The Man in the Black Suit – a short story by Stephen King

Looking for a quick read this morning I somehow settled on a horror story. (I had read over 200 pages of Haruki Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle yesterday and needed a break from that…)

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Written in 1994 (and first published in The New Yorker), this Short Story by King deals with the reminiscences of an old man in a nursing home, who decides to use the gift (a diary) of a niece whose name he can’t remember to finally record the story of something that happened to him when he was nine years old: An encounter with The Man in the Black Suit. He hasn’t felt he could ever tell anyone the terrifying story but perhaps he could write it.

As a young boy, Gary goes fishing on a summer afternoon and, after catching a couple of trout, falls asleep on the grass. When he awakens, it is to the terror of realizing that a bee has lit on his nose. His terror is justified, as his older brother had died by means of a allergic reaction to a bee sting. Gary tries to nudge the bee to fly off, trying in vain to blow upwards out of his mouth. It’s not enough to move the bee, though, and it only is moved to action by a clapping sound made by a man who is suddenly standing behind Gary. A man in a black suit – who has appeared out of the woods that extend for miles away from the stream…

Okay, so, at least for my part, this was a good, scary story. Even if it didn’t particularly stand apart from other King stories I have read, it was good reading and was effective at producing goosebumps for me in a couple places. (and I will say that I hope I never run into The Man in the Black Suit in my travels!)

What struck me most about it, oddly enough, is how tidily it fit in with a couple other works I’ve read recently, namely Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and the short story “The Lighthouse Keeper at Aspinwall” by Henryk Senkiewicz. All three deal in some way with memories accessed from across a vast expanse of time, and also with how aging changes us. I just love it when things I read in an unplanned order turn out to complement each other in unanticipated ways. I guess you might says this one of my greatest joys in reading.

What about you? Have you read this story? (It was also published in the collection of fourteen stories, “Everything’s Eventual,” so maybe you read it there?) And what good literary coincidences have you encountered in your reading lately? And it’s never too early to start thinking about what scary stories I want to read this October, Any suggestions?

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6 Comments

  1. Dale said,

    July 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    I haven’t had a lot of luck with Stephen King’s short stories. I really liked Blockade Billy but it was more of a novella and it was by no means as scary as some of his stories.

    I want to read a short story by Robert A. Heinlein called “All You Zombies”. I have no idea whether it’s really scary or not, but the title sounds good.

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    • Jay said,

      July 22, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      Hi Dale,
      I looked for that story when I got home. I found a copy online and read it. The premise and use of the ouroboros symbol were more interesting than the story itself. Worth a read, though. Interesting twists & turns at the end. Thanks for the recommendation.
      -Jar

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  2. nzumel said,

    July 25, 2013 at 3:01 am

    Thanks for reminding me of this story — I read it a long time ago, and don’t remember it well. But I just finished “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and picked up “The Lighthouse Keeper” (thanks for that rec, too!) so re-reading “Man in the Black Suit” will complete the set!

    Unlike Dale above, I actually prefer King’s short work to his long work; I’ve never been able to finish a single one of his novels (and I try!), but I love his novellas, and many of his short stories are enjoyable, too.

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    • Jay said,

      July 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Nina,

      I found this one in “our” weird anthology. I was also a little surprised to learn that King’s stories have been published in The New Yorker magazine.

      Unlike you AND Dale, I like almost everything of his I’ve read – short, long, medium, whatever. 🙂

      I hope you like the Lighthouse Keeper. It’s a new favorite of mine now.

      -Jay

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  3. hkatz said,

    July 30, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Everything’s Eventual is on my list of books to read, but so far what I’ve read of King is a handful of novels a while ago; I remember loving The Shining, and wondering why I wasted my time with Thinner. Thanks for the other recommendations too.

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    • Jay said,

      July 31, 2013 at 5:26 am

      I still haven’t read The Shining, even though everyone says it’s vastly superior to the movie (Kubrick version). I did enjoy The Dark Tower series but it took months to work my way through them.

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