Friday, January 7, 2011

Short Shockers #1

So I'm starting off a weekly (or maybe bi-weekly if I forget) blog about past or present short stories that have left their mark on me. I plan to choose these purely randomly; whichever story occurs to me at the time will be the one I write about. They might not be officially classed as "horror", either.

The first one is Big Driver by Stephen King, purely because I just read it this week.

Tess is an author of cosy detective fiction - she writes novels about a group of old ladies who solve crimes. One evening, as she's returning from a reading gig, she is raped and left for dead by a giant man who drives a pick-up truck.

The basic plot - our heroine using her authorial skills to solve the unfurling mystery behind who raped her and why he did so, and her subsequent revenge, is something that by now King could do in his sleep. What marks this one out as one his his best, however, is the fact that it's self-reverential, almost meta-fictional in its construction.

Tess constantly references horror movies, and considers what might happen if her situation was actually the plot of a grindhouse slasher movie. She uses this post-modern knowledge to aid her, as well as falling back on research she's done for several of her novels. It's a clever device - and it echoes something similar that Joe Hill did with his excellent story Best New Horror. These quirky observations, and the fact that it seems like King is playing with his toys and constantly pushing the envelope of his usual literary landscape, ensure that the tale transcends its pulpish roots to become something rather special.

Beyond all this literary cleverness, though, it's also brutal and scary and cathartic.

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