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Night Shift by Stephen King
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Night Shift by Stephen King - First edition points of issue.

Pages: 336

Price: $8.95

Publisher: Doubleday

Date Published: 1978

Copyright page: First edition is specifically stated on the copyright page

First Edition Total Publication: Estimated to be 12,000

First Edition Points of Issue: On the inner margin of page 336 the code S52 is visible.

Size: 5.75" x 8.5"

Bound: Quarter bound in black cloth with red boards

Dedication: ?

Description: The book was published soon after  The Shining (1977 Doubleday) and was King's fifth published book (including Rage, which was published under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman). A vast majority of the stories have appeared in various issues of Cavalier Magazine from 1970-1975, others were originally published in Penthouse, Cosmopolitan, Gallery and Maine Magazine. The stories "Jerusalem's Lot", "Quitters Inc.", "The Last Rung on the Ladder", and "The Woman in the Room" appeared for the first time in this collection.

The introduction was written by one of King's favorite authors, John D. MacDonald.

Night Shift is the first book for which King wrote a foreword. This foreword, in which the writer humbly introduces himself, sets up his characteristic "fire-side-storyteller" tone. He begins the forward directly addressing the reader; "Let's talk, you and I. Let's talk about fear." This friendly, conversational tone, will become a hallmark of Stephen King's writing style - especially his non-fiction writing. He closes the foreword on a note that would become familiar to his 'Constant Readers' (a term of endearment that King reserves for his fans):

"'s still dark and raining... There's something I want to show you, something I want you to touch. It's in a room not far from here - in fact, it's almost as close as the next page.

Shall we go?"

Jerusalem's Lot - The most Lovecraftian thing King ever wrote until the much later "Crouch End." I read this story first as a young kid, and pretty much loathed it. It wasn't one of King's contemporary horrors, but a tale steeped in Old Masters mythology. Reading it again as an adult, I got into the story much more, and fell in love with the episolitary style with which it's presented. Also, the big scene at the end packed a lot more punch. A great opener for this early collection.

Graveyard Shift - Unfortunately, most of my thoughts on this one are tainted by the inferior film version. More on this when I have a chance to re-read.

Night Surf - The precursor to King's gigantic novel The Stand. In and of itself, not a bad little story. A little mean-spirited and aimless, which is how I think King wanted it. This story has a very "Bachman" feel to it - angry and nihlistic. Recommendation: read it right before you read The Stand and see how well the two works cohere.

I am the Doorway - One of King's creepiest stories, and an interesting foretelling of The Tommyknockers. In both stories, something from space infects the main characters, changing them and making them do what they wouldn't do otherwise. An interesting metaphor for radiation contamination on one level, a spooky 50's-style sci-fi chiller on the other. King works best when he works with text and subtext. Most of the tales in Night Shift follow that outline, and "I am the Doorway" is no exception.

The Mangler - This is one of those cases where King's modern characters encounter very old evils. In this case, a demonic washer/folder that seems to thrive on blood. What's scary about this story is that the main characters, trying to approximate the old ways with modern techniques, don't stand a chance. The world may change, but evil never does. This one also has a unique Poe-ish feel, something King doesn't approach often. It's a nice touch.

The Boogeyman - A classic story dealing with childhood fears come to grotesque, shocking life. What's interesting about this story is that it seems a curious precursor to King's much longer work It. Lester, the father, fears that he is killing his children by letting them get murdered by The Boogeyman. In It, the themes of child abuse and monster murder are even more intimately linked, a mutual parasitic relationship. The similarities continue: Lester imagines that The Boogeyman travels through the sewers before pouncing on children at night. Like "Night Surf," this story is just a slice of an opus to come. The ending may be predictable, but that doesn't stop the chill factor: "So nice" may be King's two scariest words ever.

Gray Matter - This story kicks off a triumverate of tales in this volume that deal with ordinary "things" destroying people, a little bit at a time. In this case, it's beer - specifically, bad beer that turns Richie Grenadine into a giant slug-like creature. Obvious to astute readers are King's underthemes of the horrors of alcohol abuse (something King himself has wrestled with.) But the subtext seems almost beside the point - this is a story that works because it's scary. From the very first page, King's use of weather as a mood enhancer (one of King's greatest strengths as a writer - see Storm of the Century for proof) sets the stage for a tense, dark tale of greed and consumption. One of King's best.

