Cover image for If it bleeds
If it bleeds
Uniform Title:
Short stories. Selections
1st Scribner hardcover ed.
Physical Description:
436 pages ; 25 cm.
Mr. Harrigan's phone -- The life of Chuck -- If it bleeds -- Rat.
Holly Gibney of the Finders Keepers detective agency is working on the case of a missing dog - and on her own need to be more assertive - when she sees the footage on TV. But when she tunes in again, to the late-night report, she realizes there is something not quite right about the correspondent who was first on the scene. So begins 'If It Bleeds' , a stand-alone sequel to the No. 1 bestselling The Outsider featuring the incomparable Holly on her first solo case - and also the riveting title story in Stephen King's brilliant new collection. Dancing alongside are three more wonderful long stories from this 'formidably versatile author' (The Sunday Times) - 'Mr Harrigan's Phone', 'The Life of Chuck' and 'Rat' . All four display the richness of King's storytelling with grace, humor, horror and breathtaking suspense. A fascinating Author's Note gives us a wonderful insight into the origin of each story and the writer's unparalleled imagination.


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From #1 New York Times bestselling author, legendary storyteller, and master of short fiction Stephen King comes an extraordinary collection of four new and compelling novellas-- Mr. Harrigan's Phone , The Life of Chuck , Rat , and the title story If It Bleeds --each pulling you into intriguing and frightening places.

The novella is a form King has returned to over and over again in the course of his amazing career, and many have been made into iconic films, including "The Body" ( Stand By Me ) and "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" ( Shawshank Redemption ). Like Four Past Midnight , Different Seasons , and most recently Full Dark, No Stars , If It Bleeds is a uniquely satisfying collection of longer short fiction by an incomparably gifted writer.

Author Notes

Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine, on September 21, 1947. After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Maine at Orono in 1970, he became a teacher. His spare time was spent writing short stories and novels.

King's first novel would never have been published if not for his wife. She removed the first few chapters from the garbage after King had thrown them away in frustration. Three months later, he received a $2,500 advance from Doubleday Publishing for the book that went on to sell a modest 13,000 hardcover copies. That book, Carrie, was about a girl with telekinetic powers who is tormented by bullies at school. She uses her power, in turn, to torment and eventually destroy her mean-spirited classmates. When United Artists released the film version in 1976, it was a critical and commercial success. The paperback version of the book, released after the movie, went on to sell more than two-and-a-half million copies.

Many of King's other horror novels have been adapted into movies, including The Shining, Firestarter, Pet Semetary, Cujo, Misery, The Stand, and The Tommyknockers. Under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, King has written the books The Running Man, The Regulators, Thinner, The Long Walk, Roadwork, Rage, and It. He is number 2 on the Hollywood Reporter's '25 Most Powerful Authors' 2016 list.

King is one of the world's most successful writers, with more than 100 million copies of his works in print. Many of his books have been translated into foreign languages, and he writes new books at a rate of about one per year. In 2003, he received the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In 2012 his title, The Wind Through the Keyhole made The New York Times Best Seller List. King's title's Mr. Mercedes and Revival made The New York Times Best Seller List in 2014. He won the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 2015 for Best Novel with Mr. Mercedes. King's title Finders Keepers made the New York Times bestseller list in 2015. Sleeping Beauties is his latest 2017 New York Times bestseller.

(Bowker Author Biography) Stephen King is the author of more than thirty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are "Hearts in Atlantis", "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon", "Bag of Bones", & "The Green Mile". "On Writing" is his first book of nonfiction since "Danse Macabre", published in 1981. He served as a judge for Prize Stories: The Best of 1999, The O. Henry Awards. He lives in Bangor, Maine with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

King's book, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories, made the 2015 New York Times bestseller list.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

