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A stunning collection from international bestseller Stephen King that displays his phenomenally broad readership (stories published in The New Yorker, Playboy, and McSweeney’s and including the 25,000 word story “Gingerbread Girl” published in Esquire).

Stephen King—who has written more than fifty books, dozens of number one New York Times bestsellers, and many unforgettable movies—delivers an astonishing collection of short stories, his first since Everything’s Eventual six years ago. As guest editor of the bestselling Best American Short Stories 2007, King spent over a year reading hundreds of stories. His renewed passion for the form is evident on every page of Just After Sunset. The stories in this collection have appeared in The New Yorker, Playboy, McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, Esquire, and other publications.

Who but Stephen King would turn a Port-O-San into a slimy birth canal, or a roadside honky-tonk into a place for endless love? A book salesman with a grievance might pick up a mute hitchhiker, not knowing the silent man in the passenger seat listens altogether too well. Or an exercise routine on a stationary bicycle, begun to reduce bad cholesterol, might take its rider on a captivating—and then terrifying—journey. Set on a remote key in Florida, “The Gingerbread Girl” is a riveting tale featuring a young woman as vulnerable—and resourceful—as Audrey Hepburn’s character in Wait Until Dark. In “Ayana,” a blind girl works a miracle with a kiss and the touch of her hand. For King, the line between the living and the dead is often blurry, and the seams that hold our reality intact might tear apart at any moment. In one of the longer stories here, “N.,” which recently broke new ground when it was adapted as a graphic digital entertainment, a psychiatric patient’s irrational thinking might create an apocalyptic threat in the Maine countryside...or keep the world from falling victim to it.

Just After Sunset—call it dusk, call it twilight, it’s a time when human intercourse takes on an unnatural cast, when nothing is quite as it appears, when the imagination begins to reach for shadows as they dissipate to darkness and living daylight can be scared right out of you. It’s the perfect time for Stephen King.

Topics: United States of America, Florida, Maine, Anthology, Novella, Suspenseful, Dark, Macabre, Supernatural Powers, Ghosts, Monsters, Psychological, and Crime

