King released this 960-page collection of 24 short stories in 1993. The only King collection I have left to read is “Hearts In Atlantis,” which has novellas and short stories mixed in, so really “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” was the last one… and for me, it was the best one.
The introduction, which King titled “Myth, Belief, Faith, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” was truly incredible and inspirational. It was without a doubt the best introduction to anything I have ever read. I highly recommend you check out the intro, even if for some stupid reason you don’t read the rest of the book, at least read that.
“First, repeat the catechism after me:
I believe a dime can derail a freight-train.
I believe there are alligators in the New York City sewer system, not to mention rats as big as Shetland ponies.
I believe that you can tear off someone’s shadow with a steel tent-pole.
I believe that there really is a Santa Claus, and that all those red-suited guys you see at Christmastime really are his helpers.
I believe there is an unseen world all around us.
I believe that tennis balls are full of poison gas, and if you cut one in two and breathe what comes out, it’ll kill you.
Most of all, I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks.”
– Stephen King
Forewarning, this post will be long because I am going to briefly go over each story, so sit back and enjoy the ride!
“Dolan’s Cadillac” – The lead-off story, as King put it, got readers right in the zone. A noir revenge story with an extremely intricate build-up. I really enjoyed this tale and it was one of my favorites in the collection.
“The End of the Whole Mess” – Another gem, and probably my favorite in the collection, just purely for the thoughts you’re left with afterward. One man’s genius brother discovers the saying “there’s something in the water” is actually true. The cure to violence ends up having some serious side-effects.
“Suffer the Little Children” – this story was very dark and pretty disturbing. It leaves you questioning what the right “answer” was. Once you read it, you’ll understand.
“The Night Flier” – A writer for a tabloid magazine, one that seems to specialize in blood, guts, horror and all things supernatural, chases a vampire with a private pilot’s license down the east coast. The final confrontation was intense. The 1997 film adaptation was decent too.
“Popsy” – A young boy gets abducted and later saved by his grandfather, Popsy, who displays similar characteristics to the antagonist of “The Night Flier.” In the notes at the end of the collection, King confirms they are indeed the same person. This story started off somewhat disturbing in the sense of the subject matter but finished in classic bloody-King fashion.
“It Grows on You” – I was disappointed with this one. I was intrigued with the Castle Rock setting and the elderly characters whom had survived the events of “Needful Things,” but the story was just… meh. It has a couple creepy bits but overall, I think it would actually serve better as a novel where we could get more detail.
“Chattery Teeth” – A classic case of King turning something mundane, such as the toy wind-up teeth with feet, into something utterly horrific.
“Dedication” – This story was strange. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. It had a sense of realism that made it good, but overall it was slow and not very exciting. This story would be better suited in the collection “Full Dark, No Stars.”
“The Moving Finger” – CRAZY. That’s seriously the best way to describe this one. A man discovers a finger prying around his sink poking through the drain… It was intense, and the way King wrote it made you feel like you were going insane too. WAS IT REAL????
“Sneakers” – this was a strange ghost story, but it definitely gave me the creeps and I really liked it. You’ll never look at a pair of shoes underneath a bathroom stall the same way after reading this one…
“You Know They Got a Hell of a Band” – A couple takes a wrong turn and ends up in a town called Rock and Roll Heaven. Little do they know, it IS Rock and Roll Heaven, and they are now trapped and must listen to nightly concerts from dead rockers. Doesn’t sound too bad actually.
“Home Delivery” – King spins out another gem here. A pregnant woman on an island off the Maine coast, loses her husband while he’s catching Lobsters. She decides to have the baby in the comfort of her own home. Why? Well only the small matter of a zombie apocalypse on the mainland. This is one of my favorites in the collection mainly because of the way King hides the horror and spins a great tale around it.
“Rainy Season” – This story has a very classic King feel to it. A couple staying at a summer home in Maine decide to stay there the wrong year. That night, they get rained on by killer toads with razor sharp teeth. As you can guess, this one doesn’t end well for our “heroes.”
