CriminOlly thinks: A neat, Twilight Zone style horror short from a master of the art, and hey, it’s for charity. 4/5
Title: Red Screen | Author: Stephen King | Publisher: Humble Bundle | Pages: 17 | Publication date: 9th September 2021 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: No
Red Screen is a short (like coffee break short) story from the grand old man of horror that’s available exclusively from Humble Bundle with all proceeds going to the American Civil Liberties Union. Readers can choose what they pay, although there is a minimum donation of 5 USD (or 3.61 GBP). That’s not exactly cheap for a short short story, but hey it’s all for a good cause and it’s the only way to read Red Screening, so if you’re a King completist it may be an easier decision.
As for the story itself, it’s good. Short, and hard to review without spoiling, but good. It takes of the form of a police detective interviewing a man accused of stabbing his wife to death; the interview taking an unexpected turn when it comes to the motive for the crime.
King’s short fiction is often (perhaps unsurprisingly) a lot leaner than his sometimes bloated novels. Red Screen is no exception, with the story quickly and effectively laid out. It very much has the feel of a Twilight Zone episode, right down to the fact that it’s mostly just two guys talking to each other in a plain room to keep production costs down. That feel extends to the cover, with it’s RKO Pictures vibe.
It’s intriguing, amusing and memorable, with the kind of ending that lingers. The prose it tight and the dialogue has a great crime fiction snappiness to it that helps bring the more mysterious elements of the story down to earth. Cynics might say that the author rattled it off in an afternoon to do his bit for the ACLU, but many authors say that writing good shorts is harder than writing novels. King is a master of the art, and this particular example of his bite sized fiction is up there with the better entries in his traditionally published collections. 5 bucks might be a lot, but you know you want to.
Red Screen is available here
We’ve teamed up with legendary author Stephen King for a once in a lifetime opportunity. Presenting, Red Screen, a never before published work, exclusively available through Humble Bundle. In this unsettling short story, a cop interrogates a deranged plumber who just murdered his wife, only to discover something far more insidious. Pay what you want, and support the ACLU.
Content Warning: Domestic abuse
Tolerance Warning: All good