Published: Scribner on Nov 11, 2008
ISBN: 9781439125489
List price: $9.99
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I really hate saying it, but I hate even more that King keeps proving it: he hasn't had "it" since finishing the Dark Tower series. Yes, his writing has gone down hill since he "stopped writing." Anyway, nothing really stands out here. The stories aren't necessarily bad, but at this point in his career, I guess I expect more than that.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I'd like to start by saying that I'm not a big fan of short stories. There never seems to be enough time to develop anything. However, I also love Stephen King, so I found myself reading a book of his short stories thinking that it would probably be ok as one great would more than cancel out the bad. For the most part it was a great book. There were only a couple of the stories that didn't please me as much as they could have...had they been developed and expanded into full size books. So I'll give a short wrap-up of each one, but I don't want to give too much away.1. Willa was a nice short little story to get the blood flowing and the eyes working. It was sweet and happy with a bit of sadness tossed in for flavor.2. The Gingerbread Girl is a story of running, and how running can either save you or...well...not save you I guess. A woman finds herself pitted against quite a psycho.3. Harvey's dream left me with one question....What? I totally missed the point on this one. 4. Rest Stop was one of the best in the book. A look at what would you do if you found yourself in a situation you needed to handle, but weren't sure if you could.5. Stationary Bike was another excellent one, where imagination meets reality and a man may have gone too far trying to get into shape.6. The Things They Left Behind was touching and moving, but it left me wondering What? agian. It was well written, but the topic deserved to have more to it than just a short story.7. Graduation Afternoon is a great start for a book. It reads almost as if King started to write one and then stopped after the first chapter.8. N. is probably my favorite in the book and actually kept me up late to finish. Good old fashioned Stephen King horror.9. The Cat From Hell had me laughing, but I don't think I was supposed to. (Richard you will not want to read this one.)10. The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates is one I hardy even remember reading. A story about moving on and accepting death.11. Mute was very entertaining if predictable. What happens when you confess your innermost thoughts to a hitchhiker that you think is deaf and mute? Well, let me tell you it isn't what you expect.12. Ayana reminded a bit of The Green Mile. A story of healing and miracles.13. A Very Tight Place is probably my second favorite in the book. A good old fashioned suspense about a neighbor that takes his frustrations out on his gay neighbor...but maybe the tables will end up being turned.So, there you have it. It wasn't a waste of time, but I would have ripped some of those pages out had I been the editor. But if I did that then we wouldn't have the magical number of thirteen stories!3.5/5read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Stephen King brings us a very mature, thoughtful group of short stories in this collection. More "literary" than previous shorts, the stories stay with you long after you close the book. "The Things They Left Behind" was haunting; "Willa" had me thinking that in ways, we're all ghosts. We all filter the world and our lives through our own eyes, and sometimes we don't look truthfully at what we see. "The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates" tugged at my heart and left me longing; but my favorite in the collection was "Graduation Afternoon." Stephen's word choice for this story was poetic. The language was flowing and peaceful and beautiful, despite what was coming. Stephen's work changes like a chameleon. He has writings that run the gamut of genres. The old argument that he is just a horror writer doesn't hold water anymore. Get over it people! He is an author guy stepping out of that creepy box you keep trying to stuff him into.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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I really hate saying it, but I hate even more that King keeps proving it: he hasn't had "it" since finishing the Dark Tower series. Yes, his writing has gone down hill since he "stopped writing." Anyway, nothing really stands out here. The stories aren't necessarily bad, but at this point in his career, I guess I expect more than that.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I'd like to start by saying that I'm not a big fan of short stories. There never seems to be enough time to develop anything. However, I also love Stephen King, so I found myself reading a book of his short stories thinking that it would probably be ok as one great would more than cancel out the bad. For the most part it was a great book. There were only a couple of the stories that didn't please me as much as they could have...had they been developed and expanded into full size books. So I'll give a short wrap-up of each one, but I don't want to give too much away.1. Willa was a nice short little story to get the blood flowing and the eyes working. It was sweet and happy with a bit of sadness tossed in for flavor.2. The Gingerbread Girl is a story of running, and how running can either save you or...well...not save you I guess. A woman finds herself pitted against quite a psycho.3. Harvey's dream left me with one question....What? I totally missed the point on this one. 4. Rest Stop was one of the best in the book. A look at what would you do if you found yourself in a situation you needed to handle, but weren't sure if you could.5. Stationary Bike was another excellent one, where imagination meets reality and a man may have gone too far trying to get into shape.6. The Things They Left Behind was touching and moving, but it left me wondering What? agian. It was well written, but the topic deserved to have more to it than just a short story.7. Graduation Afternoon is a great start for a book. It reads almost as if King started to write one and then stopped after the first chapter.8. N. is probably my favorite in the book and actually kept me up late to finish. Good old fashioned Stephen King horror.9. The Cat From Hell had me laughing, but I don't think I was supposed to. (Richard you will not want to read this one.)10. The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates is one I hardy even remember reading. A story about moving on and accepting death.11. Mute was very entertaining if predictable. What happens when you confess your innermost thoughts to a hitchhiker that you think is deaf and mute? Well, let me tell you it isn't what you expect.12. Ayana reminded a bit of The Green Mile. A story of healing and miracles.13. A Very Tight Place is probably my second favorite in the book. A good old fashioned suspense about a neighbor that takes his frustrations out on his gay neighbor...but maybe the tables will end up being turned.So, there you have it. It wasn't a waste of time, but I would have ripped some of those pages out had I been the editor. But if I did that then we wouldn't have the magical number of thirteen stories!3.5/5
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Stephen King brings us a very mature, thoughtful group of short stories in this collection. More "literary" than previous shorts, the stories stay with you long after you close the book. "The Things They Left Behind" was haunting; "Willa" had me thinking that in ways, we're all ghosts. We all filter the world and our lives through our own eyes, and sometimes we don't look truthfully at what we see. "The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates" tugged at my heart and left me longing; but my favorite in the collection was "Graduation Afternoon." Stephen's word choice for this story was poetic. The language was flowing and peaceful and beautiful, despite what was coming. Stephen's work changes like a chameleon. He has writings that run the gamut of genres. The old argument that he is just a horror writer doesn't hold water anymore. Get over it people! He is an author guy stepping out of that creepy box you keep trying to stuff him into.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Some truly disturbing and *depressing* stories in this compilation. The stories were great, but not so enjoyable because of the sadness and death.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Latest collection of short stories by Stephen King, not his best collection but still with an overall creepy feeling. N was my favourite in the book, weird, spooky and leaving me wanting more. Possible small spoilers below in comparing them to previous stories: Some of the stories did remind me of other stories he has written so felt a bit too familiar. For example, Willa reminded me of both You Know They Got A Hell Of A Band and That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French. And The New York Times At Special Bargain Rates reminded me very much of Sorry, Right Number.I did enjoy the collection but think that I will get fonder of some stories as time goes on but this collection will never be my favourite of his, although N on it's own might be.
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Review by Jeremy Taylor

In his first short-story collection in six years, mega-best-selling author Stephen King presents thirteen tales on a variety of topics from exercise to OCD. As King states in the introduction, these stories are mostly recent—written in the last seven or eight years—with one or two older ones tucked in for good measure. He says that writing short stories is not like riding a bike, because an author can lose the knack. Well, Stephen King has not forgotten how to write short stories, but his style and themes have changed somewhat since the “old days” of collections like Skeleton Crew and Nightmares & Dreamscapes.

