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Constant Reader,

This is a trunk novel, okay? I want you to know that while you've
still got your sales slip and before you drip something like gravy
or ice cream on it, and thus make it difficult or impossible to
return. It's a revised and updated trunk novel, but that doesn't
change the basic fact. The Bachman name is on it because it's the
last novel from 1966-1973, which was that gentleman's period of
greatest productivity.

During those years I was actually two men. It was Stephen King who
wrote (and sold) horror stories to raunchy skin-mags like Cavalier
and Adam, but it was Bachman who wrote a series of novels that
didn't sell to anybody. These included Rage, The Long Walk,
Roadwork, and The Running Man. All four were published as paperback

Blaze was the last of those early novels the fifth quarter, if you
like. Or just another well-known writer's trunk novel, if you
insist. It was written in late 1972 and early 1973. I thought it
was great while I was writing it, and crap when I read it over. My
recollection is that I never showed it to a single publisher -- not
even Doubleday, where I had made a friend named William G.
Thompson. Bill was the guy who would later discover John Grisham,
and it was Bill who contracted for the book following Blaze, a
twisted but fairly entertaining tale of prom-night in central

I forgot about Blaze for a few years. Then, after the other early
Bachmans had been published, I took it out and looked it over.
After reading the first twenty pages or so, I decided my first
judgment had been correct, and returned it to purdah. I thought the
writing was okay, but the story reminded me of something Oscar
Wilde once said. He claimed it was impossible to read "The Old
Curiosity Shop" without weeping copious tears of laughter. So Blaze
was forgotten, but never really lost. It was only stuffed in some
corner of the Fogler Library at the University of Maine with the
rest of their Stephen King/Richard Bachman stuff.

Blaze ended up spending the next thirty years in the dark. And then
I published a slim paperback original called The Colorado Kid with
an imprint called Hard Case Crime. This line of books, the
brainchild of a very smart and very cool fellow named Charles
Ardai, was dedicated to reviving old "noir" and hardboiled
paperback crime novels, and publishing new ones. The Kid was
decidedly softboiled, but Charles decided to publish it anyway,
with one of those great old paperback covers. The whole project was
a blast except for the slow royalty payments.

About a year later, I thought maybe I'd like to go the Hard Case
route again, possibly with something that had a harder edge. My
thoughts turned to Blaze for the first time in years, but trailing
along behind came that damned Oscar Wilde quote about "The Old
Curiosity Shop." The Blaze I remembered wasn't hardboiled noir, but
a three-handkerchief weepie. Still, I decided it wouldn't hurt to
look. If, that was, the book could even be found. I remembered the
carton, and I remembered the squarish type-face (my wife Tabitha's
old college typewriter, an impossible-to-kill Olivetti portable),
but I had no idea what had become of the manuscript that was
supposedly inside the carton. For all I knew, it was gone, baby,

It wasn't. Marsha, one of my two valuable assistants, found it in
the Fogler Library. She would not trust me with the original
manuscript (I, uh, lose things), but she made a Xerox. I must have
been using a next-door-to-dead typewriter ribbon when I composed
Blaze, because the copy was barely legible, and the notes in the
margins were little more than blurs. Still, I sat down with it and
began to read, ready to suffer the pangs of embarrassment only
one's younger, smart-assier self can provide.

But I thought it was pretty good -- certainly better than Roadwork,
which I had, at the time, considered mainstream American fiction.
It just wasn't a noir novel. It was, rather, a stab at the sort of
naturalism-with-crime that James M. Cain and Horace McCoy practiced
in the thirties. I thought the flashbacks were actually better than
the front-story. They reminded me of James T. Farrell's Young
Lonigan trilogy and the forgotten (but tasty) Gas-House McGinty.
Sure, it was the three Ps in places, but it had been written by a
young man (I was twenty-five) who was convinced he was WRITING FOR

I thought Blaze could be re-written and published without too much
embarrassment, but it was probably wrong for Hard Case Crime. It
was, in a sense, not a crime novel at all. I thought it could be a
minor tragedy of the underclass, if the re-writing was ruthless. To
that end, I adopted the flat, dry tones which the best noir fiction
seems to have, even using a type-font called American Typewriter to
remind myself of what I was up to. I worked fast, never looking
ahead or back, wanting also to capture the headlong drive of those
books (I'm thinking more of Jim Thompson and Richard Stark here
than I am of Cain, McCoy, or Farrell). I thought I would do my
revisions at the end, with a pencil, rather than editing in the
computer, as is now fashionable. If the book was going to be a
throwback, I wanted to play into that rather than shying away from
it. I also determined to strip all the sentiment I could from the
writing itself, wanted the finished book to be as stark as an empty
house without even a rug on the floor. My mother would have said "I
wanted its bare face hanging out." Only the reader will be able to
judge if I succeeded.

If it matters to you (it shouldn't -- hopefully you came for a good
story, and hopefully you will get one), any royalties or subsidiary
income generated by Blaze will go to The Haven Foundation, which
was created to help freelance artists who are down on their

One other thing, I guess, while I've got you by the lapel. I tried
to keep the Blaze time-frame as vague as possible, so it wouldn't
seem too dated. It was impossible to take out all the dated
material, however; keeping some of it was important to the plot. If
you think of this story's time-frame as "America, Not All That Long
Ago," I think you'll be okay.

May I close by circling back to where I started? This is an old
novel, but I believe I was wrong in my initial assessment that it
was a bad novel. You may disagree but "The Old Curiosity Shop" it
ain't. As always, Constant Reader, I wish you well, I thank you for
reading this story, and I hope you enjoy it. I won't say I hope you
mist up a little, but --

Yeah. Yeah, I will say that. Just as long as they're not tears of

Stephen King (for Richard Bachman)

Sarasota, Florida

January 30th, 2007

by by Richard Bachman

  • Genres: Fiction
  • hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 141655484X
  • ISBN-13: 9780739484630