Battleground - Stephen King has long been fascinated with mobster stories with horrific overtones. The uncollected "Man With a Belly," "Quitters, Inc." and Thinner are only a few such stories; for King, the Mafia alone isn't scary enough. No problem: in "Battleground," we have yet another one of those King stories that should be so silly but are somehow deadly serious. A crate arrives on a mobster's desk filled with those little green Army men that everyone played with as a kid. But these Army men are different: they seem to be alive, and are intent on killing the mobster. I won't ruin the surprise ending, a shocker that just makes you go "Wow."

Trucks - Far superior to its two movie versions, this short tale sets the stage for much of King's later explorations of the American gadget, and how they can go wrong. Later, in Christine and The Tommyknockers, King would explore this theme with more humanity and depth. In this shortened form, though, all he really wants to do is scare. The final few sentences are among King's most evocative, especially due to the first-person point of view. While maybe not as complex as the larger "electronics" stories, this is one of the most terrifying.

Sometimes They Come Back - King's first published ghost story prefigures The Shining by a few years, with a completely different take on ghosts. Like King's vampire stories (see 'Salem's Lot, "Popsy" and "The Night Flier"), his ghost stories don't seem to follow a singular pattern. This story is far different from Bag of Bones, even though the themes of revenge and tortured spirits are present in both. Here, the device of black magic is put to use (something King doesn't dabble in often; "The Mangler" and "The Plant" are rare examples) - revenants of the past set to do damage to those in the present. As with the rest of Night Shift, this story has stong thematic ties with King's longer work, specifically "The Body" and It in its motif of the how the loss of a sibling impacts one's own life. Pretty heady stuff for a spooky little ghost story.

Strawberry Spring - Springheel Jack, one of the best creations King has ever come up with. Not much to say about this dark peice, except that his use of weather is once again very effective (predating "The Mist"), and the ending still shocks me, even though I've read this story a billion times.

The Ledge - King's work has mainly consisted of a bunch of old ideas sliced, diced, and julienned into fresh outlooks on the human experience. To my mind, "The Ledge" is one of King's purely original ideas, only vaguely calling to mind Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." It's the tale of a man, his wife, and her lover, and the lengths the lover has to go through to keep his life. King would take this type of tale on again in the darkly comic "Something to Tide You Over," but it's here King really hits his stride. Atmospheric and acrophobic, this is one where you actually have to turn away from the book because it's just that intense.

The Lawnmower Man - Okay. There's a naked guy who eats grass shavings and worships the god Pan. There's some Kool-Aid and green pubic hair. Uh, what? This story proves that you don't have to understand King to like him, but really: what the HELL is this story about?

Quitters, Inc. - Anyone who knows me personally knows I loathe smoking. Like, intensely. It may have something to do with my allergies. So this story was kind of cathartic for me. King again deals with the Mob (similar to how he'll show The Shop in the later book Firestarter), now being portrayed as the ultimate smoking inhibitor. This isn't one of those programs where you get a stern look from a doctor if you screw up: here, you have consequences like having your wife in an electroshock room while you watch -- or having one of her fingers cut off. Oddly reminiscent of The Long Walk (the idea of warnings before termination is evocative), this effective story is one of King's best non-supernatural chillers.

I Know What You Need - Again with the dark magic. The only story in Night Shift from a primarily female point of view, this subtle tale explores one of King's favorite themes: young adults given power beyond their comprehension. In stories like Carrie, Firestarter, and Christine, these powers led to ultimate havock. Here, the guy meddling in the dark arts just wants a girl to go out with him, but to similar (yet small-scale) destruction. The exploration of an obsessed person suddenly having control over his/her obsession was given full treatment in 1987's Misery, but this little shocker is quite good in its own right.

