Any writer would give their eye teeth for for just one of these story ideas. It's a mark of King's genius that he can almost throw them away as short novellas (though he does churn them out a little too often these days).
When I casually remark to non-Constant Readers that 'Stand by Me' and 'Shawshank Redemption' are Stephen King stories, I enjoy seeing their looks of surprise. In some people minds, he's been stuck in a horror category with hacks like James Herbert. This collection firmly dispels that notion as he investigates adolescence, corrupting evil and the triumph of the human spirit and rounds it off with a creepy fireside tale.
Of course horror is present here, but it's of the non-supernatural variety. The apparent feelgood tale of teenage camaderie centres around the very boyish desire to see a real dead body - only to confronted and changed forever by the ordinariness of death. Meanwhile, another teenager's morbid curiousity about Nazi death camps sees him change from perfect (if slightly arrogant) student into a monster as he discovers a war criminal lives locally.
Most people will pick this up for 'Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption'. I'd read this before I'd seen the film, so I'm not sure what it must be like for people who do the reverse. However, reason the film is successful is that it sticks to the plot and brings the characters to life.
The final story, 'The Breathing Method' is almost overlooked because it follows three tales where King is at the absolute peak of his dark powers. Whilst not quite as compelling as its predecessors, it's still a damn fine read.
The next time you hear somebody sneering at you for reading cheap trash like Stephen King, just hand them a copy of this. If they're still sneering after that, it's their loss.