“My Pretty Pony” – A slower tale about a grandfather sharing some wisdom with his grandson. Reading it I really didn’t think I was going to enjoy it, but as the tale unfolds, I grew to really appreciate it and the lesson it left me with. A great message about the passage of time. Not a favorite, but really a beautiful story.
“Sorry, Right Number” – This one blew me away. I didn’t cry, but I definitely got close. King wrote it like a screenplay and I think it really added to the pace and atmosphere of the story. Super dark and depressing but a great tale with a wild twist.
“The Ten O’clock People” – King spins an excellent story here, tapping on real social issues while also adding his usual supernatural twist to it. Every day, at 10 O’clock, people converge outside to smoke their cigarettes (since the office buildings started to ban smoking inside). These people can see things… What they see, are people in higher-power positions with giant grotesque bat heads. This story escalates quickly and is super interesting. One of my favorites.
“Crouch End” – Another favorite of mine from this collection. A couple (huh, King likes screwing with couples, doesn’t he?) gets lost in the suburbs of London and find themselves in the mysterious town of Crouch End. The wife loses the husband after a series of creepy events and begins seeing and hearing disturbing things. She finally makes her way to the police station to share her story. The ending makes readers shout “NO!” King wrote this one as a little ode to Lovecraft.
“The House on Maple Street” – Four siblings discover metal growing beneath the floors and behind the walls of their house. In the cellar, they then discover a control panel with a series of numbers counting down. The eldest hatches a plan to trap their evil step father in the house when the countdown hits zero. When it does, the house takes off. It was a crazy little tale but very fun and left you with a smile on your face.
“The Fifth Quarter” – This felt like a Bachman story, and King even admitted as much in the notes at the end. A man discovers one of his friends got mixed up with some bad people. These people stole money, buried it, made a map to find it again, and tore the map in four pieces to be distributed amongst themselves. Of course, no one trusts one another, and all are trying to get the pieces for themselves. Our main character, the fifth quarter, seeking revenge for his friend, slowly gathers the pieces. It was a cool little tale and I don’t think I did it justice here.
“The Doctor’s Case” – King writes about the classic characters Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in this murder mystery. In this case, Dr. Watson is the one to discover the murderer, but Holmes, Watson, and an Inspector all decide to hide the evidence and leave the mystery “unsolved.” This was a really interesting tale and pretty ballsy of King to do his own take on such classic characters.
“Umneys’ Last Case” – Umney is a private investigator or detective of sorts who goes about the same daily routine. The day of the story however, things have changed and Umney can’t deal. He gets to his office where he meets his doppelganger who happens to be “God” aka the man who created Umney. Umney is fiction and the doppelganger is the author of the Umney stories. The author intends to write himself into Umney’s life and Umney into the real world. It is a very unique and very cool story.
“Head Down” – This is a non-fiction essay, originally published in “The New Yorker,” about Stephen King’s son Owen’s baseball team, Bangor West, and their run at the Little League championship. King, being a huge baseball fan, and a gifted writer (obviously) was able to spin the tale of his son’s team’s triumph out for readers like one of his own stories. He kept it light and factual but still extremely intriguing and heartwarming. When King told readers of a non-fiction tale in the intro, I was like “Oh boy this will be boring.” WOW was I wrong. Reading this story gave me HUGE feelings of nostalgia back to my little league days.
“Brooklyn August” – King spins out a little poem about baseball for us. It’s a nice conclusion before we reach the notes section where he tells us about some of the stories.
“The Beggar and the Diamond” – After the notes, King hid an extra story. This one is somewhat religious and its King’s take on a Hindu parable. The story wasn’t anything amazing, but the message and the lesson were nice.
Overall, this short story collection was absolutely incredible. I was blown away. If I could give this collection more than a perfect score, I would. But alas, I give “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” a: