If It Bleeds
Mr. Harrigan’s Phone:
This story follows a young boy named Craig and his supernatural adventures concerning him, Mr. Harrigan, and an iPhone. This story follows the life of Craig, a young boy who works for Mr. Harrigan by reading to him. On special holidays, Mr. Harrigan would send Craig a scratch card. By chance, Craig wins money, and his life was turned around. Craig was gifted an iPhone, and he gave Mr. Harrigan one as well as a thank you. After Mr. Harrigan’s death, Craig placed Mr. Harrigan’s phone with him in his grave. Whenever Craig would find himself in tough situations, he would call the old phone, expecting the line to be disconnected, but instead, he was able to leave voicemails. From that point, mysterious events begin happening around Craig.
This short story contains two main characters, Craig and Mr. Harrigan. Craig is a young boy who lost his mother at a young age, and has worked for Mr. Harrigan since he was nine years old. He is quite a good reader from a young age, and as a result he quickly becomes friends with Mr. Harrigan. Mr. Harrigan is an older man who spent most of his life amassing a huge fortune in New York. He has moved to Harlow, Maine to live a simple life away from the masses. He chose Harlow because it has all the perks of living in a small town, without the stunning views that bring tourists and people from the big cities.
This was a decent short story, with its fair share of thriller elements. It starts off fairly slow, with some strong character development, but it picks up in the back half. The back half has a strong thriller, horror vibe, with a bit of mystery mixed in, which left me wondering what was going to happen next. Stephen King does a great job of creating two very strong characters and then surrounding them with a good plot. I would rank it at number 3 among the 4 stories, but they are all very good.
This first story starts off pretty simple with a decent connection between Craig and Mr. Harrigan. Their connection is the heart of the story per say as the readers see an old man and a young boy who are fond of each other. After Mr. Harrington dies however, there are many elements of horror and thriller begin to pick up and I couldn’t put the book down. Overall, I thought this was a great short story that was a packed a lot of great material in a short number of pages. This was definitely my #2 out of the four novellas.
Mr. Harrigan’s Phone was an interesting little story about a boy, a phone, and a dead man. At first, I didn’t really think much of the story. It had a slow start that made it difficult to read. However, after Craig gave Mr. Harrigan his iPhone, the story picked up the pace. After the death of Mr. Harrigan and the phone being buried with him, the horror elements of the story comes out. I really enjoyed reading the story then because it brought a sense of suspense.
All in all, the story starts slow, but picks up the pace and becomes a joy to read.
The Life of Chuck
This story follows the life of Charles “Chuck” Krantz in reverse order: starting with his death and working towards his childhood. The beginning of the story drops the reader off into an end of the world situation, which has more relevance as the reader progresses through the story. A few months before Chuck’s death, he was away for a business meeting and ended up dancing on the street with a street performer and a random passerby. The final section dealt with his childhood, and after losing his parents, Chuck lives with his grandparents.
The Life of Chuck has one prevalent character that follows all three acts, Charles Kranz. The reader gets a few different versions of Chuck as he grows up, from a middle aged man who loves to dance but hasn’t in a long time, to a young boy who has experienced extreme grief. He is mature beyond his years due to all the pain and emotions he faces at a young age.
The Life of Chuck is a novel read in reverse order as you start with the death of the protagonist and see his life before he dies. The story is split into three acts and while there are elements of crossover between the three acts this was definitely the most confusing of the four novellas. I found it hard to connect any of the characters as I found myself just trying to understand the story as I read. It still is good and each act of Chuck’s life is compelling with act 1 even having some horror elements in it. While this story was not my favourite and is my #4 of the four novellas it still made for an interesting read.
The Life of Chuck follows the life of Chuck in reverse order, where we follow from his death to his childhood. For this kind of story, it was very interesting to read it in this style. I enjoyed the beginning of the story and how the world within the brain works out through the reveals in the story. I also enjoyed the major reveal at the end which ties into Chuck’s life.
All in all, the story was enjoyable with nice sense of foreshadow.
By far the most confusing novella, in reverse chronological order. It was a fairly enjoyable read, but I found this one was a struggle to connect the different parts together. It requires a little deeper thought process than the other novellas, not that it is out of Stephen King’s realm by any means. The characters are quite strong and the parts on their own are quite interesting. Just putting them together to form one, singular plot proved difficult for me. This one ranks #4 for me.
If It Bleeds
This story follows the adventure of Holly, from Finders Keepers, a detective agency. After watching the news about a school bombing, Holly begins to track down the mysterious killer. With each discovery bringing her closer to the killer, old ghosts from her past cases pop up, and begins to have ties with the current case she’s inspecting. The detective work sends Holly all over America for search of evidence. While away, she soon finds that the killer is linked to an Outsider, a being with the ability to change shapes. With this discovery, the case she’s looking into suddenly becomes a lot more dangerous.
This novella has the deepest character list by far. Holly Gibney, a character who has appeared in other works by King, is a detective with Finders Keeper. She is overly protective of those around here due to her past, but she is also locked in superstition. Her routine stays relatively the same, and this is the way she likes things, organized and in her control. Jerome is a young man who took a year off of university to try writing a book based on a paper he wrote. He is also one of Holly’s friends, and coworkers. Ralph is a detective that has been friends with Holly for a long time, but spends most of this novella on vacation and is only mentioned. Chet is our main antagonist, the local reporter that was lucky enough to be on site for the explosion at the middle school in Pineborough.
This was the longest and most detailed novella, carrying the name of the book as well. It has the deepest character list, as well as the deepest plot. It is a wonderful novella, with almost everything we could ask for. The characters are stellar, the plot flows with ease, and the pages turn quick. I was invested in this novella for the entire thing, having troubles putting the book down during the section. It contains one of Stephen King’s favourite characters, Holly Gibney, and it is enjoyable to take this journey alongside her. It contains a perfect amount of mystery, horror, and drama, and Stephen King does a fantastic job of mixing the highs in with the lows, keeping me on my toes, unsure of what the next page will bring. Absolutely my favourite novella in this collection.
This novella takes up the majority of the pages and it is in my opinion the best of the four. The story itself is quite engaging and I found myself excited every time I turned the page. It has horror elements that Stephen King is known for but is largely a cop thriller but instead of a cop it’s a private investigator. The story has many twists and unexpected developments that kept me on my toes the entire time I read it. The characters were quite fleshed out in a way I did not expect with Holly, the protagonist, being quite shy in a sense and not liking things to really change from her norm and a reader will feel like they know and understand her. The other characters like Jerome and Barbara are given deep enough character traits that a reader understands them and why Holly cares for them. The villain of the story is quite interesting as well with a long backstory that connects multiple characters and he is quite menacing. This novella gave me everything I wanted from mystery, engaging characters and some horror elements that make it work quite well.
If It Bleeds was a very enjoyable story to read. There was some nice detective work, the plot was intriguing, the style of writing each chapter as one day, were some interesting aspects of the story. The supernatural element of this story was also well fleshed out, while remaining equally mysterious, which was very enjoyable to read. The protagonist of the story was relatable, and all the side characters were well written. I enjoyed the progression of the mystery and enjoyed each discovery the protagonist made.
There weren’t any glaring weaknesses and was an enjoyable read all in all.
This story follows an author, Drew, and his inability to write a novel that he so desires. When inspiration strikes, he whisks himself off to a cabin in the woods to write out what inspired him. While out in the wild, Drew is asked by his wife to return home as a storm was approaching his location. Drew refused as he wished to write more of his novel. As the terrible storm hits, and Drew is wracked with sickness, a rat appears to him and offers him a deal. In exchange for being able to finish his novel, he would take the life o f a friend. Drew, in his delirium, accepts this deal.
Drew Larson is the main protagonist of this novella. He is a struggling author with a new idea for a novel. Drew has struggled to write novels in the past, but he is driven to finally finish a novel he has started. He is willing to risk quite a lot to write the novel until he truly understands what he is risking. His wife is the more stable character, not quite approving of his journey, but understanding he needs to do this.
Rat was a story that follows the proves of an author and his first novel. I really enjoyed the build up in this story that lead to the “supernatural” element of the story: the rat. I found that I was rooting for the protagonist through all the trials and tribulations he had to deal with while writing his novel. I also enjoyed that there were elements of the story that seemed plausible in the case of the story, so that the supernatural elements seem more abstract. I also really enjoyed all the twists this story provided, and I really connected with the protagonist following one of the twists.
All in all, this was an enjoyable story to read with subtle horror and supernatural elements.
This one was a close second. It is fairly short, but it gets right to the point. With relatively few characters, there is little time spent on character development but the plot gets rolling right from page #1. Drew is a strong character with a streak of instability that leaves the reader wondering if or when things are going to go wrong. This relates directly back to the story as whole, as this one stays on the edge of uncertainty. It was super cool to watch a great writer such as Stephen King write a novella about a fictional writer, and the way he goes about his routine. Strong characters, strong plot, and fantastic use of language for imagery, carries this novella to number two in the collection.
This novella wasn’t grand or complex in any way but it was still a solid story. The idea of an author isolating to write a story isn’t new but the elements that come into play are interesting especially Drew’s, the protagonist, history trying to write a novel. Honestly the thriller type element does not come into play for most of the novella but I was still following the story and was interested what would happen to Drew. This was definitely a solid story, though my #3, that kept me satisfied throughout.
Overall, I thought this collection of novellas was quite good and as my first Stephen King novel it makes me want to read more. I would highly recommend this to most adults who want a straightforward but quit engaging read.
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King, S. (2020). If it bleeds. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press Large Print.