As a teenager I read stories and novels by King (and Clive Barker). I really liked Pet Sematary, It and some of the stories, like Jerusalems Lot, and many of the film adaptations. After that I didn't read King for a long time, but when I did (e.g. some of his later novels at an age of around 33), I didn't like them anymore - it seemed to be a bit too much mannerist and the themes didn't interest me.
Because of the Elder Sign podcast I'm now rereading Night Shift. I liked the first story - Jerusalems Lot; it is much more Lovecraftian than Graveyard Shift. I like the letter novel-style and the gothic atmosphere. But it's still far behind Lovecraft's own stories for me. (I also read the postapocalyptic 'vignette' Night Surf, which I didn't like, but I'll keep on reading.)
After rereading Jerusalems Lot AND rereading the great story The Rats in the Walls, I honestly was disappointed in Graveyward Shift. It just doesn't work for me. Maybe it is also because I like rats and other rodents, so that is no horror to me (and a bat is totally different from a rodent being an insectivore with a totally different way of living, and many bat species DO live in cellars, but that doens't matter for the story of course). I liked the discovery of the trapdoor to the subcellar and the subcellar itself, the evoked image of a desecrated church and the '12 years darkness', but apart from evoke some atmosphere, King doesn't do anything with the cellar and it's old contents to give more depth to the tale, I think. Unless you are supposed to have read The Rats in the Walls and are supposed to infer a whole story there, maybe.
What I did like was the switch in sympathy, from Hall to Warwick.
After listening to the podcast discussion, I also think King made a parallel with the Lovecraft story in that the rats have the same sort of role: they lead the characters to the real horror. In Lovecraft the horror is the degradation of the protagonist into his cannabalist sectarian ancestry, in King it is the evil that rises in Hall. But, as you said, King isn't really clear about what corrupts Hall.
Lovecraft's tale is far deeper, complex and atmospheric than King's. But I think the short story collection Night Shift as a whole is interesting from a literary point of view, as you implied in the podcast episode, in that it shows how the young King is experimenting with styles and themes.
The main thing that screamed "Rats in the Walls" was the invocation of the Magna Mater. King doesn't do anything with that reference, where for HPL it's central to what he's up to.
King does some things with the Cthulhu Mythos proper eventually, too, (and maybe The Man in Black is Nyalarthotep?) which I would like to check out. But we're more likely to continue with The Gunslinger before we get to his short fiction again.
I was also a bit disappointed by this story. It wasn't bad by any means, but it felt a bit lacklustre for pretty much all the reasons mentioned already. I felt like the connection to Rats in the Walls was a bit tenuous beyond them both featuring rats and a descent into darkness, neither of which are rare horror tropes. I largely agree that, while there are some good moments, King doesn't really do much with the premise he sets up. The story could have been interesting as a character study of the relationship between Hall and Warwick, but then that's undone by Hall's turn, which just felt schlocky to me.
The only other King stories I've read are the first three Dark Tower novels, of which I really enjoyed the first (so looking forward to getting to your coverage of The Gunslinger) but quickly lost interest after that. And the only film adaptations of King I've seen are The Shawshank Redemption (which I love but doesn't really count here) and The Shining, which I didn't care for. After reading Graveyard Shift I probably wouldn't have considered exploring King any further, but the discussion here has got me intrigued enough to give him more of chance!
Oh, wonderful, thank you! This month's book is about climate change -- it's The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov. Obviously she's going to be doing some Kim Stanley Robinson, though I haven't really covered that part of his work. I'm eager to revisit the Mars Trilogy some day, though.
Awesome, "Children of the Corn" it is! We'll circle back around to King probably about a year from now. (I mean, after we do The Gunslinger in November, that is). I've also been strongly considering doing the novel 'Salem's Lot on Atoz, but I'd also like to read It.
Meanwhile I finished Night Shift. Besides Jerusalem's Lot (see my earlier comment), I think there are three more or less Lovecraftian stories. 'I am the Doorway', 'Grey Matter' and 'Children of the Corn' all are stories in which the reader can suppose the presence of an otherworldly/other-dimensional entity (creature, god or monster). In Grey Matter someone says: 'there’s things in the corners of the world that would drive a man insane to look ‘em right in the face.' (Pretty Lovecraftian, although 'corners of the world' should be 'corners of the universe/time/...')
The Necronomicon is mentioned in the story 'I Know What You Need' and is about voodoo magic and love, but not really weird I think.
'One for the Road' is a sequel to 'Jerusalem's Lot'.
Also there are some stories in which objects become alive ('The Mangler', 'Battleground' and 'Trucks'), but I'm not sure if that's enough to be a weird tale.
Most of the other stories are more like (psychological) thrillers. 'The Lawnmower Man' is bizarre. I really liked the eerie atmosphere in 'Strawberry Spring', but the conclusion renders it into not-weird. Then there are some well-written dramatic/romantic stories, which I think are not horror/thriller at all.
All taken together, I think 'Children of the Corn' should be the best read for Elder Sign; there's much to say about this tale and it is very well written (in my opinion).
I've been wanting to read Dracula again for a VERY long time, so I hope we get a chance to do it.
I'm glad to hear all this!
There is a lot to say about Dracula (almost too much) and how vampire novels evolved (with Anne Rice as one of the notable changes), so I hope He will come to Elder Sign. The novel Dracula itself is still one of my all time favorites (also because of the style).
And I can take more Stephen King ;-) I'll surely let you know what my favorite ones were (or which ones are the most weird) when I'm finished.
I agree. We've just finished up recording our episodes on The Gunslinger, which will be out later this year (we are crazy people still under quarantine!) and that made "Graveyard Shift" look pretty mediocre. But still, I'm interested in exploring his work more, and Jerusalem's Lot has been calling to me, so I'm glad to hear that you liked it. Part of me thinks we need to do a bonus series on Dracula first, but we'll see. If you end up reading the whole collection, definitely let us know which three or four stories you liked the most because that will help us think about what to cover next.
Also, you'll be pleased to know that The Rats in the Walls is going to be on an upcoming ballot, so we will likely cover it next year!