doors to reading his works again. Will take note of Night Shift, although I am curious about Carrie and The Shining. :)

Peter S. said...

I think Rose Madder is one of the weaker King novels. Try reading his earlier novels! Good news -- Carrie and The Shining belong to his earlier canon!

Verne Alexander Yu Ahyong said...

I love Stephen King, but I haven't read as many books of his as you have. I do like Carrie and the Shining a lot, so maybe I have yet to read one of his weaker novels. I might try reading Rose Madder, just as an experiment.

I'd recommend 11/22/63 as one of King's better recent novels. Maybe, Doctor Sleep too, but I'd have to read it first to be sure.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Verne! All right, I'll read 11/22/63 next!

Monique said...

I am hoping I'll be able to read at least one Stephen King in my lifetime. My copy of The Shining is waiting for me. :))

Peter S. said...

Hi, Monique! Try his short stories first! Night Shift is a good place to start!

Overthinker Palaboy said...

Hahahaha. Naeexcite ako na bumili at basahin yang night shift

Peter S. said...

Hi, Overthinker Palaboy! Ay, hindi na "Invited readers only" ang blog mo! Yay!

Overthinker Palaboy said...

Ser peter, oo. Nawala na yung mga peste pansamantala sa mga espasyo ko. Kaya bukas na ulit siya. Haha.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter! I'm sorry I missed the night shift discussion. More so when I saw the pictures. Have you read Joyland yet? You might like it. It's classic King.

-yan