Usually short-story collections, especially by the same author, always tend to garner a three from me: because they are almost always a mix of the good, the bad and the indifferent, and follows the bell-shaped curve of the normal distribution. But not this one. These collection of early stories from King is filled with the excellent, the very good, the good... and a few mildly good. The distribution skewed heavily in the direction of the terrific.
It's been a long time, but many of the stories linger: the seminal one, in my opinion, is The Boogeyman
. This points to the basic concerns behind King's writing, and any horror story in general. The author does a fine job of walking the tightrope between psychological horror and pure, gut-wrenching terror, without let-up in the suspense towards the very end.
Another story which still haunts me is The Children of the Corn
. The feral children of the cornfield and their twisted religion is one of the finest examples of creeping horror in the traditional sense.I am the Doorway
and Sometimes They Come Back
are two other stories which really creeped me out. The remaining ones, even though not as frightening, gave me pleasant shivers and "delicious nightmare" (to borrow a phrase from Alfred Hitchcock). I return to this collection again and again, whenever I feel that life has become too safe and dull... just to remind myself that the boogeyman is always an arm's length away, behind the closet door.
(P.S. BTW, if you ask me to pick one story from this collection as my favourite, I'd choose the only one which is not
a horror story - The Last Rung on the Ladder
. The reason is personal. I too have a kid sister like the protagonist of that story, who knows that the hay will always be there.)