This collection of short stories is a hodgepodge and I mean that it in the best way. A few you may have read before, there are new ones you will love, and others will cause you to declare, "Meh". That is why I love such collections. Variety is the spice of life. And speaking of life, we get a glimpse of King's before each tale. The prolific-one provides catalyst, context, and writing tips for each story. What struck me was the amazing life of the man himself. There were the struggles to achieve success and corresponding concerns about making money and providing for his family. The Big "A" or alcoholism that he faced and faced down. The incredible accident that required years of physical (and I am sure, mental) rehabilitation. These facts of his life make him a more appealing character (if I can put it that way).
As my admiration of the man grew so did my enjoyment of the stories I had read before (I got more out of some a second time around), the ones I loved (they just hit it), and even the "Meh" ones deserve respect (because writing is no easy task). Mile 81 and Blockade Billy are examples of those previously consumed and the latter came across especially strong. Bad Little Kid was early King creepy (no one inserts the malevolent into human form better). Mister Yummy, Obits and Summer Thunder stood out as both melancholy and horrific which is a fine balance. Ur and Drunken Fireworks were misfires. Ur because it actually felt like an ad for the Amazon Kindle. Listen carefully to King's introduction of Ur that attempts to defend his endorsement of a product and company. Fireworks was a tad too trite without any edge. To sum up, in the aggregate, the collection is great entertainment made more colourful by the slices of author life sandwiched between the tales.
Lastly, an off-topic point about tag lines. In one story, That Bus Is Another World, we are introduced to a gent pitching an ad or branding or pr campaign for an oil company that has done the environment wrong (think BP). His pitch for a tag line for the campaign is "Energy and Beauty Can Go Hand in Hand. Give Us Three Years to Prove It." There are many copywriters who want to be novelists and here King shows he may want to be a copywriter. Yet, such a tag line would be immediately lampooned by environmentalists and other stakeholders who would take it, twist it to say, 'We should give you 30 years in jail" or the like. You gotta stand or something or fall for anything, as they say. Yet, marketing messages are criticized and abused when too specific or too vague. Still, could you imagine if King had made his career on Madison Avenue? That would have been really spooky.