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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

Nary a horror story in sight in this collection by Stephen King

Different Seasons by Stephen King

Genre: General Fiction

Published 1982, 578 pages

This collection is comprised of four stories: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (turned into a fantastic movie), Apt Pupil, The Body (also a movie, "Stand By Me"), and The Breathing Method.


There were several surprises in the collection - #1, none of these is remotely a horror story, proving that King can absolutely write engaging, entertaining, very readable stories without scaring the pants off you! I expected more 'short story' format, but the first three read as almost full-length novels. In the afterward King does mention that these are an odd length.....not his usual full novel length, but too long to be a novella. So, in typical King fashion, they are good, wordy, detailed stories.

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

I've seen the movie Shawshank Redemption (starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins) so many times I feel like I could recite sections of dialog. I was pleasantly surprised at how very closely the movie follows the book and how much of the book narration and dialog is kept - familiar phrases and speeches abound! For those who don't know the story, it's about an innocent man sent to Shawshank prison and how he survives as told through the eyes of another convict. An excellent page-turner of a story.

Apt Pupil

The second story in Different Seasons is Apt Pupil which is a truly creepy story about a 12-year-old boy who discovers a Nazi war criminal in his town. Rather than turn him in, he blackmails the man into relating his memories of being Commandant of a concentration camp. A symbiotic relationship develops where both have a certain leverage and power over the other and how this destructive relationship affects both people. This is a good story to illustrate "be careful what you wish for"!

The Body

Told in first person as a reflection on his younger self, an author recalls a hot summer weekend when he and his best friends set off to find/see/claim the dead body of a boy. It takes place primarily along a train track as the boys walk for miles to reach their goal. I really enjoyed the first person perspective and the adventures and misadventures the kids ran into as well as the descriptions of friendship between the boys.

"The most important things are the hardest things to say because words diminish them. ... When the secret stays locked within you not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear."

The story brings back memories of a childhood spent wandering and playing in the neighborhood without parents following you around everywhere. A time when kids being outside, on their own, is normal (unlike now). It's pretty evocative of a specific era (minus the dead body!). This was turned into the movie Stand By Me.

The Breathing Method

The last story is the shortest at 71 pages actually qualifies as a novella. The dedication is to author Peter Straub, a writer of creepy stories in his own right, so I expected something......really creepy. I found this story the least engaging of the bunch. It's set in a peculiar exclusive men's club with few members and no discernible rules or anything and yet once invited, access was eerily, readily available. Every Christmas one of the members would tell a spooky story. That spooky story is the basis for this The Breathing Method and I didn't find it very scary, creepy, spooky, or anything....I zoomed through it and was underwhelmed.

This book would be a good introduction to Stephen King's writing style and offer a variety of topics for discussion. It might be fun for a book club that doesn't want to delve into horror stories, but wonders what Stephen King is all about.

Reading Challenge: #BooklistQueen20 #11: short stories; #PopSugar20 #46: by author with more than 20 books; #Bookworm20 #8: short stories or novella. Check out my progress in the Challenges menu tab at the top of the page....

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