Review

Blaze

by Richard Bachman

As
Stephen King hastens to tell us in his foreword, BLAZE is a
“trunk novel,” the last of the Richard Bachman novels
from the 1966-73 period. Published now for the very first time, it
has gone through some revisions (and you can read King’s
description of that process). So perhaps the book can be thought of
as a collaboration, if you will, between the young Bachman and the
seasoned King. No matter to whom it is credited, BLAZE contains
some of King’s finest work.

This is an obvious homage (as King acknowledges) to John
Steinbeck’s OF MICE AND MEN, a tale that, almost from its
opening paragraph, is sure to end badly; it’s merely a
question of who it will end badly for and to what extent.
“Blaze” is the nickname for Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., a
promising child of humble origins whose fast track to success is
abruptly derailed by his drunken father, whose actions leave Blaze
occasionally clever but not smart. Blaze’s childhood and
adolescence is described in vignettes that alternate with what is
to become the most significant event of his adulthood.

Even as we slowly learn what has led him to his present course ---
a litany of offenses committed both against and by him --- Blaze is
in the midst of planning and executing the kidnapping of Joseph
Gerard IV, an infant whose parents are extremely wealthy. He is
aided and abetted by George, his now-deceased sidekick, the brains
to Blaze’s brawn whose ghostly presence is at least partially
a manifestation of the echoes of Blaze’s lost
intelligence.

This is not a happy story, though there are more than a few laughs,
demonstrating that a sort of grim humor can worm its way into even
the darkest of lives. There are also some poignant moments; in one
of these instances, I was torn between bursting into tears and
throwing the book across the room (I did both, but don’t tell
anyone). And yes, it ends badly --- though not as badly as it could
have.

As an added bonus, Scribner has reprinted a short story by King,
“Memory,” which first appeared in Tin House magazine in
2006 and is the basis for his next novel, DUMA KEY, to be published
in early 2008. BLAZE thus references both King’s past and
future, which merge in an unsettling and occasionally brilliant
volume.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011

Blaze
by Richard Bachman

  • Publication Date: June 12, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 141655484X
  • ISBN-13: 9780739484630