Children of the Corn - A prominent King critic once wrote an extremely long essay on why "Children of the Corn" was a parable of the Vietnam war. King, a little stunned, refuted the claim: this was just a story. In It, King makes it very clear that sometimes stories can just be stories: social and political ramifications don't have to enter into it at all. Still, King has had a long history of deeper subtext hidden within his stories sometimes he's not aware of. Clearly, this tale isn't simply a hack tale about kids rising up to slaughter their parents. That seems to be the only part of the story the movie(s) have managed to latch onto. The dark religion of "Corn" is its strong point; these children find a unity in Isaac's cult where the sacrificial adults (our main characters) are splintering apart. The children's Corn God (He Who Walks Behind the Rows) is much like King's later demonic force, Randall Flagg, culling the weak and lost together to take over a town. War allegories besides, this story fits very neatly into the scope of King's early work: "otherworldly" children and the grownups who failed them (see Carrie, The Shining, It, Firestarter, Thinner, Cujo or Pet Sematary) is King's theme du jour until the mid-eighties. One of the best examples of it is right here, in this little story.

The Last Rung on the Ladder - A British film magazine, in a review of The Shawshank Redmeption, posited that King would have won a Pulitzer Prize for his "straight work" if the critics could simply look past all the horror. In my mind, "Last Rung" is the type of story they're talking about - poignant, heartfelt without being sappy, and crushingly real in a way that a tale of the supernatural has to work twice as hard to be. TO give away any details of the plot would be to give away the plot, so suffice it to say that this is one of King' s best short works, a prime example of why he continues to write shorter fiction as well as his gigantic novels.

The Man Who Loved Flowers - One of my favorites. Plot? What plot? A veritable character study of a psycho with a thing for hammers and a lover's heart. Short, brutal, and sweet. Sometimes, that's all it takes.

One For the Road - For years, people have clamored for a sequel to 'Salem's Lot. Well, here it is, folks, a wintery little coda to one of King's scariest works. All the classic elements are here: an empty town, heady weather, Yankee accents ... and the monsters, of course. King at his best.

The Woman in the Room - The final tale in this volume closes the book with not a bang, but a whisper. It's a tale of a tortured man's struggle with matricide, but it's not what the less acclimated critics would call "typical King." This is a tender, sad story that aches with pain, fueled by King's feelings about his own mother's death. Intensely autobiographical in ways that "The Body" and Bag of Bones are not - writers are not in evidence here, only men with hard decisions to make.

Film Adaptations

With the publication of Night Shift and the rise in King's popularity as a best-selling author, also with the success of Brian DePalma's motion picture adaptation of Carrie (1976), student filmmakers began to submit requests to King to make short adaptations of the stories that appeared in the collection. King formed a policy he deemed the Dollar Deal, which allowed the students the permission to make a short for the consideration of just $1.

In the 1980s, entrepreneurial film producer Milton Subotsky purchased the rights to six of the stories in this collection with the intention to produce feature films and a television anthology based on multiple stories. Although Subotsky was involved with several King adaptations (Cat's Eye, Maximum Overdrive, Sometimes They Come Back, The Lawnmower Man) the television series never came to fruition due to problems with the network's Standards and Practices.

The following is a list of motion picture adaptations made from the stories collected in Night Shift:

Feature Film Adaptations

* Children of the Corn (1984) Hal Roach Studios, Inc. directed by Fritz Kiersch
* Cat's Eye (1985) Dino De Laurentiis Productions / MGM/UA directed by Lewis Teague (featured adaptations of "Quitters Inc." and "The Ledge"
* Maximum Overdrive (based on "Trucks") (1986) De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG) directed by Stephen King
* Graveyard Shift (1990) Paramount Pictures directed by Ralph S. Singleton
* The Lawnmower Man (title only) (1992) New Line Cinema directed by Brett Leonard
* The Mangler (1995) New Line Cinema directed by Tobe Hooper

Television Adaptations

* Sometimes They Come Back (1991) Vidmark Entertainment directed by Tom McLoughlin
* Trucks (1997) USA Pictures directed by Chris Thomson
* Battleground (2006) Turner Network Television mini-series Nightmares & Dreamscapes

Dollar Baby Adaptations (shorts)

* The Boogyman (1982) directed by Jeff Schiro
* Disciples of the Crow (based on "Children of the Corn") (1983) directed by John Woodward
* The Woman in the Room (1983) directed by Frank Darabont
* The Last Rung on the Ladder (1987) directed by James Cole and Daniel Thron
* The Lawnmower Man (1987) directed by Jim Gonis
* Night Surf (2001) directed by Peter Sullivan
* Strawberry Spring (2001) directed by Doveed Linder
* I Know What You Need (2004) directed by Shawn S. Lealos
* La Femme Dans la Chambre (The Woman in the Room) (2005) directed by Damien Maric

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