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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Lunch at the Gotham Cafe Stephen King

For someone who regularly churns out door-stop novels, Stephen King is certainly  a master of the short story. In an introduction titled, Practicing the almost lost art, King speaks of his love for the short form and how certain  stories can only be told in this way and, Lunch at the Gotham Cafe is one such beast. It originally appeared in  the 1995 anthology Dark Love which was edited by Nancy A Collins, but is these days more easily obtained as one of the fourteen stories in King’s collection, Everything’ Eventual.

This particular short sharp shock tells of a man called Steve Davies who returns home from work one day to discover that his wife has left him, and the story presents us with a man who has no idea why his marriage has broken down. He tried to contact his wife who is at her mothers, but is told that she doesn’t want to speak to him. Steve quite smoking – hardly the best time to do this, he tells himself, but he does it anyway. Is the smoking the reason his marriage collapsed? Eventually Steve is contacted by his lawyer who has made plans for the two parties, plus lawyers to meet for lunch at The Gotham Cafe in order to start putting things in order. However Steve’s lawyer is unable to attend due to a family crisis but Steve’s decides to go ahead with the meeting beause…well, because he wants to see his wife whom he hasn’t so much as spoken to since she walked out on him.

Of course bedlam follows, but not in the way the reader expects and King introduces a new element into the story in the shape of a manic maitre d’,  named Guy who for some reason seems to have lost his marbles and is intent on murder - think, Basil Fawlty on steroids. King gleefully dispatches the lawyer first (something that had this reader applauding.)  before setting Guy on Steve and his estranged wife, Diane. A great action sequence that is part slasher movie, part black comedy  follows, but at the end of the story just when you think Steve will win his woman back, things take an even darker turn.

The story I guess is somewhere around six thousand words which means it can be read in less than half hour, and it really is a great piece. There just enough characterization to enable the reader to empathize with Steve and by telling the story through his eyes, and keeping Diane from us until the cafe scene she becomes the ideal woman to us. This makes the story all the more powerful and by the end the reader has experienced an emotional roller coaster ride as powerful as anything a full length novel could offer.
This is quality King.

1 comment:

Davieboy said...

Stephen King is THE master short-story writer - I love his collections such as "Nightmares & Dreamscapes" etc., especially when he writes a little preface explaining how the story occured to him or what was going on in his life at the time of writing. Reminds me Isaac Asimov used to do a similar thing.
My fave short story collection however is Kurt Vonnegut's "Welcome to the Monkey House". Also like Saki of course....