These newer stories are mostly pretty good, though few of them are likely to make much headway into the annals of great short fiction. Still, the impression one walks away with is one of a veteran writer still very much on top of his game and not hesitant to share with his readers some of his literary fluctuations.

Without giving away any important information, here is a brief synopsis and evaluation of each of the thirteen stories.

Willa is an initially confusing and ultimately rather unsettling story about a group of travelers stranded at a remote railway station. Reminiscent of the television series Lost, the story takes a while to get into the flow of the narrative—which can be fatal for a short story but somehow isn’t in this case. Eventually two main characters and a plot emerge, and once the reader figures out what is happening, the story ends up delivering a pretty effective chill factor.

The Gingerbread Girl is structured more like a short novel than a short story. It consists of twelve sections, like chapters, and the plot seems to contain certain elements borrowed from other King books like Gerald’s Game and Duma Key. The first two or three sections are occupied by a subplot that is largely unrelated to the rest of the story—another way in which the structure seems more novel-like than short story. Eventually the plot evolves into a fairly straightforward and fast-paced aggressor-and-victim crime story.

Harvey’s Dream is a more traditional short story—short, to-the-point, and, in typical Stephen King fashion, with a supernatural (or at least psychic) theme.

Rest Stop details a scenario that many travelers have considered—what would you do if you witnessed an act of violence (or threatened violenece) in a secluded place with no one around to assist you? The story’s protagonist is an author who, like King himself has done (and has written about in several stories and novels) writes under a pseudonym that is also something of an alter-ego.

Stationary Bike is a six-part story about what happens to a middle-aged graphic artist when he embarks on a mission to get in shape. The story is an effective combination of supernatural unlikelihood with universal human experience.

The Things They Left Behind describes the misadventures of a office worker who, having stayed home on 9/11, has to deal with the fact that all his former colleagues have died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. As he fights his survivor’s guilt, he also struggles to find a way to live with the strange mementoes of his dead friends that keep popping up in unexpected places. King writes in his notes that writing this story was his way of processing the events of 9/11.

Graduation Afternoon is a short, brutal tale about a nuclear strike on New York City. If it ever happens, this story may be viewed as prophetic. Until then, it comes across simply as pessimistic.

N., one of the longest stories in the book, is presented as the journal of a psychologist dealing with the obsessive-compulsive tendencies of a new client. As the psychologist’s interviews with his patient continue, it becomes clear that the patient, referred to as “N,” is in the grip of a paranoid delusion about his role in preventing the end of the world as we know it. Clearly “N” is out of his gourd. Or is he?

The Cat from Hell is an older story, first published in a men’s magazine in the 1970s, and it’s vintage Stephen King. A hit man hired for a most unusual assignment meets a most unusual (though not entirely unexpected) end.

The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates is another very short tale, told in the present tense. It explores a widow’s grief in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s death in a plane crash.

Mute starts out confusing, as the story segments jump around out of chronological order. But once everything gets sorted out, it’s the tale of a traveling salesman who picks up a hitchhiker who is ostensibly deaf and mute. Alone in the car with an unhearing confessor, the salesman begins unfolding his life’s woes, only to discover that words can have unintended effects.

Ayana is a rather familiar-feeling story about a mysterious death-bed visitor whose presence ends up having miraculous ramifications. Not the best story in the collection, it nevertheless poses some interesting questions about the nature of God and the afterlife.

A Very Tight Place is the uncomfortable story of a man who gets trapped in an upended Porta-potty. This is one of the more enjoyable stories in the book, but it is also without question the most disgusting.

As I mentioned, Just after Sunset will likely not be remembered as one of Stephen King’s more masterful contributions to American literature. Still, reading these stories is an avid reminder that King is still, after all these years and all those best-sellers, a very good storyteller. The objectionable content is mostly language, though there are some rather grotesque descriptions here and there. Sexual content is minimal. Readers who are accustomed to Stephen King’s writing won’t find too much to be offended by, but fans won’t find too much to jump for joy over either. All in all, it’s a solid but unexceptional collection of stories by a quite exceptional author.

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