Stephen King is the master of modern horror. On average, the Maine-based writer manages to put out two books a year. And with the popularity of films and TV shows like It, Castle Rock, and 11.22.63, it's safe to say that his influence on popular culture isn't going away anytime soon.
The downside with King is he's been working for so long that some of his catalog ends up overshadowed. Not many writers are so prolific, and with a ridiculously long list of classics to choose from, even diligent King fans - called Constant Readers by the author - are bound to miss some hidden gems.
A classic Stephen King short story, Sometimes They Come Back appeared in 1978's Night Shift. A tale of trauma and revenge, the story centers around a high school English teacher named Jim. When a new student joins his class, he begins to recall the death of his brother in 1957 at the hands of some local greasers. What happens from there is best left unspoiled, but without giving too much away, Jim discovers that the title of the story is true in more ways than one.
Originally released in a 1970 issue of Cavalier magazine, Graveyard Shift went on to appear in the similarly titled Night Shift, King's first collection of short stories. For creepy, crawly, gross-out horror, it remains hard to beat.
Following a group of men recruited to clean the basement of an old mill, the story takes a nasty turn when they find a horde of giant, mutant rats living beneath the surface. This includes a mother rat the size of a cow, with no eyes and legs, who only exists to breed. Needless to say, things don't go well for the cleaning crew. If you've got a rat phobia, this story is your worst nightmare.
One of Stephen King's first major novels, and the inspiration for a 1984 film starring Drew Barrymore, Firestarter is strangely forgotten among the King novels of the same era (Pet Cemetery, Christine, The Dark Tower). It's a shame, because this book - about the spawn of two research subjects with pyrotechnic abilities - is a prime example of King at his broad sci-fi best. The premise isn't complicated, but lead character Charlie's flame-throwing powers provide an endless supply of great set pieces.
The premise of The Man in the Black Suit is pretty simple: a boy has an encounter with the devil, who tries to scare him into believing things that aren't true, and recounts what happened as an old man. Originally published in The New Yorker in 1994, it was later compiled as part of the collection, Everything's Eventual, and still stands as one of the best short form pieces from the mid-point of Stephen King's career.
The Man in the Black Suit evokes fears we all had when we were young, and makes us remember what they felt like. By framing it through the eyes of an old man, afraid of his own mortality, it forces us to examine how those fears morph and change with age.