The four never-before-published novellas in this collection represent horror master King at his finest, using the weird and uncanny to riff on mortality, the price of creativity, and the unpredictable consequences of material attachments. A teenager discovers that a dead friend's cell phone, which was buried with the body, still communicates from beyond the grave in "Mr. Harrigan's Phone," which reads like a Twilight Zone episode infused with an EC Comics vibe. In the profoundly moving "The Life of Chuck," a series of apocalyptic incidents bear out one character's claim that "when a man or a woman dies, a whole world falls to ruin." "Rat" sees a frustrated writer strike a Faustian bargain to complete his novel, and in the title story, private investigator Holly Gibney, the recurring heroine of King's Bill Hodges trilogy and The Outsider, faces off against a ghoulish television newscaster who vampirically feeds off the anguish he provokes in his audience by covering horrific tragedies. King clearly loves his characters, and the care with which he develops their personalities draws the reader ineluctably into their deeply unsettling experiences. This excellent collection delivers exactly the kind of bravura storytelling King's readers expect. Agent: Chuck Verrill, Darhansoff & Verrill. (May)

Booklist Review

King received a Bram Stoker Award for his previous collection of novellas, Full Dark No Stars (2010), and here he presents four more original suspenseful and chilling stories. "Mr. Harrigan's Phone" recounts the experiences of a young boy who befriends a reclusive, retired billionaire and introduces him to the wonders of a first generation iPhone with unintended and ominous results. In "Rat," a struggling writer determined to complete his novel holes up in the deep woods of Maine, but things begin to go awry. These two tales are definitive representations of King's accessible writing style, which is filled with nostalgia that makes readers feel good, but which is intertwined with menace that can surge and surprise at any moment. "The Life of Chuck," told in reverse chronological order, is a richly conceived tale of the multitudes of lives within every person. In the title story, "If It Bleeds," King places investigator Holly Gibney from his Bill Hodges novels and The Outsider (2018) on center stage, as she hunts an elusive killer who thrives on the misery and despair of others. This set of novellas is thought-provoking, terrifying, and, at times, outright charming, showcasing King's breadth as a master storyteller.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: King's love of short fiction makes this a powerful addition to his megapopular oeuvre and fans will be on the hunt.

Guardian Review

Stephen King has made good use of the sometimes tricky novella form over his nearly 50-year career, often as a vehicle to explore ideas and styles that lie off the more familiar path of his horror novels. If It Bleeds brings together four new stories, all offering vintage King themes with their own particular twist. The showpiece here is the title novella, a sequel of sorts to King's 2018 novel The Outsider, which was shown as a 10-part HBO series at the beginning of this year. The title comes from the callous (but accurate) newsroom axiom "if it bleeds, it leads". Private investigator Holly Gibney is watching breaking news coverage of a bomb attack at a middle school when she notices something odd about the reporter, Chet Ondowsky. A little background research suggests that Ondowsky's being first on the scene at incidents of horrific carnage is no coincidence, and Holly wonders if the reporter might be deliberately causing atrocities. King marries an obvious affection for the tropes of old gumshoe movies with carefully researched forensic technology to create an odd hybrid of procedural and horror that ratchets up the suspense, even if it feels a little familiar to readers of The Outsider, or the trilogy of Bill Hodges novels in which Holly first appeared. Mr Harrigan's Phone is set in classic King territory, with all the gothic ingredients of retribution from beyond the grave, Old Testament justice and the author's fascination with the ways in which technology can mimic - or be exploited by - supernatural forces, a literal "ghost in the machine". It's a straightforward story in which wrongdoers are punished and kindness rewarded, and as such not especially scary - except that this is the point, made with King's characteristic sly wit. The ghost here is a deliberate misdirection; the truly terrifying element of the story, the one with the power to unleash all manner of horror into our lives, is not the corpse rotting in its grave, but the shiny little gadget with the Apple logo in our pockets. The strangest novella, and perhaps the least coherent, is also the most beautiful, in its curious way. The Life of Chuck is three separate stories linked to tell the biography of Charles Krantz in reverse, beginning with his death from a brain tumour at 39 and ending with his childhood in a supposedly haunted house. Though the first and third acts rely heavily on fantasy and the supernatural, it's the middle part that stands out because of its entirely human tenderness. Chuck, an unremarkable accountant not yet aware that "the seeds of his end ¿ have lately begun to awaken", finds himself walking down a street in Boston when a busker's tune takes him back to high school days and he begins to dance, a spontaneous, joyful expression of a part of himself he thought forgotten. King describes this little contagious outburst of happiness with such understated empathy for the multitudes we all contain that this part of the story could easily stand alone, and would even be the more powerful for it. Rat, the final novella, also returns to familiar ground. Drew Larson is an author - not, alas, a very successful one, but plagued with an array of writerly tics and foibles that King depicts with an insider's comic knowledge. "When he came home, Lucy took one look at him and said, 'You're either coming down with something or you've had an idea.'" But, as any King fan knows, a struggling writer cut off in the backwoods may soon find his tics turning into full-blown madness, and Drew - trapped by a storm and in the grip of a fever - encounters a rat that talks to him in the slightly pompous voice of Jonathan Franzen. It's a wry variation on the Faustian bargain trope and although it strikes a more lighthearted note to end on, Rat is asking timely questions about the price we're willing to pay for personal success, and whether an old, sick person's life is worth less than that of someone younger. King, as always, is right on the money.

