Thursday, September 27, 2007

Blaze – Richard Bachman

Stephen King writes in the introduction to his pseudonymous book, “This is a trunk novel . . .” In a manner of apology, this works well, because Blaze is a trunk novel. One that King found hiding among his papers, edited with some minor updates from the Bachman days, and then had published by Scribner earlier this year.

Here we have the story of Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., the abused and abandoned child who after the “accident” becomes little more than a huge puppy who falls under the influence of other ne’er-do-wells who have more brains than brawn. Blaze tells by means of interwoven flashback the story of how the title character landed where he is, and the ultimate crime that would help him escape a life of wrong-doing. The crime: the brainstorm kidnapping of Joseph Gerard IV, infant son of Joseph Gerard III, developed by George—partner and guardian of Blaze, recently deceased.

Throughout the narrative Blaze carries on conversations with the now dead George who continues to guide and advise his less intelligent partner through the intricacies of the delicate plan. Sadly, often the advice (peppered with derogatory name-calling and berating that characterized the small man that had taken Blaze under his wing) came after the fact. Blaze unknowingly finds himself only a step or two ahead of the law.

What works in the book especially is the nostalgic reminiscences into Clayton Blaisdell, Jr.’s developmental years—spent mostly at Hetton House. As a matter of fact, it is during these flashback chapters that we find some of the gems that let us know that this might be an early work of the master wordsmith. These coupled with the tender moments showing the growing relationship between Blaze and his kidnap victim make the book worth the read. One particularly literary moment is the point at which Blaze sees little Joe as “a wonderful, terrible book where a story had been written in invisible ink.” The disappointment comes in the infrequency of these moments in the book.

Included in the volume that I read was a short story by King, “Memory,” which has been expanded for release as the novel promised in 2008 from Scribner. I must admit that I found little merit in the story itself and don’t really look forward to the book into which it has grown.

As for Blaze, its profuse use of rough language will turn many away. The vestiges of the master writer being too few and far between make it fall somewhat on the literary ladder. Is it worth the time to read? For King/Bachman fans, yes. For those who are looking for a good story, I’d suggest you look elsewhere. I’d rate it at two and one-half stars.

—Benjamin Potter, September 27, 2007

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