Stories For Late at Night

I should note right away that this book isn’t just Stories for Late at Night. It’s an anthology, part of a series of anthologies, and this one’s called Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories for Late at Night. (Others I read included Stories That Scared Even Me, Stories Not for the Nervous and Stories to be Read With the Lights On.) When I was around twelve or in my early teens, I devoured these anthologies, and when I found one I hadn’t read at a rummage sale last week, I snapped it up.

I was surprised to find how good — and how bad — it was. I wasn’t expecting to find authors like Ray Bradbury here (his story “The Whole Town is Sleeping” might easily have been the creepiest story in the collection), or M.R. James’s widely-anthologized “The Ash-Tree,” or Evelyn Waugh’s wonderful “The Man Who Liked Dickens.” Other authors I’d never heard of were also excellent: Henry Slesar’s “A Cry From the Penthouse” looks like a tight little thriller that gave Stephen King a good idea one time. But others were terrible. “Back There in the Grass” was both racist and sexist, and left a bad taste in my mouth, whereas “The Mugging” was just banal and very 1950s.

I used to love short stories. I read collections all the time, gobbling them up one after another. I can see why — bang, bang, you’re dead! Quick conclusions, a shiver down the spine, and you’re on to the next quick fix. I liked to terrify myself with scary ones (I still remember one called “The Janissaries of Emilion” that gave me nightmares) and try to figure out the detective ones. And although now I don’t read them nearly as often, I can still give them some love. Short-form fiction is a real art. Can the author make you care, engage your mind, in fewer words? Most of the greats have tried. Do you have any favorite short stories to recommend (for late at night or otherwise)?

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6 Responses to Stories For Late at Night

  1. O’Henry and Welty were masters in the ‘or otherwise’ category, and for the late nights, I weaned myself on Poe and moved on to King.

    • ithinkisawsomething says:

      I love Poe and some of King – I think the latter has been a little too prolific and some of his books have suffered as a result of the scattergun approach (and the infamous “lost” years he can barely remember). I do think he tells a damn fine story though – I think The Shining is my favourite of his novels. Poe’s short stories are wonderful and the darkness appeals. I recently read “The end of the Line” edited by Jonathan Oliver, which is a collection of horror short stories set in or around the Underground (or subway, or Metro, depending on which country you live in) – some of them were great and very dark.
      I wouldn’t normally do this, but I wonder if a book of four short stories I wrote a few years back might be to your taste? It may not be available any more (search for Jilla & Me on Amazon – but if not I can post a copy out.) Not expecting reviews or anything, just thought it might be up your street. Jilla & Me is the first story of four in the book and I suppose dark imagination is kind of the genre although I don’t do straight “horror” I don’t think . See if you like my style on my blog and if you do I’ll send a copy.

      • Jenny says:

        Your comments on King are right on the button. I totally agree about his lost-years books (Christine and Cujo are particularly egregious.) Others of his novels are marvelous. Thanks for the recommendation of the Oliver collection! I’ll look it up! And I will definitely look at your blog and email you for a copy of your book if it suits my taste; “dark imagination” is something I adore. Thanks for coming by!

  2. Kristen M. says:

    I pretty much loved the Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories anthology (ones he chose, not ones he wrote) so I wonder how those compare with Sir Alfred’s choices. I wonder if they overlap at all. Hmm …

  3. Tut says:

    I just dug out my copy of this book and re-read Roald Dahl’s “The Sound Machine” a few minutes ago, which was my favorite story in this book when I was a kid in the mid to late ’70s. It was probably an influence on my favoring artificial xmas trees instead of killing perfectly good real trees. I had no idea who Dahl was back then, so I was surprised when I saw the author’s name tonight and though, “that name sure sounds familiar.” I’ve probably read a few of the other stories in this book, but I was never much of a reader. Some day, I’ll get around to trying them all.

    I was led here because I was just looking for images of the dust jacket, because mine got ripped and lost long ago. I’ve always loved that illustration of Hitch carrying his head and the other heads on a string, and the Hitch-face house in the background.

    • Jenny says:

      Isn’t that wonderful? I’d forgotten that story was by Roald Dahl as well — his adult stories are fantastic, as his children’s stories are, but so edgy and macabre too. I love them to bits.

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