Kirkus Review

The master of supernatural disaster returns with four horror-laced novellas. The protagonist of the title story, Holly Gibney, is by King's own admission one of his most beloved characters, a "quirky walk-on" who quickly found herself at the center of some very unpleasant goings-on in End of Watch, Mr. Mercedes, and The Outsider. The insect-licious proceedings of the last are revisited, most yuckily, while some of King's favorite conceits turn up: What happens if the dead are never really dead but instead show up generation after generation, occupying different bodies but most certainly exercising their same old mean-spirited voodoo? It won't please TV journalists to know that the shape-shifting bad guys in that title story just happen to be on-the-ground reporters who turn up at very ugly disasters--and even cause them, albeit many decades apart. Think Jack Torrance in that photo at the end of The Shining, and you've got the general idea. "Only a coincidence, Holly thinks, but a chill shivers through her just the same," King writes, "and once again she thinks of how there may be forces in this world moving people as they will, like men (and women) on a chessboard." In the careful-what-you-wish-for department, Rat is one of those meta-referential things King enjoys: There are the usual hallucinatory doings, a destiny-altering rodent, and of course a writer protagonist who makes a deal with the devil for success that he thinks will outsmart the fates. No such luck, of course. Perhaps the most troubling story is the first, which may cause iPhone owners to rethink their purchases. King has gone a far piece from the killer clowns and vampires of old, with his monsters and monstrosities taking on far more quotidian forms--which makes them all the scarier. Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you're new to him. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

This collection of four novellas by King (Mr. Mercedes; The Institution) is a new outing with old friends, continuing the Bill Hodges and Outsider universe. In "Mr. Harrigan's Phone," eight-year-old Craig, a prodigious reader, is hired to read to Mr. Harrigan. A bond grows between the child and the octogenarian. When his friend dies, Craig mourns the loss and talks to his friend as though he were still alive. What if Mr. Harrigan responds? "The Life of Chuck" has middle school teacher Marty Anderson experiencing a rough day: Traffic is crazy, the likeness of some guy named Chuck is appearing everywhere, and the world is ending. In the title story, Holly Gibney, of the Finders Keepers agency (and Bill Hodges universe), investigates the bombing of a middle school. The fourth story, "Rat," is that of author Drew, who is broadsided by an idea for a novel; all he has to do is get it on paper. His last three novels were never finished. Will he complete this one, and what will it cost him? VERDICT Longtime readers and new King fans alike will love the fresh tales in this wonderful collection. [See Prepub Alert, 10/28/19.]--Elizabeth Masterson, Mecklenburg Cty. Jail Lib., Charlotte, NC